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Hello, Goodbye

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney once famously wrote…Hello, Goodbye!

London!  How can seven days go by so fast? Truly the old adage “time flies while you are having fun” has never been so true.

With grins as big as their faces…wheels up at LAX London bound 3:48PM on June 18.  Wheels down at Heathrow 940AM on June 19.  A UK Customs check and the girls have their very first international stamp in their passports.  Wow!

We get our driver…yes, the flat we rented provided a ride into town and we hit the M4 (freeway).  Crazy weaving around and through tiny city streets and lots of near misses…we reach 137 Gloucester Terrace, W2, London, ENGLAND!

Nella, the landlord, meets us and shows me how to work the kitchen appliances…while the girls find their room.  Keys secured we head out the door the explore our temporary new neighborhood and find some lunch.  Ha!  The Redan Pub is just the place.  Smooth cold beer for grandma, Diet Coke for grandpa and fish and chips for the girls.  Their plates perfect with large chips (French fries) and huge piece of fresh cod and “garden” style peas.  You can order them two ways Garden peas mean whole…Mushy means just that.

Off to Hyde Park for a stroll and hit our first art exhibit at the Serpentine Slacker Gallery.   Groceries next,   picking up bake them yourself pizzas and salad makings for dinner at home.  All of us are out like lights at 8pm.

Introduced the girls to some terms…one being NSD.  No Shit Deal.  We use that acronym when we have to be somewhere at a certain time.  I tried not to do this a lot on this trip, but there were a couple and Saturday morning was one of them.   We had prepaid-timed tickets to some very popular attractions.

We headed out on the Tube for Westminster Station.  Walking up the steep steps the opening reveals their first great sight of the day…Big Ben (OK, it is really Elizabeth Tower…but don’t go all Candlestick Park on me).  I just tell them to look straight up.  They squeal…sending some local contractors working across the street into a fit laughter.  We walk across the Thames on Westminster Bridge and they get photo bombed by a couple of cute joggers.  Photo op with a bagpipper!   London Eye, Thames River Cruise, Westminster Abbey, walking and walking and walking.  Took grandpa back to the flat for a nap and we head out for more groceries…about a four block walk.

Coming out of the Marks and Spencer grocery market laden down with several bags –a single rain drop hits my glasses, by the time we get across the street it is pouring. “London Rain!” we all shout to each other and pick up the pace, but by the time we got to the front door we were drenched.  Everyone still laughing specially grandpa who is warm and dry.  Girls giggling. Another early night!

Sunday, Father’s Day…what better way to celebrate than to take grandpa clothes shopping!  We find him a paper, coffee and a seat and we head out through Spittlefield’s Market and Brick Lane.  Find some cool finds. We take him for an  Italian lunch and visit the British Museum for mummies and the Rosetta Stone.   Tired now, carrying some serious souvenirs  and it is warm, so we taxi home in a classic black London cab and grandpa gets his afternoon nap.  The girls and I hit the perimeter fence of Hyde Park for the Sunday art sales, find Dim Sum for dinner and head back.  BBC Antiques Roadshow on the telly!

Monday, is the big day and it is raining, so we bundle up.

Yeah-Yeah-Yeah…we did the whole Beatle Abbey Road cross walk thing before breakfast since we have an NSD later.   Asked a workman which crossing it was since there were several.  Found it and photo ops completed.  Wrote on the Abbey Road Studio wall and we are good. Back on the tube.

To the Baker Street Station (I am in heaven) and getting ready for Madam Tussauds Wax Museum and we have tickets for 10AM.  Stop for a “full English” breakfast* for grandpa near the tube station. Get in a long queue and meet so many fake movie, music stars, royalty (dead and alive) and politicians from around the world…even the Dalai Lama.  Then the One Direction bleachers come into view.  Absolute pandemonium strikes.  Really you would have thought they were real the way these two giggled and screamed.  Photos secured from the professional photographer and phones.  OMG.  Then we head through and I get a photo op with waxy and not really close to looking like President Obama.  Pretty cool!  Then the girls got their photo with the original “boy band” the Beatles…just what we needed after the morning’s adventure.

On to the Sherlock Holmes Museum (it is my turn to get crazy!) The line was so long I just hit the gift shop and grandpa and the girls give me about 30 minutes of time to myself to explore.   Head off to Selfridges to-see-not-purchase some seriously expensive stuff.  Our power converter in the apartment was not working and grandpa is on the search for something to fix it. Our phone batteries are gone and we are nervous…since posting photos to Instragram and Facebook is now threatened.  We get into a pretty sketchy neighborhood on grandpa’s forced march, we close in our ranks until  we find the store and get the goods.  A late pub lunch and we head home early.  Tomorrow is a another NSD.

We tube over to Victoria Station and walk to find the Coach Station (bus).  Off to Stonehenge and Bath.   Our tour guide was a cutie and the girls noticed.  We were able to get very close to the stones at Stonehenge and the Roman Baths were lovely.  The girls were brave and ordered Steak, Mushroom and Ale pies with mashed potatoes at the local pub and gobbled them both down.   Long trip home on the bus and another tube trip back to Paddington Station.  We find an Italian restaurant on the way home. The waiter brings me a glass of wine right away…must of looked like I needed it!

We have another great meal after a long day…estimate 14 hours and the girls are such troopers still giggling and laughing until they fall asleep.

Wednesday and Thursday are make up what we didn’t see days…

Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Covent Garden, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, more Hyde Park, feeding swans and geese (OK OK that was my thing only…but we got rid of the last of the bread in the flat) Prince Albert Memorial, Albert Hall, Natural History Museum,  Nando’s for lunch (where One Direction eats, unfortunately for the girls…no sightings) Victoria and Albert Museum and two special exhibits, and finally Harrods.  We catch a bus going the wrong direction and end up at the far end of town.  Tube home and more Italian food.

Time to get packing and the girls did a great job.

Friday our final NSD…out the door at 5AM for the train to Heathrow Terminal 5.  With rain threatening, but not appearing, I told the girls London is going to cry because we are leaving.  Caught the Heathrow Express and twenty minutes later we were in the airport paying for our last full English’s in American dollars.

Wheels up Heathrow at 11AM, Friday June 26.  However not too many smiles on this leg of the trip…not angry or mad…just sorry our bit of British fun is over.

Wheels down LAX 115PM, Friday June 26. Exhausted and very happy.

I am pretty sure Lonnie and I accomplished our mission on this trip.  We wanted to show the girls how to travel light, be a good/open to pretty much everything traveler, how to interact positively with all types of people, be a good American and help others know we are kind and nice people and so much more.  We did it by example not lecture. We had long discussions on tons of historical things as widely varied as how the Teddy Bear got its name, who Humphrey Bogart is to tomb robbers in ancient Egypt.  We covered situational awareness in big and small crowds, not to be afraid of pigeons…OK that did NOT work, and how to travel on public transport.  The girls discovered how much more you seen on foot than in a car.  Little corners of fun of statutes and red telephone boxes!  They are great travel companions and would love to get out there again!

I know they enjoyed our trip.  Maybe just not as much as grandpa and I did…but pretty close.

What a ride.

*Full English Breakfast: two eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast.

So Proud!

Hannah and Hailey are GREAT in so many ways.

First, we challenged them to carry-on luggage only and they accepted and exceeded. Now we have an extra couple of hours to explore London.

They are ready to roll and embracing the trip with open hearts and insane giggles!

What an opportunity for Lonnie and I. We are physically and financially able to give Hannah and Hailey a trip to London.

We explain it is our intention to wet their appetite for travel and tell them not “if” they come back it is “when” they come back. That is how we approach these trips…as Rick Steves says “travel like you will return.” We have a list of places to visit…but if a London breeze takes us in another direction…we will follow it.

Like most people my age…my grandparents were old when I was a teen. And if not old in age…they just didn’t do this kind of stuff. My Grandma Ethel didn’t have a driver’s license. Old School!!

My step-grandfather Al always promised me a pony. As most girls were promised in the late 1950s and 60s. Let’s just say no pony was never delivered. Anyway…I didn’t want a pony. He was a fun old man who promised me that if no one saw you eat food…the calories don’t count! We played cards and he taught me the words to every automobile commercial on television…”See the USA in a Chevrolet.”

Lonnie and I are just so fortunate to have the means to take these girls on a fun and educational trip.

These are not my biological grand-kids. I am a virgin grandmother. Never had children. I am blessed to be married to a wonderful man that has four and that equals grandchildren. Wow. Just too much fun. I love Lonnie and have embraced his kids as my own. Sometimes it works…and sometimes not. It is working on this trip.

I told the girls I am glad they didn’t have to wait until they were 35 to visit London like I did…and alone at that.

With having two safety managers as grandparents…we went over safety stuff…staying close, no walking alone, how to carry your purse…situational awareness. They were all over that and have been great in keeping us in ear and eye shot in some crazy crowded areas.

This trip is exceptional for us. We are traveling with two young girls and they see everything as bright and shiny. We have been to London twice and it is like a new city to us.

Other trips we have taken with folks our own age can sometimes be downers…if you happen to have a grump in the group. It is like walking with a sore toe or toothache… the pain is annoying and is intensified if bothered.

I explained mindfulness and that we will take each opportunity to experience it and not look ahead while doing something fun. This is really working. From a cool museum exhibit to watching Londoners on a Friday afternoon walking their dogs in the park. It is all part of the adventure.

Nothing seems to bother these girls, they just keep on asking questions, giggling, and making Grandpa and I feel like we are their age. You can’t be young again…there is no fountain of youth…but traveling with 14 and 16 year olds will brighten your world and make your old eyes see everything new.

#hhinlondon

He Controls The Power

He cradles it tight, but not too tight in his semi-open palm. The stiff seven and a half inch rod is floating just slightly above his thighs at his crotch.

This member controls his every thought and feeling. Gently, he caresses the top.  His fingertips tenderly stroke the surface looking for the sweet spot of gratification – any pressure can stop or start the intense bliss exploding in his brain.

It is the source of all his power.  He has complete control over his own being and supremacy over his wife’s desires.

With a mere touch, he elicits joy-pain-sorrow-ecstasy. One move brings either searing rapture or interminable boredom.

This elongated miracle is best brought to life with two hands, however one will do with a pinch.

Although it is there – exposed for all to see, he is more than reluctant to let anyone handle it. Only with the threat of force, will he relinquish it to a woman let alone another man to fondle.

However, when he is faced with the utmost of confusion, he finds letting someone else with deft fingers rip it from his grasp. This too is a good thing.

The plastic black strangely curvaceously  shaped Surewest television remote control with way too many buttons is Lonnie’s favorite plaything.  The only exception the garage full of woodworking tools.  But, if you compare hours of intense use…the remote wins out every time.

“I control the power.” he says in his commanding no-shit voice.  It is simply in his DNA.  He truly believes that a woman, child or other man in our living room incapable of making the correct choice of TV/Cable viewing.

My favorite buttons on the forbidden remote are the Mute and Off.  His are all.

We (mostly he) made a pact when he first retired. It was not to turn on the TV during the daytime.  Mostly because I have a home office and just couldn’t work with the mindless din in the background.  But, he also wanted to make sure he accomplished “stuff” during the day instead of wasting it in front of the boob tube.  There is one exception to the rule…he watches the closing stock market report  usually while having his lunch. Depending on the day’s events of ups and downs and bulls or bears, he is either smiling or frowning for a while after it is over.  That and the San Francisco Giants and/or 49’ers provide plenty of dramatic action here in this house.

He has an innate ability to know when you are approaching the remote or attempting to extract it from his grasp.  Even when he is asleep, the remote poised and pointed, cannot be taken without an abrupt awaking and admonishment. “Hey…I was watching that!” he bellows as his clench closes in.  It is un-graspable. An alive death grip.

He is the only guy I know that can watch a day long marathon of How Its Made (ok, I know the pact…but when it is raining outside-he can’t garden!) and still keep interested.

He admonishes Daisy the delightful purring kitten to the floor when the remote is in play.

When I was fussing once about the one-sided remote rule, a friend suggested we get another.

“Are you CRAZY?” was all Lonnie had to offer in that conversation.

Case closed. Power on. Channels surfed. HDTV secure. Life is good!

Pennies From Heaven

Years ago I started noticing and collecting pennies and other coins I have found along my path in life.  I find them in really weird places where coins should not be…patios, gutters, airport concourses, middle of the street…you get the idea. However, these are places where people could lose coins out of pockets or purses.

A wonderful physic healer once told me the coins are being left by my dear departed dad and grandma. (see Chakras and Grandma Ethel). Since then, I have kept them in a very specific place separate from my other change. I now have a quart milk jug  and two cups filled to top.

I confided in Lonnie of the reason for the coin collecting…so whenever he finds a coin, he calls out “Hello Walter!”  (That is my dad’s first name.) I usually just quietly collect it and rub it and smile…it makes me feel warm inside. I usually find an abundance of these coins in places where my dad and our family lived or places we enjoyed.  So, Tucson, Arizona in general, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo and around the railroad are places I find the most.

However, they are laying in wait in places my dad never visited when I am feeling low. They are there when I am stressed or worried. They are there when I am tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes, when times are really tough…I find a larger denomination or a collection of coins.  A few months ago, when my life looked to be turning on to a grim path, I found 45 cents as I stepped out of my car door at Trader Joes.  I knew things would work out just fine and they have.

On the day of the 40th anniversary of his death, I was pretty sad. I was driving down my street and saw some currency rolling across the asphalt in the breeze.  I stopped and there were two-$2 bills folded up and just riding the hot gust of wind.  Wow.

So, just the other day, I was facing a pretty big meeting.  I had called it and there were a lot of people coming to a small city in the middle of the desert at my behest. It was my show.  I was a bit nervous, since I didn’t have a solution to the problem prompting the meeting.  However, I had no idea what direction the attendees intended on driving it.  I had to stay strong and steer a good course.

The city folks led me in to a huge conference room with a giant conference table with a white top. It was completely clean. I started organizing my paperwork and about four minutes later looked up.  There sat a penny…I swear it was not there before.  No one had come in it just appeared out of nowhere.  The penny about 4 seats away from where I was standing and nearly in the middle of the table…I had to stretch on tip toes to reach it.  I took such strength from that coin as I squeezed it.   My confidence was buoyed as I slipped it into my pocket.

I was able to take the meeting in the right direction and brokered some real solutions.

So, was it the penny that helped?  I will never know because it was there.  I just know that when I find these wayward coins I am happy knowing that someone up there is watching over me.

I hope I find one today!  And you find one too!

WMD = My Dad’s Wife

Everyone knows the reference: WMD…the unfound Weapons of Mass Destruction that propelled us into the Iraq War.

Well, I am the MDW: My Dad’s Wife. I am found by some of his kids/grandkids and ex-wife to be the embodiment of a WMD. The initials just got jostled around a bit.

Just as bad as misinformation led to the war…it has led to many miseries in my personal life.

From day one of dating Lonnie, I knew I was Number Three…behind his kids and his work. I just took that as a normal. If work called or his kids…my wants and needs would be addressed after those priorities.

Don’t get me wrong. If you have read any of my blog posts over the past couple of years you know I love Lonnie and I am devoted to him. Just like I told my friend today…”third time is a charm!” I am blessed and happy to have him in my life. I just know I am usually not his first thought in the morning or his last at night.

I was glad when he retired. I thought I was going to be moved up to #2. But, I am pretty sure that is not the case. His retired friends and golf have filled the work void. So, I can’t even say I am Avis Rental Car Company. I try really hard…but can’t make it to the top two.

A few weeks back we attended his eldest granddaughter’s high school graduation party. These kid inspired parties are especially hard on me. This one in Southern California meant no car. Before I even booked the flight my hopes were fading fast. No way and nowhere to escape a function where I am extremely unwanted, unwelcome and unwarranted.

I am the thrice married second wife of what I feel is an overlooked and underappreciated grandpa/dad. I am very sensitive to this since I had neither a grandpa nor dad as an adult. My dad was taken from me when I was just 18. I never knew either of my grandpas since they both died before I was born.

What I see is a bunch of kids…of all ages not appreciating the gift they have and it bothers me a lot.

Anyway, back to the party. By fly time…I have worked myself into a cortisol* stupor and my am bloated beyond my own recognition. Just when I need to feel my best and sassy to face this crowd, my jeans won’t button and my dress and clothes size has expanded. I desperately search Nordstrom Rack for a pair of shorts that at least zip up and snap.

3PM party time and we arrive with my two bottles of wine in tow. I think that at least I can drink to relax. However, I drained one bottle and as I looked at the dry bottom unfazed by the effects of the alcohol, I thought better of popping the second Pinot Grigio.

So, as the party ebbed and flowed in and out of the room, Lonnie and I sat alone as the others gathered in other parts of his daughter’s apartment pool cabaña room. The official party finally over with presents opened, we followed the crowd into his daughter’s lodgings for the after party for what was explained more visiting.

Sticking strictly to water…I could not do anything but sit on the sofa with Lonnie. You could tell we were not welcome to join his ex-wife, daughter, granddaughters and others in various rooms in the apartment where they congregated to laugh and talk. So, we sat. Played games on our phones and kept quiet.

Finally after six excruciating hours, we were on the way back to our bed for the night. A very comfy room relinquished by another granddaughter by another daughter. It was lovely to get back to her welcoming home and bed.

I did my best to support the husband I love. However, no good deed goes unpunished. Seems I made a faux pas at the party….and it was brought to my attention after we got home. I asked his granddaughter too many times (2) to open her gift from grandpa separately from the rest. She refused. Apparently I was not sensitive to her wants/needs.

Oh my. Oh well. The last of my cortisol came crashing out in a big sob fest. He was surprised by my reaction and told me he hoped I didn’t feel too bad. I did. He thinks I am overreacting, I don’t.

Just as he was answering a friend’s text while I pour out my soul, the doorbell gets the dogs up. I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and pulled open the door. The gape reveled the FedEx lady. She was delivering my new work phone.

After I signed for the package, she took me in her arms and hugged me. I was astonished and more than surprised. She was about my age and seemed normal enough…until her arms enveloped me. I hugged back lightly and patted her and thanked her for the delivery. “Anytime, we aim to please.” She said as she hopped down the steps.

The next day I was explaining my previous day to my friend and she immediately told me the hug was sent from my long deceased dad. Although Lonnie had hugged me while I was crying…I guess my dad knew I needed more.

My friend was right, I needed a good hug and it came on my front porch with the delivery of a package. Although I did hug Ms. FedEx back, now knowing where it came from, I wish I had held on a bit longer and hugged tighter.

*Cortisol, a stress hormone causes bloat, weight gain, constipation and other familiar maladies.

The ER 1/10/14

So, there should be rules when you are thinking of going to a local emergency room for treatment.  If you are able to: eat, drink, chat, text, laugh, talk, or even smile…you should be forced to make an appointment with your regular MD and stay home.

Today was my last day of a five morning meditation/yoga workshop Divine Awakenings…I don’t know how anything can be divine at 540am with a 440am wake up call.  But, that is how it goes and the practice of meditating, doing postures and a group discussion was really cool.

I got home drenched in sweat as usual and went to the fridge to start making my morning protein shake and looking forward to my class on how to use my new Microsoft Surface.  I see a note from Lonnie: Your mom is in the ER. Call me.  Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!

He got a call from her about 630am and she wanted to go to the ER. She was short of breath. He, God bless him, went over and with the help of the night guy at the building they loaded her into Lonnie’s 91 pickup and off they went.

You ask, why not call 911 and get an ambulance?  Because they are too expensive. See, she has a habit of going to the ER. She likes it there and will tell you as much. It is fun for her…kinda like going to the movies with an IV.  And if you are not admitted…the ambulance bill after insurance can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000.  And since she doesn’t have any money…oh well too much info.

I get up there ASAP at 745am and they are both gone. Mom in the x-ray department and Lonnie heading home for coffee.  She comes back out and we wait. My yoga clothes are still pretty wet under my sweatshirt and it is uncomfortably damp on the vinyl chairs. I put on a hospital provided face mask and my glasses get foggy.  It takes me about 20 minutes to figure out it is upside down and the metal part can be used to shape around my nose to help with the fog.

My mom is in heaven. She is getting attention and I am trapped next to her. I am in hell. She is chatting like we are having Starbucks and is telling me about her neighbors, what wine is available at the grocery store, and other such nonsense.  She keeps asking me about what’s new in my life and when I respond she interrupts with another story about her.  Not that I don’t want her to be happy…but she is only happy when she is in the ER.

Last time I visited her in her apartment, a few days ago, she was insulting to my nephew and I and told us to leave. OK…don’t have to tell us twice.

I try to distract myself from the chaos of the place. The floors are filthy…I guess they really don’t have time to clean being open and deluged 24/7.  There are large puddles of unidentifiable liquids dotting the tile, used hastily discarded face masks float around with other pieces of tissue. Genuinely gross.

It is so busy, at one point they ran out of wheelchairs.

There are two large TV screens with competing television networks on Good Morning America and The Today Show. Both are in their last stretch for something important to say in the last hour. The din of the anchors is more than obnoxious.  Cooking demos…is anyone else tired of Emeril yet?? Models telling people how to be thin.  OMG!

More triage for mom and they want to put her in a bed…however there are none available. So, out we go back into the fray which is growing larger, louder and sicker by the moment. However, there are still those that seemed to have come in for a just a urine test??? Lots of yellow plastic bottles being bandied about.

I am feeling sorry for myself and really hating where I am, then a woman who looks too old to be pregnant, but has a huge belly in the right place takes up chair right next to me. Holy shit the stench is overwhelming. I cannot describe it…not dirty…just really bodily bad. The nurse admonishes her for sitting there and she should be in line.  No relief…the end of the line is right behind me. So, now I appreciate the time I could breath without feeling like hurling myself. The faux-PG woman finally leaves the ER by way of a dented Chevy. The nurse told me she had a liver disease that caused her girth and offending odor. “She is a regular.” the nurse sighs.

OK, now it is getting serious. The View just started on TV. I hate that show. It is stupid. It is a waste of time and brain power. Just to cement my opinion they bring on Kris Jenner and a very dated photo of OJ Simpson which appears to be peering over her shoulder. I cannot hear what they are saying…Thank God… I turn away from the broadcast. My head is pounding.

With every cough, sniffle, wheeze, and barf sound I curl up tighter and tighter in a ball to avoid contact. My mom’s attempt at more small talk is really pissing me off.  “I really should be admitted first…they know me here. I come all the time.” she explains.  I have to lean toward her wheelchair when a woman comes in with a large dirty stuffed bunny. It is probably why she is here sick…since she is biting on its poly filled ears.  The thing is gross and she is really working it over. My dog never devoured a toy like that. She is quickly whisked away by someone in a white coat…”Psych” mother stage whispers to me eyeing the woman as she is lead through a side door.  I might just be losing it myself and need that door soon. It least my clothes are dry now.  I gave up on the mask hours ago so my glasses are clear.

The staff of what seems to be hundreds of faces with identical ID cards dance through the crowds and call out names. The huge doors…behind where in the bed for my mom lies…opens and closes a thousand times…all without her name being called. Each time the RN or orderly comes out it is a new hope only dashed with an unfamiliar name or the wrong Barbara.  “There are three Barbaras here this morning.” my mom announces with a big smile.

A car pulls up out front and a guy all clad in hospital blue scrubs with purple gloves is caring a huge clear plastic box marked Bio Hazard.  I can see baggies of organs in there.  Fuck…doesn’t this place have a back door. I know they do, because patients are coming in from the back just as fast as they are in the front. By now, it is so crowded you would have thought the place was selling the new Apple IPod…but from the look of the clientele….none could afford one.

“I am hungry and have to pee.” my mom announces.  “Too bad.” I snarl back staring inches above the heads of the weirdos sitting across from me. “You are in the ER maze now…you put yourself here and here is where you will stay.”  This is a place that normal people should not have to face. Only people that are trained and experienced in these types of matters should endure this pandemonium.

It is high noon. the doors open…”Jones.” the nurse calls out my heart sinks a bit lower than my downward dog of hours ago. 10 minutes later a tiny woman who is nearly whispering “Preece” on the other side of the room.  I barely hear it…but I do.  “Here!”  I shout as I jump up nearly spilling my purse onto the tainted tile.  She doesn’t have a room…but a gurney in the hall.  We will take it.  The wheeled mattress is behind the huge doors, the doors of my freedom.

I help get her settled and let the hospital do their do. She was admitted for the night. She is now the one with a Divine Awaking tomorrow morning.  Not me.