A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-31

Sanitizing the dining room

We have now had dinner in the dining room for three weeks: two people to a table of seven and a few tables for two along the side. We have no linen table cloths anymore, the tables and chairs are wiped after each diner leaves. Then the table is set again with a paper place mat and a fork, spoon and knife plus a straw, wrapped together in a thin paper napkin. Salad, soup and entree are served on paper plates. Not the usual kind, but very nice, hard carton-like paper, and they are square. A nice look. It is all very practical. Because, for the sake of sanity and safety, the dishwashers are at a standstill. Everything is thrown directly into the trashcan. There is one server and one busser, wearing gloves. And of course everybody is wearing a mask. The busser is not allowed to take empty plates away when the diners are still eating, but when they leave, he or she can pick up everything altogether and throw it in the trash. Then he sprays and wipes the table and chairs all over again and the next two people can be seated. It works. And it keeps us Covid free!

During the first two weeks of our “open dining”, our “silverware” was sturdy black plastic. Now, in the third week, it is white plastic, and a good size smaller than the black. Sort of like the toy “silverware” we had as children. It is not easy to maneuver salad on a fork like that, and the soup could possibly be better drunk, were it not that there are often pieces of meat or vegetable in it. That would make a real mess. The drippings off the little spoon on the paper napkin or the table in between make enough of a mess as it is. So, easy does it. Cutting fish is easy. Cutting a pork chop or chicken breast takes lots of see-sawing and patience. Then, by the time you get a slice off, it is cold. Sigh.

Every day we say we will bring our own silverware from home tomorrow, the real silver set, but every day we forget. That comes with living in a retirement community like this. Everybody forgets things all the time. We have adjusted. And as long as we need to, we will eat with little white plastic silverware that bends when you use it but somehow never breaks.

It is not the kitchen’s fault. The distributor sent this small set when the order called for large, sturdy black. I was thinking about the numbers: We have about twenty vacancies lately. Children took their parents out, but I don’t know what they did with them or where they took them; after all, being independent here means you can still be dependent on a cane, walker, wheel chair, oxygen, adult diapers and pads and more such things. The fact that the parents are in this retirement community  means that the children could not or would not take care of them. Right? So why take them out? Probably because so many people in nursing homes have gotten infected with Covid? But this is not a nursing home, and so far, we have been kept safe for more than four months.

But I digress. Let’s say we currently have 120 residents. In one month, they would need 3600 sets of silverware; add half of that number for Assisted Living, and you get to 5400 sets of plastic silverware per month. That also means 5400 sets of salad plates, large plates and soup bowls; that is 16,200 pieces of hard paper plates. Per month. Over the past four months that was 21,600 sets of plastic silverware. And 64,800 pieces of hard paper plates. Heavens, where do they store it all? And where do they go with all the trash? Ah! No wonder a huge trash container appeared by the back door of the kitchen. It is stationary, but I noticed this week that it had been emptied, because I did not see piled up black bags any more.

The organization of a place like ours struggling through a pandemic is praise worthy. So we complain as little as possible. I only wrote a letter to the Executive Director after the air conditioner had been “frozen” for ten days and the temperature in the dining room rose to over 80 degrees. He responded that they were coming to fix the air conditioners on the roof on Friday. It rained on Friday, so we hoped they would come on Saturday. But Saturday was probably their day off. Virtual church on Sunday would mean our hope is now fixed on Monday. Sigh.

The watermelon

It will be a long time before I will order a watermelon at Costco again. This one was so big that it needed a cutter, and we were lucky that our son could swing by to do that, in exchange for one half. He cut the first half  in small pieces, then I stopped him and asked him to take the other half home. But he said he had an ever bigger one at home! So he cut it in two pieces, and after he left I took one quarter over to one of the neighbors across the street and one to the new neighbor around the corner.

When I served watermelon with lunch, Mike said he did not really like it. Too much water in my mouth and it is tasteless! WHAT? Well, I did not know that about my husband of almost 60 years! He agreed he would take a few pieces a day to help me out, but in the mean time I was stuck with half a watermelon! I like it, but too much is too much. So I called the neighbor across the street again and asked if he would have some more, all cut up. Oh yes! we love watermelon! So that helped me out some. I am eating watermelon at breakfast and for lunch, and for snacking in between. But the best of it? Our neighbor came to return the dish and brought a bottle of Clos Du Bois Chardonnay! Wow! That was a good trade! Thank you, neighbor! Because of my CMO diet I will have to save it for a month, but it won’t go bad and I have a couple of days of watermelon juice left.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-30

Costco Shopping

Last Monday, before I started my CMO diet, knowing I needed lots of fruits and vegetables, I decided to go to Costco. And I would take the three day isolation afterwards. Costco opens at 9 AM for seniors and I would be very careful. But after sleeping on it for one night we both had our doubts, because the death count in North Carolina is still going up, and I decided to instead go shopping with Instacart. Great service, I had a carload full of all the items I ordered two hours later. I could barely store them in the refrigerator, but it worked. Except for one watermelon. When I put a watermelon on my list, I envisioned a little one. But coming from Costco I could have expected what I got: a huge one! The driver put it in the chair by the front door so that I didn’t have to pick it up from the ground, but carrying it inside was almost impossible for me. I dumped it on the counter and rolled it into a corner. I could not even take it to the sink to wash, as my daughter suggested, before cutting it. Cutting it? I don’t have a knife big enough or a board large enough, and my poor hands already went into hiding, like the dog when I mention the car in the garage. She hates riding in the car. Anyway, I thought for a few days about whom I could ask to cut this thing for me, then finally decided I should ask my son. He promised that next week he would sneak in through the front door to the kitchen and bring tools to cut my watermelon. I promised him he could take part of it home, because the two of us could never eat it all.

I also ordered frozen vegetables, peaches and mangoes, a supply for a month. Coming from Costco, they are big and beautiful and delicious. But I had so many! I should give some away! So the next afternoon I took one large peach in each hand and walked over tone of the cottages, where the neighbors sit in front of the garage every day as soon as the sun is behind the trees, but still in 90° weather. They had to make so many trips to different doctors, that they had to be in isolation for I don’t know how long and their patio in the back is too small and too dark to sit outside. They were very happy with their gifts. The next-door neighbors must also be in private isolation, because I haven’t seen them at all for two weeks. I should give them two of the large mangos, I thought. But then it dawned on me that my supply had to last me for a month, and if I would keep giving fruits away I would not have enough left for myself. I needed to give one more gift though. The lady at the front desk had loaned me her umbrella when we came out of the dining room and the rain was pouring down. I had an umbrella in the car, but I had forgotten to bring it inside. So she loaned me hers and I gave her a box with some mandarin oranges the next day.


Because we are not living in he main building, we do not know much about what is going on there. So one night I called Bella, a very friendly lady who knows everything and everybody. We talked for 45 minutes and she gave me an update of people in the hospital, in rehab, people that have left because their son or daughter took them out, people that were going to leave, people who were in isolation because they had gone off campus, and two people who had passed away. I was flabbergasted! No wonder I had not seen many familiar faces when I walked the dog or dropped something off at the Club. Indeed, the new Resident Directory shows 20 vacancies in Independent Living alone. I have no idea what the situation is in assisted-living. Day after day the Crabtree Moving Vans stood at different exits of the main building, and then at one of the cottages. Waltonwood is allowing only one moving company to take stuff out or bring stuff in. Let’s hope that we will get new people in soon, and that we then sit with more than two people to a table.

No Air-conditioning in 95 degree weather!

Last week we heard that, because of the high temperatures, the air-conditioning was frozen. That sounded strange, but tonight the hostess told us that this happens every summer. We don’t remember that from the previous three years, but hey, if nobody can do anything about it, we’ll have to suffer through it. Last night we had a table by the window and it was so hot that we decided that we should order in as long as it will be this hot. Our air-conditioning is working well, or so we thought. But when we came home last night the temperature in the house was higher than we had set it. So it didn’t freeze but it could not pull the temperature down as low as we wanted it.

The beauty shop is open!

All the ladies are getting haircuts and color and new perms. One by one they are looking pretty again, and it gives them an incentive to put on some more colorful clothes, it seems. The stylist can only have two people in the salon at a time, so everybody needs to make an appointment, but it works. Even some of the men get themselves on the list, and everybody is happy. The atmosphere seems not so gloomy anymore. My own hair is growing steadily. I cut the bangs once in a while, and I still have color for one month. But when we can go out again I will have to make the decision to wear it short again or leave it long. To cut or not to cut will be the question!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,



A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-29

My first Mini Vacation

An invitation came out of the blue from our son: our boat is now in our driveway for maintenance and if you want, you can come look at it. We were just finishing dinner, but the evenings are so long that I jumped at the chance to at least see the new boat, even if I could not ride in her yet. That has to wait until all danger is over. I got to see not only the boat, but our son and daughter-in-law and two of the grandsons – all at a distance, but still, it was wonderful. I was home long before sunset, in time to walk Lani and have some chocolate ice cream with Mike before bed!

Expanding our horizon

Lani and I have ventured out to Wimbledon again! Three times already. I thought don’t show, don’t tell. And after I had checked out that our trail through the Divide was still passable, we went. When I mentioned the word Wimbledon, she looked at me full of expectation. She remembered to turn right out of the front door, then down the hill, through the bushes (I held her very short, because there are still the rows of barbed wire sticking out of the ground) and out onto the street. And she remembered the way to the trail, the right turn onto the trail, then right on the street, left again, left again and onto the second part of the trail. Then past the pond and the swimming pool and right past the tennis courts and up the stairs to the road and so on, all the way to home. Amazing! We had fun! It was early, before 8:00 am, but humid, and the shower before breakfast was refreshing. We do about a total of two miles this way, about the same as four times around the campus, but never boring!

Annual Power Wash

The week before July 4th the community had arranged its annual power wash; our cottage at the far end of the property was one of the last, on July 3. The roof and the gutters were cleaned first of debris, and then they worked their way down, a crew of four men. They did a very good job, and to top it of, two young men came on July 4th to professionally clean all windows. We’re good to go for another year.

An Indoor Power Cleaning

Well, after four months without our fabulous cleaning lady, we finally let her come. When I asked the Executive Director, he did not respond to my email. Then I asked the Treasurer, who has been here the longest, and she said, Don’t ask, don’t tell!  We did not see any danger – Maria has been working for an old couple in another cottage all this time; she wears a mask and gloves and all went well. So Maria was here for three hours and we stayed out of her way. The house is super clean again and we are super happy!

Dinner At The Club

On July 7 the dining room was finally open and it was wonderful to see familiar faces again. We went to the Players Club for a glass of wine before dinner and were seated promptly at 6:00 p.m. Few tables in all, two people per round table for seven, and dinner was not five star but gold star, as I told the Chef, who was keeping an eye on things. Apparently this plan was so easy that they changed the schedule: anybody can now come and be seated between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m., and you can indeed get a glass of wine with dinner if you like – they will bring it to your table.

Home Hazards

Blue spots, red spots, scratches and open wounds on hands, arms and legs are inevitable in this house! I can’t blame them all on Lani’s nails, it’s things in the house that cause me to cringe daily. Cabinet corners, sharp wall edges, door handles, door jambs, desk drawer rail, bed corners are causing injuries some of which need bandaids. It’s a good thing that we have bandaids by the yard from the Netherlands! Mike says I walk too fast, I move too fast, and it’s all my own fault. Well, so, I really have to think about moving slower. Sigh. I don’t move fast on purpose; it’s me! But I have to change me, for sure. I covered the bed corners and vanity corners with special clear plastic protective corners already, but I can’t do anything about all the other things. Two weeks ago I compromised my left hand so badly that I could not use it for two days and had to immobilize it by a tight bandage. Now I have swelling and arthritic pain in my left thumb joint. I do not mean to bore you with my aches and pains, but I want to tell you about a fantastic remedy for arthritis, all kinds of arthritis. I used it in 1997 when I had arthritis in my right hand. I became ambidextrous when it lasted a few months. Then a neighbor told me about Original CMO. Available online for about $150, a one month’s supply. One month with a particular diet and four supplements per day took care of my arthritis for twenty three years. The FDA and the Arthritis Foundation did not believe in it, but I do. I think it was off the market for a couple of years, but now I found it again. It has a slightly different packaging than 23 years ago (of course) but looks the same otherwise. I ordered one month’s treatment. One month is all you need! About the diet: three things are not allowed: coffee, alcohol and chocolate. Then no bread, noodles, rice, corn products, bacon, oils, cereals, bean products, milk, yoghurt, ice-cream, cheese. What’s left? you ask. Beef, fish, chicken, eggs, honey, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Plenty to stay alive on!

I was living in Prescott, Arizona when I used CMO. It worked so well that I recommended it to several of my friends who were complaining about painful arthritis. Do you know that no one could stick to the diet? Not even for one month? Not even while their pain was severe? They could not do without coffee! Or without wine! The only one who followed the diet rigorously and took the supplements exactly as they were described, was our carpenter, who worked for us just before our move to the East Coast. He was in so much pain using his hands that he was planning to retire. Three months later I called him and he was in seventh heaven. He could use his hands again and thanked me profusely.

My order arrived on Monday. I will need large amounts of fruit, vegetables and nuts. I can’t go out, so I put a shopping list together for Instacart and someone went shopping for me and delivered everything the same day.

A Poem by Laura Kelly Fanucci

Laura Kelly Fanucci is an author of 6 books, an award-winning columnist, online writer, and the director of the Communities of Calling Initiative. I had never heard of her, but I found this beautiful poem and want to share it with you.

“When this is over,

may we never again take for granted:
A handshake with a stranger, Full shelves at the store,
Conversations with neighbors,
A crowded theater, Friday night out,
The taste of communion, A routine checkup,
The school rush each morning, Coffee with a friend,
The stadium roaring, Each deep breath!  A boring Tuesday.  Life itself.
When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be,
we were called to be,
we hope to be,
and may we stay that way — better for each other because of the worst.”

And may it be a Wonderful Life again!

Until next time,





A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-28

 A Pillow Project

Did you ever move to another place, house or country? If so, did you find that things may get a different purpose in your new abode? We have many such things. One of them is a beautiful antique beam, coming from Mike’s mother, originally a roof support of an old Dutch farmstead. With four sturdy legs, it served as a display shelf for an antique copper kettle, an antique cast iron sewing machine, a pewter spoon set and more such things. Then we moved to another part of the country and into a smaller house. There was no more room for the beam in the living room and it landed in the hallway. And ever since a little dog entered our lives, I sat on it to put Lani on the leash and put on my walking shoes, two pairs of which are stored underneath. Our decorative beam had become a practical bench. When it became an uncomfortably hard sit, I had a folded towel underneath my tush for a long time. I finally thought, that looks so ugly! I need to make a pillow to sit on. Where can I find material?  The answer came immediately: the unused dust ruffle of the trundle bed in the office! With the help of the maintenance man I got the old Singer from behind the love seat (an excellent storage place) onto the dining table and went to work. The old Singer by the way, which I had purchased from a little old lady in Pasadena, who was our neighbor, screamed at me for not using it more often and not keeping it lubricated. I kept talking to it, hoping it would continue, stitch after stitch, until I would have finished the pillow case plus two short dust ruffles for head and foot end of the trundle bed. I had to change bobbins twice, but Singer kept on going. Lucky me! Then, the filling. Ah! Foam rubber pieces. Can you imagine that I had an almost full bag of them in the garage? Dating back six years ago to Prescott, where I had to add some pieces to a My Pillow? Who moves across the country to a smaller home with half a bag of foam pieces? I did! Because you never know when you would need foam pieces. And lo and behold, my foresight helped me to fill a pillow three years later, while in lockdown!

Another item that changed functionality: a wrought iron candle holder, a gift from a good friend for our 25th wedding anniversary, holding two tall candles, was honored as such in Pasadena, Hilo and Prescott. Now, since we don’t burn candles anymore, certainly not those tall ones, it has become a very practical hat stand for me. Voilà the transformation!






The start of Communal Dining

The news that all previously positive tests came back negative a second time filled us all with joy. The Executive director announced that we will start communal dining in the dining room again on July 7, at tables of two, with four seatings: 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. We, in the cottages, will be in group 4, dining at 6:30 p.m. That is about the time that we were used to having dinner before we moved here. While the next group of diners are waiting their turn (fifteen minutes, for the servers to reset the tables) they can wait in the Players Club, which is across from the Café, and enjoy refreshments. They mentioned wine and beer! Really? Free wine and beer every night? They said yes, but we’ll see. Free wine, by the way, is now delivered for Happy Hour every Friday afternoon by the girls in the golf cart. In the Café we could always have a maximum of two glasses. Small glasses. Some of the men could not live on two glasses of course and went back to the bar to get one more please, sweetheart? We could take our glass to the dining room and have our wine with dinner if we liked. Very early on, the wine came out of bottles and we could choose, red or white. The connoisseurs of red wine could even choose between Merlot and Cabernet. But then, perhaps with the change of management, (we had three of those changes in three years) the wine was served out of large carton boxes with a spout. And, no matter how often we told the “bartenders” that red wine was supposed to be at room temperature and white wine chilled, it was never understood that way. White wine lovers had to add an ice cube or two, that’s to say, if they cared. And the “red” residents? We would warm our hands on the glass and savor our wine a sip at a time. By the time the second glass had lost its frigidity, it was dinner time. That was all before Covid-19 entered our lives.

Nowadays, the girls in the golf cart come by on Friday afternoons at Happy Hour with our red wine, which they pour in plastic cups, standing in the driveway (the girls, not the plastic cups, they stand on the floor of the golf cart). And one day, when I went out to meet them to carry our “glasses” inside, I thought myself back in biblical times when Jesus was talking to his disciples about old wineskins and new wineskins. A wineskin in biblical times was an ancient container made of animal skin, usually a goat, used to transport liquids such as water, olive oil, milk, and wine. Two thousand years later, the animal-skin wineskins have been modernized of course. They are now made of plastic. When I got to the golf cart, I saw to my amazement that Cindy was pouring red wine out of a plastic bag with a black spout. It looked like a bag of blood for a blood transfusion. Or like the catheter bag that hung on the side of the bed of some of my hospice patients many years ago. But those bags contained yellow fluid, not red. It made me think twice about the wine they serve here. It’s a good thing that these days, from the golf cart, we only get one glass. Between three and six o’clock, standing on the counter in the kitchen, decanted in real wine glasses, the wine will have time to acclimatize and we can drink it with dinner.

We have one big concern about the new arrangement of communal dining. Which items on the menu will the kitchen run out of by the time the fourth seating is looking at the menu? It happened before, when there were two seatings, that the second seating often lost out on the choice of meat or dessert. We’ll have to wait and see. It will be a challenge for the kitchen, no doubt. We heard from the chef that several of his crew had left, and recently four new applicants never showed on the interview and then turned around to the Unemployment Office and said they had applied for a job but didn’t get it. How low can you get, even considering this miserable pandemic we are in, to lie and deceive like that?

July Fourth, Independence Day

We had a quiet weekend and watched a lot of beautiful fireworks. Over Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, over Washington DC and over New York City. We were at all three places when we were just married, in 1962, on our way back from California to New York, to the Netherlands, after eighteen months in the United States. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a massive sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota in fourteen years. Completed in 1941 under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the sculpture’s roughly 60-ft.-high granite faces depict U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. When we were there, in the time of fewer tourists, there was a tourist information building where you could buy postcards. Now, the site features a museum with interactive exhibits and more. We also visited the Crazy Horse Memorial, 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, started in 1948. It will be larger than Mount Rushmore and depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. It was very impressive when we were there, and then we could only see the outstretched arm and the rounding of the horse’s head. The reason it is not yet finished while they estimated it would take 30 years, is that it is on private land and funded privately and through donations and entrance fees only. The vision of Korczak Ziolkowski, it is the world’s largest mountain carving and considered The Eighth Wonder of the World in progress..


To have seen both these gigantic sculptures in person is an awesome memory.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,



A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-27

It’s only a matter of time,

they said. And even though I never thought the virus would get to Waltonwood with all the strict rules we have here, it happened. We first heard about it when we got a phone call on Thursday morning from our physician, who said she was not coming for her three-monthly checkup, but could we set up a conference? Sure, I said. Well, I had participated in two Zoom conference meetings, but I had never set one up. Doctor would call back in ten minutes. I don’t know how, but I got it done: I set up a Google Meet program on the Mac, and we had a very pleasant meeting. All was well with our blood!

In the course of this week we have received several updates from Management about the current situation. Two Associates in Memory Care went home with symptoms and one person in Independent Living tested positive and will be in isolation in her apartment for 14 days. Of course they did not tell us who was sick, but in a place like this things do leak out. There are two people who always know everything. Thus we heard (in Hawai’i we say through the coconut drum) that one of the Associates is now in the hospital – poor person! – and the person in Independent Living is a single woman on the fourth floor, whom I have never even met because she must have been fairly new and hardly ever came out of her door. Thus the rules have become stricter: visitations, sitting outside with friends or family, are no longer allowed. That’s good, because on my daily dog walks I noticed visitors sitting outside with residents frequently. With masks, but yet… Visits with people in Assisted Living are still allowed, by reservation, talking through the closed window in the small meeting room next to the Assisted Living front door. So they can see each other and talk on the phone. We are even more careful now, and I will not go into the Club anymore, not even to say hello to Lani’s favorite person at the front desk.

A mouse in the house

It happened early on during our stay here, and now it happened again: I found droppings in the pantry, a roll of candy that we don’t like was open, a little container of peanut butter had dropped to the floor and was partially chewed open, and the bag of dog treats was nibbled on; thank goodness not opened. I showed it to the maintenance man on Friday and he came to the door early on Monday morning to put two sticky mouse traps in the pantry; then sealed the bottom crack of the door again with the tape that I had put on it. We shall see what happens. As of today, the pantry door is still sealed.

The 75th Anniversary of VJ-Day

This is a very special year, at least for me. VJ-Day came just in time for the three of us in Camp Halmahera. Because of VJ-Day, we got a second chance on life. And here I am, alive and well, the last of our little family, to tell the story of the three years of captivity so painstakingly written down by Mamma in her secret journal. In exchange for an honest Review on Amazon (so more people can hear the story), I am giving away free copies of my Audiobook  Rising from the Shadow of the Sun, A Story of Love, Survival and Joy.    https://youtu.be/jO4jcZ1dh3M

Even if you have read the book, the Audiobook gives you the sounds and atmosphere of those camp experiences and the joy of living again after the war. For your free copy, contact me at ronnyhermandejong@gmail.com

Off-campus vacations

Well, since summers are for taking vacations, and since Covid-19 has totally ruined our family reunion plans, which we would have been right in the middle of now, I feel shortchanged. I am envious of other people who left campus to go on vacations to the beach of a week or longer, then came back for a three-day isolation. I am finally getting restless, after almost four months. Why can’t we go somewhere? We can’t even get together with our son and his  family. But then I said to myself, now, be reasonable, Ronny, you do not want to get sick. You are planning to live to be at least a hundred in good health, like Mamma. So do not take risks! Yes, but I will be careful! You can’t be careful enough with other people around. Pout. Snivel. Sigh.

Then I thought of something. I had a plan! And the future did not look so bleak anymore. We are allowed to leave campus as long as we stay in our car. We are surrounded by lovely, treed areas with small lakes, and all I have done for three years is drive roads and freeways to see doctors, take the dog to training and run errands. So I decided to plan mini-vacations for myself in the weeks to come, to explore neighboring areas, to take pictures to show to  Mike. Because Mike is totally not interested. He is happy to be at home, even if I am not there, and he is happy for me if I can enjoy nature on my mini vacations in the neighborhood.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,