Sunday, July 27, 2008

Welcome Home. Now Sweat.

Nothing shocks you back into reality like a high temperature of 102 degrees. It's 8:30 p.m., and my desktop widget shows a current outdoor temperature of 97 degrees. 

That's just not right. It's just not.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Blogger Two!!

I've chosen another student essay to share. The essay in "Guest Blogger One" was written by a young man who, at least on one side of his family, was several generations removed from his immigrant past. The author of the essay below was born to immigrant parents. Portions of her essay brought tears to my eyes. While I have her permission to edit out the website research included in the middle section, I chose to leave it in although I feel it interrupts, to some degree, the emotional pull of the piece for an external audience. 

The statistics on bumper stickers included in this essay are certainly not scientific. But the essay brings up a point many Americans seem to forget. We are not at war against Iraq. Let me repeat. We are not at war against Iraq. Every time I hear someone comment on how "Those damn Iraqis are driving up the price of gas" or elide "the war in Iraq" to "the war with Iraq" I want to wave this essay in his face.

Be assured that students in my classes do indeed write from a variety of political perspectives. But I've offered this assignment for at least six terms now, off and on. It is always optional, and maybe three or four students a year elect to take it on. To receive two such thoughtful responses within a week was heartening. This was a good class. And these two writers were part of the reason why.

America – Love it or Leave it
by Sarah C.

The Stars and Stripes. The Red, White and Blue. Both of these terms are synonymous with the American flag, and the American flag represents a nation based on the principles of justice, freedom and equal opportunity for all. In search of those basic principles, a small collection of colonies fought for independence from a mighty nation a little over two centuries ago. The original American flag had thirteen alternating red and white stripes and thirteen white stars in a blue background. As the U.S. expanded and eventually blossomed into a nation of fifty states, the flag was modified to have fifty stars rather than thirteen. The American flag is a symbol of those basic principles that allowed thirteen colonies to blossom into fifty united states.

I respect that this nation is based on these principles and strives to uphold them, and even though I am thankful to benefit from them, when I look at the American flag, I don’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling of love for the United States. On the contrary, I actually feel lost. I feel like I can’t wholeheartedly be proud of my flag because it no longer represents justice, freedom and equal opportunity for all. Now the flag represents the United States government, and whether or not you proudly display the flag or the image of the flag depicts whether or not you support the United States government and its actions. If I don’t agree with the actions of my government, and I don’t feel pride when I look at my country’s flag, am I not a true American?

As an Arab American with a mother from Syria and a father from Iraq, I have a cultural connection with and love for three different countries. When the nation I live in and have been raised in goes to war in the nation I have grown to love because it is my heritage and the home of my relatives, I am torn in the middle. I want my country to free the people of Iraq from a corrupt dictator, but I also don’t want my Iraqi family in danger. I want our troops out of Iraq, but I also want them to hurry up and help Iraq stand on her own two feet and be the magnificent nation she once was. I love Iraq, Syria, and the United States, but I am disappointed in the United States. I was able to witness the fear my dad had every day when the U.S. was bombing Iraq. During that time of war, the news was always on and his eyes were always glued to the T.V. while he was also trying to get in contact with his parents in Baghdad to make sure they were still alive. How can I feel unqualified love for my country when it has destroyed my father’s home, killed thousands of innocent civilians, and caused so much destruction that my grandparents had to move to Syria? And yet, while I am proud to be half Syrian and half Iraqi, how can I feel the same pride, love, and loyalty that Syrians and Iraqis feel towards their separate nations? Which flag is truly mine?

I want to feel loyalty and a strong sense of nationality to a flag I can call my own. When I watch a soccer game on T.V. between two different countries, and each side is drunk with love and support of its country and team, I become jealous of the crowd because I know I couldn’t show that much pride for Iraq or Syria, let alone the U.S. I can’t see an American flag without feeling slightly disconnected from the people around me. Even seeing the colors red, white and blue together causes that same feeling of uneasiness. However, I don’t believe this feeling is unprovoked or even unpatriotic. As I said before, the flag doesn’t stand for what it originally did. The American flag now symbolizes the American government. And to don, display, or fly the American flag means that you fully support the government’s policies. If you don’t support the American government, you don’t display the American flag in any way. Let me show you. 

At, a website where you can buy all kinds of bumper stickers, you can choose from a variety of categories. Among those categories are “pro-Bush,” “anti-Bush,” “pro-war,” and “anti-war.” I went through and counted how many bumper stickers from each category had a symbol of the American flag or the colors red, white, and blue on them. Here are the results:
• Pro-Bush: 14 out of 25 = 56%
• Anti-Bush: 37 out of 184 = 20%
• Pro-War: 7 out of 46 = 15%
• Anti-War: 5 out of 84 = 6%

Anti-Bush bumper sticker vs. Pro-Bush bumper sticker

Anti-war bumper sticker vs. Pro-war bumper sticker

The pro-Bush and pro-war categories both had a greater percentage of bumper stickers with either a flag or the colors red, white and blue on them than did their counter category. So, if you support Bush (the government) and the war (the government’s actions), you are more likely to display the flag and/or its colors.

OK, so maybe there wouldn’t be such a correlation between the flag and support of the American government if I lived in the north where the population leans to the more liberal side. After all, it doesn’t help that I live in Texas, the state that proudly claims to be the home of our good old cowboy president. Well, at, a website similar to but based out of Oregon, I performed the same analysis to the site’s “Bush No” and “Bush Yes” categories. The results:

• Bush Yes: 13 out of 40 = 33%
• Bush No: 3 out of 40 = 8%

Even in Oregon the image or colors of the flag are used more as a signifier of a person who agrees with the actions of the United States, but I already knew that. However, that may be the market playing a part in such statistics. While Oregon’s voting results may suggest a largely democratic and anti-war population, a smart business owner whose company is web-based knows where the money lies. He knows that not only the people of Oregon but an entire nation will be making online purchases of his bumper stickers and therefore, he will not make the majority of his merchandise cater to the preferences of the population of Oregon. Rather, he will make more pro-Bush and pro-war merchandise available for sale because that is what the majority of the United States citizens will be searching for.

I guess the problem is that I am in love with too many places. I have been traveling since before I was born. My mom found out she was pregnant with me while she was visiting my dad’s family in Iraq and she flew back to the U.S. right away. Since then I have traveled to eleven countries outside the U.S. My family has spent countless vacations in Mexico, three entire summers in Syria, and I just came back from India and have fallen in love with her as well. Every time my parents ask me where I want to live when I have my own family, I never have an answer. I don’t know where I want to live. The Middle East is in my blood and I want to marry someone who is from the same background as I am so that we can both understand our appreciation and love of the culture, but America is my home. Every time I come back from traveling I appreciate the luxuries and lifestyle I know so much more, but I also pine for the excitement and unpredictability I experience when visiting another country and culture. I guess I just wish that while harboring all these feelings, I could also feel an unmistakable sense of love and belonging to one particular country.

Maybe that is just the difficulty with being someone like me. Being a “Something-American” means that your heart will belong to two or more different lands. And while I have learned to cope with the strange sense of disconnection that I get when I see the American flag anywhere but on a flag pole, I am still surprised when I see bumper stickers that say things such as “My American Flag Offend You? Then Move to Iraq” and “America. Love It or Leave It.” And while I realize that such a statement only comes from extremely narrow-minded Americans, it still hurts to feel once again that I belong neither here nor there. So I’ll just keep doing what I have been doing: I’ll keep America all around me, Syria in my memories, an Iraq-shaped charm on a bracelet around my wrist, and all three of them in my heart.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Guest Blogger One!

Each time I teach, I offer my students the chance to write about the American flag.  One option asks them to notice how many times and in how many situations they encounter the flag or its image in a 24-hour period. Does the proliferation of the flag as a "text" enrich or diminish its meaning?  The following essay was written by a freshman, and I'm posting it with his permission. I will be happy to forward any comments his way.

Patriotism for Sale
by Korey C.

I pledge allegiance to the bikini top, the cell phone cover, the sugar cookie, and the boxing gloves of the United States of America, and to the republic for which they stand, one nation under god indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Is this what America has become? Is this the only strength the symbol of liberty and justice has left? Is it possible that the flag, the symbol of a great nation, stands for nothing more than cheap vendor’s merchandise and the faults of a country? The world is changing and doing so every day (for better or worse is up to the individual), but hear what I, a single voice in a sea of opinion, have to say.

I am nineteen years old, an American, and the son of an Irish American man and a Korean American woman. My parents both attended college but only my father finished and obtained a four year degree. They both, undeniably, came from different backgrounds but have been loyal Americans their entire lives. They vote every year and always make a point to fill me in on whatever information they can find on each presidential candidate. On both sides of my family are grandparents, uncles, and cousins with military background, so both my parents know the dedication and strength it takes to serve our country. Now with all of this in mind, I recently realized that through my entire life not my parents, brothers, or I have ever owned a single possession that had the image of the flag upon it. The sad truth is that many people will read this and say, “How American can you really be if you don’t own anything with the flag on it?” Perhaps they are right, but as I look at the country I live in I do not see the America that so many people believe it to be. I see a nation full of discrimination, poverty, greed, and arrogance with the flag as its calling card.

How our forefathers would weep if they saw what the flag has become today. After walking through the mall for less than an hour I was able to fill an entire page, consisting of three columns, with useless “patriotic” merchandise. Swimsuits, baseball caps, cookies, press-on nails, boxing gloves, purses, even a cross embellished with the stars and stripes. Out of all these bizarre items a few in particular caught my attention. The first, and most puzzling, was the large metal cross that had been painted over with the stars and stripes. What exactly is the message here? Perhaps it is an item for Christian individuals who are very patriotic and simply want to express both their religion and devotion to their country. Then again, could it be implying that “true” Americans are both Christian and patriotic? Is a specific religious background now part of the criteria to be a good American?

It is messages like this that have affected the country for years. Before my grandparents, on my mother’s side, came to America they were followers of Buddha, but not long after reaching New York City in 1946 they converted to Catholicism. I asked my Halmeoni (Grandmother) why she and my Harabeoji (Grandfather) converted after coming to America. The only answer I could muster out of her was “It was time.” It is known that South Korea was and is divided with half the population being Christian of some sort and the other half Buddhist. The religious backgrounds are usually set by decades of family lines so conversion is rarely seen. So I was shocked that my grandmother, who is one of the strongest women I know, fell victim to a sort of national peer pressure. So here is America telling the peaceful Asian couple to buy a flag, convert, and fit in. The symbol for liberty is needed to shield others from discrimination.

Then I saw items as simple as a cookie being eaten by a small child. Could there be any greater insult to the American flag than slapping it on a cookie, throwing it in the oven, and then passing it out to small children to consume? The flag is supposed to a sacred symbol Americans can stand behind with pride. I can recall being yelled at in boy scouts when I was no older than six for letting the flag touch the ground when I was color guard for the evening meeting. Now here it is resting comfortably in the belly of a toddler. The sheer thought of owning a pair of “patriotic” boxing gloves or cell phone covers should be enough to show how watered down the image of the flag has become. The flag is a supposed to be a beacon to light our darkest hour and yet it has become a candle flickering in the wind. With it we can barely see our own noses in front of us, much less where the country needs to be.

When is the last time you can recall the nation being unified behind the flag? The last time I remember the entire country being in agreement with the flag was 9/11. Every house as far as the eye could see flew an American flag in its front yard. Flags hung in windows, from mailboxes, car windows, and of course every business establishment in town. The flag was a beacon saying “Hey look at me I’m an American and I’m patriotic, so talk to me or buy my stuff.” It is sad to me that through all the hardships our country has faced over the years the only thing that can bring everyone together is a direct attack. The people need a common enemy to face together. They do not care for death caused by natural disaster, disease, or gang violence as long as they don’t “know” that it is going on. They only become one voice when there is someone the entire country can hate together. Americans are the spoiled children of the world; they do what they want when they want.

The first thing that comes to mind when I see and American flag is, sadly, the Bush Presidency. Almost instantly upon seeing a flag I relate it to the war and all the disaster America has had to endure during George Bush’s term in office. Sometime I hate myself for this and only want to see the flag as the flag, but no matter how hard I try I can not help but go straight to president. I think there are many people out there who share my problem which is why since 9/11 we have seen the flag almost completely removed from suburban areas. I know that on my hometown street the flag flew in just about every house’s yard and when I left home for school it flew in only four. I think that’s the country’s biggest problem; when things are not going the way everybody wants we immediately blame the president whose calling card has become the flag. It is sad and very unfair in a way. Now do not get me wrong. I’m not exactly pro Bush, but then again I’m not exactly pro anything. I like to think of myself as an observer. What I see is a country divided. I see citizens of our great nation making the American flag a joke. I see people discriminating against others just because they refuse to fly the flag on something they own. Being an American has a price and it’s there for anyone willing to pay.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Three-Legged Repeat

I've been filling the blog-waves with much frivolity lately; my thought-well is as dry as my yard. So I'm recycling something from last June, partly because I like this post and partly because I need to listen to its message again. Without further ado, I bring you - once again - the story of the Three Legged Dog, originally published right here in 2007.

It’s beautiful to watch the animals run in the park, ears flapping, muscles doing what they were meant to do, coats gleaming in the sunshine. Some are perfect specimens. The rest do all right. Even that miraculous phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me: the three-legged dog.

We’ve all seen one – leg lost in some traumatic way – that runs, wags, even leaps for a Frisbee now and then, perfectly compensating for his loss, never looking back. The disability is obvious, but its effects are invisible. Sure, it must have been hard to relearn some things, and maybe he can’t sit up and beg any more, but he’s done what a dog does. He’s just gotten on with the business of joy.

In some of the early entries in this blog, I mentioned the epidemic of change in the lives of my friends (and, of course, my own as well). While some of these changes are positive, many of them – even the good ones - involve loss. The loss is sometimes sudden, an amputation if you will. A parent dies, a job disappears, a child gets in trouble in a spectacular way. Such loss is brutal, ruthless, but is easily defined. Something Has Happened.

But what of more insidious loss? What if the limb isn’t severed but is slowly withering? What if the leg is there, even normal in its outward appearance, but is without function? When these losses happen in the confines of a family or an individual’s essential self, the analogy to limb loss becomes a little less stable.

When an actual limb begins to fail, a person has options: physical therapy, medication, adaptive technologies or supports. In extreme cases, amputation is the answer to creating a new whole. But people and their systems aren’t that simple, are they? Think of the physical and emotional erosion of chronic illness. The slow train wreck of substance abuse. The withdrawal of intimacy in a strained marriage. These traumas – and that is what they are, even if they are not sudden – happen piecemeal, painfully.

Sometimes the loss is a realization, an “I will never…” statement. Not the whining kind that calls up a response like, “Don’t be silly! You have plenty of time/energy/money to do a, b, or c.” but the peaceful, mature knowledge that the time for a certain action is truly past, that the skills required are beyond a person’s reach, or that some dreams will simply never come true.

None of these scenarios are uncommon, and none are beyond our imagination. They number as many as the grains of sand on the floor of the ocean. The challenge comes, as always, in how we react. Is a full recovery possible? Sometimes the loss is too great, the energy required long gone. People do hit bottom, and they don’t always come back up. I’m not a character-Nazi, the kind of person who believes that a stiff upper lip and a strong work ethic can bring you back from anything. And not everyone is capable of adaptation (see Island of the Broken…Siblings, June 14, below).

But what of those who don’t want to stop walking, who dream of leaping once again for a well-tossed Frisbee? Even if you do persevere through loss, even if no one around you has any idea that recovery is in process, you still must face the absence. The leg is never going to function again. You leave an untenable situation. You strengthen the remaining limbs. Perhaps you find substitutes.

The challenge lies – at least for me – in the choice of a metaphor to understand your life from the loss forward. Do you choose the four-legged-but-one-is-impaired dog image, or do you radically remake yourself as the three-legged dog?

The answer means the difference between staying in the crate or chasing the tennis ball with your ears flapping and your coat gleaming. You may no longer be the fastest dog, you may no longer have AKC conformation, and you may even elicit pity from those who stare at what is no longer there.

But you will have found your balance.

And you will continue to run on your three strong legs, and the sun will feel good on your back when you take a big slurping drink of cool water and collapse, happy, in the soft, green grass.

And Everything Nice...

No contest. None at all. 

Best banana in town? Sugar 'N Spice.

Tonight I tried the frozen banana at Dad's (topping: cinnamon crunch, minus any crunch at all). The topping was lackluster, and with every bite a dusting of spice drifted into my cleavage.  While this could have, in other circumstances, led to all sorts of fun, it did not.

P.S. In the next couple of days, I'll be posting some essays from last spring's writing class.  I hope you'll find them thought provoking.

UPDATE 7/21: I tried the Balboa Bars, and as much as I wanted to switch my allegiance from fruit to ice cream I simply could not. If I'm going to have ice cream, I want it be the full fat, artery clogging stuff, not the ghostly white plain thin vanilla of the stuff on a stick.  So I'm declaring myself a "large banana, double chocolate dip, no topping, please" girl. Like an Audrey Hepburn/Jackie-O dress, it's never a bad choice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Battle of the Bananas

Anyone who has visited Balboa island has fond memories of many things, but right up there at the top of the list have to be Frozen Bananas and Balboa Bars. I sampled my first frozen banana in the eighties, after hearing The Man wax rhapsodic about them when he recounted his childhood summers.

Small child had her first one last night, and pronounced it fine indeed.

The controversy continues, however, over which venue can truly claim to offer the "original" Balboa bar,  a just-off-square chunk of ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in your choice of toppings (as in "give me a Bal Bar with everything"). 

Last night, we purchased our creamy, frozen magic from Sugar 'N Spice, which has far and away the best sign, not to mention the ever jaunty 'N.  Sugar 'N Spice has been on Marine Ave. since 1945, and claims to offer "the original frozen banana" as well as Bal Bars. When I found this photo on Google Image, I couldn't resist; what is more patriotic than a parallel display of Our Nation's Symbol and a half-peeled phallic fruit?

Just down the street, however, is another local favorite, Dad's Donuts. While Dad's has only been flogging carbs since the sixties, it claims to  sell the Original Balboa Bar and the "World's Best" frozen banana. Apparently, the competition is fierce. According to one source, Dad's once sent a hot teenage boy to pry the secret recipe for a favored topping from the girls behind the window.

While I may never solve this decades old mystery (Marcia, if you happen to read this perhaps you can offer a native's perspective), I feel obligated to evaluate the relative quality of each. A sacrifice, I know, but someone has to do it. Tomorrow, I plan to try the frozen banana at Dad's and see how it measures up to the one at Sugar 'N Spice.

Thursday, I'll buck up and move on to Balboa Bars. 

It's about a 3-mile walk around the perimeters of the Big and Little Islands. I'll need several laps to draw my conclusions and repair the damage.

P.S. to those who know the area. Word on the street from the old guys who drink coffee near Dad's in the morning is that the Fun Zone is being torn down. Good thing we made it here this year.

Monday, July 14, 2008


My name is Blue and I am a car service addict.  Nothing beats having someone pick you up at your house and schlepp your bags for you.  nothing beats getting off the plane, seeing your name on a placard and having someone schlepp your bags for you and deal with Sunday afternoon OC beach traffic. I know, it's that total faux celebrity thing.  But given the price of gas and parking it all evens out. That's what I'm telling myself.

We made it to Balboa safe and sound.

How long did it take Small Child to submerge herself in the bay? One hour.

We're expecting the onslaught of cousins shortly, so stay tuned.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Collated and Stapled

From the instant I opened my eyes this morning, it's been a train wreck kind of day. Wait. Let's change perspective. I'm supposed to believe in the power of language, right?

Revision: Today has been a delightful comedy of errors.

Hmmmm....not quite sure that worked, but it was worth a try.

You know those enormously powerful staple guns that builders use?  I found one of the staples in my (flat) left rear van tire this morning as I was leaving to take Large Dog to the boarding kennel. We shall make the Deflating Staple the emblem of the day.

A gnat cloud of errands later, I spent most of the afternoon packing Small Child's delightful,varied, colorful summer wardrobe. Were children's clothes that cute during the Cold War? No.

This evening I turned to my closet. Seeing my clothes laid glumly out in one place was, frankly, kind of funeral. I definitely need a change. My wardrobe is mostly monochromatic, drab, blend-into-the-foliage stuff. I think all those episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom I watched during my childhood seared the idea of the drab female into my brain. 

But those were females in their reproductive years, right? (I'm going to conveniently forget the fact that most females in the wild kingdom don't outlive their reproductive years). Now that I'm embarking on a new stage of life, perhaps it is time to set aside my black skirts and pants and plain, solid colored, deep earth toned tops. 

I think menopause should come with a month at a spa and a 5K* shopping spree. 

Hopefully I'll have time to post while I'm in California next week.  If not, see you when I return.

*Shoes, lingerie, sleepwear, workout clothes, jewelry, makeup, and other accessories not included. These items will require an additional stipend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Vacation To Be

Yesterday, The Man left for California to represent our small family at the Big Family Wedding. Small Child, Large Dog, and I have been rule breaking ever since. Nothing major, just things like pets on the new patio furniture, Large Dog upstairs, and thrown together meals eaten in bed.

Getting him out the door on time was a real clusterf*ck. His flight - the airport is about a two hour drive in traffic - left early this morning, and given that dawn does not elicit birdsong in his world he decided to stay at an airport hotel the night before. First, we thought we'd turn it into a family outing. You know, swimming, room service, etc. As departure grew nearer, and folks (uhm, one male in particular) grew grumpier, this plan turned into, "I think you'd have a much more relaxing trip if you had some quiet time the night before. Why don't we just run you down to the hotel?" As grumpiness degenerated into snarling, and I was faced with a drive into the city in rush hour traffic, I threw caution to the wind and called a car service, knowing full well that the likelihood of an available town car was slim. At this point, however, I'd have happily taken out a second mortgage for a super stretch limo.

The stars were in my corner. The service just happened to be making a one way run from the airport to the town just north of ours. So when The Man returned from yet another errand he'd neglected to plan for, I told him that he'd be transported in anonymous peace.

And we all heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Two hours later, a polite man with a German accent and a tie whisked him away.

And tomorrow I begin packing in earnest.

We will be spending a week and a day on Balboa Island. The Man spent portions of most childhood summers at his grandparents' house there and has many fond memories, including waving at John Wayne as he cruised the canals in a PT boat. I love this island, too, but I'm not so much looking forward to being cheek-to-jowl with my anorexic mother-in-law.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

She who laughs last....

So the Geek ended up spending seven hours at our house yesterday.  My needs are more complex than most (big surprise!).  

The weak link was the old Airport Extreme base station. The new configuration, which I do not entirely understand, uses the old modem, a Time Capsule as the main router (with wireless backup as a bonus - whoo hoo), some weird plug in things that carry the signal through the house's wiring, a second router downstairs, and printers above and below. 

My favorite moment of the day?

The Man had, several months ago, purchased an expensive antivirus/spyware program that I knew, in my heart, he neither understood nor knew how to use. When our Geek tried to set his laptop up and ran into problems, he discovered that The Man Dell was infected with over 150 viruses and such. Geek (and I now was feeling even more affection for him) even implied that The  Man Dell's poor health could have been a contributing factor in The Man's inability to reach the Internet.


On another note, posts may be few and far between in the next few days, as I will be preparing for a trip to SoCal. My big summer getaway this year will be a family-in-law affair. While not my first choice, it should offer plenty of inspiration for the blog!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Significant Upgrade

I finally gave up trying to fix my own Internet problems. Yes, I succumbed to Geek Squad. Apparently, I'm just not enough of a geek to make our various machines work together in perfect harmony. Or maybe I'm just too much of the wrong kind of geek.

I'm away from the house right now, but when all is done I will have a groovy new Time Capsule for wireless backup, an extra router to extend wireless capability throughout the house (really, for true), and printers upstairs and downstairs. Then I can begin the process of moving my office to a room with an actual closing door.

Our Geek assures me that he can make The Man's machine play nice with my Mac, and that he will not leave until we both can connect to the net and print without any help from him.

This may be the best money I've spent in a while.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Some quick random thoughts, and then I'm going to sleep (I hope).

* The heat is messing with my circadian rhythms. I find myself all siesta-ey around 3 p.m., and pass into a dozy haze for about an hour and a half.  This, of course, means that I stay up too late, am tired all day, and crash even harder the next day. I know that the solution is to hit the treadmill at siesta time, but my bed feels sooooooooooo much better. 

* On the 13th, Small Child and I head to California to rendezvous with The Man and his mom for a week on Balboa Island, although we passed on the Big Family Wedding at Del Mar. The Man spent time on the Little Island during most of his childhood summers and has wonderful memories.  I like it, too, but this is not how I would like to spend my Designated Vacation Time.

* Spending three hours talking with friends, eating hummus, drinking wine, and alternating between the hot tub and the cool pool is excellent therapy, isn't it?

* If you have a child between seven and ten (give or take a year or so for individual variations), I highly recommend reading some childhood classics aloud together. Small Child adored, for example, both Little Women and My Side of the Mountain

* Summer shoes seem to be on sale.  That is always a good thing.