Family Chapter

Family get togethers usually happen around the holidays, but not always, and those unplanned, no expectation gatherings, make the time spent together all the more heartwarming.

Blessed

Both Number One and I are blessed with fun loving siblings. When both sides of the family come together there is not a dull moment for any of us.

Retired, but didn’t downsize

Most people, when they retire and move away from the home where they raised their children, find a smaller home with fewer bedrooms and smaller kitchens. No, not us. Number One thought that was what we should do, but I wanted to have my kids and siblings visit us without having to tell them to find a hotel.
We still have a five bedroom home with a supersized kitchen where everyone seems to gather. If you think about it, it makes absolute sense. The kitchen is filled with food and when people get together, they want to eat and celebrate.

Maxed at 17, plus 2 dogs and 1 cat!

Over the course of three weeks, we had 15 people stay with us, not including the four we had over for tea. Surprisingly, it worked like a well-oiled machine. Everyone pitched in, made things happen and were happy with simple cuisine and a few leftovers. Oh, thank goodness for Costco snacks and desserts.

Laughter filled the house

Yes, there were a lot of people, but what filled the house to the rafters was the sound of laughter echoing through it. Upstairs and down, we reminisced and chuckled over our childhood pranks. Inside and outside, we giggled, chortled and snickered and just purely enjoyed each other’s company.

Let’s do it again

I admit that I was tired, but it was the kind of tired you want to have again and again, because it was so much fun. My advice, don’t make plans, just make it happen. Call or email and let your family know you will be in the area and you want to see them. I was really glad mine did and I hope we do it again, soon.

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Pristine Waters With a Kick Chapter

Sailing on an endless sea

Sailing on an endless sea

New Year and Even More New Experiences

Being on an island, you are surrounded by water, obviously. But, as the ancient and current Hawaiians know, the water has many personalities and characteristics.

The view from our room was spectacular. The verdant grass and trees, the coal black lava and the turquoise and deep blue of the ocean were our constant companions. The water in the morning gently lapped against the hard lava, but later in the day, it slammed against the jagged rock spewing white, churning water high in the air, dousing anyone who was a little too close to the water.

The water in the open sea seemed endless, with no land in sight. It was exhilarating as we glided and gently bumped across the waves. In the distance we saw two juvenile whales frolicking and breaching in the water.

Imagine yourself floating and drifting in the calm, shallow waters of the cove surrounded by thousands of fish of all sizes and colors. It is a surreal feeling. You are very buoyant because of the salt in the water and it holds you up while your face is lapped by the cool sea. The coral reef below is a refuge and home to these undulating creatures of the sea. Some are so colorful that you can’t turn away from their beauty. A sea snake has the same jarring, backpedaling effect on you in the water, as a snake on the land. They are fascinating to watch, but frightening at the same time. Creatures with sharp red spikes are hidden within the corral and black squishy sea cucumbers bury themselves under the rocks.

Hidden coves and warm sandy beaches.

Hidden coves and warm sandy beaches.

Of course, we cannot visit the islands without a dip in the warm waters off the shore. The sea is a fickle creature whose waves taunt and tease you. Not being the strongest swimmer in the group, I had to hang onto Number One. He grew up swimming in the Mediterranean and could be related to some fish in the water. He knows how to play with the waves. When a high wave comes, he dives through it. I see the huge wave, literally freeze, face it and try to jump higher than the wave so my face will not be in the water. Well, I lose that battle almost every time. Some waves were kind and did not knock me over too hard, some were beastly and sent me reeling in the water. I was tossed and turned as if I was in a washing machine. I lost my goggles–they were ripped off my face by the nasty wave and Number One and I slammed against each others leg, fearing that both were broken. Yes, the water has a kick and we have to respect it and realize when we need to get out and watch it from the warm, white sand.

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Boiling Red Earth Chapter

New Year–More New Experiences!

Not My First

This was not my first time around the block–I mean the first time I rode a helicopter. I rode one once before with Santa Claus, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny–but that is a totally different story! (True Story)

This time we took the Cadillac of Island Helicopter Rides–Blue Hawaiian. The best is never the cheapest, but it was worth every penny we spent. We took a two hour tour. (Can you hear the Gilligan’s Island song playing in the background?)

If you get motion sickness, like I do, I highly recommend that you take a Dramamine before the flight. I did and I had no problems as we twisted and turned and dove and climbed.

Netherworld Landscapes

The sharp and jagged black lava flows lay before you for miles and miles as you climb to the top of Mauna Loa. It is so easy to see why the ancient Hawaiian’s believed in the Fire God. The constant reminder of the black underworld was always at their feet.

Deeper and Deeper Into the Depths of Fire

The view from up high is spectacular. The helicopter circles and dives, circles and dives, and then circles and dives again to get us just a little closer so we can see the what would be easy to call, the Gates of Hell. Molten rock is bubbling and boiling beneath us sending plumes of sulfur smelling smoke. (Don’t breath too deeply because it does smell like rotten eggs–another good reason not to go to Hell!

High Above the Volcano

High Above the Volcano

Boiling Earth!

Boiling Earth!

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Stargazing Chapter

New Year and New Experiences

When I look at the stars in my backyard, I can see a few stars–one we believe may be Venus or perhaps the North star, and occasionally I see one of the dippers.

I have to admit, however, I never saw the stars until I was atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Start at the top:

Sunset on Mauna Kea Photo by  Semra Gurol

Sunset on Mauna Kea
Photo by Semra Gurol


Sunset at the top of Mauna Kea is a sight to behold. The clouds are far below you and the sun has no warmth. It is hard to believe, but atop this Hawaiian Island, I was wearing two sweaters, a down jacket and a parka and I was freezing! Also–a little light headed. Of course, we were at 14,000 feet above sea level. The guide said there was 40% less oxygen up there than at sea level, so maybe it is understandable. (A New York Times travel writer had the audacity to say that only relatively active 30 year olds could handle the trip and that it wasn’t for older people. Well, relatively active 60-70 year olds can handle it just fine–don’t let him deter you from this visit.)

Utter Amazement

Wow! Oh My God! These were whispered and exclaimed over and over again by the 14 or so guests on the Star Gazing tour to Mauna Kea. One would think that people in their 60’s plus would not be amazed by the stars, but we all were utterly in awe.

Constellations

The guide pointed out the constellations and they really look like the drawings we see of them in books and magazines. I saw the Twins constellation, but it was upside down. When they reach the western horizon at the end of May and beginning of June, they will be standing on their feet. I saw another galaxy–Alpha Centauri– without a telescope!! We saw stars being born!!! The night sky was brilliantly alight with stars.

No one wanted to leave, but it was cold. And, I must admit our necks were aching from constantly looking up. Yet, it was impossible to look away as it was so breathtaking.

We need to remember that the ordinary can amaze us in ways we never thought possible.

More new experiences to come. Stay tuned.
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New Life Chapter

This is the time of the year that we are reminded of miracles and the miracle of life.

This year, that reminder was up-close and personal. In the week before Christmas we were given the most precious gift of all. We were given a grandchild!

This not our first grandchild–and hopefully–not our last, yet each new birth reminds us of the miracle of life. We are all quite educated, yet it is difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that in minutes a child goes from being a bump in a mother’s body, to a tiny human being that looks deep into your eyes. There is no other explanation other than it is a miracle.

This Christmas we will have a small child laying in her bassinette in our home. Thank goodness she will not have to lay in a manger, but believe me, she will be as loved by us as the most famous was loved by his mother.

No matter how new or old your gifts of life are this holiday season, please take some time to look into their eyes and let them know how much they are loved. (I think the older ones may need it the most.)

Love and enjoy each and every child in your life and know that each one is a perfect gem!

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Sound the Alarm Chapter

In this day and age, an alarm system for your home is both unfortunately necessary and a luxury.

We received a message from the Homeowners Association that there had been a few thefts in the neighborhood and they were advising us to make sure we parked our cars on the driveway, to make sure that all gates were locked, and the garage doors were well secured. This was a little disconcerting for us.

When you reach a certain age, you want to believe that you can still defend yourself under any circumstance. But then, reality steps in and you realize that you may need a little extra help. We decided our extra help would come in the form of an alarm system.

Holy Moly! This system has so many bells and whistles. I didn’t know an alarm system could do all this. We can turn on the alarm from anywhere in the world. We could even lock a door from Canada. We can watch the house from anywhere via the indoor and outdoor cameras. (I must admit, when the front door bell rings and we are not expecting anyone, it is great to check the camera to see who is waiting outside.–Most of the time the only thing at the door are my daughter’s packages delivered from UPS.)

Now learning to use it is another issue. Yes, it is simple to use, but in the middle of the night, your brain doesn’t necessarily kick in and engage when you would like it to.

The dogs were our previous alarm system. Max barks at everything and anything or even nothing. Pepper welcomes people into the house and barks fiercely at dogs. It must have been two in the morning and Pepper started barking. This is her alarm that she needs to get out. Nasr grumbles and stumbles down the stairs , uses the special easy key to turn off the alarm and lets the dog out.

I am half asleep and I mumble the alarm and tell him to punch a 2. WRONG!!!

The voice of the machine speaks in a very firm loud voice. Exit now! Oops. We set it to leave, not to stay.

Remember, it is the middle of the night and our brains are not functioning. Nasr is pushing keys and is very confused.

Virginia to the rescue! Ok, that is what I do too often and this time I should have stayed in bed. I rushed downstairs and unwittingly set off the motion detectors. LOUD horns blared into the still night like a dragon blaring fire. Luckily, my brave knight punched the right keys and slayed the dragon–as in he turned off the alarm.

No. We did not reset it that night again. I am sure our neighbors are using our names in vain and wonder about the abilities of the dragon slaying fools of the castle next door.

However, our confidence has strengthened and we now set the alarm and let the dog bark in the middle of the night. She is in the garage and we can guarantee that she is less of a nuisance to our neighbors than our dragon alarm.

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Need a Little Help From Your Friends Chapter

December 7, 2015

When you are on a weight loss plan, you do not live in a bubble in which unhealthy food cannot penetrate. That is a great visual though. Something for the next genius to invent. But, until it comes along, I have to live in the real world with real food and real temptations.

The last person I needed to tell about my plan was my dear friend who is a magician in the kitchen. She loves to cook. She loves to entertain. Her food tastes like heaven, and her food is quite healthy. The problem is that she is thin and she doesn’t need to lose weight and worst of all, she doesn’t like sweets, but she makes them for her guests. Yes, they are scrumptious! (I may have encouraged her by drooling over her food and scarfing it down the minute she puts it in front of me.)

I needed her help because she had once poo-pooed the plan because she had friends who had tried it, but had gained the weight back. I know she wasn’t too keen on this plan, she would prefer that I make and eat my own healthy food, but if I could do that, I wouldn’t be so overweight. I needed a drastic change and something with major portion control.

I waited a week to call her and invite her to our house. I was nervous and Number One was not happy with me. He thought I was being selfish, but I told him and myself that there comes a time in our lives that maybe we do need to be a little selfish, particularly when it comes to our health. When I spoke to my friend on the phone, and told her about my plan, she was a little hurt that I thought she would not support me. But when I reminded her of what she said about the program, she understood. She was ready to back me 100%! I love my friends.

So, that first weekend, I wanted to invite them over because they are always so generous with their invitations.

Number One was not too pleased with me because I had invited them over for tea and coffee and a card game. Again, he thought I was being selfish and not generous because I did not invite them to a dinner. I stuck to my guns. It was hard, but I did it.

Our friends came over, I had a nuts and fruit for them along with the coffee and tea. We all like a little wine, but they supported my need to forgo the wine and we don’t need wine to have fun.

We played several rounds of UNO– a game we hadn’t played since our kids were young. There was lots of lively conversation, maybe a little slight of hand with the cards, and we laughed and played until almost midnight.

It was a fun night and no food for me. Except, when they left, I had my Jenny chocolate cake!

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Schedule a Routine Chapter

Every administrator and teacher knows that for children to be successful they need to have a consistent schedule or routine. Well, retirees need a routine or a schedule, too.

FLOUNDERING AND GRASPING

I jumped out of the wide, deep, ocean of the working world into the retirement world. Now, I find myself floundering in the middle of an aging rowboat, flopping around, gasping, and grasping for a direction in which to take my life. I keep flipping to one idea and then flopping back to another.

TOO MUCH FREEDOM?

Yes, I am happy that I retired–ecstatic actually. I enjoy the freedom of not getting up in the morning, but I am crippled by the fact that I have so much I WANT to do, and I don’t know where to start and at the same time, I know I have to pace myself.

I WANT TO DO IT ALL!

I am trying to fit in a time to study my German–it was my father’s first language, but he never passed it onto us. I had a good handle on it in 1984, but when you don’t use it, you lose it. When and how can I do this on a consistent basis so I really learn it.

I signed up for several on line classes. I want to learn so much that I didn’t have a chance to when I was working or in college. I want to learn Storytelling so I can volunteer my time. I want to learn about the Vikings, the Pharaohs, geography, oceanography, photography, Tai Chi, how to understand great art, and take more writing classes.

I created this website and I want to write on my blog every Wednesday. I want to add to my Losing It blog every week.

I am going back to writing my children’s books and am attending meetings and classes to learn more about the publishing side of writing.

I have to go to the gym or exercise outside every day.

The weather is so beautiful I want to be outside drinking up the sun and the ocean breezes.

I want to spend time a lot of time with my friends and family.

MY SCHEDULE

I need a workable schedule. I need a routine for retirement. I need to feel in control and I need a specific schedule that will get me started and keep my going so I am not reeling and feeling like a fish out of water.

But, that is one more thing that I have to do.

So, do you have any idea when I will get it done?

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Thanks Chapter

At this time of year, we have to sit back and take note of what we have in our lives and for what we need to be thankful.

CONTORTING

Yes, I have some aches and pains–especially this morning after trying Yoga for the first time yesterday. But, I consider myself very lucky and thankful that I can, at this age, contort myself into various yoga poses–hey, I can do a Warrior 2 pose. The only thing is, I have to fight the stiff neck and shoulders to stand up today. I may never do Yoga again, but I am thankful that I can.

RED MASTERPIECE

Have you seen a huge, full, red leaf tree in fall? For many of you on the East Coast, that is not such a huge event. But here in Southern California, there are lots of palm trees, but not color-changing trees. I am thankful that I saw this masterpiece and that I took time to really look at it and appreciate it. I am thankful that my eyes are still functioning well enough that I can see that beauty and feel such peace when I look at it.

FOUR HOUR LUNCHES

Four hour lunches are something to be thankful about. It is at this time that I recognize that I am also thankful I am retired so I can do a four hour lunch–guilt free. No, I did not eat for four hours, but I did drink in the laughter and happiness and a few raunchy comments that 5 other women and I enjoyed while overlooking the sparkling lagoon. We were free to catch up on each other’s lives and enjoy their successes grumble together about the issues we have in common–usually punctuated with a few jokes and witty comments.

REFLECT

Now, that I am retired, I have time to reflect on so much and take a moment to appreciate all the things I took for granted during my working life.

On this Thanksgiving day, after all the cooking is done, after your stomach is full to the brim, and before you start writing your shopping list, take a few moments to look around you. Look outside. Look inside yourself. You will find thousands of things to be thankful for. Don’t skim through them. Really think about each one. Write several of them down and put them on your refrigerator.

Now, when you have one of those days, you can look at this list and realize, life is a lot better than that one bad day.

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Support Chapter

NEXT STEPS

I had the plan, now I had to get the support from the important people around me. If the people who mean the most to you, don’t support you, then you will have more of an uphill climb.

NUMBER ONE

I looked at Number One and told him we needed to talk and that I would tell him where I had been. His face went a little white as if I was going to give him some very bad news. The relief on his face when I said that I went to the diet store was almost comical. It was weird, he beamed with happiness. At first I thought it was because he knew I wasn’t sneaking off to a have a Sunday morning rendezvous, but then it dawned on me that he was happy that I was taking care of myself and doing something about my weight. As I have said several times, he is smart and he is smart enough not to say anything about my weight because I would fall into a deep depression and eat more.
I know he wants me healthy, besides, who wants to walk next to a fat, old, lady? He did say that he noticed I was waddling on the hike, though. It was a good thing I had already made up my mind to lose weight for my own reasons, not because he said I waddled.

NEXT MY DAUGHTER

My youngest was home for winter break and enjoying the warm “Cali” weather and sending lots of Insta-grams to her friends on the East Coast who were suffering in the cold. My daughter was another person who needed to support me. She is thin naturally–it isn’t from my genes. She loves to go out to lunch and dinner. I gently told her that for the first few months, I was not going to go out to eat unless I didn’t have a choice. She was ok with that. “I want a healthy mom,” she said.

I have come to the conclusion that healthy is a euphemism for thin. No one ever tells an overweight person that they look healthy. So, obviously, she wants me to lose weight too, without telling me that I am fat.

When I go into her room when she is getting ready to go out, we have long conversations in front of her mirror. (Luckily, I can have a long conversation because she takes a long time to put on her makeup.)
My reflection in her mirror is that of a frumpy, overweight, old lady.
When I see myself next to my daughter, it just intensifies my feelings of failure and low self-esteem. The first words out of my mouth are usually, “Oh my God! I look awful!” (Which to be honest I do.)

SURPRISE RESPONSE

My daughters response surprised me. She was so upset that I always have such negative self talk about myself. My daughter thinks I am beautiful. Isn’t it wonderful to have daughters who think you are beautiful. (Which reminds me, I have to get her eyes checked.)

POSITIVE SELF TALK

Positive self talk is one thing I need to work on. I have a hard time saying good things about myself. I am a Pollyanna. I can find good things to say about anything or anyone. You don’t hear me trash talking about anyone, except myself.

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