Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Panama Canal Cruise Do's and Don't's...

It's been a long silence since I last posted. Reason is we've been through the Panama Canal again. It was worth doing the second time. We decided to sail again and part of the reason was that the first time many of my photos look as though they were taken when the Canal was built in 1914...Joe had been "playing" with my camera and set it on sepia and forgot to put it back to normal! Another was that there is always a new vantage point and new things to see. It was pouring rain the day we traversed the canal this time, but a well-kept secret on the Norwegian Star is a little restaurant on the 8th deck called "The Blue Lagoon" that very few passengers seemed to know about and that had several window seats which gave a wonderful view of the locks. We settled into a table at 6:15 am and stayed until after 9! Wonderful! We watched the Celebrity Infinity next to us going through just ahead of us and got some wonderful photos (in natural color this time).

On to the Do's list:
1) DO check out the casino on NCL ships...they are heads above any other line we've sailed;
2) DO take advantage of the "all you can fit in the laundry bag for $19.95 special" to save packing laundry at the end of the cruise;
3) DO ask to share a table at dinner in the main dining'll meet an assortment of interesting people (you'll find this under the "DON'T" list too);
4) DO buy a Christmas ornament at every port (this eliminates the tendency to buy "souvenirs" that will gather dust the other 11 months of the year and when you put up the tree you'll remember all the faces and places you've experienced);
5) DO offer to take pictures for couples who are shooting pics of their spouse in front of landmarks (they'll usually offer to return the favor);
6) DO take the City Tour in Key West, FL and if you're lucky you'll get Michael as your tour guide...the one hour "hop on/hop off" was so good, we did it once from the left side and again from the right!

And as for the Don't's:
1) DON'T think that the casino will give you a big jackpot and not figure a way to get it back before the end of the cruise;
2) DON'T play bingo if you don't want to be ripped off (on NCL). They have gone back to the old wooden cards with "shutters" to close the number when called. They are cumbersome so you can't play more than 2 sets of 3 easily and they charged up to $89 to play 4 games, $59 to play only 2 games and then paid out $100 or $150 per game;
3) DON'T sit at a table for six where two of the men talk about motor homes, engines, broken plumbing, and gear shifts ad nauseum for two hours....find an excuse, any excuse, to leave and go back later if you can (not only did we have to endure this boring evening once, but out of 2200 passengers, we got one of them again three days later - I dubbed him "Mr. Personality");
4) DON'T always buy into the onboard offers for excursions...the same offerings can be 1/3 the cost if you wait 'til you get to the dock;
5) DON'T take just any taxicab in port; be sure they are approved or you could end up somewhere you didn't intend to be and the ship won't wait if you're not back in time;
6) DON'T expect all passengers to have an IQ above every port there were a minimum of 6 people who didn't return on time (they probably didn't know about DON'T #5).

All told, we had a wonderful time. As with all of our trips, one of the nicest moments is turning the key and walking back into our home and saying a "thank you God" for keeping it (and us) safe from harm. (I don't count the cold I got on the fourth day. I came armed with a virtual pharmacy this time so got over it before we docked. Why am I so prey to the petri dish aspect of cruising? Michelle says it's from hitting the "PLAY" button on the slots! I "borrowed" a glove from the cleaning cart this time, but it was too late.)

So now that we're back I have to figure out how to do the following in the next ten days: update and print labels for our Christmas cards; write and print our Christmas letter; stuff, stamp, and mail them (probably won't be any "personal notes" this year); get the tree out and decorate the house (minimally I think); wrap the gifts I bought before we left; buy the gifts I didn't; and lest I ignore "me" some real bingo!

My next blog will include some appropriate reflections on this busy, hectic, SPIRITUAL season. Hope you're all finding time to remember "the reason for the season".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Stop and Read the Pizza!"

No, I'm not losing my mind...I said "read the pizza". That's what I didn't do on October 3rd when we were visiting our daughter Michelle and her husband. Michelle arranged with her local pizza parlor to spell out "Oh Baby" in pepperoni on top of a pizza. She then made cute little stickers to go on top of those little plastic "tables" that keep the box from touching the pizza. On the sticker was written "We're expecting!" along with the due date (it read June 3, but actual due date is June 1, 2011), and in a circle around the perimeter was written Boy? Girl? in blue and pink. (The reason I'm blogging about it six weeks later is that we promised to keep it secret until Mike and Michelle were ready to "share" with the world. They did that on Wednesday, their fourth wedding anniversary. My tongue is sore from having to bite it so often over the past six weeks!)

Son-in-law Mike went to get the pizza and when he returned Michelle asked Mike's mother and I to "help" in the kitchen. Mike's Mom, Linda, picked up the lid of the pizza box and then closed it again and moved on to the next box, examining it and closing its lid as well. I went up to the table next and mimicked Linda's actions: I opened and closed all three pizza boxes. At that point, Michelle was noticeably irked and announced "Would somebody who can see without glasses, please come in here and get some pizza!" Linda and I looked at each other and then went back to box #1 and realized what we were looking at! Needless-to-say, there were hugs, tears, and laughter in abundance!

This long-prayed-for little one will be the first grandchild in the Sherack family and I must admit I'm a little envious of Linda. As a grandmother, you can only experience that "first child of your first child" once in a lifetime. It is a joy that knows no bounds. Each grandchild after is a unique blessing and inflates your heart to make more room, but even as you hold grandchild #2 and grandchild #3, the memory of that first little hand wrapped around your finger comes back. I know that when I hold "Baby S" for the first time, I will remember his or her cousin Jackson and I will know exactly what Linda is feeling.

This baby couldn't have a better world to be born into. As the "California grandparents", it is comforting to know there is no shortage of people who will be there daily to support Mike and Michelle as they journey into the wonderful world of parenthood. Along with grandparents-to-be Linda and Mike, there is Uncle Steve and Aunt Valerie and a host of extended family and friends standing by to welcome "Baby S"!

This is a good place to put Joe's three rules for grandparenting:
  1. Never say "no".
  2. Money's no object.
  3. Always give them back!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Day After...

This blog will be short. No gloating. No whining either. I'm just sooo glad not to hear any more character-maligning TV and radio ads. No matter where you stand on the issues, the process itself seems flawed when a candidate spends $146,000,000 to try to win an election. How much good could those millions have done?

It's time now to see what is accomplished by the next Congress. It's not enough to promise, they have to deliver. My hope is that when we are asked to vote again, the role of government in our every-day lives will have diminished considerably. If we keep accepting "bail-out" money from foreign countries to be "redistributed" because of promises made without  fiscal responsibility, we won't recognize the America our forefathers envisioned. If you want a refresher course on the Constitution and those who fashioned it, go to It's a great tutorial.

In a perfect world, we would help the helpless at the local level; provide training to put the unemployed back to work; we would reward entrepreneurship with fewer regulations and taxes; we would welcome immigrants who ask permission to become part of this country just as our grandparents or great-grandparents did; and we would hold our representatives responsible for their actions. We have allowed our government to "buy" votes by creating an "entitlement generation".

There's an old adage: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." It's time we stopped giving and started teaching.

Blog/rant over! Happy Day After Election Day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is your "Titanic" story?

Okay, I admit the title was designed to make you "read on". But, it was prompted by remembering moments in my life that might never have taken place had it not been for some other unforeseen event I had no control over.

And, yes, there is a "Titanic" story to my that I was unaware of until just a few years ago when I was told by my sister, Avril, that our grandfather...our father's father...was a pianist and was commissioned to play on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in April of 1912. But, he missed the boat train. When researching the web for a photo of that infamous ship, I was taken with the story of the photographer of this photo. It is a great story and I'll link you to it here. His story is another example of "what if"...

That was the first of several "what ifs" that thread through the pattern of my life's story. The next "what if" would be: "What if my mother's father hadn't been late to pick her up at the dock when she sailed from America to England in 1943?" She wouldn't have met the young RAF airman who asked if she needed help. And later, when she had left the airman and decided it was too difficult to be a single mother, "What if her father hadn't been 'on time' in the lawyer's office while she was signing adoption papers for a childless English couple to get a 2-year-old daughter?"

I've often wondered "What if my mother hadn't moved from New Jersey when I was 15 and was just finishing high school?" I would have remained eligible for the scholarship I'd been given to attend what was then Ryder State Teachers College.

"What if my best friend Marcia in Florida hadn't become a Delta flight attendant in 1964?" I would never have been encouraged to try it myself. And "What if my foot hadn't fallen asleep and I practically fell over when my interviewer asked me to walk across the room?" Did my humor at my own awkwardness help? (I guess it did.)

I think I may have already written about how Joe and I met, but that certainly is another: "What if Vicki D's roommate hadn't stayed so long at the San Diego Zoo on February 3, 1967?" (She would have gone on the blind date instead of me.)

That leads to another "what if" moment that our daughter Michelle experienced. As a Delta flight attendant, she occasionally meets former Naval aviators who knew her Dad. On one occasion the Captain called Michelle into the cockpit and asked, "Are you related to Joe Sarnecky?" When she said she was his daughter, he said, "Well you probably want to come over here and shake my hand. I was the helicopter pilot that picked him up out of the water off the coast of North Vietnam in 1968." If he hadn't been there, Joe might have ended up in Hanoi. She gave him a hug!

I know you've all read the stories about the people who would have been at "ground zero" if it hadn't been for something that caused them to change their routine that morning. We have one of those stories in our family too. Michelle was in California with her boyfriend, Mike, to attend a Chargers/Redskins game. Because our son-in-law, Neal, and Mike were both Redskins fans, Joe had purchased tickets for the six of us to attend the game on September 9, 2001. Had Mike not come out for that California vacation, he would have been arriving at the subway station at the Twin Towers to go to work at the building across the street. Happily, he was here instead and is now our son-in-law.

I had some other topics in mind for today, but I have been thinking about this topic since our cruise to Halifax where many victims of the Titanic are buried. The alternative might have been a "rant" on television ads that precede election day (I didn't want to put you through that).

I hope this post has sparked that part of your memory where you keep the "what ifs" of your life. If it did, consider doing what I have done this morning...I said a heartfelt "thank you, God" for all those moments and all those people who were His instruments and brought me to this wonderful place in my life.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Updates and corrections...

Like every endeavor in life, every now and then you need a "do over". I'm using this blog to correct and/or clarify some things I've written in the past couple of weeks.

First - I am not a "true reality TV junkie"...I have to qualify that statement. I DO watch Survivor, Amazing Race, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and, yes even Big Brother. On cable, I enjoy Top Chef and many of the Food Network reality shows...they are more like travelogues.

I DO NOT watch: [fill in the blank with name of city] Housewives. I do not watch any show exploiting people who have an inordinate number of children or young people living together and letting TV cameras follow their every boring move. I absolutely NEVER watch a show with a very strange-looking man wearing a giant watch around his neck (I accidentally caught a glimpse of that one and it made me think of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland). If I offended any "15-minutes-of-fame" cable reality show, I apologize, but given their content I doubt they'll ever read this blog (the operative word being "read").

Next, I realized after my last post that I did have some photos from our Canadian cruise. Before Joe bought a new chip for his camera when we reached Halifax, he used my camera and got quite a few photos. This is a favorite and will probably appear on this year's Christmas card.

Real time update now...on Friday evening our daughter and her family arrived to spend the weekend. Saturday was an all day adventure to Julian for apple-picking. The lovely town of Julian is about a 90-minute drive on winding mountain roads and during September and October their peaceful community is "invaded" by all the city-dwellers seeking mountain air and home-made pies. As a result, we were shoulder-to-shoulder with a few thousand other "apple-seekers". When we finally got seated at a restaurant, the waitress said we had picked the busiest Saturday of the year. After lunch we decided not to wait in line at Pie Shop" for a famous Julian apple pie since the line waiting to get inside the shop was about an hour long. Off we went to the Raven Hill Orchard where we picked three bags full of apples and Jackie got many photos to choose from for their annual Christmas card. On the way home, we discovered another "Mom's" and stopped and got pies. It was a wonderful day that ended with three happy children enjoying cherry-apple-crumb pie with vanilla ice cream (yum!).

It's now Monday morning and the house is very, very quiet. I always forget in between visits how much energy exists in the bodies of three children! The giggles, shrieks (Ava is best but she's been doing it longer), shouting, laughing, and occasional crying (not very often) echoes in this empty house today. Joe is off fishing so it is accentuated. We usually go up to visit them rather than them packing up for five people plus the cocker spaniel so it was a real treat to have everyone here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another cruise...another story...but first a 50th Reunion

We returned yesterday from a two-week vacation that began with Joe's 50th high school reunion in Pennsylvania. If you are the spouse at a 50th (or any other "th") reunion, it's kind of like being a third one needs one. was great watching him interact with all the people who had been such a big part of his "youth". He had a terrific time and everyone was very nice to me. I found a couple of other spouses to talk to and thanks to the annual convention of Volunteer Firefighters for the entire state of Pennsylvania, we had some additional entertainment (their first and second-place winners of the marching band competition played for us). A local trio played and sang a lot of the "oldies-and-goodies" we both danced to in high school. It brought back lots of memories. Of course, I remembered my classmates I danced with...Joe remembered his...but his were all there!

I found myself wishing more than once that I had lost the 30+ pounds that is my goal. It seems most of his male friends from high school had either passed away or decided not to attend. But...every girl he dated in high school was there...and none of them brought male companions. I took several pictures for him with all the former girlfriends, but none will be posted here. This vacation will be remembered as "The Vacation of Everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong" with regard to Joe's camera.

First, while taking the aforementioned pictures, I got a message stating "Internal Memory Full". When Joe investigated, he found he had left the chip in his computer back in California! Since I knew I'd be taking pictures for him since I didn't need to be in any of them, I left my camera back at the hotel. So, we got just a few shots at the reunion.

But the saga doesn't end there. We left on our 7-night cruise to Canada with stops down the New England coast the day after the reunion. Got some great shots of The Intrepid aircraft carrier and Lady Liberty as we sailed out of Manhattan. We were at sea for a day and when we docked at Halifax, Canada it was easy to see how the Titanic ran into an iceberg...the fog was so thick we couldn't see the shore until the boat docked. It rained the whole day so there weren't any picture-taking opportunities. Joe went ashore because by then I was in the throes of a terrible cold. He found a drugstore and came back with enough remedies to last the week.

The next day St. John didn't offer much better weather but by early afternoon I was feeling well enough to go ashore. We spotted a restaurant that boasted steamed clams and lobster and ordered a bucket of clams apiece. I can't describe how disappointed we were when the first clam offered enough sand to fill half a teaspoon! The others were the same so after a brief souvenir shopping for a Christmas ornament (that's all I ever buy on need for trinkets...and this way we relive our travels as we trim the tree), we returned to the ship to find something "sand-less" to eat.

At Bar Harbor, Maine it was raining hard and I was coughing harder so I stayed on board and slept while Joe saw the sights and returned with an ornament to make me smile. (I have to add that later that night I felt better and went to the casino and won almost $900...that's a great "tonic".)

In Boston the weather still didn't cooperate so once again I slept and Joe went ashore. The next day the sun finally found us and I was almost feeling human so we went ashore in search of a restaurant recommended by a friend. It turned out to be over a mile from the dock and when we got there we were greeted by a "Closed" sign on the door. Turns out they only open for dinner after summer season. :-( We found another restaurant recommended for their clam chowder and this time it was as advertised. The day couldn't have been prettier and Joe got some great photos.

Not to make the cruise sound like our worst ever...I have to say that if you're going to feel sick on board, the Norwegian Dawn is one of the nicest places to do it. First, they have "Freestyle Dining" so you don't have to eat at a certain time with the same 4 to 6 other people at every evening meal. If we had been assigned dining room seating, I probably wouldn't have gone to the dining room at all with my cough, which persists still. (Doctor assured me yesterday that I am not and was not contagious after the first three days; cold triggered bronchial asthma which I've had twice this year.) So, we didn't meet a lot of new people this time, but the food at our table for two was delicious. In addition, the entertainment on board was so good there were times we had to miss the main showroom to see one of the acts in the lounges. We're booked on another NCL in the near future and I can't wait (I'm going to get well and get a flu shot before then).

The morning after Newport, we docked in New York and Michelle and Mike picked us up. We went to their house to spend the rest of the day watching football with all the Sheracks. It was great to see Mike's parents along with his brother, sister, and cousin. We wanted to get a picture with everyone there so Joe went to his bag to get his camera. This is where the saga gets sad: the camera wasn't in his luggage! We've sent e-mails, posted on the Cruise Director's facebook page, Joe made numerous phone calls, and I've been wearing out St. Anthony with pleas to find the camera.

I probably don't have to put it in writing, but here's my rule for travelers: ALWAYS go back one last time to check the room/stateroom before leaving!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"A house is not a home...and a door is still a door..."

Remember that song? Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross both sang it...written by Burt Bacharach. I'm using a little poetic license as the line was actually, "a chair is still a chair...even when there's no one sitting there." But, this short blog is about us getting a new front door.

I am sentimental (I cry over Hallmark commercials)...I think that's been evident in past blogs, but I have been experiencing a melancholy moment or two over replacing our front doors. Don't get me wrong...they really needed replacing. We moved into this house when our daughters were in preschool and first grade. The poor old doors showed their age. After 30+ years of hanging Christmas wreaths and taping an occasional note to delivery people, the scars were many and deep. They had been revarnished, but they definitely didn't add to our "curb appeal".

So Joe and I started looking at other people's doors. You don't realize how many styles of front doors there are until you start looking. Then, when we found a style we liked, we couldn't believe how expensive doors are (did I say it was 30+ years since we'd bought doors?). So we went to a small hardware store on Coast Highway in Encinitas and started looking through books. We settled on a pair we liked and then contacted people to give us bids on staining and installing.

That began an odyssey of "ooops"...the first contractor pointed out that Joe had ordered two 3' doors and our opening is only 5'....that was 12 inches too much door!! Luckily, the order hadn't been placed, but it required another trip to Encinitas to find a different design. It was a happy mistake since the 30" doors are even nicer than the original 36" ones. We made arrangements for the installation with one contractor and staining by another after they were hung.

That's when the melancholy set in. Joe put the old doors out at the curb to be picked up by the trash. Too late, I realized I hadn't taken a "last picture" of them. Then I thought about all of the guests we greeted at that portal; the back to school photographs taken there; the prom night photos; greeting the girls and their husbands when they came to visit (one particular visit when Jackie and Neal walked in the door stating they had to check some video Neal had shot and then put in a video of their first ultrasound....Joe thought there was something wrong with the picture...I just cried!). More recently, I pictured three bundles of energy running through the front doors, through the house and into the backyard to check out the frogs in our pond.

Anyway, it seemed very unceremonial to just toss those doors at the curb. They protected us from the elements and kept us safe from harm for three decades and I am grateful to them. So this blog is my way of acknowledging their participation in the story of "us" and of welcoming the new guardians of our gate. It is likely that someday these doors will protect another family...I'll print this out and put it with the title so they will know how important they are. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

5 Days Later...I get to retire my broom...

Just a quick update. Doctor said the prednisone would make me grouchy, jumpy, and irritable for about 5 days. Well, the five days is up and I can't discern a difference yet, but it's early. Guess I can park my broom and go back to regular forms of transportation.

I forgot one important aspect of the rule I posted in the earlier blog this week: if you're going to give husband a hint about upcoming storms on the horizon in the text of your blog, be sure you insist he reads it first before you make reference to it hoping for a smile in response.

Yup, when I snapped about something, I said, "I warned you about this. I'm going to be more than usually cranky for a few days. Didn't you read my blog?"

Husband's reply: "So now we have to communicate through your blog?" Ooops! Guess I need to go back to the drawing board.

End of saga: seeing my feelings had been hurt, penitent husband read the blog and came in and gave me a hug. He complimented the blog and all is forgiven.

May take a break from the norm for the next post and give my opinion on the new "Survivor". I am a reality tv junkie and particularly like "Survivor". With the "geezers" against the "gorgeous" it has the possibility of creating a polarized fan base...age discrimination anyone? Comments on the main blog are leaning that way for sure. (I've unsubscribed.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

"A License to Complain"

It's been almost two weeks since I posted and I have a good excuse. I have been coughing nonstop. It started as a slight cold with a runny nose. Then came the cough and it wasn't pretty (will spare the details) so I called my doctor. There has been whooping cough going around in San Diego so I was concerned. He prescribed a Z-pac of antibiotics. Finished the 5 days of that and still kept coughing. Everywhere I went people would look at me as though I was Typhoid Mary. I didn't feel particularly bad so didn't stay locked up in the house. I instinctively knew I wasn't "contagious" since there was no fever and I didn't experience any pain. Just a wracking cough. I've gone through copious numbers of cough drops...they didn't really help and the aftertaste is there all the time.

Finally went back to doctor today and I have "bronchial asthma"...non-contagious. (Thank goodness since I have been around a lot of people...more on that later.) Prescription to get rid of the cough is prednisone...and the side effects: irritability, insomnia, jumpiness (his word), and increased appetite!!

GREAT! I am going to eat myself to match the size of my refrigerator and be a bitch! Lucky me...and poor Joe!

But, wait a minute: is it so bad? Hmmmm...does this mean if I snap at some real or imagined "slight" precipitated by something Joe says or does, it's not my's the drug??

My timing couldn't be worse. Joe went to the annual Tailhook Convention in Sparks, Nevada. He and 15 former Navy buddies all played golf for three days and, I'm sure, imbibed a few bottles of "Fighter Pilot Red" produced by another Navy buddy at his Bella Luna Winery. If I'd gone to the doctor on Wednesday of last week, the four or five days of irritability would be ending today instead of beginning.

This is the first time in over a year that Joe has gone on one of his "guys only" getaways. He hasn't been fishing since the wonderful trip to Canada for salmon...plank cooked on the barbeque was the BEST I've ever eaten! But, I of the things I miss from pre-retirement days was the occasional business trip that would take him away just long enough for me to miss him and be glad to see him when he returned. Tailhook was going to provide that and with no dinners to plan or schedules to keep, I had a couple of getaways planned for myself. I had an overnight at Harrah's Rincon and was going to have a spa treatment, but by the time I got there and got checked in, I was too tired and just had a good dinner and went to sleep. I played bingo on Saturday and Sunday but got lots of glares from fellow players as my hacking interrupted their concentration.

So.....Joe just called from a town just north of Victorville...about four hours away. My "rule" for this blog is: if you have to take a medication that is going to alter your personality (or aggravate tendencies that are already there....such as in my case), try to plan it around your significant other's vacation...and if that isn't possible, keep your sense of humor and warn him/her in advance to put on the emotional armor and smile a lot (that's what I just did when he called).
Next blog: I'll let you know if the rule works!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CAPture and TRADE

A little late this week…I’ve got a cold. (That’s my “in-advance” excuse if this blog isn’t my best.

I “retired” again yesterday. That’s what it’s like after three months of working part- and full-time in Admissions & Records at the college I retired from. It’s wonderful to see everyone, but it’s really, really nice to return to my “retired life”.

I’ve given lots of thought to my subject today and I risk getting into “rant” territory, but I’m compelled to write it anyway. Do you understand what “Cap and Trade” will mean to all of us retirees? I thought I did, but on closer scrutiny, it will negatively impact not only us as retirees, but certainly our children when they “inherit”.

First, because I needed to educate myself on this TAX, I went to the following websites:

HR2454 American Clean Energy & Security Act:

I will sum them up for you: What would you say if I told you that the majority of the “green” jobs our President is promising as a result of “Cap and Trade” will be a kind of “energy compliance Gestapo” to inspect your home and tell you what you have to do to meet the government’s standards (based on “fuzzy science” at best)? And what if I said, you wouldn’t be able to sell your house without getting it retrofitted to meet their standards? And what if I said, you will be taxed every year with a license “fee” for the privilege of letting the government examine your home and tell you what you have to change? These “inspectors” will allow you to place a sticker on your window telling the world you have met their standards. These “home license fees” could come to more than your present locally-controlled property taxes.

Are they kidding? Here’s where the “rant” would start, but I am going to restrain myself and just let you go to the links above and decide for yourself. I have just one closing statement on the subject. It’s not surprising it is called “Cap” and “Trade”. The government is going to CAPture your hard-earned money and TRADE it to someone who doesn’t have what you have. It is not even well-disguised…it is redistribution of wealth (read: socialism), which is what our current Democratic Congress relies on to be re-elected. That’s what’s being traded: your money for the vote of someone the government will give it to.

I don’t think it’s necessary, but I will put a rule at the end of this blog: If that doesn’t sound like democracy to you, perhaps you’ll consider sending a message to the “CAPtors” in November?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chilean Miners experience a REAL 7/24...

7/24/120…but they're not married! They may not even all like each other and they've already had almost three weeks of each other's "unbathed" company.

While watching the news about the Chilean miners who are trapped thousands of feet below the surface in a copper/gold mine, I pondered their predicament with my “take” on retirement. Yes, we are together 7/24/365…but….we are not trapped. We leave when we want to; we breathe freely and, most importantly, we shower daily!

I heard on the news that local officials were consulting NASA and submariners on how to handle the emotional trauma of being in such close quarters with 32 other human beings. While I’m sure they are friends, nothing has prepared them for the possibility of seeing only each other for an extended period of time. They are not rocket scientists like the NASA astronauts or military men with a higher mission; they are ordinary working men. I came up with my own ideas of how to encourage them to “hang in there”. I borrowed some of the ideas from my years of teaching 1st and 2nd graders about religion. I had to keep the attention of the six- and seven-year-olds for 90 minutes once a week after they’d already spent 6 hours in a classroom...the similarity is that they often felt "trapped" me!

So….here are my ideas:

1) The 33 miners should all write their names on a piece of paper and each morning someone (perhaps the oldest member) would draw out one name. For that day, the miner whose name was drawn would be “#1” for the day. They could tell their family story to everyone there; they could perhaps sleep in the most comfortable area of their capsule (they should designate a “#1 area for that purpose); they should be the recipient of notes from each of the other men telling them one thing that they like about that person. On that day, if there are chores to be done, the #1 person would get a “day off”.

2) A fund should be established on the outside (by contributions from around the world)…the miners should be told that there would be a competition for the duration of their entrapment to see which one of them exhibited the most sympathy, compassion, and helpfulness while trapped...the winner would receive the cash. (They shouldn’t be told that the fund would be divided equally when they get free…the idea is to keep them helping each other for however long it takes to get them out...I'm sure the competitive nature of men isn't an "American" thing.)

3) Kazoos should be lowered down the supply tube and they should practice their national anthem to be played on the day they are released. (There's already a video of them singing their national anthem.)

4) At the end of each day, each man should express one wish and then they should have a prayer service where each of them would pray for the wish of the man next to them rather than their own.

5) And this one is borrowed from Marriage Encounter and Cursillo retreats sponsored by the Catholic church: the world should be encouraged to "adopt a miner". Make an email address available where messages from the world can be printed; choose a name and make the message specific to that miner. Before emailing, go to my favorite free translation website (got me through my French classes in college).

I've emailed a Santiago newspaper website and requested a contact email; will add it to this post and put it on facebook if he/she replies.
Add them to your prayer list. The best thing ever would be if Apple stepped up to the plate and helped the rescuers send a cable line down...along with it 33 iphones!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stewardess or Flight Attendant...rude is the same...

In view of the “hero of the week” Steven Slater, I thought I’d reminisce about life as a flight attendant…it seems that one thing is constant from “my day” when we were still called stewardesses, to today…rude people are universal. (You’ll notice I didn’t excuse the occasional rude flight attendant…the jury will decide whether Mr. Slater is a hero or a villain.) I am referring to the absence of courtesy. It has no gender bias; or race bias; or age bias; or nationality bias…you’ll find rudeness in the grocery store; in the line at your bank; at the DMV (definitely at the DMV…at both sides of the counter)…needless-to-say, rude is not discriminated against.

In the late 60’s when I was a stewardess with Delta, the book “Coffee, Tea, or Me” was published. The “hero” of the story was a bachelor (played by Tony Curtis in the movie) whose apartment had a revolving door through which numerous stewardesses entered and exited. It painted all stewardesses as lacking morals and just slightly better than prostitutes (they didn’t get paid). On one of my flights a little old lady was reading the book and as I walked past her, she looked up at me, shook her grey curls and said, “Tsk, tsk, tsk…shame on you!” (I didn’t give her the satisfaction of a reply.) In the clip art shown here, they refer to "the Girdled Stewardess"...among the indignities of the job was a "girdle check"...your supervisor could board a flight unannounced and ask to check and see if you were wearing a girdle...God-forbid you should "jiggle" down the aisle! (I'm serious!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remembering the past...investing in the future.

Recently we had dinner with three other couples we’ve known for 43 years. It is amazing that we live within 30 minutes’ drive of these couples who knew us even before we were married. All four men were the “junior officers” in Navy squadrons on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1967 and 1968. All four women were the “dates” they brought to squadron parties when the ship was in port between cruises. All of us got married in 1969. One of the husbands was among the 40 men who attended our wedding in Sasebo, Japan when the ship pulled into port in May.
Our lives took different paths when the men left the Navy. Two of the four men went into large real estate development companies. After a brief time dabbling in that market, Joe opted for government service and the fourth husband became an airline pilot.

Among the four couples there are 11 children and 12 grandchildren. We have shared milestones along the way that remain among our favorite memories: baby showers; 30th, 40th, 50th, and 60th birthday parties; weddings of our children; and, more recently, my college graduation celebration and retirement parties. We only see each other a couple of times a year, but whenever we get together we have an unmistakable bond.

While reminiscing at dinner, we were doing a lot of “Do you remember….” talk. Topics included childhood games and TV shows and the products we “had to have”. They are a litany of the things that the baby boomer generation made profitable. How I wish I had invested in the parent companies of this list through the decades:

1. Schwinn bicycles…remember playing cards and Popsicle sticks in the spokes?

2. Chatty Cathy doll (a personal favorite) and Barbie soon after.

3. 45 rpm records and the record players to play them...I had a black and white vinyl carrying case for going to slumber parties.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bookshelves and saving trees...

I often put whatever book I'm reading on a shelf in our downstairs bathroom. When we had company recently, he came out of that little room hysterically laughing. This is the photo that caught his eye and produced the laughter. I will leave it to the reader to see the humor in the two dominant titles.

I suppose one way of looking at it would be to imagine the wife is praying for "tight lines" for her fisherman husband. Not found within the covers of Stormie O'Martian's book is the following "Fisherman's Prayer" borrowed from a site called "Positive Thoughts".
"I pray that I may live to fish,
Until my dying day.
And when it comes to my last cast,
I then most humbly pray:
When in the Lord's great landing net
And peacefully asleep
That in His mercy I be judged
Big enough to keep."
There are several other possibilities that could be attributed to the photograph, but the truth is that when the oversize book on fly-tying arrived, Joe put it in one of the few places that wasn't piled high with papers, etc. (Not that funny, but it gave our guest a chuckle and provided me with a few blogger lines.)

While on the subject of bookshelves, ours are soon to join the ranks of the dynasaur. For Christmas I got an Kindle. WOW! I love, love, love it. When we cruise, I would use half of a small suitcase to pack enough reading material to last the two weeks. They have libraries on all cruise ships, but I'm always afraid I won't finish the "loaner" before we dock. When we are on vacation I like to do what I call "fluff" reading. I got my degree in Literature & Writing, but I don't take the classics on a cruise. I read a lot of serial books. Among my favorite authors is Debbie Macomber. I started out reading her Blossom Street series because I love to knit and crochet and the stories not only followed the lives of the shop owners on the little street in Washington, they had patterns included. I moved from that group to "The Cedar Cove" series. These books are kind of like soap operas in print. The characters' lives intertwine in convoluted ways, but they are quick reads and thus the need for half a suitcase.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Piling and Pedaling

I’m getting my posts back to life as a retired couple. There was one thing that drove me to distraction during the year I didn’t ask Joe to do anything around the house. It was the “elephant in the room”…the conversation that we never had. It was the cause of my tongue-biting on many occasions. It was the condition of our garage!

About fifteen years ago, Joe bought a book called “File Don’t Pile”. Out of it he created a new way of filing. It doesn’t use alphabetizing like normal people do. Every file has an upper-case letter followed by a number (example: T-1, T-2, T-3, etc.). At the front of all the “T” files is a green folder. Inside the green folder is a list of what all of the files contain. Do you see an inherent problem? Yes. That’s right. Only the person who created the files has the ability to find anything ever again. The “T” files are the only ones I am privy to: they are our taxes based on the year of filing.

However, the book didn’t teach any tricks about not “piling” things in the garage…and any other flat surface in the house. Several years later he also had custom cabinets made for the garage to solve that problem. He gave Closet World a call and they installed six large cabinets, a counter next to the sink and a desk that was supposed to be for my crafts.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Birthday blues, Beatles, and Blogger-block.

This is my birthday week…in two days I will move into the second half of my sixties. I’m conflicted over whether or not that is cause for celebration. I know…I know…not getting to the second half of my sixties is a not-so-good alternative, but I have always had trouble with the second half of decades. They are reminders of the impending birthday that ends with a “0”. Somehow those second halves seem to go faster as the first digit of that birthday number gets larger. Folks talk about mid-life crises...I have mid-decade crises...26, 36, 46,  and 56 did it to me too. 

While in that state of mind, I heard a story on TV about Ringo Starr turning 70! Yikes! It doesn’t help that Ringo was the oldest of the Beatles…70! I remember what my life was like when they arrived in the U.S. It was 1964 and the year I turned 20. I wasn’t an instant fan. It seemed almost like being unfaithful to all of the great groups I danced to and was a fan of during my teen years. They were so different! They looked different, they talked different, and a lot of folks thought they’d be a “one hit wonder” (who knew?).

When I think of that time, I also remember Twiggy and Carnaby Street and the many other British imports of that decade. It was the decade when I embraced my own British roots so it is fitting that it was a time when everything British was "in". I remember with a smile the exit of “beehive” teased hairdos and the entrance of the Sassoon cut. Everyone was straightening their curls and seeking the perfect wedge haircut. That look has endured as long as the Beatles’ music. I got my hair cut short to try to achieve that look while I was in Scotland in 1966.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Family, Frogs, Feathered Friends, and the Fourth

One thing that gets in the way of writing a blog about retirement is going back to work. Three times a year I return to the college I retired from and enter application data for all the new and returning students. It gives me a chance to see old friends and to earn a little "fun" money.

We've also been hosting Joe's cousin from Vermont, his wife, and their son and daughter (14 and 15 respectively). In addition to the usual sights (i.e., Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Missions) they made some wonderful memories: Joe's cousin gave his daughter a para-sailing flight as an early birthday gift...she was thrilled. Son, Mom, and Joe went horseback riding out at Camp Pendleton, and on another day a close friend of Joe's gave them an up-close personal tour of the USS Midway. Mom and Dad had their picture taken in front of the "Sailor Kissing the Girl" Statue at the waterfront (at their daughter's encouragement, they struck the same pose much to the delight of onlookers, including a tour boat going by).

On to the "saga of the frogs". Since they arrived at our house after midnight on the first night, they weren't introduced to a unique feature of their temporary quarters. In California, if you put a water feature in your yard, within hours the tree frogs will discover it. The photo here shows one of these critters sitting on a leaf...not a very big leaf...they are about an inch-and-a-half long and very hard to see. However, what they lack in size they more than make up for in croaking volume. At precisely 8:30 pm every night we have to close the sliding door if we want to hear the tv. The males try to attract a mate with their high-volume croaking. Once they've found a willing female, they get quiet....for a little while. Then it starts again, louder than the time before. (Did I mention that the pond is right below the bedrooms where our company is sleeping?)
As a preface to the end of this post, I want to tell you about my Dr. Doolittle-like effect on creatures. Whenever I would accompany our daughters on field trips to the zoo or to Sea World or any other environment where animals or birds were present, inevitably there would be mating. From ducks on our vacation in Kauai to walruses at Sea World (they could be heard all over the park...think "When Sally Meets Harry" times about 5000) and I can't omit the lowland gorillas at the Wild Animal Park...there were many times when I had to be creative when a 7-year-old girl asked, "What are they doing Mrs. Sarnecky?"

The most unique time was on a whale watching voyage out of our local harbor. Several Girl Scout and Brownie troops combined together for the afternoon outing so both of our daughters were there. We had been told that the whales NEVER mate before they get to the warm waters of Baja California. That was before I was on a boat in their vicinity. For those who might be unfamiliar with the California grey whale, they are huge animals. Because of their size it takes "three to tango" adult male, one adult female, and one immature male. The latter acts as a "guide"...helping the adult male find the target. Enough about the "how"...the result is a churning and splashing as they do barrel rolls over and over...the tour guides were positively apoplectic! (I just thought, "not again"...perhaps I should have added the word "feranomes" to the title of this blog.)

I also had a semi-domesticated roadrunner for three years in a row. This funny little bird would catch a mouse or a lizard and come to my sliding glass door and tap-tap-tap with his beak to get my attention. If I didn't respond right away, he would tap louder and longer until I would go to the door. I would look at whatever he had caught and say, "what a nice mouse" or "wow, you got a great lizard"...then he'd do a little bounce up and down and run off to his mate. I swear! Our son-in-law, Mike, thought I had made it fact, he thought the roadrunner was created just for Wylie Coyote...until I showed him this photo. (That's him just beyond the rocker with a mouse in his beak.)

That same summer we also had "honeymooning ducks" in our pond. (The female is the dull grey one; the male has the pretty feathers.) After their tryst, the mama duck came back about three months later with her brood....they swam a little in the pond and then took off through the vegetable garden. It was almost like she took them on a field trip to show them where Mommy and Daddy created them!

Getting back to this week...Joe was in the kitchen and looking out into the backyard and he called me over to the door...there was a Mama Duck and seven adorable ducklings. They couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old. They spent half an hour just swimming around the pond. At one point four of the ducklings got out and started walking away. Mama Duck quacked a command and they did an about-face and went back in the pool. We took many photos but here are a couple of my favorites. Unfortunately our guests were in Los Angeles and didn't witness the transformation of our small pond into a duck water park. (I wonder if this Mama Duck is one of the offspring of the earlier honeymoon couple.)

Having company visit us always makes us see our little corner of the world through other eyes. It reminds us of how much we love it here and how we couldn't imagine living anywhere else!

To all the veterans out there, including the one I share a life with, "Thank you for your service." As you light the barbeque or head to the beach for fireworks, say a prayer for the men and women who continue to risk their lives so that we are free to enjoy the wonders of this beautiful country...wonders like frogs and whales, walruses and roadrunners, and baby ducks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Landscaping, Putting Greens, and Airborne Automobiles

Since I got so off-point with last week's blog, I was determined to write on the topic of retirement this week. But then life threw us a curve on Saturday night/Sunday morning and I must write about it.

Since the story involves our yard and landscaping, I can also include the story of how Joe will never have to cut the grass again....ever! That happened thanks to me!

While playing golf with Navy friends in January of this year, he mentioned that I had taken my Social Security a year early but he was waiting until 70 in order to get the max. The friend asked, "So, are you getting your spousal share of Cathie's?" Joe remembered hearing about that when he went to his pre-retirement workshops, but he had forgotten about it.

Joe went off to the local office and found out that he was entitled but they could only make it retroactive for six months. The date he filed the paperwork was two days short of six months since I had started receiving benefits. Lucky! When he got the lump sum check, he told me he was going to use this new found treasure to replace all of the grass in the backyard with a putting green and a chipping green. One Putt Greens was the company we used and we are incredibly happy with the result. (What Joe didn't factor was my rose bushes that shed their petals onto his putting green whenever the winds pick up....he doesn't have to "mow" but now he has to vacuum.)

We re-landscaped our entire yard, including replacing the driveway with brick overlay, after the years of tricycles, bicycles, and kicking soccer balls were behind us. Joe wanted to minimize lawn-mowing and we both wanted an atmosphere of tranquility. We maintained some of the original landscaping on the slopes including some junipers that are trimmed to resemble bonsai trees (but much bigger of course) but the rest was redone in 2001. Much of the grass was replaced with brick and concrete/aggregate. We put in a pond and a beautiful waterfall that is right outside the windows that run the length of our living room/dining room.

Into that tranquil scene came an uninvited visitor on Sunday morning at 3 a.m. Joe thought he heard a crash on the main road that runs parallel to our smaller street (at the top of a 20 foot slope). He didn’t investigate, but when he heard the sound of tires spinning at around 5 a.m., he got up. He turned on the lights and saw a white car with its inside lights on moving very slowly up the hill in front of our home. He went to the garage to get shoes and a flashlight and by the time he turned on the outside lights and went outside, the car was gone. He checked the front and back of the house, but NOT along the living room/dining room area. He walked up to the corner and down to the neighbor's house, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Later that morning when we were preparing to go to church, I noticed some black plastic around our waterfall. Upon closer scrutiny, we saw three of our full-grown hedges knocked down along with several smaller bushes and a very large palm tree. A branch on one of the bonsai-shaped juniper (planted 32 years ago) was also knocked off. Joe went outside and this picture is what he saw inside our pond. There were also two orange posts inside the pond. It dawned on us that the noise Joe heard was a car crashing. And it had crashed right into our waterfall. There was plastic and glass all over the place.

Remarkably, the culprit had gotten the car out and then drove it through all the plants in its way to our driveway and out of the neighborhood (it was him that Joe saw when he went in search of the flashlight). We were heart-sick. There’s a feeling of violation when you know someone has done damage to your property and then left you to pick up the pieces.

The next three hours were taken up with police reports, insurance company calls, and all the details associated with a crime scene. The Crime Scene Investigator arrived and took photos from every angle (hers are probably better than these). She also checked shoe imprints and tried to get fingerprints from the orange posts that had been used to help facilitate the exit from the pond. The police were astonished that neither one of us had realized this was happening on our property since at one point he was driving the car about five feet from our living room windows.

For my part, I was grateful that Joe hadn’t confronted whoever did it. The driver might have been drunk or there might have been several people and Joe would have been outnumbered. There were a lot of “what if’s” going on in my mind. (I watch too many crime dramas.) We both agreed that in the grand scheme of things, it could have been worse. The car could have come over the slope at a slightly different angle and could have ended up inside our living room. If that had happened, we might even have had a fire and could have lost much more than plants and trees. Also, the car could have flipped over and a life might have ended in our tranquil yard. You see…I’m very good at “what iffing” (my word). In church I said a prayer for whoever was in that car; thinking he/she must have been injured badly for there to be so many pieces of their car in our yard. (It helped that the homily included the admonition to “care for others”…the scripture was about the woman who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair.)

In ordinary circumstances that would be the end of this saga. Prayers said; thankfulness that it wasn't worse; police reports filled out; insurance company called; and decision to put aside anger because it doesn't help.

But the story doesn’t end there. At 2:30 in the afternoon the doorbell rang. When Joe answered, he saw a middle-aged man and a young man standing there. The older of the two introduced himself as the step-father of the younger man and said, "My step-son Jose has something to tell you." Jose then said, "I'm the driver of the vehicle who crashed on your property this morning. I'm really sorry and I came to bring you my driver's license number and insurance information." Flabbergasted doesn’t begin to describe Joe’s reaction.

The step-father went on to say that he had had a “long conversation” with his step-son. A retired Marine, he told the son that he had to “do the right thing.” And he did. He had made copies of his license and proof of insurance. The young man apologized again and shook Joe’s hand. Joe commended him for the courage it must have taken to come to our home and admit his wrongdoing. It was a moment I’m sure neither of them will soon forget. (We still can't believe he wasn't injured beyond a small cut on his right hand. From the damage, the police determined the car was about 4 feet in the air after jumping the curb and before coming to rest in the waterfall.)

Joe called the policeman who is in charge of our case and when he told him what had happened, he replied, “Do you have any idea how rare that is?” Joe said that he did indeed. The police officer said he could not remember ever having someone “own up” to something they had clearly “gotten away with.”

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes. It came from Anne Frank's diary and, coincidentally, was written on the day I was born:
"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

There is only one rule that comes to mind for this week's post. I'm sure you've heard it before, but it bears repeating here: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Produce, Profiling, and Parity in Politics

I love alliteration. I've had fun this week preparing this blog. Hope it gives you a smile or two. (Blogger had new templates so I'm having some fun with a new look.)

When driving back from Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, we were approaching the California border and saw the agriculture checkpoint up ahead. My friend Pat said, “They won’t stop you. You’ve got a military sticker on your car.” I said, “I bet they do.”

I was right. The agent asked: “What kind of fruits and vegetables do you have today?” I thought that was odd. I mean, he didn’t ask, “Do you have any fruits and vegetables?” He assumed I did and wanted to know what kind.

I felt “produce-profiled”. I didn’t give him any cause to think I had fruits or vegetables. I didn’t have banana peels on the dashboard or strawberry juice on my shirt. What made him think I was smuggling fruit into California? I mean, I don’t like fruit and vegetable smugglers any more than the next person, but in that moment I felt resentful. Where was the VCLU (Vegetable Civil Liberties Union)? Should I report this to PETO (People for the Ethical Treatment of Oranges)?

Okay...I’m through with the tongue-in-cheek. What I do want to write about is being an immigrant. I came to this country when I was five-and-a-half. Several months later my mother told me one day that I was going to be naturalized. Not knowing what that meant, she went on to explain that “you’ll be a Scottish little girl when you go in and when you come out you’ll be a full-blooded American little girl.”

I was struggling with understanding English as it was spoken in Paterson, N.J. while I retained much of my Scottish brogue. At school my accent brought about giggles and stares when I declared, “I dinna’ ken” when I didn't know the answer to a question. Little by little, the Paterson “twang” blended with the brogue and there was a period of time when I wasn’t understood either at school or at home. It was during that period that I had to ponder my mother’s explanation of citizenship.

Lying awake that night I had visions of large nurses wielding larger hypodermic needles and removing all of my Scottish blood and replacing it with American blood. I didn’t think it was such a great idea to become an “American little girl”.

The next afternoon when we went to the courthouse at the appointed time, I eyed the railing in the center of the stairs leading to the front door. I wrapped my arms and legs around the railing and screamed bloody murder, refusing at the top of my lungs to go into the building. To say we drew attention would be an understatement. Passersby glared at my mother thinking she must be abusing me and inbetween wails I pleaded for someone to save me from my impending total-body-transfusion.

After several minutes my mother managed to pry my fingers from the railing and she literally dragged me down the hallway (still screaming of course) and into an elevator. When we arrived at the Immigration Office, my photograph was taken (if Webster's needs a photo to go with the word "waif" I recommend that one). Then my mother raised her right hand and swore to the authenticity of my birth certificate and the fact that she had been born in the United States and a few minutes later we were given my naturalization papers. That was it. No needles; no blood; no nurses, just a nice man and a piece of paper. Why is it that your most humiliating moments are the ones that remain crystal-clear after 60 years??

I don’t mean to trivialize immigration, or citizenship. I had the opportunity to “choose” my citizenship when I turned 21. Until then I had dual citizenship to both Great Britain and the United States where my parents each had been born. I remember making the choice of America and registering to vote when I was 21 (that was the age to vote back then). I was with Delta when I voted in my first presidential election. I fumed for days over the fact that the State of Georgia went to George Wallace before my absentee vote had even been counted. I felt nullified.

For a little more tongue-in-cheek while on the subject of voting, I might as well tell my solution for political parity. I think if the country is going to become involved in running banks, automobile companies, and other previously “public sector” entities, then we as taxpayers should be considered “shareholders”. If you are a “contributing shareholder” (i.e., you pay taxes) you should get to “vote your shares” the same way you do if you own stock in a corporation. Every taxpayer would get additional votes based on the amount they contribute (your “tax shares”). If you don’t own any extra voting shares (you don’t pay taxes and you are on the receiving end of tax dollars), you would still get your one vote. What would the outcome be? If the politicians wanted the votes (plural) of the people who held all of the share-votes, they would be answerable to them for their decisions. Gosh, what would you call that? Being answerable to the shareholders just like the Board of Directors of a corporation? I know: we’d call it “political capitalism”.

Rule for this blog: Above all else, keep your sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Party and Panama

I know I promised a blog on cruising and this will get there, but I wanted to write about the retirement party I gave Joe. (He had a party with colleagues from the San Francisco office at a restaurant in Orange County and a party at his office in San Diego on his last day.) For someone who seemed to be resisting retirement, he sure enjoyed getting into “party mode”.

I had been thinking about his party for over three years. Not that it was going to be a formal party that needed three years’ preparation; Joe just kept changing his mind. Each November starting in 2004 (the year I retired), we would have a conversation that went something like this:
     Me: “Joe, I’m getting ready to write the annual Christmas letter. Is next year the year you’re going to retire?
     Joe: “You bet it is. I can’t wait to retire."

Then, somewhere around the end of March I’d see him sitting at his desk with a calendar and a calculator. Then we would have the following exchange:
     Joe: “If I keep working one more year, I’ll have enough days to sell back to get a new truck.”
     Me: “So you’re not going to retire in 2005. Does that mean you’ll retire for sure in 2006?”
     Joe: “You bet! I can’t wait to retire.”

You get the picture. That scene repeated itself over and over until finally on April 30, 2008 he actually did it. I planned a backyard barbeque and decided that I would have the food catered instead of doing it all myself. Here is where I give a major plug to Famous Dave’s Barbeque. If you don’t have one near you, you’re missing a treat. If you do and you haven’t tried it yet, you should.

I spent a long time trying to find the perfect retirement gift. He had given me my laptop computer to use when I went to college. It was the best gift ever and I didn’t know how to match it. One day while I was walking down the hallway in the Administration Building at MiraCosta College, I saw some beautiful watercolors. One was of the local commuter train, “The Coaster”, leaving the Carlsbad Village train station. Instantly I thought of commissioning a copy since it symbolized Joe’s daily commute to and from the office.

The artist, Benita Gleason, was a part-time counselor and professor at the college and someone I had known and admired when I was working full-time. I called and asked her if she could do a watercolor painting from a photograph I had taken of Joe with grandson Jackson and granddaughter Ava (Audrey wasn’t walking yet) when we rode the train to go to San Diego. Here is the result of her effort. I call it “Commuting Just for Fun”.

As the RSVP’s came in, I was pleased that many of Joe’s friends from Navy days, co-workers from years past, current co-workers, neighbors, church friends, and family were going to be with us. Best surprise of all was my sister, Jean, who came to represent my English family on this special occasion. She made the long trip just for the weekend, arriving Thursday and returning on Monday. It was a wonderful day (also coincidentally our 39th anniversary) and marked the beginning of a year full of amazing sights and sounds and people.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Anniversary

I'm three days late with this week’s blog, but it is by design. I wanted to blog on this Memorial Day holiday because for me it is not only a time to reflect on the servicemen and women who have fought and died for our freedom, it is also a day for Joe and I to reflect on our personal journey.

After weeks of trying to figure out where and when we could get married when he returned from his ten-month cruise on the Kittyhawk, we had come to the conclusion that if everyone couldn't be at the wedding, then no one would. His family was in Pennsylvania; my friends and family were in Georgia and Florida; our mutual friends were in San Diego. We planned on being married in Hong Kong, but the inport period was cancelled just hours before I was going to board a flight. A week later he called while I was on a layover in Santa Monica and said, "I'm in Sasebo, soon can you get here?"

Forty-one years ago today, I stood at the door to a Quonset hut/chapel in Sasebo, Japan. I was thousands of miles from home. I had no bridesmaids. There was no father of the bride (Lcdr. Bob Browning stood in). There was a corsage bought by friends Richie and “Doo-doo”. As the doors opened, I looked in on 40 men who could have been “extras” in any Blues Brothers movie (they had celebrated a day early). All I could think at that moment was, “What have I done?” If there was a movie about my wedding, it would be called "Forty Men and Me"...except one of our bachelors brought a "date"; the wife of a sailor who had deployed from Sasebo the day before.

I wouldn’t have been there had it not been for Delta Airlines (kind of like a guardian angel with wings of steel). Many of the best moments in our life together have been possible because of Delta. Before meeting Joe on a layover (described in an earlier post), I also met my father because of Delta. I had been taken to America from Scotland when I was five and my mother returned all mail and packages that came from my father. When she remarried, I was lost to him. Later, when I was sixteen, my grandfather helped me find him. He had been in the RAF and stationed in Egypt; he met and married my step-mother Audrey and they had two daughters. I met them all the year after I was hired by Delta.

I loved every minute of the 4-1/2 years I spent with Delta. It was during the Vietnam War and there were many opportunities to honor the young men who were serving our country at a time when it wasn’t very popular to be doing so. I remember a mother who came up to me at the foot of the stairs in Dallas and handed me a cardboard box with a plastic window on top. Inside was a birthday cake that said “Happy Birthday Jimmy”. She asked if I would please take it to the APO post office in San Francisco as she was afraid to have it go in the cargo hold. Well, of course I said "yes" and then the other three flight attendants and I put on dark red lipstick and put “kisses” on the box and wrote our own messages to Jimmy.

About two months later, I was called into the office of one of the VP’s of Delta and was admonished for “tampering with the US mail”. I acted appropriately contrite, but I think we both knew that I wasn’t at all sorry for what I’d done. (Jimmy had written to Delta to say the cake arrived crumbled, but he was “king for a day” because of our additions to his package.) Every Memorial Day I think of Jimmy and of all the young men in those jungles in Southeast Asia; I remember the pilots and RIO’s who didn’t return, including Mike Doyle (“Doo-Doo”) who was a POW but didn’t come home with all the others (his remains were returned 14 years later).

When our daughters were in high school, I said to them, “Don’t do what your mother did. Get your college degree. Then, if you want to become a flight attendant or anything else, you’ll have your degree to fall back on.” It was another of those “famous last words” moments but I didn’t realize it at the time.

During her senior year at Loyola Marymount, our youngest daughter called one day and said, “Remember what you said, Mom? Well, I was hired by Delta today.” So began another chapter in our lives that has been nothing short of miraculous. Because we are parents, we have flight privileges which enabled Joe and I to visit my English family several times. It also means we continue to see Michelle often even though she is based in New York.

When Joe retired, Michelle told him about an industry travel agency and said we would qualify for industry discounts on some cruises. I never believed that Joe would consider the word “cruise” in the same sentence with “vacation”. From his experience cruise meant months at sea in cramped quarters in the bowels of an aircraft carrier and days and nights being catapulted into the sky and landing on a moving runway the size of a postage stamp when viewed from above. I couldn’t believe my ears when he asked, “How would you like to cruise through the Panama Canal?” (Our year of cruising will be the subject of my next blog.)

Rule #6 – Honor your past (and those who touched your lives); cherish the present; and embrace the future. And thank God for being with you through it all.