A New Life! Retirement at its Best 88

Community Music School Raleigh

Last week, we were invited to the recital of graduating students of the Community Music School in Raleigh, of which our son Dennis became the first Executive Director last September. A variety of music from violin, flute, piano, percussion, harp, trumpet, guitar and voice filled the evening, which was held in a beautiful Episcopal Church in Raleigh. One student had attended CMS for 9 years and played a piano concerto from memory to a standing ovation. Another student graduated after 6 years and is also continuing his music education. There were too many excelling students to mention. A reception afterwards in the Fellowship Hall offered the opportunity to meet members of the Board and other parents. Everyone we met was delighted with Dennis’ talents and personality. It was another evening that filled our hearts with pride.

Because that whole week was filled with evening recitals there was no time to celebrate Dennis and Stephanie’s 20th wedding anniversary. They were dead tired from weeks of extremely hard work and could finally take a break during Memorial Day weekend. They came to Waltonwood for the Sunday brunch, which was very good this time.

With recent temperatures around 95 degrees it was impossible to give Lani the daily exercise she needs. So yesterday afternoon I took her to the Club and walked her twelve times around in the cool air of the first floor. I figured everyone would be taking a nap, and indeed, I did not meet anyone, except for one old lady who opened her door and quickly pulled her walker back inside, saying, “Well, I almost had a visitor.” I was glad she did not start screaming at the sight of a little black monster that ran up to her at full speed. Lani’s leash walking is getting better; at times she is pulling less. But I still wear a black leather glove on my left hand to protect it (the hand, not the glove). My lower right arm is a sorry sight. Other than a 1.5″ scar from a squamous cell carcinoma surgery and bruises that appear from nowhere and stay for a while, there are teeth marks that inadvertently get doled out by rough play with Lani and long red streaks that appear from her nails when she tries to jump into my lap. Having her in my lap, if she is calm, is a wonderful time to cuddle, which we never had with any of our other dogs. Mike’s lap is bigger, and she likes that too. We didn’t have a puppy since 1965. We had a Chow puppy in the Netherlands when Annemieke was two years old, and the second baby would soon arrive. At that time, my lap was full, and laps were not something that Roy, our Chow, liked in the first place. Too close for comfort! He was a dog with Personality. Our last dog, Isabelle, was two years old when we got her, in Prescott, Arizona, and it never occurred to us to lift a 70 pound Rottweiler in our lap, even though Isabelle would have loved it.


Next week I will give a Keynote Presentation at NC State for OLLI. I will have to practice with my iPad and in front of the mirror for a while to make it perfect. Dennis showed up in his lunch hour yesterday to make sure I had sufficient Memory in my iPad and MAC. I do, so technically there is nothing to worry about.


Waltonwood is organizing a Luau at the end of June and I have been asked to dance, based on the fact that I danced at Christmas and everyone loved it. Caroline, the favorite entertainer here, who comes once a month, will be the MC, the rest is up to me. Since I know that people who have no knowledge of the Hawaiian language can’t understand the meaning of a Hawaiian dance, I have searched through my CDs and files, and I found three dances in the English language. I decided on two of those, and one short one in the Hawaiian language, which I will explain beforehand. Holei by Dennis Pavao is one of my favorites; I remember dancing it at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, where we were staying when we lived on the Big Island. We did that once in a while to celebrate a birthday or anniversary or when it had rained for too long in Hilo. That afternoon, we came to have cocktails on the Lanai, where a live band was playing for a group of tourists. When they started playing Holei, I got up and danced; of course I was wearing a mu’u mu’u, being a “local”.  Musicians love it when someone dances to their music, and it was especially a surprise for them to see a “haole” (not a native Hawaiian) dance their song, and an old one at that (the song, not the “haole”). Because it is about ten years ago that I danced hula (I had to stop because of a Morton’s Neuroma on my left foot), I have to start practicing, also in front of the mirror. Too bad we don’t have a full length mirror in our house. I have to resort to the guest bathroom – at least for my hand and body motions. The feet will follow automatically. I got rid of the Morton’s Neuroma, which took about eight years, and I can dance again! Whenever I have a chance, enjoying some quiet time with Mike at night, when Lani is in her kennel (like the baby is in bed for the night), I put my feet up and use a set of Yoga Toes, gel toe separators, which I have had for years. 1 Pair orthopedic toe separators Silicone Yoga Holes Toe Stretchers Pain Relief for Bunion Gel Toe Separator 5 sizes 2U1218Heaven for my feet, to spread my toes as if I have been wearing slippahs all day instead of tight shoes. Why am I telling you all this? Because my future blog posts will be shorter than usual. Practice will take the place of writing until I have time again to sit down at the Mac!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,




A New Life! Retirement at its Best 87

Our Puppy becomes a Dog

What a day, I say again. Emotionally draining for me. Lani went in for her third grooming session. I dropped her off at 7:40 a.m. and discussed the grooming do’s and don’ts with her groomer. Because of the recent rains, dreadlocks had formed at her throat, underneath her collar, and on various other places. Those dreadlocks can’t be cut but have to be shaved off. Lani was always calm and easy to work on when I had put her on the counter and recently I combed two handfuls of burrs out of her fur, but then I gave up, the combs were not good enough. And so, the groomer and I talked about the length of her fur, her facial trims, legs and so on. Aww, she would lose her 4″ long baby fur! I could not imagine what she would look like and was anxious all day about the outcome of the trim. At 3 p.m., the call finally came and I went to get her. It was a shock to see her coming through the door, so changed! With 1″ long hair she is still fluffy and her head looks like a poodle (her dad), very cute! In four days she will be 9 months, and as of today she weighs 19 pounds.

After breakfast we had a fire drill in the main building, which took almost two hours; now I know how to operate a fire extinguisher should I be near one when a fire breaks out. One thing did not make sense: the fire hydrants in the main building are in a locked closet with a glass door. If you are a little old lady, even if you would remember how to use a fire extinguisher, you would not have a key to quickly open the closet, you would not be able to smash in the glass, not even if you could manage to take off your shoe to try to do it with, and you would not be strong enough to lift up your walker to smash the glass door with. All you could do would be cry for help. But nobody would hear you because everyone would have exited the building, according to protocol, at the first sound of the alarm. You would be a helpless victim. Something to bring up to Management!

Clock work

For the past three weeks something was wrong with the little hand of our 120-year old clock. I called the clock repair guy and decided to take it over to him on the spur of the moment because he would not be in on Friday; it gave me something to do to take my mind off Lani. A distance of 18 minutes, it took some time to go there and come back, and then, hopefully, Lani would be ready. I made it before rush hour back and forth, and by now, Thursday evening, Lani, our mini Goldendoodle  is home again and peace has returned to the de Jong residence.

Swan Lake

Imagine sitting in the huge Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, the crown jewel of North Carolina performing arts, which opened in 1932, and, after some dramatic renovations in 1990, now blends state-of-the-art technical amenities like sound-reflective mahogany walls and intricate lighting systems with grand theater traditions. With its dramatic atrium lobby, twin floating staircases and gorgeous Doric columns, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium brings the magic and inspiration of all these artists to life for visitors.

This Saturday afternoon we were watching Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, performed by the Carolina Ballet, accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle in front of the stage. And there, among the talented musicians, we could see our son Dennis play second trumpet! Let me tell you that we were the proudest parents in the audience! What an amazing son we have. He had a contract for two evening and two matinee weekend performances with the ballet, with barely a break in between. And, thinking he had at least the Saturday morning off to spend with his family, that did not turn out to be. He left the house at 9 a.m. and showed five Million dollar properties to clients (He is also a realtor). He picked us up to go to the show, took two bananas and a small bottle of water to eat en route, played from 2 till 4:30, took us home, then hopefully got a bite to eat and was ready again for the evening show. Sunday morning he played for an Episcopal church in Raleigh, then off again to the final matinee.

On Tuesday night we have been invited to a recital of the best students and alumni of the Community Music School of Raleigh, of which he is the Executive Director. He is so busy with all kinds of work and performances, that he declined to play for the musical Annie which is coming to town later this month. Because his family comes first and he spends quality time at home with his wife and three sons. We are the proudest parents ever!


Last Friday, I heard that one of my friends at the Club, suffering from a second round of cancer, and on oxygen 24/7, was taken to Hospice – one of the Hospices in town. I had not had a chance to say goodbye…So yesterday morning, after finding out where she was, I went to see her. What could I give her? What can you give to a person who has little time left on this earth and can’t take it with her? I decided on a small tube of hand cream, lily-of-the-valley fragrance, that I had in my bedside drawer. One of my girls gave me a box with six of those for Mother’s Day, different fragrances, and I have not used them yet. I also took four 2.5″ smiley face stickers.

At the Hospice building, named after the founder, Dr. William Dunlap, I found a very friendly volunteer at the front desk, and behind her on the wall a large painting of Mr. Dunlap, another person with a friendly smile and warm eyes. What a wonderful first impression of Hospice. I thought back to my own years of being a volunteer for Verdugo Hills Hospice-in-the home in California, in the eighties. Hospice is still close to my heart. My visit was short, and my friend, who was depressed, did not want any gifts. I said, “I will show you what I have and when you don’t want it, I will take it back.” She smiled at the first sticker and told me where to put it. Three others followed, and she kept smiling, pointing at places where she could see them. The last one I stuck on the bathroom door across from her bed. When she saw the hand cream, she reached over and said, “thank you Ronny.” When I left, I hoped to have brought a little sunshine in her day.

Table talk

For almost two years we have shared a dinner table of four with another couple from Arizona. That “tradition” has come to an end, and how relieved we are! The other gentleman is not happy here, and all he did was complaining about the food, the service and many other things. The complaints found their way to the kitchen, with the result that our dinners often showed up before we had finished the soup or the salad, and our table was the first to finish. We finally decided that breakfast and dinner at the Club were the times that we enjoy talking to people – we do not participate in many activities at the Club, because we are still so busy at home. Which is great for us. But we were not enjoying the “fast food service” any more and today for the first time sat at a table for seven. And enjoyed it tremendously. And we were still home at 6:00 p.m. Sometimes, a decision to make change is the thing to do. We have also changed to another table for breakfast for a change in scenery and to meet new people. Change is good!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 86

New Neighbors

One of the two cottages across the street from us had been empty for a while, but this week a large moving van showed up and new neighbors moved in. Somehow, I am very excited about new neighbors so close by. So I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies for them and took them over while they stood in the middle of open and still closed boxes, and stuff was all around. Their daughter was there too, and I am delighted about hopefully getting neighbors we can have over for a glass of wine, talk story with, go to dinner with, in one word, become friends with. There is a difference between living in the main building with apartments, where people more easily visit each other and become friends, than living in one of the twelve cottages and being more on our own. It is the independence that we like, but to have friends nearby is a wonderful thing.

Hospital visits

Of the other cottage neighbors two have recently gone to the hospital – and not for the first time – for testing or a medical emergency; it happens on a regular basis that we see the EMS vehicle drive up to the main entrance and take someone out on a stretcher – less often in the cottages, because there are only twelve.


On Friday afternoons we have Happy Hour. They serve wine and punch, crackers, cheese and fruit. And afterwards, should we  have missed it, they also serve wine with dinner. This Friday there was a farewell party for our Executive Manager, who has been promoted within the organization and is moving to headquarters in Michigan. We met his replacement yesterday and hope he is up to the job; he has been around for almost a year, getting to know the ropes, so there will be no break in management. This Friday, May 10, Mike and I celebrated our two-year anniversary at Waltonwood and the party on Friday afternoon served us well in the celebration!

Mother’s Day started with a special breakfast on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. We set the alarm an hour earlier than usual and when I looked out of our bedroom window at the break of dawn I saw one of the goose families – Dad, Mom, Auntie, who was limping a little, and two little ones passing underneath the window. What a wonderful sight to wake up to! Two or three goose families walk back and forth between the Wimbledon pond and ours and they always visit the gardens where people have bird feeders hanging. We were present in the Café for a nice buffet including crepes, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, topped with Nutella and whipped cream. When the chef wanted to just decorate the crepes with a thin drizzle of Nutella, I asked him to continue drizzling, whereupon he turned the whole spoon upside down. Yum! I skipped the eggs, bacon and the other things they had on the buffet and went back for seconds – crepes are so thin, and they are delicious with Nutella! On the regular breakfast buffet in the dining room they had chocolate croissants and jam pastries, so I took one of each home for with our coffee the next morning: Mother’s Day breakfast continued! During the day I received a live Anthurium in a red pot from one of our daughters, and from the other one a picnic basket full of a variety of chocolate treats by Lindt and Ghirardelli of which we had to taste some right away of course. On Sunday, a Phalaenopsis hybrid from our son and daughter-in-law, cards and phone calls made the day special, and that after we had a wonderful brunch with our whole extended family at a table for nine in the Café.

NCSU Social for OLLI Docents

Monday night I decided to cancel Lani’s training class and go instead to the OLLI Social organized to thank the docents who lectured during the past year. Even though my turn is not until June 4, I wanted to go and meet some of the other docents and students. That was the best decision ever! In a large room red and white wine were served on one side at the bar, and on the opposite side a buffet was set up with citrus water, fruits, vegetable sticks, dips, Brie en croute, cheeses and more, plus dark, sweet ganache for dessert.

The Social was for docents and students, and I had a special docent ribbon hanging from my name tag. It was interesting to meet the people I came to sit with at the table, and afterwards I went around to meet other docents and talk to other students. I met a docent-couple that knew our son and daughter-in-law well, and were related to the couple from Arizona that we have dinner with every night. We had a very interesting conversation, and on my way home I thought how wonderful I felt having met people outside of our retirement community. It was as if I had been out in the real world – and indeed, I had! When the new OLLI catalog comes out we will see if there are topics we would be interested in and we may become members and enjoy Lifelong Learning!

It’s a Wonderful World!

Until next time,



A New Life! Retirement at its Best 85

Merrie Monarch Festival 2019

The Merrie Monarch Festival honors the legacy of King David Kalakaua’s vision for perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, language and arts through week-long international hula competitions which take place in Hilo on the Big Island following Easter Sunday. Dancers come not only from all the Hawaiian Islands, but from as far as California and even Japan. Weeks ahead of time all hotels and B&B’s are booked, as are the flights to the Big Island. That Wednesday night is a free night, tickets for the other three nights go on sale on December 26. Thursday night is the Miss Aloha Hula competition, where the dancers perform the Kahiko, the ancient hula, accompanied by chant and traditional instruments, as well as the Hula Auana, the modern hula, often accompanied by ukulele and steel guitar. This picture shows 2019 Miss Aloha Hula, Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, in her Auana performance. Her Hālau, Hālau  Hi’iakainamakalehua is now famous too, as are her Kumus (hula teachers), Nā Kumu: Robert Keʻano Kaʻupu IV & Lono Padilla. Looking at that name: Robert Ke’ano Ka’upu IV, I believe that he was one of my teachers when we lived in Hilo. I danced first with another Hālau, Kumu Hula Puanani, then moved up to study with Uncle Glen, whose young girls were so good that they performed in the Merrie Monarch Festival sometimes. Robert was the young assistant of Uncle Glen, lithe and smooth, and everybody loved watching him when he performed. In the 16 years that I have been away he must have become a Kumu Hula. Amazing memories of those wonderful years where I learned to love hula: ‘Hula is the language of the Heart and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian People’.

Well, I was planning to watch all three shows, but there is a time difference of six hours and all shows started at midnight there. I tried but could not “livestream” and was afraid I would not be able to find replays, so the first night I woke up and watched most of the Miss Aloha Hula dances. The following nights I was not so lucky, but then I gave up and decided we would purchase the DVD after it became available. So I could sleep again with a peaceful mind. It was wonderful to see the familiar stage again, floor new and divided into squares; and the people in the bleachers, and King and Queen on their thrones. But in a few weeks we can watch it in our living room, snacking on the Hawaiian delicacies a good friend on Oahu sent us specifically for that purpose; a five-hour show, three nights in a row, would ask for some goodies, she wrote us. The surprise package came Special Delivery, on time, but we’re saving the contents until we are watching the DVD.

The past week flew by with many activities, among others puppy training, a dental visit (I have two beautiful A-1 white crowns in my mouth now), administration, planning for our summer visit to our daughter in Canada and much more. So here ends my tale for today.

It’s a Wonderful World!

Until next time,







A New Life! Retirement at its Best 84

A Fashion Show

It has been ages since I went to a fashion show, and longer than that since I was actually modeling clothes myself. I remember modeling in a tearoom in Beverly Hills, a boutique in La Cañada, in a large mall in Riverside and a fashion mall in Arcadia – all in California, before we moved to Hawai’i. I have fun memories and a few pictures of those shows. A couple of months ago, a flyer in the bulletin box mentioned a fashion show of the Cary Woman’s Club at the MacGregor Downs Country Club on April 27; fashions by Dillard’s, here in Cary. The proceeds would be going to their scholarship fund for underprivileged students. Finding none of the ladies in Waltonwood interested, I invited the daughter of one of the friends who passed away recently. We had a great time together and enjoyed first a delicious light lunch, and then a very nice fashion show, presented by ladies in three different age groups, like mother-daughter-granddaughter. Although they were members of the Cary Woman’s Club, not professional models, they did a good job and the MC was an actor with a formidable voice, who did a funny presentation and got a lot of laughs. It was a nice, sunny day and a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. The clothes modeled were not my taste, but the 20% off coupon in our envelope will definitely get me to Dillards before Mother’s Day.

Day 9

Today, on two of our walks, Lani was not pulling hard on her leash! Progress! We will not give up hope. She is so smart. She still grabs everything she sees on the street before I do and chews on it. But when I say, Lani, drop it! and I hold a treat in front of her nose, she does obey. The only thing, a few days ago, that she was ferociously chewing on and unwilling to release, was a flat, dead frog, that stank to high heaven. I had to pry out of her mouth. For the rest it is dry or fresh goose poop, pieces of wood, clods of dirt, mouths full of pine needles in the back porch, and pinecones. She is so fast that it costs me a lot of treats to get her to behave. We were afraid she would gain too much weight with all the treats she gets throughout the day, and so we limit her breakfast and dinner to 1/2 cup each instead of 3/4, and the rest she will get in treats.

A True Survivor’s Story

In my Anthology Survivors of WWII in the Pacific you will find Camp Stories by my friend Hannie Blaauw. I just talked to him because he is again at a fork in the road of his life. As a young man, born on Java, he survived the Japanese concentration camps of WWII. From the Netherlands, he and his wife were sponsored by his church and able to emigrate to the US, settling down in California. They had a son and two daughters; the son, in his early twenties, drowned while rescuing a swimmer from the ocean. Hannie and his wife celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in Prescott, Arizona, where we met and became friends. One daughter became a threat to them so he did not want any more contact with her. His wife got ill and he took care of her for years, cooking the delicious Indonesian meals they both loved and doing all the chores. He was a tennis pro and won silver and gold medals in the Senior Olympics. After his wife died, he moved closer to his other daughter and grandkids. He knew nobody but made many friends instantly. He joined the church choir, even though he could not read notes. He played tennis until his knees became too problematic. Then he discovered pickle ball and when that became too much for him, he turned to music. With a little ukulele he joined a ukulele group and learned to play and sing. It became his greatest joy in life and he made many friends again.

He had more problems with his knees and lay for six hours next to his car on the garage floor until a night guard noticed the open garage door. He went to the hospital, got a pacemaker and a walker. The ukulele group grew, became famous and auditioned for a 5-day performance at a large venue close by. They won! Hannie joined them all the way up to the dress rehearsal, sitting on a chair. Then, on his 92nd birthday, he landed in the hospital for two weeks. He got out, hoping he could still join his group, the friends who had come to his hospital bed to play for him. He went home but needed 24 hour care. The producer said he could play one song if he then would go home. But his daughter thought it would be too stressful for him and convinced him not to play. Hannie called me and told me of his heart wrenching decision not to even play one song, because his health was more important. And so, like Moses who could not enter the Promised Land, Hannie could not be a star in a production he had dreamed about for months; not even for one song. And the worst thing was that they took his Driver License away and told him he could not drive any longer. So there he was, having lived independently in his own home for five years, still able to drive. Then his daughter took his little dog to be with her because he could not depend on his knees any longer to walk his dear Scotty. Then they took his Driver License away and he was stuck, with caregivers, without being able to see friends or go to the gym.

He called me this week – he often uses me as a sounding board – to confirm for himself that he is doing the right thing. He said that his daughter thought he should move into an Assisted Living place closer to her. Knowing that he needs that at this point in his life, I encouraged him. I told him he will make new friends at yet another place and time in his life, and his ukulele group can come and play with him again, because he will not move too far from where he is now. I told him he would no longer be alone and locked up in one place, but he would be able to walk with his walker to a dining room, the library, and every other room in the building that is accessible for the residents. “Yes, Hannie, go. It is the right thing to do. Call me when you move and let me know your new address.” A little man with a big heart and a love for life; a little man who survived incredible hardships and sorrows in his life; a little man with faith in God and a sense of humor that kept him going. A friend for life. Read my anthology Survivors of WWII in the Pacific if you have not already done so.

It is too bad that I couldn’t say, “I will come and see you soon.” I live too far away now, farther than a car ride. But perhaps I can teach him to use his iPad for FaceTime with me. Our grandchildren do that all the time. Who said teach? I had better learn first how to do FaceTime myself with my kids and hope they can teach me!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,