Posts Tagged ‘Family’

When I think of the things that make me the happiest, it’s always the little things in life.  When I went out to dinner last night with my hubby, we walked past the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop and memories came rushing back from my days in high school.  My dad loved Baskin Robbins Burgundy Cherry.  My mom’s favorite was Daquiri Ice. I still remember them ordering those over 35 years ago.  It wasn’t an expensive treat or that unusual.  But I remember those trips to BR like it was yesterday.  We all had such a good time looking at those 31 (or more) flavors and trying to decide what we would have…only to go back to the tried and true favorites!  We’d get a scoop (or two) and laugh and talk about whatever was on our minds, enjoying the afternoon together.

Today I went to lunch with a friend.  It wasn’t a special lunch…nothing fancy.  But it was one of those little things in life…time with a friend.  Last night, I worked at commencement and had the chance to help hood the master’s candidates.  All I was doing was making sure their hoods were on correctly before they participated in commencement.  They were wonderfully appreciative for the help.  And it felt great!  The little things.

This morning, my little baby kitty (5 year old baby, that is) curled up with me in bed as my alarm was going off, purring and rubbing his nose on mine and then he licked the tip of my nose.  It’s the little things in life…

Tonight, as I was driving home and the sun was shining and my sunroof was open to let the sunbeams in and the fresh breeze blow across my face, I realized how great it feels.  Little things make me smile.

Fourth of July fireworks, a walk on the beach picking up shells, a beautiful sunrise, snuggled up on the couch with a roaring fire and a glass of wine, a drive in the country down a tree-lined lane or a rainy day curled up in bed reading a good book.

“It’s the sweet simple things in life which are the real ones after all.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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My hubby and I are getting to the age that many of our friends (and we aren’t far behind) are now starting to care for their parents.  Some of them are now complete caretakers and others are starting to give advice to their parents…and others fall into other parts of the spectrum.  So far, my husband has just been giving advice and reviewing their finances to make sure they can continue to do what they need to do on their own.  After hearing bits and pieces of some very sad stories from friends and acquaintances, and the occasional funny one, I realized how lucky I am that my mother is such a go-getter, that I haven’t yet had to consider the options that are available and what I would do if I needed to be her caretaker.  My mother is such an independent person, I just have no idea how I will get her to do what I say is necessary.

Recently, a friend was telling me about her experiences with her mother.  Her mother questioned her about the finances over and over until her daughter had to tell her that she had no choice.  Her mother asked, “Why?” and her daughter had to tell her, “Because I’m in charge now.”  She said it was the hardest thing she has ever had to do.  I could feel her pain as she told the story.  I know exactly how difficult it would be to say the same thing to my mom.

So, how do you know when you are just butting in where you aren’t needed and when you really need to step in and take control?

I worry about the day I need to let my mother know I’m in charge now. I don’t know how she’ll take it, but I hope it’s as good as my friend’s mother. When told her daughter was now in charge, her response was, “Okay.” And that was that.

“We begin our lives being cared for by our parents and we care for them at the end of theirs.  It’s a fair trade.” ~ AEK

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Almost 14 years ago, in Independence, Missouri, I was on my way to an appointment to see a Persian kitten.  I had recently lost my beautiful cat, Casper, who had lived a full 18 years.  I missed him and was lonely for the whiskery love of a cat.  For years, I had thought Persian cats were gorgeous and was not thinking beyond that.  I wasn’t sure how to get to the lady’s home and this was pre-GPS days, so I took note of the directions and started out early – I don’t like to be late.  I got to the area a full half-hour early, but saw a PetsMart near her home and wanted to look for a few cat toys.

And that decision to stop at PetsMart changed the course of what was to be and began my love affair with my new cat, Rascal.  When I went into the store, I realized they were running an adoption program for pets from the local animal pound.  I saw an adorable litter of kittens with their tuxedo mom.  Wanting a male cat, I asked if there were any males in the litter and they said, “two”.  I started playing with the male tuxedo kitten and all he was interested in was going back to play with his sisters.

I then asked which other one was male and they pointed out the little mackerel tabby sitting in the corner of the litter box, watching the rough and tumble play of his siblings.  I wasn’t sure he was a cat I was interested in, but I said I’d like to see him.  And that was it.  They placed him on the table in front of me and he ran to me, climbed up my shirt and snuggled at my neck.  I laughed and my heart melted.  I set him back on the table and he did the same thing…purring in my ear and snuggling in for life.  I called the lady with the Persian kitten and apologized that I would not be there.  But I knew I had made the right decision.

Rascal was a one-person cat.  He adored me and hissed and growled at almost everyone else, especially the vet – and anyone who worked there.  He purred like a motor-boat if I looked at him.  When I stroked his lovely chin and forehead, he squinted his gorgeous, green eyes and purred louder.  He loved me and I loved him.

My beautiful boy, Rascal.  His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline.  It almost looked like a heart shape.

My beautiful boy, Rascal. His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline. It almost looked like a heart shape.

Rascal spent the next two years with me, keeping me company and we were happy to hang out on the couch, curled up with a book or watching television.  His adventurous spirit was limited to hanging out on the windowsill, watching the birds, other cats and some squirrels playing in the yard.  He didn’t like the outdoors at all and if the door opened, he ran to the bedroom, hiding under the bed.

When he was two, my new love, Beau came to visit my house for the first time.  I expected that Rascal would hide until he was gone, but my shock could not have been bigger.  Rascal walked over to him and the doorway, rubbed against his legs and purred.  And when Beau sat down on a chair in the living room, Rascal hopped up behind his head and curled up, content to hang out with him.  My sweet, one-person cat had just become a two-person cat.  And that would last for the rest of Rascal’s life.

Beau and I were married several months later and Rascal and I flew from the United States to Germany to live with my new hubby while he finished the last bit of his 5 years working for the US Government in Germany.  Rascal thrived in Germany!  He loved the marble windowsills and the radiators that heated them in winter.  His favorite places were on those sills, watching the birds, the comings and goings of the neighbors and the distance he maintained from our landlord’s beagle and sitting in front of the balcony door.  But our time in Germany ended and we hopped on another plane, back to the United States and Texas – our new home.


Rascal’s next nine years were years of love, contentment and his happiness being a two-person cat. His favorite window was in the patio door. He pushed the curtain aside and would stare out – and panic if I was outside. I think he couldn’t quite comprehend why anyone, ever, would want to be outdoors. He’d watch every move I made until I came back inside.

And then he seemed to get hair balls all the time, started losing weight, and I knew that something was wrong.  His frequent visits to the vet began last May.  We dealt with treatments for the hairballs, he had a few bad teeth removed and he seemed to stabilize.  And then he began to lose more weight.  At first, we assumed it was because we had changed his diet to accommodate his fewer teeth, the need to keep his food more moist.

But then six weeks later, he was sick again.  And we returned to the vet…again and again.  Finally, I realized there was something much more wrong with him.  I saw him every day, but even I knew he was losing a lot of weight.  My once fat, fluffy cat who had weighed in at one point over 17 lbs was now at 11 lbs.  And that was when he was diagnosed with an intestinal tumor.

Our wonderful vet removed the tumor and sent it in for a biopsy.  We were told that Rascal’s tumor was cancerous, but that of the two types, it was the lesser and the margins were clean and it had not progressed to lymph nodes.  My optimism returned.  I thought we were going to still keep my baby with us for a few more years.  A month later, we discovered more issues and then the diagnosis that there was likely another mass in his intestines.

At that point, we took him home to enjoy his last days.  To the bitter end, my sweet, loveable Rascal looked at me with love, wanted to be held, snuggled and purred whenever I looked at him or stroked his beautiful face.  I adore him still and miss that face and the love he gave me from that first day at PetsMart.  I will never love a cat the way I loved him.  He was there for me during my time alone and accepted my husband into our life unconditionally…and with no hesitation.

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ~ Charles Dickens 

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As I’ve made quite clear in the name and description of my blog, I travel.  As much as possible.  And, although I’ve been many places in my life so far, there are far more interesting places yet to visit.  My list seems to be growing, not shrinking.  And as I see the end of my life getting closer each day (not that I expect it will happen for years, but you never know), I find that I am starting to face my mortality.  I am beginning to realize that I may never get to see all the interesting places I’d like to visit.  So, now I find myself starting to prioritize.  And I am getting more insistent that every single vacation must be somewhere significant.  I don’t have time to waste in visiting the same places over and over, just because I happened to like them. 

The more I find myself prioritizing, though, the longer the list becomes.  Because each time I look at where I want to go next, I think of another place that I just MUST see before…well, you know.  I’m extremely excited that in the next few months, I’ll be checking off a major destination from the list.  I’m going to Alaska!  I’m so happy that my dear, sweet hubby has let me talk him into the Alaska cruise.  I know…I won’t be in Alaska long, but I will have had a small taste of the experience.  And, like my father, I will find myself off the coast of Alaska on a ship.  But unlike my father, Alaska is a state when I will be off the coast.  My father was on a ship off the coast about a year before Alaska became a state. 

I have always wondered what that must have been like for him.  It couldn’t have been as exciting as it will be for me.  He was on a military ship.  I, on the other hand, will be enjoying the luxury of a cruise ship, entertainment, good food, and my family (translated: hubby) with me. 

My father was from a small town in southern California and had been in the military a couple of years or so when he was off the coast of Alaska.  It must have been a little different for him.  I grew up moving and traveling.  He didn’t.  But if it hadn’t been for the adventurous spirit of my father, willing to join the military, I would not have been born.  He met my mother in England when he was stationed there.  I’m very thankful he went to church that Sunday morning so many years ago in a strange city.  After getting married, they moved to France and along came me!

My first trip to another country was when I was two months old and my parents took me back to the church where they met and were married to be christened.  And I’ve been traveling ever since.  About 9 years ago, my hubby and I took a trip to England and visited that church, along with other amazing places all over England.  I’ve been fortunate to spend time in Europe, the USSR, the US, Mexico, Latin America, South America, and Canada.  And, someday, I hope to expand my travels to other areas of the world.  Because, although I’ve been so many places in my life and time, I still have so much to see.  And I thank my father for giving me this traveling bug.  If it hadn’t been for him…well, you know.


“Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes.” ~ Jan Myrdal

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Or should I call it Planes, Trains and Automobiles?  You’ll understand soon enough… 

Why is it that I can plan a vacation and have all the timing down…everything goes so smoothly.  And then I get married.  Since then, it seems that vacations have a tendency to have things go wrong.  No matter what, it is a comedy of errors.  But the first vacation my hubby and I took after we got married was the worst best example of what not to do on a vacation.

We were living in Germany and trying to travel as much as possible before moving back to the states.  So, we planned a trip to England.  Or, rather, my hubby made the travel arrangements and I planned the activities.  And he’s a bargain hunter.  And his bargains aren’t always the best options for a good vacation.  He booked us on Ryan Air, which meant we flew out of an airport in Germany that was in the middle of a forest!  Nowhere near a city.  WAY out in the countryside.  Nothing around.  Since we traveled there in the day and left our car, the beginning of the trip wasn’t too bad.  In fact, we got to England and caught the train very easily up to the Lake District.  And our bed & breakfast wasn’t bad!  We had a good time with our tour and also explored on our own until it was time to travel south to see my mother’s family and visit some other areas. 

We caught the train (with our handy-dandy BritRail passes) and got to Chester…only to discover there were races going on and half of Britain was on the train or in Chester for the day.  We opted to head straight to Manchester, so we wouldn’t miss meeting up with my Uncle Ian, who was expecting us in mid-afternoon.  Wow…that was when the first problem hit.  We were lugging a fair amount of luggage and had to hop onto a train that was packed like a sardine can from a platform filled to overflowing with everyone trying to either get on or off the train.  We were finally successful on our third or fourth try. 

Our stay in Manchester was very nice, too.  And then we were off to London, to catch our plane back to Germany.  We were staying for a couple of days of sightseeing and had a wonderful time.  Until I twisted my foot on a cobblestone street — discovered much later that I must have fractured a bone in my foot.  It healed and has been nothing but pain since. 

But on to the bad part of the trip.  Or funny, depending on perspective.  I laugh about it now.  Hubby still can’t.  It was an ordeal for him and an adventure for me that gave me the opportunity to see more of Europe than originally planned.  But I’m skipping ahead.

The evening before we were supposed to leave, my dear hubby decided we should blow most of our remaining pounds Sterling on a great dinner.  We had a wonderful meal (Chinese) and went to bed early, since we needed to depart by 6am to catch the tube to the train to the airport.  Yes, it was complicated just to get to the airport.  And since my hubby didn’t want to spend the cash for the more expensive tickets, we were leaving on Friday morning EARLY to beat the rush of the British leaving for a holiday weekend to the continent.  And he didn’t want any extra pounds leftover, so he used up the rest of what we had to pay the hotel bill.  And we walked down from the hotel, lugging luggage (again) to catch the tube at 6 (when it was supposed to start running).  BUT, that is when it starts running in the inner part of London.  They hadn’t reached the outskirts until 6:30.  We hopped on the first subway train and off we went.  And caught the next one to take us to the train to the airport.  By now, we were pushing our luck!  We RAN like crazy people to the train and the doors slid shut directly in front of our noses and we stood there panting and gazing at the train getting smaller and smaller in the distance.  Fifteeen minutes later, we caught the train.  As we ran to the gate to check in at the airport, we knew it was not looking good, but figured we could catch a later plane if necessary.  NO.  We missed our boarding time by 5 minutes and there were no flights available until Monday.  It was Friday!  And all my dear hubby kept saying was, “I need to get back by 7 tonight”.  I wanted to strangle him.  He turned and looked at me and asked, “what now?”  Okay, I saw the writing on the wall.  I had thought we could just go back to our hotel and stay a couple of extra days and then go back home on Monday, but then his face told me otherwise.  He expected me to get us back.  So, I did the only thing I knew.  Get us to France.  After all, it’s next door to Germany.   

We caught the train back to London from the airport and then I checked the schedules.  I could get us on a train (using our handy-dandy BritRail passes again) and head to Dover.  Then we could catch the ferry to Calais.  After that, we had to figure out what next.  I figured there had to be an ICE train to Germany.  Well, the train from London to Dover must have stopped in every village and town along the way, picking up and dropping off passengers.  All the way, my dear hubby was in a bad mood and kept repeating, “I need to be back by 7pm.”  He had an obligation and didn’t want to contact anyone to sit in for him.  Well, we didn’t get to the ferry until 3pm.  I knew we weren’t going to make it, but we were in DOVER!  The Cliffs of Dover have always been one of my favorite sights in the world.  They are dramatic, imposing and amaze me.  I was over the moon getting to see them again and asked hubby if he wanted to go to the upper deck to see them.  No.  He wasn’t interested.  So I went off to see them. 

We arrived in Calais and immediately found the train station.  We had just missed the last train to Germany for the night.  We were going to have to rent a car or find a hotel for the night.  It was now 5pm and somehow, my hubby still was determined to get back to Germany that night.  We were NOT going to make it.  It was clear!  But he was determined.  So, we rented a car and started driving.  And got to Brussels…the dreaded ring road around Brussels was another nightmare.  We couldn’t find the right exit.  We kept going around and around.  We finally saw a miniature sign pointing off to the right and we were on our way to Germany. 

By now, it was getting darker and darker–night was falling.  And we were in the woods.  Dark woods with very tall trees.  We drove. And drove. And drove.  And drove.  My eyes were drooping and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.  But we continued on, despite having missed the deadline to get back.  Hubby had made the call for a substitute for his obligation and I wanted a hotel.  But we drove.  We were lost a couple of times and then found our way back to the right road. 

And at 3:30am, we found the airport in the woods.  And had to spend the rest of the night in our car, waiting for the airport to open and for daylight.   Each time I fell asleep in that reclined front seat, I’d sleep about 15-20 minutes and wake up cold.  Hubby would start the car and as soon as it was warm, I’d fall asleep again and he’d cut the engine.  No carbon monoxide poisoning for us!  I’d get cold again and wake up, “I’m cold, I’m cold!”  He’d start the engine and we’d warm up and I’d fall asleep.  Finally, it was morning.  We had now been traveling for 24 hours.  Yes, we could have been in London, enjoying the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth.  Or we could be sleeping in a car in an airport parking lot, in the middle of the woods.  And did I mention this was our belated honeymoon??  Yep.    

So, now that it was morning, it was time to return the car and drive home.  But, the car we had rented still needed to be returned and this airport didn’t have a rental office for this car.  We had to drive to a major city to drop it off.  And I had to drive our car.  I had only been in Germany a few months and had just received my driver’s license for Germany.  I had never driven on the autobahn.  I had never driven that fast.  I was scared.  Off we went to Cologne to return the car and then we finally headed home.  I was dozing most of the way, once we were back in our car and hubby was driving.  We got home at noon, 30 hours after leaving our hotel in London. 

Exhausted, grubby and thankful to be out of a car or other mode of transportation!  At last, I turned to hubby and noticed he was still not a happy camper.  I was laughing about some of what we’d been through, but he didn’t find any of it humorous.  I hope, someday, he can laugh about this.  As we approach our 10th anniversary, I am tempted to ask him to repeat our trip to England.  But this time, no cheap flights, no crazy treks back home.  Besides, now we can’t drive back…we live in the states.

So, what disastrous vacations have you had?

“No vacation goes unpunished.” ~ Karl A. Hakkarainen

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I have so much to forgive people for.  I could choose to forgive the guys who dumped me through my dating years.  I could choose to forgive the friends who’ve drifted away…or forgive myself for letting them.  I could choose to forgive the person who cut me off on the highway recently.  But I think the challenge of forgiving someone is to forgive someone whose transgression is really severe.  That type of forgiveness is so difficult!

I could choose to forgive the guy who killed my father…but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  I know that forgiveness doesn’t mean you think that what you are forgiving is okay, but that you are letting it go.  Letting go of the anger or disappointment or resentment.  I can do that for minor transgressions.  I’ve let go of the hurt and anger I felt toward those boyfriends who cheated or just walked away.  I have let go of the hurt feelings I had when friends drifted away.  But I have not been able to forgive someone who did something so evil, so permanent…the man who killed my father did this not out of anything he had against my father, but because he was trying to escape from prison. 

So, that complete lack of respect for another’s life is unforgiveable.  To me.  I can’t let it go.  This happened over 30 years ago.  When I think that a good Christian would forgive him, I realize I have a long way to go.  In fact, a few years ago, this man came up for parole again.  And I fought it, like I had every time he was up for parole.  I pleaded with the parole board to keep him in prison and let them know how afraid we were that he would someday be free.  At the time, I had no idea he was very sick.  But a couple of months later, we were informed that his family wanted him released, because he was ill.  And a few months later, he died…in prison.  And I rejoiced.  Yes.  I celebrated that he was gone and I especially celebrated that he had not been released.  And I felt such relief that he would never kill anyone again and that he had not known the joy of going home to die.  My father hadn’t had that luxury.  So, his killer didn’t deserve it.  I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.  Do I feel bad that I couldn’t forgive him?  NO.  I feel like I haven’t grown as a Christian, but I also know that he hadn’t either.  Not only that, but if it means that I won’t go to heaven, I will have to deal with that.  But I am absolutely positive he won’t be there!  He felt no remorse.  He committed crimes inside and outside of prison.  And he deserves no forgiveness. 

So, I continue on my path to be a better person.  But I feel that even though I can’t forgive him, I am on a path of understanding.  I understand that I need to be a better person.  I understand that I can’t bring myself to forgive him. And I understand that there are consequences for our actions.  His was that he died alone.  Mine is that I may or may not spend eternity suffering the consequences of not being able to forgive. 

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” ~ Alexander Pope

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My dear hubby has quite a sense of humor…not ALWAYS appreciated, but for the most part is so much fun! He inherited his dad’s awful love of puns…and since I have a strange love of puns, too, it’s a good thing we found each other. It doesn’t matter that many of them are “groaners”, I laugh. And not just one of those polite-little-tinkly laughs, either, but a great, big, wahoo kind of laugh.

When making my list (girls, you know that list) of what I wanted in a guy, sense of humor was very high on it. In fact, I think it struggled with good-hearted to be number 1. I know, when we’re young, good looks is probably number 1 for most, but not me. Okay, it may have been number 2, but it was NEVER at the very top. Nice smile, sense of humor, good-hearted, gentleman, etc…all of these were requirements. And I’m so lucky! My funny Valentine has all of these character traits, appearance traits, and so much more.

As I get older, the ability to make me laugh becomes even more important. And I know why, now. Even if he makes me mad, with one of his silly jokes he almost always makes me laugh. And then I can’t be mad at him anymore. It’s a great solution to a tiff.

So, if you are still out there searching for “Mr. Right”, don’t discount the importance of an amazing sense of humor…one that you “get”, one that will make you laugh no matter what. Because Life is Just Way Too Serious!

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” ~ W. H. Auden

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