A New Life! Retirement at its Best 75

A Bitter Pill to swallow

Rejections. No one’s life is without rejections. Or am I wrong? During my 18 years in Pasadena, California, during the time I worked in modeling and acting, the rejections were many. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” was the word. Every rejection stung a bit: I was not good enough for the job. Eventually, I got used to it and focused on the successes instead.

Then, in 1992, a publisher in Canada published my first book, In the Shadow of the Sun. It was based on my mother’s secret camp diary, which I translated when I got it in 1985. It was the first book in North America in the English language about women and children’s camps in Southeast Asia under Japanese oppression. That was a happy time, after several rejections by American publishers.

More books followed after I did more research, and I am proud of what I have accomplished, culminating in the Audiobook of Rising from the Shadow of the Sun in 2018. I hope you have read my book or listened to my audiobook. And I hope you have written a review and put it on Amazon. If you didn’t, you can still do it! Reviews mean a lot to me. Of course my dream was to have a movie made, and I tried, but could not reach any producers – agents are always blocking the road to the famous. So I had to give up that dream. These days I am a Keynote Speaker with a very interesting presentation. The next presentation coming up is for OLLI, at NCSU. It is basically word of mouth that gets me new presentations, and I am happy that I can continue to tell my mother’s story to members of Service groups, churches, Senior centers, book groups, schools and so on, in the area where I live, for audiences large and small.

When an author in Canada published a book with parallel stories of her parents, her Dad (whom I met in 1995 on the Missouri) under the Japanese, her Mom under the Germans, I put it on my website under Other Books. The more survivor stories about those years in WWII, the better! Then, when she was planning to travel to Florida for a presentation, I suggested I would join her and we could present our stories together. She wrote, No. My manager will not allow it. That shocked me deeply, especially when during the following months the news spread that a movie was in the making. She had reached the ultimate dream of any writer – with the help of a manager and a publicist and more. She had a platform before she started the book, she is a motivational speaker in Canada. But she did not want to have any competition whatsoever. Competition? I wanted to join forces. Ours were parallel stories in my book!

It still makes me feel extremely sad. Not only because her book will be a movie soon, and not because my book is a less important story, but because of the fact that I could not reach that goal between 1992 and 2019. I simply could not afford to hire managers to help me do it. It will take time to get over this, I’m sure. It hurts.

Since 1985, I have worked hard to get to where I am: 5 published books and one of those an audiobook. And an interview with CHINA TV in Washington comparing my book with Unbroken. I wish I had all the reviews that Unbroken came up with!

Yet, I did my very best, and my very best should be good enough. Mamma would say, so on we go!

It’s a wonderful Life!

Until next time,




A New Life! Retirement at its Best 74

Pilates: It ain’t what it used to be!

The Pilates Studios now show an assortment of machines and contraptions called Barrels, Cadillacs, Reformers, Tower Systems, and more. I could not find any Pilates classes here in Cary where you simply work out on a Pilates mat, with just your body. I loved Pilates. First, when we lived in Onomea, on the Big Island, I watched a girl do yoga on the beach. It was so gracious and beautiful that I immediately went to look for and found Yoga classes and I enjoyed them for nine years or so. Then, in Hassayampa, Prescott, where we lived, the Club offered Yoga classes and Pilates classes as well. I did both for a while and decided I liked 75% of Pilates and 25% of Yoga. Two weeks ago they offered a class in chair yoga here. Sadly, I could not make it, because I had to be in Raleigh. Hopefully they will be continued soon. If you look at it, Pilates classes are not for this facility. The people are too old. I don’t know how few of them can get up from the floor if they fall, let alone sit down and lie down to do exercises on a mat.

Memorial Service for Onno

There was no news at the front desk for quite a while about a memorial service for Onno. But I knew that there was going to be one that Sunday coming up at his church, so I texted his daughter and asked if I could put together a flyer to post in Independent Living and in Assisted Living and have it circulated. She gladly accepted and the announcement was posted with a picture of Onno, playing his accordion. The service was held in his beautiful church on Sunday, and Caroline had found an accordion player to play Amazing Grace. Onno contributed a lot of joy during the two years that he and Jane lived at Waltonwood. He and his group were invited to play at Carnegie Hall twice in his earlier years. He knew many songs by heart and often played for us, encouraging us to sing along.

Then Waltonwood announced there would be a Celebration of Life for Onno and a reception to follow on Tuesday. But they neglected to tell his daughter so she could not take off work at the last minute. That was sad. Nevertheless, the room was filled to capacity, John took pictures which I later texted to Caroline, and several people spoke about their fond memories of Onno. On the table in the front of the room was a handsome picture of Onno. The refreshments table afterwards was visited by all.

A Chocolate Social

On Wednesday afternoon last week the Club organized a Chocolate Social in the Café. Being from the Netherlands and the Indies before that, I was not familiar with an event called Social. I thought that the pastry chef would whip up some special chocolate creations for us to observe and taste. But no, when I got to the Café, the whole counter was filled with all kinds of chocolate treats, from M&Ms to cookies to cup cakes to brownies, and chocolate milk to drink. The popcorn machine cranked out piles of popcorn, which the Activities Director put in little bags for us. I will have to walk many miles to take off all the calories! It was nice to talk to some of the people there, and the chocolates were delicious, a foretaste of Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day: Renewing of the Vows  

The Renewing of the Vows Ceremony took place in the dining room, Richard officiating. The nicely set tables featured a round vase with a red rose and baby’s breath as a centerpiece. Heart shaped balloons were everywhere. Management officials from various locations were present and took pictures of the handsomely dressed men and pretty ladies, and WRAL photographers filmed and interviewed several couples for the Television News that night. We were the ones with the fewest years of marriage (and we thought  we were up there with our 58 years!) The winning couple will reach 70 years of marriage next May. By looking at these numbers you can figure out that most everyone here is in their late eighties and nineties! Pictures of all the participating couples rotated on a large screen in the front of the room. At the reception after the ceremony they served a smorgasbord of finger foods, including cucumber sandwiches, which nobody had ever heard of before. Except I, of course; I had them often when I was an Au Pair with a family in England.

A festive dinner concluded the day with a choice of Duck or Striped Bass as the entree, Ganache pie for dessert and three kinds of wine served from the bottle, not from a box like they do at Happy Hour on Fridays. The bottle stayed on the table and we could take home what we had not finished. A generous gesture, which looked more generous than it actually was, because the four of us almost finished the bottle during dinner. But we appreciated the gesture.

A Milestone!

Today, our million dollar Doodle baby is six months old. She weighs 15 pounds and is a lot of fun to watch, to play with, and to cuddle. She is starting to walk better on the leash. We got a new harness and I’m looking forward to trying it on and going on a long walk with her. The first harness looked like it could snap any time, come out of the stitches that is, so I returned it to the store and ordered one on Amazon.

It’s that time of year again! We purchased Turbo Tax last week and have started preparing our return. We have prepared our taxes together for many years. It involves about ten days of team work for a few hours a day with many frowns, sighs, back tracking, surprises and smiles, when we had filed successfully for another year. This year, we were in for a big surprise. The tax laws have changed, in our favor! We are now waiting for the year end statements to come in the mail. By next week we’ll be able to file!
It’s a Wonderful Life!
Until next time,

A New Life! Retirement at its Best 73


A big smile crossed my face when I walked into Trader Joe’s today. At the foot of the display table across the entrance I saw two buckets full of daffodils! Although the cut poinsettias on our side table are going into their third week, still looking good, I could not resist the temptation and bought two bunches: the first sign of spring! I noticed them as well the following day, walking on the trail in Wimbledon.

I so love arranging flowers. I still have a collection of vases, in various  sizes. My flower arranging really took off when we were living on the Big Island, with its abundance of flowers. I arranged large bouquets for our home and for church as well. In the jungle around our home I would pick various types of heliconia, monstera leaves and more, growing everywhere in the wild. For calathea flowers and a different variety of heliconias I had to go down a steep slope at the bottom of our property. Sometimes slippery due to the frequent rains in the Hilo area, the trail led down to a small stream. It was dark down below, and quiet except for the soft sounds of the cascading water. Shortly after we moved to the Big Island in 1990, I cut that trail through the jungly bushes down to the stream, because I had dreamed that I could sit in a chair by our stream and read books! Ha! It appeared to be a mosquitoes’ paradise! Even though I achieved some immunity for mosquitoes over the years, I always wore long pants and long sleeved shirts when I descended into the jungle. And I was not carrying a book but a machete and heavy duty clippers. Many flower stalks in Hawai’i are very large and I came home sometimes with just two or three heliconias over my shoulder. If you have not actually lived there, I don’t think you can have any idea of the beautiful delights of the thousands of varieties of flowers on the Big Island.

Now back to reality in Cary. I took a small vase with one of the bouquets of daffodils to a couple in Assisted Living with the joyous message of the coming of Spring. The other bouquet stands on our coffee table. You know, I still have the habit of buying two of everything. It dates back to my camp years I think, when everything was scarce and we never knew if we could get another pair of shoes, or socks, or underwear, or any kind of food. What a delight, what a privilege to now have so much of everything that we can share abundantly. If I buy two pairs of shoes, I will give one older pair, which I have not worn in a long time, away, and I do that with everything. If you figure it out, my possessions still grow!

So once in a while I go through all our closets and cupboards and fill some bags with things we don’t need any more. Our young housekeeper who comes twice a month has a large family and she will happily take everything I put in the garage. Now, if it concerns two boxes of Oreo cookies, or chocolate chip cookies, we usually keep them all. I like to be prepared for visits from the three grandkids, who will happily, over time of course, empty our cookie jar.

Loose Leash training

Lani is home after her stitches have healed, her donut came off and she had a nice bath at the Vet, and I started walking her on her new harness again. It is a struggle to put it on her, because she is wriggling in all directions, but I will get better at it over time. She is not pulling so hard any more, and last evening – it was still light when we came home from dinner – she was so good! Looking over her shoulder at me, sitting down, then walking next to me, that she got treat after treat, and I took her on an extra round around the pond. Well, all those treats and fast walking two hours before her bedtime did her no good. When she heard us getting up this morning the started barking and when I switched on the lights I saw she had thrown up all the treats from the night before. Poor thing, there was just a small dry area left on her pad to sit. Halfway through the morning the pad was clean and dry again and I had learned another lesson in caring for our puppy. Now, she has periods that she lays at our feet, or between us, quietly watching or sound asleep. She is going to be a model companion! Our million dollar Goldendoodle, Lani.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 72

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Everybody has a story, but if you live life on the surface and never make deeper connections, you will miss out on many of those stories. This week I decided to visit Jayne. She lives in Independent Living and has been here perhaps two months. She has a 24 hour caregiver and is on oxygen 24/7. She was one of those women that make you think why does she not live in Assisted Living? Very skinny, not very well dressed, with hair that stood out in bunches in several directions. One night, she was seated at our table of seven and we had the opportunity to talk to her and listen to her and hear part of her story. She sounded so interesting that I could not help thinking that I would want to visit her to get to know her better and hear her full story, and perhaps fix her hair. I have washed and styled patients’ hair when I was a Hospice Volunteer, so I knew I could do that for her.

Well, after meeting one of her sons and one grandson at brunch last Sunday, I was even more impressed about the whole family and I called her to see when I could visit. She had said she would like to see my mother’s diary, because she had my book on her Kindle, so I took that with me on Thursday afternoon to show it to her. What an interesting life this little Jayne has had. She once owned a Travel agency, was married to the love of her life for 65 years, and then Lung Cancer attacked her lungs – even though she had never smoked. Three quarters of one of her lungs were taken out, but the cancer has returned, though growing slowly, and only in her lungs. I won’t mention the other things that she is suffering from, but it is a burden that is almost too heavy to carry. The small container she carries with her to the dining room contains compressed air, not oxygen, as I thought. Because the one with oxygen is too heavy for her to carry. So she only has a limited time to breathe when she is away from her room. She has a very old miniature poodle to keep her company, for which she has two dog walkers, and every available surface in her apartment displays family pictures. We enjoyed our time together and I promised I would visit again. Her hair looked better, she just had it cut downstairs at the hairdresser’s. What she said made a deep impression on me. “I don’t care how I look. I don’t care what people think about me. I have other things that are more important to think about.” And indeed, when there are so many things wrong with you, when you feel miserable, when you have to breathe through tubes and you are on Hospice Care because you don’t have a long time to live anymore, I can understand that you don’t care how you look, only how you feel. She was happy with the small tube of fragrant hand cream I gave her, one of six I had received at Christmas. It is easy to share if you have so much.


Meanwhile, I have been texting with Onno’s daughter and the news was not good. After intensive care Onno went to Hospice and did not regain consciousness. My plan to be with him on Saturday to give his daughter some respite could not be accomplished. Caroline texted me that he passed away early Friday night. God knows what’s best for us, but that is not always easy to accept.

I found out in the process that if I make time available for others, things can run out of hand! It is a delight to visit with people and listen to their stories; but it is like everything I do, I need to limit my desire to go in all different directions and forget about the most important reason for living here: Mike and Lani and the de Jong family. All five de Jong descended on us Monday night, as a surprise, to celebrate with us the final hour of the sixteen year old’s birthday. That was wonderful, and that’s one of the reasons we moved to Cary.

Guy Cowan Willis

I trust that all of you have read my Anthology Survivors of WWII in the Pacific. Do you remember that I interviewed four WWII Veterans, living in Prescott? Two of them died in the mean time; one fell out of bed and broke his hip and surgery was not possible; another one committed suicide. But two of them are still alive in Prescott, and one of them surprised me with a gift. His name is Guy Cowan Willis. There are several Guys and Maries and Marys and Glorias and Bobs and Johns and Bills living here, but only one Guy and one Mike and one Ronny) and he was involved for 20 years in the Bomb Testing Business, starting in New Mexico where he lived. He sent me his recent book (only published for family and friends) Atomic Bomb Testing – The first Twenty Years – 1945-1965. He published this book at the age of 91. It is amazing and interesting, full of maps and beautiful large pictures. Glancing through it, I remembered many of the names he talked to me about before and during his interview for my Anthology. Now, I have them all in writing and can follow the chronological continuing development of the Atomic bombs after Little Boy and Fat Man, dropped on Japan in August 1945, which ended the War in the Pacific and saved my life. What a gift! I can’t be thankful enough.

Ringing the Bells

After only four days of training, our little Lani is now getting my attention when she wants to go potty by looking at me, walking to the back door and pushing the string of bells that is hanging from the door knob with her nose. She is making progress in various training exercises. An important one is that she comes running when called. It already paid off on two of our walks, when she kept pulling on her leash and broke the connecting ring it was attached to. The first ring was small and held her dog tag, then we got a strong keyring and even that gave way after a week. Next, I will look into a wider collar with a strong ring and a wider leash with a larger clasp. She will be six months old on February 20 and as of now weighs 13.6 pounds.

Fob Sob

Talking about a keyring, I lost my main Fob for the car. It was a big thing, about 4″ long, and had my favorite little elephant on it. That elephant was a gift from the lovely girl in Prescott, who worked in our favorite Thai restaurant. Our birthdays were the 24th and the 26th of December, and we exchanged little gifts every year. I treasured that elephant. I could not find it anywhere in the house; coat pockets, purses, in drawers, I turned every place inside out and upside down. Of course I do have a spare fob so we can still drive, but have you ever lost something without finding it? All the things I lost always came back to me, except my little elephant. I even called the restaurant where we had been with the family to celebrate our 58th wedding anniversary, and the NC Museum of Art we had visited the day before. Nothing. Now, after four weeks, I have to let it go to get peace of mind. I have to get a new Fob. So I will. And so I did. And with it came peace of mind.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,