A jacaranda tree blooms bahind a wall of yellow in an Orange County yard
After spending a couple of weeks acclimatizing at Green Valley Lake (it's 7,000 feet up here -- I've been at sea level for almost two years during our sail), it was time to drive down the mountain and visit Orange County. Although we don't live there anymore, we consider it home, and most of my family still lives there.
It was my first time driving a car in almost 2 years --
which means it was my first time holding a steering wheel
and driving faster than 9 knots. I survived. Barely.
The first thing you notice about Orange County in the spring is the blooming jacarandas.
Aren't they spectacular?
Walking among them is such a treat
The other big event of the week is this: The Wedge is going off!
"The Wedge" is a small section of Newport Beach that
produces menacing waves when the conditions are right.
And the conditions are right, bringing surfers from hither and yon. But the price is high. Countless young surfers have been killed or paralyzed here.
Next stop: reconnect with the family.
Me and Paige (niece5) at her Jr. High graduation
Jr. High is not what it was when you and I were in school -- and neither is the fashion.
Niece4 (Courtney), Niece3 (Lindsay) and JoJo (sister2) joined me for the ceremony
South Orange County is famous for its excellent and competitive public school system.
Pressure for achievement is high here.
Check this out: these students were called to the risers to commemorate their 4.0 GPA. They filled the risers 5 times with perfect 4.0 kids! This is Jr. High. Wow. When I was in Jr. High, there was like ONE geeky kid with a 4.0. Times. Have. Changed. Anyway, niece5 is back row center. She has worked so hard, and we couldn't be prouder. She makes the world a better place.
"That's my girl!"
Proud Poppa Fred stands in the back, looking like a TSA agent.
He's NOT a TSA agent. Not that I know of, anyway. :-)
Me and niece4
When the ceremony went long (as such ceremonies tend to do), some goofing off ensued
And then it was over
They've been through alot
Afterwards, there was a party at sister2's house.
Vicki (2nd from the right) of the Real Housewives of Orange County lives nearby. Stories abound of her making ridiculous scenes in local eateries. I wanna see a scene, too! I'll keep my eyes peeled...
At the party: me and brothers 1 and 2.
Our young graduate still had homework to do, even though it was her party,
and graduation was over (I told you that school here is crazy-competitive!).
Sometime during the festivities, a Barbie doll ended up at the bottom of the stairs
This life-sized boy band cut-out guards neice5 in her room as she sleeps.
Yeah, we can laugh, but if I would have had access to a full sized Donny Osmond cut-out
when I was in Jr. High, you know he would have graced my bedroom.
If they ever make a movie of my step-Mom's life...
...Holly Hunter will have the starring role
Niece3's room. She's a busy college student. 'Nuff said.
The next day, I drove to the other end of Orange County to hang with the rest of the family.
These nieces are also a complete joy to be around
Reconnecting with sister1 (Kirsten) after almost 2 years apart
These ladies also live near one of the Real Housewives: Gretchen, second from the right.
Gretchen and her boyfriend Slade literally live right up the street from my family. Yet they say they've never seen them around. Come to think of it, Gretchen and Slade look like practically everybody else in Orange County, so I guess it's understandable that my family has never noticed running into them.
Niece2 and Niece4 made me this sweet "Welcome Home Viking Warrior Princess" sign.
It's a family inside joke. Since we're Norwegian, whenever I took the girls sailing and they got frightened, I reminded them: "In your blood, you are a Viking Warrior Princess! We were made from the sea! And don't you forget it! Never be afraid! Onward!"
It makes me happy that so many years later, they still haven't forgotten that we are --
all of us -- Viking Warrior Princesses.
So we need never be afraid.