Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weekend in Florida

I just spent one of the best weekends ever - with my aunt and cousin at their beach house in Treasure Island, Florida. I took Friday and Monday off from work, flew in to Tampa on Friday, and back home Monday afternoon. 3 nights and 2 1/2 days of fun and joy.

My cousin Nik met me at the airport and we zipped off back to Treasure Island, one of the fantastic Gulf coast beach communities in the Tampa Bay area. Treasure Island boasts the most beautiful sunsets imaginable and seduces visitors with the world's best beaches - with white-capped sand, pristine waters and a gentle bay breeze. It is truly a paradise to behold.

This was my first visit to Treasure Island - my aunt and uncle have owned the beach house there for close to 30 years. It's actually a mini compound - the property sits just 100 feet or so from the beach, and consists of 2 buildings - the front building faces Gulf Blvd, which is the main drag of Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and some other communities. The front building is two stories, a 1 bedroom apartment on the bottom and a studio apartment above. The back building faces the beach and has a 2 bedroom apartment upstairs over a 2 car garage. In between the two buildings is a large and lovely patio area. My cousin lives in the 2 bedroom flat, my aunt in the 1 bedroom, and they rent out the studio. It's a wonderful property - close to all the restaurants and bars, right on the beach and central to the coastal communities. I'm sold, truth be told. I'd love to find some similar type of property. It's a great place to get away to, and live there full time as well.

Anyway, it was a lovely couple of days. Great seafood at a couple of local restaurants - a gorgeous sunset that delivered on its promise, an awesome Harley ride with my cousin, a sun-filled afternoon on the beach with my aunt, early morning walks on the beach, running errands and doing chores around the property - lots of laughter, quiet talks, ocean breezes, icy margaritas, and an amazing cacophony of birds.

Here's some pics.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Uncle Paul

When I wrote my update the other day, I intentionally omitted a significant fact - my Uncle Paul passed away in January - he lived a really long and great life but his passing has left a big void in my family's life. I wanted to write a post-eulogy for my uncle - and here it is:

Growing up, I didn't see too much of my uncle, nor my aunt and my 3 cousins - both of our families were in the military so we were all moving around to different places at different times - and ultimately, when both my dad and my uncle retired - we settled in different parts of the country - my family in California and my uncle's in Illinois.

I got to know Uncle Paul in a new and wonderful way when I spent a month one summer during high school at their home in Kansas City. My boyfriend had just died and so my parents sent me off to spend part of the summer with my cousins in K.C. I'm not sure they or I knew how to deal with this untimely and devastating situation. Anyway, besides spending time with my middle cousin, who was the same age as me, I had many an afternoon conversation with Uncle Paul, upon his return from wherever it was he was during the day. We would sit at the kitchen table and he'd be puffing away on one of his Chesterfield cigarettes and he'd opine about many a varied thing. He fascinated me beyond belief! Here was a man, not unlike my own father, but who seemed to know almost as MUCH as my father! How could that be?!!!

Then, there was the DeLorean. Did I spell that right? Uncle Paul had one of those "Back To The Future" cars!!! That was so awesome!! Score major points for the Uncle. My dad had a Toyota Crown station wagon......

As I grew up, and began raising my own child, over the years there were more, albeit shorter, visits "back east" to the Goldberg family. My uncle always had a good joke or two or seventy five to tell and I could always count on feeling better after spending just 5 minutes with him.

Perhaps my most treasured memory of my Uncle Paul was a moderately long car drive with him when I made a visit to Georgia about 10-12 years ago. My mom and I had flown to Georgia to visit some relatives and my aunt and uncle had met up with us. If I recall correctly, there were 2 cars and my aunt and mom were in one car, and I decided to ride with my uncle - we drove from Lyons to Augusta. It was probably the very first (and only) time I ever had 100% 1-on-1 time with him. We talked about many many things - nothing too terribly important, but he was relaxed and his jokester demeanor disappeared and I just had this amazing conversation and experience with him. What I discovered behind the man with the 1,000 jokes was a compassionate, caring, intelligent, introspective thinker. His command of the English language was astounding. He was like a freakin' walking dictionary! There wasn't a word he didn't know the meaning of. And you can believe I tested him! That car ride was one of the best, ever. I remember looking over at him sideways at one point, and thinking to myself - wow, this man, with his scratchy face with deeply etched lines is a portrait of a man with a lifetime of experiences who is sharing some of them with me. I felt really special, and really proud, to be his niece.

Rest in peace Unkie. I love you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 and counting

My daughter noted in her blog post today that it was 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days until her wedding. When I read that it made me think - gee, it's probably been 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days since my last blog post.....better get with the program....

I admit it, I've just been plain lazy. It is a recurring theme in my techno-life. I get on a roll and accomplish all this stuff, and then I have what seems to be a forced-induced relapse and recede back to lazy-land for awhile. Ah well, whatever.

Even though it's been a few months - I have to say here that I had an absolutely fabulous time in Israel. From start to finish, it was downright perfect! The only thing that could have made it better would be that I could have stayed for longer. But other than that - spending time with Sam and Ari, meeting and falling head over heels in love with their dog Jack - was the best part of my trip, even though we spent 3 fantastic days and nights in Cairo (who knew that just a few weeks later Cairo - and Egypt, would be changed forever).

Highlights of my trip:

(1) witnessing a very heated exchange at the meat counter in the local market between the butchers and a customer who was beyond annoyed at the length of time to wait for service and who was convinced that the butchers were unfairly serving people who were behind her in line, first. I was incredibly bemused by the whole thing, because, it was all in Hebrew and I understood very few words, but the meaning was quite clear!!!

(2) taking Jack for daily walks around the neighborhood, while Sam and Ari were at work.

(3) seeing the pyramids in Cairo - staying at the divine Sofitel Hotel on the River Nile - seeing King Tut's gold mask at the Egyptian Museum

(4) hanging out with Sam and Ari - I miss Sam so much and it was such a gift to be able to spend some good quality time with her - just doing mundane things - cooking, grocery shopping, watching our fav shows online, going for walks with Jack, etc. Getting to know Ari better, and meeting his family - one thing I really enjoy is talking with Ari about all things Israel and the Middle East - I appreciate hearing points of view from a native. Of course, Sam has taught me a lot, so between the two of them, I've gained a deeper understanding of the history and politics of the region.

Okay, on to the holidays - returning home from Israel on the 13th left little time for Christmas preparation - thankfully, my folks decided to come spend the holiday with me in Roseville, rather than me go to Carmel. That was a huge timesaver for me - it allowed me to spend more time with them instead of 2 days on the road - and I got to cook for them in my own kitchen! Everyone was tired, so we stayed in and spent the time quietly. My mom, especially, was totally exhausted from her recent work commitments, so it was nice to see her be able to relax, far from the phones and kit boxes needing replenishment - at my house, there was nothing for her to do other than eat, sleep, watch some movies, read magazines and enjoy a few bottles of good wine with me! I think she really appreciated the time away.

Work has been pretty steadily busy - always something on my desk that needs immediate attention - and with 5 employees to manage - I always seem to be one step away from disaster - or being behind!! But I seem to have finally found my groove, in a word, and the days just fly by for the most part.

I've been maintaining a very diligent exercise schedule since September - actually - I've been walking 10-15 miles a week pretty regularly for about 9 months now - but in September I added extra cardio and strength training work - for the first month I did a program for 30 days in a row - lost 6 pounds and firmed up quite a bit - and now I maintain that work 3-4 days per week. I've lost a few more pounds which brings me within about 8 pounds of my goal weight. I'm keeping to a mostly vegan diet - so I'm not sure what more I can do in terms of improving my overall health from the eating perspective.

3 weeks ago I moved - again!!! As part of my overall life-downsizing goals, I reduced my monthly housing rent by a whopping $500 per month - yay me! But in so doing, I also reduced my home size from 1800 square feet to 900, 4 beds/2 baths to 2 beds/1 bath, 2-car garage to no garage. I do have a basement, but access is a tad challenging. I moved from cookie-cutter housing development neighborhood to Old Town Roseville, and my new home is one of those 80+ year old bungalow type homes, with a nice covered front porch and a 2 block walk to town. I hear the trains day and night, and the hustle bustle of traffic, but I really love it! I think the move was a wise one, in all ways. I finally got the rest of my stuff put away this weekend, so now the house is "guest-worthy." It's a tight fit in the bedrooms, with narrow walk-around challenges, and I'm not big on having Summer's litter box on the floor next to my toilet in my one bathroom, but hey, it is what it is.

Molly continues to defy all odds and is doing well at her doggy day care, as well as at home. She had some gastric issues last month, but she rallied and has returned to her daily schedule. She seems to enjoy the new house - especially hanging out on the front porch or lawn on the weekends and watching the people go by. Summer is very interested in the new house - she meows at the front door screen to have me let her out onto the porch - and she really enjoys sitting on my bed during the mornings looking out my window at the world. The older she gets the more "normal" cat she acts - she's so much more loving and calm than ever before. Such a funny bunny.

Well, that's it - I'm caught up. This week I've got to do my wedding job - mail the invitations out. Sam wants them in the mail 8 weeks before the wedding - so I've still got some time, but if you know Sam, you know that she's asking me nearly every day - "so Mom, how's those invitations coming" Ha ha!!! A chip off the old block.

Here's a few pics from my trip to Israel - I did post a bunch on my kodak gallery site - but here's a couple of my favs. The last one is a pic of my new house.