Monday, January 31, 2011

Last stone for NaSmaStoMo

Jan 31: 

I walked just one block toward the ocean this morning, and the salt air and sunshine told me just how glorious a day this is going to be. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Small stones January twenty-three to thirty

One more day left -

Jan 23: Thick black clouds rose into the sky and dissipated into the blue. And I don’t know where they came from.

Jan 23: Packing boxes, putting fragile ware out of harm’s way, throwing out detritus, and running up and down the stairs until we’ve completed the prep work for our wood floor renovation this week, I wonder, is it more trouble than it’s worth?

Jan 24: So tired and it’s only eleven thirty in the morning. But I’m pushing on.

Jan 24: I walk from my car to the gym in the dark cold morning, holding my jacket closed to the chill. But I refuse to park closer. The cold wakes me up and the walk gives my workout a jump start.

Jan 25: The plane’s loud hum doesn’t disrupt its smooth dissent.

Jan 25: White snowy peaks rise just above the cloud-line.

Jan 26: The clear lake like a mirror reflects the pine trees standing green and proud along its edge.

Jan 26: One hundred year old vines, thick, gnarled, bent over like old men, stand in long straight rows ready to produce full-bodied, peppery, deep red zins for their masters until death.

Jan 26: A Ganesh beckons me from the window. Heavy cement rubbed in a deep ochre patina and enveloped by heart shapes around its base.  Could I make it mine? it's too soon to tell.
Jan 27: I found the old Knight Foundry, created in 1873 just off downtown Sutter Creek’s Main Street. And I made a piece of art out of its shelves of tools all rusty and dirty and superfluous in the time we live in now.

Jan 27: How can I treat my husband so he’ll look at me and think I’m a better person than I am right now, tonight?

Jan 28: The cold wind blew right through me as I walked up Post Street this morning. Even passing those up-scale shops didn’t warm my bones.

Jan 28: The painted heart statue on the corner of Union Square shows the San Francisco Bay and its famous bridge.

Jan 29: Waiting, waiting, waiting for our flight to LA. What else can you do with a gimpy foot on a misty day?

Jan 29: I’ll do anything to get my step tally for the day – even walk in boots with heels high enough to cause the sides and soles of my feet to burn.

Jan 30: Back home at last, watching the rain pouring down in the bright and clear sunlit day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Small Stones nineteen through twenty-two

I can't believe NaSmaStoMo is almost over. Here's my latest.

Jan 19: My toes on the bar, my heels stuck together in a Vee, I push out and in on the Pilates reformer. At the end I push out and flex my heels under the bar as far as they can go. Ahhh!

Jan 20: The canned lights hang from almost bare branches. Only a few crisp yellow leaves remain. The children playing underneath don’t mind.

Jan 21: I’ve already worked out two hours, had a half hour meeting with a friend about my critique of his class assignment, showered, shampooed, and dressed. Now finally I’m at my desk, watching the gurgling fountain from my office picture window, ready to write. Who said getting down to business is hard work?

Jan 22: My garden Buddha is now out from behind the tall palm tree. I'm happy to see his smiling face again.

Jan 22: The Spinning class instructor says don’t bounce; keep pedaling in a smooth, continuous motion. I could care less if I bounce or not. I’m just happy to be there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A change of pace

I've decided to lighten up on the subject today and write about my exercise program. Sometimes I get to thinking it's a heavy subject because I'm so obsessed about exercising (I do some form of exercise everyday), but it really doesn't comes close to some of the other subjects I've been writing about lately.

On December 13, 2007 I posted about the Health Miles program that I particpate in at my gym. ( So if you care to read more information about the program please go there. 

The main thing I want to say about it now is that I've re-upped again into the Health Miles program for another year. My reup date was January 17, and since that date came and went and I'm still participating, it means that for the next year I'll be exercising at my usual pace yet again.

Every year I go through the same thoughts. Should I keep going or should I give myself a break? In 2007 I posed the same question and that was after being in the program for only one year. And I ask myself the question every year because staying in the program is very hard work. 

But it’s not all bad. It’s my self-challenge. No one is telling me that I have to wear a pedometer all day, every day and download my steps and record my daily exercise accomplishments. No one has told me that I have to pay the $10.00 a month for Health Miles to maintain a digital track of my every exercise move. I’m completely at choice. And, it’s all to the good. In exchange for the $1200 a year that it costs, each year that I’ve participated I’ve earned $250.00 and several hours of personal training sessions. I think I come out ahead in the long run. Plus I’m motivated to exercise. The pedometer is a huge motivator. And I think that anything that motivates me to exercise is a good thing. Plus I like the results.

I’ve been in this Health Miles program for over four years now, and in total I’ve amassed over 19,161,878 steps – an average of over 13,000 steps a day. And that doesn’t count Pilates, Yoga, and weight exercises.

Of course every year I say it’s time to slow down. I tell myself it’s okay to take a day off once in a while. It’s okay not to amass so many steps every day. Well, I haven’t followed up on that yet. Will this be the year that I slow down a bit? I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How should we handle our grief?

“Deposits of unfinished grief reside in more American hearts than I ever imagined. Until these pockets are opened and their contents aired openly, they block unimagined amounts of human growth and potential. They can give rise to bizarre and unexplained behavior which causes untold internal stress.” ~ Robert Kavanaugh

The Compassionate Friends had this quote on its Facebook page today. It is so in keeping with what I’ve experienced lately. Grief seems to be running rampant.

I’ve been in contact with several people through my involvement with The Compassionate Friends who are hurting so badly. And I don’t know how to advise them – except to tell them my experience through my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On

What I did with my grief was pick myself up almost immediately after my son’s death and begin to fill up my time – with work, working out, writing, reading, and participating in any diversion I could find (movies, plays, opera, trips). As a result, and after eleven years I am a stronger person – at least according to my husband – and not feeling so much of the grief anymore.

But I wonder if my solution is right for everyone. So many times I thought about quitting work, slacking off my workout regime, staying home more, and just letting it all hang out. But, I stopped myself. I just couldn’t do that. I’m too driven.

I wonder if relaxing on the couch, eating those proverbial bonbons, and just allowing myself to wallow would have achieved the same effect.

Being strong takes a lot of effort. It takes pure and constant focus. Could I have relaxed more and taken it easy and still feel as well as I do today?

Please tell me your thoughts about coping with grief.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Small Stones fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen

Jan 14: Rotating and moving my ankle back and forth seems to have erased the pain.

Jan 15: I am unable to lift my mood out of its blue funk since last Saturday’s shooting in Tucson.

Jan 16: Flip-flops, spaghetti straps, shorts all in sight on this unseasonably hot winter day.

Jan 17: I’m being very lax today: late to rise, late to workout, late to get to my desk. And it’s all quite okay.  

Jan 18: The line at the post office reached out the door while impatient customers coughed, shuffled their feet, and beat their fingers on the ledge as they waited for the one postal employee to call “Next.” 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thoughts about Tucson

I’ve been so down lately. Yesterday it was so bad I actually succumbed to sleeping half the afternoon away. And that is not like me, at least not lately.

Perhaps it was because my ankle was hurting such that I could barely walk up and down the stairs – imagine me side-stepping my way up and down? And I’m the one who never ever complains about aches and pains.

Well this morning the ankle is better. I forced it to be better by working it out at the gym. I think the vibrating power plate helped.

But my mood isn’t better. And when I looked at the lead photo in today’s LA Times I realized why. It’s that tragic shooting in Tucson last Saturday. Today was the first funeral for the victims – the young girl, nine-year old Christina Green. It breaks my heart. I cry when I think about her and how much her family is grieving. I know what it is like to grieve for a dead child, so I am grieving with them. I cry with them. Every time I think of her death, I start crying.

I’m also grieving with the parents of the young shooter. I don’t know anything about them and whether or not they knew something was very wrong with their son and if they did, whether they ever tried to help him. I know the father drove after him that morning when he saw him leave with a big black bag. He must have had some feeling that something was up.

I had bad feelings about my son in the last few days of his life. I felt that he was in danger, but he wasn’t violent against others. He was only violent against himself. And when I spoke with him the night before he took his life, he looked good, calm, and he was very sweet with me. So I felt a little better that night. It turns out that was the last time I ever saw him – either dead or alive.

I also know that if the shooter’s parents tried to get him help, they would have had a hard time of it. My son who was mentally ill was a master of talking himself out of being locked away in a mental hospital. We called the police several times but Paul could make himself look like there was nothing wrong with him. So how could the police justify taking a guy who didn’t look like he was a danger to himself or others in?  It was so frustrating. We knew he needed help, we called for it, and our son knew how to get out of it every time. He only went into the hospital on his own terms. So I suspect the shooter’s parents might have had the same experience as my husband and I in trying to get their son help.

And now they have to live with the fact that their only child, a 22-year old young man – killed six people and wounded many others. They will have to live with the guilt and the grief and the remorse the rest of their lives. I don’t know how they can.

After my son died I didn’t think I could continue to live. But I have. And right now, today, I know it could have been worse. I don’t have to live with the effects of the harm he did to others, only the harm he did to himself and the emotional harm he did to his family and friends. That’s bad enough. It’s just not as bad as what those Tucson parents have to live with. At least not in my mind.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Small Stones seven through thirteen

Jan 7: I’m going through each page of my manuscript combing every line for my editor’s neatly printed turquoise blue pen marks.

Jan 8: We sit crushed together on hard folding-chair seats, gobbling down every word our writing gurus say.

Jan 9: The little babies converse across the booth seat as we eat at the Corner Bakery this morning.

Jan 10: I watch the tiny leaves sway in the yard next door under a gray, gloom.

Jan 11: One loud jolt, then a short rumbling shake. Yes, a small earthquake but I don't worry. (And I lived to write about it.)

Jan 12: The waves roll in lazily; their whitecaps barely able to touch the shore.

Jan 13: A starling family hops around a small garden near the beach, their dark metallic feathers etched with gold specks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning to write poetry the mechanical way

I learned two techniques for generating poetry material at an all day workshop on Saturday with Jack Grapes and Richard Jones. Both techniques were to ensure that we as writers had no reason to experience writer’s block. And, in both cases the techniques are entirely mechanical.

Inverted Pyramid
Jack Grapes, who teaches method writing in Los Angeles, ( presented the inverted pyramid method. He told us to write down several unrelated sentences or thoughts – the keyword here is unrelated. However, he told us what kind of sentences to write. And if you can visualize an inverted pyramid these sentences would go into the upper wider part. We wrote: two or three images, a couple of pieces of dialogue, a flowery description, a memory or two, a couple of deep thought about ourselves until we had five to eight in total in random order.

The next step was to take these entirely unrelated sentences and form them into a cohesive poem so that by the time we came to the tip of the pyramid at the bottom it would look like we had intended it to come out that way all along.

Of course this is exactly the opposite way I form a poem. I usually start with what I know I’m going to write about and build on that until I get to the end. That looks like a pyramid right side up. The inverted way made me feel like I would write a poem by pulling something miraculously out of the air, so needless to say my first attempt on Saturday wasn’t very good. I will try again, though, because I heard several beautifully finished, deep-feeling poems at the end of that workshop.

I found Richard Jones’s technique much more doable. (Richard is a writing professor at De Paul University in Chicago He had us write a list (inventory) of things that reside at a place we are familiar with. I wrote a list of all the things that sit on the low dresser next to my side of the bed. And as I wrote I could feel poems coming from each one of them. (I wrote one a long time ago: "A Stone Called Son.") 

I read my list to the group and Richard noted that I could create a year's worth of new poems right from that page. Richard did not intend for us to create a list poem per se (although one of the people did as she wrote down her list), but to have material for writing several poems – one for each of the items on that list. And, that’s what we proceeded to do. I started with a short poem about a little dark blue vase.

Then the fun part began. Richard told us to use several lines from the poem we had just written to create a triolet. Next he asked us write a haiku from that same material. And for our last assignment of the afternoon, he had us write another short poem about another item on our list. Amazing! We wrote four poems as a result of one technique in an hour and a half.

Here are my two inventory poems – though rough, I definitely have something to work with. Sorry, my inverted pyramid products are not ready for the light of day yet.

Blue Vase
The small glass vase on my dresser
is a shade of deep blue.
It stands about five inches high,
the bulbous base, narrowing as
the neck swirls around and around
until it reaches the flared top.
Paul brought it home for me
on his first holiday break
from New York’s New School
He knew what I liked in those days:
the color blue, art glass, and gifts from him.
I miss all of that
now that he is gone.

The Small Gray Stone
I picked up the small gray stone
from the path at Dachau.
I needed it to
always remind me
of what went on there
in those years right after
I was born.
So many people want to forget.
I can’t let that happen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Small stones four, five, and six

Jan 5: I walked through our town’s new sculpture garden this morning. The hilly grass a perfect backdrop for our budding artists.

Jan 6: She brushed my hair flat against my back and snipped little sections diagonally about a half an inch, trimming the ends.

Jan 7: I’m going through each page of my manuscript combing every line for my editor’s neatly printed turquoise blue pen marks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Okay, what's happening with the book?

Since I used the whole month of December to honor my son Paul’s memory I failed to provide an update on the status of my book.

My goal was to complete all revisions by December 4. My publisher asked for it on December 27, but, I wanted to take the month of December off so I pushed hard to reach that goal. And since she would be on a family vacation she asked that I not send it before she got back on December 13 so it would arrive when she returned. I’m glad that she agreed to let me send it early, probably understanding that if I kept it in my possession any longer I might be tempted to make more changes to it.

Fortunately I knew I was finished when I couldn’t think of anymore changes, edits, adds, or things to move-around that it needed. I could sleep at night not thinking about what I was going to do to my book the next day. The five months of living, breathing, and sleeping with my book was really over.
With the manuscript –which I sent electronically – I sent copy for the book’s jacket cover. And by snail mail I sent a DVD with photos for the book and the cover and hard copies of the permissions to use other author’s quotes in my book.

I had spent a lot of time amassing the photos that will be divided into three sections in the book – not distributed chapter by chapter. I also had my photo taken for the book jacket. It turned out to be quite a glamour shot, of course vastly helped by my wonderful makeup artist (my actor daughter-in-law insisted I get the best in the business and I listened) and my photographer (the photog for our The Emerging Goddess book of photos and poems), who did some expert touch-ups.  And my young friend (the Sundance_Kidd) took some very creative stills for the front cover. So the photo part of the book became almost as time consuming as gathering together the book’s text.

I also had all the permissions I needed except one. Some of my readers were right when they suggested that the quotes might need no permission if they were in the realm of fair use. That was indeed the case with the Random House quote. The other two quotes were not and each publisher asked for a small sum of money if wanted to go ahead and use them. I’m happy to pay since I feel the quotes are so important to my book.

However, I’m still awaiting one permission – one that I had no idea I would need. Random House referred my to another company (that shall remain nameless) if my book is to be distributed in the United Kingdom. I immediately queried and within minutes I received a new form to fill out. That was in mid November. When I hadn’t heard after the allotted time of four weeks I queried and received a snippy response that if I query them it will only take longer for them to review my request. Now it’s almost eight weeks later, and still no response. In the meantime, I wait silently.  

That’s the recap of the last month.

At the very end of the month I received a lengthy email from my publisher telling me she had finished reading my book two times. Whew! That’s a huge commitment and one I’m so thankful for. And she says she loves it. She gave me lots of compliments that I truly cherish, and she gave me suggestions for a few changes. Since I agree with her suggestions, once I get her mark-ups – they are coming via U.S. Mail as I write – I won’t have to spend more than a day to electronically make the changes. I couldn’t have gotten a better reward for spending those five months revising my book. It was well worth the effort and time.

I’ll be back with a report on my re-revision progress and next steps.

And, remember, my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, will be released by Lucky Press LLC on Mother's Day 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What do you think?

I saw a photo of a women about my age with beautiful flowing gray hair this morning, and I felt validated for choosing to keep my hair long. As a matter of fact, I plan to tell my hair stylist to trim "just a little" at my haircut appointment this week.

Seeing the picture this morning reminded me of the New York Times article by Dominique Browning that appeared on October 21, 2010.

By the way, here's my latest photo - long flowing gray hair and all.

Why Can’t Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?

MY mother hates it. My sister worries about it. My agent thinks I’m hiding behind it. A concerned friend suggests that it undermines my professional credibility. But in the middle of my life, I’m happy with it. Which is saying a lot about anything happening to my 55-year-old body.
I feel great about my hair.
I have long hair. I’m not talking about long enough to brush gently on my shoulder — when I tilt my head. I’m not talking about being a couple of weeks late to the hairdresser. I’m talking long. Long enough for a ponytail with swing to it. Long enough to sit against when I’m in a chair. Long enough to have to lift it up out of the sweater I’m pulling over my head. Long enough to braid.
What’s worse (to my critics) is that my hair is graying. Of course it is. Everyone’s hair is graying. But some of us aren’t ready to go there. That’s fine with me — I’m not judgmental about dyes. In fact, I find the range and variety of synthetic hair color to be an impressive testament to our unending chemical creativity. I’m particularly fascinated by that streaky kaleidoscopic thing some blondes do that looks kind of like Hair of Fawn. For my own head, I’m a tad paranoid about smelly, itchy potions.
No one seems to have any problems when a woman of a certain age cuts her hair off. It is considered the appropriate thing to do, as if being shorn is a way of releasing oneself from the locks of the past. I can see the appeal, and have, at times in my life, gone that route. Some women want to wash the men (or jobs) right out of their hair. Others of us have to have at them with scissors. Again, I do not judge. Go right ahead, be a 60-year-old pixie.
So why do people judge middle-aged long hair so harshly? I’ve heard enough, by now, to catalog the multitudinous complaints into several broad categories.
YOU’RE ACTING OUT. Long hair is not the appropriate choice of grown-ups. It says rebellion. Hillary Rodham Clinton softens her do, and sets off a bizarre Howl of Angry Inches, as if she had betrayed some social compact. Well, my long hair is indeed a declaration of independence. I am rebelling, variously, against Procter & Gamble, my mother, Condé Nast and, undoubtedly, corporate America in general. Whereas it used to be short hair that was a hallmark of being a liberated woman — remember the feminist chop? I do; I did it — these days, long hair is a mark of liberation.
My mother has a lot to say about my looks: Where did you find that shirt? Did you forget your makeup? She recently suggested, fluttering her hands in the vicinity of her ears, that I get just a very little trim. As if she thought she could still trick me into the barber’s chair to re-enact one of the central traumas of my childhood, when I was marched into a hair salon (so that’s where mothers went?) with hair to my waist and came out an outraged, stunned, ravaged 7-year-old with a stylish, hateful pageboy.
My mother’s favorite expression to me is “Make an Effort.” What she doesn’t understand, of course, is that just because things don’t turn out the way she thinks they should doesn’t mean an effort wasn’t made. It is incredible how parents and children never let go of old habits of relating. My mother still makes me feel like a 15-year-old. However, that no longer feels like a bad thing, if you see what I mean.
YOU’RE STILL LIVING IN THE ’70S. And why not? I like being 55 going on 15. As far as I’m concerned, we never did get better role models than that gang of girls who sang their hearts out for us through lusty days and yearning nights: Bonnie RaittJoni MitchellLinda Ronstadt, Cher. Emmylou Harris is still a goddess in my book, with that nimbus of silver hair floating past her shoulders. Next thing you know, we’ll take to wearing beaded leather headbands across our foreheads. And, I might add, that was a good look.
If you want to throw Princess Grace, Brigitte Bardot, Ingrid Bergman, Pussy Galore, Sophia LorenCharlotte RamplingIsabelle Huppert, Julie Christie and Catherine Deneuve into the mix, who am I to complain? While those sexy sisters are hovering, I might note, with a sense of wonder, that Europeans are much more comfortable with long hair on women of a certain age. But then again, they’re more comfortable with women of a certain age in general. Perhaps I should move to Paris. Come to think of it, this would be making the kind of effort that would make my mother happy.
LONG HAIR IS HIGH MAINTENANCE. Yes, I’ll admit that it is a look that requires tender loving care. It is impossible to body surf without getting seaweed tangled up in it. It is impossible to get it completely dry when one is in a rush to get to a job interview or a blind date. It is impossible to forget one’s hairbrush when one travels. It is impossible to garden or farm or weave or cook without one’s hair getting in the way. I have knitted many a gray strand into many a scarf. Which, by the way, I consider a nice touch. Anyone who disagrees can send me back his Christmas present. It is impossible to let the vacuuming go for too long, lest the bezoars (new vocabulary word) become large enough to choke a tiger.
You would think that having long hair means you are spending a lot of money on hair products. I won’t even tell you what my Madison Avenue hairdresser, Joseph — the consummate high-end hair professional! — told me about how we shouldn’t even be using all those chemically laden shampoos. O.K., I will tell you: Those shampoos strip out the hair’s protective oils, and then you have to replace them with other chemical brews. He recommends regular hot water rinses and massaging of the scalp with fingertips. A little patience is required while the scalp’s natural oils rebalance themselves and — voilà — glossy, thick tresses, for free.
Is it not wonderfully sexy the way our grandmothers, those women of the prairie, or concrete canyons, would braid their hair up in the morning and let their cowboys unravel them at night? Is there not a variety of excellent looks for taming long hair in high winds? What is cooler than stopping to wrap a silk scarf around your mane before you step into a zippy convertible?
MEN LIKE LONG HAIR. Wait. You say that like it’s a bad thing? Long hair is archetypal. And everyone knows that archetypes are all tangled up with desire. There’s a reason mermaids, Selkies and witches have long hair. Ballerinas, too. We all know Rapunzel’s tale, how she sat at the top of her lonely tower, her long hair hanging out the window, until finally, a prince climbed its ropy length to rescue her. Or impregnate her, depending on which version you read. Either way, it worked.
Men like to play with women’s long hair. They like to run their fingers through heavy tresses. They like to loosen tight braids. They like it when long hair tents over their faces during soulful kisses. The long of it is that long hair is sexy. (So is short hair, of course, but in a different way, and we’re not making that case — yet.) The short of it is that long hair means there is always, at least, hope.

Dominique Browning, the author of “Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness,” writes a column for the Environmental Defense Fund Web site and blogs at

Monday, January 3, 2011

First small stones

North end of Manhattan Beach

NaSmaStoMo entries for days one through three:

Jan 1: The puffy white jet streams intersect the morning’s clear blue sky, belying those dire predictions of rain.

Jan 2: The bubbles dance on my cement pool’s surface, waiting for the birds to drink.

Jan 3: My little Buddhas in green, gold, silver, and stone, greet me with laughter, success, and good health. They watch me closely as I write.   

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recap of 2010 Events

Before I move on to 2011, I thought I'd recap some of our family's 2010. We sent this list along with our holiday cards.

  • Bob recovers from knee surgery
  • Bob publishes Volume 1 of Family History – Bob's family story
  • Bob’s brother Richard’s dies; Madeline and Bob travel to New York
  • Ben and Marissa announce intention to marry
  • Madeline takes novel writing workshop at UCLA and begins first novel
  • Madeline retires from Northrop Grumman on April 30
  • Madeline has several poems published at Survivor Chronicles, unFold, and Poetsespresso
  • Bob ends 14 years of consulting for TRW/Northrop Grumman on May 7
  • Madeline and Bob begin five-week vacation with trip to Chicago, Washington, and New York City to see family and friend
  • Our five week vacation continues to London, cruise from South Hampton to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg with return through London and New York
  • No work at Northrop for Bob upon return; he takes the summer off
  • Madeline gets publishing contract with Lucky Press LLC to publish her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, about Paul and how our family survived his death. The book will e released Mother’s Day 2011
  • Madeline begins revising her draft manuscript
  • Trip to Kentucky to view investment property
  • The Great American Poetry Show Volume 2 that Madeline co-edits is published -
  • Pages bookstore hosts reading of Madeline and Paul Blieden’s book of photography and poems, The Emerging Goddess -
  •  Madeline celebrates three year anniversary of her blog, Choices -  
  • Madeline and Bob visit new great niece, Khloe, and rest of Denver family
  • Bob has face surgery for basal cell carcinoma 
  • Bob publishes Volume 2 of Family History - Madeline's family story
  • Madeline submits revised draft of her memoir to Lucky Press LLC
  • Madeline and Bob vacation in Carmel