GratiTuesday: Couple Friends

Enjoying the friendship of other couples is a delightful part of our marriage. I have female friends that I do gal things with and my husband has male friends he does guy things with. Although we like each other’s friends, sometimes when we’ve introduced a friend’s spouse to the mix, things haven’t clicked as well as we’d like. The spouse may be a delightful person on his or her own, but, for whatever reason, the group dynamic just doesn’t work.

When my husband and I discover a couple whose company we enjoy equally, we feel as if we’ve won the lottery. We know that when we get together as a foursome, the conversation will flow, and the time we spend together will be fun and engaging.

This past weekend, two blogging friends and I met up to discuss – what else? – blogging. This was not the first time I have gotten together with Donna from Retirement Reflections and Kathy from Smart Living 365, and I consider them good friends as well as fellow bloggers. I knew that the three of us would have plenty to talk about and I had been looking forward to our gathering for quite a while.

Kathy and her husband live in the community where we met, and Donna and her husband were staying close by in a home exchange. My husband and I drove a few hours from our home to join them for the weekend.

Knowing what wonderful husbands my friends have and knowing that my husband is pretty terrific too, I had no doubt that we’d enjoy each other’s company. What I didn’t anticipate – and was thrilled to discover – is how well all six of us meshed together. Even though blogging brought the three of us women together, I was delighted that our husbands enjoyed commonalities and mutual interests too.

Kathy and Thom, Donna and Richard, me and Paul enjoying a warm desert evening… oh, and wine.

I came away from our weekend together with much to be grateful for. I am grateful that Donna, Kathy and I were able to meet and talk about a subject that means a lot to us (more about that later). I am grateful for the generous hospitality that my husband and I were shown. Most of all, I am grateful that the six of us – husbands and wives – were able to break bread together, share our stories, and enjoy the bond of friendship.

Sunday Stills: Texture

When I saw this week’s Sunday Stills photo prompt topic, I knew that I wanted to participate. My first thought was to share a photo – or two, or three – of the wonderful texture found on the buildings, doors, and objects that we’ve encountered on our travels. I find old much more interesting than new, textured more intriguing than smooth. I love the peeling paint, the patina of age and weather, and the character that is created – layer upon layer – with the march of time.

Then, I remembered a woman I photographed last year in the central square in Oaxaca, Mexico and knew that would be my picture. Her clothes were typical of the older indigenous women we saw in Oaxaca: flat black shoes, a simple, long-skirted dress, and an apron… always an apron. She was quite small and stooped, and her hair – thick and wiry, mostly free of gray despite her obvious age – was worn long and braided. It was her face that intrigued me the most. Her strong features told of her Zapotec ancestry and the lines on her weathered skin was a roadmap of her life.

 

Sunday Stills is a weekly photography link-up co-hosted by my blogging friend Terri Webster Schrandt. Each week there is a new word prompt to inspire a shared photo (or photos). Follow this link to learn more about it, see other submissions, and to share your own.

GratiTuesday: Flu Vaccinations

The last time I had the flu was over 15 years ago. I experienced a combination of feeling like I was going to die… and thinking that dying might be a better alternative to how horrible I felt. After going through that pain and misery, I swore that I would never miss getting my flu shot again… and I haven’t.

I was shocked to read recently the over 80,000 Americans died of flu last winter… and that was a “normal” – although severe – flu season. A vast majority of those deaths – over 90 percent – were people over 65.

According to a 2015 NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, 62 percent of people either had been or intended to be vaccinated for the flu that year. Those who didn’t plan to be immunized cited a variety of reasons, including:

• 48 percent believed that a flu shot was unnecessary for them
• 16 percent were concerned about side effects or risks
• 14 percent worried that the vaccine could infect them with the flu
• 8 percent believed that the vaccination was ineffective

Each February, vaccine manufacturers make their best guess about what strains of flu will be most prevalent the following winter. Because of this, the vaccines that are shipped out in September aren’t perfect. They have ranged from a high of 60 percent effective (in 2010-11) to a low of 19 percent (2014-15). But even imperfect vaccines are better than none at all. The strains identified back in February may not be 100 percent accurate but getting vaccinated could still lessen the impact of the influenza that infects you or a loved one.

Last year, flu-related complications sent about 200,000 people to the hospital. I’m not sure how many of these people had been vaccinated but my guess is the percentage is low. Studies have shown that flu vaccinations reduce children’s risk of pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74 percent, and adults of all ages by 71 percent.

It didn’t hurt a bit!

If you or your loved one is among the almost 40 percent of those who are reluctant to get vaccinated, I hope you will reconsider. Even if the flu has never made you particularly ill, it is possible to pass it on to someone who could experience much more severe symptoms. I’ve had those symptoms. I would be most grateful never to have them again.

Thursday Doors: Not Doors

When is a door not a door? When it is ajar.

Many of us learned this little riddle as children, right? Well, there’s another time when a door is not a door: when Norm, the host of Thursday Doors, is away on vacation.

Over that last several Thursdays, I’ve been sharing doors from my recent stay in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. San Miguel is rich in unique and beautiful doors, but it also has lovely windows, intricate iron gates, and exquisite stonework. With Norm safely off the continent (and, hopefully taking lots of pictures of the doors he finds in Italy), I thought that I would take advantage of his absence and share a few openings I found in San Miguel that aren’t really doors.

This sounds so much better in Spanish… basically it says Gated Community of the Sun.
We saw ribbons tied above windows all over San Miguel.
More ribbons… and a wooden bicycle.
Rusted iron gate.
Not the most beautiful window, but how cute is that dog?

Now, head on over to Manja’s blog to see her beautiful collection of doors. Since she is guest hosting Thursday Doors in Norm’s absence this week, you will find that cute little blue frog at the end of her post that will take you to links to see other doors… and maybe even share a few of your own.

GratiTuesday: A Gathering of Friends

Last Saturday, I attended a mini-reunion for my high school class. Since it wasn’t one of the big ones (those that end with a “0”), the event was low-key and casual. I almost didn’t go because the high school friends I maintain regular contact with (real contact, not occasional Facebook posts) were either out of town or had other plans for the evening. Since I’m not one of those who can walk into a crowd and instantly feel at ease, I questioned whether I’d enjoy myself. Our graduating class was large – around 600 – so (I told myself) the chances were pretty good that I wouldn’t remember many of the people.

After spending some time trying to talk myself out of going, I decided – with my husband’s encouragement – that I’d at least make an appearance. If after a short amount of time I wasn’t enjoying myself, I could leave. That’s one of the nice things about being an adult that I sometimes forget… I’m the boss of me.

When I entered the venue, my first reaction was that there were a bunch of old people there. Lots of grey hair and a few extra pounds padding quite a few mid-sections. Yikes! where were my classmates? Had I walked into the wrong event? After a moment’s hesitation, I convinced myself to take one lap around the room. If I didn’t see anyone I knew, I would keep on walking out the door and back to my car.

Fortunately, before I made a complete loop, I saw a familiar face… then another … then another. Those old people I saw at first? The years started to melt away and I began to see my high school friends. Sometimes I needed to glance several times at their name tags to be sure, but they were there.

Unlike past reunions, where there were a lot of “what do you do?” questions, followed by “how many kids do you have?” most of the conversations the other night centered around hobbies, travel, and day-to-day interests. Many of us had retired or were close and, for the most part, kids had grown and flown. The people I talked to were in relatively good health, they were active and engaged, and they were focused on enjoying life.

Not a great picture but the only one I have of the evening.

I heard the word grateful spoken many times that evening. Grateful for friendships that have lasted over many years, grateful for our families, grateful for our health, grateful for the experiences we’ve enjoyed since high school, and grateful that we decided to attend this gathering of our friends.

As is often done at reunions, a list of names of classmates no longer with us was read. Each time, the list grows longer, and, in this case, two names had been added very recently. It was a sobering reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to hold our friends and our loved ones close. After the names were read, the mood shifted just a bit. I think many of us found ourselves listening a little closer to our friends’ stories, hugging them a little harder, and, most of all, hoping that we will see everyone again at our next reunion.

Thursday Doors: Chapel Doors

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about an amazing experience we had while visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In that post, I shared photos of the riotous colors and fantastic mosaics we found all over Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, the property owned by artist Anado McLauchlin and his husband Richard Schultz.

As anyone who read that post can imagine, Anado’s creativity didn’t end with his fantastical wall mosaics and fanciful art assemblages; the doors, gates, and portals on their property were just as enchanting, playful, and full of whimsy.

Although these may not look like doors normally found on chapels, they are rich with a joyful spirit and offer a salvation from boring.

The front gate leading to their courtyard and Casa de las Ranas.
The interior side of the gate.
Anado and Richard’s art studio door.
One of the colorful gates on the walls surrounding their property.
Gate assembled from reclaimed wood.
Whimsical collection of weathered wood and whatever.
This colorful archway led into a small meditation room.
There were a lot of symbols from eastern religions incorporated in Anado’s art.
Yikes… not sure what’s behind this door.
A happy skeleton wearing a skull necklace.
Anado was as colorful as his doors.

Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view more of his beautiful collection of doors from Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.

GratiTuesday: I’d Do It Again

After thirteen years of “dating” (which included buying and remodeling a house together), my husband and I officially tied the knot in 2003. In a few days, we will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary.

When we made our wedding plans, we both agreed that we didn’t want anything too formal. Neither of us are religious so a church wedding wasn’t even considered. We wanted our wedding to be a joyful gathering of friends… kind of a party during which two people happen to get married. When a neighbor offered his big, flat backyard, we knew that it would be the perfect venue.

When I look at our wedding photos, I am reminded of how much our wedding reflected our personalities… then and now. Our guests were encouraged to wear “casual, tropical attire” and our flowers, linens, and decorations were bright and colorful. Dancing began with a conga line recessional and continued into the evening to the tunes of the rocking blues band we hired.

Conga line recessional.

Many of our guests remarked that, if they were ever to get married again, this was how they would want their wedding to be. They shared that their weddings were as much (or more) about what their parents wanted as what they desired.

Me and my best friend.

Looking back on our wedding day, I am filled with gratitude. Most of all, I am grateful for the man I married. Our invitations read, “This day I will marry my friend… the one I laugh with, dream with, live for, and love.” That is just as true today as it was then. I am grateful for my memories of that glorious September day, filled with love, laughter, and dear friends. I am also grateful that, when I look back at that day, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d do it all again, just the same.