Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Good Memories

Today is Mikey's Birthday and I just wanted to take this opportunity to remember some really
great memories. Some of the family is eating Famous Dave's tonight in memory of him. Kelly says's "Daddy's cookin' tonight". In Mexico they have a holiday called Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It is a day in which the Mexican people celebrate those who have left our world and moved on to better things. The tradition is is that they build alters with pictures and flowers and fill a table full of things that the person used to love. I often think about this tradition when I think of Mikey and what I would like to put on his alter. First, I would put a picture of his family. One of him with each person that was special to him. Then I would put a picture of our whole family, that is if we have one with allllll of us in it. Pictures of the hockey group the gp'ers the cabin group, long time friends and new. I would put picture of him and Lovey in all of the beautiful homes they've built and pictures from all of the places they have been. This is going to have to be a very large table. I would place two neon colored GP hats, an orange one for my mom and a green one for him to signify all that they worked together to build. What a team. I'd place flowers. He always gave my mom flowers.
On the altar would be a black fine tooth comb and that gel from Divot Dicks. His hair was always so perfect. Keys to the boat. Keys to the golf cart. Dirty golf balls to clean. His skates, a hockey puck and reservations for everyone who knew him to a suite for the Wild Game. Water ski's. A sample of his writing just because his penmanship was so beautiful and anything with his signature on it was golden. A book of memories from all of his friends. Stories from all of his years. A feast fit for a king, our king. Famous Dave's of course, Gramma's chocolate cake, Blueberries, Prosecco and Grappa. I'd make salsa just to hear him say once again, "oh honey, thanks so much, but ya know I really don't like spicy". (yah I know but there's only tomatoes, mangos and just looked spicy)
And somethings you just cannot recreate but remain etched in your memory. His laugh. A victory lap around the tennis court. The way he called out to his "Pooper!!!!" and the way she'd call back "Papa!!!" How when he spoke everyone wanted to listen. And how when you spoke he always gave you his attention. His light spirit and one of a kind humor. The way he made everyone feel comfortable and important. That he would make fun of me when I put my lipstick on at the table by exaggeratedly licking his lips. His attention to detail and high expectations for us all. He knew we could all be somebody.

I don't know if they build table a large enough to place all of my memories. But I bet where he is now he is surrounded by all the memories, prayers, and is able to do all of those things he so loved to do.

Happy Birthday Mikey! We love you.

I might just keep adding memories. If there is any memories you'd like to add to the table or foods to add to his feast feel free to leave them in the comments. We'd love to hear more.

Here is a quote I got from Renee - "when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for which has been your delight."- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet..

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Look at me! I'm a SCUBA diver!

On a sunny day, ripe for productivity, I've chosen to take in the serenity of my back porch while Ophelia attempts to nap. Mostly she's just chatting to her GiGi but she's happy and that's fine with me. Instead of productively writing emails, or productively doing yard work I've decided to present a product of the heart, another entry into my blog. Plus my friend Karen said that I was getting lax in my postings. She accused me of running out of Cabo stories and not finding anything exciting to write about in Minnesota. Not true! I have not run out of Cabo stories. As for Minnesota stories...well...things are getting better and I'm sure stories will be being made now that the sun is shining and the breeze blows warmer. But I think we all realize I've got one foot out the door, and plus the Cabo stories have wayyyyy better pictures.

So here we go on to my SCUBA certification experience. I think I am just going to keep this somewhat short as Ophelia does not seem to want to sleep. I might be cut short. If you've been paying attention. I first began my SCUBA lesson's out at Cabo Pulmo with my instructor Grant and though my time in there was beyond all expectations. My SCUBA action was a little less exhilarating and a little more salt water scrub nasal wash. Not bad but not awesome. I probably needed a good sinus clearing. I must admit after so much skills testing I was really ready to see some fish but truly apprehensive about going under again to embark on my next nasal passage exodus. I dragged my feet a couple of times and came up with some possibly comparable exciting adventure alternatives to doing my first open water dives. But finally in my last week I knew it was do or die time. I was gettin' back in. This time the dive shop is right in the belly of the beast. The beast being spring break 2008 at Medano Beach. Like seriously scary. Full of barely dressed, barely legal, boys and girls smoking mass amounts of cigarettes and downing baleena's (40 ouncers) like its water, with naughty fake tattoo's plastered all over their bodies and taking their clothes off on stage. Nice huh. Don't you want to send your kids to Mexico for Spring Break? No don't worry they don't need a chaperon. They'll be fine. Luckily Spring Break is pretty much confined to about 6 bars on the beach, the main road of Cabo and all of the resorts. Ok there is pretty much no escaping it. I choose to embrace it. Well usually. Not so much when you are standing in your wetsuit waiting for the rest of your boat members to get ready, looking like an old lady TOOL, suffering from a minor anxiety knowing a greater handful of this spring break crew will soon be riding jet ski's right over the top of where I am supposed to be looking at beautiful fish under water. Not to mention the three cruise ships in the bay and the constant glass bottom boats to lovers beach. I keep asking Grant "Are you sure this is safe?" "Oh no." he tells me. Since he's been here he's seen three boats with divers in them capsize. Que??? Are you kidding me??? "That's why I only go out with Manta" he says's, "they're the best". By this time I have full, total, utter and complete trust in Grant. I mean after all I haven't died yet, in fact I've been having lots of fun. If says Manta's the best then so be it. Lets go.

Our first dive is Neptune's finger. If you've been on the glass bottom boat ride you drive right over a bunch of divers while your captain points out the rock that looks like Baja upside down. I was under there. Oops wait now I am looking at my handy dandy log book and it turns out our first dive was at the North Wall. Hmmm there is a space for comments in that little book. I'll have to start filling it in. With all of my vast diving experience all the trips are starting to run into each other. I just can't keep um strait. J/K dudes. Are you ready to hear about the part where I get to see a fish yet?? Yippy! I step off the boat just like you see in the Jacques Cousteau footage all the gear and everything and go in for the first open water dive. And do you know what we saw??? Fish! Immediately upon descent, and on the bottom was a little puffer fish checking out a shrimp. It was soooo cute. He was like "Hey your new here, wanna be my friend" Grant tried to get a picture but all he got was the shrimp digging his head into the sand. Guess he didn't want to be friends.

We saw some goat fish and a parrot fish and then it was back to skills. Damned skills why can't I just clear my mask and not have it fill up again. And this time on my way down I got my first taste of "the squeeze". No it's not when mobsters try to intimidate your small business into giving them all of your money. Its when the pressure in you mask get so strong that it starts to suck out your eyeballs. You just fix it by blowing out your nose and letting some of the pressure out, but sometimes underwater armatures forget what they are supposed to do. I'm sure it looks pretty funny from the other perspective. I know so because Grant told me, "You looked pretty funny, like your eyeballs were about to pop out of your head." Nice instructor nice.
After not exactly mastering all of my skills and still taking in quite a bit of salt water we emerge once again to the surface. Feeling a bit worse for wear, I scramble myself onto the boat. I immediately get motion sick. I never get sea sick but I seriously think I'm going to puke. I'm feeling so sick, I sit quietly and don't even want to talk. I know! That just never happens. I tell Grant. He says "Well at least if you puke under water you'll see lots of fish, cuz the swim over and eat it". Basically, don't be a wussy and get in. Our next dive is at Pelican Rock and he promises, no more skills for the day just looking at fish...and maybe a little buoyancy practice...just a little.

I burp a couple of times, it's weird to burp under water, but everything is weird under water. A couple of burps, I get acclimated and ooooooo now we're talkin' fish. Freaking finally. Lots of fish. Moray eels, parrot fish, grouper, coral, sea urchins, chocolate chip starfish. Really awesome, gorgeous stuff. We spend the whole thirty nine minutes taking in all of the under water life. Now this is what diving is all about. I guess you've got to go through all of that stuff to get to the good stuff. I tell Grant when we exit the water that I am now officially hooked and totally ready to see what the next dive has in store. Ahhhh but wait. Just when you thought you were done. He's got something up his sleeve. MORE SKILLS! A 100 meter swim and a 10 minute safety float, all to be done at Medano Beach. "Medano Beach!", you say, "But isn't that where all the drunk, naked spring breakers are???" Yes indeed it is. I am to finish off my day with a 100 meter swim listening to Akon. And ya know what? I'm ok with that. I love Akon ( I know I can't help it)and swimming is sometimes boring, this was NOT boring. I was far enough away that I didn't see anything too disturbing. And who knows I maybe I'm making all of that stuff up in my head and it's all just good clean fun....Susannah (my niece) still doesn't get to go though I'm sure she's planning her trip already.

A couple of days later we get ready for the morning dive. This time I am psyched. We're diving with Sea Lions at Lands End. There is a large colony of Sea Lions that have perched themselves upon a rock right about 10 feet in front of Lands End which makes a little passage way that the Sea Lions like to play in. We were going to swim through that passage way. I was primed and ready to go. But first, more skills. That's ok, its compass, navigation stuff. I've done orienteering at camp. My buoyancy stuff is fantastic, I got this. Yep, Nope. I kept setting my course too slowly then so concentrated on trying to stay on course I'd kick myself right up to the surface. It was wreaking havoc on my ears and Grant said he only could go up and down one or two more times. We'd better put the compass away and attempt the passageway. How do people know where they are under water anyway. Without the compass I'd be completely lost. But I suck at the navigation so what am I to do? Looks like I better stick with the professionals for a while. We head towards the passage way. There the are Sea Lions. Playing right above us. Grant took some awesome video but unfortunately I couldn't transfer it here. Your just going to have to settle for pictures.

On the other side of the passageway was a little shipwreck where we saw a large school of yellow jack. Just like the ones we saw while kayaking in Cabo Pulmo. I wish I could catch one Mmmmm yummmy... I kinda have to pee. We'd see these tiny strings, floating through the water, Grant explained in under water sign language that they were jelly fish. While we were practicing a remove your regulator skill (breathing apparatus) and find it again skill one stung him on the lip. I realize now that those are the little buggers that sometimes get you at Chileno. I always thought they were chopped up stingy sea weed floating in the ocean, I knew to avoid it but I didn't realize it was tiny jelly' I really gotta pee. Around Lands End we go we saw some other stuff but man, I really gotta pee, I don't think I care about the other stuff. Ok concentrate. Try to pee. But isn't it kinda gross to pee in your wetsuit?? I guess I've heard of people doing it to stay warm but I'm not cold. Should I hold it? We still have a whole 'nother dive to go on. I don't think Jaime's (a different Jaime from the fishing Jaime) boat has a potty for me. I better try to go. But I have to swim, and pretend I care about fish. I can't concentrate. Shit I really gotta pee. Finally. Underwater for 53 minutes. I don't think I often go 53 minutes without peeing, what can I say I'm a well hydrated woman. I still haven't peed. We get to the boat. Grant gets out I daintily explain my situation, minimize it, hang on to the ladder of the boat rocking about in all waves from boat traffic and attempt to pee. I get stage fright. I've got two guys waiting for me, I'm in my wet suit that I'd really rather not pee in, and a ton of boat traffic. After 10 painfully long minutes (at least it felt like ten). I convinced myself I could ignore it and got back in the boat to get ready for the next dive. I could not ignore it! I couldn't even bend down to get my next tank. I was dying. I would do any thing to pee. What the hell is wrong with me??? Did being under water holding it break my bladder? Was I going to burst out the top before I could actually just urinate. Who has trouble peeing? Especially in water? Doesn't everybody pee in the water. Next time we're swimming in a lake together and you go through a warm spot don't look at me, apparently I can't pee under water. Grant can see the pain on my face. I'm not going anywhere till I get this done. We get to Neptune's Finger (for real this time) the water is crazy, boats everywhere, and I've got two guys waiting, waiting, waiting. I try again. Its not working. I'm starting to panic. Ok Anni. Find your Zen spot. Zone it all out. I stepped out of mind and body and somewhere in there I peed...for a really long time. Who has to meditate to pee? Me. I have issues.

We made it down for our grand finale dive. Our best dive yet by far. Lots of fish, we went down to 60 feet and I finally mastered all of my skills. At the surface, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I was an official diver. I didn't get run over by a boat or drunken jet skier, I didn't puke underwater, though I did burp a few times. I peed. I saw fish, lots of them AND I got to swim with Sea Lions. Yup an official diver. That's me. I can't wait to get back out/under there.

I actually went to Under Water World at the MOA with Ophelia and even though we saw lots of fish and a whole ton of sharks, somehow it just wasn't the same. See there's my Minnesota story. Soooo not as good as the Cabo ones. I've almost got them out of my system but if your lucky there are still a few left. And I'm going back to make more so get ready!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Week of School

A few really great things have happened since we've been home. The first to be mentioned is that Ophelia started school on Tuesday. She is going Tues, Wed, Thurs. in the am! I swear first day of school is better than Christmas! It certainly looked like Christmas. The day before it snowed so thick I thought they might cancel. Who has their first day of school canceled because of a snow day? Only those who start in the middle of the year, like us. We are starting slowly to get her acclimated. But, I can't wait till she goes every day, better than Christmas, it'll be like Hanukkah. A little gift every day. Her first day she did great. She wasn't afraid and played with the kids. I tried to scan her report sheet for the day but it didn't work. I was trying to be a big braggy braggy mom. Basically it said that Ophelia was as happy as if she'd been going to school there since fall. She sang and danced with Sylvia the music teacher who plays the guitar. She played on the swing and slides with a little boy. She totally likes to play with boys over girls. I think its because of her favorite person on the planet (aside from me) her cousin Matt. Of course. When I ask her what she did at school that day, she tells me what she had for snack. Like mother like daughter. First things first right? The next days were a bit more of a challenge. When she realized that she HAD to go to school she was a little less excited. Wednesday she clutched to me when I tried to drop her off and threw a wholly fit. This lovely child of mine is capable of the most fantastic dramatic effects. I knew she would be ok but it made leaving just a tad less blissful. I went and worked out at the gym (yay!!!) and when I came to pick her up she was also at the little school gym wrastling (yes I did mean to spell it that way. Wrestling is a sport wrastling is just messing around) with all the boys and was running around with two giant blow up footballs. There is no way I could be convinced that her school experience was anything less than AWESOME! But the next morning you would never know it. Immediately upon awakening, when I tried to get her from her crib, still rubbing sleep out of my eyes she pulled the "screaming wet noodle" trick. In this little diddy she throws up her arms and and the rest of her body goes limp all while somehow screaming in your face. I think that homeland security should look into this as a possible first line of defense. Only the true love of your child would allow you to pass through its barriers in a calm and strategic manner. All of the rest would go running for...dear God make that horrendous noise stop. There is however, a light at the end of my tunnel. If we can get through breakfast and into the car, which we barely could, try putting a winter jacket and boots on a fitfully strong piece of high pitched vermicelli. There will be a teacher, dawning her superhero cape and invisible force field armed with crackers and processed cheese awaiting my little villainous fake hater of school. They tell me when I leave that I can call as often as I'd like. I'm confused. Why would I want to do that? I guess some mothers cry when they drop their children off at school for the first time. If I did they were tears of joy quickly erased over an uninterrupted cup of coffee with my mother. When I arrive to pick Ophelia up 2 hours and 50 minutes later she hardly even notices me. I have to call out her name three times before she even looks up. They tell me that she cried for a whole minute before she stopped. Didn't shed a true tear and played with the best of them for the rest of the day. When I asked her what she did at school today she told me she ate pretzel crackers. No mention of improving homeland security or turning to the dark side as I had anticipated. Just your average day of pretzels and play.

The other great thing that I almost forgot to mention is that Ophelia's new favorite song is Look Alive by Visqueen. She makes me play it over and over again in the car. I can't complain it's one of my fave songs too. Don't know who that is??? Hmmm does that make my kid cooler than you??? Totally.

When I said a few great things. I'm in the active practice of trying to be positive. It's still crappy outside and I haven't seen the sun since I've been here. So until that sun decides to shine, it's still just a few things. Better than none aye?! Don't forget my kid's most likely cooler than you!!!! She's my punk rock girl.

Baby Balleanas

Ok everyone. You have to bear with me here. This was probably one of the things that my mom and I most looked forward to when we were planning our trip to Cabo. However, it took me so long to get this blog up and running that the stories are all over the place and this was a REALLY long time ago. Like over a month. My brain does not always retain details for very long so unfortunately this may be more pictures less story. However, if you are short on time and are one of those who doesn't need to read the story, that is great. But just DO NOT stop short of checking out this whole post because at the end is my (as in I took it) National Geographic video of a whale who swam right under our boat. He us smiling for the camera. It is amazing footage. I cannot believe I was able to catch such live action footage. Check it out. For those of you who like the story. I will do the best I can.
So a few years back. My mom and I and our good friend Betty and her son Beto decided to take a flight up to Magdalina Bay to see the Baby whales. We really did not know what to expect but I had read a book about the bays up the Baja where Grey Whales have their babies and heard it was amazing. My mom ever the Cabo adventurer had also heard about them and hooked us all up with a 1.5 hour plane (teeny tiny plan) ride and a tour to Bahia Magdalina (Bay). We were so blown away by our experience seeing and touching the whales that we decided to go back this year. My mom invited her good friend Kris...who if you asked me totally got the most adventurous week. She came kayaking in Cabo Pulmo with my mom and I, got to go see the Whales, and went on a Todos Santos historical house tour with my mom. She got lots of adventuring in. By the time Kris came, my mom and I had come out of our relaxing shells and were ready to see what the Baja had to offer. Betty and her boyfriend Clemente were on vacation that whole week and decided to drive up to Bahia Magdalina and meet us there so we could all share a panga tour out to the baby whales together. A few years ago when we went it was amazing. We got to see and touch a baby whale. Then we took the panga boat further out into the bay and just sat amongst about a hundred baby Grey Whales and their mommas. There were so many it was eery. I definately did not feel like we humans were in charge and if we weren't respectful we'd be in the drink with some angry momma whales and protecting their babies. So with extreme respect for our situation we sat amongst baby whales learning to swim, breach, eat and play. This time however, we got a much more intimate experience with one baby and his mom. We knew it was a he because he had only two slits on his underside instead of four. We learned this from our guide. Who I joked kind of reminded me of a dad. Not my dad, but just like he could have been a sort or surly father, who you knew would take care of you but just wasn't going to be that happy about it, but knew a whole lot and you should listen to him cuz if you didn't...Anyway we listened to him and he was very knowledgable. He told us about the difference between the boy and the girl whales and about the birthing of babies and how the milk their calves. He told us that sometimes Dolphins steal the milk from the whale. You'll have to ask my mom how it works. She got a very detailed explaination from our guide that cannot be explained on paper. I just tried and could not get it right. Suffice it to say, I'm really glad my mom had her life vest on for the demonstration. Anyway what he had to say was interesting but really it didn't matter. We were there to see whales. We almost immediately met a mom and her baby and we got to pet them, touch the little baby's face. See his whiskers, experience there affectionate blow hole blow in your face. It kind of feels like he accedentally sneezed on you, like a baby. It's cute but still kind of messy. But not like a baby because instead of a little spray you've got about a half a gallon of sea water on your face. But it's ok because you were that close to a baby whale and it must mean he loves you. While we were out we also did see the National Geographic boat which was VERY cool. I just felt like like we were doing something elite and special. I love feeling elite and special (as most of you well know). About two hours into the tour the little boy whale and his momma seemed to tire of us so we decided to head out further into the bay. I was hoping to sit amongst the hoards of whales like last time. But, before we could get out there we came up on a little girl whale and her mom. Ok class how do we tell the boys from the girls? Thaaats right. Four slits. I have to lay as a disclaimor. I never saw a slit. Never two and never four but I was taking the guides word for it.
It was cool to see how different this pair of whales was compared to the male and his mom. You could tell they right away that their markings were different. Grey Whales often get barnacles and these weird lice that live on their skin. A lot of times they breach to smack the parasites off. That is one of the reasons the whales like to be pet by us humans, if you can you pull off the little suckers. Our guide pulled off one of the lice/mite thingys (yes that is the technical term, don't be a sassy ass) and it had made a skin calcification and inside lived like six lice/mite thingys. It looked like something straight out of "Star Trek the Wrath of Kahn". Don't make fun of me. I saw it at the Comet Theater in Cook when I was like 6. I was kind of traumatized but it was also kind of exciting because I got to sit next to the cabin neighbor boy who was about 8 years older than me that I had a super crush on. Anyways the lice/mite thingys were gross but sooooo fascinating. So those little critters make marks all over the whales and you could totally tell the difference between both sets of whales. From far away they all look the same but from close up they were easily identifiable. You could also tell immediately the different personalities. The male whale and his mom were much more laid back. The mom would let her son play but usually hung back and would only surface to let us know she was keeping her eye out. The female and her mom were like the Lohans of the sea. The baby girl was a total show stopper and wanted tons of attention from her and the mom would make almost as much of a show and push her daughter to perform. I don't know if I could ever get sick of going up and seeing the baby balleanas especially after seeing their distinct personalities. Betty goes every year. Thats a tradition I could handle. In fact on our way back from the tour the boat took us past some gorgeous sand dune islands. Our guide let us get out (there's a picture of my mom getting out. Isn't that funny. Everybody looked like that but it's always funnier when it's your mom).
The sand was so soft and warm it felt like one of those Zen sand boxes that really stressed out office people keep in their office. Except way better because,
a) we weren't in an office
b )we weren't stressed out
c) it was real
The only draw back was that we didn't have a little rake and hamitite marble to make designs. But we had our toes. My mom said she thought the place had healing properties. I think I agree because once you stepped foot into that sand everybody scattered and needed some time alone. We could have stayed there all day in a sort of trace like healing state. My friend Phil needs to go there and shoot film. I think that I should go there and camp out for a couple of days and play with the whales in a kayak. I wonder if they let you do that. Hmmm.

Don't forget to check out my amazing whale face footage. National Geographic eat your heart out!