Around Town

No Filter December – Day 31: The Final Day

No Filter December has come to an end. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of blogging under the No Filter title so much, I may just declare next year “No Filter 2015.”  Let’s just consider it that between ourselves, though, so I don’t have to preface every title with it, because frankly, that got tedious this month.

041At any rate, it’s New Year’s Eve. Time for the Traditional Schmidt Household New Year’s Bash, a rollicking good time wherein we drink Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider and do a jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes, if we’re feeling daring, we light a fire.  This year we added a pot of chili to the mix AND were treated to gluten-free donuts made by the 14 year old.  (There was a slight misunderstanding about the difference between 1/2 tsp and 2 tsp when it came to the salt measurement in the recipe, however, so we didn’t actually eat the donuts.)

When I was young and single, I did my time at New Year’s Eve parties. I remember one in particular, a rather large one for the Singles group at a popular church.  After a painful hour or so, a friend and I, having recognized a certain desperation in each others’ countenances, politely sidled out without drawing undue attention to ourselves. As soon as we got to the sidewalk, we ran, yelling “Aaugh,” down the street.  Yes, we literally yelled, “Aaugh.” It was that bad.

We ended up at a party at the home of a friend of his. It was a handful of people, and we sat around and played quiet games and chatted and I do believe it was the best New Year’s Eve party I have ever attended.

That was the last year I attended a big party.

A quick look at my Facebook newsfeed tells me that I’m not alone in enjoying staying home on New Year’s Eve, so either I’m getting old or a lot of people have come to the same conclusion as I that large New Year’s parties are overrated.

So to those of you who are joining the loud, the frantic and the raucous this evening in your celebration, I tip my hat.  To those of you who are joining me in staying home, I lift my glass of sparkling cider to you and offer you a quiet and understanding grin.

And, since I spent some time with this little guy earlier today while his mistress and my daughter were riding bikes at the beach, I also offer you a Happy New Year grin from Sam.  No, he’s really grinning. Really.

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Categories: Around Town, Blogging, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December – Day 29: The Rules

My friends in Mexico live in a community with a security gate.  Apparently most of their neighbors are also Americans, and although part of the charm of the place for me has been that friendly neighborhood dogs roam the streets and take themselves down to the beach whenever they feel like it, someone in the community must have become uptight about it, because signs have been posted all over the complex.

And really, since English is not the guy’s first language, he did a pretty good job, all things considered.

I went ahead and laughed at it, at length, anyway.  I have a feeling that parts of it will be quoted among my family for years to come. Especially Rule Number Three, aka “The Unfinished Rule.” It should come in handy whenever I feel chaos ensuing.

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Rules To Live By

 

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No Filter December- Day 28: Flu With a Side Of Diabetes

So, the flu hit. I took the day off yesterday, and was planning to lay low today too, but then the 12 year old made himself breakfast.

Which would have been okay, but he has Type 1 Diabetes and gave himself enough insulin to cover for waffles and syrup.

Which also would have been okay, but the waffles turned out to be freezer burnt, so he couldn’t eat them, and once he has given himself insulin, he needs to eat within the next 30-45 minutes or his blood sugar could drop too low and he could pass out and the paramedics would then have to pay us a visit.

No problem, thought I from my cozy chair by the fire, he can just make himself some pancakes.  Except it’s 3 days after Christmas and I was sick yesterday so no one has been grocery shopping, so we were out of eggs, and all the other drivers in the house were either at church or sleeping off a late-night band practice.

There was no way around it. I had to run to the store to get eggs.

The 12 year old apologized profusely and promised me that he would run in and buy the eggs while I sat in the car, but once we got there, I felt okay so I said I would go in with him.

And then this happened and I realized I really should just have stayed put.014

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Diabetes, Family | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

No Filter December – Day 27: Driving Tips For Mexico

I have ranted on this blog in the past about how much I hate four-way stop signs, but I found I actually don’t mind them in Mexico.  Down there, everyone works together and you all get through the intersection, and if someone pushed in a little ahead of you when it was technically your turn, it’s not all that bad, because at least they do it quickly, and with sure intention, so that there is no question in your mind that you have to stop and wait a bit.  And they tend to get out of your way with equal alacrity.

There is this one intersection in Rosarito that almost defies description, but I’m going to try anyway. Or perhaps I will draw a diagram.

Here’s how it looks on the map:

Mcdonalds Rosarito intersection

The top orange line on the right is a freeway off ramp, and the bottom orange line is a freeway on ramp.  The white road between them goes over a bridge that starts right about where the ramps begin. The yellow lines on the left show the main road through town.  Doesn’t look so bad, right?  Except for one thing.  If you are coming off the freeway on that top orange line, but you want to go across the bridge (and it seems that a large percentage of the traffic does want to do that particular maneuver),  you have to pull a U turn across the white street.  Okay, so that’s not so bad either, especially when you consider that the west-bound traffic on that white street has a stop sign right there.

Except that this seems to be one of the busiest intersections in Rosarito. Not only are people coming off the freeway and wanting to U-turn to cross the bridge, but some of them also want to go to the McDonalds across the street.

Plus there are people coming out of McDonalds who want to go across the bridge.

Plus, let us not forget that freeway on ramp at the bottom, and some people coming east from the main road want to get on the freeway.

Also, some of the people coming across the bridge, who have stopped at the stop sign, also want to either get on the freeway or go to McDonalds, so some of them are turning left there.

And to make matters more fun, a large amount of people are coming off the main road and going across the bridge, and at the other end of the bridge there is an equally busy intersection that often gets gridlocked.

All this means that this intersection is almost always choked with cars, and that much of the time traffic is backed up across the bridge.  So if you are coming off the freeway, you don’t just have to make a U Turn.  You have to make a U turn while pushing your way into traffic that is backed up while not blocking the people who have stopped at the stop sign.

And you also don’t want to accidentally get on the on ramp instead of the bridge because then you will find yourself the other end of town, at the off ramp that empties directly into the parking lot of a very popular Pemex gas station.

Mcdonalds Rosarito intersection satellite2At any rate, the satellite picture on Mapquest shows the mayhem a little more accurately, although this was obviously not taken during rush hour.  Notice there are no sidewalks or crosswalks.  More than once I have seen pedestrians crossing this road.  Not at the intersection, though, but kind of in the middle between the intersection and the bridge, i.e. the absolute worst place to put your body in front of a moving vehicle because the driver is already distracted with trying not to hit the cars coming at him from five different directions.

Just to make it more fun, when you get to the other side of the bridge, if you want to turn right, you have to be aware of an off ramp coming up alongside the bridge on the right.  You can’t actually SEE it, because it’s lower than the road, but there could be a car coming up that way, so you have to do your best, before you cut over to the right turn lane, to catch a glimpse of something in that direction so you don’t crash into them as they merge onto the main road.  This is why it’s always good to have a passenger with you when you drive in Mexico.

Within a few hours of arriving there my first time driving in Mexico, I had to face this intersection – the hard way, being one of the U-turners.  I should also mention it was the evening rush hour.  And dark.

It was surprisingly easy, because as I said before, everyone worked together. As long as you don’t dither, and take your turn the second it opens up, you do just fine.  I find this far preferable to the waving-on wars that happen in intersections up in the States.

Come to think of it, while this U-turn intersection actually seems to work in Mexico, I’m pretty sure it would result in some shootings if it were up in L.A.

At any rate, after my two days of driving across the border, I came up with this:

Mexico 2013 Ems Camera 403Driving Rules For Mexico

1) Drive slower than you think you should.  You never know when a car, pedestrian or dog will appear in front of your car.  Or a pot hole.

2) If you think it’s your turn, go. You’ll figure out it really wasn’t your turn if you find someone else in your way, and you can always stop then. If you hang about too long trying to figure out if it’s your turn, though, you’ll mess up the whole flow of traffic.

3) Always take a passenger.  This gives you someone to talk to during slow traffic, as well as equipping your vehicle with another pair of eyes.

4) If someone honks you, they are not upset.  They are just saying, “Hey, I’m over here, don’t hit me.”  There is a good chance they are breaking traffic laws at the time, hence the need to get your attention.

5) Stop signs are a good idea, but no one really takes them all that seriously.

  • Corollary A) If the paint has washed off the stop sign, you really shouldn’t have to stop there.
  • Corollary B) On the other hand, it’s a good idea to treat every intersection like there is a stop sign, just in case someone else is not taking them seriously coming the other way.

6) Traffic lights are also suggestions, but it’s usually a good idea to agree with them.

Mexico 2013 Ems Camera 3597) If armed men in fatigues or uniforms tell you to stop so they can look in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to comply.

Corollary A) Don’t take pictures of them.

8) Develop an innate sense of the width of your vehicle ahead of time. You will use this information often.

9) If too many pedestrians are clogging the crosswalk and taking their time to get across, just start easing forward to encourage them to hurry up, especially if they are students.  They need to develop a healthy fear of moving vehicles.

10) If you need to back out into traffic, just go.  Nobody wants to hit you.  They’ll stop.

11) Don’t worry about doing the right thing. You can’t really do the wrong thing.  We’re all making it up as we go.

Come to think of it, that last one is a good rule of thumb for life.

Categories: Around Town, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Filter December – Day 23: Driven To Distraction

I must admit I was nervous about driving in Mexico when I went last week, but quickly discovered that it wasn’t all that bad.  Because as crazy as some of the intersections get, and as optional some of the stop signs seem to be, it all somehow works out.

After a few days of coping with Rosarito traffic, I returned to the States, and it was on my way out that I almost got in an accident.

Just as I approached the border, the lane I was in unexpectedly turned into an offramp that would take me back to the road to Rosarito, so I had to quickly slow down and cut over a lane.  Unfortunately, someone was at that moment parked horizontally across that lane, waiting for traffic to clear so that he could shoot over to the offramp.  I checked the mirror and started to drive around him on the right, when all of a sudden someone was honking me, loudly and long.  My daughter told me there was someone trying to cut around me from behind.  I stopped and let him go first, and as he drove past us I looked at him. He was a very harried-looking overweight American with a very sour expression on his face.  He looked exactly like a character in a movie about a grumpy middle-manager.

I was a little shaken and upset at first, as I maneuvered into line in the lane next to him.  We had reached the point where the border lines began, so I knew there would be no going anywhere fast for the next hour or so. I tried to catch the man’s eye so I could wave and say sorry, but he just looked away. A few minutes later, the car in front of him didn’t pull up right away when the line moved forward a few feet.  The man laid into his horn with the same gusto he had honked me.  It was so ridiculous to honk when you’re going to be sitting in line for the next hour, I burst out laughing.  What exactly did the man think he would gain by moving up those few feet right away instead of waiting a few seconds?

039While he was busy honking in the left lane, I was quickly working my way across the lanes to try to get into one of the right lanes. I had discovered on my last trip that the right lanes at the San Ysidro crossing open up two or three times down the road into multiple lanes, so they go much faster than the two left-hand lanes, which only split once at the very end.  If you don’t get into the right hand lanes right away, however, you lose your opportunity to change lanes, as the space between the lanes is filled with vendors and their carts all the way to the border. Within a few minutes, I was 5 or 6 cars ahead of the man.  Again I heard the angry honking.

“Oh no,” moaned the 12 year old.  “Is he going to keep that up all the way to the border?  For the next hour or two?”

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “We’ll soon be out of earshot. We can just use his honking as a gauge of how far ahead we’re getting in this lane than if we’d stayed in that lane.”

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later we couldn’t hear him any more.  He had honked at least twice more before he faded into the distance, however.

All I could do was shake my head and think, “That poor man.” His honking was making no difference to his wait time. It was only fueling his frustration.  Suddenly all the stress of the incident with him, which I had realized by then was simply his preponderance for horn-blowing and not actually a near-miss, melted away. I sat back and enjoyed the wait, watching the vendors and talking with the kids.

036The vendors have a tough job, standing in the sun all day, threading between constantly moving cars, but many of them (the successful ones, as it turns out) maintain good humor.  One vendor walked in front of my van just as traffic started to move, so he quickened his pace and crossed himself with a twinkle in his eye.  They don’t let the grumpiness of the drivers get to them.  They hawk their wares, exchange pleasantries with each other and help each other out when needed.  Smiles sell more goods, and the ones who have found a way to smile sincerely sell the most.

Something clicked into place in my head that day. How many times do I get upset about circumstances outside of my control, fuming and ranting and raving about it?  It makes no difference.  Even if there is a point where my words might change the situation, those words need to be calm and reasonable, not ranting and raving.  I can be saddened by a situation, but working myself up about it — following the excitement plan, as a friend of mine calls it — does nothing but raise my blood pressure.  It’s not good for me.  It’s not good for my kids. And it does nothing for the situation.

I came back to the States and jumped headlong into Christmas shopping and traffic jams and harried people and long lines, but somehow the lesson I learned at the border stayed with me.  I keep finding myself pausing in the middle of chaos and smiling, appreciating details, giving away small kindnesses, stopping to have conversations and putting people above things.  Just as I duck under large breaking waves in the ocean, I have been submerging myself under the Christmas frenzy and letting it wash over me instead of knocking me down.

Because the circumstances come and go, and stuff is just stuff, but people are forever.

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Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Los Angeles, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Filter December – Day 22: Pilgrimage To The British Connection

20141222_113615_resized_1Since my parents, my brother and I left England 45 years ago, you would think I would be thoroughly Americanized by now.  Ah, but you would only think that if you had not ever been to my parents’ house.  It was a little piece of England.  We moved a lot, so that piece of England was transplanted quite often.

At any rate, when we finally settled in Southern California in the 70s, we had come to terms with not being able to eat our favorite British sweets and foods without a journey up the coast to Santa Monica.

20141222_113410_resizedAnd then, after many Jelly Baby-less years, we found The British Connection in Torrance.

Since then, it has become a necessity to visit this store every year at Christmas. When Alan and I got married, he became a British sweetie convert and insists on making the pilgrimage, with or without me.  Other people visit the Christmas lights at Sleepy Hollow section of Torrance; we go buy Cadbury Flake bars.

So here’s a shout out to The British Connection.  If you’re in the South Bay of L.A., give them a visit.  They are at 4413 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503.  Very friendly people working there, without fail, and if you have no idea what to get, they can help you figure it out.  You can even tell them your budget and the age of the person you are buying for and they will put together a basket.

The girl stocking the shelf said they just can't keep enough Flake and Crunchie bars.  "This will be gone in a few hours," she said, piling the candy on top of the bars.  "I didn't believe them when I started working here, but it's true."  I confirmed her words by promptly putting a handful of each kind in my basket.  Oops.  Now my brother knows what he's getting for Christmas.

The girl stocking the shelf said they just can’t keep enough Flake and Crunchie bars. “This will be gone in a few hours,” she said, piling the candy on top of the bars. “I didn’t believe them when I started working here, but it’s true.” I confirmed her words by promptly putting a handful of each kind in my basket. Oops. Now my brother knows what he’s getting for Christmas.

Just a note – you can buy Cadbury at regular grocery stores, but the British Connection sells the real stuff.  Yes, there is a difference!

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No Filter December – Day 20: Why Worry?

One day a lady went to a meeting at her church to hear a missionary talk about the work he does in Mexico.  She wasn’t able to join the next trip that went to his area, but she remembered what he had said about the church he and his wife are starting in February of 2015.

A few weeks later she went to her storage unit, and struck up a conversation with a man from Liberia whose unit was across the hall from hers. He mentioned that he had just moved to the area, but after a couple of months of paying for the storage space, he had decided that it was too expensive to keep all this furniture in storage. He and his wife were looking for a church or ministry to donate it to. So she told him she knew just the place.

037She put him in contact with the head of the missionary’s home team, and a week later he and some other members of the team showed up to the storage unit to pick up the furniture.

It turned out to be around $6000 worth of furniture.  It filled a 20-ft truck.  The couple who donated it only wanted to know that it was going to a good cause. After hearing about the new church and the work that has already begun down in Baja, they got so excited they agreed to join the team on the next trip down there, for the grand opening of the church.

068Soon the furniture bought in Indiana by a couple from Liberia, which was shipped to California, will be headed for Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, to be used by the members of a brand new church, Capilla Calvario/Calvary Chapel Playas.  It will join the 150 chairs that were donated a week before by a Norwegian cruise ship.

When God decides to start a new work in a certain area, this is how things come together.  It makes you wonder why, when we feel a nudge from God to do something or go somewhere, we ever worry about the details.

 

 

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No Filter December – Day 17: Why Not?

Today I packed up the kids and went back to Mexico. You might ask me why, the week before Christmas when there are so many errands to run and parties to attend, I would leave the country for a couple of days.

Well, because I could. Because last year I finally renewed my passport just so I could do stuff like this.  Because I had a small window of opportunity and if I didn’t take it, I would be delivering my missionary friends’ Christmas presents in February.  And because if it wasn’t that big a deal last week for my husband to unexpectedly jump in the car and drive to the border to deliver me my green card, then it shouldn’t be that big a deal for me to drive another 20 minutes past the border to visit my friend.

And really, why not?

Even though Alan couldn’t take any more time off from work and come with us, I was confident that I could manage it. So I did. There was a horrendous rainstorm the night before, but by the time we hit the road, it was a beautiful day with spectacular clouds.  Again, I apologize, but we Southern Californians just don’t get weather like this much.  We must have shot 30 photos of the clouds.  And by we, I mean the 19 year old and the 14 year old, because I was driving.  Both hands firmly on the wheel.

Unlike this guy, who was driving in the fast lane next to us as we went through San Diego.

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As soon as we crossed the border, the rules changed.  For example, this is the freeway in Mexico.

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So, you know, in Mexico, if you need to get somewhere, you just walk there. Freeway, whatever.  It’s a road.

At some point it suddenly hit me that I was driving.  Me.  Driving.  In Mexico.  So the 19 year old took a picture for posterity’s sake.

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I really wasn’t gripping the wheel as tightly as it looks. I was quite calm and relaxed, enjoying the scenery and wondering what the speed limit was and how that translated into MPH.

 

Just in case you are wondering, I put my passport AND my green card in my purse before I packed anything else.

 

 

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Filter December – Day 16: Retail Mayhem and More Weather

Today was the first official day I had off since we broke for Christmas Break last week. I celebrated by going to the dentist to get the permanent filling put on my root canal at 9 a.m.   After this I went Christmas Shopping at a local mall.  This leads me to believe that I may need to rethink my idea of the word “celebrate.”

After an hour and a half in Marshall’s, I finally emerged with a good chunk of my shopping completed.  This isn’t all that big a deal, except for the fact that I had intended to go to Home Goods, not Marshall’s, but I accidentally went in the wrong door.

Which, again, wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it took me ten minutes to notice I was in the wrong store.  And by then I had stuff in my cart so I decided to stay there.

So I’d say I was functioning on a par with most of the other shoppers I ran into. The 19 year old met me at the store, which helped a lot, because after walking up and down aisle upon aisle of miscellaneous department-store overstocks, I felt like my eyes were about to roll back into my head.

I arrived home bag-laden and foot-sore, pleased that I had finished such a daunting task, until I realized that I needed a few more items.  I then broke my hardest and fastest December Rule. I went to Target at 3 in the afternoon the week before Christmas.

Also, just then, it began to rain.

Somehow, though, the rain just brought us all together, and there was a cheerful atmosphere among my fellow shoppers.  I had a moment of solidarity with a young couple in the toy section when a little boy reached into the cart his mother was pushing and pulled out a toy, saying, “HEY!  Why is this in our cart? I said I liked it but I didn’t put it in here!”  His father burst out laughing, while his mother looked over at me and mouthed the words, “Darn it!”

The best moment of the day happened on my way out of the store.  The exit was clogged with people stopping to pull out umbrellas and put on hoods, because the rain had just started up again, and just ahead of me was a family with three kids.   Their youngest, a little boy who looked to be about 4, ran out the door and stopped just at the edge of the overhang, then threw his arms up into the air, exclaimed, “Bye-bye, cwuel world!” and stepped out into the deluge.

I was still chuckling by the time I got home.

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First we get rain, and then we get a rainbow. Will the weather incidents ever end here in L.A.? Pretty sure this will be on all the news channels tonight, in detail.

 

Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Los Angeles | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Filter December – Day 13: A Boy And His Christmas Tree

Two out of the Three Men of the house (the third has succumbed to the stomach flu the rest of us had last week) went out foraging for a Christmas tree this morning.  It was the 12 year old’s first time really getting his hands in there when it came time to prep the tree.

First, he helped tie it to the roof and untie it when they got home.  Next, joy of joys, Alan actually let him use the chainsaw to cut the end of the trunk off.

And then we decorated.  Well, we tried to decorate.  All that lumberjacking and chainsawing apparently went to his head, because he insisted that we were putting the lights on the tree the wrong way.  Which would have been okay, but he went on to insist that not only was it wrong, but that we had NEVER DONE IT THIS WAY BEFORE.  Okay, but I can think of at least, well, 22 prior Christmases since this family was founded.  Not to mention the ones I had at my parents’ house before that.  Ever since I was 16 and my Dad realized it was a more efficient method to string the lights vertically instead of wrapping them around the tree, the lights went on up and down, not round and round.  My Dad was an engineer.  There was no reason to ever do it the other way.

Before I could do more than mention, “Pop taught us this way,” the 14 year old jumped in, so I stepped back and let her take over.  All the debate training she has had this year in Classical Conversations came into play.  It got vehement.

The 12 year old is stubborn, however.  Mulish.  So we let him win, which meant he got to string the lights on all by himself.  We waited for him to get overwhelmed, but he was so happy with his win, he set about stringing the lights quite happily, singing along with the Christmas carols playing on the radio.   “‘Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree O, Christmas Tree…’  Hey!  I totally know these lyrics!”

The lights are uneven and clump together in spots, but that’s just how we will leave them.  Because sometimes you have to choose between being “right” and being happy, and Christmas is definitely one of those times.

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Categories: Around Town, Christmas, Family, Relationships | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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