Cherished Diaries

In the wake of the recent weather-related disasters, I imagine that I am not the only one who has asked themselves the question: “what would I grab from my house if I had a limited time to get out?” Suddenly, all the stuff that seemed so danged important is no longer even considered. First, of course, ensure the safety of loved ones and, perhaps second, gather important papers and files. But then what? What are the items that are irreplaceable; the objects that have little dollar value, but are personally cherished and woven deeply into the tapestries of our lives?

Stacked within easy reach by the side of my bed are several five-year diaries that I would grab without hesitation. One is a daily account of my father’s life from 1941 through 1945. Two others – penned mostly by my mother – date from 1946 through 1950, and from 1951 through 1955. Another is mostly blank, but has some entries my mother made in 1958 (I think after that, raising three young children made keeping a daily dairy too challenging).

The oldest diary offers a glimpse into my father’s life as a single young man: his proud purchase of a new Plymouth “special, deluxe coupe” complete with “air horns and power shift” (all for $812); his ambivalent feelings about the upcoming war and his probable involvement; receiving his draft notice; news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor; and then his eventual enlistment into the army. My favorite entries are the ones he wrote about meeting “a swell gal” at an All Women’s Voluntary Services dance (who, of course, turned out to be my mother), proposing to her only three months later (“Everything swell until I realized what I was saying” and “State of shock through day”), then – just two weeks after that – hopping a bus to Las Vegas to get married on Valentine’s Day.

My mother took over most of the diary duties during the next five years as she chronicled their post-war life: going back to college, looking for work, spending time with friends and family, and traveling around the country. Finally, they landed in Southern California, where my father found full-time employment with the school system (where he worked until he retired), and my mother was hired as a writer and editor with a local defense company. Judging from the number of entries that itemize the cost of food and other purchases, it was obvious that the early years were a bit of a struggle financially as they built their life together.

During the next five years, my parents started their family. My brothers were born during this time and many of the entries are about raising two little boys. I didn’t come along until the last diary and play a rather minor role since I was quite young.

I pick up these diaries from time-to-time and choose a random spot to start reading. From the yellowed pages, I can hear my parents’ voices, read about their adventures, and get a sense of their devotion to each other and their family. Their writings help me understand a bit more about who they were and – by extension – how my brothers and I came to be the people we are.

My big regret is that I didn’t read these diaries while my parents were still alive and could have answered the many questions I have. Unfortunately, that opportunity is gone, but I’m grateful to have these cherished diaries that chronicle their journey together and help to reveal the loving, funny, and complicated people my parents were.

******

Thank you to the Cherished Blogfest team for once again hosting this delightful opportunity to share what we cherish with others. Link on over to the CBF site and check out the many inspiring stories you will find there. And, there is still time to create your own – the Blogfest has been extended through Sunday, October 22. Please join in!

GratiTuesday: Those who rush towards

I don’t know if we’ve had more disasters – both natural and made-made – this year or not, but it certainly feels like it. Wildfires have eaten up acres of beauty and hundreds of homes and businesses, hurricanes and storm surges have created destructive winds and deadly floods, and the sudden shifting of the Earth’s tectonic plates have toppled buildings and collapsed bridges. Then, there are the disasters created by the mentally ill, the morally repugnant, and the fanatically delusional.

It can be difficult to feel gratitude in the face of all of this. I don’t live in a hurricane zone, I haven’t been touched by a catastrophic wildfire, the earthquakes I’ve experienced have been mild and caused little damage, and I haven’t had a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet or a bomb, but I certainly don’t feel immune. Neither planning nor luck – and certainly not “thoughts and prayers” – will ensure my safety. Those who have recently been impacted likely once felt sorrow and empathy for past victims, and maybe some relief that they, and their families, were untouched.

As I’ve witnessed these disasters from afar and have worried about the fate of those affected, I see something over and over again that fills me with awe and appreciation: not just the first responders, but the everyday people who put themselves in harm’s way to help others.

x-school-collapse
Aftermath of the earthquake in Mexico City. Picture credit: Joe, Month at a Time Travel blog

 

I’m so very grateful for those who fight the flames and rescue others from the path of a wildfire. I am grateful for those who brave floodwaters to carry trapped homeowners to safety. I am grateful for those who climb on top of precarious rubble in a desperate attempt to locate and save those buried below. I am grateful for all who keep the peace, attend to the wounded, and comfort the frightened. I am grateful for those who rush towards danger while others are running away.

Rightsizing in Place Using S.P.O.T. Goals

I’m guest posting on Kathy Gottberg’s blog SMART Living 365 today. Please link on over and check it out (and, if you could leave a comment there, it would be much appreciated).

While you are visiting her site, treat yourself to some of Kathy’s insightful articles. She is an accomplished author who writes passionately about creating a meaningful, sustainable, and rewarding life. I’m sure you’ll love her blog as much as I do.

I hope to see you there!

GratiTuesday: Funky Town

I live in a pretty big city. But like most cities it’s made up of small communities, each with its own distinct personality. The demographics of each community often define its personality, but sometimes it is hard to know if the personality came first or the demographics.

There is a beach community that is several miles from where we currently live but is less than a mile from my childhood home. I spent much of my summers hanging around the beach and strolling along the main shopping district with my friends. It was funky when I was young and it is doing its best to maintain that funk even as investors salivate at its potential for development. That independent, counter-culture vibe is apparent on signs in shop windows and on bumper stickers that read: “U.S. Out of O.B.”

Starbucks managed to get a toehold, but not before receiving a huge community pushback. I’m not sure how it’s doing (long-time residents still refuse to patronize it), but they have smartly downplayed the corporate look at this particular outlet. Now, a Target Express wants to take over what was once a five-and-dime store and is now an antiques mall. If Target manages to break through the strong local opposition, I will be one of those mourning the loss of another locally-owned business.

Last Saturday, my husband and I attended the town council’s annual Pancake Breakfast. The proceeds help fund projects like the annual Food and Toy Drive and pay for the gigantic lighted Christmas tree “planted” on the beach each December. Although the food is OK, a big draw is that the breakfast is held on the fishing pier. After several days of chillier-than normal weather and constant overcast, we were favored with bright blue skies and warm sun. It was a glorious morning.

So many of our communities are being taken over by generic chain stores and cookie-cutter fast food outlets. It has become rare to find a truly locally-owned business and, when I do, I try to patronize it as much as possible. If I have to spend a little bit more to keep a family’s business in business, I am willing to do so. And, if paying $10 for two pancakes, a scoop of scrambled eggs, and a couple of charred sausage links helps support a community’s desire to maintain its unique character, I’m all in. That it includes dining at a table which offers a view of the coastline and surfers playing in the waves below, all the better.

I am so grateful for the personality of the small community I grew up in. It’s a little bohemian, a little quirky, and a lot funky. It’s been a long time since I’ve sunned myself on the beach and most of the businesses have changed since my younger days. But the smell of the salty air is unmistakable and, in many ways, it will always feel like home.

What’s so challenging about retirement?

You’ll find my answer in my guest post appearing on Donna Connolly’s terrific blog Retirement Reflections as part of her Sunday Series. Please hop on over and check it out (and, if you could leave a comment there, it would be greatly appreciated).

While you are visiting her site, treat yourself to some of Donna’s great articles, including those about her recent trek on the Camino Trail. I’m sure you’ll love her blog as much as I do.

I hope to see you there!

GratiTuesday: International Markets

I’ve written before about how much my husband and I enjoy visiting the local marketplaces when we are traveling. The colors, tastes, and smells provide a treat for the senses and the energy is exhilarating. I love to discover produce and prepared food items that I have never heard of. Even if I’m not always brave enough to indulge, it’s a fascinating window into another culture.

We are fortunate that, here at home, we can enjoy a similar experience by visiting the many ethnic markets that dot our various neighborhoods. Within easy driving distance from our house, we have at least one Mexican market, two Middle Eastern markets, and two Asian markets. Drive a little further and the choices expand considerably.

Sometimes I like to visit these markets just to look around because the inventory is so different from what is available at a plain vanilla supermarket. Where our Ralphs or Vons might have a few feet of shelf space devoted to spices, the ethnic markets will often have a whole aisle. And, not only do they offer spices that I recognize, they stock even more that I don’t. The jams and jellies are made of fruits I’ve never heard of and the meat departments often offer cuts not displayed in most “regular” grocery stores.

While visiting Oaxaca, Mexico this past spring, my husband and I became quite fond of an iced tea made with dried hibiscus flowers or jamaica (pronounced hah-MY-kah). When we returned, we missed the taste and wanted to be able to make it ourselves. After some searching, we were able to find small packages of the dried flowers at one of the local Middle Eastern markets (the Mexican market – which is much smaller – didn’t carry it). Just today, I discovered the other local Middle Eastern market carries the flowers in bulk. Yipee!

This package contains two cups of dried hibiscus flowers

If you are interested in trying jamaica tea, here’s the recipe. If you don’t have an ethnic market, you might be able to find the dried flowers online.

Jamaica Tea

1             cup of dried hibiscus flowers

0 – 1      cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your tea)

4              cups of water

Add sugar and water to a pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the flowers, turn off the heat and steep approximately one hour or until cool.

Strain the tea into a bowl with a lip. Press the blossoms to extract as much water into the bowl as possible, then toss (the tea should be a lovely, deep red).

Pour the tea into a pitcher and add 4 additional cups of water. Stir and refrigerate.

When my husband and I pour ourselves a glass of jamaica tea, we often cut it further with bubbly water from our SodaStream (about 3 parts tea to 1 part bubbly). That way, if we’ve used the full cup of sugar when making the tea, the final product is much less sweet.

The taste of Oaxaca in a pitcher

I am grateful for the interesting and diverse food shopping choices we have in our city. I’m also grateful that I can instantly transport myself back to Oaxaca just by sipping a tall glass of chilled, ruby-red, jamaica tea.

GratiTuesday: September’s Serenade

It’s nice to live in an area that tourists want to visit. We can enjoy year-round what many of them pay big bucks to enjoy for a few days or a few weeks. A trip to the beach, the zoo, or a popular entertainment venue doesn’t require a big effort any time of the year – we just get in the car and go.

The thing is, we very seldom visit these destinations in the summer… there are just too many people. Between the tourists and the local kids being out of school, most of the places that I’d love to go to are crowded. Parking is at a premium and the people per square foot is way over my comfort level.

So, we wait for September when everything starts to calm down. Hotels begin to empty of families and fill with business people. Getting a table at a popular restaurant no longer requires an extended wait. The beaches are much less crowded and parking is available. (And, here’s a little secret: we get some of our best weather in September and, often, even into early October.)

I was certainly aware of this seasonal switch when I was working full time, but I had many fewer opportunities to take advantage of it. I still had to be at work Monday through Friday and my weekends were shared with all the other 9-5ers and students. Now that I am retired, I can take mid-week walks on nearly empty beaches and visit the parks at a time when there is much less competition for space. In addition, the stores aren’t as crowded and some restaurants offer inducements to dine.

Sometimes it feels like my summer has just started.

I am grateful for the tourists (as long as they go home eventually) and I’m happy to see the kids out for summer vacation (I do remember being young, after all). But, when I start to notice the Back to School sales being advertised, I can hear the beginnings of September’s serenade. Now that it’s here, I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to fully enjoy its song.