Category Archives: Family

The Liberation from Non-Perfection: A Passover Tale

 

 

When you are running late to leave the house for a special lunch downtown with old friends visiting DC from California, but you realize your dog needs to go outside first, so you let him into the backyard while you go upstairs to take a shower…

…then you come downstairs, dressed and ready to go, to let the dog in, but when he trots in the door, he deposits paw-size drips of bright red in his path from the kitchen to his place on the pale gray rug in the dining room, the same room where you will be hosting your Passover Seder two nights from now…

So do you ignore the injured dog ( you are really running late) and sweep out of the house in order to arrive on time to the very nice restaurant downtown where your husband booked a table for you and your old friends…

OR

Do you stop to see the cause of the bright red drips?

No contest.

I made the latter choice. Discovered our sweet old dog (breed: rescue jack terrier/poodle combo) had cut his paws on some brambles in the bushes at the rear corner of our yard where he has lately been spending time entertaining the workers building a deck on the house behind us with his chorus of barks.

AND

did you know that little plops of blood on a pale gray rug are very hard to get out?

So you make the obvious decision and gently clean the dog’s paws, but choose to leave the blood stains intact, because they will make a perfect backdrop to that portion of the Haggadah we read at Passover where re-tell the story of the Ten Plagues.

(SEE: the ten plagues inflicted upon ancient Egypt when the Pharoah refused to let the enslaved Israelites go free. The first plague had Aaron, the brother of Moses, touch the river Nile with his staff, turning the waters to blood.)

Back to my story…

The dog’s tail now wagging, I leave the house to head downtown, thinking how lucky I am that he only brought in blood stain. How much more unsightly it would have been if he had come in from the back yard followed by a trail of frogs -> frogs are plague #2 according to the Passover story

Perhaps 10 years ago I would have never made it to the lunch downtown.

I would have been on my knees for hours scrubbing away at those pesky blood spots, worrying that I would hate to have my guests at the Passover Seder think me a poor housekeeper to have such an unclean rug.

But now I’ve learned to take a more creative approach to life.

Can’t get rid of blood stains? Make them a feature in your Passover story.

I’ve already purchased 10 finger puppets for our oldest grandson – each puppet resembling a plague (use your imagination here) – the tradition is that when it comes to the part in the Haggadah to speak of the 10 plagues, each is announced and everyone around the table dips his or her finger into their glass of red wine or grape juice (age depending) and puts the splotch of red wine or juice onto the edge of their plate to signify a plague, 10 in all.

We will expand upon that tradition this year. When we get to the first plague – blood – I plan to raise my right hand  (like Aaron did with his staff) and point to the rug on the floor to show that if you get plagues in your house, you can learn to live with them.

Here my story and the ancient one part ways.

Unlike the ancient Israelites, we are now live in freedom. Though many people around the world are indeed enslaved or live in fear of persecution and we will talk of them during our Seder service and express our hope that someday they too will be free.

We are lucky to be sharing our Passover holiday this year with our son, daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons, a niece and her fiancée and two close friends.

Like our rug, the Passover meal will not be perfect. Already I know that the peeling method I employ for the hard-boiled eggs will not meet my chef son’s exacting standards, that our wrinkled cloth napkins do not match and our old silver is tarnished.

The red stains on the rug will be a reminder that perfection is highly over-rated. It is liberating (no pun intended, truly) to seek contentment instead.

 

 

 

**Wishing you a happy and healthy Passover or Easter or whatever you celebrate this spring.

 

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Filed under Family, grandchildren, Holidays, Women

Bad Timing Birthday Brings Bonus

 Having a birthday in early June is a matter of bad timing.

I don’t blame my parents (it’s a tad late for that), but for those of you who may now be considering an attempt to conceive a child this coming September for a planned early June arrival, I have these words of advice: “Don’t do it.”

June 2 is the date of my birth. It has not been an optimal one, unfortunately coinciding over the years with many seemingly more important life cycle events belonging to other people.

I have attended many special events on June 2. Instead of having the sole focus on that auspicious date be on ME and MY birthday (“ME” and “MY” are two current favorite words, in high rotation in the vocabulary of my three-year-old grandson),  I have frequently pretended to be happy at someone else’s celebration.

High School graduations, College graduations, anniversary parties, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, end-of-school-year dinners,  baby showers, engagement events.  All held on the popular early summer date of June 2.

And fyi, if you are a guest at a friend’s big event, it is not considered polite to remark in the middle of their festivities  – “Oh, by the way, it’s my birthday today.” 

No one will care. Instead you have to suck it up and act as if it is their special day alone.

Besides having had to share my birthday more times than I would like, I also have not had good luck with the date itself.

Early June is a busy time. The school year is ending. The summer is starting. Everyone is preoccupied with their own concerns. One year when I was in high school, the only birthday card I received in the mail was from my grandmother. And she spelled my name incorrectly.

(This is true, not because she had dementia at that point in her life, but because I am one of seven grand-daughters all closely clustered in age. So if I received a small, but welcome, birthday check in the mail from my mother’s mother, I was told to endorse it, even it was made out to another of my first cousins.)

At least my grandmother remembered. Unlike some of my other here-unnamed friends and family members who are pretty sure that my birthday falls in early June, even if they cannot quite remember the exact date.

Here it is for you:  June 2. And it is going to be a BIG one this year  —> 65.

A/K/A:

  • The Medicare Year.
  • The Year Your Mail is Flooded With Annuity Retirement Fund Brochures.
  • The Year You Can No Longer Pretend You are Still Middle-Aged.
  • The Year You Have to Stop Saying – “Oh, I’m  in my early sixties.” Because You Are Not. You are now half-way to 70.

Which is fine with me. Because as my Dad likes to say (especially now in his still-early-90’s), better to have a birthday than not.

Earlier this week my Dad’s best friend died. His friend was a brilliant, caring man, a highly respected doctor in my hometown.  He was 91 and sure you can say that he lived to a “ripe old age”, but for him and likely for my Dad, his death came too soon. My Dad, who is far better with words of legal origin than of emotional weight,  cannot bring himself to express his sadness. But he did tell me that with this recent death all of his male pals are now gone. He is the only one left.

All the more reason to celebrate birthdays while you still have them to celebrate. Not to let people forget how important it is to remember that you are still alive, that you still appreciate a carefully-selected card, perhaps a slice of cheese cake with a single candle and a clever email greeting or two.

(Let me state here for the record my firmly held belief that posting a breezy “Happy Birthday” on Facebook after you have been reminded it is a friend’s birthday does not count.  Full credit is awarded ONLY if you remember the person’s birthday of your own accord without a social media prompt.)

And if you are close enough to me that you are considering the purchase of a gift this year, please know that I  already have a drawer full of highly-effective, collagen-building, “youth-preserving” skin moisturizers. Do try to be a bit more imaginative in the present department. Not every 65-year-old woman will gracefully accept the subtle reminder of yet another new anti-aging cream.

But we will gracefully accept being remembered on our birthdays.

On the exact date, if possible. Thank you in advance.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Women

Valentine’s Day – not only for the L-O-N-G Married

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On this Valentine’s Day my husband wants me to share with you the fact that he is disappointed.

By certain long-standing habits of mine that I refuse to modify.

  • One recent morning he came downstairs for breakfast and reached into the refrigerator for blueberries to eat atop his cereal. (as do I.)  What he found were two plastic containers of blueberries, side-by-side. One contained six or seven forlorn, slightly shriveled old blueberries. The other box was brand new – full of fresh, plump berries.

It was also clear, so he told me that evening  (he has an amateur sleuth badge from our mutual habit of watching far too many BBC detective shows) that a person he knows all too well had obviously opened up the new box of berries without taking the time to finish what was left of the old berries. Which is – according to him – a sad commentary on the differences that remain  between us even after almost 39 years of marriage.

That I would brashly dig into the sweetest of berries, because I knew I could leave it to him to polish off the older sad-looking berries.

And wouldn’t you do the same?

Given all of life’s difficulties (have you been watching the national news lately?), isn’t it reasonable, when presented with the choice, to go with the most tempting option?

I mean, I’m thrifty when I have to be – but when I don’t have to be, I do like to eat the freshest food first.

  • On a related note, he also likes to point out to anyone who will listen that I possess all of the necessary qualifications for immediate hire by whatever  division it is of the U.S.Department of Agriculture in charge of putting sell-by dates on food. Because he believes (wrongly) that a person can    confidently and safely consume food that is well past said sell-by date.

He quibbles with my predilection to toss out food that shows even the most recent of expired dates. We have – and I’m not proud of this – argued at length about what “sell by” means versus “use by.”

But don’t you also want to stay healthy?

I try to reason with him by explaining that if I were to eat very old food I could end up in the hospital – again.  (a place I do not want to re-visit having spent far too long there in 2012). If I were to become ill because of eating spoiled food, my husband would have to visit me in the hospital and that would cost him both time ( I can’t miss that much work!) and money (do you believe how expensive this hospital parking garage is?)

So I am only trying to be helpful by eating the freshest of food.

Unlike my husband who truly does love old food. And I don’t say this snidely. In all seriousness, he prefers to eat leftovers. Previously cooked food that resides inside little plastic containers inside our refrigerator for days, even for weeks, tastes good to him.

And if the most ancient of leftovers have a slightly blue tinge, all the better. (“it’s fine, it’s just like blue cheese. you like Roquefort cheese, don’t you?” he will say in his defense as he chomps down.)

Am I spoiled because I like to eat fresh food, prefer not to eat leftovers – and have a somewhat tightly wound approach to tossing out foods immediately after their use-by date? Perhaps so.

If he were a writer – he would want to edit this post – to tell you that his preference for older (a polite way of putting it) food comes to him by how he was raised. He is the child of immigrants who came to this country in the early 1950’s and worked extraordinarily hard in their factory jobs to raise a family who knew how important it was not to let any food go to waste.

I am a few generations removed from the immigrant experience and maybe that is why I am less thrifty about food than I should be. While my stay-at-home mom was hardly extravagant with her supermarket food purchases,  leftovers do not feature as large a role in my childhood memories as they do in my husband’s.

On this Valentine’s Day we consider ourselves lucky that we can share a laugh about a few old berries. Because last year was a very rocky one for us as parents. Life events tested our differing perspectives on far more serious concerns than the shelf stability of food.

It’s very important to laugh about left-overs. I highly recommend it to everyone, parents or not, l-o-n-g marrieds or not. Finding the funny in blue-tinged food can get you through the toughest of times.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Family, Holidays, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Parenting, Relationships, Women

9 Rows to Oar If You Want to Reach 94

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(*happily updating my original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now it is nearly February 1, 2017 – his 94th!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He will celebrate his 94th birthday this Wednesday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, quite frequently – but for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a well-regarded-in-his-community lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died far too young. Taking great joy in his four grandchildren, his three-year-old and nearly one-year-old great-grandsons  – and bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Rows To Oar If You Want to Reach 94

It is not easy to turn 94

You have to know how to soar.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your “kids” every Sunday morning at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine rows you must oar,

If you want to reach the wise old age of 94.

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Lawyers, Moms, Relationships

2016: Your Year in Review

 

 

2016 review banner - text in vintage letterpress wood type block with a cup of coffee

If you are on Facebook, you recently received your unrequested, but they sent it anyway, FB-produced personalized “Year in Review. I watched my short video. Cute enough.

But, even though FB earnestly prompted me to do so, I resisted the urge to share my “Year in Review” for friends and family to watch on my FB page.

(And if you are not on FB, you are not alone. My husband, JP, has a FB page, but rarely checks it.  A very smart and technically-able man, as I’ve said in this blog before, he finds FB incomprehensible. “I just don’t get it.” he will say. What’s a page? What’s a news feed?  And most important – What if I don’t want to “friend” someone in return? Sadly, JP is far too kind not to “friend” someone back, even if that person is someone who he never talked to, but who may have had a locker near his in high school. That’s what happens when you are my husband, the still-popular-to-this-day president of his senior class. So not my problem.)

Which is one of the reasons why I did not share my “Year in Review” on my FB page.

One thing I’ve learned this year – in my own self-produced, virtual “Year in Review”  – is that no one is as interested in you as you are.

(grammatical correctness? Unsure. But feel free not to scold me. My 93-year-old Dad has that role covered.)

But you take my point. You care more about your quotidian details than your friends or family do.

For example: One day you leave the house thinking your hair looks hideous. No one cares. Next day you leave the house wearing extremely old yoga pants. And you’ve never taken a yoga class. No one notices. Once this fall I dressed very quickly and wore a casual shirt inside-out. (it happens.) Then someone did notice. A very nice younger woman sweetly and non-judgmentally pointed it out to me in a supermarket aisle as I was selecting among the apples. I slinked back to my car, slid down in the seat, reversed my shirt and went back inside to finish my food shop. Life went on.

So on the point of your own “Year in Review”, the only person who really cares how your year went is you. Your husband/spouse/partner/child/best friend – trust me – they really don’t want the details.

And you may not remember the details.

More and more as I get older, I find the details, not only mine, but those of others slipping away. Like when a good friend who lives on another coast calls to update you on a significant event in her life and you listen to her very closely, but you cannot for the life of you remember anything about her significant event.  Was it her brother-in-law who suddenly got very ill a few weeks ago  – or her sister-in-law? Once the conversation has begun, it’s too embarrassing to ask your friend for a refresher. So you listen harder and hope that you will pick up the thread as she continues to talk. Thankfully, she seems not to notice. She probably experiences the same problem.

My self-produced “Year in Review?” I was hoping you would ask. One way to measure it is by the number of times I had to visit a hospital in 2016. Three times total. 2x for sad reasons. 1x for a very happy reason (our second grandchild is now nearly ten months old.)

I think the ratio of 2 sad-purpose visits to 1 happy-purpose hospital visit reasons per year is probably about right for someone who is nearly – not quite but counting the months – inching up to Medicare.

More of my 2016 numbers:

  • One brave new venture (applied to, accepted by a grad school M.A. in Writing program. love going to class, doing the homework and learning to write fiction.)
  • Two grandchildren thriving.
  • Three vacations taken.
  • Four times we thought about selling our old house – and didn’t.
  • Five weddings of the adult children of friends.

You, too, can personalize and self-produce your own ” Year in Review.” But my advice is not to dwell too much on 2016.  Look ahead to 2017 – because 2017 promises to be a rather eventful year for everyone. Politically, if not personally.

What was that famous quote from the wonderful old movie “All About Eve” – ironically starring the aging Bette Davis as an aging actress dealing with the take-over efforts of her younger, competitive actress rival?

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Bumpy 2017, here we come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

December 12, 2016 · 8:59 pm

New Beginnings and Better Endings

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You don’t have to be Jewish to love the tradition of dipping apple slices into honey.  This Sunday night we celebrated the start of the Jewish New Year – a/k/a Rosh Hashanah (rosh = head; ha = the, shanah = year. thus endeth my Hebrew lesson.)

The custom of dipping apples into honey is to express our hopes for a healthy, sweet and fruitful new year. Since I’m way too old to be the fruitful in the biblical sense, I will settle for a sweet and healthy new year instead.

Unfortunately, the new year in my family has gotten off to a rocky start. My friend Liz reassures me that if your year starts off poorly, it can only get better. I am relying on her prognostication abilities.

Let me also take retract what I just said about not expecting this to be a fruitful year. Not in the sense of producing human offspring (now that would be a miracle) – but in the sense of producing another kind of product. You see, this fall I returned to school. Not just “taking a class” but I made the leap to  formally enroll – with the photo student I.D. to prove it – in a university graduate school program to “pursue” (such a lofty word) a M.A. in Writing.

I am thrilled to be back in school.

If only there had been a high-paying career called “student” where I could have earned a salary to go to class, do homework diligently and study hard for exams, I would have done that instead of becoming a lawyer. Studying is something I find fun. Learning is even better. And wow, am I learning.

The class I am taking is called “Techniques of Fiction”. What, I can hear you say, there are techniques involved in the writing of fiction? Yes there are. Moving right along in the syllabus from character, setting/place, plot and structure to scene v.s summary, point of view, voice, dialogue and description – and I am loving every classroom minute of it.

The great irony is that while I am taking a course in the writing of fiction, my real life seems to be blurring a bit into the territory of fiction. Or what I wish was fiction (e.g. events that really did not happen to me.)

My fabulous (she really is) professor told us that it is acceptable to steal from your real life to write fiction.

That seems like cheating to me. Although right now it seems appealing to base a short story or novel on deeply upsetting real life events where you get to change the way the characters behave, modify the plot and write a totally different ending. That would be a form of therapy, I guess.

But I don’t view writing fiction as therapy. I am taking this Fiction course in order to learn a craft, to become very good at it and to produce work that other people will want to read because it is well-written, not because it is an endless, Nancy-filled, woe-is-me-story.

We all have our problems, don’t we?

If you had looked at me last Saturday night when my husband and I attended the wedding of the daughter of a close friend, when we were dancing to every song the d.j. played, raising our hands in the air to the music and pretending we knew the words, you would likely have never guessed we were going through such rocky stuff in our non-dancing lives. The photos taken will no doubt prove I had a big smile on my face.

And I bet others on the wedding dance floor who were also smiling were doing so despite whatever personal difficulties they are enduring.

So here’s to a sweet, fruitful and healthy new year for all – whatever you celebrate – and also to the reading and writing of fiction.

Now back to my homework.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Female Friends, friendship, Holidays, Jewish, Mental Health, Midlife, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Writing

Lake Privileges

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Why do we travel? Do the reasons change as we get older?

Years ago, as Young Marrieds, my husband and I mentioned to his Dad and Mom that we wanted to take a trip to Paris, a place we had never visited together.

JP’s Dad asked us:

“Why? Do you have friends in Paris?”

We told him we didn’t know anyone in Paris. Our visit to the famous city would be to sight-see.

He shook his head.

Then why go there? We only go to places to visit people we know.”

I scoffed at my wonderful late father-in-law’s approach to travel. He and my mother-in-law came to the U.S. as immigrants after WWII when they were a young married couple and on the rare occasions when they left our country, they did so only for the purpose of visiting their relatives and friends in Northern Greece or Australia. The thought of booking a trip to go to a fascinating city where you knew no one was incomprehensible to my father-in-law.

I remember once seeing photos after my in-laws had returned from a three-week stay in Melbourne where many of their friends and family from Greece had emigrated. Hundreds of photos. All of people sitting around dining room tables filled with food smiling for the camera. Not a single picture of the city, a nature park or a famous winery.

Norm, if you are up there listening now, I finally understand!

Now – in my Empty Nester/Newish Grandmother Days/WeAreAllGettingOlderFast Days – I see my father-in-law’s point – sometimes it is the people, not the places.

This summer JP and I took two people-driven trips.

The first was a week in a circa 1962 rental house in a beach town on the Delaware coast, a place we have been to many times before, but never to stay together with our daughter, son-in-law, their near three-year-old son and 4 month old baby.

You may think that sharing a house with two little people who wear diapers, require frequent feeding and must constantly be watched is not particularly relaxing. And you’d be right. It was not relaxing.

Memorable instead. To experience all of the familiar seashore sights through the eyes of my oldest grandson. To  introduce him to the big ocean waves (scary), to miniature golf (fun, but why couldn’t he keep the ball at the end?) and to chocolate ice cream with sprinkles (more, please).

And to walk the beach with the baby, to watch him nap in the sea air and to hold him every chance I could.

Sure I did my fair share of diaper duty, dish washing and laundry folding (it’s not really a “vacation” when household chores are part of each day, is it?)  but getting in so much bonding time with the two little guys was worth it. Even if they won’t remember this trip we took together, I will. And for the people, not the sights.

The second trip – which we are still on – as I am writing this – was also people-driven, at least the first half of it. Luck comes in the form of having family who have a lovely house perched on a hillside above a small lake in southern Vermont and invite you to stay there for a few days.

My aunt and uncle’s house faces west to the mountains. We spent lots of time sitting on their deck. Enchanted by the changing moods of the lake, rippled only by the occasional kayaker or paddle boarder. Watching the sun set (I’m not awake when it rises.) Warm days and sweater-wearing nights. Lovely.

We did do a bit of sightseeing – to places I remember from childhood ski trips – to the Vermont country store, snacking at a dairy bar and taking the chairlift to the top of the mountain – and then down via the alpine slide (the slow track.)

But like our week at the beach, the best part of Vermont was the people.

Listening to my aunt and uncle’s stories. Enjoying my uncle’s puns and my aunt’s good cooking. Hearing updates about my cousins and their families. Laughing at familiar foibles.

We stayed for 4 nights – seemed like the right amount of time – and then drove south to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts for a few nights. More mountain views, lakes, charming little towns.

The Berkshires are quite lovely – there is art to see (highly recommend Mass MoCa, contemporary art in a re-purposed factory), nature to enjoy (JP hikes, I read and wait at the bottom of the trail) and places to find with good coffee and interesting food.

But gorgeous as the scenery is in the Berkshires, the second part of our trip after being with family in Vermont seems a bit hollow. Minus the time to spend with relatives, the sights lose a bit of their luster.

My husband and I are having a wonderful time, don’t get me wrong. Any chance to get him away from his hard-charging office to sit in the morning sun on the porch of a bed and breakfast and admire the gardens is welcome. And I particularly relish – as the Empty Nester who stays home with a Still-Working Spouse- spending weekday time together.

I now appreciate my father-in-law’s view of travel. Choosing to fly thousands of miles to visit with family instead of to see kangaroos in their natural habitat. The top ten sights of Paris will always be there (I hope) but family and friends won’t be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1st Grandchild, Aging, Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Family, Husbands, Travel, Women