Good Morning, China!

Our first full day in China started by meeting our guide, Jonathan.  This is not his real name.  None of the guides used their real names.  They all had English names. This I noticed was true for the hotel staffs too. I guess they figured out we would never be able to pronounce or even figure out how to say their Chinese names. So –simplify!

We were all given name tags.  On the back, our guide had written his phone number in case we ever got separated from the group, we could call him or have some sympathetic bystander do so. We were instructed to always wear our name tag.  Remember this because it will come into play later in this blog.

Before I proceed any further, I must inform you that I hate hot weather. Many of you hibernate in the winter.  I hibernate in the summer. Sunshine, let’s get this show on the road!

First stop — Yuyuan Gardens. These five acres of gardens date back to the Ming Dynasty. These weren’t gardens in the sense of large rolling hills with patches of azaleas, various flowers and fish ponds like I’ve been used to in the U.S. These were a different kind of beautiful.  And old, really old.

And it was hot.  Really hot. Like 97 degrees hot. We learned that in stepping over a threshold, men stepped with their left foot first, women with their right.  Or maybe vice versa.  I guess I didn’t really learn it. I don’t remember why. I think it had something to do with fertility. I must have been talking when he was explaining.

We left the gardens and walked to a silk embroidery factory.  I think this was a 10K walk. Chinese people walk a lot and we soon learned when we were told it would be a short easy walk, we shouldn’t believe it. Between walking in the gardens and walking to the factory, someone who had a Fitbit on said we walked 5 miles.

The silk embroidery was beautiful.  There was lady doing a demo and it was a real art.  A dying art, actually, because young people don’t want to sit quietly to do something like this.  For those of us who do needlework, we found this to be sad. All of the pictures for sale were quite expensive — $$$$.  Since I already spent $$$$ on this trip, my budget didn’t allow the expenditure on any of them.  😦

We went upstairs for lunch, the first of our Chinese meals.  We got beer!!  Can we say, “Hooray?” Boy, it sure went down good.  (I’m not a beer drinker, but I really liked all of the Chinese beer we drank.)  We ate an array of things; most of which we didn’t know.  Some good, some not so good.

We left and got on the bus to head to Shanghai Museum. This museum displayed 5,000 years of their history.  Boy, the United States is such a baby! I think the population of Shanghai is 25 million and 24 million were in the museum that day. Jim and I did a quick perusal of some of the exhibits and then found some benches to sit on.  We really should have trained for a marathon before we took this trip.

After freshening up at the hotel (a really nice Westin, btw), we went for dinner and then on to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. In China, when they start school. it’s determined what they are good at and that seems to be what they study.  So, this troupe was made up of those who studied at least 10 years.  What I saw was very good, but I have to confess, I fell asleep and woke up at the end when the motorcyclists were taking their bow. I understand they were the hit of the show.  But the long flight and busy day got the best of me.

Tomorrow we fly to Wuhan……………….


Time flies when you’re older, but this is ridiculous!

I have to say, I need to really concentrate to determine what I’ve done this year so far.  It’s just been jam-packed; not with all pleasant things, either.

January and February are a blur.  Did I have fun?  I can’t remember. But then, I can’t remember a lot of things.  Time to get more serious about Lumosity. It’s supposed to keep our minds young — or something.

March —  Jim got his first knee replacement. That required nursing and transporting on my part. He healed pretty quickly, but there were 3x a week physical therapy sessions that I had to take him to until he was able to drive himself.  Since it was his left knee, he was able to do this within a few weeks.

April — I had house guests and my son’s 50th birthday party to plan and host. All in all, it was a fun month, but busy.

May — Well it started off with a trip to New Bern, NC with my kids. That trip included a trip to Aurora, NC to dig for fossils and shark’s teeth.


Well — some of us did!


This little girl was not one of us, but she sure did know her stuff!

Back and forth between Raleigh and the beach.  The month ended with my family coming down to the beach for Memorial weekend.  I believe it rained a lot. But remember, my faulty memory.

June — The 1st to be exact. Jim got his right knee replaced. More surgery and therapy. This required more driving on my part because he needed his right leg to drive.  But all went well and before long, he was taking care of himself. We paid for a Viking River Cruise to China to take place in August and the emphasis was on Jim being well enough and in good enough shape to be able to walk without trouble.

July — And then it happened!  My kids came down to the beach for the 4th and we decided to go to Brookgreen Gardens.  It was so hot and humid, we decided to cut the day short and head to the zoo area.  Well, a lesson for all of us — don’t walk along reading a map or this will happen to you.0705160744_resized


Two weeks later when I decided I really needed to see a doctor.

Walked right off the curb. I have to admit, I tell younger people I was playing Pokemon Go and wasn’t looking where I was walking.  It just sounds better than being a dope, doesn’t it? As a result of this, I wasn’t able to walk much for the rest of July.  Since time was of the essence, I elected to do physical therapy five days a week.  Three days a week just wasn’t going to work.

August. The progress on my feet and ankles was encouraging.  I’d be able to do it! Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus! Now, pay attention. Never minimize any physical ailment at the check-in counter at the airport! You get perks!  Like a wheel chair and early boarding. Don’t let pride get in the way! Accept it and rejoice. Well, this lasted until we got to China.  They didn’t care about this sort of thing. I was on my own.  They didn’t seem to care about people movers at the airport much, either.

The swelling in my feet and ankles had pretty much dissipated by the time we left Raleigh.  But, by the time we arrived in Shanghai, they were enormous and stayed that way the entire trip. Our first day, we were free to do what we wanted.  So we went to the Bund.0811160822 (640x480)0811160830a

While there, Jim’s camera on his phone wouldn’t work. Now after an 17 hour flight, I didn’t have much in the way of patience.  Not that I ever really have, truth be told. With that in mind, I saw a couple of young Chinese guys.  Who better to ask for help, right?  Don’t all young men know electronics?  I got up and walked over to them and asked if they spoke English, which they didn’t.  Through sign language and gestures, I didn’t exactly get my point across — did they have an iphone and could they figure out what was wrong.  They thought I wanted them to take our picture. So we had no choice but to stand there and let them take one, which of course we knew wouldn’t work. At that point, they fooled with it, got it fixed and took the picture.  I knew they could fix it! You go, Irene. At that point, a lady they were with came running over and wanted all of them to take a picture with us.  We found this to be the case throughout our trip.  They wanted pictures taken with Americans — some of whom were British, but who was going to tell them?  Or did they think we were Bristish and didn’t care that we were Americans? I regret I didn’t take the same picture. So here’s the one of Jim and I.

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I’ve bored you enough for this post.  The next post will give you more insight into the actual trip, our reflections and how I am convinced our tour guide tried to kill me with all the walking. I can tell you’ve had enough.  I can see your eyes rolling.

A Mutual Admiration Society

Back in the summer of 2002, I moved from Southern California to Raleigh, North Carolina. After getting settled into my new home, I decided I needed a job or something. I got back into volunteering. I tried a number of things: helping with blood drives for the Red Cross, working with Habitat for Humanity, and others. And then, yahoo!  I noticed an article in the newspaper about the USO needing volunteers to help in their Center at the Raleigh-Durham airport. Well, help is what I’m all about! Heck, I owned bakeries. I can serve people food. I managed a coffee house.  I can definitely make coffee. I got on this right away.

I got assigned to the every other Friday evening, 7 to 11 p.m. shift. I worked with a great guy who had been in the Navy. Mike introduced me to YouTube. When it was a slow night, we’d laugh at things people posted. What kinds of “official” duties did we manage?  We’d make sure anyone wanting entry into our Center had some sort of military ID and we’d have them sign in. We’d offer them food and snacks. We’d give them general Center information: computer passwords, calling cards if they needed to make calls, personal care items they might need, etc. It was a small Center and had about 100 volunteers, many of whom were there doing something all the time.  USO.2

A few years later, I became an employee — Administrative Assistant. This was before, or in the early stages, of everything being computerized. I created tons of spreadsheets to make my job easier. And then — someone from the new Center at the Charlotte airport created a computer program for volunteers to sign up for shifts or cancel their shift, and log in their hours.  Revolutionary!  I loved my job! And then … I moved to South Carolina. I mourned my time at the USO. This was back in 2008.

Fast forward to 2016 and I’m back!  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. When the airport completed renovations on Terminal 2, the USO moved into space there.  Much larger and more modern. There are now 300+ volunteers divided into categories: Center volunteers, Ambassadors (they wander the terminal looking for military who might not be aware there is a USO available to them), and Out of Center volunteers (this is what I get to do). I can’t work in the Center until someone currently holding a shift decides to give it up.

Yesterday I worked Guard 2 Beach, a bike ride from the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters here in Raleigh, to Carolina Beach, NC. It’s a 3 day bike ride. We handed out water, energy bars, etc. They thanked us. We in turn thanked them. A mutual admiration society. All branches of the military were represented among the riders, along with some civilians. 0520160948c

That’s me. A civilian. I’m not related to anyone who has ever been in the military. And sometimes I feel like an outsider. When I worked in the Center years ago, it never seemed to come up.  But, when I’m working these events the conversation always seems to get around to their connection. A son or daughter serving. A husband. A wife. A brother or sister. Growing up a military brat. Retired from the military. When I was asked yesterday by one of the men, who I had in the military, I responded, “No one, I just volunteer because …” I found I couldn’t articulate an answer.  He answered for me, “Because it was the right thing to do.” It made me feel accepted. ‘nuf said.

Is Camino de Santiago in my future?

About 30 years ago, I read or heard of Shirley MacClaine’s decision to embark on a spiritual walk — Camino de Santiago in Spain. I’ve been interested in giving it a shot ever since. The spiritual aspect is less important to me than the experience part. There are several routes to take — some more strenuous than others. The distance is anywhere from 400 – 500 miles. Many people do about 10-15 miles a day. You don’t have to walk the entire length at any one time. You can do as much as you want. In 2014, there were 200,000 people who set out on this journey. The Camino de Santiago is a series of routes stretching across Europe and coming together in Santiago. These walks were first taken in the 9th century. I have no idea where on the map these walks start. I need to check Google maps or Google Earth, which is what Jim just did.  “Yo, look at those mountains!” (The Pyrenees.) I’m guessing we won’t be doing that part. Which actual route we would take would need to be researched and decided on — mainly which is flattest! I’m thinking the  Camino Frances — Sarria to Santiago, the most popular. This would be of moderate grade and we’d get the Compostela because we would complete 100 km.



Cathedral Santiago de Compostela  courtesy:


What brought it to the forefront of my mind after all these years/decades, really?  Well, on Saturday when I was working the golf tournament as a USO Volunteer, another volunteer (not USO) shared the Coke trailer with me. She mentioned she and her husband had done the walk twice. The last time, two years ago. She was just a few years younger than me and didn’t look to be in any better shape than me, so I got really excited. I wish I had exchanged phone numbers with her because I have more questions.

Jim and I are taking a trip to China in August and as he was looking at the questions required on the visa, I was telling him about wanting to do this walk. When he asked where on our trip to-do list I wanted to place it, I replied, “At the top.”

He paused a good pause and said, “Before Paris and Istanbul?” You betcha. I’ve been to Paris a number of times, and even though it’s my favorite city, I always prefer new experiences. I’ve not been to Istanbul, but Jim has. It was actually at the top of the list, but got bumped by this walk. It can wait a little while longer, I think. Maybe by the time we go next year, Turkey and Syria will have gotten their acts together.  Dream on, Irene.

Too Many Distractions or is it ADD?

I know, I know.  I’ve been MIA. I’m thinking goals don’t work for me.  I set a goal of posting once a week or once a month, or whatever. I can’t remember what my goal was. Obviously, it hasn’t been working for me. I kicked that goal to the sidelines. I guess it’s just that I’ve been distracted. Too many activities. And we won’t discuss the days spent just sitting on my butt playing games on my electronics. No — we won’t discuss that. You all know about that. You wake up and play a few games while you drink your coffee and next thing you know six hours have gone by. What the heck?  Where has the morning gone?  And I haven’t had my breakfast! Do I eat breakfast or just go right to lunch?  I do that too often anymore.

Since moving back to Raleigh, for the most part, I’ve been filling my calendar with volunteering. And since my grandchildren go to year-round schools, I help with them while they are tracked out, which happens about every ten weeks. They are just finishing up three weeks of being out of school. Tomorrow will be a rude awakening when they have to get up early again. Well, not for my grandson.  He still gets up early. But my granddaughter — that’s another story.  Her days have been beginning at noon. Tomorrow, six a.m. is gonna be real early.


One of the volunteer jobs I’ve taken on is tending the rose gardens at the North Carolina Museum of Art, here in Raleigh. My grandson, Shane, enjoys working with plants so I’ve taken him with me on a few occasions to help clip stems and pull “the oaks”, which is the seedlings of oak trees that have taken root.  He seems to like pulling “the oaks” best. The roses hurt. We say, “ow” a lot. Pulling the oaks doesn’t hurt. The don’t bite back. You’ll notice his gloves.  They don’t make gloves small enough for a six-year-old. These were the smallest to be found.  He was pretty jazzed about them and the plants we bought for his house.  You need to take a bucket full of money any time you shop with kids, no matter what kind of store you go into.

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Most times, I go by myself.  I get more accomplished. His attention only lasts for about 45 minutes. Actually, my attention really only lasts for 45 minutes, but I don’t want to be called a wimp, so I tough it out. Act like a grown up. And let’s face it, those rose bushes are mean. Stop paying attention just for a minute and they stick you with those nasty thorns. Why did God make such pretty flowers and then add those thorns, I wonder?

I went this morning and as I was driving home, I had to keep pulling thorns from my arms and legs that had decided to embed themselves in me.  I was so scratched up, I didn’t even feel them stick me. Of course, I had those bloody spots I had to keep wiping. I chose to work today in a pretty bed of yellow roses.  They smelled so good, I decided to stick around. And they in turn, stuck me.

tending to the rose bed 2

There are 800 bushes planted around the museum, so the work is never-ending. We need more volunteers. Anyone live in the Raleigh area?

Wish my mom were alive and living here.  She’d have those roses trimmed in a second. My Mom would get a kick out of me gardening. When I was a kid growing up, we had to work in her gardens everyday before we could go play. I hated it. I would bargain to do other things, like dust, but it never worked. And here I am, voluntarily gardening. Go figure. Must have rubbed off.

Actually, it wouldn’t hurt if I did some dusting and vacuuming in my house. What a switcheroo I’ve done.  I’ve gone from bargaining to dust to get out of gardening, now I garden to get out of dusting. Whoa! Scary. I’ve become my Mom.

So tomorrow?  I will be selling beer and Cokes at the Rex Open Golf Tournament. The USO is a recipient of the money made on selling these refreshments. The last time I worked a golf tournament, I sold Mulligan’s. I had no idea what they were until one of the golfers told me they were do-overs. Do-overs are good things.  We should have more opportunities for them. I think selling beer will be more fun. I’m guessing I can’t drink any, though. Dang.  I’d really have a good time. And I’d be such a hoot!



Thin mint whore

From one of my favorite bloggers …..

Aging Gracefully My Ass


Recently heard at a TMA meeting: “My name is AGMA and I’m a Thin Mint whore.”

I know. Shocking. But I bet I’ll get a lot of views because I used the word whore.

It’s been my dirty little secret. For nearly four weeks every year, for the past 55 years, I have given myself over to a life of Thin Mint lust and passion.

It started innocently enough back in the early 60’s when I did my first stint as a Brownie. That’s how they do it – they get started when you’re young. They let you “sample” the goods, teasing you with things to come, knowing full well that you will want more. Much more. And I did.

Then I started supplying; selling them door to door when I became a Girl Scout. Back in the day, there was no parental unit taking an order sheet to work…

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Was it for a Reason or a Season?

Does it matter in the long run? I lost a friend this past weekend. A friend who didn’t deserve the hand dealt to her. At least not from my viewpoint. She was one of the good ones. They say, “Only the good die young.” Well, she wasn’t so young, but she was good.

I met Eilleen back in the late 90s. She was a cyber friend, you see. I never met her in person. I tried to last summer when Jim and I went up to Connecticut to visit his children. Eilleen lived in Scituate, MA. Not so far away. But, we couldn’t hook up. She was in the process of moving from her 100+ year old house. I didn’t have a cell number, so I never reached her. It was on my bucket list to meet face to face with a woman who made a big impact on me and my life. I was so disappointed.

We met in a Yahoo group for spouses of suicides. In real life, if you lose a spouse to cancer, heart disease or any number of physical ailments, everyone you know is sympathetic and understanding. But suicide is different. People tend to vacate your life – quickly. Blame is placed. Fingers are pointed. No one understands how hard you worked to keep your spouse going. They often think you pushed them toward their decision. Ergo, thank heavens for the Internet and “closed” groups like the one I joined. What a Godsend! Here we poured out our grief – our fears – our anger – and our compassion for the others in the group. People understood! People were going through the same things!

Eilleen was one of those who showed more than her share of compassion. She and her children were surviving their own nightmare, but it didn’t stop her from taking time everyday to encourage others to forge ahead. I was one of those she encouraged. She gave me hope. And since her husband had been an attorney, she was able to help me understand some of the legal aspects of what I needed to know.

Not only did her husband leave her with financial issues, like mine did me, but she developed MS. She was an art teacher for a private school and as her disease began to create more physical issues for her, the headmaster made her life miserable to the point of having to pursue things in court. Finally, she ended up in a wheel chair and I believe it was a year ago that she lost her job, once and for all – at a time when she was fighting vainly in the hospital to regain her health.

The one wonderful thing that happened to her was having a wonderful man enter her life. Someone she could count on to help her, both physically and emotionally. I invited them many times to come stay at my beach place. I wish they had come. I really wish they had come.

Since losing her job and that stint in the hospital, she found herself in the hospital several more times for varying lengths of time. Too many times. Her time, after all, was becoming limited.

On February 2nd, she was in ICU with a bad infection and on February 5th, she passed on. If Facebook posts from her friends, fellow teachers and more importantly, her students, are any indication of having made an impact on people’s lives, then Eilleen passed with flying colors.

Rest in peace, my friend.  I’m grateful for having had your friendship. And while we didn’t meet in this life, we will most certainly meet in the next one.




I’d Rather Have a Root Canal

If you entertained thoughts that I had put up my typing fingers, I hate to disappoint you.  I’m baacck!  I wish I could say I’ve been off having fun, but nah! … I’ve just been busy.  Overwhelmed, you could say. Life is what happens while you are making other plans, as they say.

As I was planning to do my Christmas shopping in mid-December, I found I had to make an unexpected trip to Pittsburgh.  My older sister, who was in frail health was admitted to ICU.  My brother and I knew this would be the last time we would be able to say our “goodbyes”, so we didn’t waste any time getting up there.  And we are glad we did.  She passed earlier this week.

After spending a couple of days at her bedside, we returned back to Raleigh.  I hurriedly got my shopping done in time for Santa to arrive. I planned to head back to the beach just before New Years Eve.  But, on the 26th of December while out shopping with my Granddaughter Lila, my car starting acting up.  By the time I got back to my house, it was overheating.  Now the fun begins.  Bring in the clowns!

I had to wait until December 30 to have my mechanic look at my car.  He is a 30 minute drive away, so it was with sweaty hands that I got my car there without breaking down along the way.  I made it! Oh happy day. Maybe it wasn’t so serious after all.

On first inspection, they decided it was just a thermostat and that it wouldn’t be too expensive.  But, as they proceeded to repair it, I got that call.  Bad news.  It was the head gasket.  And since my cars was 11 years old and had 172,000 miles on it, he didn’t think it was worth getting that costly of a repair done. Now I had to get my car back home.  By then it was late afternoon and traffic was getting heavy.  Not to mention raining rather heavily, and it was dark besides.  Why me??

Another sweaty drive back home, but I made it.  The gauge went to “H” just as I pulled in front of my house. So much for heading back to the beach for the New Years Eve party. Jim, being the sweetheart that he is, drove up the next day and rescued me.  First stop — the ABC store to lay in a supply of scotch.  And it was a good thing.  We made a dent in it.  I was feeling very sorry for myself, mind you.

The next day, I began my research in earnest.  I was married for 35 years to a man who taught me that you don’t buy a car without researching.  My Internet was buzzing, let me tell you.  I began shooting off all those “request quotes” to the dealers. And more research.  You know I once had a Ford Explorer that I leased, then released, then released again, then purchased.  All in all, I paid for that car for 10 years.  All because I didn’t want to research and make a decision on a new car. That’s my history of car buying.

I decided on a Honda Civic, Mazda3, Ford Focus or a Nissan Altima. I got the best price on the Altima, but my daughter, who drives one, insisted I not buy the same kind of car as she had. The salesman laughed when I told him. So now I had three to decide on.  You know what? It’s almost like collusion.  They were all basically the same price. So it came down to who gave me the best quote on a car that had what I wanted on it and not much more.  And I had to consider the distance.  I had a car that overheated! Is this devious? I didn’t want to pull up in a car with steam pouring out of it.

On Saturday I made my list of dealers we would visit.  We took Jim’s car because mine wouldn’t make it.  First stop the Honda dealer.  The salesman had sent me a quote on a car that was reasonable in a color I liked — grey — it doesn’t show the dirt.  I wash my car yearly whether it needs it or not.

That’s as far as we got. I liked the car and it was what I had been driving for the past 11 years.  Why put myself through anymore agony? As we prepared for me to do a test drive, I couldn’t find my license.  It wasn’t anywhere to be found!  Where in heaven’s name did I leave it?  I had a little trouble concentrating after that.  Well, the salesman took it for a test drive with me as a passenger.  Is that uncommon? Isn’t it necessary to determine how it feels as a passenger?  Okay, I guess not.

I told him I was going to make a few more stops before I’d make my decision, so off we went back home.  I wasn’t interested in anymore stops.  I wanted to be done.  Upon arriving home, we decided it would be best to drive my car most of the way there and leave it to cool down.  The salesman had told me that they would check it over, do a test drive, etc. to determine it’s value. As we left to take my car to however far it would go, it began to rain — really rain.  I put my wipers on but the one in front of the driver wasn’t cleaning it off very well. Then I noticed the rubber part was tearing loose. About halfway, actually. And it was getting to be rush hour.  Oh happy day.

Now, I was having to drive in heavy rain, with lots of traffic and I couldn’t see through my windshield. Talk about stressful!  And I wasn’t sure of the streets I needed to take. I couldn’t see the road, couldn’t see the street signs and my hands were cramping from holding the steering wheel so tightly. I got it almost there. It hadn’t started to overheat yet, but I wanted it parked among other cars so it wouldn’t be conspicuous. Why didn’t I decide t get a new car last year?

Once back home, I called and set up an appointment to go to the dealership in a few hours to do the paperwork.  I went looking for my license and found it in a travel tote I had used when I flew to Pittsburgh –two weeks before.  I had been driving all over the world without my license! Maybe it’s time for my children to get me a keeper.  Obviously, I was beginning to lose it.

There have been times in my life when I thought I had a Guardian Angel helping me. We picked up my car and drove to the dealership.  After going over some of the paperwork, the salesman announced that he and I were going to take my car out for a drive. What?  I was going to have to be in the car when he would call me out on being deceptive?  He backed the car out and began to head down the road, mashing on the gas pedal going up the hill.  I was sitting there praying — please don’t overheat — please don’t overheat. Luckily, because he couldn’t see out of the windshield any better that I had, it was a short drive and he determined it was in good shape!

After signing yet more paperwork, I got in my new car and drove home.  Yep, I’d have rather had a root canal. If I drive this car as long as I drove my last one, this should be the last time I go through this agony and stress. My children will be taking my license away from me along about then. I mean, after all this, would you want to be on the road with me?

honda EX








Some People Just Can’t be Happy

angry ladySo yesterday I was in Kroger’s for the third day in a row.  Why can’t I ever check to be sure I have all I need on my list before I go grocery shopping? I hate grocery shopping.  Put that on the list of things I hate, along with Milan and Florida drivers. And since I live in two different states, food items can be tricky. Mostly, I eat whatever I can find — raisins, peanut butter, sardines.

Well, I needed to do some baking.  Flour? — check. Sugar?  — check. This is happening over two days, mind you.  There continued to be things I didn’t check.  On the third day, sure that I had finally managed to get all the needed ingredients, I pulled out the butter from the fridge and it was weird looking — kind of like marbled.  I guess I bought it last year when I did some baking. Okay, I know I used to be a baker and owned a few bakeries, but now I bake kinda yearly.

So, I was in Kroger turning the corner to get the butter  and bread — yes I forgot to put sliced bread on any of the lists I made — and I heard a lady say, “I hate Raleigh. You know I hate Raleigh.”

Well this really got my attention because this is one of the two places I live. And the house I decided to keep.  You’ll remember in my last post, I finally decided which house to keep and which one to sell. So when  I heard this I was surprised.  I love Raleigh. Being the outgoing extrovert that I am (not), I blurted out, “You hate Raleigh?  I love Raleigh!  In fact I am in the process of moving back here.”

“From where?” she asked.

“South Carolina.”

“Oh, I hate all the south.  I’m from Chicago.  This place is all subdivisions. What do you like about it?”

“Well, I like that’s it’s a big enough city, but not overwhelming like a city of Chicago’s size. I like the variety of things to do with relative ease.  Concerts, museums, the symphony, shopping — all the colleges.”

“Well, it’s gotten a lot bigger since I moved here in 1974.” Now her husband was standing there, but he wasn’t saying anything. I wonder why? And she’s lived here since 1974?  

Then she told me, “Oh, I like the symphony too, but they start at 8:00 at night and he wants to leave the house at 8.  So I won’t go.” I glanced at old hubby, but he wasn’t going to say or do anything.

At this point, I wanted to throw my hands up, roll my eyes and walk away.  But since she was a stranger, and being aware of the conceal/carry laws now, I didn’t want to risk my life over this conversation. So wanting to end this peacefully, I said, “Well, let’s remember what holiday we will be celebrating this week.”

“Yes, Thanksgiving.  I have a lot to be thankful for.” Really?  She sure fooled me.  That poor man.

I saw them as I was leaving the store.  I chose to go out the other door because I was afraid she’d pick up the conversation again.

OMG — I finally made my decision!

At least I hope I have.  Well, maybe I have. When I need to make major decisions, I take such a long time, I get tired of thinking about it. And I swing back and forth from one spectrum to the other.  What is the decision that has taken me about a year and a half to make? Which house should I sell and where should I live.

For some background — I have a brick and mortar townhouse in North Carolina and I have a mobile home in a 55+ mobile home park in South Carolina, one mile from the beach.  And I love them both.  And I like my neighbors and friends in each place. Therein lies the problem.

When I am in NC, I’ll decide I’m keeping that place.  Then I’ll go to the beach and decide that’s the place I’ll keep.  My friends and family just roll their eyes when I announce my latest decision. Heck, I even get sick of myself! But this time, I’ve made it. Really. I have. I’ve even started packing. Gosh, I hate packing and moving.  That, I think, has been a big part of my decision making.  I am a bit of a procrastinator. Not as much as my son, but one nonetheless. It’s easier to put off a decision when you don’t want to do the chores.  I really have even thought I’d make no decision and let my kids deal with it all when I die.  Isn’t that sick?

How did I finally make the decision?  I took most of the emotion out of it and dealt with the practical and financial aspects of each place. Once I was able to do that, the decision came easy.  In NC, I have no outside upkeep.  The HOA takes care of it all.  Since I’m in my 70s, that is a huge positive.  In my mobile home, I have to do all outside upkeep myself or pay someone to do it for me. No brainer there! But, the beach place is the beach place, after all.

Plus, to add a little emotion to it, my family all live in NC.  And I miss being around them.  Not that I haven’t worn down the pavement on I-95 these past six years. I think some of the people who man the cash registers at my favorite pee stops have begun to know me. I can’t in good conscience use their bathrooms without making a purchase. Two of my favorite junk foods are those cheese danishes and bear claws that come in wrapped packages. Forget that I was a baker and would have cringed if anything we sold would have been remotely like those.  But I love them!

So, the beach place lost out.  It gets sold. With my grandkids getting older and my grandson playing sports, their ability come down to the beach as often as they used to has become more difficult. I keep recalling my six year old grandson telling me two months ago, “I love this house.” And it makes me sad. But we can always stay with Mr. Jim. And he has the hot tub, aka — Mr. Jim’s little pool. And he has Wii.

I’ve had to convince Jim that we can do this.  He’s still trying to influence me in the other direction. Heck, we’re both retired. The road runs up and down. Please Lord, let this be the right decision. I think he might be  a little worried I’ll meet another old codger at the Senior Center.  I tell him as soon as I pull out of the park, all the single ladies will be coming by to bring him a casserole or pie. Hopefully, we’ll just be together at one place or the other.

I think I’ll have to break down and get cable up there. He’s pretty dependent on television. I have had success getting him to enjoy PBS, but, unfortunately, I can’t get it with the antenna in NC.  Hence, the cable idea. There go the $$$.  I hate paying a cable bill, since I don’t watch much television. Not that there is much to watch on cable, right?  Roku is just fine with me.

With the money I’ll save each month on fees, taxes, insurance, utilities — we can travel more and even take my family on a nice vacation each year, if I choose. (I enjoy the excitement the grandkids exhibit by just staying in a hotel).

What will I miss?  My porch. I’ll miss sitting out there reading or playing with my electronics.  Or napping.  Or hanging with friends.