The First Day of Autumn Brings an Injured But Still Beautiful Monarch Butterfly to Our Garden

Perhaps it’s because this is the first day of autumn that coincides with my Angel Boy’s half birthday (we always celebrate) or because he really has left the nest for real this time with his first tenure track professorship (at least on the west coast so we’re closer) but I’m feeling a sense of change along with the the season.

Even in SoCal the weather will eventually morph into a winter of sorts and maybe that’s why this butterfly was in a weakened condition, because there’s no way to tell how the injury occurred,  but she was flying around me and then came to rest on the lawn right next to my new raised bed where I was playing around with the sand dolllars from yesterday’s post.2015-09-20 22.03.25

How do you help an injured butterfly? Can I pick her up and take her to the vet? Can you superglue the torn wing? (I don’t think so) but her ability to still lift off and float on the breeze made me think of her metaphorically.

In fact, it’s a day full of metaphors with my son flying off and away (literally on an airplane as I’m typing this) to become a fully fledged adult with a grown up job and a boatload of responsibility.


But then this butterfly visited me and I’m trying to decipher her deeper message, although maybe a butterfly is just a butterfly.

I do know that even though her wing was damaged, she didn’t give up; she was resilient.2015-09-20 22.03.12

Maybe she just needed a safe place to rest and heal.


2015-09-20 22.01.12

And just like that, she flew away, carried off by the balmy breezes of another SoCal heat wave.
2015-09-20 22.02.56And thanks to a smarter blogger than me who writes over at (you need to follow him!)  his brilliant comment referenced the “butterfly effect. According to Wiki, it’s a popular hypothetical example of chaos theory which illustrates how small initial differences may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.

And he doesn’t know it, but this is SO TRUE. As I keep saying, all will be revealed…

Stay safe, my friends, and Happy Autumnal Equinox to everyone!

Lessons Learned From Blogging

I’ve been blogging since 2012 and have come to the conclusion that I don’t know much about a lot of things, but I’ve learned a few things about myself…

  • I’ve learned a lot about HOW to blog; how to set up a WordPress account and all the other socializations necessary for my words to obtain that all important reach: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram (although I don’t have a smartphone so I can’t access that.)
  • I’m more tech-savvy than the average mid-lifer.
  • I’m not a joiner of tribes or any group that is inclusionary or exclusionary. I tried, but failed, to join various groups and even attended a blogging convention, but alas, I tap my six-inch stilettos to the beat of a different drum…
  • I like to go rogue; be myself, be maverick-y, express my own views, and not blindly agree with anyone.
  • I’ve learned to become more confident (not that I was ever a shrinking violet lol.)
  • I’ve discovered that there aren’t a lot of vegan, animal defending, Jewish princess-y fashionista, workout junkie, empty nest midlife bloggers, so I fit a very narrow demographic.
  • I don’t write about my sex life (or lack of it.)
  • I don’t write about uber cringy personal topics. It’s not that I don’t HAVE any problems or issues to face and endure, but I keep things mostly private (the opposite of what makes a blog go viral).
  • I don’t husband-bash, except for gentle teasing, and that’s only after I’ve asked tugboat man whether he minds if I make him the topic of humor.
  • On a positive note, blogging has helped me sharply define what I DO care about: protecting and defending animals, standing up for what’s right and being extremely vocal about what I believe is WRONG. Like fur and hunting. WRONG WRONG WRONG.
  • And shopping. I dearly love to shop. And Chanel. I love Chanel, I really do. I’m an enigma.


For the last few months or so (or maybe even longer) I’ve noticed that my blog numbers are way down like half of last year!!…readership and interest seems to be dwindling and not building to that overwhelming tipping point where I become the next break out star like Arianna Huffington or Jenny Lawson.

Things aren’t supposed to go this way, right?

But I’m being completely honest, confessing as befits my blog title.

“Why”” I wonder to myself…

Why do you no longer love me?

Too princess-y?

Too tugboat-y?

Not enough seashells?


Maybe none or maybe ALL of the above?

Anyway, it’s the perfect time for CH-CH-CH-CHANGES even though I don’t like change — I like when things stay the same — but not too much of a transmutation ( I LOVE that word.)

I’ve been working on creating a new blog with a slightly different format; it’s almost ready to hit the light of day!

Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife won’t disappear, but my focus will be directed more specifically to this fresh and shiny blog.

You’ll see soon enough.


Changes  (David Bowie)

“…pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time.”

Empty Nest Disaster

I need to finish the last bits of my empowering road trip, but first must share sad, sad news.

When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did (as always) was to check on the baby hummingbirds.

They have grown so much and by my calculations, would be fledging the nest next week.

I took this picture on Sunday.


When I didn’t see two little heads bobbing up and down and squirming around, I opened the back door and saw this empty nest.


The chimes upon which the nest was built was in disarray and a feeling of dread washed over me.

I knew something bad had happened, but couldn’t find any clues to suggest who or what had attacked the nest.

I had one last hope; that the two babies were in the mulberry tree that shades the deck, and were only trying out their new wings.

But then mom flew by and sat on the nest looking all around.

She was as confused as I was.

Calling out to her babies, I could feel her distress.

Over the course of the morning, she’s flown back no less than a dozen times, looking everywhere for her children, which confirms my worst fear that they were abducted by a raccoon or a crow or even a hawk.

But this story gets worse.

As I climbed on the bench to peer inside the empty nest and to snap a pic, I positioned the nest/chimes with my hand to get a better angle.

When I went back in the house to sit down and email tugboat man the tragic news, I saw tiny little creatures crawling on my hand.


After washing my hands and arms more times than Lady Macbeth and dousing my entire upper body with rubbing alcohol, I took a boiling hot shower and scrubbed myself and my hair three times.

The mere thought of a creature in my hair and I knew my life would be OVER. Thick, long, curly hair is hard enough to deal with, but the thought of mites nesting up there provokes extreme mental anxiety.

I threw away the shirt I was wearing and washed the other clothes twice in bleach and hot water, so much bleach that they’re now completely devoid of color at this point.

Then I freaked out that the mites were going to invade the house and with gloves on, cut down the nest and chimes and put them into a sealed bag to put in the trash or somehow keep the chimes if I can sterilize them to my satisfaction.

After that, I found ant spray (the only chemicals around) and sprayed every possible surface on the deck and the eaves where the chimes/nest had been.

Bird mite infestations from nests is a real thing. There are horror stories on the internet about it.


I wonder how long the feeling that things are crawling on me is going to last?

I’m a clean freak ANYWAY, but this is pushing me over the edge, and hub is out of cell range and not available to calm me down and/or offer his sage advice.

An empty nest is bad enough. To be violently snatched from a warm bed in the middle of the night is every mother’s nightmare.

I don’t know what to say to the hummy mom.

Even now, she’s desperately searching for her babies and there’s no way I can tell her that they’re gone forever.

Her heartache is palpable. I can FEEL her pain.

Hub and I fell in love with the whole process, from watching mom build the nest to laying the jellybean sized eggs to watching them hatch and grow.

This is not the ending I could have predicted.

Poor mom.

She’s extremely distraught; even as I’m typing this, I still hear her calling to them.

Who said animals don’t feel things?

Because of course they do.

A mother’s love has no equal.

I feel like I let down mom down, that she trusted me to help her take care of her precious kids, and I failed miserably.

One of my favorite photos…

Property of

Property of

Sometimes Mother Nature sucks.

June 1 SUCKS.

Happy Mother’s Day To My Son

Vintage Angel Boy

Vintage Angel Boy

Because, of course, without him, I wouldn’t have a Mother’s Day at all.

This was brought to my attention one year by my facetious brilliant child who remarked that in fact, HE should be the one who garners all the attention, because without HIM, I’d have nothing to celebrate.

I thought about it and he’s right and the day belongs to my Angel Boy.

I’ve enjoyed thirty-four years of receiving gifts and presents and all the little things that go along with this one day set aside to recognize mothers; handmade cards and macaroni hearts (I’ve kept them all) and coupon books for hugs and dishwashing (still waiting to collect on a few of those.)

Now that our nest is empty and I don’t wake up to a sweet little boy snuggling in bed with me; that embodiment of Mother’s Day with every smile and giggle, there’s only one thing I desire, and this is true of a lot of other empty nest moms I’ve talked to.



What do we want?


When do we want it?


My cell phone rang and the little screen flashed “Angel Boy”, which always makes me verrry happy, because as much as texts and emails facilitate instant communication, there’s really no good substitute for hearing my only child’s voice.

Me: “Was ist los, mein Kinde?”

(That’s pretty much my entire body of knowledge of German, which is Angel Boy’s Ph.D.; Germanic Languages and Literatures)

Him: Hi, Mom.”

Me: “To what do I owe the honor of an actual telephone call?”

Him: “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”

(By unspoken agreement, this query includes my birthday, which is either ON Mother’s Day or within a few days of it.)

Me: “YOU know what I want.”

“It’s that little four-letter word. It’s what I always want. Say it.”

Him: “You want TIME, right?”

Me: “Yup, that’s it. I want YOU. I want time BEING with you. I want to spend TIME with you.”

“Don’t buy me any THING. What I want is priceless.”

And that’s the truth.

Ever since he left SoCal to pursue his lofty academic goals mostly on the East coast, TIME has become a precious commodity.

Now I know why my mom counseled me to spend every second, every minute — with my child, because she knew that once they grow up and fly away, all you’ll be left with is memories.

That’s why I got up at 4 a.m. and did as much housework as possible before he woke up so that every minute could be spent caring for him, playing with him — just BEING with my Angel Boy without having to say, “in a minute” or “not now, I’m busy.”

If I had to give advice to mom nowadays, I’d tell them to spend more precious time being present in their children’s lives, and spend a whole lot less time on their electronic devices.

Because one day, their children will be gone, and you’ll regret the hours you spent on Facebook.

Although I’m not seeing my Angel Boy ON Mother’s Day, he planned a camping/hiking trip for us in a couple of weeks, and that’s when I’ll bask in the glow of TIME.

I can’t wait.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Yummy Hummy Mummy

Anyone participating in World Naked Gardening Day?


Well, I’m not either, that’s for sure.

I’m moving furniture, shampooing carpets, channeling Cinderella, and obsessing over the only full nest at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

My little yummy hummy mummy is doing what most animals do naturally — be an attentive and protective mother.

In the late afternoon sunlight, I removed the screen in the dining room window and leaned all the way out to capture the iridescence.

Have you ever seen a hummingbird stay almost perfectly still for more than two minutes?

I set up the tripod and took some video of her nest sitting, blinking her little eyes, and swaying in the breeze.

There’s a bit of shake (sorry) but the tripod was in a precarious position on top of a bench in order to get the best angle.

When she first started building the nest, I waited until she flew away in order to reinforce the chimes with twine to make sure they’d support the extra weight and not fall down,

YouTube video:

(And congrats to Princess Kate for giving birth to a royal little girl! )

Empty Nest or Full, Mother Knows Best

Single status: Day 50

Yup, tugboat man’s been gone since March 10.

I’ve almost forgotten what he looks like, and if he didn’t make a brief satellite call once a week, I’d forget what his voice sounds like, too.

This is the transitional time for absentee spouses.

The initial missing of his constant presence is OVER, life goes on, and my own routine is firmly established.

It looks like he should be home in about two weeks or so, PROBABLY missing my birthday, but in time to go camping with son/DIL, which is my birthday present, so I don’t mind being alone on my bday if it means he’s for sure home for the celebration.

And just in time for Mother’s Day, an Anna’s Hummingbird built her nest right outside our kitchen window on the deck, on HUMMINGBIRD WIND CHIMES.hummingbirdchimes

Isn’t this the craziest thing?

Do you think my little hummingbird KNOWS where she is?


It’s magical, watching her build her nest out of spider webs and feathers. I touched it and it feels like a handwoven sweater, soft but strong.hummingbird5

Can’t stop taking pics; look at that beautiful color.

hummycloseup4A Mommy hummy in flight.


Isn’t this amazing?


2015-04-26 05.18.22

Mom doesn’t mind when I walk back and forth or get up close and personal for pics, but she’s so protective of her nest when another bird flies into her personal space.hummyapril29(7)An egg!! There are supposed to be two; waiting for the next one!


Hummingbird sitting on hummingbird nest on hummingbird chimes.

Could anything be more adorable?

Who needs a dumb old tugboat man when this magic is inches away?


Swimsuits And Cellulite, Oh My!

I don’t have the courage to snap a pic of me in a bathing suit and post it on social media for all the world to see.

I live near the beach in SoCal. Nuff said.

And recently when Selena Gomez posted a pic of herself on a beach (and while she definitely looks like she’s gained a few ellbees), the vitriol of the comments is overwhelming.

No way I’m exposing myself to that.

I can do all my own fat-shaming in my head, thank you very much.

I’m not sure this day have been any more discouraging…in fact I’m positive.

At the gym: the stupid instructor – well, not the regular one, but a substitute — didn’t show up to teach Boot Camp because apparently she went to the wrong location and that left about thirty pissed off women with nothing to do but shop for groceries or shop for clothes or shop for jewelry or do all three.

We were all at loose ends, complaining about our entirely wasted morning.

But something was bothering me; I was preoccupied– the thought of what I had to do was haunting my very existence.

I attempted to put it out of my mind—it was essential that I take a deep breath, gather all my courage, and dig down deep inside for all the moxie I could muster. I could not put this task off any longer.

“You can do it, I know you can”.

I could just hear my husband cheering me on as if he was right here with me.

I will meet this challenge with fortitude and resilience.

I am made of sterner stuff, I’m a trouper.

I’m pep-talking myself, and since I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot, no one can really see how crazy I am.

I will overcome my fears.

I must. I have to. It’s now or never. Do or die. DO IT NOW.

There is no other option.

OK. Here it is. I have a real (totally not irrational) fear of trying on swimsuits.

This time I don’t have a choice.

The last one I bought was in 1995. Clinton and my friend Al Gore (click on link to read about my close encounter with the former VP) were in the White House.

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia died, and I must have listened to (pre-Heidi Klum) Seal’s Kiss From A Rose a zillion times.

Twenty years. That’s how long it’s been.

That bathing suit is in the active stage of disintegration. The material is threadbare and falling apart.

The elastic is so stretched out, the bottoms fall off.

If that hadn’t happened I’d still be wearing it ‘cos for me, there is nothing more humiliating and depressing and ego-reducing and self-esteem deflating than trying on a swimsuit.

It’s a nightmare scenario and reality was every bit as bad as I thought it would be.

The last time I liked the way I looked in a swimsuit in a three-way mirror was like never, and it’s even worse now.

I warily approach the racks of sparkled-up, fringy, polka dotty teeny weeny bikinis.

It’s go time. It’s now or never.

I’m not really a one-piece girl; I’ve never ever worn one; they’re just not flattering on me.

I sighed, whispered to myself an affirmation about being happy in my own skin, and grabbed a handful of suits and ran off to the dressing room.

I’m determined to come away with a purchase.

To give me a bit of confidence, I tried on a cute top and was able to take a quick peek in the mirror and not be reduced to a mass of melting ego.

So far, so good. I turn around so I can’t accidentally catch a glimpse of myself before I’m ready and slip on the bottoms of the first suit.

I don’t even bother looking—it’s too tight, and all I need is to see any excess fat hanging over and you might as well just put me away for a three-day psych eval.

This whole time, I have this dialogue running in my head – don’t give up, it can’t be that bad, you work out a lot, you look fairly good in clothes, people do this all the time. You go, girl! So, I pulled up another bottom and these don’t feel too tight.

The dreaded moment of reckoning was upon me.

Stupid three-way mirror.

Stupid fluorescent lighting.

If I squint, it won’t seem so bad.

I start the viewing in safe mode at my ankles and raise my eyes ever so slowly and squinty past my knees to the part of me I hate the most, above my knees and below my hips,

I can’t even say it, you know the area I’m talking about.

Aww geez, it’s worse than I thought.

How in the world did I amass such ugly body parts?? Craters of cellulite, a lumpy bumpy mess, a horrible mass of horribleness, just hideous.


How did this happen?

Three-way mirrors ought to be banned. I should never have to see that rear view.

No one should.

But it’s too late to turn back now.

I am 100% committed (I know, I SHOULD be committed) to seeing this thing through.

Maybe if I put a ton of self-tanner on, it will hide it all.

I need a drink, I need chocolate.

I needed to get out of there before I had a complete meltdown.

I grabbed the suit before I could change my mind, and the first thing I did when I got home was to cut out the size label.

I never ever ever ever EVER want that as a constant reminder of one of THE most humiliating experiences I’ve endured.

Not that anyone will see me in that suit because I’ll most likely wrap a pareo cover up or scarf around the offending/offensive parts.

At least I won’t have to endure this particular brand of hell for another two decades, and for that, I’m grateful.

If we all wore these figure flattering turn-of-the-century bathing suits, there’d be a lot less pressure on us  me to be perfect, you know?

Another Empty Nest, Another Sad Mom

Another empty nest

Poor mama bird, I know how she feels…


I found a broken shell from a newly hatched baby under the ficus tree. A pair of warbling vireos make a home year after year in this birdhouse.


It’s so sad that she puts all that work into building a nest and feeding her babies and they always fly away.

They always leave mommy. *sniff*

I guess that’s the way Mother Nature intended it to be, but it still sucks.

Facebook is full of moms who can’t wait until their children turn eighteen, almost pushing them out of the nest with a packed suitcase and a sigh of relief so they can resume their “lives”, but that’s not the way I feel about it.

As much as I’m bursting with pride at the independent and successful young professor he’s become, his bedroom is still quietly waiting — just as it always was, with fresh sheets on the bed, clean clothes in the closet, and his favorite books lined up on the shelf.

In the beginning, when he first left for college (years ago), the hardest thing to deal with was the silence — the QUIET was deafening. I have no idea how one child could fill up the space with his presence, but he did.

Now, nothing makes me happier than a call telling me he’s coming home for a visit (sigh) so I can load up on the ingredients for his favorite foods.

You know how mama birds feed their young, don’t you? They regurgitate partially digested insects and worms directly into the beaks of their babes.

I’m not THAT extreme, but you know what I mean.

It’s one of my greatest joys to watch my son eat.

I admit it. I do. I sit across from him at the table and soak it all in, every single mouthful.

(Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s used to it.)

And then he leaves again, and the quiet fills our house and our hearts.

Can you guess that I’m missing my Angel Boy right now?

Older. Wiser. Better?

Many years later, still puzzling things out.

SELFIE PUZZLEStill the paramount focal point of any photo.
Still fabulously attired with beautifully coiffed and beribboned hair.
Still unable to fit round pieces into square shapes.
And yet, still, the world revolves around me.

And most importantly, still adorable.

P.S. I sent this post to hub and he emailed back that this has always been his favorite pic of me and it’s because I look so determined.

Empty Nest Moms, This One’s For You.

When Is the right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom? (And I say “son” ‘cos I had one child, a boy, and never experienced what it’s like being the mom of a girl.)

This was the week I did it. Cleaned my son’s room, I mean. Fifteen years after he moved out, or as I like to refer to it, when my darling Angel Boy abandoned his mommy.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the antithesis —  the total opposite — of a “free range” mom.

Need an example?

I carried Angel Boy until he was about seven-years-old, when his legs dangled to the ground, and he was ALMOST my size.

In this photo, he’s probably thirteen-years-old or so, my little Harry Potter look alike, already taller than me. See that MOMjoy? All it takes is being next to him to bring out that kind of a smile. (And that swishy track suit was all the rage in the 90s, I promise you.)


So, don’t make me say the dreaded words; “moved out”.

That’s bittersweet and rife with sadjoy (my new word all moms should immediately start using in our daily conversations.)

Sad he’s gone, but joy and pride in his accomplishments and goals. Mostly sad, though.

The purge. Well, more accurately; the relocation.
jasonroomclean1From the first grade, a diorama of the Carlsbad sea wall that his dad built — dinosaur books, academic awards, handwritten spelling tests, report cards, a writing prompt about what the future might hold (potential editor of National Lampoon)…one of the last Valentine’s Day cards made for me before that tragic discovery of the wonderful world of females who are NOT Mom–jasonroomclean2

And so many books: Chaucer to Mann to Goethe to Faulkner, Welty, Shakespeare, all the books from fifteen years of college and graduate school.

In a bookish family like ours, it’s a tough Sophie’s choice kind of dilemma: how does one determine which book might not have value? It’s pretty much impossible.

But here’s the real question…

Is there ever a right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom?

The answer to that — for me– has always and will forever be a resounding NO! NEVER! — until I came up with the brilliant idea of simply moving things to another area, saved and protected, organized into plastic tubs to be stored in the garage, thus not purging nor destroying parts of him which is really part of me, but preserving forever and forever my Angel Boy’s childhood which means he hasn’t really grown up and gotten married and moved away and doesn’t need his mommy anymore…SIGH.

Wait a sec, let me wipe away dust-streaked tears. SIGH.


Buck up, Princess Rosebud, there’s still hope, he might be back, adult children DO return home, sometimes they DO need to fly back INTO the nest, so all is not completely lost.

Something to cling to, to be prepared for. Happily.

Every picture, every single scrap of scribbled upon paper, every college application, all art projects from the age of two, baby books, envelopes of baby curls, baby teeth the Tooth Fairy saved, that fallen off shred of shriveled umbilical cord (yes, Angel Boy, I told you we were forever connected, how could you doubt me?)

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like his room hasn’t been cleaned properly in the thirty years we’ve lived in this house, because it has, but we had stored everything that belonged to him in his closet — just in case he needed that one specific item for any reason.

Or in case he decides to start collecting baseball cards again–of which there are THOUSANDS.

I’m a hoarder, not a tosser;  he and I share this attribute. Although the one and only item we’ve ever tossed out will forever haunt tugboat man and I…his favorite skateboard.

Angel Boy hadn’t sk8d in years, the half pipe ramp in our backyard disintegrated and had been torn down; who would have known that it meant so much to him? Apparently, MOM should have known, but one summery day, tugboat man and I were cleaning out the garage, and did the horrible-est thing EVER — we put the sk8board out in the street instead of framing and hanging on the wall. This was about ten years ago, and my son won’t let us forget how we failed him.

Guilt and shame compels us to regularly offer to replace the board; however, no new board could possibly subsume the sweet memories of that fave —  but we learned our lesson and promised to NEVER again summarily throw away any item that might contain a shred of sentiment without prior authorization. In writing.

Now that his room is so pristine. So vacant. So unoccupied.

I wonder.

What if…

For Rent: One room. Three meals, snacks, and yes, one very sadjoy empty nest MOTHER included…