Must Do Miami

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South Beach is bit like Las Vegas. Both have lots of alcohol-fueled partying with young men and women celebrating their youth while destroying their livers, live music and the obligatory minute millionaires driving their rent by the hour Lamborghini for everyone to notice.  But South Beach is so much more than what you first notice. Take a longer look and you see and appreciate the diverse culture reflected in the eclectic food and music. There is a deep pride and respect for the past, instead of tearing down buildings, the Art Deco buildings are restored and the past is celebrated.

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We chose to stay in a boutique hotel on Collins Avenue, right in the middle of South Beach. The Kimpton Beachcomber Hotel, a small three story boutique hotel. What is a boutique hotel you may ask? Most often they are small and have unique amenities. The lobby was unique and eclectic with live edge wood sculptures, bookcases, sofas and comfy chairs and lots of interesting art. This is not a homogenized hotel! As we are checking in we are offered wine at the complimentary happy hour. The hotel personnel are both friendly and genuinely helpful. The room is small yet beautiful. The beach is located behind the hotel pool area. The back area includes a bar, towel service and a variety of yard games, rocking chairs and sculptures of cows. I did say this place was eclectic.
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The Kimpton offers seats on the beautiful sandy beach, as well as bar service. The bites and drinks were not exorbitantly priced, and who doesn’t enjoy a picnic lunch in the sand? There are several miles of beautifully manicured walking and biking paths just before the beach. We took advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and rode up and down the paths early one morning.
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In South Beach you must try the diverse food offered. We were given the recommendation by a waitress to try a Peruvian restaurant called CHALAN ON THE BEACH. The uber fresh seafood was lightly seasoned and plentiful. We shared a sea bass ceviche which was nothing short of spectacular. The patrons were mostly locals ordering house specialities. We also enjoyed a seafood dish with rice, seasoned with Peruvian spices that seemed to sweeten the fish and rice.

When in South Beach trying some authentic Cuban food is mandatory. We visited HAVANA 1957 and ordered the daily specials of Cuban meatballs and rice. The dish was also served with soft, sweet plantain slices. The prices were very reasonable, except for the mojitos. At $15 and up they seemed pricy for lunch. No worries, we came back a couple of hours later and enjoyed delicious half priced mojitos at the bar inside
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We also had chicken, lamb and steak kabobs as well as incredibly delicious deeply roasted Brussels sprouts at CLEO a Middle Eastern place. The bar was ornate and the restaurant was a cool respite from the Miami afternoon heat.

On our final night in Miami our hotel had a pig roast (but from the looks of the poor fellow I think he was deep fried). For only eight dollars we each enjoyed pork tacos, homemade tortillas, rice and beans. The beer was local and cold and soon the Latin band was playing music and everyone was dancing to the beat as the ocean breeze blew.
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Jackie Gleason had a show many years ago that I watched as a child. He used to say how beautiful Miami Beach was as he began each show with the words “How sweet it is!”

Letters From MY Former Self

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

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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.
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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.
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How To Stay Married

Tips for a happy marriage

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I have been very happily married to my husband for thirty-five years.  What makes a great marriage?  People ask that question all the time.  There is a simple answer.  Compromise.

The top ten ways to have a happy marriage

1.  Recognize that your partner’s happiness needs to be what makes you happy too.

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2.  Take an interest in what they care about.  I don’t love watching golf, but I have learned to aske questions about the game and have a greater understanding of golf.  He encourages my writing and helps edits my blogs.

3.  Spend time together, doing something you both enjoy.  When we first had children we tried to have a weekly date.  I used to tell him, “i don’t care if we just go out for a baloney sandwich, I just want time as a couple.”  Now that our children are adults, we love spending time traveling together.  Make it an adventure.

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4.  Divide household chores, but be willing to mix them up. My husband started cooking when he retired, and I started doing some gardening.  He still is better handling the bills, and I do a better job  cleaning than he does.

5.  Spend time apart.  I’m not suggesting you move out of your home but have interest outside of your home that doesn’t involve your partner.

6.  Agree to agree when it comes to discipline.  Presenting a united front is always the best approach when parenting children.  Kids like structure and rules, they can smell weakness.  When your children are young be a parent, not their friend.  If you do a good enough job Actually parenting when they are young, they will want to be your friend when they are adults.

7.  Make time for your love life.  I read somewhere once that greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  Set an example of love and respect.

8.  Laugh together, at each other and with each other.  We’re not afraid to make fun of one another.  I know my bad driving is the likely cause of road rage in the state of Arizona and he knows that he doesn’t really need three navigation systems to get us somewhere.

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9.  Forgive one another, don’t hold onto grudges.  Sometime you have to agree to disagree, then drop the subject.

10.  Go though tough times.  LIfe usually makes this happen for all of us anyway, but it does strengthen your love. We have been at one another’s side for so many difficult times.  We have held each other up through sickness, stress and the death of our parents.  We have cried in each other’s arms and we both have always known that the love we have for each other carries us on.

I Am My Husband’s Apprentice

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Botox Gone Bad

Living with the consequences of my vanity.

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I will admit it, I’m vain.  I would much rather give you my social security number than my age.  I try to take care of myself.  I eat fairly well, exercise regularly and I stay out of the sun.  Whenever I have a little extra money I get Botox or some other treatment that will help hide my age.

Recently I went in to the medspa for some Botox.  I was hosting a party a few days later and wanted to make the lines around my eyes disappear.  If you have never had Botox I highly recommend it.  The shot is barely a pinch and the result is visible within a day or less.  Gone will be the furrowed brow, the crow’s feet etc.

Well, let this be a cautionary tale about the possible side effects of injectables.  On this particular occasion, while getting the injection I jumped.  I’m not sure why I jumped, but I did.  The doctor warned me that it might leave a bruise.  “So what, that’s fine” I said.  Well it’s a week later and I still look liked I did a few rounds with Mike Tyson.  But it will all fade and the wrinkles are gone for now.

My sweet husband is mortified when we walk anywhere together because he is the one getting the dirty looks.  This is one of the possible outcomes when you get Botox.  I still don’t care.  I may have a grade one shiner, but the crow’s feet have disappeared.  Will I get Botox again?  Absolutely!  Such is the price for looking younger (and being somewhat shallow).

 

A Day Well Spent

How finding a place to volunteer helped me find myself.

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There is a certain type of satisfaction that for me, has been misssing for much of the past year of my retirement. As a teacher, a mother and a wife I have always believed in service to others.  My career was so satisfying because every day I felt like I was making a difference in the life of my students.

I started looking for a place to volunteer where I could contribute and feel like I was doing good work in the service to others.  Recently, I started spending time with some new friends of mine.  Today I hung out with Joey, Jasmine, Kula, Ruby, Chocolate, Adam, Adriana and Candy .  These are the amazing rescued and trained horses, mini horses and pony at Kachina’s Place in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Kachina’s Place provides therapeutic equestrian activities for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations.  I started volunteering at Kachina’s Place about a month ago and immediately I knew it was going to be a great fit.  These are my people, I belong here.

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Sweet Joey nosing around

I love horses and have always been aware of the keen sensitivity that horses demonstrate.  They are great readers of body language and can be very empathetic, not to mention the fact that they are beautiful, graceful animals that are lovely to watch.

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Ruby, the former racehorse is a sweetie

Volunteering at Kachina’s Place felt right from the beginning.  The stables and setting is beautiful and the horses are sweet, calm, gentle and very endearing.  Franky Greaves the trainer is patient, kind and has set up a perfect environment for the therapeutic riding and equestrian activities.

Kachina’s Place is a special horse ranch with four horses, three mini horses and a pony.  The ranch is in a picturesque location complete with mountain views, a garden, a grassy area for yoga and eight very well cared for horses.  Special needs students taking lesssons may also be asked to groom, feed, clean up after as well as ride the horses.  They may complete a yoga class in the grass, groom a horse with help or help clean up stalls and the field as well as learning to trust and ride the horses.

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Trainer Franky with a student practicing balance.

Recently several clients came and together we groomed some horses, did some yoga on the grass, cleaned stalls, took turns riding  and painted (with non-toxic paint) one of the mini horses, Adriana, who loves to be pampered and brushed.  We practiced teamwork, turn taking, responsibility and had such a wonderful time.  Everybody enjoyed themselves, especially me.

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Cleaning up after the horses with my buddy.

I love volunteering at Kachina’s Place and at the end of the day I know it has been a day well spent.

Kachina’s Place is a non-profit organization, if you would like to donate or learn more about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go to: https://kachinasplace.org

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My Mother’s Last Gift

 

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Lately I have seen a lot of women my age shopping with their mothers.  Now I am just assuming they are mothers and daughters, gingerly walking up and down the shopping isles.  I look at these women with sweet nostalgic memories and a twinge of envy.  My mom was a shopper in the finest sense of the word.  She would drive far and wide to seek out bargains.  Together we always had fun shopping and maybe that’s why I am envious of these women, gently guiding their own frail mothers.

Daughters have complicated relationships with their mothers.  My mother was not perfect, but I never felt anything but love from her.  She was a child of The Great Depression and lost her own mother at an early age.  She helped raise her younger siblings when her mother passed away leaving behind eight young children.  I am sure growing up in poverty, without a mother made her the person I knew.  Her memories of her own mother were always sweet stories of her cat Dorothy, placing cardboard in their shoes to cover the holes in the soles, eating sugar and lard sandwiches and always sharing what little you had with someone who had even less.

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My mom as a young girl.

My mom’s name was Grace and she talked to everyone.  She would start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to her on a plane and soon would be exchanging phone numbers. Grace’s three children all grew up knowing that mom was proud of them and loved them unconditionally.  

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Grace, meeting her granddaughter, Kathleen Grace.

The last five years of my mother’s life were undoubtedly the most difficult.  She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease .  Not very long after the diagnosis my father, her husband and love of her life passed away.  Grace, the independent working mother, the shopper, the lady that took dusting her home to a new level, the traveler, the conversationalist would soon be robbed of what she valued most, her independence.  

Grace lived with the diagnosis of ALS the way she lived her entire life, with grace.  Very quickly after her diagnosis she lost the ability to walk, sit up independently, she had difficulty swallowing, and soon only had the use of only one hand.

No one tells you when you are diagnosed with an awful disease like ALS how lonely it can be.  Friends you have your entire life often abandon you because your disease makes them “uncomfortable.”  At first, there were many tears when told of her fate, but eventually my mom would say, “well, you’ve got to die of something.”  After my dad’s death she moved in with my sister’s family.  Mom became friends with her caregivers, they enjoyed concerts together she eventually lent money to her new friend to purchase her first home.
Mom continued to travel to my home in Arizona.  There she discovered caregivers with connections to Native American crafts.  One day I came home from work to discover several craftsman selling her jewelry and other crafts in my living room!  Mom also loved gambling and with her one good hand could still operate  a slot machine at the casinos.

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Here we are dressed alike, heading out to the casinos.

When you know your mother is going to die you don’t hesitate to tell them how much you love them.  I thanked her for being a great mother and grandmother.  I thanked her for my great childhood.

At the very end of her life my sister called to tell me it was time to come and say goodbye to mom.  I quickly flew out to the East Coast with my three children.  When I saw her it was apparent that the end was very near, mom could no longer eat and she had lost the ability to speak. In her final moments Grace motioned her grandchildren closer and with her dying breath she mouthed the words “I love you.”  She then blew a kiss, closed her eyes and was gone.  Grace’s final gift was to tell us she loved us and to die in peace.