New Years Goals

Every year I try and make some goals for the new year, sometimes I write them on paper and look at them from year to year to see if I accomplished anything.  One of the biggies from awhile ago was really learning how to sail and buying a boat – mission accomplished.  Some other things on my list (some wishes) was a house that was on the market in Bisbee, AZ for years, an original craftsman from 1906.  That’s been sold, not a dream I share with the rest of my family.

This year I’ve dialed it back a few notches, just to spending some time with my mom.  She’s gotta be lonely, she’s lost all of her friends.  She was talking about assisted living for years, in an effort to not be a pain to us.  The plan was to rent her house to pay for the difference, I just can’t see it though.  She has a few (surviving) friends close by and a few of our childhood friends are living in their childhood homes again after their parents have passed away, they check in on her all the time.  We have a full house or she could move in with us…as I type we’re waiting for the plumber, the house is falling apart!!

This past year I bought a keyboard and a bike for hanging out at her house for extended periods.  Right now they’re at our house, she forgets to close the garage door sometimes and I’m worried the bike will be stolen.  She’s pretty funny about keeping things at her house, I used to have a “vacation corner” of her garage with beach chairs, a bike, some surf boards.  She would mention it EVERY SINGLE TIME I talked to her, “When are you going to get this stuff out of here?”  I cleared it all out, except the beach chair.   I barely go in my kids rooms, I have no idea what they’ve left here when they move back & forth on their own journeys.

Other goals include keeping up with my piano, possibly writing a song that no one will ever hear.  I can’t tell if the lessons are helping or not?  I’m still practicing almost an hour a day, the pieces I play are hard so it’s hard to tell unless I play something easy.  My music theory is really rusty, when the piano teacher says what note am I playing it takes me a few seconds to even recall it.  I still start from C to go back & forth to figure it out like I did when I was 10yrs old.  In that regard, I’m not getting any better.

One thing after “retiring,” I no longer have career goals.  The pictures I take, my sewing projects, are all just for family now.  Writing, photography, sewing have always been things I’ve dabbled with off & on throughout my life thinking they’d lead to something career wise.  Now I don’t need to worry about it and can just kick back to enjoy it.

I actually do want to get my captains license for sailing.  My son & I took a group out yesterday for a BBQ on Angel Island, it would be fun for us to actually charge for events like that and Fleet Week.  He likes sailing, I like the name “Captain Heller.”  Last year was IFR rating that never happened…oops.  That was mostly due to flying below clouds to get somewhere for a really bumpy ride.  I don’t want to fly in bad weather…ever.

This years journey starts with the long drive back to New Mexico, then flying back to LA to spend some time with my mom.  I’ll be a bit of a nomad through January, something I never really get to do.  When I first got my pilot’s license, my plan was to buy a plane to be a nomad.  I thought I’d fly all over to see relatives and freeload, when they asked when I was going to leave I’d say, “I don’t know?”  I’ll have to take that off the list, my family doesn’t like small planes.

So not big goals, just getting through the year un-injured and spending time with my mom.  My surfing days may be numbered, I’m afraid to break my ribs again.  No sports goals for once, unless sailing counts as a sport.  Just keep on choog’lin.


My absolute favorite thing to do when I was a kid growing up in Manhattan Beach was dive under those waves, I could spend all day in the water.  The best feeling for me was still having that salt and sand all over me when I got out, I never even rinsed off.  There was rarely a time I even brought a brush to the beach with me.  Having salt mixed with sand either walking or riding my bike home felt so good!  My grade school was right up the hill from the water, we had a pact to go in the water every single day one year.  That’s my memory of it, not sure if we did it or not?  I’d wait for my hair to dry at my friend’s house (my parents didn’t know), then run down Sand Dune park hill to get home.

I had a few water toys growing up, a styrofoam wave rider thingy and an itchy surf mat.   When I was really little, my mom would put us on the surf mat to get us across the hot sand and pull the rope.  Boogie boards came out when I was in middle school, they were actually kits you had to buy duct tape to put them together.  Then the boys starting surfing, girls not allowed.  This could be due to the fact that the boys weren’t very good yet and didn’t want the girls to actually know that.  Right before we made that puberty transition, I was still one of the boys with my boogie board.  We were all at the pier, two of my guy friends dared me to go in when the waves were big, so I went for it.  Of course I was pummeled, when I came in though they both said they never would have gone out!!  They both became pro surfers at some point in their lives.

What was unfortunate timing for me was short board popularity, long boards were not cool in the ’70’s, no one wants to be labeled a “kook.”  I was asked by the local surf shop to join the boogie board team…ummmm, no thanks.  That just sounded so wimpy compared to surfing.  I wanted to stand up!  I just couldn’t on a short board.

In my attempts to surf, I was lucky to hang out with a group of kids for a time with dads who were longboard surfers.  I did a lot of pearling, the timing of Manhattan Beach waves with a longboard is not the greatest either.  They’re quick waves, with a boogie board I could take off while the wave was curling.  On a longboard, you take off at the swell and paddle hard.  If there’s already a curl, it’s just going to push the nose straight down.  Since there was no formal instruction, besides a beginning book in the library (I’d put guys names in as if they checked it out as a joke), I did a whole lot of pearling.  I did have some success when my friend took the helm.  He’d be at the back of the board to take it so I could crawl up tandem.  It was a fun summer, before my BF dumped me and I had to switch steets.

I gave up until after I graduated from college, when I was working at a swimwear store in Santa Monica Canyon.  The local guys there adopted me as their own and came by with a board for me after work.  They put me on a 9′ board, I hopped up right away.  One thing I always knew how to do was paddle and wave motion.  The waves at State Beach were a lot easier than Manhattan Beach, plus I had the support of a bunch of Malibu surfers who were impressed I could even paddle.  I was hooked!!  I bought a board and tried to surf every day.  I made a mistake though, I went from a 9′ board with the intention of getting better to go back to a short board at some point.  Same fatal mistake I made from when I was younger.  I bought a shorter board and couldn’t even get up…because by that time I was 5’9″ with a really slow hop up.  I switched jobs too, I started working at Nordstrom getting me off the beach.

That Christmas, I went surfing with my brother and his friends.  I was able to get past the break, then they would take off and I heard our friend screaming down the wave.  I thought, “I have no business out here if he’s scared.”  I waited for the lull and went in.

That summer I met my husband, moved to NorCal and quit surfing.  I became a suburban mom and took up golf, a sport that doesn’t require speed or a quick hop up.

When our boys were grown, for my 50th my husband asked what have I always wanted to do?  I said, “I’ve always really wanted to learn how to surf.”  He found a women’s surf retreat for me, Kristy Murphy’s surf retreats.  The first one I went to was in Mexico, I’ve also been to the Costa Rica and Hawaii retreats.  She gave me this soft board that was about 11′??  I affectionally called it the “Beastie board,” I couldn’t carry it alone.  I could barely paddle it once it got a little water logged.  What I could do was get up on it right away, my first ride in 20 plus years was an audience of legendary women surfers paddling out hooting at me.  What a welcome!!  I didn’t know who they were at the time, I found out at a party afterward.  Before the party, I PM’d one of my surfer friends with the names to see who they were.

At the party, I talked mainly to this woman Zuef.  Zuef was married to Frosty of “Mavericks” fame.  She talked about what it was like to be a step-mom to girls who had lost their mom while they were young.  This was before the movie came out, I didn’t know much about Frosty or that his first wife had died.  Zuef was battling bone cancer herself, their girls trip to Mexico was in her honor while she was still alive.  A few years later, she lost her battle too.  One of the take aways from that was how she had told me she could tell I had a great heart, I’ll always remember that observation by her of me when I’m down.  Other attendee’s were Linda Benson and Heather Hudson of “Women and the Waves” movies.

I continued going to these retreats for a few years, posting shamelessly on FB.  A friend from MB finally asked to join me on a Costa Rica trip.  One thing about growing up in MB that was hard is that everyone’s super model thin plus a killer athlete.  I’m a half ass athlete, no comparison to the girls I grew up with.  She had surfed with her dad as a kid, played Div 1 volleyball in college, I knew I’d be a little jealous.  Sure enough, she out surfed me after 2 shaky waves.  I felt like chopped liver, that I sucked.

Since that first trip, we went on quite a few others.  Some of my best waves were at a ranch in Mexico we took a boat to, that was a fun day!  I surfed really well for me.  Another was a right I caught in Hawaii, it seemed so effortless and went on forever.  I out paddled my friend for a wave and Kristy told me about it later.  I can’t see without my glasses, I didn’t even know she was going for it?  I’m a wimp, I’ll let the “better surfer” get the wave.  Her attitude towards the whole thing was that she didn’t think I’d get it, so she went for it.  She said that to me a few times, “I knew you wouldn’t get it”  as her apology for cutting me off… What a friend.

The last 3 times I’ve gone have been mini-disasters for one reason or another.  Hawaii was a huge storm and WAY too big for me.  I won’t go out if it’s too big, I have a healthy fear of mother nature.  I surfed 2 days of that trip.

The next time was in Mexico where the biggest bitch on the face of the earth happened to be.  She was an emergency room Dr. who deemed me irrelevant.  She was also “off duty,” I got tourista and broke my ribs.  I don’t mean “off duty” as a Dr., I mean as a human being.  When I came down in the morning to say that I couldn’t surf, I crawled back to bed for a day of pain from my ribs and passing out.  The morning was the only time I was even able to make it downstairs, we were the only ones staying at the Casita.  She never knocked on my door to see if I needed water, or was alive.  Kristy finally saved me with some gatorade and crackers that night or I wouldn’t have woken up the next morning.  Less people in the line up for the Dr. I guess?  God I hated that woman!  If we went to HS together I would have put her name in that library book as a kook.  I don’t care if you went to med school, if you talk down to people as non-existant then brag about hook ups on Tinder, I’m not going to like you more than you don’t like me.

My last attempt was almost 2 years ago now.  I went to Costa Rica with my friend and her now wife.  It was a few months after the Mexico fiasco, I guess my ribs hadn’t healed?  All went well until I had a minor fall forward, like a belly flop.  That’s what happened the first time, I figured I must have hit the board to do that kind of damage?  I never went to the Dr. though for x-rays, wasn’t even sure if I broke them?  I was out for the rest of the trip, it was such a bummer.  Then, of all things, I lost my drone 😦  I brought it down to film Kristy when she caught a mile long wave.  I designated my friends W as a spotter, but she was spotting my friend and not the drone.  Not to blame her, just that it was super annoying when I saw the palm leaf come up when I backed it up to see where it went.  I would have just pressed the home button, but I didn’t have enough battery to pop it back up and she wanted some footage of A.  I was looking through the FPV, not paying attention to the drone at all.  Never found it, everyone was pissed at me and suddenly drone experts.  The rest of the trip was painful ribs and me being the 5th wheel who was useless because I lost my drone.

So my surfing life might end?  When I did get back, I got the X-rays and a bone density test.  I have Osteopenia, which wouldn’t matter much if I didn’t do an extreme sport.  I’ve always been so strong, that’s been the hardest part of aging for me.  Never fast, always strong.  It took me forever to realize my weak points as an athlete.

I might try again, I just can’t be a wimp about what board I should be riding or have others who think they’re better than me intimidate me.  A few waves and a smoothie, that’s what I love about surfing.  Kristy & Cat were great!!  For that reason alone I might give it another go.  Or I can just leave it to my friend and her now wife?

The thing about surfing, piano, sailing, whatever people want to try is that it doesn’t matter who is the best.  My favorite surfing quote is the best surfer out there is the one who is having the most fun.  That would always be me 🙂

This is from Costa Rica, the best wave for me with no crowds:

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I Choked

When is it that you just throw in the towel, admit defeat, decide that you truly suck at something?  A lot of cliche’s, they best describe how I’m feeling about my piano.

Every month I get together with some women, who could care less how I play, it’s just that I’d like them to not have to suffer through my piece either.  They’re really good, I won’t go unless I’ve had sufficient time to practice.  I can sight read, it’s not fluent like they’re able to do.  There’s no way I could just pick a piece of music up and play it in front of people.  The hardest part for me is to play in front of people, the first time I did it my fingers were shaking.

It just reminds me of my extreme stage fright as a kid and somehow powering through a recital.  My other stage fright was choir, I worked so hard one time to get the solo then choked during it.  It’s not just a matter of stage fright, no matter how much I practice someone else enters my body to render me frozen with a blank mind.  Even surfing, once that camera is on I can barely stand up!  The girls who run the camps told me that happens with the pro’s too during competition.  Some people come alive in the spotlight, I freak out.  Probably why I’m such a good friend to people who demand a spotlight?

My piece yesterday was Jazzy Jingle Bells, more advanced than my actual ability piece.  My new piano teacher thought I could pull it off.  I’ve been working on it all month, practicing every day.  Then when I played it in front of the group yesterday I really struggled.  At one point I almost got up and quit right there, the paper I printed out for the first page fell off the gorgeous Steinway (a piano made for a better player than I).  I sat down afterward to dig into the cookies.  I never eat the snacks before I play to avoid crumbs on the keys.

Afterwards we all chat about music, or anything that comes to mind.  The subject of how she got the Steinway grand came up.  Her husband’s friend is a Dr. who at one point decided to take up piano, bought the best, then got too frustrated and wanted to sell it.  Somehow that story made me feel a little better, the cookies didn’t hurt either.

Since I’ve experienced choking quite a few times in my life at this point, I’ve come to a few personal conclusions about it.

  1. No one cares
  2. Pick something that’s within my ability
  3. Give up on my dreams of being a senior rock star
  4. Keep playing, it’s supposed to be “fun.”

I tried to look up a youtube on someone playing this with no luck.  For copyright purposes, I can’t even put my pdf up of what I ordered.  The link to the sheet music site is here.  What I chose was the advanced version, part of my frustration even if I was playing it semi-decent at home.

My competitiveness is waning, the old Heller would just get pissed and become better.  This new version is ready to sell my piano.  Ahhh, but it’s raining and the only thing to do at home is either clean, play, or write?

Jump start my smokey brain

Been a rough week indoors with all the smoke, still not as rough as the people in Paradise.  I keep thinking it’s OK to go outside, then park to walk to lunch and can feel it in my throat.  My heart actually hurts?  Don’t know how to explain that besides it’s tight.

Overall, I’m pretty healthy and not too worried about the smoke besides not feeling well all week.  Rain is in the forecast, this should be over in a few days when my only worry will be cold and dark at 4pm.

Usually this time of year I go for a running start into the cold, dark days.  Kind of like riding your bike fast downhill to make it up the next hill with little effort.  I try to stay busy and outside because I know I’m going to be inside for months, I’m not a very productive indoors person.  This smoke is like putting the brakes on for that uphill climb through Winter and having to walk your bike up the hill with flat tires instead.

Yes, I try to gear myself up to avoid seasonal depression (SAD).  Not to be Debbie Downer, just that Christmas coincidentally is a few days after the shortest day of the year.  Sometimes I wonder if bright lights and gift giving isn’t a way to just get us out of the house to look forward to something?  A big party on New Years to get us out of the house with friends.

The short little ebooks (on drones & golf)  I wrote in Tahoe when I was stuck indoors, just to give me a project.  My drone work was weather permitting, that got me through a few Winters just because there used to be so much trouble shooting involved.  I’ve passed that all on to my husbands engineering firm, there are 2 drone pilots there now.

This is the first year I haven’t actually had a job, my time is my own.

I can do one of those cheesy “5 things to get you through seasonal depression.”

  1.  Stay outside as much as possible while the weather is still decent (I’ve already blown that one).
  2. Stock up on home projects, like cleaning the closet or drawers for 15 min a day.  Then write a to-do list to replace items like light bulbs, moth balls, stuff that forces you to get out and go to a store.  We’ve lived here for 20 years, it’s a Winter project.
  3. Organize all your photos for Christmas gifts – another huge project.  When was the last time you had prints made?  I have digital photos all over the place, on several computers/CD/USB/Cards.  Nothing is in one place, there’s no more room on this particular laptop I’m writing on.  Yesterday I made an attempt and uploaded my film cards to Shutterfly, which BTW has unlimited storage.  They also automatically suggest photo gifts.
  4. Plan a trip to look forward to, like surfing in Mexico in Jan.
  5. Get outside no matter once at least once a day, even if it’s pouring.  The gym, a coffee shop, anywhere!

This list is mostly for me, I’m excluding holiday shopping only because the parking and people out for the holidays makes me lose faith in humanity & doesn’t help the cause.  I’m just not a shopper.

Other things on my personal list is writing, either another mini ebook just to practice writing or continuing this blog.  Sometimes I get how Stephen King thought of the idea of “Misery.”  Maybe it takes being totally stuck doing nothing else but writing while you lay around getting limbs cut off?  Kidding, certainly being house bound is WAY too much free time!!  Free time is not my friend.


Calm before the Storm

Which would be the holidays coming full steam ahead like a train wreck.  October is always a really busy, but fun, month for me topped off with WAY too much sugar and my birthday.  Now it’s just recouping from the sugar rush/acne breakout to think about Thanksgiving & Christmas.

If last week was all about getting through my Halloween birthday with my mom, this week is trying to pull myself together from the crash.  Daylight savings kind of helps actually, I can sleep in and appear to be an early riser.

For my 56th year, I scheduled a facial/movie/hair dye day.  When I got home I was all achy from a cold I guess?  My body just kind of said, FU- you need a break.  Good timing, what I was really hoping for was a break in some relaxing location besides my full house.  Don’t feel good enough to go anywhere even with my planned free time.

Instead, I lay here writing trying to think of goals for my 2nd year into senior citizenship.

I do have a confession, in general I’m very healthy.  When I don’t feel well I might as well be on my death bed.

So my “free” week has been spent trying to relax, think about Christmas, looking up “meetups” for groups I might be interested in.  I found a photography & coffee meetup group I signed up for, we’ll see how that goes.  I checked out a sewing shop in Berkeley that had a long arm quilting machine they rent after taking their 3 hour class.  It was a cool studio workshop, I was the youngest one in there.  Not by much, I’m just not ready to be 100 years old quite yet.  I still think of myself as a surfer girl, not put out to bingo pasture.

Are you really as young as you feel?  My Vo2 score puts me at about 35 (whatever that means).  If it weren’t for my back and breaking my ribs surfing, I’d feel a lot more confident about moving forward.  I am terrified of my back going out!  It happens in a split second and I can’t move until the relaxants kick in.  Then it takes over a month to recover, I sported a cane last time just to walk for a few days.

The other thing I’d like to focus on is writing again just to make this a more interesting blog instead of my tales of aging woe.

To give an idea of my typical holiday enthusiasm, I’ve been known to Amazon next day clicking the gift wrap button on December 23rd.  Last year we pulled up in Las Cruces Christmas Eve, hitting Home Depot for a tree they just gave us because they were closing in 5 min.  My husband got me an Amazon GC at the grocery store for my gift.  I actually thought ahead and brought wrapped presents, which was good or there would have been no presents under the tree.  My son got us tix to see Star Wars, where I got a $10 nap in 🙂  That’s how we roll.


Another birthday rolled around, climbing the life ladder.  In an effort to thank my mom for giving birth, I had her come up.  I’m glad I did, even though it was a tough week psychologically for me.  I was born up here, she was a Stewardess in the late 50’s out of SFO.  One of the things her crowd of pilots & stews used to do was sail the Bay.  She hadn’t sailed  here since I was born, so I thought a day of sailing to Sam’s in Tiberon where  I was born would be perfect.

It’s an hour flight from L.A., usually I wouldn’t let her hop on a plane by herself but I really figured an hour isn’t bad?  My friend drove her to the airport and for the first time in her whole life she missed her flight.  Memories of that woman in Seattle freaked me out, I was hoping she wouldn’t suffer the same fate.  She made it on the next flight no problem, disaster averted.

We set up the sail with my husband in Tiberon with a car just in case she got sick and couldn’t make it back.  My son and I sailed over with her, it was a perfect day!!  No wind in the morning, we motored over.  My husband met us at the dock at Sam’s, we got our lunch/latte in and she wanted to sail back with us.  Before we left, she stared at the restaurant for a long time wondering if she’d ever see it again?  Maybe just past memories of there and the time that’s gone by.  Legend has it that they brought me there after I was born, there’s a picture somewhere of Sam holding my thumb when I was a baby.  You can’t tell, it’s just someone holding my thumb that they said was Sam my whole life.

The sail back was perfect winds for a smooth sail back to the dock.  I was so glad to be able to finally take my mom out on the boat, her last sailing experience was coming back in the middle of the night from Catalina with no fuel, no wind after not being able to anchor properly (courtesy of my dad).  It’s one of the reasons I got fully certified for sailing, my dad isn’t the only one out there who had no idea what he was doing.  I’m all about making it from A to B in a reasonable amount of comfort.  That Catalina trip was in the mid-70’s, it was a traumatic experience for us all.  I did love the sailing part though, watching the jellyfish come up as I went up and down on the bow.  I don’t get sea sick, I could sit up on the bow the whole trip moving with the swells.

Before her flight out we went to breakfast downtown here and in the booth next to us was a man I recognized somewhat, couldn’t remember from where.  My mom started talking about my dad (That’s going to be an Oprah book of the month if I ever write it).  She dug in on her usual stuff, making me feel like shit and I just wanted to tell her to shut up.  One thing about my mom, it’s all about her.  Why my dad was even mentioned is beyond me??  They’ve been divorced forever… thank God!!  She feels it’s her right to bring it up and bring down the house.  It was then when I recognized the man in the booth, he was my therapist from about 20 years ago.  She went on & on while I said nothing just wondering if this man had recognized me and was listening?  Should I go back to him to get the rundown on the (one sided) conversation that was transpiring?

If he was listening and recognized me, I’m sure he was wondering how I turned out even remotely sane.

One positive thing she did say was about my math and spelling skills.  I’m pretty logical, like Spock on Star Trek.  Life is a big problem waiting to be solved.  So far, so good.


Lots of parent soul searching while I’m out here, do I live for my kids or start living for me?  I’ve never been good at discipline with the kids, he really needs someone strict to just get him going and not have a meltdown (like I already did).  I want to help him, I’m just not sure I’m the person for the job?  He doesn’t listen to me at all.

I did make a decision about going back to school for a music degree, not going to happen.  I’ve been practicing every day down at this music store for the same price an hour I pay for parking in Walnut Creek.  Yesterday I headed towards the music department practice room at NMSU to hear some of the students…I’m in between.  The person playing was a definite beginner, the person playing at the music store was incredible.  What’s a music degree going to get me?

That said, I wouldn’t mind setting my keyboard up here to practice in the garage or something.

I had a dream I was asked to be the co-pilot on a charter flight in a jet.  At first I got on with the passengers, then I remembered I was supposed to fly the plane about 5 minutes before take off.  I grabbed my headset to go into the cockpit where there were other female pilots and we all had our own “stations.”  It wasn’t a normal cockpit, it was more like an auditorium with people, food, a stage, the male captain, and even a band playing.  There were 3 or 4 of us women co-pilots.  I was trying to find the landing speed – in case there was a remote chance I would land the plane – when I opened my headset case to see my kids had swapped it out for a headset that didn’t work.

There were some other things in the dream that came up, somehow I was recommended to be a pilot on that crew randomly.

In real life, my first attempt to get a pilots license was a disaster.  My written was timing out, the plane I was flying had exhaust problems so I was trying to get used to another plane for my check ride and another instructor.  I set the two weeks aside to have the kids at my mom’s house so I could just focus on finishing up with no distractions and the whole thing fell apart.  The kids got sick, I couldn’t send them to my mom’s.

The “Good ‘ol Boy” pre-check didn’t know it was a pre-check and gave me a lecture at the end about the levels he needed to sign off on before I got to the unicorn level.  I paid about $50 for the bullshit lecture that didn’t apply to me.  The last blow was going to lunch with my mom’s best childhood friend to find out she had stage 4 lung cancer.  It wasn’t time, I shelved it for a few years and let me written time out.

When I did re-take the written a few years later, it went by very fast.  My CFI told me it took him years to get his initial license, a few months to get the higher ratings.

What does any of this mean?  I don’t know, if I had it figured out I’d be the first to write about it.

I do know I have a few options:
-Captains license where I could charge people to sail
-Continue getting IFR/commercial with my pilots license & possibly get a few years of work in before the mandatory retirement.


-Get IFR just to cut through the fog and commute back & forth to my mom’s house so she can stay at home?  Fly out here, fly my son to his tournaments when he does start to compete again.

All I know is that I don’t have a future in music, people are REALLY talented and I have no desire to practice hours every day to catch up, if that’s even possible?  An hour a day is perfect.