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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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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To Your Health Chapter

To My Health

We rarely think about our health, except when we are not healthy. Whenever I feel this bad, my healthy imagination takes me to the worst of places. The word plague has been popping up in so many places lately–news, the books I choose to read, European city tours, and in my healthy imagination. I learned on one of my tours that the filthy water caused and perpetuated the plague. To solve that problem, they brewed wine and beer to drink instead. That is why when you toast with an alcoholic drink, you say, “To Your Health.”

Truckload of Alcohol

Today I feel as if I need a truckload of plague resisting alcohol.
However, as most of you know, if I drink 5 sips of wine I am three sheets to the wind. So…alcohol is not going to help me. Therefore, I have to rely on myself.

Mongo Bug

The bug that hit me is huge and ugly. I feel like a grey haired, whiny, little grandma with a short cane and a long sad face ineffectively poking at the gargantuan virus that is going to swallow me whole.

Visualization

I am told that visualization is the key to getting what you want. If you see it, you get it. Okay. I am visualization a healthy (I paused because I hate to think about my age) 50’s generation grandma–No. That doesn’t work because all I see is a wrinkled old lady in a ponytail, poodle skirt, bobby socks and saddle shoes. She couldn’t defeat this awful bug, besides her bubble gum bubble would get her infected more when the bug breathed on it.

I got it! I am visualizing myself as Batgirl from the 60’s Batman television series. Yes, I have the same hourglass shape that Yvonne Craig had, (look, if you are going to visualize–make sure you look the way you want–not the way you are),and those long legs that slid into 5 inch spike heeled boots. I see myself as tall as she was and I am kicking and punching that scrawny bug to oblivion.

POW! CRACK! ZAMM! ZLOP! ZLUNK!

Holy Headache! I might be working.

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The Beginning and The End Chapter

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As I sat at my desk on my last day as a working professional, I knew it was my beginning day and my end day. Luckily, it was not a very strenuous day. But it had been very emotional knowing I would not be working with my wonderful staff anymore. On that unusual day, a young couple who had met at the school in fourth grade, arrived to take pre-wedding pictures. The school was, yet is wasn’t the same for them. For this young couple it was both the beginning and the end.

The clock ticked loudly announcing the passage of time. My desk was empty, except for my keys. I dreaded putting them in the safe. Once I put them inside, it would be final. It is a little gut wrenching to think that placing the keys in the safe is your final act of your working life. I was sent off with a bang. The staff put on a heartfelt and emotional retirement party that was more spectacular than I could have imagined. But the party was not the end. I still had two weeks to work and finish up and prepare for the new year. (I wanted the new principal to not struggle with minutia when he/she arrived.)

I worked in education for 25 years. For some, that may not seem like much, but I was almost 40 when I started. I had three other careers prior to education. However, this has been the most rewarding career that I could ever have imagined.

As I sat at the desk I could hear the loud hum of the air conditioner, but there were no other sounds coming from the office. There were no sounds of kids screaming with laughter and joy, no sounds from the teachers enjoying their camaraderie and their concern for their students, no sounds from the parents planning their PTA activities and voicing their questions and issues.

I skimmed my hand across the top of my very large desk. A principal’s desk is both power and protection. The heavy wooden chairs that surely had been there since the school opened in 1959, no longer held the little culprits whose infractions were usually easily remedied. As I stare at them, I notice for the first time that they have vertical slats on the back. Many of the students entered my office and looked at me through those slats. Now I realize that from their perspective, entering my office was rather prison-like. Behind the chairs, the apples and the dolphin mascot trinkets still adorned the shelves. It seemed sacrilegious to remove them from the school and take them home.

All I kept thinking was, how do I say good-bye to this school and to the position I held for 15 years. In a few short weeks, another capable individual would be sitting in this chair and dealing with all the issues, trials and tribulations and joy of running a school. How would I go from being frantically busy every second of the day to not having a real job or responsibility.

This is the beginning and the end.

A few minutes later I started taking things out to my car. At this point, it was very real that I was leaving. Once I finished packing up my car, I realized that I’d unlocked the door to the school for the last time. My computer shut down and it went to black.

What if I had left something essential to my life? Would I get it back? I was not talking about a thing–I am leaving whatever POWER I thought I might have earned behind and I knew I would never get it back.

WISH ME LUCK. HERE I GO.

The door clanked shut, the lever was dropped and the tumblers clicked into the place. I hadn’t realized that closing that safe would be so sad. I had just locked up my career. Tears streamed down my cheeks. The custodian who was cleaning the office asked if I was ok.

“I will be,” I whispered. “I will be.”

No Longer Cool Chapter

A car emblazoned with the words SENIOR PRIDE!!!!! on its back window flew by me, I’m sure, on its way to someplace cool, fun and exciting. Remember when high school seniors were the coolest kids in school. During your entire high school career, I’m sure, you dreamed of becoming a SENIOR! Yes, it was always capitalized because seniors had power. Seniors were soon going to be adults and their parents couldn’t tell them what to do, anymore.

A DIFFERENT SENIOR

Why is it that when you become a senior, as in senior citizen we are not painting it all over our car windows? Why are we not the coolest in the community? We do have a little power, maybe a little more financial power than high school seniors. However, most of us would give up a lot to have our parents tell us anything right now.

START A MOVEMENT

I think we need to start a movement! Real seniors need to start marking up their cars with senior pride! I think we have a lot more to show for it than a mere 4 years of high school–actually they think they are seniors with only three years under their belt.

We are seniors with 40 or more years of work and life experience. We survived our own teenage years AND we survived our children’s teenage years. We have gained more knowledge, more patience (most of the time) and wisdom that few want to take advantage of. We know when something won’t work or someone is making a bad decision. If they listened to us, they wouldn’t suffer. Maybe they have to gain the same experience by living it. But isn’t that what history books are for–giving us a chance to learn from our past without suffering through the wars again.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Now is your chance to take the challenge and cover your car in paint announcing that you, too, have SENIOR PRIDE!!! I am heading to my car to paint it proudly in purple paint.

The only problem now is that I am having a senior moment and I can’t remember where I put the paint brushes.

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Little Successes Chapter

We all have days when it seems like our world is falling apart. It could be a minor setback in another’s eyes, but in our mind, it is huge. Today’s chapter revolves around my setback. I have to admit that at first I had a bit of a pity party, then I cleaned the house from top to bottom–because cleaning the house feels like you are wiping up the mess that you are in, AND I washed my car. No, cleaning didn’t work.

Food is usually my go-to comfort, but I can’t go there now. Besides, that is another story for another day. We are told that we should take a long bath or go for a walk to keep our stress at bay. Well, who wants to sit in dirty water and I already walked for an hour at the gym at 5:30 a.m.

Two months ago, I bought three new garage door clickers because the old ones were too cumbersome and we were short one for the number of cars we have. These clickers needed to be programmed to be used with our older openers. Since it was such a bad day, I needed to feel successful at something. Now for many of you, this would not be a huge accomplishment, but anything mechanical seems to be a major challenge to me. Yes, I removed the cover of the garage door opener–I had to use a screwdriver to do it. (Are you impressed yet?) Then I pushed the learn button and my daughter pushed the buttons on the clicker. YES!!!! I DID IT! ( I am so proud of myself.) I was waiting for my husband to do it, but it feels so good to do something you never thought you could. That boosted my spirits.

Then, the BIGGER little success of not so great day was that after trying for a week, I was able to get some sort of comments on my blog page. At least I believe I was according to what is written at the bottom of this post page. Again, for the savvy blogger or computer literate person, this is nothing. But for me, it was a huge challenge. I need to bless YouTube and all the people I watched who tried to teach me how to install comments on my blog. I have about four different comment plug-ins (now I am trying to sound savvy) for my blog. Three didn’t work–or at least I couldn’t see them on my page. Finally, I succeeded in installing the Facebook Comments. Yippeee!

Wait a minute. I just realized I have another huge success today. I have a blog. No, not just that I have it, but I created it. It may not be the best, but I DID IT! I guess that is the BIGGEST little success of the day.

My world is still not good, but at least I can say that I had three little successes today! If your day wasn’t so good, what were your little successes?

Redemption Chapter

I flew 5 days after my mortifying experience.  Yes, I was worried I would not keep my footing, but I did.  I also, did not have a carry-on piece of luggage.

That is where the dilemma begins.

I put everything in the luggage that would be transported by Lufthanza,  so I could travel light.  One bag arrived in Dusseldorf, one did not.  Whose was that you ask?  Right, it was mine.  I stayed very calm.  My brain was in a fog from the flight.  I was noon in Germany, but it was three in the morning in Carlsbad–I am not an all night type of person.

I do believe the woman at the lost luggage counter felt sorry for me.  So she mentioned that Lufthanza will reimburse up to 1200 Euros if we need to purchase items.  My husband kept repeating 1200 Euros?  1200 Euros?  I could not understand why he wanted to know.  I just wanted to get to my hotel room and sleep, which was about another three hours from that point.

Once, we got to the hotel, my husband only had one thought in mind. He hurried us out the door so we could go shopping and get reimbursed from Lufthanza.  HE WANTED TO GO SHOPPING?!

Thanks for the clothes.

Thanks for the clothes.

He was a man on a mission.  He pointed to so many items my foggy brain could not keep up with him.  Try this one on.  Try that one on?  I  think you need this.  And that.  To you, this may not sound strange, but my husband avoids shopping at all costs.  Ask my children, before today he would find anything to do other than being in women’s apparel and going through racks of clothes looking for my size.  My arms were filled.  Finally a woman saw me struggling with the pile of clothes and asked if I wanted a bag.  At least that is what I interpreted since she spoke in a very fast German and she handed me a bag.

Trousers for the evening, a jacket for the evening and all that goes with it was what my husband was looking for.  Finally, he realized that I needed underwear.  We got that and European walking shoes because the only shoes I had were flat with no support whatsoever.

In an average store in small town Germany, it is hard to spend 1200 Euros.  We spent a little more than 400, but I am happy I got some clothes.

My bag did arrive the next day.  If this is what I get for a lost bag, I may request that they lose it more often.  Finally, redemption from the mortification of my last airline experience.