Tuesday, February 16, 2010

on getting older ...

A few days ago, I left 60 behind forever! I have to say that 60 has been a good year... not as good as 26 but as far as years go, this has been a great one. May I take a few moments to highlight the highlights. :-)

It all began with a bunch of friends and family showing up for my 60th b'day party, with all the mandatory rude gifts to remind me that I was no longer in my 20's. Janaya had contacted a bunch of my friends and put together a book, with photos from my past, and memoirs and well wishes from many of them. A few days ago, I re-read that book from front to back and re-lived many cherished moments... including the overwhelming feelings I had when I first received the book itself almost a year ago. Thanks to everyone who took the time to say a few words and special thanks to Janaya for the huge amount of work it took to coordinate it all.

A year ago, our house had been up for sale for 4 months without a bite, but finally, in May, after 10 garage sales, countless trips to the recycle, restore, storage unit, and the dump, we completed the sale of our home and nearly everything we have ever owned. We handed our keys to the new owners and drove out of the driveway with barely a glance back. We loved our home, but it was now time for a new chapter in our life story. We were headed into unknown territory. The "adventure" potential invigorated me... Winona? Well not so much...

For the first time in our lives, we were "homeless". I'm sure Winona was worried about what life on the street living in a cardboard box would be like, but gratefully our friends and family pulled through. We had "booked" enough timeshare time with gaps being filled-in by friends who kindly opened their homes to us, that we were all set... at least for the next few weeks and at least as far east as Salt Lake City.

(oh, yeah.. .this was supposed to be just the highlights... I'll try to keep this short...!)

OK. The highlights...

Since June 2nd, 2010:

Nanaimo, BC - John & Susan Russell
West Vancouver BC - Jon & Mary Elton
Vancouver, WA - Richard & Kathy Krikava (visited with David, Shamaine, & **Hayden**)
Orem, UT - John & Linda Livingston
Salt Lake City, UT - Lived across the street from Temple Square and the Tabernacle Choir for a week!
Vail, Colorado.
Lunch in Leadville CO. Highest point ever in our car.. nearly 11,000 feet

drove across Kansas to:
Branson, Missouri - our first ever experience at 105 degree F temperatures and 87% humidity! (except in a Sauna!)
JUN 27 - arrived at Janaya's house in Springfield Virginia.

Thank heaven for our GPS that navigated us across the USA and through Washington DC turnpikes and to our daughter's front door with our marriage intact!

JUL 4 - Independence Day celebrations in Washington DC... how cool is that!
Baltimore, MD
NEW YORK CITY - The Big Apple - guided through New York's rail and subway system by an "angel" who carried a guitar and worked for Microsoft. World Trade Center/Ground Zero. Fell in love with Central Park, Supper on Times Square, Statton Island Ferry, Times Square again.. this time at night, Broadway, got back to Hotel at 2AM
Cape Cod
Martha's Vineyard

JUL 17 - Winona's Birthday - Received our Mission Call to Micronesia, leaving in November

Plymouth Plantation - Lobster Dinner at Isaac's, Plymouth Rock, Mayflower
Boston, MA
Stowe, Vermont - von Trapp family chateau (Yes, "the Sound of Music" von Trapps!)
Montreal, QC (Corinne & Kurt's Cottage, actually)
Montreal - renewed our Passports (picked them up two hours later!)
Quebec City. Loved Quebec City. No need to take Winona to France now! Suddenly like being "beamed" into Europe. (Discovered the value of Priceline - "Name Your Own Price!")
B&B in Fredericton NB... Winona's first area on her first mission. Ran out of gas across the street from a gas station that refused to help us. Bought a gas can and enough gas to get us to the next station! (oh yeah, "highlights!")
Cardigan, Prince Edward Island - Fred & Mary deVries... best Lobster dinner ever! Got to operate an excavator! Ripped a tree out by its roots! (I meant to do that!)
Philip River, NS. Near Amherst Nova Scotia - Janice and Dean Tolley.
Visited Halifax, Tatamagooch, New Glasgow, and Stellarton

began our return west:

St Johns, NB
Freeport, Maine
Back to Boston, MA
Hartford, Connecticut
Washington, DC - to the top of the Washington Monument.
Springfield, VA
Williamsburg, VA
Massanuttan Resort, Harrisonburg, VA (3 weeks -- longest time in one place since we became homeless :-)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dayton, Ohio
Nauvoo, Illinois
North Platte
Snowbird, UT
Benton City, WA (David & Shamaine had moved here since we began this trek)
OCT 8th... back in Nanaimo (Parksville actually) at Pacific Shores
OCT 31 ... Orem, Utah (John & Linda, Drew & Joanne Cahoon, Randy & Nancy Miller)
NOV 2nd - Mission Training Center, Provo, Utah

And I became truly "amazed" this year as we became intimately involved with the workings of our GPS. Not only did take us directly to our destinations, it told us where to find the nearest buffet restaurants (oooh ... bad idea on an extended car trip), the nearest gas stations, rest stops etc, as well as keeping us out of high traffic areas, toll roads, and toll bridges, it also told us where to find the nearest LDS Churches, gave us contact numbers and called them for us so we could get meeting times. As we travelled across the continent, we read (actually the GPS read to us)... the following audiobooks: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", "Huckleberry Finn", "Amish Grace", "Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent", "Confessions of an Economic Hitman", "Catch Me if You Can". I have NEVER before read 6 books in one year in my life. This was a new record for me... 25,000 kilometers and 6 books in 5 months.

I kept saying to Winona how much my Dad would have LOVED a GPS! I loved it... and the technology never ceased to amaze me.

So essentially, I've travelled more, and read more this year than ever before.

George Carlin's views on aging:

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions. "How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. "How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!

And then the greatest day of your life! You BECOME 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!! But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling.

What's wrong? What's changed? You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40, Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50, and your dreams are gone... But! wait!! ! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50, and MAKE IT to 60... You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70!

After that, it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday! You get into your 80's, and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch, you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I was JUST 90".

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
- courtesy of Jon' Gems (Jon Elton)

Suddenly, I'm 61 and feeling young again!
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Week in Guam

View from our room at the Hilton Hotel in Guam
Missions weren't like this when I was 19!

We were in Guam Jan 17th -23rd for couples conference. What a great experience with all the other couples. We loved it! But, we actually experienced a little culture shock going back to Guam, because the pace of life is much more hurried, the drivers are not as courteous as they are in Yap, and many of the skirts in Guam are ridiculously short. I hadn't realized how modestly the girls here in Yap actually dress until we were in Guam and saw so many that were obviously trying to draw attention to themselves... something you just don't experience in Yap. Inspite of the few who dress "traditionally", they certainly don't do it to draw attention to themselves, and no one wears skirts with hemlines above the knees and no one wears short shorts.

While in Guam we ate like kings. We thought we were in heaven until Winona made the mistake of weighing herself and she had gained 5 lbs in just the first few days. Personally, I couldn't bring myself to climb onto the scale... It was obviously defective, and I was too busy trying to decide which restaurant to try next. Actually, we settled on Ruby Tuesday most often, because the prices were good, and they had a great salad bar. Favorite dessert of the week had to be the one pictured below at the Jamaica Grill... Most everyone else in the group had an entree that included a small plate of fruit for dessert. However mine didn't... so as the waitress listed the available desserts for me, a "roasted banana" sounded like an innocent enough treat. However, as the dessert made its way toward my table, I noticed that people stopped talking and turned to see this monster pass them by. Cameras were flashing, and an audible buzz filled the restaurant. People were obviously anxious to discover who had had the nerve to order this thing! I had no idea it would feed a family... but hey! What could I do? I am so glad they snapped this picture quickly, because it looks to me like Winona was ready to dive in head first!

Roasted Banana
Hey, it sounded healthy!

We can tell that we are beginning to adjust to the humidity and heat, but have to admit that the hot showers, and cool breezes in Guam felt awfully good. However, Yap is feeling like home. We do use the air conditioning, but have raised the temperature for them to only kick in above 25 degrees Celsius. Yesterday, we tried going all day without the A/C, and were successful until we got back in the evening and couldn't bring ourselves to climb into a damp bed. Some things are worth paying extra for... so the A/C came on so we could get a comfortable sleep.

The people here are so pleasant, everyone waves, everyone is willing to talk with us, tho' no one is willing to say much. The members are beginning to laugh at my jokes, and the branch president (President Bamlul) makes an easy target for me to abuse in all my talks... :-). He and his wife were over last night for a visit, and as customary in Yapese homes, they sat on the tile floor in our living room as we visited for a couple of hours. Smoothies are new to them, so I made them a chocolate banana and coconut smoothie, which was a big hit. I love making smoothies here, because the coconut milk makes them nice and thick.. without the need for ice cream.

We are having a lot of fun. We have figured out which stores carry what, at the best price... when the ships come in, and which cashiers smile at us, and which don't. We have made a project of trying to get a smile out of every cashier, and that helps make shopping a lot of fun.

Saturday night was a full moon... I know, it happens every month, and it happens all over the world!.. but in Yap, when the full moon comes out, so do the land crabs! We had heard about this event, but hadn't yet participated... nor were we sure quite what to expect. All we knew was... "free crab!" We had heard you needed a stick, a flashlight and a sack... I figured the stick was to whack the crabs as they tried to chop your toes off, the sack was for gathering up body parts that got nipped off in any ensuing battles, and the flashlight was so you could find fingers and toes in the dark. This sounded way more fun than simply dropping a crab trap in the ocean and waiting for an hour or two, so off we went into the moonlight ready for a new adventure.

We had heard that at certain times of the year, the crabs come out in such numbers that you can literally drive down the road in the dark and scoop them into a bucket as you drive. Well, we drove for miles and are disappointed to report that this is not the time of the year for that... However, we finally ended up outside the Elder's apartment in Thol near the North end of the Island. We got there just in time to see them and some of the locals coming back from their crabbing adventure with a couple of buckets of crabs. They proudly showed us their catch, and we got totally grossed out as the locals showed us how to prep them for cooking. I know we have a few vegetarian readers on our blog, so I'll leave out the graphic details, but lets just say that tossing a live crab into a bucket of boiling water seems much more humaine than what goes on down here.

Once in a while a crab would escape from their grasp as the "cooks" were trying to rip their legs off (oops.. sorry, did I say that?) and would cause a mad scramble as the loose crab would scurry around our feet. Nothing slow moving about these guys, and they do have nasty pincers...

We were lamenting the fact that we had essentially missed the party and were going to be heading home without having captured any crabs of our own.. or even seeing someone else do it... However, the moon was shining brightly and I decided to get a look at the moonlight sparkling across the ocean. It was a very romantic thought...

As I walked toward the shore from the place where everyone had gathered, I suddenly sensed the rapid movement of spider like creatures the size of a 'roasted banana' dessert plate scurrying across my path. I hollered, "I've got one!"... which was I lie. I wasn't anywhere near actually "getting" one! I had no idea what to do except to take frequent inventory of how many fingers were still on my hand.

Luckily, a 12 year old boy name "TJ" heard me holler, and came to my rescue ...er... he came to help me capture one! TJ was amazing, within seconds, he had cornered one for me, and we headed back to the gathering place to proudly show our capture. We then headed back the same direction and captured two more. By now, we had the interest of another 12 year old, who had developed his own hunting style and was apparently an expert at capturing "Mangrove" crabs... which truly will chop your fingers off. It was a sight to behold. TJ felt we were waisting our time running back and forth to the cooler, so he decided to go get the cooler and bring it to where the crabs were. Minutes later he showed up carrying our full sized Coleman cooler on his back, and began ripping legs off our captured crabs and tossing them into our cooler. I offered to help carry the cooler as we continued our hunt, but he insisted on carrying the cooler on his own... So here we have this little 12 year old boy (not much more than 3' tall and certainly not any more than 60 lbs) carrying a cooler that is almost as big as he is, and is easily large enough to carry 50 crabs ... running through the jungle lit only by the moonlight, barefoot, tossing crab parts into a cooler that he is carrying on his head sometimes, and on his back others... and Winona and I following along with our flashlights feeling quite safe with these two twelve-year olds there to 'protect' us.

We got home that night quite satisfied that we had had an adventure that few others would ever experience... and we do look forward to that time of year when you literally can't drive down the road during a full moon without running over herds of these things! We stayed up until 1:00am cooking our catch. Tonight, we are making sushi... with real crabmeat...