Monday, March 20, 2006

Life Before the BLog (or back in 2005)

(Editors note: This was something I wrote almost a year (in 2005) ago, but it still is pertinent today]

OC Adventures [Mom's trip to the OC (April 19th - 26th)] 2005

by Mark McDonald

This trip was going to special for both my Mom and Me & Brittany. Mom had not been out west in two years, and in that time I have since moved from Dana Point and bought a house in Mission Viejo. We were looking very forward to having Mom out here and Brittany had prepared the guest room better that I could have ever expected. I just wanted my Mom to have a nice and relaxing stay this time around. The last two times she was here I slept on a thin photon couch that was really uncomfortable. This time was going to be different: she had her own room. I also put in for some time off at work so the three of us could spend the majority of time together. I really didn't have anything planed, just lots of fun ideas including new sites and activities for us to see and do.

The Arrival (Tuesday, April 19th)

My savvy Mom got a really good deal on a straight shot across the country via Jet Blue. Taking off out of Dulles Airport, her destination would be only 5 hours away. This was a break from the usual all day travel and wasted vacation day that usually accompanies the long trip out West. To make things even easier, her destination of Long Beach airport is really simple to get in and out of compared to LAX or Orange County.

Brittany and I went in to the airport cafe and watched and waited for her plane to land as we both sipped on a beer and talked about how nice this break was going to be for all of us. Mom's plane arrived on-time and we were happy to see her. I think she was the last person off the plane!

Mom liked the house as I thought she would. She seemed to like a lot of the same features that I caught my at first sight.

That night we went to a really nice Mexican restaurant in Rancho San Margarita. We talked, ate, sipped margarita's and enjoyed the sounds of Salsa music that came from a live band next to our booth. That would be an early night for us, since my mom was still on east coast time. Actually that was probably way past her bed time!

Wednesday, April 20th

I woke up around 7:30 and mom was already up. We both shared a fruit shake and mom had some of her wheat germ that she had brought with her. Brittany was still asleep but mom and I were both wide awake, so we went on a short walk up a hill to the power lines and then around the condo complex. Mom liked the wild flowers and views of the Saddle Back mountains in the near distance.

When we got back, Brittany was already up and being her beautiful self. She make us both a croissant sandwich that hit the spot! I wasn't sure what our first activity would be, but I did know that Brittany had recently bought a dinner table and chairs from the local Goodwill for like $70. I have not had a dinner table since I have live in Southern California and this was a big day for me.

The dinner table was pretty heavy and it took all three of us to bring it in. Surprisingly, the table's white tile matched the counter in the kitchen perfectly. Good eye Britt! Oddly enough, the chairs were really a great set, but they reeked of a musty-wet basement smell that was more than we could bear. So we put them out on the patio and decided to wash them with some Murphy's oil soap. Just a little bit of scrubbing and these chairs looked like new ones that you might have purchased from a hardware store. Mom noticed that they had never been stained so we decided to let the chairs dry and go get some polyurethane (stain and wood polish).

One the way to Home Depot, we stopped at the Humane Society. It was surrounded by rolling hills and was definitely the nicest one I have ever seen. Prior to Mom's visit Brittany and had visited the Humane Society and saw a six month old golden-retriever/chow mix puppy named 'Bela' that Brittany had really liked. This time Brittany would get to take Bela out of her cage and for a walk. They bonded immediately, and it looked like a definitely a match, but we both agreed that we were not ready for a puppy in the new house. It was sad to put her back in her cage.

When we got back the dry air had removed any water from the now clean chairs and we threw some newspaper on the patio and started staining them. Wow! That was simple, quick and easy. I think at one point in time all three of us were each glossing a chair. The whole project was completed in less than an hour. We also stained another chair that I had picked up at a garage sale. A job well done! Thanks to Brittany and Mom we would soon be gathered together at the dinner table (and it took me only four years, but who's counting anyway!). That night, Brittany prepared a wonderful dinner (as always) and we got a good nights sleep again.

Thursday, April 21st

There was a team meeting at 7:30am Oakley that morning that I was not able to wake up for. I did however ride my mountain bike in and make a 11:30 web meeting with the group. Good news: Oakley sales are up more than 70 percent! The web has be a big part in the jump too. I think their stock was up more than $2.00 a share that day. It was a really nice day and the mountain bike ride to and from was a great way to start it out.

When I returned Brittany and Mom had gone and bought a really nice baker's rack and assembled it. It fit perfect in the kitchen.

We decided to go to the beach. So we all packed into my Honda Accord, surfboard and all, and head to the Salt Creek beach in Dana Point. That brought back some memories for all of us. I think everyone enjoyed themselves even though the temperature was in the 60's and 70's and a bit windy. I was probably a bit under dressed wearing tank-top swim trunks. Mom looked like she was going skiing in the Swiss Alps, with a sweater, and water prof jacket! Later, this would seem to be a good idea.

I decided to take my surf board out. It was a short board that was way to small and could barely float me. The offshore wind combined with the strong current made the water really rough. The were some pretty big waves coming in to. I got slammed about two or three times by big waves and just made a break for the shore before I made a fool of myself.

We all sat for a while on the beach under a bright sun and strong cross winds for about an hour before returning home. On the way home, we stopped at the local Remax, to see real estate agent Leslie Caretti, the agent who sold me my house. She was holding a seminar on buying a second house which all three of us went to and actually enjoyed.

No pictures of anything from this day.

Friday, April 22

The weather forecast was calling for rain for both Saturday and Sunday. Friday it was overcast actually looked like it was going to rain. Much of the day was taken up by me just laying on the couch watching television, Brittany taking a nap and Mom reading the book 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad'.

My Uncle Jack called my cell phone returning a call. He had been in Las Vegas for the past week and sounded pretty worn out but still offered to come to his boat in Newport if the weather was nice.

Later, Mom and I took a bike ride on a near by path up towards Cooks Corner. We both were riding mountain bikes (Mom was riding Britt's Klein). Mom was a little disoriented by the full-suspension and thought that the bike must have had a flat tire. Once I showed here how the gears and full suspension worked, she got really in to it. I was pretty impressed. After riding about two miles up hill we stopped at the ranger's station and picked a few fresh oranges off the trees there.

On the way home, it was like a down hill bike race, with my mom taking the lead for most of the ride. I think that must have been the fastest she had ever gone on a bike! She looked pretty tired when we got backs so all three of us went to the hot tub at the condo. I think Mom liked the heat, I know Britt and I did.

Saturday, April 23

Contrary to the forecast, the weather was beautiful. I guess we got lucky. Uncle Jack called back to tell us that he was not going to come to Newport Beach. He had broken his collar bone in a skiing accident and didn't feel like doing the two hour drive. He did however invite us to his house in Palm Desert, but we didn't feel like doing the drive either.

So we all packed in my car and went to San Juan Capistrano, where I went to a TKD class and Britt and Mom went to the stores around the Mission. An hour or so after my class, I called Britt up and tried to find out where they were. They were in a most sacred place that I had never been: a hidden tea house. I wish I had my camera to take pictures off the tea ladies in their large red hats scattered through out the area. We went into a hippy type shop that was adjacent to the tea house and bought some neat looking candles.

That night we had a bit of company which consisted of my friend and financial adviser, Chris Baroni and his wife Ingrei and her friend Angela from work. We grilled burgers on the which I think I cooked a little to much. We all sat around and talked about rattlesnakes, other wild animals and places to see in Southern California.

Sunday April 24

Woke up and all three of us wanted to get out so we went on a walk to the power lines. Unfortunately, it started to pour rain before we got the top. Mom and Brittany wanted to go and check out the Saddle Back church just around the corner, so they went to a 11:30 mass. Saddle Back church is the largest church west of Texas and sits on a few hundred acres of land with several buildings and accompanying foot trails. Very nice indeed.

When they got back from the church, the rain had cleared and the sun was coming out. So we got out to enjoy what might be the last day for all of use to be together. Just before we left, Britt got a call from her mother who was concerned about her older sister Brooke. She had told her mother that she would be at her house late Friday or early Saturday after a swing dance session. She had not arrived and was not answering her cell phone, so there was a rising concern. Ever since Brooke was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 16 there had been concern for her safety and since she had moved out and lived on her own the were reasons to be worried. Brittany seemed a bit worried but she didn't show it on the outside. So I didn't think to much of this, infact I think she told me while I was strumming my acoustic guitar.

So we decided to go out towards Laguna or even Newport Beach. Mom wanted to take us out to lunch or dinner. By chance, we passed a golf driving range made a u-turn into it to bang a couple of golf balls out into the green. I think I had forgotten how fun this was, for me at least. The people around me might have been a bit annoyed with my baseball bat like style (or no style at all). Still, I think I managed to send a couple of those balls a few hundred yards. Mom was correcting my grip. She actually had taken lesson when she was a girl. Brittany was doing really well too.

That was a fun thing to do and when the hundred or so balls were gone, we drove through the canyon to Laguna Beach. Actually, we went to 'Top of the World' which is the top of the hills just above downtown Laguna Beach. Really nice views here and we walked around on a few trails till we stopped off on a bench. It was a very pretty view indeed, but when I looked over at Britt I could tell something was bothering her. I ask if something was wrong, and she said she was concerned about Brooke. So I had her call Brooke's phone, and then her mom's cell phone. Neither answered, but she shook it off believing that everything was probably okay (this type of thing had happed before).

We drove down the long hill back to the beach, then stopped off on a rather private beach located in South Laguna just off of Pacific Coast Highway. There was almost nobody on the beach and we all just sat back and enjoyed the setting sun. Brittany went on a walk along the shore by herself, and then we all walked north along the sea shore line.

That night we ate at Stuffed Pizza in Dana Point. This is a place that Brittany and I been to before when we lived in there. Pizza was good and we all headed home, stuffed.

When we got home, almost immediately Britt answered the phone. She looked troubled. It was her step dad, Joe calling to tell her some very sad news about her sister Brooke. The conversation lasted less than a minute, and I could tell that something was very wrong. Their worst fears had been confirmed: Brooke had a diabetic seizure and gone into a coma and passed on.

Monday, April 25

After a very sad evening, I was impressed by how strong Brittany was about the loss of a family member who meant so much to her. I have had to deal with so little death in my life that it would be hard for me to understand what she was going through. I know that she was deeply hurt inside, but she was still so pleasant.

That morning I woke up and went in to work for a few hours, but ended up coming home after 11pm. I wanted to spend the last day with the two of them and just didn't feel up to being at work.

When I got home we decided that we should go on nice walk on the Santiago Canyon trail nearby my house. I think it was good to take a breather and get some fresh air. While we were getting ready to go my mom noticed that there was a sound of a bag pipe in the distance and she ventured out the front door to find out where it was coming from. Soon after, Brit and I followed. The sound was coming from the parking lot in the Saddle Back church. We decided to investigate, so before we when on our walk, we drove down to the church parking lot and paid the bag pipe play a visit.

Initially, I thought he must be getting paid by the church to do this but when we got down there you could see that he was just a guy on his lunch hour. Apparently, he was a drummer and there was a running bet in his office as to whether or not he could learn to play the bag pipe several years back. He played for us for a little while and then we talked to him for a bit. There is something very beautiful about this instrument. Maybe the way it is played or that it is usually played as just a single instrument. Brittany was glad that he did not play Amazing Grace for obvious was I.

The walk was really nice and I am glad we got a chance to do this. When we got back Brit got in contact with her family and booked a ticket up to Oakland. She would be going to the airport at the same time my mom did.

Later that night we went out and got Mexican food as requested by my mom. This would be the last time we would eat together.

Tuesday, April 26th

Mom set the clock for 5:30am so we all woke up really early. This was good because the drive to Long Beach is about 40 minutes with out traffic. We we lucky to be able to use the carpool lane and we got up there with plenty of time. I decided to go in to the airport with them and get a cup of coffee and watch my mom's plane leave. So sad to see mom and Britt go both within the same day. I am glad that mom had a nice trip. Britt and I watched and waved to her as her plane took off out of Long Beach.

In loving memory of Brooke Christopher who died April 22, 2005.

Illustration by Shawn McLean


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