Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finished, But Not Home - Yet

Yes, Kari and her friend, Andrea, finished the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike in just over 12 hours!  I talked with her last evening and her first description of the endeavor was, ". . .The hardest thing I've ever done in my life! . ."  I'll drive to the Sacramento airport to pick her up (or scoop her up!) this evening at 8.  We'll see how she feels after 24 hours of "recovery;" I use the term recovery loosely as she predicts that day 2 will be worse than the first 24-hour period.

Hopefully, she'll have a few photos to share; although, she already indicated she didn't take anywhere near what she thought she would because the hike was just too darn hard.  Remember I said it was 26 miles; she said that about 13 of that distance was uphill!!!  The final 6 miles, climbing up to the south rim from the canyon floor took an hour per mile!  At one point she said her whole body 'seized' and she couldn't move for several minutes; the cause was dehydration and sodium depletion.  She took extra salt tablets and drank about a quart of water over around 15 minutes and felt better.  At the time we spoke (about 6pm) she said several hikers were still a long way from the finish.

And, finally she said, "This is my first AND MY LAST Grand Canyon Rim to Rim."

I just thank God she finished with what appears to be no serious or terminal injuries.  Ironman Cozumel will be much more "sane," that's the term I'll use to describe any / all of these extreme athletic events my kids seem to be addicted to conquering!

I'm off to get a little exercise myself; then I'll commence the chief cook and bottle washer duties for a fractured family dinner tonight, before I head to the airport to pick Kari up . . . More (with pix) later.

Friday, October 10, 2014

El Dorado Hills and Lots of Activity

Lacy, Eleanor and I came down I-5 to El Dorado Hills on Wednesday, about 180 miles south of Redding.  I'd volunteered to 'babysit' the triplets, 15 in November, for a few days.  Their dad, David, was in Las Vegas for a business convention until last night. And, their mom, my daughter Kari, and her business partner were left Wednesday afternoon to fly to Arizona, where they are doing another spectacular feat of exercise:  a 26-mile hike beginning on the north rim down to, and across, the canyon floor and Colorado River; then up the walls to the south rim.
Grand Canyon - North Rim (left), canyon floor and Colorado River, South 
This hike used to be a yearly event; but, it's no longer legal due to the number of rescues the Park Service had to make each year.  In order to accomplish this feat, Kari and her friend Andrea, had to apply for a Special Use Permit from Grand Canyon National Park.  As I've mentioned so often in my posts, Kari is an incredible athlete.  She's considering this hike as a long training day in preparation for her Ironman event that will take place in Cozumel, Mexico on November 30th.

Kari and Andrea are now, as I write, hopefully past the half-way mark in this endeavor.  I'll have to post how they've done - when I find out!  I believe they began their trek at about 5 this morning an hope to complete the challenge by sunset this evening.  As I recall they were to begin at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, hike down to the Colorado River, at about 2,000 feet, cross the river and canyon bottom and then hike up to the south rim, which is about a 6,000 foot climb.

Life in their household continues at full tilt, parents here or not.  I feel that babysitting for three almost 15-year old high school Freshmen is more labor-intensive than when they were ten!  They're all very active in sports and extracurricular activities, as well as taking full loads of subjects in school.  And, although they're triplets, they have three different schedules for class hours, etc.  The driving taxi service that I'm providing is very close to a full-time position.  Since Wednesday I've driven close to 200 miles just back and forth to school and activities.  Thank goodness each kid is responsible for his own laundry; I haven't done any.  But, cooking for three voracious appetites, is also almost full-time work; it seems like they're eating non-stop - because they are eating non-stop! Kari and David have always believed that if they keep their kids very busy they won't have time to head down a wrong path; so far, it's worked wonderfully with the three older girls, all of whom are either on their own completely, or in college and living in a dorm.  Certainly as far as I know, there have been no teen problems other than the occasional heart breaks, moodiness and melt-downs that happen to us all inn getting through those teen years!

Earlier today I made a huge pot of minestrone and a large apple crisp. My son, Jeff, and my twin granddaughters, Malia and Samantha, will arrive from Cottonwood this evening to spend the weekend here.  The twins have a soccer game tomorrow in Elk Grove, about 30 miles from here.  Then Jeff and Kari, if she lives through today's hike, will do a long training bike ride on Sunday.  Remember, it's the two of them who will compete in Cozumel - together.  I'm so looking forward to that; all 'my' family will be there, even my ex-husband and his wife are planning to be in the cheering gallery for the brother-sister team.

I am really enjoying the kids and am amazed at how fast they grow up. It just goes by so fast, but other than when all five of the now 14-year olds were still in diapers, they're a really fun group of kids and I'm thrilled to be their Mimi.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Memories of a Special Birthday

I think it was my 4th birthday when an unexpected gift became one of those hallmarks of my life providing interest, practice, and love for literature and music.

As I recall, I opened the package wondering, 'Just what could this be?'  It didn't conform to the perceived measurements of any item on my wish list, at least that I could remember.  But, even at that age, I was beginning to realize that those 'mystery' gifts could be more exciting and satisfying than anything I'd thought I needed,wanted, or just had to have.  In this world, there are some people who possess a special talent for choosing just the right gift you never knew you wanted and hadn't thought of, yet!  My mom had that 'gift;' it started with picking a toy I wasn't even aware of, like my Toodles doll, who could drink from her toy baby bottle - and then tinkle (as Mom called it) into her diaper, giving me the opportunity to be the mother of that plastic daughter.  Those special and unexpected gifts flowed from my mother's thoughtfulness and empathy during all of my childhood - and adulthood, throughout her life.  I love you, Mom.

Birthdays were very important days to me, probably the most anticipated of holidays, after Christmas, that is.  My special day, February 3rd, I shared every year with the wedding anniversary of my parents.  I, the eldest, was born on their 9th anniversary, a fact that didn't mean much to me as a young child, except that I was always aware of the fact that I'd been a 'gift' for them as they'd wanted children from the day they married in 1934.  Military life with the inherent separations, the War, and other unforeseen obstacles had not made procreation possible - until I came along, right smack-dab in the middle of WWII.

Back to that #4 birthday.  Just what was in this flat, square and prettily wrapped package?  It took only seconds to get through the paper and what did I see?  A record album: a group of 78-RPM records, four of them, each tucked into its own cardboard folder (with a circular cutout in the middle to be able to identify each individual disc) for protection of both sides of each record.  And, as the album was opened, there was also a story and picture book attached as an actual part of the album that, I was to discover, coordinated with each of the records.

It was "Peter and the Wolf," Op. 67, a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It's a children's story, with both music and text by Prokofiev, spoken by a narrator accompaniment of a symphony orchestra.  I was familiar with the story, as Mom and Dad had read it to me and my brother, Jimmy, previously.  What could be so special about this album? Well, it didn't take long to find out.

I was directed to the combination radio and 'automatic' record player in the living room.  Dad taught me how to insert the 78rpm record into the record slot on the lower portion of the front of the machine.  You had to be careful to insert it exactly in the center from left and right, or the hole in the record center would be cattywampus, not lining up with the little popup that held the disc in place making the needle on the player arm unable to locate itself correctly for playing the music.

Well, I inserted the first of the four records and heard the narrator, i.e. conductor, begin the entertainment by telling the audience, i.e. me, that each of the characters in the story would be played by a certain instrument.  I lay down on the floor in front of the record player and followed along in the attached picture book as the conductor and the symphony orchestra took me on that first magical ride.

I probably played that series of records hundreds of times over the next few years.  I think going along with the story helped me learn to read.  And, most of all, the experience made me aware of the instruments in a symphony orchestra and develop a love of music of all kinds that has remained throughout my life.

Well, I can't say what ultimately happened to that album; I know it was well-worn and loved.  Perhaps it went to another 4 year old girl or boy to enjoy as much as I had.  I went on to take music lessons and play flute in the school band and cello in the school orchestra.   I also took some piano lessons along the way.  I'm sorry that I've not kept up on my instruments; however, I have my flute here in the RV with me and still intend to take it out and practice.

Here is a YouTube video to give you an idea of how wonderful my "Peter and the Wolf" indoctrination into the world of classical music was . . .


I hope, if you've not seen it before, you enjoy a bit of this symphony.

PS:  I've tried to correct the type-spacing error; so far I can't figure out how to do it.  Any words of wisdom will be appreciated.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

Tuesday, the last day of September, 2014:

I've been doing a lot of reading, along with all the fun I've been having with my new friends in Redding, as well as my family.  Last week I drove down to Kari's house in El Dorado Hills and spent four days having lots of fun with Kari and David and the triplets: Spencer, Tate, and Avery.  You'll recall that they have started their first year of high school - and boy, are they busy - school work, football games, dances, sports, the list goes on.  With them in high school it's fun to 'compare notes,' sharing with them (when they have the time to be in a conversation with Mimi) some of my memories of freshman year.  For some unknown reason Kari was more available than usual, what with her jobs as wife, mom, athlete, athletic coach, and business owner, so we did quite a bit of retail therapy for ourselves and others.

Back to the reading notation above . . . I came across a book by a woman named Donna Markova, "I Will Not Die an Unlived Life:  Reclaiming Purpose and Passion."  I'd like to copy the poem she wrote the day her father died.  [Her father had believed that his life 'didn't matter' and he literally slipped into death, she thinks, without having really experienced the purpose and passion in his life].

Living Wide Open:  Landscapes of the Mind

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, 
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the net as blossom, 
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Donna Markova
Copyright 2000

I'm so enjoying my time in Redding with relatives and new friends, healthy living with lots of exercise (with my new knee), coffee klatches, lunches out, reading, playing with my pets, and readying myself for the next big travel adventure beginning in November.  This poem just resonated with me at this particular time in my life.  It's curious that many people I talk with about previous and upcoming travel adventures seem to be impressed with my "lack of fear."  I wasn't always so independent with my solo travel plans; but, I learned a long time ago that if I really want to do something, I have to make it happen.  One of my greatest joys of living this retired and mobile lifestyle is that I can, and must, be a go-getter for the things I want to have or to do.

I am happier than I've ever been.  How can that be?  I'm retired and living on a fixed income.  I'm alone; well, except for Lacy and Eleanor.  I wake up every single morning with the light bulb coming on saying, "I'm retired.  I have innumerable choices of how I want to live this day."  I have a Bucket List, as so many others.  I suspect that I'll never be able to check off all the items on that list; but I'm going to die trying to get to them all.

What are some of your Bucket List items?

And, I'm off . . .

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Looking Forward To - And Excited Very Excited About . . .

I'm excited to share my Fall through Winter travel and adventure plans.

My daughter, Kari, and I will leave Oakland to fly to Cozumel, Mexico on Saturday, November 22nd, where we will get the rental house ready for other family members who will be flying in the following day.  The reason for this family jaunt is that Kari and her older brother, Jeff, will be competing in the Cozumel Ironman on Sunday, November 30th.  I've shared some stories about both Jeff and Kari and their fetes of considerable athletic competition.  This Ironman will be the 4th for each of them, but will be the first they'll do together as a brother - sister team. 
Ironman Cozumel Logo
The entire Ironman event will take place in the waters off the island and on the island itself

A water paradise - we'll surely do some snorkeling
We've rented a large house with enough bathrooms, forks, spoons, chairs, and floor to room and board at least 10:  Jeff, Alice and their twin girls, Malia and Samantha; and, Kari, David and their triplets, Spencer, Tate and Avery; and, me, I'm Mimi.  Jeff and Kari's dad and his wife may be in Cozumel for the race and visits to the house and their brother, Spencer, may be able to fly in from the Dominican Republic, his current domicile.  Many of you are familiar with blog posts about his long international-traveling lifestyle.  So, when the time actually arrives, there may be 11 members of the family in that one house, and a couple in hotels.

The week before the race we're hoping to take in some of the sites and attractions; although, the main event will dictate how much galavanting we all do.  Jeff and Kari will be saving their enthusiasm and energy for the big day; I'll be the chief chef; David and Alice will be chief kid-managers; and you can bet the five cousins will be into having a ball the entire time.  It should be quite a party!

I'm thrilled to see my children wanting to take on this a wonderful experience and fabulous memory-maker, together.  Not only is it an incredible accomplishment for them, but it sends such an important message to those five young people [twins and triplets] who are all Freshmen in high school this year.  Both Jeff and Kari are avid about their dedication to health and the sport of triathlon; they set the bar high for their kids, who all seem to be interested in sports and fitness.  For those who aren't too familiar, the Ironman competition consists of a 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finally a marathon run of 26.2 miles - in one day!  They are NOT competing with one another, but are planning to be a support for each other; is all goes well, they'll cross the finish line hand-in-hand.  Jeff is the elder, who, on race day, will be 53 years, 7 months, and 14 days old.  Kari will be 52 years, 7 months, and 5 days of age - pretty impressive to be an Ironman at any age, but I'm a very proud mama of these two.

I'll post more about Kari and Jeff in future posts.  This post is meant to share my upcoming travel plans . . .

On December 1st, the day after the race, I'll board a flight from Cozumel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I'll meet up with a friend and the two of us will hop on a Celebrity cruise ship December 4th for a 16-day cruise through the Caribbean, traversing the Panama Canal from East to West, and then South to Valparaiso, Chile.  There will be lots of stops for interesting visits to fascinating locales all along the way.  We'll arrive in Chile on December 20th, just in time to take part in yet another country's Christmas and holiday season. As you know, I'm a people person.  I love to study cultures and learn as much as I can about how others live, love, laugh and enjoy life on this planet.  
Departing from:  Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Sailing to:  Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Panama Canal, Panama; Manta, Ecuador; Lima, Peru; Arica, Chile; Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile skyline
More Latin American music, dancing and fun

Can't wait to see the colors, taste the food, meet the people
I currently have reservations and tickets for the adventure up to this point - Valparaiso.  From here on my timing and plans will blossom as they may.  My travel partner is planning to remain in South America for the entire Winter (that is, Winter in the US); of course it'll be Summer in the southern hemisphere.  My reading and web-surfing research indicates that Valparaiso will have a climate commensurate with San Francisco's Summer; so I'm feeling pretty comfortable with what to expect weather-wise.  I visited Santiago, Chile in 2003, but didn't make it to the coast on that trip and am looking forward to new horizons.  Where else I go in Chile - or other South American locales, I know not at this time.  Any recommendations form old-hand Chilean and South American visitors are welcome.

Sometime after the first of the new year I'll jump on another flight and head to Guatemala for a long-awaited visit to my cousin, Linda, who lives there, and all the wonderful friends I made while I was living there in 2011 and 2012.  I can't wait to see my Spanish teachers and their families,  my knitting / crocheting students, both adults and children, and all the wonderful kids and adults in the various foundations I grew to love.  And, I have three very important, to me, young people who are continuing to work / study very diligently to possibly be able to head to the United States for further education, after which they'll return to their Guatemalan homes and families with skills to really make a difference in their communities and families' lives.  I'm very excited to see them again:  Isai, Shirli and Hazel - be ready for me!  
Oh, how I love this country, the land of the eternal Spring,  the home of the Maya and volcanoes

Cobblestone streets, flowers, colors, lovely people
I'm tentatively planning to stay in Guatemala for about a month; but, who knows?  The first time I went with the plan to stay for 3 weeks - and stayed for a year and a half!  Seriously, though, I am planning to return to California, Floribunda, Lacy and Eleanor sometime in February.

So, that's the plan for Winter this year.  I'm already giving thought to next Spring, too.  More about that as it materializes . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hello from Redding

Hi Everybody,

It's been a long break since I last posted; believe me, I've been thinking about all my virtual friends out there.  From the blogs I follow, I know there's a lot going on all over the place.  We, here in California, have returned to one of our hated and frightening "draught years."  I think almost every part of the state has been affected by forest fires.  I was talking to my daughter on the phone the other night and I could hear the in the background, "There's smoke coming in the house!"  They're in El Dorado Hills just off of I-50 about an hour and a half from South Shore Tahoe. 
 King Fire Arsonist Arrested

Here in Redding, I've moved my RV into a lovely RV Park, Green Acres, that I didn't even know existed until a couple of weeks ago.  I've not headed back out onto the open road because I've made some exciting travel plans for this Fall and Winter - without Floribunda and Petunia.  More about that in a future post.

I've been thinking about perhaps changing the focus of my blog during this time when I'm not out exploring this beautiful Country.  My original intention, when I began posting a couple of years ago, was to blog for my grandchildren about the adventures and experiences of their Mimi.  Well, suffice it to say, I'm not sure any of the eight looked at the blog more than once or twice.  The two older girls, Quinn and Addison, did sporadically - but they're so busy with their own lives, careers, fiancees, etc. that they don't have time or inclination to read Mimi's blog.  So, I've a bee in my bonnet to perhaps weave into the blog some short stories that have been whirling around in my head for years - mostly autobiographical tales - with the ulterior motive to have them down for posterity; so that my grandkids can read my tales, maybe when they're grandparents!  

I haven't been just vegetating while here; I'm very actively pursuing the healthy and active lifestyle I wanted when I retired and moved into Floribunda.  But, first I had to get the knee surgery over and recovered from - in order to be capable of enjoying all the adventures available.  I moved Florabunda and my family (Lacy and Eleanor) to my son's home in Cottonwood (about 25 miles south of Redding) and stayed there for about a month.  Then, my sister-in-law, Barbara, in Redding, asked me to care for her house and cat while they headed to the Coast in their RV for about 6 weeks.  So, I stayed in their house, but missed Floribunda, so moved her up into the RV hookup they have in their side yard.  After they returned, I moved to this lovely Green Acres RV park, only about a mile from them.  It's a real find:  beautiful and level cement pad and patio at each site, each is surrounded by green grass (a rarity in this parched environment) and shade trees.  I paid for a month and have decided to stay at least another, maybe more.  I'll take some pix to do some advertising for them; however, I don't want too, too many people to discover it, for obvious reasons.  There are about 25 sites, all full hookups, free cable TV and the best WiFi I've had in any park so far.  It's a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Redding and convenient to so many wonderful attractions:  Mt. Shasta, Lake Shasta, Whiskeytown Lake National Recreation Area (free with Senior Pass), Mt. Lassen National Park, Trinity Alps - the list goes on.

Before my sis-in-law left on vacation, she took me to the Shasta Family YMCA in Redding and introduced me to her gym buddies.  I've made such wonderful friends and have looked forward to getting to the gym almost every single day.  My knee recovery has been a dream I'm happy to report; there is absolutely no pain and I'm really getting back into shape after a long, long absence from exercise and physical activity in my life.  Those of my followers I've met personally over the last few years know that I was pretty incapacitated.  The doc says I may have to have the other knee done, someday.  I guarantee I'll not put it off, as I did with this knee.  I have been very conscientious about the recovery and I think I deserve, and am having, a positive experience for the whole thing.

I ride the exercise bike up to an hour a day and walk at a brisk pace on the treadmill, too.  I've started adding some weight training to try to get some of the muscle mass back that I lost with all that pain and inactivity.  I also swim a few times a week (indoor and outdoor pools at the Y) and have made the BEST friends.  

Every single day, as I awake, I'm thankful for being retired, having my health and my wonderful family - I'm loving life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hello From Redding, California

Welcome to Redding, CA - a big little city
right off I-5 in Northern California

Redding City Hall

Need I apologize for not posting?  If so, here it is - I'm sorry I've kind of gotten myself wrapped up with family and friends and haven't been keeping up on writing / reading posts.  I hope all my readers are well and happy this summer of 2014.

A sunrise shot taken earlier this year by a 
Redding resident - notice the Spring green and 
flowers - it's golden brown now!

Because of recovery from my knew surgery - it's 3 months ago this week - and family commitments and fun, I've not been spending much time on my computer for any reason at all.  I'd given myself lots of recovery time, which, thank you Lord, I haven't needed.  After having done lots of total knees during my many years working in the operating room, I thought I knew all there was to know.  Not!!!  Yes, I knew about the surgical procedure, but really very little about the recovery.  So, when I met with the surgeon and physical therapists before surgery I took  their advice and didn't plan anything for this [about] six-month post op period.  Well, what I've found is that this total knee surgery has been a piece of cake!  I cannot believe how easy (and pain-free to boot) this experience has been.  

Currently I'm in Redding house-sitting for my sister-in-law, Barb, and her partner, who are out on their first RV trip in their new (to them) RV.  It's a Class C, but a few feet longer than their previous rig.  They went from here to Santa Cruz for over a week; now they're in the Monterey area.  They asked if I'd stay in the house, so I left my RV at my son's house and am living in their stix and stone house with Lacy, Eleanor and their kitty, Mr. Tibbs.  

Floribunda parked at Jeff's house in Cottonwood, CA (about
25 miles south of Redding)
I started walking for exercise about a month ago and have not had a twinge of discomfort.  Since I'm going to be here for at least a few more weeks, I joined the Shasta Family YMCA and have made it there almost every single day for walking on the treadmill, riding a bike,rowing a little and swimming in one of their two pools - one is indoors and is great for summer in this heat!  As I've often repeated, I'd had such a bad time with my bum knee I'd completely stopped exercising for most of the past three years; and, once I started again, I am just loving it.  Barb made sure I met some of her exercise buddies, so we have coffee almost everyday after getting our aerobic work done for the day.  It's been lots of fun to meet new and interesting people and to get back on the path of some kind of healthy shape at the same time.

Barb and Fred have a great Sony flat screen TV I thought I'd really love after not having watched TV for more than a few minutes since I retired and started traveling three years ago.  Well, I've surfed through channels at several different times of the day and have decided that reading, cooking, exercising - even doing chores in the house - are all more beneficial than spending time watching TV.  Maybe it's just me but it seems like there are hunions of channels with no more selection than I had when there were three - ABC, NBC and CBS!  The bottom line is I'm not going to bother getting my solar up and running in Floribunda - unless I come across several programs I just can't live without, and that doesn't seem likely.  I did watch some of the  'Futból' World Cup from Brazil; I have to say it's nice to see that the US is catching up with the most popular sport in the World.  When I lived in Antigua, Guatemala it was impressive to see literally hundreds of people crowding the streets and sidewalks outside the local Sports Bar to watch futból.  Only the fans right outside the door (lots of folks can't afford to go into the bar) could see any action, but the play-by-play news rallied through the crowd - and everybody was happy to be a part of the excitement.

As the heat and dry conditions continue in this part of the country, we are, of course, having a rash of forest fires.  In this area the Bully fire (in Igo-Ono) was ignited on July 11th by a marajuana grower who was driving a pickup truck load of supplies to his remote growing patch and started large grass fire.  At this time it's about 95% contained - having had tons of equipment and over 2200 firefighters working constantly for 12 days now.  My nephew and his family live in Igo, fortunately not too close to the fire area, but the smoke-laden skies, high winds and thunder and lightening strikes have certainly worried them.  It's bad enough when weather and natural disasters start forest fires; but, when it's human error / carelessness it's even worse.  Many of my blog-writing and reading friends are so concerned with the natural wonders of our homeland.  

Let's all be extra careful this year - and always!