Last May I paused for reflection. Reflecting is something I immensely enjoy once I’m doing it, but don’t do often enough because I tell myself too much is happening right this very moment to spend even a few moments thinking actively about the past. We live in fear of falling behind or missing out, and so we go, go, go until something happens to bring us to our knees, and it’s in that position we are finally inert long enough to notice where we’ve been. The peaks, the valleys, the plateaus. Some of it’s black and brittle, scorched by pain and charred with brokenness, but there, just beyond and up a little ways, is growth, healing. The past is no place to buy a home and raise a family, but it is a great place to drive by once in a while, especially during milestones.
When I consider some of the things that can be achieved over the course of a decade — graduating from the fourth grade, a decent bottle of Cabernet, hundreds of books read, the sheer number of toilet-paper squares and Q-tips — I’m more than a little awed by the fact that, in that time, Michael and I have never spent a night apart. Not a single one. But the substantially better reflection-worthy truth is that every single day for roughly three thousand, six hundred and fifty days, we have said Yes to each other.
Sometimes saying yes is easy, like for example when someone asks, “Would you like another piece of cake?” Yes, the answer is always yes.
And sometimes saying yes is incredibly difficult and makes your sphincter clench. “Can I borrow your (brand spanking new, never been opened) copy of Outlander?” . . . yes; but which child will you be offering as collateral?
A great many of us are blessed and so fortunate to live in this part of the world that is constantly providing for us. Our haves largely outnumber our have nots. But it gets tricky where Love is concerned. The world gently thumps us on the back the way a mother coaxes a burp from her engorged infant, encouraging attitudes such as Mine, Me First, I Need. We look around – through windows, in magazines, at each other – and see that in order to be happy, we must always be acquiring the newest look or thing. Change is glamorized. Options are healthy. But what I’m noticing, in myself most of all, is that we are being taught to despise boredom. To fear it, even. If we are bored, if we are anything less than fully entertained, then it must be time for something new. Cut your hair, get a tattoo, buy a new outfit, purchase a new phone, renovate your kitchen, move to another state, fall in love with someone other than the one you’re dating/married to. I am guilty of all of these except two.
Once you decide to make another human being your forever person, saying Yes to them becomes a little harder to do each day. Their needs – which used to be a delight and honor to fill – become a nuisance, a bother, a bore. We struggle and we strain, because right over there is something fresh and green and affordable. I wonder it feels like, tastes like?
We do not have a perfect score. Our marriage is blotted and blemished with many Nos. There have been and are still times when I choose my comfort over Michael’s need. At night, when he is craving intimacy, and I am craving my body pillow and a book. Michael has put his shyness and dislike of confrontation before the protection of my heart. There is no such thing as the perfect marriage. But a happy one looks like saying Yes to each other when the world offers up alternative arrangements.
So, my darling, Michael, I dedicate this post to you, to our ten years, and to a thousand upon thousand more yeses.
The Beginning – 6 a.m.
Our first stop on this wild adventure happened in Solvang. I had never been, but family and friends told me it was must-see cute, quaint little town; it absolutely is. I let Michael know that at some point I needed to see a windmill, as it will serve as an important landmark in a future novel. I was lucky enough to visit two, and one of them was here in Solvang!
In case you’re wondering, we did not get any free goodies (lame) for sharing a surname with this adorable bakery. Still, pretty cool, right?
Hearst Castle Tour
Do you see it? When we walked onto the observation deck, I was awed by the majestic view, but unable to locate the castle situated like a pearl among the neutral toned valley. I told Michael, “This is pretty, but where’s the feature presentation?” Then I saw it. You’ll know one doesn’t attain “castle status” with measly single thousand square footage. You can imagine how much land is necessary to make a castle look like a Lego manor.
It’s a lot.
The only way to visit Hearst Castle is to take the 15 minute bus ride up stunningly scenic, steep hillside shrouding the deceased’s – William Randolph Hearst – opulent hamlet. His property, which encompasses San Simeon cattle ranch, edges out at just under 82,000 acres of land. It tickles my brain when I try to conceptualize that number.
Oh, just hanging out in Willie’s backyard.
But Hearst’s Castle is not all fairytales and happily ever afters – there’s a bit of dark history behind the man with all the land. I won’t spoil the experience by going into detail, because you must, you absolutely must visit this place before you expire; smell the musty tapestries, listen to your footfall as you walk the wooden corridors, take a turn down the spiral stone staircases, bask and marvel at rooms festooned with chandeliers and carved ceilings and hearths so enormous you could do jumping jacks inside them, and see with your own two eyes the magnificence and splendor that is Hearst’s Castle.
I did NOT want to leave. As you can see, the sky is blue, the sun is out, the views unfolding before us like enchanted carpets made of trees and ocean, stone and topiaries. I felt like a princess come home. . . . I briefly considered hiding under a bed or sofa in one of Hearst’s 165 rooms, where I would spend my remaining days haunting the castle as an apparition.
Michael said, “No, dear.”
After 10 ten hours of traveling and sightseeing, we finally landed. San Francisco is a sinister treadmill, sustaining or shifting elevations on its whim, forcing visitors and inhabitants alike to always be prepared to sweat or freeze. In order to get inside our beautiful retreat, we first needed to climb. Fortunately, we walked up the steep fuchsia stairs, weary and stiff, to discover the windows open and the fire blazing, a belt of heat flowing throughout the room full of light and crisp clean air.
It was our pleasure to occupy this fully stocked, divinely decorated tiny jewel in North Beach. If you’re interested in visiting SF, and like the idea of having a home away, in which you can cook and create an atmosphere of familiarity, I cannot recommend this place enough. They have a spot reserved for your vehicle, the neighborhood is fairly quiet, and you are literally steps away from some of North Beach’s finest eateries. More on that to come! And the views . . . we were fortunate enough to have three spectacularly sunny days, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending hours outside beneath an umbrella, a book on my lap, the city at eye level.
You can reach Mark, here.
This thai restaurant was our first dining experience in North Beach. We arrived after a five minute walk and were seated right away, which was the most important part to two very ravenous tourists.
Anchor Brew Tour
Occasionally I can be persuaded to sip on a beer if the mood and weather are right; however, stopping at Anchor Brewery was not high up on my list of things-to-do.
The truth is I was prepared to suck it up for my husband’s sake, because he truly loves beer, but the truth is I didn’t have to, because this place was AWESOME. From start – which was a sunlit room outfitted with warm woods, comfortable high tops, and a bar stocking the finest brew in San Fran – to finish, this two hour tour is well worth the fifteen dollars, which includes the tastings – 6 four ounce glasses. I’m not sure if they are still offering this, but we registered early and were able to get in for free. Our tour guide, Bobby, was a super cool dude, extremely knowledgeable. Everyone we encountered was laid back and jolly (probably something to do with the steady tap refills) Totally random, but I don’t think I saw one person without a fully grown, fully rad beard. I learned way more than I’ll ever remember, but enough to feel as though I could hold my own among brew elite, if there is such a thing. Probably not. The feel of the place – which I would describe as chem-lab meets fox den – was my second favorite part; everything, from the gorgeous copper machinery to the relaxed crew walking around in white coveralls responsible and wellies, has such a genuine and sincere approach, nothing forced about the way in which Anchor operates.
And then THIS happened: My beer epiphany. If you don’t know already, let me introduce you to Brekle’s Brown Ale. I already mentioned I’m not a regular beer drinker, but after this, I just might be. Sweet, rich, full bodied and EXTREMELY well balanced, it is, in my opinion, the quintessential beer. It went down like a silk stocking.
Cara turns 32!
I gained more wisdom in August, which gave me another
excuse reason to celebrate. 🙂
The best pizza on Earth. That is all.
We waited nearly half an hour to descend this iconic landmark and burned about a half tank of gas in the process, but it was certainly worth it. That’s Coit Tower up there in the background.
Saints Peter and Paul’s Church
One of the coolest things we did during our stay was spontaneously attend a church service. It just so happened to be a Sunday when we decided to explore our neighborhood.
Golden Gate Bridge
My Dirty Dancing moment.
Alcatraz Island – Night Tour Edition!
The Infamous Escape
Fifty years ago three men set out into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay in a raft made out of raincoats. It was one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history from what was billed as the nation’s only “escape-proof prison” — Alcatraz.
Most people assume the men have been at the bottom of the bay or were swept out to sea since the night they broke free, tunneling out of their cells in part with spoons from the kitchen and climbing the prisons’ plumbing to the roof. It was in those cells the men saw through their plan to make dummy heads to fool the guards and to collect enough raincoats to make a raft. They even sealed the seams with glue.
There has never been any proof the men made it. The frigid waters and high tides of the San Francisco Bay could have sent them into the Pacific Ocean in under an hour. A Norwegian shipping freighter reported seeing a body floating just a few miles out past the Golden Gate Bridge wearing a navy blue pea coat. But there’s also never been any definitive proof the men died. Source
Our vacation was a shining success. For those who know me well, these are weighty words. I don’t vacation well. My body is almost always thrown out of whack after travel, and without sleep and the daily drop-offs in the loo, it’s a quick turn to Crankyville. I spent many moments in prayer, asking Jesus to help Michael and I, despite any obstacles or unmet expectations, to remain in a constant state of gratitude for as long we celebrated our milestone. It wasn’t always easy, but we did our part, thanking Him for good weather and bad weather, great food and terrible food, cool hobos and scary hobos, excitement and boredom. And He rewarded us with the time of our friggin’ lives.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for ten years, thank you for Yeses, thank you that it really is as simple as Love and Gratitude every single day.