God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tomorrow's Corner

Is there an adult who hasn't dreamed of life in retirement? I would guess that such dreams revolve around freedom--freedom to do and be what ever way the wind blows on any given day. My revelries were of no alarm clocks, travel by the whim, minimal accountability, freedom to "be" me. Certainly the dreams did not include PTA meetings, Little League snack stands, parent conferences, children's pool parties or, most of all, parenting.

But, life, if any thing, is unpredictable. We never, ever know what lies around the corner of tomorrow--unexpected joys? undeserved trials? unexplained sorrows? unanticipated pleasures? Clearly God plans our lives and we experience its unfolding. Certainly understanding His way falls outside our limits of understandings.

So, Ken and I wonder why around our corner we found a blessing, an unexpected joy, an unanticipated pleasure. Why did God smile on us?

We retired several years earlier than we needed to, wanting to indulge our passion to travel as much of the world as we could--before our bodies would begin to fail us. Being aware of how often people wait to retire only to have tragedy strike, we hoped to beat that outcome. And...we took this goal by storm.

We treasure experiencing other cultures, having brief glimpses of life beyond the comforts of the United States and Western Europe. In our wander lust over the years, we have seen amazing sights--Cappadocia in Turkey, the Himalayas in Tibet, the pyramids of mysterious Mayan and Aztec cultures, the vestiges of Communism in Central Europe, the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, small mountain villages of Greece and, of course, the "normal" places in much of Europe. All of this accompanied by sharing life with people along the way--people different from us and yet, really, much the same. But, there remained so much more of God's world to see and marvel at and wonder how, why, when?

And so, in our first year of retirement, we gorged ourselves on this obsession, going to five continents in less that twelve months--North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. It was a wonderful year. God took care of us and let us live our dream on His timeline. He knew that around the corner of that year, He had something even grander planned for us--an unexpected journey--one we would not have chosen. But he gave us that year to indulge our wanderlust.

Then, He pulled us out of retirement--so to speak. He had a job for us to do and trusted us to do it well. He gave us Casey--our grandson who needed his grandparents to love him, raise him and tell him he is the most special boy that ever was. He needed us to start parenting all over again--hopefully with the wisdom of years and lessons learned. So--we are now on the journey into the soul of a child with all the laughter, tears, joys and hurts that reside there.

Now we do go to those parent conferences with teachers--even in Italy where we needed a translator, have pool parties where our "peer" group is the age of our children, sit through Little League games which we were so glad to put behind us years ago, listen to children, against all our rules, bouncing on the beds upstairs, wonder why taking showers is a form of punishment and try to avoid those sleep-overs which mean no-sleep.

We teach him right and wrong, kindness, respect, loving his God, how to pray, what being a friend means, why he must learn, that life is more than having fun--all those things we wish we had found more time for the first time around. We delight in his laughter and his smile. His kisses and hugs and "I love you, Grandma" in the middle of the grocery store aisle give a meaning beyond compare to these retirement years.

This has become the best corner of all. Now--God must continue what He has begun and give us a life long enough to raise this joy into manhood. I think He will.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Malls Still Scare Me

We’ve been back in sunny San Diego, the vacation capital of Southern California, for a few weeks now. It is lovely here and contrary to what I remembered while in serene and beautiful Greve in Chianti, we do have blue skies—just not the angel beds that seemed to be always present there.
Blue Skies in San Diego
Angel Beds in Greve

Ken spends hours each day working in the yard—pruning, planting, rearranging fountains, climbing shaky ladders while trimming palm tree branches, tending to the fruit trees and puttering. In Italy he read books and books and books—now he seems to have put that aside for a while—exchanging mental workouts for more laborious physical labor. He sleeps well—but, then, sleep wasn’t a problem in Greve, either.

I spend inordinate amounts of time not getting much done—or at least that’s the way it seems. Focusing is difficult, being productive escapes me. My brain shuts down at the thought of “mall time” even though I’ll be clotheless pretty soon and then won’t be able to go out at all.

What I have done is spend too much time on computer stuff which now involves unsuccessfully trying to figure out why my main computer is so slow that I clean out desk drawers while waiting for a document file to load. At this point I have taken off many programs, downsized by 90% the start up programs, run virus, spyware and registry checks, transferred most of 10,000 photos to an external drive and deleted and restalled programs which I thought might have been corrupted. And—I can now report—none of this has helped. Maybe tomorrow a flash of insight will fill me and the problem will be solved—or maybe one of the earthquakes we are having will shake it up.

When not compulsively attacking the “darn machine,” there are 4000+ photos from the last year to tackle. Fortunately, they are nicely organized, labeled and tagged so my job now is deciding which to order.

Of course, as each picture glows on the screen—looking very beautiful and triggering memories, the selection process goes sl-sl-slowly. I sometimes think I should just put the project aside but—the compulsive person that I am overrules—gotta get the scrapebook/album done for Casey’s memories.

Shutterfly, the on-line company I use, prints comments on the back of each photo so each picture must be documented. When Casey grows up he will be able to flip a picture to see why it was important or to learn something about himself. “You really liked swimming with Camilla.” “You wanted to go to the Uffizi to see this Madonna by Giotti.” "Tommi was your best friend."

Then there is-----still trying to find a tutor for him. I can tell that he is already losing some of his language; locating a karate program so that he can continue the shokotan style he had in Greve; finding a guitar teacher because he wants to learn how to play the guitar--contrary to my wanting him to play the piano; supervising homework; helping with his blog and having his friends over for play and swimming. All this makes a pretty full life, after all, for nonna here.

In Italy Casey went to school from 8:30 to 4:30 which gave us time to do things but here school is from 7:45 until 2:10 and so the day is short--no more of the late lunches while sipping glasses of Chianti, we enjoyed so much. Of course, no little trattorias around each corner here either--lots of Burger Kings and Roberto's Taco Shops. Is that an even exchange?

So-till now, I've stayed pretty close to home with the daily forage to the market--a remnant of last year. I am sure though, that the day is coming when THE mall will beckon and I will go. Maybe.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Settlin' In--Movin' On

Yes, that's what we are doing--becoming San Diegans once more.

When we exchanged our comfort level here at home for a year in a different land and culture, we knew it would be enriching but we didn't understand how deep in the psyche the experience would burrow. Now the transition is slow as we seek to blend our two lives into a richer whole. Sometimes these days I feel as if I'm neither here nor there--I've always known who I was but now I don't seem to be quite that person. So transition involves not only the physical and environmental but also the emotional and psychological.

During this process I have thought about another indelible year in our lives--a year like our last one, leaving memories that seem far too many for a mere 365 days. This was the year we lived in University City on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri.

Although we weren't leaving the country, it seemed as if we were as we pulled out of our driveway in Southern California, following the moving van to the "border state" between the two halves of our country. In our minds we were headed towards a great culture divide--the North and the South. In our inexperience and young naivety, we had a strong sense of embarking on an exciting adventure--as a biracial family what would it be?

That year became a treasured part of the fabric of who we are. We loved St. Louis as it was wonderful in every way we could want our life to be. This "border" state provided our children-black and white-with the healthiest, most accepting living experience of their growing up years.

During that year we became actively involved in the pulse and life of University City with a circle of friends from multiple races. Politics and public service were easily penetrated, providing ways to volunteer time and energies. Even today I regret that we could not stay there and call it home for many years. But--as all of us know, life tends to interfere with our wants and to change course on us--with or without our compliance.

So I know that leaving life's great and special times inescapably involves a sense of loss but I also know that new experiences and interests surface--that there is an unknown corner ahead of us with something new and exciting around the curve. It is the anticipation of that which moves me through the missing Italy phase-allowing me to again become a San Diegan--just a little different person than I was before our year away.

Tuesday school starts and I'll have time to search out that corner. I'm excited!