Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

will you still need me, will you still feed me?

August 29, 2017

My husband recently applied for social security benefits – albeit a couple of years late. He is still working and has medical insurance so he didn’t think it was necessary but apparently the government, much like the draft in his days, needs you to sign up.

It was a very emotional moment for him as he looked back at his work history. Every year his salary was printed out and for each of those years he had a memory:

*When he first started working for his dad.

*When we got married and each year we had a child,

*When he bought out his older brothers and ran the company as a sole owner.

The lady at the social security office, bless her soul, was amazingly patient. I imagine each person who walks into her office relives those same memories.

Beatles2

I’m not quite old enough to sign up for social security. I will be spending my 64th birthday in London. Seven of my eight siblings will be there to help me celebrate as well as my best friend from childhood who probably knows me just as well as my brothers and sisters.

I never considered myself “old” but I began noticing things this year – my knees don’t work as well as they used to. I need to hold on to something when I get up, and my hair and skin is much drier (I mean, what is crepe skin anyway? well, now I know!).

My traveling companion, my friend from childhood who is just 6 months younger than me, recently had back surgery. It’s taking her longer than she thought to recover. We are going to be quite the sight as we head off to Ireland (her homeland), then Wales (my homeland), and finally London for my birthday celebration.

I’ve never worried about traveling (even though I don’t like to fly) but this time the idea of lugging suitcases and checking in and out of hotels sounds… well … like a lot of work!

But we are determined. We are not ready to be “old” and we’ve got a few more years before we apply for Medicare.

I’m not ready to look back on my life.

I’m still looking forward.

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poor Coop

June 22, 2017

It’s been a couple of days now since I lost my shadow, my traveling companion, my best friend. She was black and beautiful and had just celebrated her birthday. But she was tired and in pain and it was time to say goodbye.

She was also Cooper’s sister.

Stella and Cooper are dogs. Labradors to be exact. They came into our lives 11 years ago. Stella, a beautiful black female and Cooper, a lovable chocolate male. Cooper quickly became my husband’s dog. They went on hunting trips together and just seem to have the same male macho thing going. Stella, who was gun shy, became my companion. We were actually pretty content when the boys went out of town. The only time Cooper and I bonded was during our afternoon naps.

He liked to cuddle.

But now it’s just me and Coop. I’m not sure if he knows exactly where Stella is but he spends a lot of time napping. Could be his age and he’s always been a laid back lab, but watching him over the past few days, I’m beginning to think it has a lot to do with me. I’ve noticed I’ve lost something. I am feeling a bit joyless.

I think he knows.

I’m lucky to have some good friends that know what I’m going through and have been so supportive. I’m surprised how much this loss has affected me (I’ve lost pets before but this one – wow). I think I need a week or so to mourn the loss of my friend.

I’m just hoping Cooper can wait it out because I have a feeling we’ll need each other.

cooper & stella

 

 

 

Christmas Past

December 24, 2016

I love Christmas Eve. Something about the excitement in the air. The kids on the street are happy and joyous and, in Southern California, the weather turns a nice kind of cold that we can actually lite up the fireplaces (although I’m sure my friends in the midwest think we are insane).

It’s a cool 45 degrees. This year my significant other (hubby of almost 40 years) is recouping from back surgery, so we’re taking it easy. Making Chinese food and watching the Godfather trilogy. While I do miss the kids coming over for crab legs and cole slaw, it’s nice that one of my sons picked up the tradition and is right now hosting more than 25 people at his house. Good thing he’s doing it this year because next year he’ll have a couple of 1 year olds running around and this tradition just may be coming back to grandma’s house.

Got another son who will be cooking up some Aebleskivers tomorrow morning (that’s Danish pancakes for those who don’t know). Another tradition handed down.

And so it goes. My mom passed 10 years ago on Christmas Eve. She had a good life and we always said it was a good day to die for a nice Catholic lady. Celebrating the birth of Jesus in Heaven. Not bad.

But it did get me to thinking about a Christmas years ago. My mom was mad at my dad. Don’t know why but she decided not to do Christmas that year. Mind you, there were about six of us then (the other 3 came later). My dad, ever the romantic and holder of all things family, made a run to the gas station to buy us gifts (remember, this was about 100 years ago and not many stores stayed open on Christmas Eve). That year we got car fresheners, key chains, maybe a metal toy truck or car and candy. I pretty sure we didn’t care. For us, it was magical.

My mom must have come around because I really don’t remember it badly. Of course, I may be the only one of my siblings who remember it at all.

Which brings me to 2016. All things change, including Christmas. All those years of crab leg Christmas Eves, 25 to 30 people for Christmas dinner, toys, bikes, skateboards, quads, Playstations were fun but exhausting. Last year, Christmas set me on my heels (like Christmases before) when we lost someone close to us. It seems like a bad time of year for death, but then again, when is a good time to be sad.

The excitement is still in the air. The kids across the street are playing with their race cars and drones, my husband is sitting in front of the fireplace with the two old labs and I’m thinking about Christmas past.

While I’m not a big fan of Christmas (I like Thanksgiving so much more), I’m happy to see people happy. It was a tough year. I’m hoping people in general will stop worrying about the end of the world (ala Trump victory) and focus in on really how good we have it. Because it may just be an air freshener from a gas station, but there is something magical about Christmas and we should enjoy every minute we spend with our family and friends.

Merry Christmas and peace to all.

IMG_2269

 

 

 

CALM… for now

December 24, 2015

IMG_2269It’s Christmas Eve morning. I’ve got Christmas songs dancing through my head, the fireplace is lit and the dogs (and husband) are all still asleep.

I just love the calm of the morning.

There is a lot on our plates right now. We’ve got grandkids who are so looking forward to tomorrow and I can’t wait to see their faces when we visit. We’ve got older children who are looking forward to tonight as we dig into crab legs and Heinekens. It’s all so lovely.

But deep inside of me I have pain. It’s been 9 years ago today when my mom died. Even though she was ready and I was okay with it all, I miss her. Especially today.

My pain today is for my friend who has been battling melanoma for the past 4 years. A brave battle – one that he faced head on and tried everything the doctors threw his way. I can’t even count the many clinical trials he was a part of. And while it didn’t work for him, I can only hope it’s given the medical field some sort of direction to help the next generation of cancer patients.

And now there is nothing else they can do for him.

He is home, surrounded by his family. I’ve already said my goodbyes and told him how much I love him and how much he meant to me.

People say at least you were able to tell him all those things but you know what?

It sucks to say goodbye.

It seems the older I get, the more I am aware of the loss of loved ones during the holiday season and it will always be a mixture of sadness and joy.

So I’m enjoying the calm this morning but the chaos will soon be upon me and for now I’m choosing peace (and Christmas songs).

Merry Christmas Eve to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

decades in a word

September 8, 2015

My husband turned 65 last month. Was he happy? I don’t think so. Everyone keeps asking him when he is going to retire. Or they ask him if he signed up for Medicare yet. He’s got one foot in his youth and one foot in old age.

The Fourth Quarter, we like to call it. We will be happy if we make it to 83 – happy, healthy and still driving.

I’m just beginning my 60th decade. So far, it’s not so bad. The best part is having time and the worse part is …. having time. My husband likes to go, go, go and I have grandchildren to play with. One of the best gifts though has been my girlfriends – ones I’ve had for awhile and even more importantly, ones I’ve recently connected up with again.

I’ve thought a lot about what we’ve been through over the years. I can’t help my husband with decisions he needs to make about work and not working but I think I have a keen understanding about what we women go through.

ladies-on-a-lake

Decades. It’s almost easy to define our decades with one word. This is in the general sense, of course. You may be one decade ahead of me or one behind, but I think you’ll get an understanding of all the little (and not so little) events that impact our lives.

The beginning (birth through 10) – Wonder.

I wonder what school will be like, what I will get for Christmas. Having a good friend that lives next door. Baby brothers and sisters. Hula Hoops, roller skates, tetherball, bicycles. All fun and wonder.

Teens – Adventure.

Make-up and boys. Starting your period. Getting boobs. Learning how to kiss and slow dance. Heartbreak. Junior High. High School. College? Where will I go? Who am I going to be? The world is wide open. If only I could just see it.

Twenties – Settle.

Careers. Marriage. Kids. Mortgage. A lot of ugly bridesmaids dresses.

Thirties – Time.

Meaning no time. We are either in the midst of raising a bunch of kids or deep in our career or both. We are trying to keep the clock pushed back but we really don’t have any time to exercise or eat well. It’s soccer practice, homework, keeping your boss happy while juggling your home life, finding alone moments with your partner and making sure your checkbook balances.

Maybe a better word would be chaos.

Forties – Change.

My mom always told me my 40s would be great. I think she was right. It’s when women really come into their own. Kids are growing up and don’t need you as much. If you are working, your career is pretty much a no-brainer and you have some tenure. If you’ve been staying home with kids, it’s great to go back to work.

How’s the marriage? Usually this is a very tenuous time for a husband and wife. Time for a change and some opt for divorce (a long overdue one at that). Others teeter and find a way to make the change work. Whatever the situation, your relationship with your husband/partner will change.

Fifties – Hot flash (I know. It’s two words).

You suddenly look in the mirror and see your mom. When the hell did this happen? It’s not fun but trust me, soon you’ll embrace it. You will find you now that you have gotten some time back and wonderful friends who are willing and ready to go on great adventures with you. You have your health, you have some spending money and you have a need to connect with people and the world around you. You may not look as good as you did in your 20s, but the hell with that. This is your decade to enjoy life.

Sixties – Content.

You’ve accepted your body image, but not all the way so you work at it (a little). You have health issues. Money can be tight. You may have lost a friend or two. Parents are gone by now. Kids have their own lives. You do wonder what you should do now. Can you still contribute to society?  Do you want to contribute?

There is one thing you do know – you are not ready to roll over and die. But do you really want to take that little plane over to the Big Island?

Why the heck not?

I’m curious about my 70s/80s.

Will I make it that long? If I do, will I be healthy enough to enjoy it and young enough to embrace it?

I guess the best way to approach this whole age thing is to just not over think it because it’s really not up to us.

My advice (handed down by my mother, I’m sure) – Make the best of your time. Keep your loved ones close, your friends even closer and understand that shit happens.

When you look back at each decade know that you did the best you could and a damn good job at that.

another circle of life moment

December 15, 2014

It seems like just last year I gave up the traditional Christmas dinner. The boys were growing up, some married, some with kids of their own. Understanding the need for my daughter-in-laws to be with their families on Christmas, I was happy to host a crabby leg Christmas Eve dinner with the family, exchanging gifts and a few laughs and letting them go on their own for Christmas.

We were invited to dinner, of course, which is rather nice, but what was really nice was waking up Christmas morning, enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband, exchanging gifts and marveling at how lucky we were to have family so close by – not only our kids but my brothers and sister and his brothers.

But this year I am giving up Christmas Eve and crab legs. The kids are pretty busy now on the night before Christmas. They’ve got Barbie dollhouses and Ewok villages to put together. They really need to have time to prepare their living room for that magical Christmas morning moment with their children. I know I loved it and I’m sure they are too.

When I announced to the family I would not be cooking on Christmas Eve they were a little shocked but as the week goes by it’s nice to see how well they are coming into their own, making plans and finding time for dear old mom and dad.

It will be strange – I’ve done this for so many years, but it’s a circle of life thing and it’s wonderful to see how traditions carry on.

Merry Christmas to all.

airport 14

May 22, 2014
Cover of "Airport (Full Screen Edition)"

Cover of Airport (Full Screen Edition)

My husband loves to travel.

Me. Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy visiting other places but most of the ones I want to see involve air travel and I’ve gotten to despise the whole airport/airplane scene.

It’s not the fear of flying, the ticket prices, the long flights, the lay-overs, the bad food, or the TSA, which everyone knows are a given – it’s more the people involved in air travel. And I’m talking everyone from the airline/airport employees to my fellow travelers.

It does vary from airport to airport but bottom line, it’s a mind-boggling, time-wasting, downright rude experience.

Having just finished two back-to-back, five-hour one way trips in a one month period, I’m swearing off travel of any kind for a while.

I really, really try to be patient and kind. I’ll help a single mom trying to push a stroller and roll a big piece of luggage. I’ll wait in long car rental lines without going ballistic. I’ll even excuse the snarly flight attendants who are anxious to complete their duties so they can sit in the back and read.

What sets me off, however, are my rude fellow passengers. You know who they are. The guy that has to be the first on and off the plane. The business traveler who never checks his luggage so he can race you to a taxi or parking lot. The gal who is texting or talking on her cell while rolling her luggage and not even aware of her surroundings. The teenagers lounging on the floor of the waiting area, eating hamburgers and not bothering to clean up their mess. And, oh my God, the guy to takes off his shoes and somehow manages to plop his bare feet on the fold down eating tray. UGH!

I am amazed though when I witness the patient car rental manager calming a client who feels he shouldn’t have to wait in line with the rest of us. The older lady who lets a pregnant woman use the bathroom before her. The gentleman who helps a couple with limited English skills find the correct security line. Or the TSA guy who sincerely welcomes you home with a big smile.

I admire them. I envy them. I try my best to be them.

My sister once told me that soon airline travel will be worse than Greyhound bus travel and they only way to beat that is to own your own plane. I am afraid that time has come.

Until we can all travel like Captain Kirk and beam ourselves to our next vacation or business spot, can we all manage to try to get along? I promise to be kind and patient. Can you?

 

 

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side kicks

March 30, 2014

 

My friend Britt is retiring today. He’s also turning 65. The other day he turned in his truck, his keys and his cell phone. He’s been training the “younger” guys, so he feels confident he is leaving his workplace in pretty good hands.

What a strange thing this retirement is. I’m sure there is a sense of loss identity. There is probably a great unknown of what to do now. It’s not like Britt doesn’t have a lot on his plate. He likes to surf as often as he can. He and his wife go camping – usually to places he can surf. And he also has two beautiful daughters he takes care of in a way only a father can.

But how strange is it that he and we are all at this point in our lives? Where did those years go?

Britt is actually my husband’s friend. They’ve known each other since high school. He was just one of a group of guys who I took on when I married Charlie. Britt danced with me at my wedding and just recently he danced with me at my 60th birthday party. I know that we must have shared many other dances in-between those years.

Britt has been coming in and out of my life for 40 years now.  I got to know him much better once our children were grown, but until then he was that guy who was interesting and quiet and cute. I watched his eyes light up at the birth of each of daughters. He went to dance recitals and soccer games (or some other girly activity). Since I had boys, our paths didn’t cross as often but Britt was always there for Charlie. And for that reason alone, he is my best friend too.

We’ve had some great adventures together – boating, camping, eating, drinking, hanging out with all of our dogs, concerts, lakes, beaches. Soo many good times to cherish.

But with those good times, there were some bad ones too. Ones we share right along with him. Britt was diagnosed with melanoma a couple of years ago– a killer of a cancer. All of us had our throat drop to our stomach with that information. I know there were many sleepless nights in his house. After a couple of surgeries, he was enrolled in a clinical trial for a new drug. It wasn’t easy – the drive, the after affects, the waiting. Today, hallelujah! he is cancer free but it’s a disease that just always sticks in the back of your brain.

boat

boat (Photo credit: pupski)

I guess retirement is in all of our futures. Our dad’s did it and now our friends are all doing it. Retirement isn’t what it used to be though. We don’t get a gold watch and retire to a condo in a 55 and older community. Britt will stay busy – whether it’s surfing, camping, looking after his daughters or just being a sidekick for Charlie, because there is one thing about Britt you can’t deny -that guy is ready for anything, and retirement (and turning 65) is just one of those things.

I love you Britt. Happy Birthday and Happy Retirement.

Now let’s go boating!

 

 

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the gathering

July 16, 2013
Box of Twinkies

childhood

It was a gathering of five. Five friends from parochial school all hovering around the age of 60 now. It would have been six but one friend was getting ready to bury her daughter. Suicide we heard.

I was the oldest but not by much. My 60th birthday was two months away. But this wasn’t a birthday celebration. No, this was to celebrate Mary who had just finished a grueling round of chemo after having undergone a double mastectomy. Mary was the nucleus of this group of friends. Mary and I lived on the same street growing up. Through her I met Linda, Carol, Terry (the one who was burying her daughter) and her little sister Annie.

There could have been many more of us at this gathering but, let’s face it, it’s hard to get people together. Plus we were heading to Phoenix on the hottest weekend of the year – in fact record breaking at 118 degrees. But thanks to time, a little alcohol and bitching about the heat, those other friends were with us in stories, laughter, tears and many old embarrassing moments.

Not only was I the oldest, I was the poor kid of the group. Third of nine children with a blue collar dad, we were always hanging on by a thread – houses, food, bedrooms, space. None of my friends ever made me feel less than them, but I do remember certain looks from the adults.

My friend Mary was from a large family too, four siblings, but her dad had a nice white-collar job. Our moms hung out together mostly through church related events, but when our parents got together on the weekends it was something right out of Mad Men.

Carol was what I considered the “rich” kid. Her dad was a judge and her mom was a beautiful Italian “Sofia Loren” look-alike. But Carol was down to earth. As beautiful as her mom, she was neat as a pin and kind to everyone. She was raised as an only child after her little brother was killed by a drunk driver right in front of her eyes. I couldn’t comprehend that type of tragedy but it never defined Carol. Her parents took her on ritzy vacations to Vegas. I remember thinking “She must like Elvis,” but I think she liked being part of this Rat Pack of scraggly kids from our little hood.

Linda lived several blocks away but she went to school with us. Don’t remember her dad much but I remember her mom and now I see where Linda has inherited her mom’s beautiful brown skin. Linda had a lot of brothers and one sister (I think), but I don’t remember hanging around their house much. Linda was quiet and reserved, a person who didn’t talk much about herself. She reminded me we shared an apartment in our 20s but she didn’t really like living there. Hmmm….

Annie is Mary’s little sister. Two years younger than me, she was actually my partner in crime. Where Mary was cautious, Annie was anything but. Oh, she’ll tell you stories about my clubs where I was always president and to join you either had to jump off the roof or declare your hatred toward someone we just didn’t like at the time. You know, the “I hate Becky Club” or something to that effect. Annie was always ready for an adventure – smoking Pall Malls stolen from my mom’s purse or staying out all night to TP someone’s home.

None of our moms worked outside the home – typical 1950 suburban America. We felt safe and loved. What we found out from our Arizona weekend was how much our lives were different from the one we knew and how much our lives changed after school.

Because Mary was tired from her chemo and the weather was unbearably hot, we spent a lot of time indoors with the air conditioner running full speed. We played card games, drank G&Ts and rum and cokes, cooked pasta dinners and watched a funny movie (I admit my friends don’t share my sense of humor). Mostly we caught up on our lives.

Of the five of us, three graduated from college, three are divorced, and four of us are grandparents. All of our parents have died with the exception of Carol whose dad is still kicking but her mom has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s, I learned over the weekend, is truly the long goodbye. We would have called it Purgatory in Catholic school.

Only one of the friends still holds strongly onto the Catholic faith (I dabble in it), but we all have opinions on it. We talked about three of our brothers who were altar boys in the 60s. Two of them never married and the one who married never had children. Priest abuse? We’ll never know. Our brothers certainly don’t talk about it.

Mary’s mom wanted her to marry a doctor so she went to college in Oregon for a Bachelor’s in Nursing to find one. She married a hairdresser. Now single, she runs the Women’s Section at a large, well-known hospital.

Carol said her mother put her on diets starting in the second grade. She remembers how the other kids had Twinkies in their lunch bag. She had carrot sticks. (side note: Carol was not and is not overweight.). A film editor by profession, Carol quit her job when she started having kids and only looks back with a slight regret (she was one year short from receiving a pension).

Annie didn’t attend college but moved to Colorado. She married and had four children (a set of twins included). She worked most of her life – always the breadwinner and in a field where she organizes events. That girl is the ultimate multi-tasker. She is her sister’s number one caregiver throughout her breast cancer ordeal.

Linda also left California for college in Arizona. She married and had three daughters. Single again, Linda’s flair for design and color is not only supporting her family but also helping Mary as she settles into her new home. Still reserved and quiet, I get to know Linda just a little bit more every time I see her.

Me – well, I married someone I met in a bar. Still married to that same guy 30-plus years later (sometimes bar pickups work out). I’m probably not the poor kid anymore, but I do carry a deep sense of that childhood with me.

I am amazed that our gathering of five could come together after years of separation and find we never really left that little parochial schoolyard. We remain good friends.

I cherish that.

If life were a football game, we’d all be entering into the fourth quarter. What defined us as children has shaped us into the strong women we’ve become. Although we all have had our ups and downs, we are survivors and I think we are looking forward to this next chapter of our lives. Football games can be won or lost in the fourth quarter and I think we’re winners.

Epilogue: Mary returned to work after one more week of recuperating in Arizona. She lost most of her hair, but has wigs and a beautiful new short haircut. I’m sure all of us will be facing major medical situations in the coming years. I have a feeling we will come together to share a few laughs and help make this time of our lives one for the books.

March 11, 2013

I’m rooting for an American pope. Americans have always questioned authority and I believe the newest pope will need to address a lot of issues.
Besides doesn’t the name His Holiness Sean O’Malley have a nice ring?


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