A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 14

Turtle Talk

Recently, on a late afternoon walk on the second part of my favorite trail, I noticed a beautiful turtle sitting by the side of the trail in the dirt. “Oh you poor dear,” I said to him. “Have you lost your way?” He just looked at me from under his beautiful brown and yellow shell and said nothing. I assumed that he was on his way back to the lake, but he was pointed in the wrong direction! What to do? The lake, the large pond along the first part of my trail, where I had seen two turtles on a floating log once, basking in the sunshine, was quite a ways away for a little turtle, especially for one going in the wrong direction.

I walked back to the Clubhouse, all the way looking for something I could pick him up with, cautioned as I was by one of my fellow residents that the large turtle in our pond had resisted fiercely when he tried to pick him up to take him from across the street towards the water. With my luck, I noticed that the pool man, who was getting the swimming pool ready for winter, had left all his equipment outside the fence and among it was a large, shallow empty carton box. Since the man was nowhere in sight, I took the box and went back to my turtle.

He was gone! In that short of a time, perhaps four minutes, he was gone. Don’t you believe anymore that turtles are slow! I looked around for about five minutes and then, there he was! Four feet into the dead leaves on the other side of the nine feet trail! “I will help you and I will take you back to the lake,” I said and carefully picked him up and put him in the box. He did not fight but immediately withdrew all his extremities into his shell. I put him in the box and he did not move. I walked to the beginning of the trail and to the lake and carefully down the grassy, then muddy shore. I took him out of the box and gently put him beside the water in the mud. He did not move. I picked him up again, lifted him and placed him in the water, so that half his shield was submerged. Now, I thought, he has to come up for air soon. It took a few minutes, but then, one front foot appeared, then the other, and finally his head. He looked at me and I thought he would happily swim away. But he sat there motionless, half immersed in the water, head sticking up. I waited and waited. Nothing.

Then something amazing happened. From ten feet away, I saw a turtle approaching. Head up for air, head down, swim, swim, head up for air, head down, swim, swim. It came as close as six feet, then turned and continued to swim away parallel to the shore. And turned, and came back! From a distance farther away a larger turtle approached in the same manner, five feet, four feet, looking at my turtle, then turning and swimming away, returning again a minute later. And a third one came, and then a fourth and a fifth. As many as six turtles, anywhere from 5 to 7 inches long came to take a look, and two of them came as close as one foot from my lovely prodigal son. And then I saw it: all their shields were flatter and kind of mossy from being in the water, and greenish. My little one had a rounded shield, shiny brown with yellow markings. He did not like the water! He probably could not even swim! But then, where did he belong? Was he a pet that had wandered away from his family? Had he been on the way home when I found him?

When he did not move, I decided I had been dumb to mess with nature and I had to take him back to the trail where I had found him. I put the box down in front of him and gently pushed him in. And this time, he did not withdraw. He was not frightened anymore and curiously looked around and tried to climb up the side of the box, standing on his hind legs. I took him back to the place along the trail where I had found him, across, in the leaves, and he sat still and looked at me. I hope he has found his way home.

I learned my lesson. Not only dogs, but turtles as well can find their way home. I do wonder, though, how all those turtles in the lake all of a sudden saw my land turtle on the shore, and came swimming back and forth to take a look at him. Did he communicate by sending out an S.O.S.? He did not stick his head under water. Can anyone tell me more about turtles and their behavior? Mine was definitely like a fish out of water!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,

Ronny

 

 

A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 13

An Audiobook!

Yes, it’s official! I am working on the production of the Audiobook of Rising from the Shadow of the Sun. It is the fulfillment of a long-time dream, and it is finally not a dream anymore, but it’s really happening and I am very excited.

Living in this retirement community among many people who are either hard of hearing or have some form of macular degeneration, I first considered publishing my book in Large Print; that seemed easy enough. But then I read a publication which stated that audiobooks are becoming very popular and already have a world-wide market, not only for those with vision problems but for many other people who enjoy listening to books while commuting, working out, cooking, gardening and so on. Other reasons for their popularity are that audiobooks can continually be downloaded because they are never out of print, many non-readers would buy an audiobook to listen to and tell their friends, an audiobook will boost existing ebook and print book sales, and audiobook sales are growing by double digits.

In July, just as I was looking into it again and doing research on what it would take, D2Digital came with a special offer for Indie Authors – an offer I could not resist. And so it’s official! Spread the word! Recordings have started just last week (yes, it took about three months to get to that point) and if all goes well the final product will be finished by November 18. That makes for wonderful Christmas presents my friends! Think about it!

However, working on my Audiobook until the end of November, in addition to several Presentations that people have asked me to do, means that I will not have a whole lot of time to devote to writing my blog post every week. I hope you will bear with me and look forward with me to the Audiobook.

Next Tuesday morning I will drive to Sanford, a town about 45 minutes from here, for a presentation at the First Baptist Church; on November 27 the Raleigh Host Lions Club, the largest Lions Club and the largest service organization in North Carolina invited me for a Presentation at their meeting, and in the spring I will be talking to the Cary and the Apex Senior Communities, large groups, all!

Grateful that more and more people will continue to hear the stories my dear, courageous Mamma wrote down in her secret diary which she wrote under horrific circumstances, while struggling to survive the Japanese Concentration Camps in World War Two with her two little girls, I say:

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until soon!

Ronny

 

A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 12

Gifts

After World War Two our family was reunited and we moved into an empty home in Soerabaja, the city where we lived before the war. Our former house on Brouwerstreet was occupied, but many houses stood empty. Everything portable had been stolen out of the house. The only pieces of furniture left were a large side board and three large wooden beds with mattresses. A few crates from the yard would function as a table and chairs. There were no sheets, but then we did not know any better. My sister Paula and I found a silver hand mirror and a silver salt dish with blue glass inside underneath the sideboard. Treasures! After my mother passed away I got the hand mirror and the salt dish and I still have them. We had very few possessions left. That was the situation when I was seven years old and Paula five.

A year later we went to Holland where we met our grandparents for the very first time. They had gifts for us, unbelievable gifts. I got a porcelain doll dressed in the costume of Zeeland and another, smaller doll with pink clothes that Mina, my grandmother’s live-in housekeeper had crocheted, with tassels and beautiful shiny blue buttons. She even had pink underpants and a little camisole, crocheted socks and a pink bonnet. Lovely.

I have played with the dolls and later in life I had the costumed doll, the “boerinnepop”, on display in my bedroom. The little one I tucked away for my future granddaughters. But the time has come and gone. My oldest granddaughter is now ten, has many toys but never really played with dolls. The other two granddaughters are six and three, and they don’t play with dolls either. And then I met Lilly.

Lilly had lost everything in the hurricane; I heard she loved playing with dolls and her dad had only brought one Barbie doll in her suitcase. So I washed my doll’s clothes, replaced the 72-year old elastic in the pants and she was ready to meet her new mother. Tonight, when she came to have dinner with her grandparents, we sat together in the dining room. A very lively six-year-old, she told us she had turned six on the day the hurricane hit: September 10, 2017. “And our house was full of water, all the way till the roof!” After dinner we got together in the Players Room and she opened the box, which I had filled with pink tissue paper, the doll and an extra set of clothes. “Oh, a glass doll!” she exclaimed while she lifted her out of the box and cradled her in the nook of her left arm, and “Pink is my favorite color.”

It was a great success. She completely undressed her and then put everything on again, more careful after I showed her that the arms and legs could be twisted out of the socket if she was not very careful. I told her she could think of a name that she liked. Nothing came to mind immediately, but after we said goodbye and she walked to the elevator with her grandparents, grandma holding the empty box and she holding her new little treasure, she turned around and said, “Her name is Ellie.” Two days later her grandmother wrote me a thank you note with a special prayer: Child of God, may the grace and love of Christ meet you today. May God guide your footsteps and your words. May you be a blessing, especially as you are blessed. A gift I very much appreciated.

On Sundays after church the Club serves a copious brunch. There is a short line for the omelet station and then we go along the buffet and choose the things we like. Many people bring their children and grandchildren (most of whom are adults already) and it is fun to get to meet the second and third generations. We often sit with one couple whose son has a ranch nearby. The first time I noticed his boots under the table and asked if he came from Texas. No, he had a farm nearby, with a plethora of various animals. We started a conversation and we have sat together with him, his parents and sometimes his sisters many times since. One day, he came to our cottage after brunch (wearing brand new white sneakers :-)) and he handed me a large carton tube. Out came seventeen peacock feathers. Seventeen peacock feathers, what a gift! Some of them were five feet tall, the shortest ones 18 inches.

Four under feathers (he called them dog feathers), brown and beige, were 18 inches tall, and I am using one of them as a quill in a block of koa wood from Hawai’i on my desk. They look like the feathers of a bird of prey, like a large hawk.

I remember when we lived in Pasadena, that we went to the Arboretum in Arcadia where peacocks roamed free. But we never saw a peacock feather on the ground that was within reach, and certainly not of this size! In Kona Village Resort, on the western shore of the Big Island, they had white peacocks with feathers like lace. The world is full of beautiful creatures and beautiful things. Enjoy them while you can!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,

Ronny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Hurricanes

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!

Ronny

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,

Ronny

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

Ronny

 

 

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!

Ronny

A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 7

Telling My Story

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

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

The 2017 Solar Eclipse

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

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

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

An Encounter

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,

Ronny

 

A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 6

My Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Roofers

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

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

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

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

It’s a wonderful life!

Until next time!

Ronny

A New Life! Retirement at its Best. 5

Lost and Found 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get to feel at home already. I belong!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,

Ronny