Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

Saturday Morning

Today, an ordinary Saturday, started out small. A phone call I needed to make, a load of laundry, a short grocery list.

At the market, I found what I needed, unloaded the cart at the check-out stand, and reached into my pocket. Oops! I’d left my little money purse at home. I told the checker, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t bring my wallet so I haven’t my credit card with me. I’ll go home to get it; probably will take me about 20 minutes.”

“That’s okay,” she pointed. “Your things will be over at Customer Service.”

“Thanks. My name is Donna.” and I went out to the car.

When I returned, I walked over to the Customer Service desk where three young employees with big grins watched me. The checker stood in front of the desk and greeted me, “You’re Donna, aren’t you?”

When I smiled and brought out my wallet, she said, “The lady behind you paid for your groceries.” A long stunned moment.

“She did what?”

“And she bought you some flowers.” Unimaginable. They were even my favorite colors!

“And she wrote you a note.” I looked. It said, “God loves you, Donna.” and included a smiley face.

The three young employees stood there not saying anything, just grinning, grinning, grinning. All of us blessed by the goodness of a fellow human being.

“Reminds us,” I said, “of the kindness possible in the world. Reminds us to pass it on.”

They nodded.

I drove home, put the groceries away, and all the rest of the day have felt that what the lady said surely must be true.

This is Swimming?

On a warm summer day when my brothers and I were children, I pleaded, “Mother, could we go swimming? Could you take us up to Broadbent to swim in the river?”

She answered, “Yes! I could do that,” and invited her friend Zettie Hawkins, who brought along a basket of chocolate chip-walnut cookies she’d made that morning. When we got to the swimming hole, Mother and Mrs Hawkins found a downed log in the shade where they sat and talked and kept an eye on three-year-old brother David. My two other brothers and I stood on the bank of the river and threw rocks for a while before tumbling in and splashing around. Across the shallows, clusters of flat stones larger than living room rugs attracted lazy lizards to lie stretched out in the sun. We joined them. I was almost 12 years old then, so it must have been the summer of 1938. A scrap-book sort of day.

Forty years later, restless in the middle of a night, I shed my pajamas, slithered into the backyard swimming pool, and splashed the moon glimmering on the surface.

This morning, an early, idle Sunday morning, I lay in bed and thought of options. After a few simple exercises, I put on my swim suit under my clothes and walked up to the warm, indoor lap pool here at Spring Lake Village. A friend, Barbara, was there. She pulled on her swim cap and goggles and swam laps for an hour. I water-walked for 30 minutes. And swam a few strokes back and forth.

About six months ago when I went for the first time to the pool, I met a woman who was water-walking. She told me that when she arrived at Spring Lake Village, she needed a walker to navigate across campus. She walks in the pool for about 20 minutes three times a week and has strengthened her back and legs so she needs only a cane or stick to maneuver around. I thought that impressive, so I’ve begun to water-walk two or three times a week and have noticed my legs feel stronger in going up stairs.

Water-walking does not seem to me to be a discipline or hard work. It’s more like ol’ lady ballet. Arms float and fingers flutter. The body sways, the head is erect. Toes point, legs often swing out. So easy to dream away 30 minutes. So easy to float back to a childhood summer day 80 years ago.

Coming Soon!


About a year ago, someone suggested that I collect the blogs into a book. Although I appreciated the thought, I replied, “putting a book together is a lot of work and I’m not sure I want to get involved.“ I liked writing the blogs, though, and read back over the 100 or so of them I’d written in the last two and a half years. In reading them one after the other, I began to wonder if a collection might indeed be a guide to choosing, moving into, and experiencing life in a senior community.

The next time the subject of blogs-to-book came up, I hesitated and granddaughter Jenny piped up, “I can make a book. Gran, you give me the words as you want them to be and I’ll do the rest.” Now, that was an offer impossible to refuse! Jenny is 28, an experienced food photographer, a professional blogger, a creative and smart young woman. I was charmed and convinced that working with her would be a rare and wonderful treat.

She and I agreed that first I would cull through the blogs to choose the ones most pertinent to the purpose of creating a guide for people thinking about moving into a senior residence community. I chose 77 and asked a friend who is a meticulous proof-reader to check for errors and any awkward word arrangemnts. That took several months; she’s a busy woman watching over her mother and responsible on committees. Meanwhile, Jenny came to Spring Lake Village and took photo after photo for the cover design. We chose one that pleased us both, decided on a title, fiddled around with the style and size of fonts. She wrote for an ISBN number, we both searched for permission to quote book and journal sources. I wrote an introduction, she formatted everything.

We had business lunches! We easily agreed on details so the business took about five minutes. We talked a lot so the lunch took more than an hour. Delightful!

Finally the manuscript was ready to send to Amazon for the initial printing. We waited for the proof copies. They came. Two of us, John Love and I, read it one more time to make final corrections. We noted the margins were not even; needed to be adjusted. The picture on the cover was moved down a bit. It will be ready for the first order by mid-June.

In mid-July, here at Spring Lake Village, we will have a book launch. That’ll be a happy day.

The Kind of Village This Is will be coming soon!

In 1995, Hillary Clinton titled her book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us . It’s based on an old African proverb, “It takes a Village to Raise a Child.”

I have heard of a village with a different focus. Recently I attended the celebration of life for my Santa Cruz friend, Ginny, and someone there referred to her membership in a village. I didn’t know anything about such a village so did a bit of research. Maybe you know about the neighborhood villages organized for mutual benefit of members. The first village began in Beacon Hill in Boston in 2001. Village to Village network was established in 2010 and now has 200 open and 150 in-development villages throughout the country. You can google Village Movement California and the Bay Regional Area Villages Organization.

I looked up Village Santa Cruz and found, “Village Santa Cruz County builds connections with neighbors and creates relationships that afford opportunities to help one another. We are investing in a support network. We are dedicated to finding new paths so our elders can stay engaged and relevant in our community.”

I don’t know about all villages, but in Santa Cruz, the membership fee is $25 a month or $300 per year for an individual. Applications are accepted on line with payment by credit card or an application and check may be sent by mail. Further information is at

The list of events includes a discussion about helping during a crisis, several coffee hours, a workshop to prepare for your care, a book club, participation in the Human Race (a walk for change), painting and crafts, lunch out, and a day trip to Pt. Lobos. Sounds like fun! This kind of village might be worth checking into if you are not interested in moving to a senior community such as is my residence. It’s always comforting to have choices and I wonder if I might not have moved so quickly if I’d known about Village Santa Cruz.

Their goal is to create “a vibrant, caring community, neighbors of all ages helping each other, so we can stay in our homes and engage in our community through all the transitions of aging.”


Already Won the Game


Each Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock about 15 or 20 of us Spring Lake Village residents gather for meditation. Some have had no experience in mediation. Some have sat many times and for lengthy times. We are led by a fellow resident who has meditated for decades and recommends the simple exercise of paying attention to our breath. In and out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Very very slowly. Attentive. Aware. Listening. I am listening for the small interior voice that I hope will guide me.

One time, once upon a time, about 35 years ago, in Greece, I heard the Oracle say “Be yourself.” My mother used to tell me that when I asked her how I should behave in a situation new to me. Should I keep my white gloves on during dinner? How shall I talk? She told me to remove my gloves when I removed my coat, to finish chewing before speaking, and “just be yourself.” At thirteen? Hardly.

Now, in my 90s, I recognize myself a little better. And care a little less about what people will think, about the rules that make no sense to me. Indeed, I’ve taken off the white gloves and don’t have them any more.

After 20 minutes of sitting quietly, breathing evenly, clearing our minds, our leader reads a quote she found somewhere. Last week, she read a Pablo Picasso statement: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” What does that mean? How do we address those thoughts?

One member related her joy in bringing forth in school children their confidence in themselves. Another explained that he thought that if we have a gift, a talent, we are obligated to use it, to give it away. Others spoke of the rules of life they have heard and have tried to follow. What about the cultural impact? One culture will teach one set of values, and another a different one. Ann Morrow Lindberg reminded us that we can’t get water from an empty well. To what extent do we give away our gift without depriving ourselves?

In advanced age we have time to notice and to weigh these concerns.

Our egos have shrunk. (That’s why we have wrinkles.) We have lost most of our competitiveness. We have climbed as high as we’re ever going to. We can afford to try something new. Life is an experiment. There are no failures. If something doesn’t work, we can, without shame, try something else. We have already won the game. All we have to do is play it.

Out in the Desert

Last week two of us Spring Lake Village women were picked up at our front curb by Day Trippers, a tour company based in Santa Rosa, CA.We joined 28 assorted retirees as we climbed aboard a bus and rode to Death Valley

Our first day, we got as far as Kernville, which was cold and windy. We weren’t in Kernville long enough for me to recommend it, except for breakfast at Cheryl’s Diner, owned and operated by Cheryl herself, the mayor and a colorful major mover in her community.

The Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest celebrates the natural and cultural history of the Upper Mojave Desert with exhibits of plants, animals, Native American artifacts and contemporary arts and crafts and is well worth an hour or so. That day we had lunch on the bus. Red wine, soup warmed in the kitchen at the back of the bus, quiche, salad, and homemade brownies. Yum!

For three nights we headquartered at The Ranch at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Resort), which has been operating since 1881 and was the original home of the Borax 20-Mule teams. From there we explored the southern part of Death Valley for one day and the northern area the next. Rhyolite, in 1904 had a population of 10,000 and now has a population of one, the Ranger who guided us through the stories and ruins of the once thriving gold mining town.

We stopped at view points along the way, but even as we rode, we saw breathtaking views: brilliant snow covered mountain ranges to the east and to the west, a great variety of colors and shapes of nearby land masses, sand dunes stretching across the valley. (Incidentally, we learned that Death Valley is not a valley. A valley has a river emptying through it. Death Valley has springs and wells, evaporation, but no river. It is a graben.)

Death Valley got its name from pioneers lost in the winter of 1849-1850. One of the group died and the party assumed they all would die. But two of their men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers were scouts and they led the party up over the Panamint Mountains. One of them looked back and said, “Goodbye, Death Valley.” I guess he didn’t know about grabens.

Our return route north along US395 led us to Lone Pine, near Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States, (14,505 ft) and only 85 miles the lowest point at Badwater Basin in Death Valley (282 ft below sea level). We stopped at the Western Film Museum and relived our Saturday afternoon matinees with The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and listened to the song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?”

Only 10 miles north of Lone Pine, we turned into Manzanar, the historic site where in 1942 the United States government ordered more than 10,000 Japanese American men, women, and children to leave their homes and be detained in this remote, military-style camp. The day we were there was windy. We were told it is always windy. Fine grained sand particles blew everywhere, inside the buildings as well as outside. We were shown the beds with straw mattresses, the bathrooms with no privacy, the mess halls where distasteful food was served until Japanese cooks joined the kitchen staff to prepare more familiar meals. We saw dozens of photos and portraits depicting life in confinement. The internees created schools, first outside and eventually in traditional classrooms. Gardens with ponds, bridges, benches, large and small stones were esthetically pleasing. Vegetable gardens, too. Medical services were created. Classes for adults were formed. Baseball. All by the Japanese. Still, the wind blew and sand settled on their food and in their beds and on their toothbrushes. They stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance. They studied the Constitution that claims to preserve citizens’ rights. Their sons joined the armed forces. During those years not one of the 110,000 Japanese detainees in the 10 camps such as Manzanar was found to be disloyal to the United States.

Manzana is Spanish for apple. Manzanar is so named because an apple orchard once grew there.

We 30 visitors were sobered as we climbed back onto the bus to drive to Bishop where we stayed in the charming Creekside Inn and enjoyed one of the best meals of the week at a small restaurant named Sage.

The next evening the two of us women were returned to the front curb of Spring Lake Village. I walked to my cottage, awestruck by the resilience of the Native Americans, the pioneers, the miners, the Japanese internees,, the naturalists and explorers of the desert.

A Little Dentist Story


Yesterday morning I went to the dentist. Nothing dramatic. Just had a permanent crown installed. Afterward, as I was leaving, the receptionist smiled up at me and said, “Remember to take a rose! They were just delivered a few minutes ago.” I chose a pale peachy rose, thanked everyone at the front desk, and said goodbye.

Nothing unusual there.

Got in the car, lay the rose on the passenger seat, drove down the parking lane, pulled out onto the street. Saw a motorcycle coming, but not very fast, so turned in front of him. Checked him in the rear view mirror.

He was flashing lights at me! It was a policeman!

I pulled over, lowered the window, and he glared at me. He lectured me. Asked me what I thought happened. I told him I thought I pulled out too quickly. He glared some more. Asked for my license, checked it, handed it back, and asked if I’d been to the dentist.

When I told him yes, he said, “The reason I ask is I see your rose. You go to Dr Westerberg?”

I told him, yes.

He continued, “She’s my dentist, too. She’s good isn’t she.” I agreed.

He didn’t exactly smile, but he lost his glare, and said, “You be sure to look both ways and give yourself time to enter the flow of traffic.”

I told him I would. He pulled away. I pulled away slowly and shouted over my shoulder, “Thank you for the rose!”


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