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January 10, 2017 /

GratiTuesday: A Most Perfect Day

My husband and I stopped buying each other special occasion gifts a long ago. Not only would we rather purchase items as they are needed, but, like so many people our age, we are more interested in getting rid of things than acquiring them.

What I can’t buy for myself – but certainly need more of – is quality time spent hanging out with my best friend. So, when my birthday rolled around a few days ago, I asked my husband for a day doing exactly what I wanted: a day spent with him, exploring one of our area’s most beautiful cities – Coronado.

We’ve been having an unusual amount of rain in Southern California this winter. It has come in waves… a few rainy days interspersed with cloudy days, then rain again. Because of our persistent drought none of us are complaining, but every so often, in between the rainstorms, we get a day that just sparkles. And, two days after my birthday, they were predicting one of those days – a perfect day.

It wasn't exactly on my birthday... but it was Elvis's birthday so it rocked.

It wasn’t exactly on my birthday… but it was Elvis’s birthday so it rocked.

Coronado Island, a small beach community just west of San Diego’s downtown, is home to the North Island Naval Air Station and the headquarters of the U.S. Navy Seals, but is probably best known for the historic Hotel del Coronado. You might recognize it if you’ve ever see the 1958 movie “Some Like It Hot” (starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon), which was filmed on its grounds.





Surrounded by San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Coronado’s beaches go on for miles and the views are breathtaking.

Looking towards Point Loma.

Looking towards Point Loma.

The view of downtown across San Diego Bay.

The view of downtown across San Diego Bay.

After spending the day strolling on the beach, enjoying lunch in a lovely outdoor courtyard, admiring the gorgeous views, and exploring the grand Hotel del, we headed home… where the Caramelized Orange Birthday Cheesecake my husband made for me was waiting.


Worth every calorie.

I am so grateful for being able to spend this most perfect day in the most perfect way.

January 3, 2017 /

GratiTuesday: A Blank Slate for a New Year

After my husband and I retired several years ago, we looked around a bit to find a good system for keeping track of our day-to-day lives. When we worked, we took advantage of our Outlook calendars on our office computers. Along with scheduling our business-related meetings, travel, and deadlines, we also noted doctor appointments, get-togethers with friends, and other non-work life events. Since we were on our work computers all day and they were linked up with our cellphone calendars, it was easy to keep everything straight.

Once we both were retired, we found ourselves missing a few important dates, including a quarterly tax payment due date (oops). That expensive mistake made us realize that we needed a system to help us manage our schedules. After several unsuccessful attempts at using fancy apps and digital assistants that others had recommended, we found that nothing had the same ease and appeal for us than just a simple desk calendar.


Now, after three years, we still swear by our yearly date books. We have found that not only do they help us manage our schedules in the current year, but the calendars from prior years can be a valuable tool to help us remember past events that our grey matter has lost. When did we take that trip? How long has it been since I’ve seen the dentist, where were we last February? – it’s all there for us in writing.

Now, it’s time to file away our 2016 calendar and start a new one for 2017. I’ve already jotted down a few appointments, important due dates (including quarterly taxes), and upcoming trips, but most of the 365 squares are blank and waiting to be filled.

I am so grateful to have this blank slate in front of me: empty of words but full of possibilities. Although it looks pretty bare now, I’m looking forward to all the special occasions, interesting classes, and exciting adventures that will soon start appear on its pages.

December 30, 2016 /

A New Year’s Resolution for EVERYONE

I wrote this post a year ago but apparently not everyone was paying attention because we still have issues… big issues. Here it is again with a few updates… I hope it works this time.

I gave up writing New Year’s resolutions for myself years ago. As a kid, it was kind of fun to put together a list every year but, as I got older, I came to realize that they really never amounted to much. In the end, and despite my good intensions, there were few pounds lost and no better habits gained. Yep, I was pretty much the same old me after a month or two into the new year.

This year, rather than come up with resolutions just for myself, I have decided to make one big resolution for EVERYONE to share. I figure that, with us all working together, supporting each other, and gently nudging those that falter back on track, maybe, just maybe, we can succeed.

My resolution for the masses:

Don’t be Stupid

The best thing about this resolution for you is, because I’m sure – like me – you aren’t stupid at all, your part will be easy. Just make sure that everyone else doesn’t mess up.

Here is list of 10 ways your fellow humans can avoid being stupid. It’s far from complete.

  1. Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving. Competent multi-tasking is a myth. Even if it wasn’t, the task of piloting a vehicle that weighs over 3,000 pounds requires complete attention. This level of stupid could end up killing someone.
  2. Same goes for drinking and driving.
  3. Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see on the Internet – check things out. Develop a healthy skepticism. Believing that the Pope supported Donald Trump was stupid. Thinking that reposting a “Privacy Statement” on your Facebook wall will protect your privacy is stupid. Reposting these fake stories (even with the caveat “this could be a hoax, but I’m posting it just in case”) makes the poster’s stupidity evident to all 1,000 of their closest friends. and are your friends. So are critical thinking skills.
  4. Don’t equate the accumulation of things with the building of happiness. We all like a certain amount of stuff, but chances are the good feeling we get from acquiring something new will not last. Think about acquiring experiences and accumulating memories instead. Travel, spend time with family and friends, learn a new skill.
  5. Don’t over-inflate. I’m not talking about weight here (although, it could be argued that not properly nourishing and caring for the only body we have is kind of stupid); I mean the tendency to take a small incident and inflate it into something much greater. The controversy over Starbuck’s plain red cups last year and their green cups this year comes to mind, as do many stories reported on cable news. Over-inflating creates cultural distortion and promotes misinformation.
  6. Don’t miss out on glorious vistas or the witnessing of actual events or because it seemed more important to take and post selfies. The magnificence of the Grand Canyon isn’t improved with duck-lipped faces in front of it.
  7. Don’t compare yourself physically to models and celebrities. Chances are that they don’t even really look like that. Photoshop and good lighting can do wonders.
  8. Don’t dig your own grave. You’ll get there soon enough as it is. Stop maintaining habits that are self-destructive, staying in relationships that are toxic, and dwelling on negative thoughts. If you like digging around in the dirt, better to plant a garden.
  9. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to pay a sincere compliment or tell someone that you love them.
  10. Don’t forget to live your best life. Always. It’s the only one you’ll get.

Have a wonderful, safe New Year’s celebration! And, please watch out for stupid people (especially those mentioned in #1 and #2).


December 27, 2016 /

GratiTuesday: To You


As any blogger knows, once a post is complete, it can be a little unnerving to hit “publish” and watch as our private words become public. Whether we’ve written something we hope will make people smile, or make them think, or we’ve shared an event or an adventure, we always pour at least a bit of ourselves into what we write. When we send a post off into the blogosphere, we never know for sure what will come of it. It’s the likes and comments we receive in return that help us know that our words are being read and appreciated.

Because of this, I want you to know how grateful I am to you for visiting, reading, liking, and (hopefully) following RetirementallyChallenged. I know that there are many, many millions of blogs to choose from, and I am beyond thankful that you have found and spent a moment with mine.

My deepest gratitude goes to those of you who take the time to leave such positive, insightful, and interesting comments – they are often the best part of each post. For the generosity of those who share their thoughts by commenting, I am more grateful than words can express.

December 16, 2016 /

I Blame Pinterest

Well, not really, but…

When did the holiday season – and especially Christmas – get so over-the-top stressful? My childhood memories of pre-Christmas preparations include buying and trimming a tree, placing decorations around the living room, and stringing lights in front of our house. Granted, most of these tasks fell to my parents, but I don’t recall a heightened sense of stress related to any of these activities.

The tree wasn’t decorated in an overall theme, nor were the trimmings color-coordinated. The ornaments were a mixture of well-loved heirlooms handed down through the generations, holiday crafts that my brothers and I made at school, and decorations that my mother bought over the years at after-Christmas sales.


Our living room shelves and the credenza beneath it had various Santas, reindeer, and snowman decorations placed among the books and next to the TV. As Christmas cards arrived in the mail, they filled up any remaining spaces.


The outdoor lights – the large, tear-drop shaped, multi-colored bulbs that everyone had – were strung in a straight(ish) line from the far corner of our garage, across the front of our house, then down to a couple of the bushes below.

It was pretty much the same thing every year… and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Fast forward to the age of social media.

Friends on Facebook post pictures of perfectly decorated homes (inside and out) and lavishly prepared meals, Houzz offers a myriad of ways to accessorize our rooms for the holidays – in prices ranging from a lot to are you kidding me?, and Pinterest is bursting with photos of just the item, product, display, project, recipe, etc. that we need to purchase or create to assure our holiday is perfect.

Now, don’t misunderstand: I am not immune to the eye candy that is everywhere this season. I love to see what others have done to decorate or which appetizers, cocktails, or meals they have planned for their holiday celebrations. But, even as I admire their decorating talents (to say nothing about the off-season storage space they must have) or their creativity in the kitchen, I prefer the low-key way my husband and I choose to celebrate the holidays.

I realize that decorating every nook and cranny with just the right seasonal accessory or wowing family and guests by baking and serving a Chocolate Espresso Bûche de Noël fills some with joy. We’re just happier to eschew the tree (there really isn’t room for one anyway) and put out fewer, but well-loved, decorations. And, while we enjoy attending holiday parties given by friends who love to entertain lavishly, our get-togethers tend to be small and pretty casual.


If I find myself grumbling about being stressed out or feeling like I don’t have enough time to do the things I “need” to do, I stop and consider how much unnecessary burden I’ve willingly put on my own shoulders. Am I doing what pleases me, or am I trying to emulate someone else’s version of the holiday? What works for one person, or one family, may not be a good fit for another.

And that’s OK.  This season isn’t about an exquisitely decorated home or perfectly prepared food, it’s about the people in our homes and those who share our food.

That’s where the memories are made.

December 13, 2016 /

GratiTuesday: Memories of Christmases Past

One of the holiday traditions in our family was the scrapbook my mother kept of Christmas cards. Beginning in 1945 – the second year my parents were married and the year my father returned from the war – she glued a sample of the card they sent out each year. She faithfully added cards up to 1998, just two years before she passed away. The following year, her health started to deteriorate, and by the next Christmas, there would be no more cards sent.

A few years later, as my brothers and I were clearing out the family home for its eventual sale, I came across the scrapbook and scooped it up. Although the anti-clutter side of me said not to, I knew that I couldn’t throw the book out. I am so grateful that I decided to keep it.

As a little girl, I remember looking through the scrapbook and marveling at all the pretty cards. Now as I look at the pages, I can see a clear timeline of my parents’ lives.

The first card in the scrapbook, dated 1945

The first card in the scrapbook, dated 1945

The early cards were small and simple and had their names engraved under the greeting. Several years later, when my oldest brother was born, his name was added alongside theirs.

The next three years, including the year my other brother was added to the mix, my father was trying his hand at photography and printed the Christmas cards in his darkroom. The black and white cards are somewhat unusual, but his creativity shines through.

A beautiful desert landscape one year, three silly mice the next

A beautiful desert landscape one year, three silly mice the next

Over the years, the cards they chose to send reflected different aspects of my parents’ personalities and interests. Their sense of humor, as well as their love of animals and travel was apparent in many of the cards. Several of the cards, instead of a traditional winter scene, depicted the desert or coastline more reminiscent of their Southern California home. And, because they supported many environmental and social causes, they often purchased their cards through such organizations as UNICEF, the Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The last card in the scrapbook is my favorite one of all. Its joyful message resonates with me, as it must have with my mother:

Sing the song to earth and sky. Sing of love, of peace, and joy!

Sing the song to earth and sky. Sing of love, of peace, and joy!


And, written on the inside:

May all that brings you joy,

may all that sustains you and gives you peace,

be yours this holiday season.


I can’t imagine a better wish for us all.

December 8, 2016 /

Thursday Doors: Balboa Park (Part 2)

My Thursday Doors post last week highlighted some of the buildings and doors that were constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition held in San Diego’s Balboa Park. This week’s post features a group of colorful structures that were added to the park close to 20 years later.

Hoping to mirror the success of the 1915 Exposition and promote the city during the Great Depression, San Diego civic leaders decided to hold a second large-scale event: the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. To help accomplish this bold plan and create whole new areas of the park, San Diego was fortunate to receive the first funds allocated by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The second exposition, quite unlike the first, featured some controversial exhibits and unusual sideshow entertainment, including a nudist colony called Zoro Gardens, a Midget Village (yes, that’s what they called it), and Alpha, a 6’2”, 2,000 pound silver robot.

Even though this post isn’t about the nudist colony, I know you want to see it.

Even though this post isn’t about the nudist colony, I knew you would want to see it.

Robots and nudist colonies don't mix... or maybe they do?

Robots and nudist colonies don’t mix… or maybe they do?

San Diego architect Richard S. Requa oversaw the design and construction of many new buildings for the Exposition. Whereas the buildings from the 1915 fair were designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, Requa’s “California-Spanish” architectural designs pulled not only from Spain but also pre-Columbian Indian buildings and temples.


Included in the new construction was a group of quaint buildings and courtyards designed to depict a charming old Spanish village. The six buildings featured shops, restaurants, and a children’s theater.

In 1937, after the fair had ended, the Spanish village was reopened by a group of local artists as an artists’ colony. Although the colony was temporarily commissioned by the U.S. Army for barracks during World War II, after the war it was reclaimed and restored by the artists and has been a beloved local art destination ever since.

San Diego artists have continued to preserve and enhance this historical landmark by adding colorful plantings and unique entryways. Today, the Spanish Village Art Center continues to be a thriving community of over 200 independently juried local artisans. The Art Center features 37 working art studios and galleries that are open to the public.


Join the fun at Norm 2.0’s Thursday Door-a-palooza. If you have doors that you love (and who doesn’t love doors?) and want to share, click here for more info, to read other submissions, and to link up your post.