The days turn into nights…And the nights were never ending…Puff the Magic Dragon…

This scene of Hanalei Beach looks out to a sleeping dragon-shaped mountain that inspired Peter, Paul, and Mary to interpret the song written by a friend, “Puff the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei.” There’s considerable speculation that the words to the song were mainly centered around smoking marijuana which grew prolifically in Hanalei. In the future, we’ll be writing more about Hanalei where many movies have been filmed over the years. Here’s a good video that further explains the shape of the dragon.

When I was 12 years old I started writing poetry, shortly after my father passed away from a tragic accident.  It’s ironic how creativity is often born of tragedy and sorrow. For years I wrote poetry with delusions that one day I’d be a great poet.

The heading in today’s post is a line from a poem I wrote at 12 years old that popped into my head as soon as I awoke this morning after a fitful night of tossing and turning. I blamed it on too much hot tea late yesterday, excess caffeine having a profound effect on my sleep.

A colorful Adirondack chair behind a rope fence.

It’s not as if I’m worried about anything in particular. Oh, you know, we all worry about this and that, impeding our ability to sleep. I’m certainly no exception. If I don’t have anything to worry about, which I don’t, I can always conjure up a shortlist to keep me busy while wide awake at 3:00 am.

With upcoming travels in mind, flights on small planes, long distances, and the unknown as to the quality of where we’ll be living, a litany of worry options is always readily available.

This puff flower was no larger than the size of a dime. It’s fun to notice the “little things.”

Why didn’t I pursue becoming a poet? Life, as they say, got in the way; married at 17, a mom at 19, divorced at 26, owning a business, two boys to raise on my own, leaving little time for dreaming of poetry.

And now, why don’t I do it now? Why don’t I write the book I dreamed of writing for most of my life? I certainly have the time. By 11:00 am each morning, I’m done posting here leaving my only task for the remainder of the day to get out to take photos for the next day’s post, a pleasant task we do more days than not.

This tiny blue flower was smaller than the size of a pea. Zooming in I noticed this sweet looking bloom.

What else do I have to do? Cook a little dinner? Watch Dr. Phil at 3:00 pm while we’re still in the US? Go to the pool and fitness center? Set the table for dinner using dish towels for linen napkins and placemats when none others are on hand? 

Oh, dear, I don’t mean to sound boring. I am never bored, not for a minute. This little brain has a magical way of entertaining me one way or another if merely a flash of apathy wanders through its neurons. Instantaneously, I twirl on my heels and a new idea pops into my conscientiousness and I’m off on a new tangent, excited, energized, and interested.

In Hawaii, many trees produce berries that proliferate into new leaves and flowers.

I decided against writing the book. Most certainly, we’d have plenty of fodder for what may prove to be moderately appealing to the growing senior population as to the nuances of travel for us older folks, whether short or long term. But, I’ve totally lost interest in writing the book. 

If we got a publisher (for which we’ve been approached) or if we self-published (popular these days) it would seem like the dreaded WORK. Nothing, money nor notoriety, could possibly appeal enough to either of us to put ourselves in a position feeling as if we’re working again. Nothing.

It’s hard to imagine that at future points in our travels, we won’t be a stone’s throw from a beach.

As for poetry? Ah, that desire is long gone. I don’t have enough angst in my life these days to be able to translate that pain and sorrow into poetic prose. Nor, would I want to summon up the sorrowful memories of decades long passed. I’m too happy now to write poetry other than occasional playful, rhyme-ful, iambic pentameter. Those days are long gone.

Fulfillment? What does that look like now? It looks like this life The simplicity of idle time, the simplicity of taking photos, the simplicity of observing wildlife, scenery, and vegetation fill my heart to the brim.

Hibiscus, Hawaii’s state flower, are everywhere, growing throughout the year. This was surely the largest Hibiscus we’d seen to date, larger than a baseball glove and the first we’d seen in this gorgeous shade of orange.

Then, his companionship; the lively banter, the romantic moments and the touch of a hand ever so lightly, coupled with an eye crinkling smile easily fills in any possible gaps if, but for a second I may wonder, I may question, “Is this really my life? How did I get so lucky?”

Tom says it’s not luck. It’s a lifetime of hard work and planning. But, I look at it more esoterically, as being a gift from heaven bestowed upon me for patience, perseverance and above all, for hope.

The lovely beach overlooking the dragon.

Writing here each morning, come “Hell or high water” so they say, has filled me with a deep sense of fulfillment, added to all of the above, that makes me incapable of deserving, or of taking, a moment to pine, to worry, to lay awake at night conjuring up worries. So what if I have a fitful night that seemed “never-ending?” 

The morning light offers up a new day to embrace with awe, wonder, and gratefulness and, boredom, dear readers, is never on the agenda.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2014:

The riad in Marrakech was filled with mirrors. We counted 17 as we took photos of many of them to post one year ago today. For more photos, please click here.

Becoming a reality…Only a short time away…A wonderful memory…

Tom, standing at the beach enjoying the early evening sky and the sea.

When I was a little girl, all but two of my growing up years were spent living in California. My father’s mother, my dear Grandmother, lived a long way away in Boston, was often on my mind.

Across the bay, it’s still Maui based on the island’s shape.

We only saw her once every two or three years, my parents driving all the way across the US in as few days as possible to see her where we’d spend one week or less at her beautiful home in a fine area of Boston. On a rare occasion, she took the long and arduous flight to see us.

To this day, I remember how she let me play with her costume jewelry and the three or four coconut heads with faces that hung from the ceiling in her basement, a beautifully finished area for entertainment and card playing.

Hawaii is a treasure trove of exquisite vegetation.

Although I spent little time with her, she influenced me in many ways that have become a part of how I’ve spent a lifetime striving to be like her; her warmth and kindness, her quiet elegance, her hearty laughter, and her passion for playing cards.

Now, as the time nears that Tom and I will see our six grandchildren after being away for 26 months, I recall my Grandmother and can only hope and pray that even a tiny bit of that legacy will carry on into the lives of our grandchildren.

This almost looks like a scene from New England by the sea.

Sure, we chose to live away from the day to day interactions as they thrive and grow. But, in Minnesota, it is not unusual for grandparents to move to warmer climates dreading old age in the frozen tundra, although they may see them a few times each year on visits.

As much as we’d love to see the sunset wherever we may live, we’re content to see the effects of it on the horizon.

With the easy use of Skype for face time as a means of communication, it isn’t as it was many years ago, an expensive long-distance call lasting only one or two minutes. With Skype, not only do we hear their voices, we see their faces and they can show us anything they’d like us to see; a favorite toy, a report card, a funny face, a favorite pet, or a pool in the backyard

Another pretty tropical flower.

In a little over three weeks they begin to arrive, some staying until January 9th. Other than the time I’ll spend early each morning posting photos and stories here and some necessary household tasks, our time will be spent with them as much as possible. 

At around 5:30 yesterday, Tom spotted this rainbow.  It hadn’t rained.

Like sleep, “they” say you can’t make up for the lost time. Perhaps, with enough love, you can. Besides, whenever I’m exhausted from poor sleep, I know one good night’s sleep remedies it all. Maybe “they” were wrong after all. Maybe we can make up for the time we’ve lost with loved ones, after all.

In these upcoming weeks with our adult children and grandchildren, we hope to spend every moment we can make up for the lost time. The easy part is that the love is firmly in place, deeply ingrained and ready to spew out of our pent up hearts.

                                          Photo from one year ago today, November 13, 2013:

Tom, drinking a locally made Tusker beer while we were out to dinner in a cave. On this night a year ago, we had a scary incident as told in the story.  Please click here for details.

A tragic loss of life…Etched in our hearts forever…The journey continues…

My father George was a fine man. He’ll remain in our hearts forever.

As revealing and vulnerable as we are in our daily posts, we carefully reserve a certain sense of privacy in our lives.  From time to time, we find ourselves in a quandary asking the question, ”Will revealing a sensitive personal situation benefit or enlighten even one of our worldwide readers?”  

If we have the opportunity to do so, we may choose to be as open as we are today.  We write and post photos here daily to entertain, to inspire and to share some of our research in regard to traveling to a particular location or as in our case, the world.  We, like you, learn as we go, fumbling along the way hoping to share valuable information we’ve gleaned from our mistakes and from our triumphs carrying the lessons forward into the next phase of our travels.

My 95 year old Uncle Bernie and his girlfriend.

Today’s story is not about travel, although we had to travel to Boston for the experience.  Today’s story is not intended to inspire, to educate, or to enlighten.  The sorrow of others doesn’t entertain.  But, it does bring us closer in touch with our own loss and grief, if only for a moment or a day.

It’s a sad story, as are the stories of each and every one of us in dealing with loss of a loved one.  Its a story of a loss so powerful that it has shaped my life and the lives of my two dear sisters…the loss of our father 54 years ago on October 18, 1960.

Uncle Bernie, his girlfriend Chavy and Phyllis.

His name was George.  He was 46 years old when he met a tragic end to his life.  He was manager of a metal casting foundry.  It was his last night on the floor having been promoted to a corporate position starting the following Monday morning.  It was Friday at 1:00 am, October 16, 1960. 

Our phone rang.  My mother, startled by the phone at the late hour, answered frantically.  We heard her scream.  Minutes later, as she pulled on her coat, she hollered to us, “Your father’s been injured at work.  I’m going to the hospital.  I’ll call when I know.”  The door slammed behind her.

My father on the left, brother Red and sister Ida and their mother, my grandmother, Ethyl.  Uncle Bernie was yet to be born.

I was 12 years old.  My sister Susan was 16 and Julie was four.  We were scared but, he’d been injured in the past which was never life threatening.

An explosion occurred.  His clothing caught on fire and he ran. A co-worker dropped him to the floor beating out the flames with his bare hands as my father writhed in excruciating pain.  He had third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

My heart pounded as we walked toward the grave of my father.  As we reached his grave site, the pounding eased and a sense of contentment washed over me.  I felt a sense of peace and of gratitude.

He lay conscious in agonizing pain, blinded, unable to breathe for two full horrifying days, succumbing on the third day. The battle to survive was too enormous even for this fine tower of strength and determination, a man of great character, a man of great will.

As my sisters and I waited in the living room of our home in a small town near Boston, wondering when we’d hear how he was doing. We’d lived in Boston for only two years, having spent the first years of our lives growing up in California to which we returned a few months later.

We had no knowledge of what had happened to him until around 3:00 am when a reporter pounded on our front door asking for a photo, “Of the man who was dying after being severely burned and was “unrecognizable,” he said, “Hey, girls, get me a photo of your daddy so we can put it in the newspaper.”

My father, George, passed away almost 54 years ago.  Memories of him linger in my heart and mind all of these years later.

We slammed the door in his face.  We fell to our knees on the living room floor , hugging one another, crying hysterically, scared and alone.  It wasn’t until daylight when family appeared and we were finally told the truth. 

He passed a few days later.  My mother’s screams rang through my ears for many years to come.  He was gone.  Somehow, each of us had to find our way to grieve, to heal and to move on.

Cousin Phyllis lost her daughter Edie and husband Arnie in the last decade.  Her strong spirit and passion for life shines through her loving demeanor. 

Yesterday, my Uncle Bernie (my father’s brother), my cousin Phyllis, Tom and I visited his grave site in Boston.  My sisters and I returned to Boston in the 1970’s to visit the cemetery and see our grandmother, uncles and other family members.  That was 42 years ago. 

The four of us spent the day together at the cemetery and later reminiscing over a memory filled lunch at a local restaurant sharing stories, laughing and crying.  It was a day I’ll always treasure, powerful and meaningful.

It was this reason we’d  chosen the most recent transatlantic cruise.  It ended in Boston.  One more time we could see Uncle Bernie (and of course, Cousin Phyllis), whom along with his brother, Uncle Red (Phyllis’s dad, who passed away in 2002) had come to visit us in Minnesota many years ago for a memorable week together.

All the loved ones lost.

Tom hit it off so well with the “uncles” that he too became one of the “boys” linked to the memory of my dad, George.  It was no different today.  Tom and Uncle Bernie each ordered a cocktail toasting to being together once again.  During lunch, Uncle and I often held hands, each in total awe of being together once again, love deeper than ever.

Memories fade, sorrows ease and life goes on.  If my father were able to hear me, all these years later, I’d say, “Daddy, thank you, for being the special man that you were and for loving me and my sisters. Thank you for the role you’ve played in  shaping my life so that now, in my senior years, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.  I’m living life to the fullest, on my terms, fulfilling the dream I never knew I had, with a man that in many ways reminds me of you…strong, loyal, determined and filled with love.”

A single flower growing at the cemetery reminded me of how fragile and fleeting life is.

Today, we continue on our year’s long journey.  Soon, our flight departs from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, British Columbia where we’ll spend six days preparing for the upcoming cruise to Hawaii beginning on September 23rd, ending in Honolulu, Hawaii on October 5th.

We’ll stay in close touch each and every day reveling in the wonders surrounding us.  Whether its a waning sun, a smiling face or sudden burst of laughter, it all matters.  Life is short.

Photo from one year ago today, September 17, 2013:

On this date a year ago, we posted our flight information from Mombasa, Kenya to Mpumalanga, South Africa departing on November 30, 2013.  No photos were posted other than the flight information.  Please click here for details.

Day 2, Boston…A thoughtful gesture from the hotel…Tom’s new laptop…Mini shopping spree!…Sad memories…

The generous gift sent to our hotel room by management of Four Points by Sheraton Norwood.

We apologize for the lack of photos today.  Many photos will be posted tomorrow.  Yesterday’s required shopping left me needing my hands free and thus, no additional photos. 

Yesterday morning, after meeting Kelli Boyer in catering at Four Points by Sheraton Norwood as she hosted morning coffee in the lobby we engaged in a delightful conversation. I felt as if I’d known her for a long time.

Later in the day after returning to our hotel room after a much needed and enjoyed shopping trip with Cousin Phyllis, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful platter in our room containing fruit and cheese accompanied by a full bottle of Pinot Noir and Pellegrino. 

As a gift from Kelli and the hotel management, we couldn’t have felt more appreciative of the kind gesture. It’s always the little things in life that leave us feeling warm and fuzzy, often, the most simple gestures, with the most heartfelt of intentions.

Yesterday morning at 10 am we arrived at Costco in Dedham, MA, purchased a new membership when the old membership had expired long ago. Immediately, we dashed to the laptop department and were disappointed to find that they didn’t carry Acer laptops.

The options were few when Tom wanted to replace his cracked screen laptop with one with one terabyte with a lighted keyboard and Windows 8.1. With screams of protest by millions of Windows 8 users worldwide, Microsoft has reduced the installations of Windows 8 or 8.1 worldwide on new computers.

With no laptops in stock meeting his criteria, he had no choice but to purchase the HP display model. Neither of us have ever been motivated to buy a floor model of any product fearing, as most do, it would be inferior in some manner.

In this case, with little time or motivation to shop further, he decided to make the purchase for US $100 less than the already reduced US $599. After tech support worked on it for a while to bring it back to its factory settings, we perused the huge store, in awe of everything we saw. 

We felt like kids in a candy store on visual overload. With no room for additional weight or space in our luggage we only purchased a pack of four much-needed battery-powered toothbrushes, a shaver, and blades package for me that should last a year at US $29. (We can’t believe the cost of razor blades these days).

With women’s razor blades in short supply outside the US, as we moved from location to location I’ve had no choice but to purchased packages with a new shaver and one extra blade at grocery stores outside the US. It was impossible to ever find replacement blades for any of the razors I’ve purchased having to buy new razors every few months. Very confusing. 

After the US $585 purchase at Costco, we headed back to our hotel to drop off Tom and our purchases. He had no interest in shopping with Phyllis and I. She arrived at noon to pick me up for a shopping trip and lunch. 

The prior evening she had insisted on taking our laundry to her favorite laundress to have it washed, dried and folded. The bag was so heavy Tom carried it out to her car. 

When she arrived the next morning, the laundry was done at a meager cost of only US $23! We’d spent US $34 washing and drying a mere two loads in London while we sat and waited for almost two hours.  We were grateful Phyllis helped us. There’s simply not enough time in Boston to sit in a Laundromat.

As mentioned earlier I needed to purchase bras at Victoria’s Secret, a few lightweight cardigan type sweaters at Phyllis’s favorite outlet store, and toiletries from a Walgreen’s store. Three new bras later at US $148 (no photos necessary), two cardigans, and a shirt later, we headed to lunch. 

By 4:30 we were back at our hotel room where we saw the beautiful fruit, cheese, wine, and water tray sent by management as appreciation for our mention and quasi review in yesterday’s post.

Never having expectations of any type for posting excellent comments about venues, we were shocked and pleased. We nibbled on what we could sending Phyllis home with the remainder. 

Last night, exhausted from not enough sleep due to the many time changes over the last week sailing across the ocean, we had a casual mediocre dinner at Outback, returning to our hotel by 9 pm.

Today, we’ll pick up Phyllis at her home in Stoughton in time for me to help her with a few computer issues.  Then, we off to pick up Uncle Bernie so we can all head to the cemetery of our beloved family.

Of course, it’s raining.  It rained the day was Father was buried in October 1960. Regardless of the weather, we’re going. If we stood outside in the rain for 90 minutes in Versailles, France, we can stand in the rain at my Father and other family member’s gravesites.

With little time for taking photos in this past almost 48 hours in Boston, we wrap up this short post today. In less than one hour, we’re out the door once more.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the story of my Father’s tragic death with photos. It will be an emotional experience for me and for Tom, an experience of information gathering to enter into 

Perhaps today, the visit with 95-year-old Uncle Bernie may fill in some of the blank in my family history that has been impossible to find. Oddly, he has more of a passion for family history than I. Some love researching their family history and others are ambivalent about it.

I guess in generations to come, our family need only read this blog to discover more information than they’d ever want or need. Ah, would that any of us could read about our grandparent’s lives and world travels in the 1920s.

See you tomorrow, albeit with red-rimed eyes and a lump in my throat as my long-ago past is quickly brought into the forefront surely eliciting a sense of sorrow and loss, hopefully ending in a sense of discovery and peace.

                                        Photo from one year ago today, September 16, 2013:

We weren’t sure if this was a monkey or baboon in the window of the thatched roof of a neighboring house in Kenya, where we lived for three months, one year ago. For details of that date, please click here.

Moving around has a double meaning…A year ago…Inside of the 300-year-old stone house in Boveglio, Italy…

The sky changes minute by minute with the strong winds coming in from the sea.

The walk up the steep hill outside of our house is excruciating. Each time I go it’s a little easier, making it further. Yesterday, I traveled the furthest.

This new discovery from yesterday baffles me.  Any comments?

After sitting so much while in Morocco I’m working hard to get back into shape. Although we walked a lot while in Marrakech, it was never enough when the remainder of the time we were sitting doing no cooking, household tasks, or laundry.

The vine-covered wall across from our house on the steep road.

Now busy doing everything for ourselves, I find myself feeling lighter on the feet and energized. For me, it illustrates that moving around frequently has therapeutic benefits that seniors (and younger) definitely need when it’s easy to get lost in a book or online as the hours whiz past us.

This white cat hangs out by the “snack bar” at the top of the hill.

Without a doubt, I’m deriving the most benefit from the steep walk on the road not only from a physical perspective, but also from the beauty I discover along the way. I happily take photos on the way down to avoid disturbing the beneficial flow of endorphins on the painful way up.

The season for roses is nearing its end.

From what I can tell, this neighborhood is mostly occupied by over 40’s working people. There are few children. A few of the homes are owned, managed, and maintained by Gina and her family as vacation rentals most of which are occasionally rented for one week or two, seldom longer as Gina explained. We are the rare exception, staying for two and a half months.

Are these red lilies? The flower season is soon ending from what appears on the walks.

When I walk up and down the road, I walk past several locals, mostly men, working on houses along the way, some being remodeled, others being maintained. There are a few garages where cabinets and woodworking is occurring, a seeming common occupation of the local men, not so much the women.

Judite, our cleaning person, told me this morning that this is “pera abacata” which translates to avocado.

The only time I see women is when an older woman wearing a conservative flower printed dress and a headscarf also walking on the road carrying something from here to there. They look at me more out of curiosity than as a result of my invasion into their neighborhood. I always smile. They don’t always smile back but, from the glimmer in their eyes, I feel they mean to.

Not a clue.

The garbage truck guys always wave and smile as do the other small service truck drivers seeing to the needs of the area. As I walk past the little “snack bar” which is actually a bar serving alcohol during the day and night, there are always two or three guys standing outside, throwing some comments my way.

These must be bleeding hearts. 

I have no idea what they’re saying. I smile while continuing the trek up the hill, never turning my head to look.  Good grief, I’m not delusional enough to assume they’re flirting with me. After all, I’m too old to assume that.  For whatever reasons, they always look and comment which I take in my stride staying determined to stay focused on my mission…getting up the darned hill!

These blue, sometimes purple flowers grow wild in Madeira.

Overall, the people of Madeira are friendly. But, the language barrier always prevents one from determining as to their degree of friendliness. Nothing will ever compare to the people in South Africa with whom one can become close friends in a single night in the bar or over food.  We did our share.  We miss those people.

Grapes growing in a private garden.

After the walk each day, which takes only 25 minutes round trip and feeds into my passion for HIIT (high-intensity interval training), I feel energized and refreshed. 

These appear to be hydrangeas.

Once we leave here on July 31st, we’ll be staying in hotels with health clubs for a month so I can return to my former routine. Then, we’re on to two cruises with workout rooms for another month. When we live on the four islands in Hawaii there are workout rooms at the condos.  

Variations in color of the greenery.

I can’t explain how excited I am to return to the fitness routine that I’ve dearly missed over the past year, instead, doing makeshift at-home exercises with which I have trouble disciplining myself. Sound familiar?

Tom thinks this is a water tank atop this roof.

Five years older than Tom, I realize that staying strong and fit will determine how long we can continue to travel. That motivation alone drives me on, knowing that we still have so much more world to see. As much as we’ve done over the past year and a half, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Poppies growing in a pile of vines and rubble.

Speaking of icebergs, we’ll be in Iceland in less than three months hoping to see the Northern Lights. Gosh, I’d better keep walking up that hill with vigor. There’s so much ahead of us.

By the way, we managed to stop the produce guy a few minutes ago, buying two full shopping bags of fresh produce. Need I say that we’re thrilled?

Photo from one year ago today, June 19, 2013:

This was the larger of two bathrooms in our 300-year-old stone house in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. Although we had many modern conveniences, the old house required adjusting to with its many steep steps and uneven halls and walkways which was definitely not appropriate for anyone who wasn’t surefooted. We paid special attention each time we walked from one room to another due to the uneven steps in doorways. For details of the date, please click here.

To all the Mums…Happy Mother’s Day…100 year anniversary of Mother’s Day today…

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms all over the world. This flower was blooming on the rooftop restaurant where we dined.

For me, a Skype call, email or Facebook message will fill my heart with all it needs. As world travelers we can’t receive cards and gifts, leaving us content with a simple acknowledgement. How we’ve changed.

Years ago, I’d await the arrival of the loved ones to make the day special. Even Tom fell prey to the expectation of purchasing flowers along with a well written card with lacy pink decorations to be sitting on the kitchen counter when I awoke, espousing the perfect phrase, magically applying to us. Yeah, for Hallmark!

Since he’d already been responsible for doing the dishes, I’d busy myself making a special meal ensuring whatever it was he’d also like. Tricky. Over many years the kids and grandkids would come to call. But in later years, as they created their own traditions, a card and or gift arrived another day. But the phone call always came. That’s how life is. We all make our own place in this world, doing what works best for us, for our family.

So, today, another Mother’s Day arrives and I have no regrets, no sorrow, just contentment. My son and daughter-in-law posted adorable photos for us on Facebook from grandson Miles’ 6th birthday party yesterday, a darling Lego theme that was so befitting his recent passion. Also, included was a video of our first of two granddaughters Maisie, singing and dancing on her first YouTube video. So sweet.

As the day awakens in that side of the world, I’m sure we’ll see more photos and wishes from my two stepchildren and three more grandchildren. That’s all I want or need. My  eldest son in Las Vegas, Nevada never fails to observe a special day with a Skype call or email. Expectations are minimal in this life we live. We appreciate the simplest acknowledgement.

Perhaps, it’s easier this way. Father’s Day will be no different as are all of the celebratory days of the year. A few words of acknowledgement, a token of love is all that is required for us in this vagabond life we live.

This morning after settling in on my seat on the uncomfortable sofa in the salon, onto which we’d added bed pillows long ago to soften the load, I looked at Tom and said, “Well, we’re waiting.” (A favorite line of my sons from their favorite movie as kids, Caddy Shack).

He looked at me in amazement wondering what I could possibly be “expecting.” Several minutes passed and finally I saved him from his bewilderment, “Say, Happy Mother’s Day,” I muttered. We both chuckled.

Roses grown in Morocco are beautiful in the spring. (Previously posted).

He said, “Oh, yeah, Happy Mother’s Day, Sweetie!” I know every year he’d think that I’m not his mother (rest her dear soul) and such wishes were unnecessary. In our old lives, he fell prey to my expectations. Not so much now. It no longer bothers me.

Why would it bother me? In a mere four days I’m going to the resort island of Madeira for two and a half months and then off for two weeks in Paris, then two weeks in London, then two weeks on a cruise to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.  Who’s complaining? Not I.

Yes, life s good. The itchy bites, the annoyances, the 5:00 am chirping birds, cooing pigeons, crowing rooster and the Islam Call-to-Prayer have been a part of our daily lives these past two months. As we move along, other such unique morsels will step in their place, like the ringing of the clock tower next door to the house in Italy last summer and the baahs of the goats in Kenya.

We continue on with love, hope and prayers for the future for all our loved ones, friends and readers from all over the world.  Happy Mother’s Day but more so, Happy Every Day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 11, 2013:

OK, over the past few day I mistakenly posted the wrong dates photos and links from one year ago. Sorry for the inconvenience. So today is catch up day. The following photo is in its place from May 11, 2013.

For some odd reason, Mohammed, our security guy in black in this photo, with the UZI in his back pocket, took a liking to us and stayed at our side the entire time we visited the site of the Great Pyramids. For details of that date, please click here.

Today, another year older…Acceptance…Fulfilling a lifelong dream…A new visitor came to call…A previous visitor returned…

Last night during our quiet dinner party for four on the veranda at the African Reunion House, we heard a sound in the distance. Moments later, we heard the “thump, thump” sound of hooves. Less then 20 feet, 6 meters, from us stood this adorable zebra.  Grabbing pellets and carrots, we all had an opportunity to interact with him, unable to wipe the smiles off of our faces. Without a doubt, he’ll be back.

Finally, I’ve begun to accept that we’re leaving South Africa, with the knowledge that we’ll still be on the continent of Africa for almost three more months. 

Our first zebra visitor at the African Reunion House was welcomed with open arms.

As a young girl, I dreamed of Africa hoping that someday this dream would be realized. At 17, ready to graduate high school, I longed to join the Peace Corps. Still underage, my mother refused to let me go. But, here I am today, enriched and fulfilled after spending the past almost six months in Africa with more time to be savored in the exotic Morocco, a world away from Marloth Park. 

Our friend Kathy got up close and personal with him, hand feeding him pellets. As a hostess gift for our dinner gathering, Kathy and Linda brought us a big bag of pellets, instead of the usual wine, flowers or candy. Nothing could have been more appropriate when we were running low. How did they know we needed pellets?

Almost 50 years is a long time to carry around a dream. Why was it so long in coming? Life. Kids. Work. Responsibilities. Time. Money. All of these.

Today, on my 66th birthday, I can only smile feeling grateful in many ways; to my husband for making this adventure possible and for his willingness to spread his wings to leave a lifetime of comfort and familiarity; to our family for accepting our decision to leave Minnesota and the US; to our friends for graciously supporting our decision; for our health which, without it, none of this would have been possible; and for the new friends we’ve made along the way that have opened their homes and hearts to us.

Tom feeding the visiting Zebra carrots.  I didn’t care if we ran out of carrots and couldn’t make our usual coleslaw.   

Gee, this sounds like an Academy Awards acceptance speech! However, birthdays, after age 60 years, seem to revolve around acceptance. It includes acceptance of changes in ourselves; the changes in our health, our bodies, our memory, our energy level and most of all, our motivation. 

One might think it’s just “too much work” to travel to Africa; the required inoculations; the malaria pills; the risk of illness, injury, disease; the necessity to become tolerant of the heat and humidity often with no air conditioning; dealing with the fears of snakes and insects; accepting the lengthy travel time and, the daunting task of finding the best place to live.

He was actually much taller than he appears in these photos. We were standing on the edge of the veranda while he was standing in a lower spot in the bush. I was so excited I paid no attention to my camera settings, resulting in the darkened shot.

All of these reasons and more may leave a prospective traveler with the sense that it’s just too much trouble to travel to Africa. Amid all of these reasons, somehow, we got ourselves here. 

Tom has surprised me. I thought he’d never want to visit Africa. And when we lived outside on that veranda in Kenya, not by choice but by necessity, in the blistering heat and drenching humidity, with the biting insects, with the almost daily power outages, he somehow made it through with dignity and grace. 

Kathy’s hand reaching out to feed him a piece of carrot that he loved.

And I, too, made it through, albeit with my raging fear of centipedes, sweating in the heat, knowing that complaining served no purpose, especially when I was the one that wanted to go to Africa.

And now, these past almost three months, outdoors on the veranda no less than 15 hours a day, often in the heat and humidity, at times with biting insects and snakes, yes and snakes, we haven’t felt it was a struggle.  Acceptance. It kicked in almost three months ago, when they came to see us. The animals. It came to us almost six months ago, when we arrived in Kenya, knowing a safari in the Masai Mara was imminent.

The discomfort wafted away, replaced by something magical, the likes of which neither of us has ever known and most likely, will never know again. The animals. The people. The environment. Amazing.

Mr. Tree Frog was gone during dinner last night, but reappeared for the fourth time this morning. We can’t figure out why he likes this particular spot. Most likely, he loves to eat and drink, perhaps swim in the pool, only to return to this exact spot. I looked for information on tree frog behavior, unable to find an explanation.

We’ve been given a gift by Louise and Danie by completing our remaining time in Marloth Park in the luxurious African Reunion House by, a gift we couldn’t turn down. Each day more and more visitors stop by as if welcoming us in their area, their home in the bush. 

With more visitors coming here, we have no reason to return to the little house, other than to stop over on Monday, pack all of our belongings to bring it all to one house to pack for the upcoming trip to Morocco next Friday.

We can now say goodbye, knowing that when and if our health and time is right, we can return to Marloth Park, perhaps to go on safari again in the Masai Mara, Kenya, to finally see Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and to travel to Rwanda to see the Gorillas and to once again embrace Africa and its wonders.

And, if for one reason or another we cannot return, we’ll always hold the memories of our time in Africa deep within our hearts, our minds, and our spirits.

Today, I celebrate my birthday, not as one more year of this life passing by. Instead, I celebrate the acceptance for all that I’ve loved, for all that I’ve learned, and for all that is yet to come. 

“Small Things,” all new…A world of miniature vegetation and willife…All creatures today…Small things in life…

How perfect can nature be to create this symmetrical creature we captured on the sliding glass door at night?

It’s the small things in life that may be among our most dreaded experiences; an unkind word, a lump found on our body, an email with bad news, a wasp sting, a lost piece of jewelry or at times or hearing the simple word “no.”

Impossible to shield ourselves from these seemingly “small” scenarios, most of us live with the intent of accepting these possibilities, not allowing them to immobilize us, keeping us from the joy of living. 

And yes, the “big things” loom heavily in our hearts at times in our lives; a life threatening illness or injury, the loss of a loved one, a divorce or separation, the loss of a job or financial stability and more.

A butterfly catches my eye on the long walk down the driveway.

A recent first sighting of a baby tree frog. Could this be a result of an earlier foam nest over the pool? He’s sitting at the end of the hose that we use each day to add more water to the pool which has a leak.

The second showing of this photo for those who may have missed it, when we had dozens of grasshoppers hanging out in our driveway for almost a day.  They were munching on a piece of cabbage we’d left out.

It’s amazing that any of us can function at all with these possibilities facing us at any given moment. But, we do. Some of us with aplomb and a passion for living with nary a care in the world and others with a chronic sense of doom, stripping their lives of meaning and fulfillment.

Then, there’s the rest of us in the middle, gauging when worry and fear are necessary to inspire us to be cautious or occasionally being fearful when a situation is thrown in our faces.

For most of us at times “small things” monopolize our thoughts, more than the possibility of big catastrophes.  Awakening in the middle of the night for no reason at all, my mind wanders to a list I keep in my head of possible small worrisome things, ticking them off one by one.

This centipede has small insects living on it. Double the freakiness.
We discovered this colorful insect in the grass when we toured the Panorama Route a few weeks ago.
We found this bug in the house. We opened a window, sending her on her way.

“Is there a snake on the floor if I get up to go to the bathroom? Will the lightning hit the thatched roof while we fumble for the keys, left on the nightstand next to Tom in order to unlock the gates on every window and door to allow us to get outside? Did I forget to close the drain in the bathroom sink to prevent centipedes from coming in? When will I feel like doing the taxes for 2013?”

It goes on and on. But, somehow I fall back to sleep, awakening in the morning, full of energy, enthusiasm, and gratefulness for the opportunity to live yet another day. Bolting out of bed, I begin the familiar routine of preparing myself for the day all the while filled with a sense of lightness and anticipation. What pleasure and purpose will this new day bring?

The “one day at a time” philosophy adopted by many recovery groups easily applies to all of us, in recovery or not. In reality, we’re all “recovering” from something; a bad childhood, marriage or relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a dream or, the personal goals of letting go of anything that isn’t good for our bodies and souls. 

We discovered this insect on the veranda which was approximately 4 inches, 10 cm, long.

We’ve seen many varieties of geckos including this wider version. We ignore them when they’re inside the house. They leave white poop droplets everywhere.

Living one day at a time gives us peace and comfort, leaving behind our failings and mistakes from the past while embracing the possibility that tomorrow will be a better day.

Again today, we share more “small things.” Not insignificant. Not meaningless. It’s all a part of the life cycle that we share with endless generations of evolution, God (or whatever higher power you may believe or, not) and, Mother Nature.

“Small things,” whether in our environment or in our thoughts, are all a part of who we are, our purpose, and ultimately, who we choose to become at the end of the day. 

One morning, I discovered this live bat in the kitchen sink, perhaps injured. Tom scooped it up in the dustpan and let it outside. Bats no longer make me cringe. They eat mosquitoes.

Boston, Massachusetts, our hotel booking for next September…why Boston?…a sorrowful loss lingers on…

My parent’s wedding photo.

Spending the first 10 years of my life living in sunny California, I was saddened when our parents told my two sisters and I that due to our father’s employment and desire to be near his mother in her later years, we were leaving our ranch home in Long Beach to move to Boston. 

Our grandmother, whom we adored, owned a triplex on a dreary residential neighborhood with a state mental institution at the end of the street to be found by a relatively short walk up the steep road, difficult to navigate in the snow and ice of winter. 

In 1958, we left that California home, which my parents rented long term to the baseball player, Gil Hodges from the LA Dodgers.  Moving into the main floor of our grandmother’s triplex in Boston was traumatic.  I felt frightened by the neighborhood, the school, the mental patients who wandered aimlessly in the streets during the day and were prompted to return to the hospital at night by the sound of an earsplitting horn.

In a perpetual state of terror, I remained quiet and to myself focusing on my studies.  My father meant the world to me. 

In those days, children didn’t speak of being frightened, fearful that parents would disapprove of weakness.  His gentle demeanor along with his frequent hugs and kisses went far in helping us get through.

In October 1960, my father was killed in an industrial accident, living three days with third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

Life was changed forever.  How could I live without him?  He is buried in Boston.  Soon, I will visit his grave.  I still miss him today.

A few months later at Christmas, my mother and 16 year old sister who was granted a driver’s license only days before we left, drove us the long scary drive back to California.  We spent Christmas Eve in a dumpy hotel in Lubbock, Texas.  No gifts, no celebration, only sorrow filled hearts.  I was 12 years old. My younger sister was four years old, sent ahead on an airplane with my mother’s parents, our grandparents, who’d come from their home in California to Boston for our father’s funeral.

We moved into an apartment while waiting for Gil Hodges’ lease to run out. It was almost another full year, requiring us to change schools two more times.

Moving back into that house was angst ridden.  At that point, the emotional toll over the loss of this beloved man was almost more than we could bear.  Each of our lives became fraught with sorrow but somehow filled with an unstoppable desire to survive and… to succeed. 

In our own ways, each of the three of us sisters, found a determination only grief can manifest.  Today, the three of us couldn’t be closer, loving and respectful of one another and able to laugh together as with no one else.

In 1976, the last time I was in Boston, my sisters and I returned to visit our grandmother and family members (with whom we’d stayed in close touch over the years) and to visit our father’s grave.

Returning on September 14, 2014, once again I’ll see our few remaining family members, my dear cousin and my treasured uncle, my father’s brother, who continues to enjoy life at the age of 94.  And, once again, I’ll visit my father’s grave.  The prospect of this visit fills me with a deep sorrow that tightens my throat, as the tears flow freely.

This, is why we chose a cruise ship from London that ends in Boston.  Tom, an buff, has pieced together not only his roots but mine as well.  He’ll be at my side both in love and in his desire to complete some of the missing pieces in my family history.

Many of you have known such loss, easily relating to my story.  Recently, a dear friend on Facebook shares her loss of a sister and in her grief, I am brought back to my own, as some of you may feel on this part of the journey with me.

Life is short.  Life is fragile.  Life is filled with ways in which we can heal and which in essence, becomes a choice.  It’s a choice to celebrate the life of the ones we’ve lost, of the ones we’ve loved and to carry with us the gifts that their lives gave us, that linger on forever.

Here’s the link to our hotel in Norwood, Massachusetts, close to Boston.  The hotel required payment in full for the good rates we received for an upgraded room for these dates:

Room charges
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Tax recovery charges and service fees

Musings of life on the road…

The loud clanging of the clock tower next door to us engaged my brain as the first chime prompting me to count. Seven clangs. It was time to get up. 

My brain was inspired to bolt out of bed. My body not so much, the aches and pains of endless humid days gripping my aging joints into stiff denial of their intended purpose.

The light from the bathroom window filtered through the mosquito netting Lisa had stapled to the frame, now fluttering on the edges in the gentle breeze inviting the smallest of the rambunctious biters to enter at will.

Tom slept quietly beside me as I lay on my back looking at another ceiling I had yet to notice until now almost seven weeks later. At least once, wherever we’ve lived, I’ve spent a morning, an evening, observing the ceiling almost in an effort to get my bearings. 

Where am I?  Is this really me? Is this the person of ritual, of routine always striving to make a concerted effort to be reliable, dependable, a person “you-can-bank-on”, one could always count on?

Where are the people I spent a lifetime trying to please? Not here. The one with me expects so little and gets so much, give so much, effortlessly. “They” never asked or expected anything of me. It was my own doing. I had to leave to stop. It was my own doing.

In part, it’s a “woman/mother” thing, giving without being asked, doing when doing didn’t need to be done, reaching out when the only hand extended was my own.

I miss them. But I don’t miss who I was when I was with “them,” the perpetual hunger to please, to be available when I wasn’t and near the end when I couldn’t eke out another moment of trying. None of “their” doing. All my own. Needing to be free.

Selfish? No. Self saving? Yes.  As one would go off on a quiet retreat to renew, rediscovery, refresh to someday return to a more accessible environment with a perspective of commonality, not sacrifice; of unity, not autonomy. To be free, in their midst. That’s the dream. It will come, by my own design. In time, it will come.

In the meanwhile, like the well-built and creatively designed ceiling looms in my range of vision, my weary joints coming to life, I roll off the too-close-to-the-floor bed, rise to my feet with a smile on my face, ready for another clear day; clear in spirit, clear in heart and now, clear in mind.

Until then, I am home.