Life in a Senior Residence Community is challenging and cherished.

Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

I Don’t Need Much


Years ago, Once Upon a Time….., a visiting friend turned to me and inquired, “Are we going to have lunch?”

“Oh,” I jumped up. “Of course!” and flung myself into the kitchen.

He called after me, “I don’t need much, but I want it to be very good.”

I thought of that recently when I met and talked with some Spring Lake Village guests who were here to a promotional event. Several of us residents stood to speak about various reasons we enjoy SLV. I spoke about first impressions, including my delight with Betsy-the Move-In woman and her crew. I’ve mentioned before that a month or so before my moving date, Betsy appeared at my front door, clip-board and pen in hand. She breezed in, sat down, looked around, and asked if she could take pictures. Yes, of course. I thought she was photographing how much stuff I had. She opened the cupboards and closets to take pictures.

On moving day, the crew appeared, boxed and trucked everything over to SLV. They placed the furniture according to my directions, unloaded the boxes into cupboards and closets, took the boxes away, and wished me a happy future.

Four members of my family came to have a glass of wine before walking to the dining room. I was in. A good first impression. One worth sharing.

But now I think I might have talked about the fact that I, like my friend at lunch, don’IMG_1350t need much, but I want it to be very good.

I don’t need much square footage in my cottage; 700 is fine. I do appreciate the quality of the cupboards, the heft of the handles, that the cupboard doors hang plum. I like the crown molding, the careful mitering of the corners. In the bedroom, the sliding closet doors glide smoothly and the mirrors are beveled. The installation of the tiles in the bathroom is meticulous. The subway tiles of the back-splash in the kitchen are good as are the appliances, including the 18” dishwasher.



IMG_1548I admire the paneled front door and the rhododendrons and azaleas near the walk.

I don’t need an acre of garden such as I had on the farm in Oregon. Here the back 40—that’s 40 feet—is plenty for a rose bush, some grasses and daisies and the yellow bench.



From the tiny patio, I can sit in the patch of sunshine, gaze at a glimpse of the sky, and be grateful for underground telephone and electric wires. If I need a broader view, I walk along the roadways around the campus.



In the central dining room the portions served are smaller than in restaurants and are presented with a sprig of parsley, a sprinkling of chopped nuts, or a shaving of Parmesan. As granddaughter Jenny followed me into the dining room one noontime, she asked, “Gran, is the food here good?” I took her hand and asked, “How many times did I ask you to lunch in the other senior center where I lived?” She chuckled. As we sat down and looked at the menu, I reminded her that if she wanted to order double, just do it. I have a friend here who always orders double steamed spinach.

I told Jenny the story that I’ve just told you about my friend who wanted not much, but he wanted it to be very good.




Pura Vida!

IMG_5235“Pura Vida!” we heard at every turn in Costa Rica. It’s a greeting. “Pura Vida,” the driver said as we clambered into his bus.

Eleven Norte Americanos joined Californians Patricia Hatfield and Cheryl Ulrich at The Living Forest, a retreat center in the jungles near Lake Arenal in the northwestern province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica, for drumming. Yes! Drumming! In the jungle! In Costa Rica!

fullsizeoutput_121b.jpegFor thirty years I’ve wanted to go to Costa Rica. a country smaller than West Virginia. So at the end of February when Patricia told me that in two weeks she was co-leading a group, I asked if I might go, too. She added me to the roster, told me the flights, collected a reasonable amount to reserve a room.

Pura Vida! Simple life. Way of life. Keep your ear to the ground, stay open to miracles, listen to the door creaking open. I looked in the mirror and shouted, “You are going to Costa Rica! Finally!”

I bought a new lime green suitcase, filled it full of linen clothes, a swim suit, the best insect repellent REI offered, grabbed a misshapen straw hat and was ready at 2:20 a.m. when one of the participants, Barbara, picked me up to start the journey. Pure Vida, I was thankful to be on our way.

During our visit at Living Forest, we drummed twice a day. On a wide open porch, we rumbled as loudly as we could and heard the Howler Monkeys replying with their deep guttural grumbles. They sleep about 17 hours a day so maybe we wakened them as they snoozed in the crotches of masses of trees across the creek from where we sat. In the circle, I usually faced outward toward the jungle and watched for toucans, black hummingbirds, and other birds. However, listening was more effective that looking. Even during the night that local residents drummed with us around a campfire, we heard jungle chirps and ratchet sounds, calls and responses.20180315_100451

I liked the hammocks hanging from trees at the edge of the garden down be the creek. With the temperatures in the 80s, the humidity in the 50s, the light breezes saved me from melting into a puddle. And I had an excuse to loll around. If I were a climber, I might have found a crotch in a tree like the Howler Monkeys. Instead I lay in a hammock and just stopped. Stopped planning, wondering, questioning; just became me. Until….. until one afternoon, for just a moment, all borders, boundaries, and edges disappeared and I was, with all the rest of everything, one. The closest I can describe it is one limitless smooth homogeneous rich butterscotch pudding.

Pura Vida!


We did more than drum and doze. One afternoon, we, in three Zodiacs, floated down the Corobici River spotting White faced monkeys, ospreys, crocodiles, iguanas, an ibis, two lbbs, a Jesus Christ lizard who walks on water, and a fisherman. He was hoping to catch rainbow bass, tilapia, or “some kind of catfish.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another day, we hiked in Mistico, the Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, crossing 18 bridges, 14 of them secure, but wobbly, over the tops of trees growing in ravines. We were in a preserve, part of the 33% of the landmass that is sheltered by the government and private entities. That was a hot day, but the following morning, we loaded into the bus and drove an hour or so to a water fall where we swam and watched a small elegant wedding. Thousands of tiny fish nibbled at our legs and feet. Didn’t even tickle.

IMG_2190After a week, we were driven to Playa de Flamingo and our beach adventure started with 10 of us swarming into a neighborhood grocery store to buy food supplies for the next four days. “Pura Vida,” the checker at the mercado smiled as he handed us our change.

IMG_5639One morning at six o’clock when it was still comfortable enough to walk on the beach, Barbara and I stopped to ask an athletic looking young man why he was setting up cones and flags. In distinctly North American diction, he answered, “Our school is having an Olympics Day today.”

“Oh,” I asked, “do you encourage competition at your school?”

“No, not at all. We teach cooperation and negotiation. Only in sports is there competition.”

As Barbara and I continued our walk, we watched groups of children, probably K through 8 or 10, converging toward the flags and cones. When we returned, games were underway. A young woman with a clipboard was standing nearby and I asked her if she would tell us about the school. She introduced herself as the principal and told us that eleven nations were represented in the student body, that half the students were Costa Rican and if they couldn’t afford to attend, scholarships were available. I think I understood her to say that the children were not grouped according to age, but according to skills. Both Barbara and I, retired educators, almost cried at the thought of such a school atmosphere. These children were learning how to live peacefully in a peace-loving country. No wonder there are so many ex-pats in Costa Rica!


So many details! This blog is almost twice as long as most of the blogs, and it doesn’t cover it all. Still many questions to answer. I’m more curious than ever about our peaceful neighbor to the south. I’d also like to hear about your own experiences in Costa Rica.


Pura Vida!





If Not Now, When?


Last month, in February, the leader of the Spring Lake Village Drumming Circle mentioned that she is is taking a group of nine women to Costa Rica to drum in the Living Forest, a retreat center near Lake Arenal, within sight of Arenal Volcano. She spoke of drumming with monkeys, butterflies, and grade school children. A float trip on the Tenario River for bird-watching, bathing in Llanos Cortes waterfalls, and walks in the jungle were too tempting. Could I resist?

I’ve wanted for 30 or more years to go to Costa Rica. I’ve wanted to see how NOT having a standing army affects the quality of life. What happens when monies can be diverted to schools, hospitals, and social services? How do people feel when the word guns is not part of daily conversation?

I want to see why Costa Rica is among the three top places in the world rated as the happiest. So I signed up.

Cautious friends have warned me that it’s tropical, only ten degrees north of the equator, which means high temperatures (80s and 90s), high humidity (50%), and maybe bugs. I melt into a puddle in hot sticky weather and studiously avoid mosquitoes that leave me with welts the size of the bowls of cream soup spoons and long, itchy, sleepless nights. But I’m going!

Granddaughter Katie who spends as much time outdoors as she can, said, “Gran, go to REI and get their best mosquito repellent.” I did and asked the clerk why he recommended a particular tube. He said, “My wife gets big welts from bug bites and she uses this. It works.” I bought it. Then he handed me another tube of ointment for itchy bites. “Just in case,,” he said. I’m set.

A cardiologist suggested I postpone this trip, or not go at all. She pointed out that I am 90 now and she is worried about an irregular heartbeat, but a couple of years ago another cardiologist emphasized, “You have a regular irregular heartbeat. Don’t worry about it.” I’m not.

Sunday, March 11, about three o’clock in the morning, after we have set our clocks an hour ahead, I will be picked up here at Spring Lake Village on the front curb and several of us will drive out to the Santa Rosa airport and fly to Los Angeles en route to Liberia, Costa Rica.

Imagine me! The girl who wanted to play timpani drums in the high school orchestra and never did, finally going to play West African drums in the jungle of Costa Rica!

If not now, when?


Services with Smiles

People ask me why I like Spring Lake Village, the senior community where I’ve lived for six months now. I have several answers. I like the stability of the administration. I am grateful for the extensive medical services available. I like the food and I am tickled by the consideration and respect that the staff exhibits. For the 400 of us residents there are 275 employees and all seem dedicated to giving good service.

I’ll show you an example. It happened today at lunch time.

Six of us women were seated at a round table in the Bistro. Our waitress took our orders. I asked for a bowl of fresh fruit and a 10-inch pizza.

Nina’s veggie-burger arrived. Joyce’s soup came. Bev’s huge chicken sandwich looked daunting. Selma’s Caesar Salad had whole anchovies! My strawberries, cantaloupe, and melon appeared. No pizza.

After a while, I asked the waitress, “Should I expect the pizza soon?” She disappeared, and returned to apologize for the delay, explained that the first pizza had been burned and a second one was being prepared. She smiled and vanished. The chef came to our table and explained that the fire “got pretty hot,” apologized and with the bright smile of a good idea, he asked, “Would you like some french fries or Bistro Chips?” I love the chips so accepted. They came, warm, fragrant, spicy and we all enjoyed them.

Then the waitress re-appeared and placed a slice of cheese cake in front of me. “Here, This is for you. I am so sorry that you are having to wait.” She cleared away some of the others’ dishes.

Finally the pizza came. Fresh and tempting. I ate one piece, asked for a box, “and a box for the pie, too, please.” Bev said, “Here, Donna, take home the rest of these chips. I know what you’ll be having for dinner tonight.”

We stood up to leave. The chef waived , smiled and nodded. The waitress stepped back out of our way and said, “Good bye, Ms Love. Thank you.”

I almost hugged her. “Thank YOU. See you tomorrow.”

It’s a Surprise a Minute

I had noticed Bev in exercise class. She is always trim and tidy in her jeans and cashmere sweaters, her face carefully tended, and her posture erect. One day we introduced ourselves and asked the usual questions. “Where have you lived the major part of your life?” she asked.

“San Mateo. I lived in San Mateo area for about 40 years. I last lived in San Mateo Park.”

“Oh,” she said, “I lived in San Mateo Park. Where did you live?”

“Occidental Avenue. I have forgotten the house number. What about you?”

She squinted into the past and answered, “I can’t remember. Oh, well.”

The class started. We didn’t talk about other lives any more.

Until last week. Bev and her husband sat behind me at the Wednesday evening concert and she tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and she said, “526 Occidental Avenue.”

Surprised, I said, “That’s right! How did you know my address?”

“No,” she smiled. “That was MY address.”

I chuckled through the entire concert. At its conclusion, Bev and I compared notes. The dog run along side of the house, the pool in the back yard, the bonus room downstairs. She said, “I had barely put the house on the market and some woman came by, walked around, and said she would buy it.”

I nodded. She said, “You got a very good deal.”

Those who know me, know I love Small World Stories. Up until last week, my favorite one was about the time I was standing a long time in the china department of Harrods in London. I was waiting to be helped so when a pleasant looking young woman approached me, I said, “I’m glad to see you. I’d like to buy Peter Rabbit mugs…….” and hadn’t finish my sentence before she said, “I don’t work here. Aren’t you Matt Love’s mom! …… We were in San Mateo High together.“

I think we all have these stories. They seem especially prevalent here in Spring Lake Village. I was telling about Bev’s and my having lived in the same house on Occidental, and my walking buddy stopped and said, “My grandmother lived in the 600 block of Occidental Avenue in San Mateo Park.”

What’s your best Small World story? Start this new year by sharing a comment here. Let me hear your story.

I Think, Therefore I Blog

If I were to outline the events of 2017 on the blog, it would be longer than anyone’s attention span. However, Marian, my friend of about 65 years, has written, “I am looking forward to a long note on your Christmas card.”

So, Marian, what do you want to hear about? Travel? Changes? Health? Family? Let’s not even think about the tragic president in DC.

For starters, let’s think about getting older, which we all are doing. About 30 years ago I told myself that when I reached 80 I’d begin to think about getting old. The 80s have come and gone and NOW I’m beginning to think about getting old. On Tuesday mornings, I am taking bridge lessons because years ago I promised, “When I get old, I’m going to learn to play bridge and take a cruise, and on the fourth day out, I’ll join a table by the window to deal the cards between the whale sightings.”

In my whole life, I’d never changed addresses in July so in July of this year, I moved. Son Sam came to Friends House to remove the high shelves he’d installed three years ago and bring them over here, still in Santa Rosa, to Spring Lake Village, a senior residence that offers what I need in this last inning. So far I enjoy independent living, a comfortable one-bedroom cottage about half the size of the Capitola Cottage, where I lived at the beach for almost 20 years. I’ve met new interesting people and some from my other lives. Sheila Einhorn, whose son Greg was in Marty Love’s 4th grade at North School; Jane Jackson, whose daughter Jenny was in John Love’s class at Crocker Middle School. Yesterday I talked with Patti Akay as she was here preparing an art exhibit of her work. Occasionally, I have lunch with Susan Chew, who lives in nearby Oakmont. Across the sidewalk lives Ginny Richardson whose husband Len was a friend of Kem Edwards when they were at Yale. Kem, husband of Phoebe, my traveling companion, and father of the four Edwards girls, who, with the four Love boys made the eight children under eight at Capitola for several summers! Long memories, deep connections!

We friends at SLV enjoy dinner together in the dining room, take walks around the 33-acre campus, sign up for one or more of the 37 exercise classes offered. I’ve joined the drumming circle, attend most of the meditation meetings, love the Wednesday evening musical events, and am responsible for sending birthday cards to those in Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing. Not much different from sending post cards to our representatives.

Before I left Friends House, I cleaned out the accumulation of post cards gathered on travels and wondered what to do with them. Too pretty to discard, too dated to use. Then I realized that maybe interns, volunteers, and paid staff of our political representatives might enjoy the pictures so I asked others to add their postcards, to bring addresses, to contribute stamps, and to meet in Commons Room B at 10 o’clock one Saturday. That day we wrote and mailed over 100 messages! And it was fun. We felt better for having done something.

Once in a while I leave Spring Lake Village for the broader world. In January, friend in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, Joan invited me to stay with her a month. An entire month! My expat life revisited. Dry warm days in which we drank Topo Chico and played canasta in the shade.

In June son Matt and I drove up to Florence, Oregon, to attend the recognition of brother David Rankin and Dianne as the best of Oregon Small Woodlot Owners. Fifty people, most of whom are also small woodlot owners, toured Dave and Dianne’s acreage, had lunch at tables Dave and their grandson Henry made from lumber harvested and milled right there!

A couple of months later, in mid-August, Dave and Dianne drove down to the Bay Area to stay with me and attend the wedding of granddaughter Sarah and Ilya Bendich at the St Francis Yacht Club. The best news about them is that they will continue to live in San Francisco, at least until he finishes his residency at UCSF Medical Center and she remains at Salesforce. See that tallest building? There’s Sarah!

Part of becoming an Ancient is diminishing physical abilities. I still walk unaided, but not up hills and more slowly than in the 1980s peace walks. Residents who have read my book, Walking for Our Lives, grin and ask, “Want to go for a walk up in Annabel Park?” Nice thought if we can stay on flat trails.

After the left hearing aid was lost down a garbage disposal, I listened with cocked head for a while and eventually asked the audiologist for a replacement, but by that time the technology had changed and I had to buy both. I think they cost more than half of what our first house in San Mateo cost! But I hear everything now! And last week granddaughter Katie asked, “Gran, do you always wear glasses?” Well, no, but I forget to take them off. I might sign up for the Memory Enhancement class.

Marian, ask about the family.

They are fine.

On October 9, Sam and Sandra were wakened about two in the morning and told to evacuate immediately. They pulled on shoes, and not much else, and raced out to their horses. Much later, Sam told me he was thinking, “If the horses are spooked and skittish, we won’t have time to lead them to their trailer.” Fortunately, all three horses were lined up at the gate saying, “Quick! Get us outa here!” They drove down to the huge parking lot at the Fair Grounds. Our great gratitude is that the fire, within half a mile of Sam and Sandra’s home, veered away.

Meanwhile, 430 independent residents of Spring Lake Village were evacuated…… also to the Fair Grounds, where Sam and Sandra miraculously found me! SLV was spared fire damage and I, after three weeks shared with Matt & Joan in Aptos and John & Holly in Los Altos, returned to clean air, hugs, and sighs of relief.

I sit here and think about this eventful year and must include the great encouragement I feel when I read about the involvement of the citizens of the world, especially in the USA. Millions of voices clambering for justice and equality and environmental responsibility. Something to think about.

I heard on NPR: “I think, therefore I blog.”*

Happy New Year, Marian.



You Have Choices


“Follow your bliss. Doors will open and guides will appear.” Remember Joseph Campbell saying that? Everyone I knew was much younger then and many applied it to choosing careers or life partners or identifying their passions.

Recently a 20-something granddaughter and I had a long conversation about the choices she has and how she will make them. She spoke of her job that she loves, the co-workers who have become real friends, her pride in the quality of the product. It provides well for her, except she knows the job now and the challenge is no longer there. Should she try something else?

I thought of my father’s answer when I asked him what he thought I should major in. First he said, “Take pre-med. Can’t hurt. Might help.” The following year, when I got a D in a five-hour chemistry class, he said, “Do what you love. The money will follow.” I majored in psychology and have been glad ever since. Worked in the psych department at University of Oregon, taught at Sarah Dix Hamlin School in San Francisco, loved bringing up four sons while I held a copy of Gesell and Ilg (child development resource) in the other hand, led troubled tutorial students to success, wrote some books, shared my enthusiasm for writing in Saturday workshops.  Psych helped.

Here in Spring Lake Village, I had lunch last week with a new friend and we told bits of our life stories. She explained that yes, she, too, had taught school, but tired of controlling restless adolescents. Quilting calmed and refreshed her. Loving to quilt, she shared her passion in Adult Education classes. So rewarding to be teaching students who wanted to learn! But frequently she found she needed something that she’d left at home. And her students had the same frustrating experience. So she found a storefront, opened a quilting store, taught classes there and whenever she or a student needed something, they could find it on the store shelves. She loved her quilting career.

She no longer has the store, but continues to exhibit her quilts in art shows. I asked her if she had made any money when she had owned the store and taught. She shrugged a little and smiled, “Not a lot, but enough.”

That’s it! Enough! She had followed her bliss and look what happened.

Saturday afternoon three of us senior residents drove over to see a toy train set up in a house. The “engineer” has a complex arrangement in the garage. Historically correct mines and warehouses, a church, a hardware store, an Out West neighborhood. Not only in the garage, but in the dining room as well. In the kitchen, looking for a water glass, I opened a cupboard and found it full of small buildings not quite ready to be set out along the tracks. I asked the engineer’s wife, “You two live at Spring Lake Village, don’t you? Who lives here?”

She explained that no one lives there. Sometimes family members come stay over, but the house if for the trains. “My husband used the second bedroom at Spring Lake Village to set up this section,” indicating a 12 foot long, waist-high display of buildings, mountains and tracks, “but then ran out of space.” She went on, “This is our solution. Real estate is not a bad investment and trains are Bill’s passion. This gets him up in the mornings. He’s 91 now and still has a boy’s love for toy trains.”

I like these reminders that we almost always have choices. At any time during our lives, some way, some how, we can follow our bliss.




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