Letters From MY Former Self

Reading letters I wrote in the 1970’s gives me perspective on my former self

Follow me on Bloglovin’

I have a very good friend that I have known since I was a toddler. We live in different states and have not seen one another for years. But we keep in touch through Facebook postings. She is also an avid reader of my blog. Recently, she was rummaging through her basement and discovered several letters that I wrote to her from my freshman and sophomore years in college. When asked if I wanted her to mail them to me, I eagerly agreed and waited for the mail to arrive.
I quickly opened the package containing letters and photographs from my past. This was a glimpse into my former self, so kindly saved for me by my friend Nancy from 1978 and ’79. At that time I was attending Douglass College, Rutgers University in New Jersey. I had been a sheltered, naive girl and was absolutely unprepared for college social life.
I wrote about college life and basically what life was like for a college coed in the seventies. There was plenty of discussion of drinking, boys, parties and my busy schedule.
Several of the letters were typed. I had been so excited that my parents had bought me an electric typewriter for my birthday. This was decades before IPads and Smart phones.
In some of the letters I sound boy crazy. In others I discuss my plan to spend the summer down the Jersey shore. I was excited that my friends and I were lucky enough to get jobs as a chamber maids. That job did not last long. I soon found much more enjoyable jobs operating the kiddie boat ride at Mariner’s Landing Amusement Park and selling almond butter crunch at Mallin’s Candy Store.
I wrote of my plan to save money to go skydiving. Little did I know my skydiving would wait about thirty years and I would be joined by my youngest son, Tim.
IMG_6410

In the final letter I read, I mention spending time with a guy named Greg. We talked all night about our desire to go skydiving. His friend Tim told me “Greg likes you.” I hoped he did. That guy Greg and I celebrated thirty five years of marriage last week. I guess he really did like me.
IMG_6400

I Am My Husband’s Apprentice

Why building a wall together will help you appreciate your differences.

Follow me on Bloglovin’
I am married to an engineer.  He fits the stereotype of an engineer.  The spreadsheets, the planning, the precise measurements, typical analytical mind, that’s him.  I on the other hand rely on instinct rather than logic or knowledge.  Being impulsive and flexible was an asset when teaching preschoolers.

Recently we decided (after much persuading by me) to put up a reclaimed barnwood wall.  I’ve seen them everywhere on television and in decorating magazines and thought it would look perfect in my dining room.  Greg, my husband needed to be convinced, but eventually I wore him down with the promise that I would help him with the entire job.  How hard could it be?  It’s just some rustic wood nailed up on the wall, right? Not exactly. This is where that engineer brain conflicted with my spontaneous style.

First stop was to pick up the barnwood.  We ended up picking boards from two different locations to get the colors and textures I wanted.  These were pretty rough boards, uneven, bowed, and various lengths and thickness.  Next, we visited Home Depot for goggles, ear protection,  liquid nails, nails for the nail gun and gloves.

IMG_2744
Driving hom with the barnwood, he looks happy now
With the supplies in hand we were ready to begin the project I thought.  Not exactly.  After watching a couple of YouTube videos we determined that we should paint the wall black before hanging the wood.  Back to Home Depot for more paint and then we begin.

Greg wanted to make sure every board had a smooth edge, so we ran them through the the joiner, a machine that takes small around of wood off of the outer edge of a board.  I wanted the design to look a certain way, so we laid all of the wood out on the garage floor in the pattern that looked best to me.  Greg would have been content with all gray wood, but I was not going for that.

IMG_2745
Beginning to lay our the pattern for the wood wall
While Greg was using the joiner I began painting the wall black.  Since nobody will see it my paint job was less than perfect, but served its purpose.  Basically, it hides the knots and holes in the wood from peaking through.  Once he was finished with the joining, I thought we would start slapping up the boards.  No such luck.  Greg meticulously measured and cut the boards for the bottom row.  He wanted to have three board, two board row combination but I convinced him that random lengths looks better.

temporary
The wall is starting to come together
He was not happy that some of the boards were thicker than others, or that some were warped, very splintery or just plain ugly.  He originally wanted to run all of the boards through his planer so they would have a uniform thickness.  I helped pull a few boards through the planer, mumbling under my breath the entire time “how the hell is this rustic?” Eventually we came to a meeting of the minds and did it my way AND his way.  I was fine with him joining the edges of the boards, because that made him happy.  But I eventually put my foot down and said I like the imperfections with the various thickness of the boards.  He relented.  Together we cut boards to size.  I handed him the nail gun and any other requested tool.

For every row he used liquid nails, the nail gun and the level.  And chalk.  Why chalk you ask?  We needed chalk to mark the studs.  Greg has a stud finder but since he didn’t trust it completely, he had to nail into each presumed stud to ensure the stud finder was correct.

temporary
Near the top of the arch we discovered the builder’s insert was not square, oh no!
I thought this job would take two days max.  It was closer to a week to completion.  I love how talented my husband is with his woodworking projects.  I am happy to give him my creative suggestions. But he can have the garage with the loud tools, splinters and sawdust everywhere.  I’m happy with my painting and giving him project design suggestions.

The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

IMG_5430
My hummingbird, a work in progress
IMG_2462
Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.

Day Trippin’ In Arizona

Why you need to take a road trip in Arizona

Some days you just want to get out and get moving.  Recently I had one of those days.  I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”

He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road.  My husband is the driver for two reasons:

  1.  He is the constant line leader.
  2.  I am a lousy driver.
temporary
My husband, an excellent driver

 

Even though we’ve  lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail.   The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail.  We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.

President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies.  “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”  He was right.

Slowly we drove along the  steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles.  Along the way we passed several single lane bridges.  There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges.  You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross.  Luckily for us the route was not busy

.  This is not a drive for the timid motorist.  Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons.  I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else.  Yet another reason why I am not the driver.

temporary
View of the colors along the Apache Trail

An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants.  So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.

IMG_2309
Canyon Lake
IMG_5290
Another photographer pointed out this lone bright orange poppy

We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail.  Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel.  We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us.  In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard.  I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.

IMG_5285
An ocotillo ready to bloom with the colors of the desert in the background
temporary
Superstition Mountains in the background
IMG_5295
Even though we couldn’t alway pull the car over, we still enjoyed the view
IMG_5289
Century plants, ocotillos, brittle bushes and prickly pears along the way

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Older, Apparently it’s Unavoidable

Getting older is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Age is a sticky subject for me.  I don’t like to admit that I’m getting older but the reality of life is that getting older is better than the alternative.

I guess when you admit that you are getting older you also become more accepting of the reality of your own mortality.  And that is something I’m not ready for.

Maybe one of the positive things about age and maturity is that your perspective changes.  Now I don’t worry about what people think about me.  Gone are the days of insecurity.  You can like me if you want, but it’s not something that I crave any longer.  I am not afraid to give people my honest opinion.

Knowing that life is precious and fleeting, I really want to experience everything I can.  I do try to live my dreams.  Going to Australia and seeing the Great Barrier Reef last month was something I wanted to do since I was a kid.   I fell in love with the spectacular pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, and the idea of visiting a far away place.  My brother Neal, who keeps EVERYTHING  from our childhood (and archives it  )recently sent me the National Geographic School Bulletin from 1968.  This was the magazine that ignited my desire to to see Australia.   On the cover was Australia’s Barrier Reef.   As a nine year old,  I saw those pictures and knew I had to go there.   It was on my Bucket List.   It may have taken me almost fifty years, but I got there.  It no longer looks like it did in 1968, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

 

IMG_4914
Captivating article about Great Barrier Reef “one of the most awesome spots on earth.”

I was finding Nemo inside the magazine in ’68, thirty five years  before Pixar even dreamed of the movie.

IMG_4886
Clownfish from 1968 magazine

Right now I’m dealing with the realization that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to.   I fractured my foot a couple of weeks ago, climbing the stairs.  No, it didn’t happen when I bungee jumped off a building, or when I was snorkeling , or hiking or riding a speed boat.  It happened when I was just climbing the stairs!

IMG_2158
My new “boot”

I’m in a walking boot now  and it is very uncomfortable to walk in.  When I went to the store yesterday I sat in a cart scooter, acknowledging my disability .  I drove around Costco and knocked over a couple of displays, but no people.  Those things are really slow, and loud when you back up.  It took me twice as long to shop as it usually does.  I felt vulnerable and old.  Two things I wish to avoid.

I may accept the realization that my body isn’t as strong as it once was, but I am not giving up.  I realize this is my new reality. It’s probably time to give away my roller blades.  But I refuse to let it slow me down.                                                                                Age is only a number.

IMG_2174
My rollerblades, not for sale……. yet

 

 

 

 

Exploring Down Under

Taking in the sights, sounds and flavors or Sydney and Auckland

When our cruise ship arrived in Sydney at sunrise I was awed by the absolute beauty of the city.  The Sydney Opera House, Harbor Bridge and gorgeous downtown were all so spectacular.

temporary
Harbor Bridge, Sydney
temporary
Downtown Sydney at sunrise

We had only one day to spend in Sydney before we headed to Auckland, New Zealand so we wanted to make the best of it.  We checked  into our hotel and because it was a Sunday we headed over to the Market at The Rocks.  The Rocks are located on the site of Sydney’s historic city center.  We shopped some of the stalls of hand made and recently imported items then ate a terrific lunch along the way at playfair cafe.  They offered sandwiches and salads but we also decided to order the berry crumble, which was the better than you could ever imagine.  The owner, Sean told us it was worth the wait and was going to change our lives.  It was and it did.  We ate it so quickly I forgot to take a photo of it in all of it’s deliciousness.

temporary
Home of the life changing “crumble”

We walked along the ferry terminal to the  Opera House.  It is spectacular up close as well .  I had no idea that the surface was covered with tiles.

 

temporary
A bit of a different view of the Sydney Opera House

We have some friends from Phoenix who now live in Sydney so after our shopping we met them for dinner at Ripples.  It is located outside a community pool and has a beautiful view of both the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.  The food and wine were so delicious and it was so very nice to spend time with our expat friends.  After dinner they suggested we walk the bridge.  It was a short walk and the evening views did not disappoint.  It was also free, not the  $250 charged by the company that escorts walkers slowly across the highest point of bridge.

temporary
Seafood salad from Ripples

 

temporary
My friend Brooks and I outside Ripples Restaurant in Sydney

 

temporary
Beautiful bridge architecture
temporary
View of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge

The next morning we were at the airport headed to Auckland, New Zealand for a few days.  We arrived in Auckland and recognized the SkyTower before we even hit downtown.  We checked into our Airbnb in the center of town and were ready to explore the city.  Since we only had four days in New Zealand, we decided to explore Auckland and the surrounding area by foot and by ferry.

We went to the ferry terminal and took Fuller’s  Harbor tour, which provided us with a nice narrated cruise with view of Auckland’s downtown from the water, Bean Rock Lighthouse, the Auckland Harbor bridge and stops in Rangitoto, an island created by volcanic rock, and Davenport.

temporary
Downtown Auckland from the harbor
temporary
Bean Rock Lighthouse
temporary
A seagull perched on top of a roof in Rangitoto

I may get scared easily, but ultimately I am an adrenaline junkie.  I like to be scared.  As soon as I saw people bungee jumping off of the Sky Tower, I knew I had to do it.  A thrill, with very little risk in my estimation.  After you sign your life away, participants are weighed, placed in jumpsuits and harnesses and sent up to the top of the tower to free fall for about twelve seconds.  It was terrifying and exhilarating. I screamed the entire way down and loved it.

img_4720
Freefalling from the 630 foot Auckland Sky Tower

We celebrated after the jump by enjoying a New Zealand delicacy, Green Lipped mussels.  They were gigantic and fabulous.

img_2106
Green lipped mussels, order the small portion

For our final day in Auckland we booked a day long wine tasting tour with Waiheke Island Wine Tours. We were met by our driver Wayne, a life long resident of this picturesque island, who explained the history of winemaking on the island as well as information about native Maori culture.  We visited three wineries and finished with a gourmet lunch at The Shed at Dunleavy Vineyards.

temporary
A view of the small marina from Waiheke Island
temporary
One of the many vineyard in Waiheke Island
temporary
Wine tasting at Miro Winery
img_2124
Luggage for the trip home

The next morning we woke up early for a very long travel day back to America.  We were able to keep our baggage down to two suitcases and two backpacks. For our return We did check our luggage since they were now heavy and expanded to maximum capacity, also we needed to put our wine somewhere..

We have completed our journey of thirty one days visiting the other side of the world.  We tried new foods, met new friends and experienced things that we will never forget.  There is no one else in this world that I enjoy traveling with more than my husband.  As we waited for our Uber to arrive a bus passed us by and on that bus was the message of our travel.

img_2113

 

 

 

A Great Cruise: What Azamara Cruiseline Does Right

Review of Azamara Journey cruise

We enjoy cruising.  Really, what’s not to like?  You are provided with food, lodging, maid service, entertainment and alcohol and get to visit beautiful spots in the world.

When my children were very young we embarked on several low cost cruises that allowed the five of us stay in the same 120 square foot room.  What the heck were we thinking?  What parent doesn’t want to get into a closet size room with their spouse and three active children?  My kids loved cruising because there was 24 hour pizza, ice cream and a family vacation all rolled into one.  But once we went to bed,  NO ONE could get up, unless everybody got up.  Since there were bunks on top of bunks, I’m pretty sure at least one of my three kids needed to step on another to get in or out of bed.

Things have changed.  We’re retired now and our adult children don’t usually cruise with us.  When we choose a cruise we look for great itineraries .  We found a fabulous itinerary on the Azamara Journey eighteen nights from Singapore to Sydney with stops in Bali, Komodo Northern Australia and The Great Barrier Reef.  We had never heard of Azamara before but after some researching, we decided to try this cruiseline owned by Celebrity.  Customer ratings were positive so we booked our cruise.

Things Azamara does differently

1. The food was exceptional.  Because the kitchen staff is only preparing meals for 600 or so passengers the quality and preparation of the food was spot on.  At every meal you can eat at either the Windows Cafe or Discovery dining room.  There is not assigned, fixed seating so you have an opportunity to either enjoy your meal as a couple or ask to be placed at a group table.

temporary
Lobster tail from specialty restaurant

2.  The entertainment was diverse.  Guests can enjoy dance lessons, card games, painting, trivia, destination lecturers as well as small and larger scale musical shows.  One interesting note about the entertainment was that the Cruise Director, Eric was also an amazing performer. He sang, danced, skated, told jokes and performed in drag on our eighteen day cruise. There is really nothing quite like watching a six foot six performer skate, sing and dance in drag.

temporary
Cruise director Eric with my friend Pat

3.  On every cruise Azamara hosts a White Party where guests and employees alike all dress in white and enjoy a sumptuous lobster barbecue on the deck, complete with drinks, entertainment, line dancing and also a few people in the pool at the end of the night (myself included). The night was a brilliant seventy degrees with clear skies and a full moon.

temporary
Enjoying White Party with new friends Jeff, Jennifer, Gail and Marilyn
temporary
The ladies decided to take a dip in the pool at The White Party
temporary
Dancing in the pool at the end of the White Party

4.  The people that work at Azamara are friendly.  Not the fake smile and nod friendly, they are really friendly.  From the room steward to the captain everyone greets you on the ship and they will engage you in a conversation.  You can’t fake that.

5.   Azamara also hosts an AZAMAZING EVENING at one of the ports where locals provide a night of culture and entertainment for the guest. On our night in Cairns we were treated to  face painting, dance and music as we learned more of the natives aboriginal culture.

temporary
Face paint courtesy of the performers

6.  Azamara has only two ships, each hold approximately 600 passengers. They are often able to get into much smaller ports than the mega ships. The ships were refurbished recently and are decorated in warm gray hues. They change the itineraries frequently and often stay at a port late or remain overnight. This really allows the opportunity for passengers to spend time enjoying the destinations. For my husband and I, really IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DESTINATIONS.

temporary
Bali 

7.  I may be new to Azamara but we are not new to cruising. Azamara does things differently.  They use technology throughout their ship, from the USB plugs by the bed lamp to photos from the ship’s photographer that can be viewed on your stateroom television.  The same was true for your bill.

temporary
A nightly treat with our fresh fruit and flowers

8.   Azamara Includes the price of your basic alcohol and tipping with the price of your cruise. It makes it so much easier to budget cruise costs this way. You do have the option to buy premium alcohol packages, internet packages as well as dining in the two specialty restaurants.
9.  We usually choose an inside stateroom.  Basically we would rather spend our travel dollar on more travel rather than on a more expensive cabin.  We also were very pleased with our room, the comfortable bedding, linens and the fruit and fresh flowers in our state room daily. Who else does that?  Especially for an inside stateroom.  Azamara has some terrific common space that made it easier to spend time getting to know new friends.

img_3700
The “Living Room” offered a place to enjoy conversation, drinks and tapas with friends

9.  Timing is everything. Our ship, The Journey arrived at our final port of Sydney at sunrise.  Passengers were all informed that we would be sailing by the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge as the sun was rising.  We were met on the top deck to greet the new day in beautiful Sydney with mimossas and pastries.

temporary
Sydney’s iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House at sunrise

 

We know that we will sail with Azamara again.  They are not the cheapest, the largest, the newest, but for our money they are the best.  They are a cruiseline with heart.