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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

And...Time Marches On

Casey became an "always with us" part of our lives six years ago. Here he is at lunch in Arezzo in June, 2003. What a great trip it was as we spent 6 weeks in Spain and Italy. Unfortunately, things being as they are with kids, Ken and I have all the memories of a little boy's wonder and fun. He remembers very little. Sometimes I bring out the old picture albums or bring photos up on the screen so that he can dig deep. He does remember lovely Sofia whom he has seen almost every summer since.

A year later, 2004,  he was slashing his way through the Amazon Rain Forests of Ecuador where he also shared the Amazon River with deadly piranhas. Of course, being Casey, he managed an Ecuadorean girlfriend while exploring the Galapagos islands.

Then came 2005 and Alaska. Another big adventure  ..this time with bears, whales, salmon and eagles...flying and soaring in and out of mountain glaciers...seeing the big brown bear snagging his dinner from the cold waters. And...another girl.

Finally came August 2006--the year he became an Italian. The year he and Camilla began their unique bonding and friendship that started the only way it could--the language of balloons. By the end of that year, August 2007, the parting was painful and difficult.

These two children virtually lived together for that year. They knew each others secrets and ways. As they said, they were closer than brother and sister, girl friend and boy friend. It was and is a friendship that defies description.

All of this is prelude to why I write now. It seems that  becoming a middle schooler has caused a metamorphosis. Casey is no longer the child he was. He is providing clues as to the teenager, young adult and man that he will become. He has entered the twilight zone currently known as the "tweener years."

And..it all seems to have come to noticeable fruition in the last two weeks. A stunning transformation is taking place--clearly out of my control--as much as want to say "halt"--stay a little boy a while longer.

Thy symptoms are: girls are calling--multiple times during the day; name brand clothes are suddenly known to exist--Target just doesn't cut it any longer; "skinny" jeans are "de rigueur;" walking around with earbuds leading to the MP3 player hidden in the pocket is cool and there is a great necessity (unfulfilled) for a personal cell phone, preferrably an IPhone.  I am beginning to sense that soon we will be on the periphery of his life--called upon when needed but the focus being outside of us. I know this will be normal but I don't like it--at all.

For now, though, he still walks holding hands, seeks reassuring hugs, laughs with me and jumps into bed in the morning.  He's tall enough that sometimes his arm finds my shoulder. And as I write this, he comes in asking for a "huggie" before going up to prepare for bed. Maybe the boy will always be there to come forth at unexpected moments.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Simplified--Yeah!

A couple of weeks ago several of us in my favorite cyberspace hang-out discussed the wisdom of simplifying Christmas this year. After years of prodigious baking, over the top decorating and way too much gift-giving, we were on common ground in thinking that it is time to cut back. It seems that we felt that our years have given us a different perspective on necessity. We were graduating into a new maturity. In the course of this discussion, none of us thought to mention that the motivation might be the thought of the exhaustion in what lay ahead.

It is now somewhere about two weeks later and what has happened? Simplification has proven unattainable. Our discussions are filled with elaborate dinner parties, dozens upon dozens of cookies and candy goodies, treasured decorations emerging from last year's storage cocoons, getting trees to drink (water), work parties, family gatherings and seeking perfect gifts. Christmas is upon us in all its secular grandeur. We have succumbed once again to the pageantry, warmth, richness of traditions and memories.

Fortunately, each of us appears to be selective in what we are choosing to do. I am not doing elaborate dinners and entertaining as I have done in the past. There were years when we would have three or four parties for as many as 80-100 people. I don't do that anymore--the energy has left. They are still with me, however, in good memories of friends and laughter. I like the memories.

For many years cookie baking was a hot item in my house. Many varieties filled boxes for us and neighbors. Eventually I realized the problem with this was that we ate so I stopped baking. This year I have returned to the cookie sheets but just a little. I have an eleven year old who needs the sweet aroma as he walks in after school.

But, my biggest simplification failure happens every year. My house once again is a child's wonderland--which is why Casey's having a party next Sunday. How many more years will we have the pleasure and privilege of welcoming pre-teens into Santa land? (Who would have thought we would once again be doing this. God has a sense of humor in His surprises.)

Actually, much remains stored in the rafters--it is just too much to get out 40 years of accumulation but there is enough out to make it special. And...I must admit to liking the color and memories as I turn the handle of the jack-in-box, watch Santa bounce down his chimney, watch as he dances when someone winds him up and scatter the snow in the Christmas globe. The truth, I think, is that the child remains in us.

And..in all of this, we remember why there is a Christmas.
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given..and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Need a Vacation

I so want to be somewhere I am not. It's time to do something different, be someplace with new things to see and experience. The truth is that I am bored, restless and ready to move--too much time at home--the same old same old.

Last night I was looking at Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica. We've never been to Puerto Rico or Costa Rica and there are always new places to explore in Mexico. But...I was looking at Easter week and found that airline prices are sky high--if there were reasonable fares, they are long gone. This includes flyer miles. Cruising sounded good--all the fun without the work. But...friends reminded me that there would be shipfuls of teenagers that week--not relaxing.

So, now we have settled on Las Vegas for a few days. We can drive there--no planes. Southwest is probably reasonable but we would need to rent a vehicle so drive it will be.

Friends pretty well convinced me that Bellagio is the place to stay--after all where can one watch fountains dancing to the music of Andre Botticelli--oops, Bocelli? So I have spent today researching, looking for deals--everyone but me seems to be able to find these. It will be expensive as if one goes to Bellagio, one MUST have a room with a view of the fountains and since Casey will be with us ,we need a room big enough for us and him and still have a modicum of privacy.

A most friendly young woman at Bellagio, told me about a new (this month) all suite resort hotel connected physically and corporately to Bellagio--the Vdara. It is even possible to get suites with views of the performing fountains--of course, the view isn't quite as good as the place next door.

So my dilemma as I write is--Bellagio or Vdara? Vdara is a good practical choice given it has a complete kitchen--gourmet they say--and more space than a simple room. It is a smidge less expensive--well, maybe a couple hundred unless I get the "expensive with lots of room suite." We could have our breakfasts there and maybe lunch--save a few.

But, the rooms at Bellagio look really elegant and those fountains and Andre do sound good. I wonder if all the money I'm saving on no airfare can be applied to one of the large rooms? Think I'll make a decision by tomorrow or as we say in Italy--domani.

While there we'll take in a show or two--the ventriloquist at the Mirage is supposed to be totally amazing and so all three of us would enjoy that--Terry Fator. Do they let minors into the shows? Must find out about that.

Finding things to do should be easy. Maybe a helicopter to Grand Canyon or some such thing. Hoover Dam should interest an 11 year old, don't you think? And... I've been there and done that so I'll be pool side while Ken takes Casey. What a good thought!

So, now I can plan--March is a long ways away but at least it's on the horizon. And, Ken and I can take a quick trip to San Francisco for a dinner or two before then. Thank goodness for Uncle Jeff who loves Casey and will watch him.

Now, I would really prefer to be planning an Italy jaunt which is still on my mind as a solo act. We'll see.