A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 7

Telling My Story

August 15, the day I had chosen to do a presentation in the Waltonwood Theatre, was bright and sunny. I hung out the flag to commemorate the day the Japanese had surrendered 72 years ago. We have a nice small size flag (I don’t remember where we got it) and we can leave it out after sunset, because it has a light right above it. CBS Television had done a good story announcing my presentation on their 5 o’clock news the day before, and I enjoyed talking to a full house in the Theatre. They had a nice reception afterwards, with a beautiful and tasty display done by the Chef, and they gave me a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

NBC Television, a little late, called to do a live interview an hour before the show; well, that was okay, but they wanted to have me on the four o’clock news! I said that I could not make that unless they would send someone to pick me up at four to take me to the studio, and interview me at 4:30 p.m. “The studio is in Raleigh, only eleven minutes away from you,” they said. But I told them my own show would last until 4:00 p.m., and I could not possibly drive to the studio in 11 minutes in 4 o’clock traffic while I did not know my way around, especially not in Raleigh. So they decided they would invite me on another day.

The 2017 Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017: a very important day, Mike’s 80th birthday! And the Universe celebrated with us! For almost three minutes the shadow of the moon darkened the light of the sun. In Cary, North Carolina, just outside “the Path of Totality”, we could observe 93% of the total eclipse. We had a pair of proper glasses and watched in turn, seated on one of our chairs on the back patio, head back, looking straight up. It was 88 degrees and I put on sunscreen before I sat down to observe the spectacle. Because we could only see 93% of the total eclipse, it did not get completely dark, but in the course of that hour the temperature went down to 85 degrees and the crickets started chirping. At the same time, the birds were loudly preparing for nightfall in the trees all around.

On television we watched “totality” in different parts of the country as the eclipse progressed across the United States, then went back to our own back yard view. It was very interesting.

I remember one other total solar eclipse. We were living on the east side of the Big Island at the time and from our back patio we would have the perfect view of the eclipse at sunrise over the ocean. We invited several friends to come over for breakfast and watch the eclipse with us. When the big day arrived the sky was completely covered in clouds and the sun remained invisible. We all watched the eclipse, having breakfast in front of the television. Many people who had traveled to Hawai’i especially to watch the eclipse had driven to the top of Mauna Kea, where all the observatories are located, and only they had an unobstructed view that day.

An Encounter

Early in the morning our living room, facing west, is dark due to the immensely tall trees in our back yard. When I open the door to the patio and step outside, the humid air reminds me of Hilo. I sit down for a moment on one of the two chairs, which have dried already after the nightly shower, and watch the birds flying back and forth from tree to tree and through the branches. A lovely start of the day. The sun shines into our office and on the front porch in the morning. Our living room, den and patio  get the sun later in the day. Opinions differ, of course. “I don’t get any sun in my apartment,” said one lady contentedly the very first week after we moved here. My goodness, I could not live without sun in my house! “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”, I’m with John Denver on that!

If time and the weather allow, I like to walk once or twice around the block in the early morning. “The block” or “the track”, if you will, is the path from our cottages past the pond with the splashing fountain to and around the main building. It is most wonderful when the sun is barely up, the temperature is in the high seventies and the air moist and fragrant. Yes, joy of joys: the fountain has been repaired and the water level in the pond has risen. It also means that the geese are back in larger numbers!

One by one the employees arrive, park their cars, take their belongings and walk to the main entrance to begin their day. They are either taking care of a person in Independent Living who is just barely independent but still needs a little help getting dressed, or they are working in the kitchen making preparations for the breakfast buffet, or they go through the doors to the Assisted Living to fulfill a job that takes skill, patience and love for the people they serve.

One morning last week, a young woman got out of her car as I was approaching and after we both said good morning, we walked together from the parking lot to the front door. She said, “Today is my twelfth wedding anniversary and I am working.”
“Congratulations on your anniversary, but could you not take the day off?”
“My husband has been on dialysis for four years now.”
“Oh, how terrible for you both.”
“But God is good, God is good. He asked me what I wanted for my anniversary and I said, nothing, I want nothing. But he gave me diamond stud earrings and a necklace. And a few years ago he gave me this ring,” and she showed me a lovely ring on her left ring finger.
“We live in Chapel Hill and four times a week, on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, I take him to dialysis. I wait there for four hours, take him home and then I go to work. I have worked here for five years.”
“That is a heavy burden for you, dear. But what is your name? I have never seen you here.”
“My name is Natalia. I work in Memory Care. God has really blessed me. My husband is a sweet man. I am happy to take him to dialysis every time, because, if I could not do that, he would not be with me any more.”
“Dear Natalia, I wish you strength to carry this burden. I wish for God’s blessings on both of you and on your marriage. And most of all I wish you a wonderful, happy anniversary today.”
“Thank you, thank you so much.”
And, looking back over her shoulder: “You made my day.”
With those words she pushed open the front door and walked through the foyer to report for work.

She had made my day too. It takes so little to make someone happy.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,



A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 6

My Adventure

As you know, I always look forward to my Sunday morning walks. They don’t serve breakfast at the Club on Sundays because of the extensive brunch later in the day, so I have some extra time for my walk. So last Sunday, after drinking some coffee from my favorite mug I put on my hiking shoes and took off. It was later than usual because I had slept in until 6:30 a.m., so I would have to cut my walk short.

Oh well, I can walk a little faster and still go all the way to the end of the neighborhood, I thought. But on the way back from the end of the neighborhood I realized I would get home too late to take a shower and catch the bus that would take us to the church on time.

The past few Sundays I had explored many of the side streets in Wimbledon; some short cul-de-sacs, some looping back to the main road. One of the cul-de-sacs had gotten my attention: Agassi Street. At the far end of it I could see to the left, through the dense vegetation, the large yellow trash container of the roofers. That container stands at the end of our street, in front of our house. Only temporarily, thank goodness. If I have not told you about the roofers I will do that soon. Hm, I thought, I can make a trail through the bushes as an escape route for the future. That sounded exciting and worth a try!

On two previous Sundays a man was washing his blue car in the street in front of his house, so I turned around and thought I would try another time to find my shortcut. He always turned his back so we never exchanged a greeting. His loss!

Living in Pasadena, where many an earthquake took place during the time we lived there, I had to know ways to get home in case earthquake damage would block the usual road. In Hilo I found a way to circumvent the mud from flash floods coming down from the mauka slopes across the highway after a big rain storm. And now, in Cary, I thought I’d better check out if there was a shortcut to my house in case of sudden rain or, like last Sunday, if I ran out of time.

There was nobody to be seen that early in the morning. In the bushes on my left I knew there was a little hide-out kids had built out of planks and sticks, with a light on a pole on the outside. That could not be a solar light, because it was dark among the trees. Perhaps it just looked like a light. I never saw any kids there though.

A few feet further it looked like there was a trail. I stepped off the road and onto the trail. Quickly, so nobody would see me. But then, nowhere does it say Do not enter or Private Property, so next time I will just disappear into the bushes at my leisure. The trail was short. At the end of it a pile of branches was stacked up across the path. No problem. I walked around it on the right, bending branches out of the way of my face, ducking underneath heavy branches, and then I looked down, because something scratched my legs and it hurt. Oops, sure enough, long, thorny blackberry branches stopped me dead in my tracks. No bending, no stepping over them, I had to go more to the side. But the damage had been done. I was wearing skorts, so both my legs were covered in bloody scratches. I should have stopped when I felt the first scratch I thought. No blood was dripping down though, so I continued, a few steps down a woodsy slope, across a rocky drain, and up another slope, and I was in our back yard! Fantastic! I did it! I found an escape route!

I touched up the bloody scratches with Mike’s shaving stick-for-cuts, and they are covered by the long skirts and pants I’m wearing. So nobody has seen them, except Mike, who was horrified, they are almost gone after ten days, and they were absolutely worth it!

The Roofers

When we moved here, they had just had a hail storm that damaged part of the roof of the main building. So the roofers came and worked long days in high temperatures to replace all the roofs of the main building. They ripped off the asphalt tiles and replaced them with new ones. What an immense job that was! It took more than three months! The rubbish was collected in a huge wooden bin that was extended to the roof with a blue crane by a man in a blue vehicle on the street. When the bin was full the man slowly drove the bin-on-the-crane all the way to our cul-de-sac and tipped it over, dumping the trash into an enormous yellow trash container, which stands in front of our house next to a portapotty. Each day, many workers are coming to our cul-de-sac, by car or on foot, to dump a variety of things in both receptacles. We were hoping they would soon be done and we would finally be able to enjoy the quiet of our front yard.

Last week the roofers had finished! We thought they would finally take the yellow trash container and the portapotty away. But then we heard that the insurance company had decided that, even though the 12 cottages did not have any hail damage, they would replace those roofs too, while they were at it. Talk about job creation! Except, Trump had nothing to do with these. So yesterday, they started on the cottages. It is noisy and messy, but everybody had to go through it, so we will go through it as well. Noises on our roof today, and it ain’t Santa Claus!

Every cloud has a silver lining, don’t you think? You just have to find it. That’s what my mother always said. Well, the yellow trash container at our front door did have several advantages. In the days after our moving truck arrived and we put all the furniture in their place, we also put our brown area rug in the center of the room, under the coffee table, where it had always been. The rug was a wedding present from Mike’s parents, 56 years ago, and had served us well. The first time our kids came to visit us in our cottage, they looked at each other and decided the rug was a tripping hazard for us: a rug on the carpet! Mike gave them the go-ahead; they lifted the coffee table and put it to the side. They rolled up the rug, and, each on one end, walked out the front door with it and hoisted it into the yellow trash container. Gone it was! Mike had been saying in Prescott already that it was time to do away with it, but I could not part with it. And now the rug is gone!

The yellow container also served as a beacon for me, to find my way home from Wimbledon.

It’s a wonderful life!

Until next time!


A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 5

Lost and Found 

We lose things around the house. It’s obvious of course, that things got put in a different place than we had them at home. First the ladies who helped us unpack put things away, and later we ourselves forgot where we put things. Anyway, most of the time, almost everything shows up again.

Some things did not get here at all, but we discovered that too late to alert the moving company. Ski poles, a tackle box with tools and a broom never showed up. And today we wondered about a medium size coffee table we had. Where did that go? Did we donate it to someone before we left? If not, we hope it found a good home somewhere in South Carolina, at the final stop of the moving truck. It’s ok, because we would not have had a place for it in our new abode anyway.

Daisy, one of the ladies at our breakfast table, lost a pair of prescription glasses three weeks ago. A real problem for her, because she does not see well, even with them. She looked everywhere, asked the housekeeper to look for her in the house, and we helped her look in the coat closet and the library. She ended up getting two sets of new prescription glasses from her ophthalmologist, but that was an expensive loss.

Last week, Daisy lost her walker. She had two walkers actually, so she could walk from her cottage to the Club for meals and physical therapy, and she could keep one at the Club. It was nowhere to be found for days; not in the coat closet, not in the office, the library, the dining room or the café. After a week she happily told us that she saw it (with the new glasses) being loaded onto a truck ready to leave with donated items for Goodwill. The driver reluctantly gave it back to her. But her name was on it, so he had to.

Laurie, a very nice lady we have not had dinner with yet, lost her wedding ring. Now that’s disastrous. Two days later, a note was put on the bulletin board across from the library that the ring had been found.

One Sunday we had brunch with David and Gloria, a wonderful couple that has been here longer than we have. When we got up, David did not find his walker. We all helped him look. “What does it look like?”
“Red and black, with large wheels. And it has my name on it.”
Gloria and I looked around the perimeters of the dining room; Mike looked outside the dining room against the wall. Then David showed up with someone else’s walker he had found (her name was on it), who was no longer in the dining room. We all assumed that she had taken David’s walker by accident, but we could easily find her apartment, so that we could switch the walkers later. Thus was decided, and David and Gloria went on their way to their fourth floor apartment. Back at the table to pick up my sunglasses, I saw a red and black walker with large wheels against the wall behind the chair David had sat on during brunch: it said DAVID on the front bar. None of us had seen it but it was there all along!

Something worse happened to Richard. One morning when he got up he could not find his teeth. He and his wife looked everywhere, in the bed, under the bed, in the bathroom and in the rest of their apartment, but the teeth were lost. Poor Richard had to have a whole new set made the next week. A good thing was that they were not his front teeth, so he could tell us about his misfortune with a smile. He even considered not to have them replaced at all, but his wife objected to that.

Worse even, Paul appeared at our table for dinner one night with one of his front teeth missing. He said it had happened before, that he had to let the spot  heal for three months and then he would get a new one implanted. A month went by, then he lost a second front tooth. Now that spot has to heal for three months, and the dentist told him he would rather wait and do them both at the same time. So Paul is starting his wait all over. But hey, you get used to everything in life if there is noting you can do about it anyway.

In the hallway is a coat closet. Coming from the cottages, we use it every day to store our hats and sunglasses. The coat closet is a small, walk-in closet. A large carton box full of lost and found clothes, a hat and a cap plus a smaller box with other items and a huge vase with imitation flowers virtually fill all the shelves, and nobody ever seemed to claim what they had lost. It  is more like a junky storage closet, and looking ahead to the winter months, more people would be using it, I thought.

So today, with the approval from management, I cleaned out the closet. I lined three of the four shelves with our leftover shelf liner, an air freshener was brought in at my request and housekeeping vacuumed the floor. Then I cataloged each item I found in the two boxes, typed up two lists, ranging from clothing to sun glasses to jewelry and a watch, and asked the office to print the lists and distribute them among the residents. They get ten days to claim their property and the rest will be donated to Goodwill. Oh, a friend offered to launder all the clothing that gets donated, so that is great for the people who get it and who may not have a washing machine.

I get to feel at home already. I belong!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 4

Traffic and Language

This area has a maze of freeways and Parkways. I don’t know if it is the same in all of North Carolina but here we have an amazing network of roads, connecting with each other to go north, south, east or west. Big loops take you from one freeway on to another, and I definitely need the navigation system in my car to find my way. If I am not driving in the right direction I am urged to make a “legal U-turn”. I should have counted how many legal U-turns I have made so far!

On the road it’s surely life in the fast lane – all lanes are fast lanes, and I must anticipate whether to take, “in a quarter mile, the next exit on the right” or “keep left”, which sometimes means “go straight”.

The voice of the navigation girl is often hard to understand, and she is very late in her announcement of when to take the next turn. But I am getting used to it. In the first week we were here, three short errands within 4 miles took us three hours, even with the help of the navigator. Now, I can get somewhere in six minutes or five; it is amazing how close we are to everything, from doctors’ offices to dentists, to nail salons and hair cutters, to Costco and Kroger, not to forget Walmart, hospitals and Urgent Care. Always with the help of the voice of my navigation girl of course.

GPS devices default to a female voice. Have you ever wondered why? I checked it out. In American history, female voices have been the radio operators. It was women who gave directions to pilots in World War II. Similarly, women have conventionally taken on the role of secretaries and communicators. As a result, all GPS systems (and Siri systems, the newest technological innovation on the market) are taking on a female voice for roles that have been traditionally female. An exception is Germany, where a BMW GPS was recalled because men refused “to take orders from a woman”. Hah!

The roads, freeways and parkways are edged by tall trees and flowering trees, and bushes; everywhere you look it’s green. It’s like you are driving through a huge park and it’s absolutely beautiful. All along the freeways, nestled between and surrounded by more green bushes and trees, totally hidden from sight, are many different neighborhoods with fancy names on stone gate posts, like Chatham Forest, Windsor Place, Hatfield Commons, Weatherstone, Lochmere and so on. Names sound British, don’t they? Could that be dating back to the British colonization of the Americas, which began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia, I wonder? Does any of you know that part of history to enlighten me?

Hidden as well behind the dense vegetation are the doctors’ offices, banks, shopping centers and other commercial buildings. The beautiful landscaping everywhere makes it extra difficult to find an address for someone new to the area, like me. “Your destination”, my navigator tells me with her sharp, staccato voice, “is ahead in 200 feet”, but it is nowhere in sight. She inconveniently does not say “it’s on your right or your left,” and all I see ahead in 200 feet is a red traffic light. But hidden among the green on the left and on the right are large shopping areas, and I have toured around in various shopping malls in town looking for “my destination” after making “legal U-turns” when the traffic light turned green.

The voice of my navigator may be sharp, at least most often I can understand what she is saying. I have more problems with the real “North Carolina language”. The very first time I called Waltonwood I could not understand the operator and I thought I had the wrong number. I dialed again, only to get the same voice uttering the same abracadabra. I apologized for dialing the wrong number again and hung up. When the same thing happened a third time, I said, “It’s me again. What exactly are you saying?”
“Good evening, this is Senior Living community Waltonwood. Whom can I connect you with?”
My gosh! I had the right number all along! We’ve lived here now for three months, and I still have a difficult time understanding the lady at the front desk; and there are others that are born and raised in North Carolina or other southern states that I have trouble understanding. So in the dining room you can frequently see me lean over to someone at the table to hear what they are saying, or asking them to repeat the question, yet I definitely do not need hearing aids; it just looks like I do! I fit right in!

Spots and Tattoos

Do you remember noticing that a brown spot or two suddenly appeared on your face, arm, or hand? It was many years ago that I saw my first spot. Beauty magazines called it liver spots or age spots and described them as “very common in adults older than 50”. Oh, but you could do something about them, they said. They sold cremes and serums which would make them fade and disappear. I tried a few of those in my heyday. I had unwanted sun spots that I had to do something about. Oh vanity! I tried to no avail, and in the course of time gave up.

In the course of time, by the way, all my sun spots were showing up, and to this day they are still multiplying. Born in the Dutch East Indies, where I lived until I was seventeen, I was “sun kissed” all over. In those days sunscreen did not exist, and even if it had been invented, the Japanese would have confiscated everybody’s supply. During my young adult life in the Netherlands, having a tan was “in”, and sunbathing in my free time, on the roof of my boarding house and on the beach during vacations, created a nice brown skin on most of my body. When I was a young mother there were bikini’s that let you tan through the thin material: does anyone remember wearing one of those, to get an all-over tan? I’d like to hear from you, just so I know I was not the only one sunbathing without protection in next-to-nothing on my 3′ x 9′ back porch! Well, in the course of time, all those little “sun kisses” have been showing up as little brown spots and bigger brown spots. But there is nothing to worry about since I know now why they are there.

Then came the day, now about four years ago, that I noticed a red spot on my arm, like a bruise. For that one I went to my dermatologist. “Your skin is getting thinner as you age, and you are bruising more easily,” he said. Nothing he could do about it, and neither could I. Except of course, as my husband tells me, move more slowly and carefully. Yeah, right! That’s easier said than done for a person like me. “Why,” I thought, “I am getting old!” Really? Really. But how old is old?

Well, let me tell you, living in a retirement community like ours, I am surrounded by people with spots and bruises and I definitely do not feel old any more! On faces, arms and hands, spots and bruises are in! Nobody worries about them, nobody tries to cover them. They would have to walk around in a tent if they wanted to cover them all, that’s how large they sometimes are. It looks almost like they are worn with pride, like tattoos, and all my worries are over. If you ever worried about age spots, I can highly recommend moving to a retirement community – soon!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time!


A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 3

Birds, Geese and a Turtle

We have gotten to know quite a few people by name now, and enjoy having dinner with different ones each night. It is interesting to hear the stories of their backgrounds, the jobs they held, the places where they have lived, the trips they have made to all parts of the world.

One of the couples we befriended is currently on safari in Africa for two weeks and we can’t wait for them to come back and show us their pictures and tell their stories.

Sometimes, when I think I know someone’s name, and see her pass, I’ll call out that name, “Hi Doris!” If she turns around and greets me in turn, I know I did remember yet another one! If she doesn’t respond it could be that she hasn’t heard me; I never know in this place if someone can hear well or not.

The water level in the pond has gone down about three feet, because of lack of rain the past two weeks, and the motor of the fountain broke down. It was only two years old, but sucked up too many algae and died. I’m hoping that, if it does not rain soon, they will add water up to the original level. So far that has not happened.

One turtle calls our pond home. At about 10 inches long, it is not highly visible, and even slower than the geese when it crosses the road, as it sometimes does, crawling up the slope from the pond across the street and across the lawn to the back of one of the cottages. I don’t know if it finds there what it is looking for, but I do know that Pete has a number of bird feeders back there, and perhaps also geese feeders, because the yellowed strip of grass across from the pond to the back of the cottage is a dead giveaway that the geese love to visit him. I saw the turtle back in the pond the next day, thank goodness. I love turtles. I fondly remember swimming behind large sea turtles and watching them, through the mask of my snorkel, slowly “fly” through the water, like birds through the air. I remember, too, the encounters I had with huge Manta Rays, in Hawai’i and Tahiti. Swimming behind one in Mauna Lani Bay, and standing among them, touching their rough, yet velvety skin, while a guide was feeding them fish. Manta Rays also move through the water like turtles, “flying”. I love elephants too, by the way. In Thailand I rode a young elephant, and later on I stood beside a four-year-old, petting her while she glanced at me with her right eye and lifted her trunk in a “thank you”. But I am sidetracking…

Here, we have geese. They are everywhere in the area. Even in shopping centers you can see them crossing the street and cars giving them the right of way. We have been told that they are protected. We sometimes hear them fly overhead from a neighboring pond with the powerful sound of their wings and unanimous cry, and watch them land en masse on ours. Two months ago they had six young trailing behind, then five. By now you can’t distinguish the little ones from the adults anymore. Ten to eighteen of them waddle across our street on their way to the food source behind Pete’s cottage, then back to stand at the edge of the pond to drink, all in a row next to each other, then slide into the water for a little grooming. No idea if the water is refreshing or not, but it will be cooler than the outside air temperature during the day.

One afternoon, looking through the window at the hummingbird feeder we hung in a tree, our new “bird tree”, I saw a little head peeking around the corner of the patio. For a second I thought it was a dog; we are allowed to keep a dog here, as long as it is small, under 40 pounds. Then I realized it was a goose, and when I ran outside, I saw five more. I clapped my hands and waved my arms to chase them away, because we love to look at the geese, but to have them on our lawn or patio is a totally different matter. Did you know that a goose poops every twelve minutes? That is five times per hour. Multiply that by six (geese) and you will get thirty 3″ long productions in one hour. Multiply that by 24 and in one day… you get the picture!

For the same reason we are not going to put out any bird feeders except for the hummingbird feeder, which was discovered on the second day. The hummingbirds here are smaller than in Prescott. Many other birds are attracted by the container of water on top of the hummingbird feeder (which serves to prevent ants from trespassing down to the sugar water). All throughout the day we see and hear many birds, small ones, large ones and even birds of prey. Last week, when we walked back to our cottage after dinner, I saw a small bird chasing a large raven that repeatedly tried to dive into a holly tree. The raven was persistent, but so was the little bird, who was protecting its nest in the tree. I could not help myself and ran towards the raven, yelling caw, caw, caw, waving my arms. I scared him and he flew away.

When I walk around the track early in the morning, I see many worms on the walkway; by the time we go to breakfast they are all gone. The few that are left dry up on the spot and will have been dragged away by ants by the time the sun goes down. We watched similar cleanups in Hawai’i and also on our deck in Prescott. I love watching nature, to a certain extent.

By the way, the six geese did not come back to check out our back yard after I chased them away.

It’s a wonderful life!

Until next time,