Friday, June 30, 2017

Life Back to Normal

The past few weeks a busy, energetic, on-going series of activities bombarded me and pushed everyday life aside.

Now, special events concluded, life returns to normal.

The excitement of touring new places, meeting new people, tasting different dishes fade into days of scenery sameness – my front porch and backyard, neighborhood streets and stores and familiar eating and shopping places. Not a bad thing. A comforting fact.

Long travel days to far-away destinations are now miserable memories of hours scrunched into a tight plane seat, mediocre to bad food, inability to sleep, and cramped muscles. Transportation these days is often by foot, exercise and fresh air replacing inertia and stale air.

The challenge and intensity of attempting to satisfy grandkids of different ages and interests over (temporarily!), replaced by time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Multiple trips to the Rite-Aid drugstore a couple of blocks from the house decrease to once a day, and occasionally NONE a day! I do not own stock in Rite-Aid, but perhaps should. And I have no doubt my family’s repeated visits to the store had something to do with the recent uptick in the company’s share price. (Stock analysts will tell you the price jump had to do with the fact that Walgreen’s is buying half of the Rite-Aid stores, but I know better…I wonder if my neighborhood store will soon have a name change. In that case I might buy Walgreen’s stock.)

I look forward to catching up with friends missed but ignored for weeks.

Volunteer responsibilities on hold now demand attention.

Returning home and looking forward to cooking once more, bare shelves need restocking, and summer means excursions to farmer’s markets for delicious local fresh produce.

Flower and vegetable gardens beg for attention after weeks of benign neglect. Weeds gloat, reaching for the sky. It is time to let them know who is the boss!

A pile of books beckon.

And last, my political awareness dropped a few notches over the past few weeks. I was not around a TV constantly blaring the latest Presidential buffoonery. I ignored newscasts droning on and on about repealing, replacing, voting on, and changing the good, the bad and the ugly in the GOP health plan. My inattention changed nothing, but my blood pressure thanked me. I will make an effort to minimize my exposure to all political discourse hoping my blood pressure remains under control.

Life back to normal. 

Friday, June 23, 2017


Life consists of transitions. Big ones. Little ones. School to work, home to college or apartment living, single life to marriage, school to work, adulthood to parenthood...the list goes on.

Not all transitions are major life events. Some are minor, maybe not even noted or casually mentioned in passing.

Transition is what occurred in my life last week, best described in the following pictures. Recovering from both events (and still in the midst of event #2) most of my brain cells have yet to work properly, mired in a fog of exhaustion. Pictures tell the story.

Friday night - Shabbat - Jerusalem, Israel.
The Western Wall. 
There are separate sections for men and women,
a fence separating the two areas.
Standing on chairs and peeking into the area off limits to us,
we view the men preparing for and celebrating Shabbat.

Cycling in the city of Tel Aviv.
And spending a couple of less intense, more relaxing days visiting friends.
View from friends apartment in the city of Modi-in looking east to the West Bank.

Making the transition...
From the ancient city on the hill to the modern, sophisticated metropolis of
Tel Aviv (we arrived on the day of the Gay Pride Parade), the city known as
To home - summer -grandsitting - 
and celebrating another (very minor) event.
Celebrating my birthday with the girls.

Cooking and baking, here decorating cupcakes.
Other activities include multiple trips to the library.
 Storybook Land, the playground, the pool and of course the BEACH!

Bedtime disrupted by a thunderstorm and the loudest thunder EVER.
Three girls and a Grandpa huddle against the storm.

Oldest granddaughter preparing for camp.
Yup, purple hair - exactly what she wanted.

I will survive!

...I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive, hey, hey
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Israel Adventure Almost Over

There are occasions when time drags, seconds and minutes tick by slowly while waiting for something - an event, an announcement, or perhaps we just feel sick. Other times we cannot believe how quickly the hours pass. Each day of my Israel adventure is packed with touring sites, bus rides, walks in the blistering hot sun, and of course eating. Evening arrives and my bones and my mind barely function. I am physically and mentally exhausted. 

On the other hand today hub and I pack and endure a 12 hour plane ride home.

Each long day left little time for relaxation. Every night I prepared for the following day, turned the TV on, searched for something to watch and fell asleep to the drone of CNN news reports, too tired to pay attention. Hotels offered free wifi, so evenings and mornings I checked email and messages. I turned off cell data and silenced my phone, opting not to pay Verizon $10 a day for overseas service. The company gets enough of my $$. Every month.

Israel is approximately the size of the state of New Jersey, but the geographic diversity is dramatic. Desert, rolling hills and mountains, miles of flat seaside lined with beautiful beaches, farmlands, forests, lush river valleys and dry scrubland all squeeze within the borders of this small country.

Our tour group included six children between the ages of 5 and 13, so many activities geared towards the young ones tested the physical endurance of hub and me. But we survived! Nature hikes, river walks, rafting, tunnel explorations, boating, walking. Steps seem to be everywhere - steep, high, often slippery ones.

Here are a few pictures of our Israel adventure.


Climbing stairs in the old city of Safed

Making chocolate in the Galilee in northern Israel.
Visiting HaCarmel market in Tel Aviv
Playing in the sand, the Mediterranean in the background, in Tel Aviv
Climbing tanks
Touring tunnels under the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Feeding donkeys on a kibbutz.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Climbed Masada

Travel is all about seeing new places, trying new things, meeting new people, expanding horizons. It is about exploding ideas and stereotypes concerning everything from food, modes of travel, weather, homes and buildings, people, countries and lifestyles. It is learning to not freak out at the unexpected or problems encountered, to be flexible and open-minded when confronted with cultural differences, and to be open to new experiences. Travel is exhausting, invigorating, irritating and annoying, but always an adventure.

Touring Israel I participated in activities that, if offered at home, I would most likely politely decline. 

Sometimes we take on a physical challenge for the satisfaction of saying,"I did it!" The sense of accomplishment feels good, but also provides a tiny bit of comfort that my body functions, if not as well as my touring cohorts generations younger, well enough to assure me I am not yet ready for the retirement home.

I climbed Masada, a very tall hill, not quite a mountain, maybe a small mountain, in the middle of the desert. It is a national monument, the remains of a Jewish settlement about 2,000 years old. When facing defeat by a foreign power and the knowledge they would all be killed or sold into slavery, the 967 inhabitants made the difficult decision to commit suicide rather than be captured by the Romans.

My day began hours before daylight. The bus left the hotel at 4:00 a.m.; in the middle of the night I am awake, dressed, and very groggy. Hikers must begin before sunrise - 5:30 a.m. - because the sun rises quickly and it gets very hot; too hot to climb. A cable car carries visitors up and down the mountain all day long. My party of seven hiked up the mountain, toured the site, then rode the cable car down. 
At the beginning of the trek up Masada. The body of water is the Dead Sea.
The rest of my hiking buddies, all ahead of me. I took up the rear the entire time
And reached the summit in 1 1/2 hours (most people can complete the hike in one hour).
We were not alone hiking Masada. A group of army trainees
Also hiked up - after they had already walked nine miles.
Our group poses with some of the soldiers - still smiling after their long march!
I am the civilian in the gray shirt (not the skinny one - that's my granddaughter).
View from the top of Masada. The mounds in the back of the picture
Are remains of Roman fortifications built during the seige of Masada.
View from the cable car descending Masada.
Mission accomplished.
And I have the T-shirt to prove it!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Jerusalem: Past and Present in Pictures

Our days filled from early morning until after dinner, I have not been able to muster enough energy to post. Keeping up with six kids aged 6 through 13 and their parents is challenging and exhausting to the bone, but fun.

The first stop on our itinerary Jerusalem, a city with one of the most contentious histories in the world, reaching back thousands of years. Attacked periodically over the years, the place became a holy city for three major religions. Invading groups included: Egyptians, Ethiopians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, British...

Here are a few pictures of the city with a tortured past and vibrant present.
The Western Wall, sacred to the Jews. Women praying on the women's side of the wall.
The shofar, an ancient instrument announcing the arrival of holidays and other events,
Here announcing the beginning of Hayden's (my grandson) Bar Mitzvah. 
One of the entrances into the Old City of Jerusalem.
The modern city: A protest march on one of Jerusalem's main streets today (Ben Yehudah street). Most
Of the signs were in Hebrew, but I got a couple of pictures of signs in English.

Walking the ramparts, on top of the wall surrounding the Old City.
Soldiers occupied the rampart, protecting the city and scouting the area outside the city walls
for enemy sightings.
Dome of the Rock, an Islamic sacred shrine.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Round Four Begins - An Overseas Adventure

Round Four of this season's travels begins. Our home will temporarily be inhabited by a couple enjoying a trip to the states, American ex-pats who have made France their home for decades. Hub and I travel east, spending two weeks in a Middle Eastern country (despite what our esteemed - note the sarcasm here - Prez might think. Look at a map. Or globe.) - Israel.

Travels began with a two hour ride to the airport - not the closest to home, but offering non-stop service to our destination. Mid-week, no holiday, check-in and security proceeded smoothly. Plenty of time for dinner in the airport. The toughest part of the embarkation process was staying awake until settling on the plane. 

Our 11:30 pm flight was airborne close to the scheduled time.

What do you do at midnight on a plane? Sleep, or attempt to sleep.

Lots of empty seats surrounded us. I relocated from my assigned aisle spot with two people next to me to an extra row. Hub sat on an aisle with an empty next to him.

Reclining seats, some leg room, a pillow and blanket provided, traveling economy. Air travel heaven!

Ten hours in a seat, no matter how comfortable - or not - is a long time. I slept fitfully. Everybody slept, or tried. About two hours before landing people began to stir. Lights went on, shades rose, and breakfast carts appeared. Mid-afternoon at our destination, it was morning back home. Stomachs urged nourishment.

Old bones rebelled, demanding movement. I walked off the plane scrunched over, unable to straighten, a couple of days of exercises needed before standing upright again. Exhausted, irritated waiting on airport lines, we finally exited the airport and officially entered Israel, a country I visited once. Fifty years ago. The thought is almost more than I can imagine. Fifty years is a long span in one's lifetime.

On the other hand memories of my six weeks in this foreign country when 17 years old bombard me as hub and I enter the country - experiences and people not thought about in years.

I tried reconnecting with cousins not seen or heard from since the 1970s, with no luck. I would like to see the house where I stayed in Jerusalem, but do not know the address. I am guessing the place still exists, a part of the history of a city reaching back thousands of years.

But my trip is not a nostalgic one. We come for a family celebration, the Bar Mitzvah of our oldest grandchild. 

Almost two weeks touring with two generations younger, stronger and more energetic than my aging body will be challenging, but worth it for a trip of a lifetime. Assuming, of course, I survive to tell the story...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reflections on Being Electronically Connected, Bewildered and Befuddled

I see my elementary school classroom. I don’t know exactly which year, but it doesn’t matter. It is the 1950s. The rooms are all similar. Large spaces, high ceilings, a wall of windows with beige shades tilted at different angles, the room filled with straight rows of square wooden desks with a shelf underneath for books and papers and a wooden chair under each desk. A blackboard covers almost the entire front wall. Posters hang all around - maps, pictures of animals and people, class worksheets…

What is missing?

Computers. Headphones. Electronic gadgets.

I did not use a computer until grad school in the 1980s.

Today classrooms still contain colorful posters, mobiles hang from the ceiling, desks and tables (no longer made of wood) fill the room. Cubicles with computers line a wall.

I have incorporated technology into my life. I sit on a couch in a coffee shop writing on my Mac. My iPhone lies next to me. I wonder how I would find places without a GPS…or rendezvous with a friend at the last minute without a cell phone…or answer a question during a heated discussion without instant access to Google or Wikipedia.

I have come a long way, baby, metaphorically speaking.

Kids nowadays grow up tech-savvy, viewing gadgets from infancy, fingering them as toddlers, using them easily as they play games on the devices, take pictures, text, comparison to younger folks, I am technologically impaired.

I know what I need to know to do what I want to do.

The younger generation loves reading books on an electronic device. I enjoy holding a real book, a physical object. 

Connectedness created the flexibility of working from home. On the other hand being connected has drawbacks. Companies expect employees to be available hours after they would otherwise be ‘off the clock’. Yet isolated home-based work has limitations. IBM is bringing employees back into the corporate building, setting regular work hours, with expectations that increased people-to-people contact will enhance productivity. 

I love the fact that we can travel anywhere and read favorite newspapers and magazines anytime, everyplace, and stay in contact with work, friends and family. People today enjoy the opportunity of deciding where to live, no longer waiting until retirement to move to a dream location.

What happens when super-connected souls – my grandkids come to mind – become unconnected? On vacation Mom and Dad may encourage limited connectedness, and gadget-addicts somehow survive. However if a storm knocks out cell and wifi service howls of despair pierce the air from gadget-geeks of all ages, and people find themselves lost (metaphorically speaking, of course). 

I get annoyed at people texting and doing who knows what on their devices in restaurants, not paying attention to the people they presumably came to socialize with. Kids of various ages text across the room rather than talk to each other. Will the art of verbal and written communication soon be lost skills, replaced by abbreviated text and emojis?

Technology offers an important advantage to seniors and others with limited mobility. Unable to leave home, folks can maintain contact with friends and family scattered everywhere. Isolation due to physical restrictions is minimized thanks to technology. 

Change is inevitable and life marches on. All change offers advantages and disadvantages, and we cope as best we can.