The Proper Use of Weekends

Those of you who’ve been reading for a while may be wondering how it’s going with Mr. Wonderful.

It’s going wonderfully, of course.

I’m trying not to bore (or gag) everyone with tales from Cloud Nine, so I’ve been blogging about other things. Still, Mr. Wonderful (his name is Victor, and he approves this message) has been teaching me a thing or two and I think they’re worth sharing. I’ll try not to overdo it. I don’t want any eye-rolling out there.

The most dramatic lesson I’m learning has to do with the proper use of weekends.  Here is something I never quite grasped: every weekend is, potentially, a mini-vacation and should be treated accordingly.

I’ve been a single working mom forever. Historically, my weekends were for laundry and housework, sandwiched between errands and maybe some trips to the park. Every other weekend, when the kids were with their dad, I’d have the same dilemma: should I get some rest or go have fun? Or accomplish things that cannot be accomplished with kids underfoot?  Most of my weekends were squandered in an indecisive state of “should”…I should be dealing with that pile of paper; I should be painting the living room; I should be getting a jump on cooking for the week.

I live 20 minutes from the beach and an hour from beautiful mountains. I live in Orange County, one of the most desirable locations in the world, and I seldom take advantage of it. I never go anywhere. I have been to the beach no more than three times in the past five years, because there was always housework or some other priority. What’s wrong with me?!?

Since I started dating Victor—just four months ago!—all that has changed.  With Vic, I’ve hiked to a waterfall, visited Catalina Island (wow), and scrambled among tide pools.  I’ve visited new places and made new friends.  We never miss a chance to go to the beach. It’s a matter of prioritizing.

I actually go places now. This was at the Wrigley Memorial– one of many magical moments during our Catalina Island trip.

It’s Not About What’s Closer

Here’s an example. One Sunday morning, we didn’t have anything planned, so we were going to go to Homegoods and look for wall décor. We went online to find a Homegoods location.

Meg:  There’s one in Seal Beach and one in Costa Mesa.

Vic:    Hmmm…which one should we go to?

Meg:  Well, Costa Mesa is closer.

Vic:    It’s not about what’s closer. If we go to the one in Seal Beach we can have    breakfast by the beach and then take PCH up.

So, what would have felt like running an errand on a Sunday BV (before Victor) became a leisurely breakfast out, followed by a stroll around the Huntington Pier. We browsed a little beachside craft fair and stopped to smell hand-made candles poured into coconut shells.  We watched a Veteran’s Day service on the beach, with World War II veterans in attendance. (Those guys always get to me.) Then we drove up Pacific Coast Highway, enjoying the view all the way to the store.

See the difference? I sure did. I won’t even go into all the fun we had in Homegoods. Suffice it to say that for the rest of my days, I will look for feet below the big hanging rugs, because I am now aware that those hanging rug displays make a great hiding spot.  We didn’t get anything for the walls, and we didn’t care.

What comes after Long Beach?

Another Sunday morning, we sat at Starbucks discussing what we should do with the sunny day. Nothing came to mind.

Vic’s car was in the shop and his rental was a convertible, so we just started driving. We gravitated towards PCH, because leisure drives should offer good views. From Huntington we drove through Seal Beach and then Long Beach. I realized that although I’ve lived here for 33 years, I haven’t ever gone any farther on PCH.

“What comes after Long Beach?” I asked.

“Torrance, I think…” He fiddled with his phone, checking the map. “Hmmm…”

For the record, San Pedro comes after Long Beach, but it doesn’t matter when there’s sun on your face and wind in your hair and your sweetheart holding your hand.  While I watched the beach towns pass by, Victor kept an eye on the map, and we wound up here:

Don’t you feel relaxed just looking at this picture? I never get tired of looking at beautiful views.

That place is called Palos Verdes Cove. I never even knew it was there.  We just stood on the cliff for a while, taking in the view while dolphins played in the water below.  Views do something to me—something relaxing and refreshing.  That was a heck of a view.

So we went from Starbucks to dolphins in 45 minutes, without planning ahead—all because Victor has a sense of adventure and the ability to follow a map. We could have defaulted to the sofa and watched reruns all day, and I would have gone home feeling guilty that I didn’t get the laundry done. Instead, I had another mini-vacation, with gorgeous views and romantic memories, and the laundry never even crossed my mind.

Swoony McLovestruck Writes Again

So, if you read my last blog post, you know that I met someone super fantastic and I got all loopy for him. Despite my chronic worrywart headtripping, everything is going great.  I’ve seen the inside of his car, his freezer and his closet, and he has no stash of human heads or carcasses of any kind, even though we met on the interwebs. So far so good.

Seriously, since that last post, if I relayed all the cutesy-wutesy that has transpired, you would get a toothache. But I am going to tell you about one great day, because a team of romance writers could not have scripted it more perfectly.

Saturday it was “cold” here in SoCal: sparkling sunshine, light winds, dry air— highs hovered around 60 degrees. Brrrr!  That’s a wintery day for us–we break out the scarves, hats and boots the minute the thermostat drops below 70. I got all bundled up in my warm hoodie, and I wore real shoes and socks instead of flip flops.

Mr. New Guy loves to be outdoors, and he will actually PLAN things to do. (Tip for guys: chicks dig it when you plan.)  He suggested Crystal Cove State Park, a place I had never been, even though I’ve lived in Orange County for over 30 years.

Crystal Cove has sandy beaches, tide pools, acres of hiking trails and a restaurant and visitor center that showcases the vintage 1920s cottages.  In case you failed to get sufficiently excited by that sentence, I just want to reiterate BEACH and VINTAGE. Also TIDE POOLS.  And for the rest of you, the restaurant serves bloody marys on a beachfront patio.  You can’t lose in this place, I’m telling you.

We walk a short trail down to the visitor center and spend a little while poking around the gift shop, where Mr. Wonderful talks about art with me, because he’s actually interested. We check out the historic cottage display, which makes me nostalgic for times I never experienced, and then we canoodle under a tree in a surprisingly cozy Adirondack loveseat. When I remark on how comfy the loveseat is, he suggests that we try to build one together sometime. I am not making this up. When he comes out with stuff like that I want to look for hidden cameras. How does he know?

So then, no shit, we hold hands and jump across a little stream of water to the beach, because we are some kind of walking romance novel cliché and I’m just going to accept that now.

The beach is gorgeous and perfect, see?

We walk down the sand, not talking because when you’re at the beach you don’t need to talk, and then we crouch over tide pools for a time, looking for tiny sea creatures and poking anemones. Tidepools make me feel like I am 10 years old again.

One more perfect beach pic. (He took the pictures. I’d give him a photo credit but I’m trying to keep him anonymous.)

Beaches make me feel like nothing, in a good way. I don’t have any words for them because that is the effect they have on me. So I will skip to the Thai restaurant part now.

He takes me to his favorite Thai place in Costa Mesa called MaDee Thai Kitchen. As we walk in, they call out his name from the kitchen, and I feel a little pang of pride—not because I feel important, but because I’m with a good guy, someone who bothers to know the people he encounters in his daily life, someone who’s curious and considerate about the experiences of others. That’s huge for me—to be friendly and to really know people.

These people are worth knowing.  Tony and Sue, the owners, talk to us about the long hours they work in the restaurant and their plans to finally take time off over Thanksgiving. I like to listen to non-native English speakers when they put words together in ways I wouldn’t. When we ask if it’s been busy, Tony says, “Not too busy. Just easy coming.”  That expression makes perfect sense to me and I stash it away for future use. Tony talks to us while we eat, about cooking, about the ingredients in his baked mussels and where he learned to prepare them that way.

I learn that I do not like mussels, but holy cow, the Pad Thai is good. So is a dish called Crying Tiger, which does not involve tigers or crying.  It’s beef, served with greens and a yummy sauce.

On our way out, my new guy spots this on the counter:

It’s a graphophone, like a primitive record player, from the 1880s. New Guy points it out to Tony and Sue, and they call up their friend (relative?) Jay from the kitchen. Jay is an older Thai man with limited English and a face like a laughing Buddha. He’s so excited about the graphophone that he whips out his iPhone and flicks through pictures of his extensive phonograph collection. I laugh at the incongruity of his age and passion for antique technology, and his obvious iPhone proficiency. Without words to explain how he feels about the collection, he repeats in his thick accent, “I VERY CRAZY. You see? Very Crazy.”

While we’re talking and laughing, Jay opens a small canister with an Edison label and takes out what looks like a thick vinyl cylinder, but according to my in-depth Wikipedia research is more likely either tin or cardboard with a wax coating. He cranks the machine up, slides the cylinder in place, and everyone stops talking as the crank unwinds and a perfect, plinky tune wafts out from the cone-shaped amplifier. Magic. Auditory time travel.

The sound is so sweet and I want to hear it again, but I feel like it would be greedy to ask, like maybe there are only so many times you can listen to magic before it’s used up.

Instead we thank them, chat a minute longer and then head out into the chilly afternoon. In the car I am quiet, which isn’t normal for me, so he asks if I’m sleepy.  Not for the first time that day, or the last, I grin and shake my head. No words.

I very crazy, too.