A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 11

Activities and More

After being here now for four months and being organized to a certain extent, I am taking the time five days a week to join a group of women and a few men for a half hour of chair fitness after breakfast, when I am still in the main building. The attraction of course is that the new trainer is 25 years old and handsome, but he does a good job and plays nice music to go with it. The fitness center and the pool, three offices of the staff and the Physical Therapy rooms are downstairs, on the first floor. A long, winding stairway takes you down from the hallway of the second floor, or you can take the elevator. That elevator must be the slowest in all of Cary. No, I am saying it wrong, because at one of the other facilities that we checked out there was a really slow elevator – weird, in a building that is four years newer than ours. The elevator in our building is slow because it seems to be always in use. Everybody uses it to go down to the first floor and up to the third and fourth. Whether people go up to their apartment or down for breakfast, dinner, a movie, a game, entertainment, the library, Physical Therapy or the salon where they cut hair and do nails, 98% of the Residents use that elevator. Outside the elevator doors, on every floor, is a small sofa, so you can sit down when you have to wait. Many people are slow getting in or out because of walkers or canes, or just because they are not in a hurry.

Nobody here is in a hurry; only I walk fast through the halls compared to everybody else, yet that is my regular pace. In time I will slow down I guess, because once, in our home, I injured my arm when I dashed from the kitchen to the hallway, taking a shortcut. The sharp corner of the wall cut an inch into my skin; I flipped it right back, but it took a while to heal. I sometimes injure my arms on sharp cabinet doors, and recently scratched my leg as well when I attached a new garden hose to the Hose Bibb in the side wall of our cottage and dragged it around the front to our front porch, pulling it through the bushes and ducking underneath tree branches. It was worth it though, because I left the water on and can easily water the three potted plants by our front door every morning before the sun is up. But I realize that at my age I have to move slower, I should not crawl through sharp-leafed bushes or make my way to the nextdoor neighborhood other than along the beaten path, being the sidewalks. But I love all those things I am doing! Let me tell you about another recent discovery.

I had noticed that the last house in the cul-de-sac of Agassi street in Wimbledon had a tall wooden fence running along the left side. When I looked on a Google Map, I saw that that house is the last one on this side of the “lake”, the pond that is at least six times as large as our small pond. Hm, if I walk along that fence (outside of the private property), I think I will get to the lawn at the top of the lake. And when I cross that lawn I will get to the trail, my greenway. And so, one late afternoon after dinner, I cut through the trees from our property to Agassi Street, stayed off the pavement and continued on the left side of the brown fence. There was also the little stream, a ditch, rather, with slow running water. Hm, wherever that water comes from, it might just end up in the lake. Nobody had ever walked where I walked that afternoon, that is after the fence was built, and there were plenty of things to get scratched by, but I ended up victoriously on the green meadow with just one gash on my left leg. (The fitness trainer noticed it during stretching the next day and asked if the cat had scratched me, but I did not tell him my secret.) In the lake, a turtle was basking in the late after noon sun on a log floating in the water. What a sight! I am learning to use my iPhone, and I took a picture, but it is a little blurry.

I returned home along the greenway, past the Little Free Library, the swimming pool and the tennis courts. Mind you, I walk not only because I like it and have the time for it, but also to get the 10,000 + steps measured on my Fitbit. So I need to take the long way and will save shortcuts for emergencies. But it’s good to know how to get home quickly from Wimbledon when I need to.

The neighborhood rejoiced yesterday because the last leftover evidence of the re-roofing job, the Port-a-Potty, was finally picked up; last week they removed the huge yellow trash container as well as the large blue crane, all parked at the end of our cul-de-sac in front of our cottage. So now we have a peaceful street with grass and tall trees to come home to, and visitors can park their car.


The past two hurricanes, Harvey and Irma have created anguish and despair, total destruction, mandatory evacuations, pain and sorrow. We watched the paths of the hurricanes, hoping they would veer off to the east, but they made landfall and destroyed life and properties. It was terrible to watch; we could only help a little by making donations to local charities, who would put them to good use. But something like that does not really touch you deeply. Only when you are in the midst of it do you undergo the crushing reality, the destructive force of nature. When we heard that friends or relatives in the affected areas went back to their homes after the evacuation to find everything still in place, we breathed a sigh of relief and went on with our lives.

But then we were confronted with two evacuees, a father and his six year old daughter, who had lost all after Irma hit Key West, where they lived. I met Kevin outside the dining room one day, introduced myself and heard his sad story. A single father and his little girl, they were ordered to evacuate when Irma approached. Kevin was a Chef at a local Resort and Lilly was about to start Kindergarten. In a hurry, Kevin filled two suitcases, mainly with clothes and Lilly’s things, and then they drove to the shelter, where they stayed for five days. In those five days they lost everything they owned. The car, the house, their possessions and his job. And so, in desperation, they took a Greyhound bus to Cary, where his parents are Residents in Waltonwood. They were offered the guest suite for five days, and in the mean time Kevin looked for a school for his little girl. “She has missed two weeks already,” he said to me, “she has to go back to school.”
“Will you go back to Key West when you get things in order?”
“Oh yes.”
“To live?”
” Yes, my boss told me I will get my job back. I am the Chef, and after they have restored the Resort he hopes to open by Christmas, maybe even at Thanksgiving.”

They were homeless. A casualty of the hurricane, hitting close to home. A local Charity found them a motel room to stay in, Lilly went to school and loved it, and Grandma and Grandpa helped out when driving was involved to and from the motel, the school and business offices. One night Kevin called them with the worst news. On top of everything else he had lost his job. The Resort in Key West had incurred too much damage to be restored. It would be torn down and rebuilt, and that would take at least three years. We don’t know the end of the story; perhaps they are going to stay in Cary and start over. They have not lost hope. Anything now will be a change for the better.

How blessed we feel. We are still together, have a home and a car and live in a safe community.

It’s a wonderful world.

Until next time!


A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 10

Sunshine and Rainbows

Sixty-some years ago September must have been the month for weddings! Five couples celebrated their wedding anniversary this month, fifty, sixty-one, sixty-two, another sixty-two, and sixty-five years. Family members came over for the celebrations, delicious cakes were shared, champagne flowed in stem  glasses, one couple was honored with a concert in the Café, flowers and balloons were everywhere. Happy faces and smiles, hugs and pats on the shoulders made for many wonderful moments. All those people are in their eighties and early nineties, can you imagine?

A single red rose in a vase with baby’s breath stood on the front desk when we arrived for breakfast one morning. In front of it was a picture of Hilda. Small, framed pictures of residents are everywhere in the Club, usually celebrating an occasion, a visit with family or attending an event. Hilda had an aide by her side in the picture on the front desk. They were both smiling and she looked lovely. But why the rose? “Hilda has died.” Disbelief. Hilda had died? There was only one Hilda. She looked like there was nothing wrong with her. When we shared a table of seven for dinner occasionally, she would say the blessing before each meal; her husband was a minister and after he had passed away Hilda took over saying grace.

At the front desk they do not say anything when calamities happen, honoring the privacy of the residents. Only close friends or neighbors on the same floor who may have come to the rescue or may have talked to a relative will know more. At the breakfast table we heard that the previous night Hilda had gone to the hospital; that she probably had had a massive heart attack and died. It was so sudden. No time to say goodbye. But then, was this not the best thing for Hilda? No long, lingering illness, just a quick crossing over to the forever world. We will miss her, even though our lives had touched only for a few months.

Life goes on. Newcomers arrive, quite a few couples have joined our community. One couple, and one neighbor from one of the cottages across the street from us, have moved to Assisted Living. The Assisted Living community is in the same building, just on the other side of the doors next to the dining room. The interior decoration is similar to our side of the doors, so moving there does not feel like a big move. There is a similar dining room, similar one or two bedroom apartments and studios, a library smaller than ours, a movie theatre and more. Anyone from Independent Living can go and visit, but residents from Assisted Living need to be accompanied by an aide if they want to come over here or if they want to go for a walk outside; all for their own safety. It makes sense: being in Assisted Living means that you need more help, but you can go on living!

Many people, even here in Independent Living, wear a Medical Alert Device that can also be worn in the shower. When someone needs help and presses the button, help is on the way almost immediately. We each have one of those devices, but keep them in a drawer for the time being. It’s a great feeling that we don’t need them yet. Ha! That reminds me of my Mamma, who lived alone in her own home in the Netherlands. When she was 97, then 98, the doctor found it necessary to give her one of those Medical Alert Devices. She decided that she did not need to wear it all day, so she hung it on a hook in the kitchen. It was there all day and all night, and every day and every night. Until I came to visit, twice a year, and said, “Let’s test it Mamma, I want to know what happens when you press the button.”

Once in a while we notice an EMS car (Emergency Medical Services) stopping at the front door. Men come in with a gurney and take a right turn to the elevator. Twenty or so minutes later, they return with the empty gurney and leave again through the front door. It is very reassuring and makes us feel safe at all times. Because you never know what is going to happen, and you know that help is there when you need it.

We had another celebration: Jennifer, one of the ladies at our breakfast table, turned 99. Three balloons rose from her wheelchair when she came in that morning, and the Club had arranged for 99 balloons to decorate the Café for the celebration that afternoon and evening. Jennifer’s motto is: whatever I can do by myself I will do, as long as I can. And another one: I have always brushed my teeth after every meal, that’s why I still have them all! Something my own Mamma was very proud of, that she still had her own teeth. I wonder what happened to the 99 balloons. The next day they were gone. I am sure nobody popped all 99 of them, but where do you go with 99 balloons overnight? I would have let them loose in the tower over the center of the dining room, and then one by one, they would have come sailing down for the next few days.

Last night, Dina came in with sad news: “Henry has died.” Another totally unexpected death in our Waltonwood family. Henry was one of the first people we met when we came here. He used to sit in the library at a square table, working on a puzzle. The box with the picture against the wall across from him, he laid out the 1000 or more pieces in front of him on the table and one by one added the pieces until the whole picture was complete. It did not take him long, and a day or two after everyone had been able to take a look at his creation he started a new puzzle. The most beautiful pictures, the most difficult puzzles. Where he got that many puzzles I can no longer ask him now, but in the future, when I have a lot of time on my hands, I would love to sit at the puzzle table in the library and spend some time each day. We will miss Henry.

As we are getting to know more people we’re getting familiar with many of their ailments, because many of them like to share what’s wrong with them. And so, I am thankful for good ears and good eyes; for a straight spine and feet that can walk a few miles each day; for many new people we get to know and new friends we are making; for the opportunities to help others less fortunate in small ways; for each healthy and happy day and for the beauty that surrounds us in God’s world.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 9

A Little Free Library

In this area, all around Cary, there are “greenways”, paved trails in between neighborhoods, sometimes crossing high over a freeway, sometimes with a playground on the side. They are wonderful recreational paths for hikers and bikers (or should I say bicyclers, because I know a “biker” is something else!), for dog walkers and families with children. We have joined our family several times in the past on one of the greenways. I even tried to ride my daughter-in-law’s bike once, no twice. Because you never forget how to ride a bike. Right? Wrong! I mounted with verve, but then, when I had to pass someone on the trail, I got scared, so I called out, “Be careful, I am coming up behind you, I’m passing on the left and I don’t know how to brake.” Well, I knew how to brake, but I seemed to be going so fast, that I was not sure if I could keep my balance in passing. Anyway, greenways are wonderful, shady and green.

My Sunday morning walks in Wimbledon, the neighborhood next to ours, were getting sort of routine, walking along the streets, until… I saw a woman walking on the other side of the large pond one day. Hm, I would love to walk around the lake, but how do I get there? The “lake”, as I call the largest pond, is somewhere behind the Wimbledon Clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming pool. On one side, large homes flank its shores but on the other side there must be a path. So I descended the steps to the tennis court, walked to the end of the path, past the swimming pool and then I saw a paved trail going to the left. That’s it! I’m going to see where it leads.

There were signs saying “No Entry between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.”, but that was all, and it was past 6 a.m. So I turned left and walked through wonderful greenery and tall trees: I had found my own greenway! After a while, there was the lake to my left, with the refreshing fountain, sparkling in the early morning sunlight. I could not go around the lake: the path curved to the right and continued in the same way, green, shady and lush, with here and there up on the hill the back of a house, or down on my left stone steps to another. And then I saw it: a Little Free Library! I had seen one at the airport in Cape Town, South Africa, but did not know much about it, so I looked it up.

The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisconsin. He mounted a wooden container designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse on a post on his lawn and filled it with books as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher. Bol shared his idea with his partner, Rick Brooks, and the idea spread rapidly, soon becoming a “global sensation”. Little Free Library officially incorporated on May 16, 2012, and the Internal Revenue Service recognized Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the same year. The original goal was the creation of 2,150 Little Libraries, which would surpass the number of libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. As of November 2016, there were 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide. The Little Free Library nonprofit has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Library of Congress, Library Journal, and others for its work promoting literacy and a love of reading. Margret Aldrich wrote The Little Free Library Book to chronicle the movement.

How interesting that I now found one along my own greenway! It was full of books and had a note on it that explained its purpose. I was delighted. Now I have a place to go with all the books after I have read them. There are quite a few books in our bookcase that have been there for ages but that I have not read yet – do you have such a collection too? I could not part with them and decided I would read them when I was retired. Really retired. I’m not in that state of mind yet, but I have just finished a book that will be my first contribution to the Wimbledon Little Free Library.

As I continued on my path, I eventually came to a street. And I discovered I was lost. Thank goodness I saw a young woman walking her dog, so I asked her the way to Coorsdale Drive. She had to think for a few minutes. Oh dear, how far from home am I? But then she told me to take a right. So I did. That right turn led me to another street, but not to the one I wanted. So I turned right again: that was a cul-de-sac. Back to the first street. I was now in the wine district: Beaujolais street, Merlot Court, Zinfandel Lane. They were all dead-end streets! Finally, after I don’t know how many right turns and U-turns I found myself at the McEnroe traffic circle. Great! That was the good news.

The bad news was that the McEnroe Traffic circle is at the very end of the neighborhood, and a long way from home. So I walked faster, ran a few minutes (good for my metabolism), walked fast again, sipped some water, walked, and realized I would never get home in time to take a shower and get to the bus which would take me to the church in time!

So when Agassi Court came in sight, I did not hesitate a minute. I crossed the street, walked to the end of the cul-de-sac, and, with nobody in sight I stepped off the pavement and onto my private trail. This time the sun was out, so I could see better where I was going. I moved more to the right, stepped along a narrow ditch with water running in it, and then noticed a piece of barbed wire sticking up and down in the dirt. I could not pull it up or move it to the side. A trap! What else could it be? Who had put it there? Was it a remnant of a fence? Had I not seen it, I could have tripped, rip open my foot and fallen flat on my face. But I screened the area better this time, thinking also of the possibility of poison oak; and next time I will be even more sure footed than this time. I continued down the slope, across the rocks and up the other slope and I was home! I did get to the church in time!

I am not allergic to poison oak by the way. At least, I don’t think so. When we first emigrated to Pasadena, California, I cut arms full of beautiful oak leaves growing by bushes in the gully next to our house and put them in a large vase next to the fireplace. The insurance agent who came to our house to discuss life insurance was aghast. “That is poison oak!” he exclaimed. I had never heard of poison oak, and thought the fall bouquet was lovely next to our pumpkin colored couch. But when I heard the story I thought I’d better not be picking oak leaves again in the fall. Why tempt fate?

It’s a wonderful life!

Until next time




A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 8

Dear friends,

Many of you will have received this blogpost four days ago. That was when I was editing it and pressed the wrong button, instead of Schedule I pushed Publish. So, here it is again, edited and changed a little, and if you want to leave me a comment at the bottom then I can see if the Comment section works. Thank you for your understanding!

The Ring

Before we left Prescott, we sold a few things on Craigslist. That sounds easier than it was, because I had to re-list every item several times before it found an interested buyer. But we were happy to know that everything we sold found a good home. There was one item that I could not sell. It was a beautiful, exquisite ring that used to belong to my mother-in-law. It was an18K gold crown with a diamond on top, the edge set with 8 emeralds. I had it resized at the time, and wore it on special occasions. But as my fingers grew thinner – yes, that came with age – the crown became top heavy and so I kept it in my jewelry box. Placed on Craigslist.org, I had several scammers who wanted to know my address so they could send a check, and as soon as I had cashed it, they would send someone to pick up the ring. Or, they wanted to have my PayPal information so they could deposit the money plus $200 (how generous!) for insured shipping. But when I asked where to ship it to, seeing that their area code was one of Texas, the communication stopped.

In North Carolina I posted the ring on Craigslist again. After deleting a few scam offers, an unbelievable chain of events followed. Someone sent me the following email:
“Interested in the crown ring, please call or text 316-…….. My name is Josh, thanks.”
Now, for your information, I can see the person’s name in Craigslist messages, but his email address remains unknown to me. The “buyer” on the other hand can’t see my name, but only gets the Craigslist email link. Following is the correspondence that took place.

“Josh, where are you located? Area code 316 does not sound anywhere close to Raleigh Durham.”
“Just moved here from Kansas. I’d like to meet at a local jeweler in Raleigh if that works.”
Hm. Yes, it is a Kansas area code. But I don’t know my way around in Raleigh yet, and it’s quite far, so that’s not a good idea.
“We could meet at a jeweler, but in Cary if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, how about Plaza West Jewelry and Loan at 3pm?”
Hm. I googled it and it is a Jeweler/Pawn shop in a so-so looking neighborhood, not such a good place. Let me find another jeweler on a street I know.
“No, 3 p.m. today won’t work because I just got home, just got your message and it’s already 2:30 p.m. How about meeting at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, Friday at J.M Edwards Jewelry, at 1137 Kildare Farm Road?”
“Sure, that’s fine. What will you be driving? I’ll be in a red scooter.”
A red scooter? What kind of a guy in a red scooter, who just moved here from Kansas can afford such an expensive ring? I don’t want to give away what kind of car I’m in, so I say nothing for a while. My son had told me that there are safe places in town that are electronically supervised 24 hours a day. Google told me that people sometimes make safe trades in the lobby of the Police Department. That’s a good idea.
“Josh, I don’t know you and my ring is precious, so I want to be safe. I can make it tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m., but I want to meet in the lobby of the Cary police department at 120 Wilkinson Avenue. If you are serious, please bring cash. We can make the exchange in the lobby. People do that all the time here. If you want a local jeweler’s appraisal, I can bring that for you.”
“That’s fine, don’t worry about an appraisal. I just wanted to know how much it weighs. I’ll bring a ring to compare it to.”

There were places in Prescott where they bought gold, including jewelry, for melting purposes. But you didn’t get a lot of money for it, and if it is beautiful jewelry, it should find a good home instead of landing in a melting pot! I did sell one of my own 14K gold crowns once, which our dentist was replacing with a porcelain crown. When I asked him what he was going to do with my crown, he said, “It makes for a nice Christmas present.” Yeah, right! I had found out that it had melting value, so I held out my hand and said, “I’ll take it, thank you.” That crown brought $60. Nice Christmas present indeed!

“My ring weighs 10 g. But that’s including the diamond and emeralds of course. I do hope he is not going to melt it! So are we still meeting tomorrow  morning? Are you still interested?”
“Oh yes, I will be in the lobby at 10:30.”
The next day I found my way to the Police Office, parked and went inside. When I stated the purpose of my visit, a female officer told me about two electronically supervised “Swap Spots” in the parking lot and asked if I wanted an officer to accompany me there. Yes, that would be nice. So a nice young officer, sipping coffee (or water) from a tall mug, and I talked for a while in the lobby, and he said that if a buyer is willing to come to the police station he is usually trustworthy. But nothing happened. We waited fifteen minutes, no Josh. The officer walked me to my car, showed me the “Swap Spots” for the future, and left. I went home, very disappointed in someone who had sounded honest but had not kept his promise. Can’t you believe anyone anymore?

Now I have to tell you that I recently got a small iPhone from our son, but I’m still learning how to use it; as it was, I could not open texts or send any. Back home, I found three messages on my computer from Josh.
“I will be ten minutes late.”
“GPS says I’m still 20 minutes out. Sorry, had to scooter in from Zebulon and misestimated time.”
“I’m here. Where are you?”
My goodness! Was he to be trusted after all? Everything he said sounded strange, but it all seemed to be true.
“I’m walking to a local restaurant for lunch. If you are not here when I get back I will leave.”
I’d better call him now.
“Josh, I’m sorry we missed each other. I can’t get mail or texts when I’m out, so did not get your messages. I gave you 15 minutes grace time, then I left.”
“I am sorry Ma’am. Are you willing to come back? I will read a book while I wait.”
“Listen Josh, I went out of my way. I even went to a jeweler, to get an appraisal of the retail value of my ring. I am willing to come back but only if you stand there with $550 in cash, so we can make a quick trade. If you agree, I will meet you in the parking lot behind the police department in one of two “Swap Spots” in exactly fifteen minutes.”
“All right, I will be there. I only have twenties. Will you bring a ten so I can give you five hundred and sixty?”
It all seemed stranger still. A man in a red scooter, reading a book while waiting for me, cash in hand to pay for an expensive ring. When I parked in one of the “Swap Spots” I saw him sitting on the curb in the other spot, reading a book, a helmet hanging from the saddle of a small red scooter.
“Hello, are you the lady with the ring?”
“I am. He looks nice. Here it is. what are you going to do with it?”
“I am going to wear it.”
You are going to wear it?”
“Yes. I am a chess player and I believe that wearing precious stones close to your body will give you extra power and insight in things. In other words it will make me a better chess player.” He tried it on several of his fingers but it looked like it would not fit and I was afraid he would give it back to me – after all we had gone through! But he put it back in the box, gave it to me, opened his wallet and started counting. In twenties. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty, one hundred….Five hundred, five hundred twenty, then he had no more. He turned his wallet inside out. Nothing other than a few cards.
“Well, let’s go to the nearest ATM.”
“My card does not work because I just moved here. And I had to get some gas for my scooter.”
Hm. Thirty dollars short. I waited and thought about it. He was standing across from me and suddenly said, “If you come to my restaurant I will give you thirty dollars worth of food.”
“Your restaurant? Where is your restaurant?”
“In Raleigh. Wait.”
He walked to the curb, picked up his book and got a card out with pictures of a restaurant, menu, and a coupon.
“Don’t mind the coupon. When you come you can choose anything from the menu and I’ll make it for you. I am the chef.”
You are the chef of this restaurant? He seems too young to be a chef! Ah, you have a French name, Josh Soutiere. Mais oui! C’est votre restaurant?” He nodded.
“Well, here is the ring. I don’t know if I will come to your restaurant. We’ll see. What are you reading there?”
“A novel about World War One.” And he showed me a thick book with yellowed pages in which the card of his restaurant had served as a book marker. One surprise after another. Could it get any crazier? He was reading a novel about World War One! Perhaps he would like to know about World War Two as well. I pulled my business card out of my wallet and told him he might be interested in looking at my website. I wished him well with his future chess games, he thanked me, put on his helmet, “I’d better get back to work,” and drove away on his little red scooter. I thought I would never see him again.

But then, on August 15, when I did my Presentation in the Waltonwood Theatre, someone in the audience asked whether my mother lost any jewelry during the Japanese occupation. I answered that my mom had hidden her ring and bracelet, and the Japanese had never found them. My goodness, that must be Josh Soutiere! Referring to jewelry, to get my attention and let me know he was there.

Afterwards, he came to the table where I was signing books. He bought two books and paid $30. Thirty dollars! He lingered until everyone was gone and Mike came in to help me clean up. Josh showed us his right hand, with on the ring finger Mike’s mother’s crown ring.

It all was completely unbelievable, but I had met a very honest person and I can say again, “I believe in the goodness of people.”

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time!