Saturday, July 28, 2012

Girlie Weekend (Part Two)

Ok, so where was I at the end of Part One? Oh yes, in the dark, driving, not being able to see the spectacular view of the Pacific coast from Santa Cruz on the way to Monterey. A little disappointed, we finally pulled up to our motel about 10pm and as we squeezed into the tiny parking lot outside and peered up anxiously at the dilapidated-looking exterior of the ugly motel, I tried to put a good spin on it.

"Oh, well, at least we won't have far to walk from our car."

The nose of our car was practically touching the room in front. I jumped out before she could see my grimace. As the grumpy, old man in a dirty frayed shirt and grubby cardigan shuffled out of some back room into the claustrophobic lobby, my heart sank even further. After a brief verbal scuffle I discovered that we were in the wrong motel. Thank goodness! Never have I been so happy to have messed up. Emma's face showed her massive relief as we pulled in next door to a much more respectable-looking motel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Lovely Girlie Weekend (Part One)

I thought I would write about my lovely girlie weekend with my daughter last weekend. I have to admit that I wasn't totally looking forward to it as she has been a mite stroppy recently, biting my head off if I so much as look at her with the wrong sort of facial expression. As we loaded up the car on Friday lunchtime for our 2 night trip, my husband muttered that we might as well go for a month with the amount of stuff we were taking. He was right. I am not a good role model for Travelling Light - I once took 14 pairs of shoes on a 10 day holiday in Spain! Emma is definitely a chip off the old block, taking enough changes of clothes for Paris fashion week.

Eventually we were off, only about 30 minutes late, which is something of a record for me. She persuaded me that she wanted to drive as it would be good experience for her (she only passed her test a few months ago). I wasn't sure that would be calming for my stress levels but was very pleasantly surprised as she drove positively and with confidence. I had to occasionally tell her to watch her speed and steer with more than one dainty little finger, but we started speaking again after only a few minutes of huffy silence.

We were heading off to Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel. What fun. The sun was shining, we were playing great music and beat most of the Friday rush hour traffic. Arriving in Santa Cruz we found the Downtown shopping area first as Emma was born with an onboard retail radar. She fell in love instantly. It was shopping heaven for her after the fashion hell of sleepy, backwater Novato. There were actually people on the streets, young people at that, and shops that she wanted to buy from. And buy she did. She was unstoppable, looking at me with doe eyes as she tried on cheap sandals, summer sale dresses, and endless pairs of jeans. Eventually, after I showed her the empty inside of my wallet, she decided that buying from Goodwill and thrift stores was just as good, although why she needed to buy THREE pairs of jeans to add to her mountain at home was beyond me.

We eventually headed off to the Boardwalk, where she ambushed me with more doe eyes as she looked with abject longing at the bulging bags of disgustingly fake, bright pink candy floss (or cotton candy). This revolting fluffy sugar substance was strictly forbidden when she was younger as she would become the anti-christ after eating it, spitting venom as her head revolved with scary evil eyes. Munching away together we decided it really was repulsive stuff and would remember never to buy it again. We also decided to forgo riding on any of the roller coasters as she has inherited my delightful trait of vomiting on boyfriends after being spun like a rag-doll, and instead made our way to the beach, just as Modern English took to the stage for their free Friday night performance. I have really missed walking by the sea since moving to California but had forgotten, in my rose-tinted memories, just how bloody hard it is on the leg muscles to plough through the deep soft sand. And there I was thinking I was getting fit climbing up all the sodding hills in Marin Co.

Exhausted, we finally clamboured back onto the Boardwalk with all the other, more sensible, grockles and agreed that, lovely as it was to hear a British accent tunelessly screeching out old 80's numbers, a delicious hearty supper was in order. Driving back to the Downtown area like fashion homing pigeons we found all the restaurants heaving with people tired and irritable after too long in the sun. I managed to use my English accent and Emma's wraithlike looks to talk our way into a decent Italian and we soon found ourselves sharing a pizza and salad. It was very nice to also down a large glass of wine as I realised there was a distinct advantage to having a daughter old enough to drive.

I had been told to drive down Pacific Coast Highway as the view was spectacular and the sunset would be beautiful. Well, being the obedient people-pleaser that I am, that is exactly what we did. But by the time we finished supper, squeezing in a couple more stores on the way to the car, the drive down to our motel in Monterey was in the pitch dark.

Part Two coming very soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Post: Free Zebra on Amazon

Today I am handing over my blog to an excellent author friend of mine, who I met over on He is giving away his fabulous book, The Sun Zebra, FREE for the next 2 days. I loved it! Here is my Amazon review:

"Initially, I was unsure whether this collection of short stories would be my type of book and started with the attitude of reading it as fast as possible. Well, I did read it quickly but only because I couldn't stop reading. It is a beautiful and inspirational book, exceptionally well-written. Rolando takes us by the hand and gently leads us into a magical world seen through the innocent eyes of his daughter, Nell. Unsullied by the cynical view of others with supposedly more experience and wisdom, Nell is not only a delight, but shows she has an innate knowledge and purity which allow magic to happen. This book is touchingly poignant. I could feel my heart opening as I read it. It reminded me of simple, yet powerful truths. Rolando skillfully describes the joy, innocence and simplicity of being a child, while charmingly showing us what a truly marvelous father and husband he is at the same time. I cannot wait to read this again and would highly recommend this to anyone, child and adult alike."

Over to you Rolando or, as he is sometimes known, Phantomimic!

What is a dad to do if his daughter claims she has encountered a zebra in the middle of rural Pennsylvania? That is what the dad in my book had to figure out. Fortunately he went to “look for the zebra,” and that made all the difference because what he found was an animal that turned out to be part flesh and part metaphor.

There is more. In my book an insect boldly goes where no insect has gone before, Poe’s poem “The Raven” gets a new twist, a Christmas tree reveals its secrets, and a forgotten superhero makes a triumphant return. These stories may sound like stories for little kids, but my book is not a children’s book. My book is what I call a “children’s book for grownups.”

But what is a “children’s book for grownups” and more importantly: why write one? I wrote it because I feel that the point of view of children is undervalued in our society. This is probably because children require adult supervision to survive and thrive in our world. They may be "cute" and "funny" and a "joy to the heart," but children are seldom taken seriously. And why should they be? In their tender years what can a child possibly teach us about the complexity of the adult world with all its danger and opportunities? As it turns out, I think they can teach us a lot.

Many of us have by and large forgotten what it was to be a child even though much of what we are as adults is a result of the child we used to be. Children can help us get in touch with that inner child hidden in the deep recesses of our minds. We just have to listen to them, take their hands, and go explore the world together.

In my book the world of adults with its skepticism and its hard realities collides with the carefree magical world of children, and sparks of wisdom fly everywhere. My hope is that these sparks will help those who read my stories to learn the things children can teach us and remember what it was to be a child.

Now for the best thing: My book will be free on Amazon from July 18 to 19. You can download your copy during those two days at no cost. I hope you can read my book and let me know what you think of it. I also want to thank Claire for the chance to write about it on her blog.

My book’s Amazon link is:

Thank you very much for reading my post.I am Rolando Garcia, the peculiar eclectic writer.

Visit my website:
Follow me on Twitter:
Or like my Facebook Page:

So, what more can you ask? An inspirationally lovely book, written by an accomplished writer, FREE! Go get it now and tell your friends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Kindness Project - A Tribute to my Mum

Brightening the world one smile, one kind word,
one blog post at a time

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good.  But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren’t feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, posting the second Wednesday of every month. 

Want to join us? Grab our button and spread a little kindness.

For this month's Kindness Project I wanted to give a shout out to my Mum, Rosemary (or Ro as everyone knows her). Writing my last post about our awful day out at Wimbledon, and how she saw the funny side, made me think about her even more and I wanted to share her wonderful, kind side. She is such an amazing role model for me and always has been. She is the epitome of kindness. She has always been there for me and my two sisters throughout our entire lives, like a rock. She doesn't try and control us, or force her opinion on us, but allows us to make our own (many and varied) mistakes and learn and grow from our experiences.
She even made my horrendously difficult decision to move her only two grandchildren halfway round the world as easy as she possibly could, while still letting me know how much she didn't want us to go and how much she loved us and would miss us. She has been not just a mother, but a sister, a friend, a bank, an ironing lady, a cleaner, a babysitter, and someone to have a bloody good laugh with down the pub. I could go on and on, but I already have tears in my eyes and the screen's a bit blurry.

(Sniff. Blow nose. Wipe eyes. Deep breath.)

She is also brave and courageous and adventurous. She went skiing for the first time in her 40's when she was terrified and returned triumphant but black and blue - literally - I have never seen bruises like it. She learned how to windsurf and waterski, even though she hated every moment. She drives like a bat out of hell (and yes, Mum, I know you're an Advanced Driver) in a sporty car that is totally impractical for driving narrow, windy country roads and parking in tiny spaces, but she doesn't want to swap it in for something more sensible as that would make her feel 'old' (she's 76!).

She decided to learn to fly and got her private pilot's license at the age of 50 (I know, how incredible is that? She used to have to lock herself in the loo to get some peace to study indecipherable diagrams for the extremely complicated navigation test).

But aside from all the fun stuff, she has also spent so much of her life helping others, with kindness and extreme generosity. In particular, she is a very active member of various charities that help disabled people learn how to fly. I can't remember all their correct names but I'm sure Flying for the Disabled is one. Anyway, their names are unimportant. What is important is how she looks after all the incredibly courageous disabled people who put their sometimes life-threatening ailments to one side in order to follow their passion to fly. She follows them as they take their massively difficult written tests; is there when they are helped into the small aeroplane to take their first flight with an instructor; celebrates with them if they actually pass their private pilot's license and is there to witness and cheer them on their first solo flight.
She doesn't stop there, either. She writes to them, thanks them, phones them, makes them laugh as they endure another horrific series of operations, organises nicer Bed & Breakfast places to stay or even offers them her spare bed, meets them for lunch, gets them better jobs, emails them and generally is like a second Mum. She does all this for free. She doesn't get one penny, just the undying adoration of all her 'pupils'.

I try to practice kindness every day. And fail. Often. I don't know how she does it all the time, often with complete strangers, but she is my hero and a tough act to follow.

I miss her like crazy.
Every. Single. Day.

Who's your kindness hero?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An unforgettable day out at Wimbledon

I just love Wimbledon tennis tournament. It's my favourite sporting event in the year. I have been a few times, especially when I was younger, but the most memorable was the time I took my Mum about 5 years ago. She had been helping me a lot with the kids (well, she always did that) and I wanted to give her a special treat. A lovely day out that the two of could remember. Well, it was certainly unforgettable.