Taking a trip to Who Knew Me When

keep-calm-and-go-on-a-road-trip-1So I’m hitting the road this week. Me and my Mazda, Pandora on my phone, lots of coffee and water and a protein-heavy lunchbox so I can resist those nasty road snacks. (Hmm. That would make a great band name – “Appearing tonight for one night only, the Nasty Road Snacks!!!”)

But I digress.

I love road trips. When I was dating my enamorada, whose parents lived in SoCal, I thought nothing of throwing a few things in the car and heading down the 5 for the weekend. It was a quick trip from San Jose to Newhall. Had Sunday afternoon return timed perfectly, if I left by 2, I was back in NoCal in time for dinner.

Then came life/marriage/kids and that ultimate closing act, responsibility.

Life is pretty good now and the marriage is running swimmingly after 40 years (yes, he deserves a medal). Kids have spread out – Sacramento, Anaheim and Virginia. Most days, it’s just the sweetie and me and our two fur kids, 170 pounds of pit bull snuggles around the house.

So it’s a travel day, heading north to Tracy and Manteca, which are kind of near the Bay Area. Not close enough to hit The City, but that’s not why I’m going. I’m not a tourist this time.

The 5 to me is a road filled with familiar landmarks. I’m leaving really early, planning breakfast at Harris Ranch and ending up in the land of the Giants (3 World Series titles in five years, just sayin’) around lunch-thirty.

imagesI’m going to visit two women who have more dirt on me than the huzzbee himself; women who knew me when, before kids, before LAPD, before NBC, before journalism and community volunteering and politics.

They remember the rough clay when it was thrown on the wheel of learning. When I was an ardent, unquestioning supporter of what we now call a questionable conflict; when I worked for an underdog Republican challenger to a juggernaut Congressman (yes, he lost), then moved on to work on the Nixon campaign (we all know how that ended….)

Together, we learned to dance, gave each other noogies, protested pollution, held farting contests, sang ditties about janitors, anguished over having a date for the prom, studied, complained about and had crushes on teachers, athletes, and  played baseball in the intersection. We cruised down the street where two of our crushes (students, not teachers) lived in the hopes of seeing them outside, knowing we’d just die if we did.

Image-1The friend I’ve know the longest was deemed a little too risky by my mom and I wasn’t allowed to go away for the weekend with her family, but the other my parents got to know better and mom was more comfortable with. I loved them both.

Both held my secrets, laughed with me at my awkwardness and inconsistencies and all three of us proudly walked out of Washington High School in 1971 with diplomas. I threw daisies over my shoulder as I walked to the stage, which might not surprise people who know me now. But then, I was a rebel.

images-2One of them used to hit the road with me, throwing a sleeping bag in the back of the car and pulling over to the side of the road to sleep under the stars. Yes. We know we were idiots. Thank God for park rangers who kept an eye out for us.

I introduced one of them to her future husband and I was a bridesmaid at their wedding. She chose yellow for my dress in a semi-flattering cut. I still have the dress. They’re still married, and from the pictures and postings on Facebook, it looks like the years have treated them well.

The other started college at San Jose State with me, then her father died suddenly and life turned upside down. Her father’s funeral was the first I ever attended – I had to ask my parents what to do and say. I would deal with the same loss a few years later and I realized it doesn’t matter what your friends say, knowing they love you enough to show up to help you cope with the loss is everything.

I don’t remember the circumstances of her first wedding, but I remember the second one was so much better. They are still married, although that bastard Alzheimer’s is robbing her of his companionship. I see the resilience and strength that she’s always had when we chat online.

images-1That’s part of the reason I decided to make good on the promises I would make when we’d touch base – “We need to get together soon,” “I’m going to try and make it up there sometime this year,” “Gosh, life got busy and time got away from me” were easy to type, but something clicked lately, something that reminded me that life is short, there are far more people that love you out there and we need to make good on those promises. To say I’m excited is a huge understatement.

There will be much laughter, some tears, lots of “holy cow, I forgot about that!” and “Geez, we’re getting old” over the next few days. Like I said, these girls hold the secrets. There is no pretense with them; they know the real me under the smoke and mirrors, and I can’t wait to be reminded.

My point – have that lunch with a friend you’ve been trying to see. Even if you just meet at the Bucks for a cuppa, catch up. Don’t wait until they’re sick or moving or worse. Remind yourselves how good life is and how much you love and are loved.

But now, you’ll have to excuse me. The road is calling and it’s an old familiar song.

images-3

Please share this and let me know what you think – I love feedback!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

These boots are made for Rockin’

CarolwowmugHoly cow, it’s been a long time.

A lot of things have changed. For the better, I might add.

For one thing, I’m down 75 pounds from that day last spring when I was seriously depressed about my cowboy boots not fitting anymore.

As you can see from the pictures, those babies fit again.

And I am one happy cowgirl.

It has been a really busy four months. Since having the gastric sleeve surgery Jan. 15, mealtime has been very different for me. I’ve learned to slow down and focus on enjoying what’s on the plate instead of trying to finish it in record time. I’ve gotten more in tune with that little voice in my head that says “I’m full,” especially since its backup singer, my highlighter-sized stomach, is sometimes louder, with the familiar chorus “STOP!”

We also had family visiting, numerous trips to The Park (you know, that Disney place) and I worked the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival as an emcee. Oh yeah, and my freelance work.

“Sorry, been busy” should be my new tattoo.

Don’t worry, it’s not all traumatic. It’s just been a big learning process. I never realized how much attention I would have to pay to what went into my mouth.

Some habits die hard. My fridge and freezer are still packed. Even though the kids are gone and our family of five has dwindled to one hungry husband who loves my cooking and two eager pitties waiting for what I can’t finish, my mindset is still “shop for a crowd.”

But to answer those wondering “what can you eat?,” let me offer this:

Gone forever: carbonated drinks. I don’t miss soda, but I do miss Perrier. Water or iced tea for me, thanks very much. And, of course, coffee. Without coffee, adulting is really hard.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.29.44 PMAlcohol is on vacation until November, when I’m going wine tasting with my girl gang – although I know that I’ll be stopping at one glass instead of the “several sips, then why not get a glass or two or three” of the past. I will learn to choose wisely.

Fried foods are verboten. They are so bad for you on so many levels and over my lifetime, I’ve already consumed enough of them to be content with the memory.

Bread, traditional pasta and rice (especially rice) are history. I haven’t had a sandwich since December. Tried once. When you have this procedure, one try is all you need to give you an unforgettable reminder that sandwiches are not your friend. I am discovering the joys of quinoa and farro, some more protein-friendly whole grains. I still need fiber in my diet and they are delicious.

ahi_tuna_pokeAhi tuna and poke have become my new addiction. Chicken breasts and a good steak (gristle makes me very cranky now) or some tender brisket are my go-to. Keep the sides.

If I’m a guest in your house, don’t hide the cookies or cake. Just be prepared to share. I’m seriously good with one bite, just to enjoy the flavors. That’s really all I want.

Two trash bags of clothing have already gone to the Assistance League’s thrift shop and I’m working on the third. I have to find a dress to wear to present scholarships this week and I’m hoping that one or two of those I kept aren’t too big. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe I should wear pants and the infamous boots.

notthereyetbutdown

I’m still walking near the Iron Horse Trailhead at least once a week. I move a LOT more around the house, getting out of my office chair at least once an hour. Walking around Disneyland is a daylong adventure that ends when I want it to (around the 10,000 step mark) instead of gasping and sweating and wondering if they would deliver a scooter to Frontierland so I could just make it to the parking lot. When it gets a little bit warmer, I’ll be back in the pool for water aerobics. I tried Pilates, and I don’t think that’s a good fit; the difference is that I’ve made a deal with myself that if I don’t do the Pilates, I must do the pool. That feeling is definitely new.

SadiekissOf course, my favorite exercise is “weight lifting” and dancing with my 18-pound granddaughter. On one of my support pages, a woman posted a picture of her grandchild, saying that she was the reason she had the surgery. I posted Sadie’s picture and wrote a similar sentiment. Other sleevers (yes, we have a name) did the same and I realized that I was in great company with grandparents willing to make changes for the better to keep company with these little ones for a long, long time.

When everybody was home for Christmas last year, we took family pictures. They were wonderful and captured our unique spirit. But when I saw the pictures, I saw how much more there was of me than there should have been. I vowed that after I lost a good chunk of the weight, I would have head shots done, justifying the effort because I can use them for my blog and other marketing purposes.

I did that photo shoot a couple of weeks ago (with the amazingly talented Sarah Kreig, who also did our family shots) and I cannot tell you how much seeing those pictures gave me confidence and boosted my self-esteem. Even after all the doubt and self-examination and “could I have done this without the surgery?”  – I knew I did the right thing and I was so glad I would be able to share that with the world. Sarah did more than just headshots, she shot from top to toe, making sure to capture the slimmer middle, the fewer chins and included my Eight Second Angels with the hearts and scrollwork.

The boots fit. Now it’s up to me to take them in the right direction.

morning collage

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”