Living a Royal Life, Part 3 of 3

Every Day is an Adventure, Living a Royal Life, My Humble Opinion, Royal Ramblings!, Travel and Adventure, Uncategorized
Living a Royal Life. What does that mean to you? for me it includes travel, lots of fun, delicious food and time with my man! My Royal Life may not be YOUR Royal Life! That's OK!

Living a Royal Life. What does that mean to you? for me it includes travel, lots of fun, delicious food and time with my man! My Royal Life may not be YOUR Royal Life! That’s OK!

Living a Royal Life

I have previously released 2 videos in this series. This is part 3 of 3.

Are you living you best life? If your life isn’t all that you want, and you feel like you are leading a mediocre life — what do you need to do to improve it?

This video gives you some moresteps to help you lead your best life.  You must first decide that you DESERVE to lead a “Royal Life.” No one else is going to give you the perfect life.  No one else can decide what your perfect life even IS!

If you want to improve your life, expand your tribe, add to your bucket list and make each day better than the last!

Here are your steps to you holding your head up high, wearing your tiara and learning that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. Once you learn to “do you” and are comfortable in your skin, other people’s opinions don’t matter.

I hope you enjoy this video, and if you do —- share it with a friend who might also like to Live a Royal Life!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to both my blog and my Youtube channel, so that you don’t miss any of the upcoming series and other fun and fabulous articles, events and adventures!

 

Not Just Another “Pretty Face”

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Mary Jane Wilkerson as Ms. Senior California 2017

Mary Jane Wilkerson as Ms. Senior California 2017

Age Has Nothing To Do With Beauty!

Why does our society push the theory that when women age they aren’t beautiful any longer? There are a group of amazing women who are proving that theory to be completely wrong! Mary Jane Wilkerson is one of those women.

When you first meet Mary Jane Wilkerson you will be greeted by a slender, attractive and poised 63 year old blonde, with a genuine smile that lights up a room. If you were told that  MJ has held the title of “beauty queen” more than once, you probably wouldn’t be too terribly surprised.

The part of the story that might surprise you a bit, is that her titles in the pageants  came in 2016 and 2017!  MJ was Ms. Senior San Diego 2016, Ms. Senior Palm Springs 2017, and Ms. Senior California of America 2017. As the title holder for Ms. Senior California, Mary Jane also competed in the National Ms. Senior America competition held in New Jersey, October 2017.

Meeting Another “Queen”

Our paths first crossed when we somehow connected through facebook a few short months ago. One of those “friend” connections that sometimes happen, because you have mutual friends, and a particular post catches your eye.  The one that caught my eye was MJ holding a coffee cup, which said “It’s Good to be Queen.” Well, needless to say, as The Queen of Damn Near Everything I NOTICE when there is other “royalty” present!

MJ definitely falls into the category of “royalty.”

This is the picture I saw on Facebook that drew my attention to MJ! I have the same cup in pink! I had to see what this "Queen" was all about!

This is the picture I saw on Facebook that drew my attention to MJ! I have the same cup in pink! I had to see what this “Queen” was all about! ( A girl has to know who else is rockin’ a tiara like MJ does!)

I wasn’t really very aware that “Ms. Senior” competitions existed until a few years ago. When I did hear about them, I told my cohort in crime……. Stella that she should compete! I’m of the personal opinion that there are few- if any- other 73 year olds who could begin to hold a candle to Stella.  That was about as far as my knowledge of the competitions went!

Then MJ crossed my path, and I wanted to know more.  I noticed on Mary Jane’s page that there was going to be the pageant for Ms. Senior California 2018. That would be MJ’s last event a reigning “queen,” so I asked when and where it was being held, and off I went.

All “Beauty Queens” Are Not Barbie Dolls!

Contestants in the “Ms. Senior” competitions must be 60 years or older.. The competition is FAR more than a “beauty contest”- as the contestants are judged on talent, an intensive interview with the judges and their poise on the stage. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the competition to see that the 2018 contestants weren’t all skinny-minny, perfect Barbie Doll types who had had numerous plastic surgery and botox procedures to form them into the perfect woman.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see women of different sizes, shapes, ethnic groups and styles! Gray hair wasn’t forbidden, nor were a few well earned laugh lines and “wisdom wrinkles!”

I was very impressed with the level of talent the women showed, although not really surprised.  When I arrived, I noticed a number of familiar faces, both on stage and in the crowd.  I had seen many of them perform over the past few years in CCT (Christian Community Theater) at the San Diego Senior Follies. Singing, dancing, performing and being on stage isn’t new to any of those women!

I must say, I am envious of their talents, because I can’t carry a tune if I had 6 buckets lined up to do so!

Those of you who know me, know I absolutely LOVE long gowns, sparkle and bling! There was no shortage of any of that at the Ms. Senior California pageant in San Diego!

Finding the venue was quite a challenge, let me tell you.  It was at The University of San Diego in one of the theaters, but finding that, once you were on campus just about took a group of Eagle Scouts or world explorers! There were no signs or anything to direct you to the right building.  Lucky for us, we had left plenty of time to figure out the details, so we were in our seats long before the event kicked off!

After the festivities of the pageant, I asked Mary Jane if we could meet one day soon for lunch, and if she would share some of her experiences with being a senior beauty pageant winner.  She was more than willing, so we decided to meet for a delicious lunch at Red O in the UTC area.

This is the day I met MJ. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best photo. MJ was back in the shadows and it looks like I"m with a cardboard cutout!

This is the day I met MJ. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best photo. MJ was back in the shadows and it looks like I”m with a cardboard cutout!

MJ Took Charge of Her Life & Health

Mary Jane, who is a health and wellness coach with OPTAVIA, shared with me her story of having lost almost 60 pounds a few years ago. Her husband, Allen, lost 40 at the same time.  MJ’s story wasn’t that different from many of ours.  After being very physically active for most of her life, MJ took a job in the mortgage industry.  Long work days sitting in front of a computer, along with the “grab and eat” lifestyle that goes along with those long work days resulted in a few pounds here, a few pounds there, until WHAM, suddenly that body doesn’t quite look like you want it too.  When MJ’s daughter was going to get married, she wanted to lose weight in the 6 months she had, but she didn’t seem able to trim down. So, she attended her daughter’s wedding an unhappy size 16.  MJ’s stepdaughter had suggested (many times) she get on the “Take Shape for Life” program (OPTAVIA’s  former name), but it was a while before she jumped on board, and found it to be the perfect solution to not only lose weight, but to get in the best shape she’d been in in years.  That is how Mary Jane became a Health and Wellness coach, wanting to share with others the success she had found in her journey.

So, now slim, trim and in fighting shape, MJ was one of the talented women in Christian Community Theater, entertaining audiences every year at the SD Senior follies.  Many of the women involved in CCT had also been contestants (and winners) of previous Ms. Senior competitions, and encouraged Mary Jane to compete, so finally she decided to give it a try. After all, as she said to me “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”

MJ at one of the pageants. (I'm so jealous of all the sparkley gowns!)

MJ at one of the pageants. (I’m so jealous of all the gorgeous gowns!)

Her first competition was Ms. Senior San Diego 2016. She competed in the State pageant that year and took First Runner-up. Then she competed again, this time in  in Ms. Senior Palm Springs 2017, where she won. And once more competed in the State pageant, where she was crowned, Ms. Senior California of America 2017.

When I asked MJ if there was any of the horrible cattiness and back-biting that you hear about in beauty pageants, she said no.  In fact, she described the all the pageant ladies as “Lovely”, especially at the National Senior America pageant as one of her favorite experiences ever.  She said that the women she met on the national level are what she would consider, “friends for life.”  Accomplished, friendly, beautiful and amazingly talented women. True “Women of Elegance” in her words.

This is a picture that was taken at the National Competition, where MJ met so many wonderful and amazing women!

This is a picture that was taken at the National Competition, where MJ met so many wonderful and amazing women!

MJ did say there was more work to all of it than you might imagine.  Needing to come up with new ideas for the opportunities to perform, and the pageant activities take time. When you win the pageants, there are appearances which have to be made at area events, TV interviews and travel. There is also a performing group the pageant contestants in California  become a part of called the Classic Divas, and they put on performances throughout the year.

Of course for me, the BIG attraction to becoming “Ms. Senior Anything”  would be the wearing of tiaras. I am all about wearing a nice tiara!  I truly believe that “every woman deserves a tiara” and I happen to be the proud owner of a number of them! And then there is yet another excuse for wearing a long gown.  Hell, I’d wear a tiara and evening gown to the grocery store and car wash if they wouldn’t bring the guys in funny white jackets to take me away! (The voluntary wearing of Tee-shirts and jeans by any woman is beyond my comprehension! Give me heels, dresses, bling and I’m happy!)

Mary Jane did share with me that her business suffered due to her time away during 2016 and 2017, so she is now rebuilding it back up to “pre-pageant” numbers she previously had. You can’t take on coaching clients if you aren’t around to do the coaching! I have no doubt that MJ will be right back up to speed in no time. I love one of her quotes, “The Power to Choose is the Power to CHANGE, so Choose to be Extraordinary!”

I truly believe that we can choose to change our lives for the better, one step at a time, until we are leading what I call “a royal life.”  I was pleased to find that Mary Jane and I held the same views on what women can accomplish.

Family Values Are Top Priority

Mary Jane and her handsome husband of 15 years! Don't they make a handsome couple?

Mary Jane and her handsome husband Allen. Married 15 years! Don’t they make a handsome couple?    ( I’m loving the sequin dress!)

Often, people look at a woman who have held a position like those MJ just had, and think they are shallow, conceited or unapproachable.  Mary Jane is just the opposite of all those things.  Besides her warmth and compassion, which is obvious from the moment you meet her, MJ is a person of strong Christian beliefs and values.  Her husband, her family and her friends are her top priorities, followed by her strong ties to the community. MJ is one of the people who makes San Diego a better place by her presence here. Who would make a better “face of San Diego” than a woman like Mary Jane?

Besides building her business back up, and speaking at numerous events in the area,  Mary Jane has recently started a new endeavor, along with two other former Ms. Senior California winners. They have a group called the “California Girls” and are performing throughout San Diego county at events. They love going into senior retirement communities, women’s functions and anywhere their talents might be needed.

The California Girls at one of their recent performances.

The California Girls at one of their recent performances.

You can find more information about the California Girls at www.BollesArtsInternational.com or call 619-807-3280. Find MJ and the “California Girls- Singing and Dancing on Facebook and “Like” their page! (https://www.facebook.com/California-Girls-Singing-Dancing-Entertainment-311668412734634/)

Living A Royal Life, Part 2 of 3

Adventures With Attitude!, Every Day is an Adventure, Fabulous After 50, My Humble Opinion, Royal Ramblings!

Living a Royal Life

A few weeks ago I published the first video in a series of 3 videos on how to Live a Royal Life.

This is part 2 of 3.

If your life isn’t all that you want, and you feel like you are leading a mediocre life — what do you need to do to improve it?

This video gives you some steps to help you lead your best life.  No one else is going to give you the perfect life.  You need to do what it takes to make the happiness in your life happen.

Here are your steps to you holding your head up high, wearing your tiara and learning that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. Once you learn to “do you” and are comfortable in your skin, other people’s opinions don’t matter.

I hope you enjoy this video, and if you do —- share it with a friend who might also like to Live a Royal Life!

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to both my blog and my Youtube channel, so that you don’t miss any of the upcoming series and other fun and fabulous articles, events and adventures!

No Plain Jane………

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Close up of mom at her Open House Reception. I still keep this picture up to this day- almost 40 years later. Who would think it would be the last time she would sit on that chaise lounge?

Close up of mom at her Open House Reception. I still keep this picture in my home to this day- almost 40 years later. Who would think it would be the last time she would sit on that chaise lounge? My mom really understood that life is short, and made each day count!

Life…Is…Short!

I had intended to write this article and publish it for Mother’s Day this year…….. But alas, we were wrapped up in travel plans, then travel for most of April, and the thought, the time, and the writing never took place…….

I could wait until next Mother’s Day, and release it then… but if you know me, you know my saying… “You never know when they are going to call in your chips.”  Hell, we don’t know what tomorrow brings, so you’ve got to do things today. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

You may think that is a morbid way to live, but it’s just the opposite.  I do more, accomplish more, enjoy more and live more than many people combined. Why?  Perhaps it’s because I know how short life can be.  I have now outlived my own mother by 3 years. LIFE…IS…SHORT!  I never want to look back and say “I should have.” “I could have.” Or “I wish I had.”

I believe FULLY in taking life by the tail and getting the most out of it EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I often have people look at my schedule and ask me if I ever sleep.  Often, when I have exciting things to do, a lot on my plate and a busy schedule, honestly—— I don’t sleep much.  I can go weeks on end with 3 or 4 hours sleep.  I figure that at some point I’m going to have an extremely long time to sleep… as in eternity…. so I’ll catch up on it then!  For me, typically, every day is a busy day.  That’s how I love to live my life. After all—-as I said previously—- you never know when they are going to call in your chips!

A few months ago, in sorting through some things after our move, I came across a photo album I keep with mementos about my mom. Jane Clark. Her birth name had actually been Jane Hatheway, until she married my father at the ripe old age of 18. To say my parents had a tumultuous relationship would be putting it kindly! YIKES- those two fought like I’ve never seen anyone fight……. (But that’s another story for another day.  Getting married at 18 probably isn’t the #1 best idea in life either….)

My mom died when I was 22, after fighting cancer for about 8 1/2 years.  I remember when she came home one afternoon, while I was in Jr. High and told me the doctors had told her she had cancer, and only had a few months to live.  Of course, my first thought was “what happens to me?”  (Thank you teen age years for putting myself before everyone else!)

A Long and Difficult Battle….

That is when the fight began. Mom began a long, difficult and painful fight with cancer. The cancer she started out with wasn’t the cancer that ultimately killed her.  She was originally diagnosed with Lymphoma, but she picked up a second cancer, Leukemia, along the way, and that was the eventual ending battle of  her life.

Throughout those last years though, my mom helped SO many others in their last stages of life.  38 years ago, hospice wasn’t allowed into hospitals. Dying was treated differently.  We had to “buck up” and take care of one another.  No matter how sick she was herself, my mom was right there, making certain that WHATEVER her friends needed in their last days, they got it!

For one friend, it was important that she had some nice lingerie and a sexy nightie.  Jane provided those things. Some may have thought that at that stage of the game lingerie and nighties weren’t important.  She didn’t question it.  It was her friends’ desire, and that was all Jane needed to know. For another friend, it might be a specific dish they wanted to eat before they died. She made sure they got it, even if she had to sneak it into the hospital.  There comes a time when needs are far more than “medical.” Those needs are often more important than the medicines, the treatments or the “rules.”

The “Dress Rehearsal”

This was my mom at her Open House Reception. She went into the hospital the next day for the last time.

This was my mom at her Open House Reception. She went into the hospital the next day for the last time.

My mom had been in and out of the hospital so many times in the 8 plus years that I couldn’t even begin to count them.  In October 1979 I went on a last minute 1 week trip to Hawaii. While I was gone my sisters told me that they were giving an open house for my mom the day after I returned from the trip.  I wondered why they couldn’t just wait a week, so that I could help more with it. My mom insisted that it happen THAT Sunday. She went in the hospital the day after the party and never came back out.  SHE KNEW it had to happen then, or it never would.

When the end was near for our mom, we wanted to make sure someone was with her all the time so she didn’t die alone.  One of us always spent the night at the hospital for the last few months she was there.

My mom longed to see a local hospice in the area – which could help people like her in their last days.  I remember attending talks by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross with my mom, learning about the 5 stages of death, and what other countries were doing for their dying. Kubler-Ross was a pioneer in the hospice movement in the United States back in the ’70’s.  Our country was, and still is so far behind how other countries deal with death and dying.

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had. “ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Because of my mom’s frustration with the lack of hospice care, she started the ball rolling to get a local hospice formed.  After my mom’s death, my two sisters and I helped to bring to fruition a hospice to the Fox Valley. That hospice served my dad a number of years later when he died.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree…

 It’s often said by people that knew my mom that I’m a lot like her. Jane was a talker………. (sound familiar?)  Oh, she could talk!  And you always knew where you stood with my mom. She didn’t beat around the bush………… and this app;e didn’t fall far from THAT tree!  My mom would do anything for anyone, but cross her, and watch out! She would do WHATEVER it took to make things right!  If there was YELP in her day, Jane would have had 2,000 reviews on it, I’m sure! I’m my mom’s daughter there!  I’ll help the underdog any way I can, and when things aren’t right, I’ll let WHOEVER needs to know, until things are made right.

In the album of mementos I have poems and stories written about her.  Reading them, I thought how great it would be to write an article about her. And of course, Mother’s Day would have been a fabulous time to publish it.  Or perhaps her birthday, which is September 16th…. or perhaps, just whenever I get around to getting the damn thing done… Yes. That’s probably EXACTLY when I’ll get it out.  Whenever it is finished. Because THAT is the kind of organized I am.

No Plain Jane

In the memento book is a poem. I have no idea who wrote it, or if it was, indeed, written expressly about my mom. In trying to find it on Google, I can’t, so I assume someone wrote it about my mom. Sorry I can’t attribute it to the right person! Here goes:

No Plain Jane

I know a Jane,

Who isn’t plain

As any heart should see…

She’s more fair than a rose

That in Springtime grows

Yes, she’s beautiful to me.

For Beauty is in the face of love

And lovely is beauty’s name….

And ti’s love that lights the smile

That shines in the face of Jane.

Call other Jane’s plain— if you insist

But please don’t include our Jane.

For many a lovely thing is she

And one thing she isn’t is “plain.”

 

During the years my mom was ill, we were very involved in an organization called Make Today Count.  It had been started by a man named Orville Kelly, who had Lymphoma. He formed a support group so that people could find support among others who had long-term or life threatening illnesses.  Family members were also encouraged to attend.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through my mother’s illness and subsequent death, if we hadn’t had this resource at the time.  (At the time of my mother’s illness there were at least 140 chapters across the United States.  I believe that a handful are still active, one of them being here in San Diego.)

In our Make Today Count chapter, there was a woman I befriended named Kay Catlin. Kay’s journey was just a few months ahead of mine.  Her mother, also a cancer victim, died about 6 months before my mother did. I would often talk to Kay to see if my feelings, my emotions and my journey were unusual—- typically to be told that she had experienced exactly the same reactions to her mother’s illness.

Kay became a writer, and wrote a story about my mother, which was published in the Chicago Tribune on May 7, 1980. Kay wrote the story and gave it to our family at my mother’s memorial service, just a week after my mother’s death, which was December 21, 1979.  We felt so honored to have this wonderful story about my mother published in a major newspaper.

Having lost contact with Kay many years ago, when I found the article I contacted Kay and asked if I could publish it here in this blog, and she graciously gave me permission. Ties that are made in a situation like we were in many, many years ago still hold, as was demonstrated when I contacted Kay.

This is the front cover of the scrapbook I keep that has articles about my mom, marriage cert, birth cert, death cert, etc.

This is the front cover of the scrapbook I keep that has photos, articles about my mom, marriage cert, birth cert, death cert, etc. There was a store that made these scrapbooks many years ago, with your details on the front cover. I really liked them!

Following is the story as Kay originally wrote it and gave it to us.  It was edited some, and the tenses changed for the Chicago Tribune final article.

The Dying of Jane by Kay Catlin

The screen door ricocheted shut one final time. The party was over: the last guest had left. But before the weary hostess could call it a night, there was one more thing to do.

Jane draped her tiny frame across the painted rattan chaise and slipped her hand int the “everything” basket lying next to her on the floor. As she pulled out the tattered list of name and numbers, the freshly signed guest register was brought to her.

Methodically, Jane compared the “invited” names to the “attended” ones. By the time she was finished, it was clear triumph was in her corner.

“Look at that, would ya’, just look at that,” she said turning to her youngest daughter. (That would be me, by the way, just sayin’!) Look, only eight didn’t show. That’s pretty good…. real good.”  Jane was satisfied.

But in spite of her social coup, Jane’s, thought turned quickly back to the eight no-shows. One by one she recited their reasons for being elsewhere. The first had to work.  The next two had previously scheduled meetings, and besides the family of four who lived too far away, the only other people who couldn’t make it had car trouble. That settled it then. Everyone was accounted for.

Things like that matter to Jane. She is the original party person. Even mere acquaintances know she’ll be at any function someone bothers to call a party.  It doesn’t matter what the reason or where it’s held. If there’s a party, Jane will be there even if she’s dying.

And this time she was.  Dying, that is.

Dying is nothing new to Jane. Her doctors say she has been doing that ever since she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer seven years ago at age fifty.  As a matter of fact, Jane was handed a less-than-a-month-to-go death sentence in 1973 only moments before she was advised not to take a scheduled Florida vacation to visit her parents. The doctor said she’d come back in a box.  Jane went anyway, and looking back, glad she’s glad she did. It was the last time  she saw her mother, who, at the same time was dying from cancer.

Jane didn’t come back in a box, and the doctor who told her not to go has since died himself from cancer.  Instead, Jane enjoyed her trip and, upon returning, decided the one thing she had to do was learn how to live with her disease so if one of her five children ever got cancer, “they’d know how to handle it.”

That was a mighty big order for someone recently divorced who had to keep on working in spite of pain, exhaustion, radiation treatments and chemotherapy. But she says she was too busy living to be bothered with dying. Besides, she had some pretty fail-safe logic going for her.  she figured it was a lot harder to die standing up.  As long as she could stay off the couch and on her feet, she had the odds beat. No one was going to catch her lying down long enough to die.

And they didn’t.

Between her once a month trips to Mayo’s from her suburban West Chicago home and her accounting job, Jane was terribly busy. She’d fly up to Rochester, Minnesota, on a Thursday night and check into the clinic Friday morning.  Saturday afternoons she’d fly back, and by Monday morning it was business as usual. Jane would make up time lost at her job by working Saturdays and week nights. Then, when she got caught up, the whole cycle would begin again. But she never missed a day’s work, and that’s something she’s still quite proud of.

The way Jane tells it, the whole first year was more like a piece of cake than the parcel of hell it really was. Pressed, she will relate stories of the many nights she and her only still-home child would stay up trying to temper the excruciating pan of muscle spasms. She will talk about the days she would pray for the phone not to ring, so she wouldn’t have to reach for it. But those aren’t the things she likes to concentrate on now. Jane would much rather tell someone about all the things she did do, the good times, than dwell on the horror of  it all. Even under pressure, she is an artful dodger of gloom. Any further questions about the endless nights and uncertain, painful days, she brushes off with, “I didn’t worry about any of it.  I’d just call my sister-in-law and tell her to start praying. Then I’d turn the rest over to the doctors and let them do their thing.  It worked every time.” And somehow, it did work…….. every time.

No, it hasn’t ever been Jane’s style to worry about herself. In the face of hardship, she is more likely to light up one in an endless chain of Newports, lean back, and give vent to another positive thought. She even has a pat answer for all those cigarettes.  “Well, they can’t tell me I’m going to get cancer anymore, can they?” So, I figure if I’m going to die, I might as well not be nervous about it.”  Good ol’ Jane!

In-spite of her logic, Jane was doing well until 1975 when her boss quit. A new comptroller took over who was bent on getting rid of everyone.  Not a person to be trifled with, Jane saw what was coming and got rid of herself.  “I couldn’t take that ass one more day, so I blew” is how she puts it.  (BTW- side-note, I can STILL remember my mother venting about the new boss and what an unreasonable and horrible jerk he was! That was my senior year of high-school!)

As she told of quitting her job, Jane suddenly looked down and then slowly turned her gaze upwards again. Pointing her finger to punctuate yet another point, she said, “THAT hurt me more than anything.”

She couldn’t get another job.  It didn’t matter that she was well qualified or willing to work, or desperately needed insurance. What mattered was that Jane had cancer. As far as the job market was concerned, Jane was already dead.

In spite of the fact that she faced rejection almost constantly, Jane continued to look for a job, any job.  She needed reason to stay standing up. Once, she even came close to getting employed. The owner of a marketing firm didn’t so much as blink an eye when she told him, as she told everyone, that she had cancer. She  would be employed and insured anyway.  No questions asked.  But the man died  before the deal went through. It was cancer that got him.

Jane didn’t work again until March of 1977. She had heard about a CETA job and, when she found two bosses who were willing to look away from her illness and toward her qualifications, she was hired. The job instantly became like new life blood to her.  She still feels if she hadn’t landed that job, any job, she would have lain down right then and died.

She worked well and steadily until July. Then she became inexplicably weak, unable to wash or dress herself. She went back to Mayo’s for a check-up and two days of transfusions, but came home having received even more.  A new diagnosis: Chronic Leukemia.

That’s not to say Jane had been undergoing treatments for the wrong disease all along. She just had them both lymphoma and leukemia. Snake eyes.

Jane went back to work almost immediately and tried to keep up. She had to. The doctors’ bills alone were breaking her financially even when the paychecks were steady. But there were intermittent hospitalizations, days off here and there. By March of 1978 the word had filtered down.  Any more days off and she would be out.

A few weeks later, Jane was in too much pain to report for work. She had reached too suddenly for something; that’s all. Two ribs, brittle from years of cancer therapy, snapped, and with them went everything. (I can’t tell you how many times my mom broke a bone by simply riding in the car and hitting a bump, standing up from a chair, or other simple things we do on a daily basis.  It was awful!)

Or so she thought.

With her body literally hunched in pain, Jane had someone drive her to and from job interviews when she wasn’t in the hospital. She knew she needed to get out of bed or she would die.  All she wanted was “to push a pencil somewhere.”  Her mind didn’t have cancer, after all.

On February 15, 1979 she landed her last job.  Each day, one of her children would take her to work and pick her up again in the evening.  It was tough going, but she was needed again. There was a reason to get off that couch.

That lasted until April 6th.  Jane went back into the hospital then and wasn’t released until July 6th.  Two days later, she was back at work.  For a few weeks, she pushed her pencil until on Friday afternoon when she found herself breathless from pain.  It was all over.

During the past months, Jane has only been out of the hospital for a few days at a time.  Each reprieve from doctors’ whites and intravenous drip coincided with one thing and one thing only—- a party.  She made them all. (Again, I told you this apple didn’t fall from the “Jane tree!” My mom never missed a party and neither do I!)

But her party days are dwindling and she knows it. When her leukemia turned from chronic to acute over Labor Day and her disability and Medicare benefits were cut off in October because she had worked three days too many the year before, she was beaten. Forced to apply for Public Aid, this fiercely independent woman was given two choices one afternoon by her doctors. She could either die outright or go through a painful bone marrow transplant, isolation and Chemotherapy program and probably die anyway.  What to do….

Jane decided she was going to go out trying and endorsed the treatments  Then she went home to make her funeral plans.

Already having donated her body to science when she was first diagnosed, Jane worked calmly and methodically on all the other arrangements. She secured the church, talked to the ministers, and had someone come over with sheet music.  Together they looked for “A King is Coming” and “He Touched Me.”  Because she wants those two songs sung by everyone at her memorial service, copies had to be made ahead of time.  Jane knew where she could get it done cheap.

She then named a charity for donations and instructed everyone she met not to send flowers.  “That’s like getting buried,” she said.  “Never could see throwing money away on being put in the ground and having a bunch of flowers around.”  I want the kids to take what I give them and blow it.  I want people to have a good time with what they got.”  And no one argued.

Jane then called her family together and worked out the nitty-gritty plans for the party afterwards,  They were to feed everyone and then go back to the house and have a family party like they always did.  “I want them to play poker, do some charades, and laugh a lot. If they have to sit around reminiscing, I want them to remember the crazy things, the fun things.” Then a devilish grin spread over her emaciated face as she added, “And they all know—- I’ve told them ever since I knew I was dying— that I’ll come back and haunt them if they don’t do what I say.”

With the family still around, Jane parceled out her promised possessions. She took pictures off the wall, rings off her fingers, and held a drawing for her remaining treasures. She sorted out photos and mementos, and gave each adult child his own picture laden history book. She signed over her stocks, gave away her car, and then took out the insurance policies. Each had been carefully studied, filled out, and stamped.

Then Jane sat back in relief ready to reminisce. Since she had sold her home to one of the children a while back, all she had to do was die.  Everything else was done.

That’s when the idea set in.

Jane’s eldest daughter thought as long as everything was taken care of ahead of time, they might as well have a party now, the kind of party people usually have after the funeral, but this one would be before while her mother could enjoy it.  After all, Jane wouldn’t want to miss a good party for anything. Why should she have to die for one last reason to celebrate?

So, while she was home for a brief, uncertain stay waiting for her body to become strong enough to give her at least a fighting chance to survive the treatments, her children called together 80 or 90 of Jane’s closest friends.  People came steadily from late afternoon on to pay their respects, say their goodbyes and share a laugh with the still living.  Jane was clearly on a mental high through the tiring, day-long affair.  She was having the time of her life playing the queen once more.  (Interesting, isn’t it that this was nearly 40 years ago, and my mother was referred to as “the queen.”  Now, here I am- The Queen of Damn Near Everything!”)

A week later, she herself would call the party a dress rehearsal for the memorial service and casually remark that only eight people didn’t show.

Now Jane waits to return to the hospital, knowing she probably won’t come out alive. She exhibits fear only when she refers to the painful, “worst ever” treatments she has to face.  It is not difficult to believe her when she says, “Some things are worse than dying, you know.”

(Jane Clark of West Chicago, Illinois, died December 21 1979, without having undergone the bone marrow transplant. The rest of the details are unimportant. She just died with the same dignity she had known in life.  That’s all.  End

There were a few things very interesting about my mother’s last weeks (about 9 of them), while she was in the hospital.  My mother was a feisty little ball of fire, and you ALWAYS knew where things stood with her. She wasn’t technically “in a coma”- but there were weeks where she basically laid and slept, not really talking to anyone.

We told her sister, my Aunt Pat, that if she wanted to see mom again, she’d better get here for a visit.  I never thought of my Aunt Pat as weak, but my mom must have understood her in a way we couldn’t. When my Aunt Pat came into the hospital room for her visit, upon arrival, my mom sat up, had a conversation with her, then laid back down.  The next morning Aunt Pat came back in, mom had another lovely conversation with her, and my Aunt left for home, saying “She doesn’t look too bad to me.”

We were all mystified at how amazing my mom looked and sounded while Aunt Pat was there.  Later we understood that mom knew that my Aunt couldn’t have taken seeing her sister in an almost “vegetative” state, and did what was needed to help Aunt Pat get through it.

From L-R: My niece Kelly, Sister Sharon, Mom, My niece Michelle and my Sister Dianne. Not long before my moms death. Who knows where the hell I was for this? It looks like Kelly was dressed up for a school dance, corsage and all!

From L-R: My niece Kelly, Sister Sharon, Mom, My niece Michelle and my Sister Dianne. Not long before my moms death. Who knows where the hell I was for this? It looks like Kelly was dressed up for a school dance, corsage and all!

There were also a few times that my mom sat up, called out “Mom” and reached for someone unseen, with such a peaceful look on her face

Then the story that some people think is “just horrible”- but was my mom’s and my personality to a T…… Mom hadn’t spoken for weeks—- probably since Aunt Pat’s visit, and I went to the hosipital after work, just days before her death.  I was wearing Tabu perfume, a heavy scent popular in the 80’s.  As I leaned down to kiss her, out of the blue mom mumbled, “What’s that perfume?”  I told her and she responded, “Don’t ever wear that again, you smell like a French whore.” That’s the last thing my mom ever said to me!  I laugh about it, and let me tell you…… when I get into an elevator with someone wearing that perfume….. to this day, do you know how hard it is not to repeat that line to them????? Often, when I share that story, people are absolutely AGHAST that this would be our last conversation. Not me though!

The other great story about “The Dying of Jane” was that it was UBER IMPORTANT to my mom that she not be buried. She wanted to donate any organ possible, then donate her body to science so that others might learn from her body and prevent others in the future from enduring cancer such as hers. (Once you’ve gone through all the cancer treatments my mom went through, not too many organs are viable, unfortunately. We had learned that the only organ which could be donated at that point were mom’s eyes.) My mom had always been ADAMENT that not one cent should go toward a burial. Back then, not too many people got cremated.

Well, the end was obviously VERY close, and we happened to call the family friend who owned the funeral home, and was going to help us with my mom’s details.  When we spoke to him, he told us that if my mom didn’t die that afternoon by about 4:30, she’d either have to hold out until the next Wednesday, or her body and organs wouldn’t be able to be donated, due to the weekend and holiday.  (Can you believe it?  Back then, organ donation was more of a 9-5 Monday through Friday kind of business.)  I think it was about 3:15 when we got this news, so we leaned over my mom and said, “Hey mom, we’ve got some bad news we just found out. Bruce told us that if you don’t die today by about 4:30, you have to hold out through Christmas, and wait until the day after, or they won’t take your body and eyes. You will need to be buried.” My mom died at 4:30 PM that day.

When Jane had a plan NO ONE was going to screw it up if she had anything to do with it!

Again, when I’ve told that story to some people, they can’t believe we would tell our mom she needed to either die or hold out.  Let me tell you, you didn’t want to cross Jane Clark, and had she not been told once we knew the details, she probably WOULD have come back to haunt us for not getting the body donated!

My mom lived a certain way, and she died the same way—- parties planned and attended and details acted on, down to the last detail!

When we had my mom’s memorial service my oldest sister Sharon read a beautiful poem that pretty well summed up my mom, and the way she chose to die. I’ll share it:

“To Remember Me…”

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed.  Let it be called the Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. Give my blood to the teenager  who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.  give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.  Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary and let them grow so that, someday,a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.  Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked I will live forever.

—- Robert N. Test in Cincinnati Post

 

Would you like to leave a legacy after you are gone?  You need to plan ahead.  Here are a few interesting articles that might help you figure out what would work best for your desires.

For info on donating your organs, go to: https://www.organdonor.gov/about/process/deceased-donation.html

For info on donating your body to science check out this article:https://www.wikihow.com/Donate-Your-Body-to-Science

 

 

 

 

 

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The “Berry Delicious” Martini

Cocktail Time, Entertaining, Living a Royal Life, Martini Magic, Martinis, Sensational after 70!, Sexy After 60!
Berry Delicious Martini. (I'm admitting it right now- I had to use my daughter KT as the hand model. WTF has happened to my hands? They look 100!)

Berry Delicious Martini. (I’m admitting it right now- I had to use my daughter KT as the hand model. WTF has happened to my hands? They look 100!)

A Fun Summertime Drink!

I’m known  for creating a “signature drink” for all of my parties.  If I’m out at a restaurant and they have a martini menu, I pour over it looking for some tasty concoction that I might be able to plagiarize and make for an upcoming event. I call this “R & D.” You might think that stands for Research & Development.  I guess you could call it that…… or Rip-off & Duplicate! However you want to look at it, with a bit of knowledge as to what the ingredients are in a drink, I can form my own delicious version to share with my friends.   I can’t tell you how many drink menus I’ve snapped pictures of, so I can recreate my own tasty drinks.

Recently, I  created the Berry Delicious martini for my girlfriends at our monthly Bunko.  It was refreshing and perfect for summer.

I chose to “sugar” the rim, because I always love it with fruity martinis- not to mention, it looks so much more festive and fun!  You can make your own sugar, or take the easy way out!  I recently found some really nice colored and flavored sugars at Home Goods, in the section where they keep all the food items.  The colors are crisp and fun, and it’s a lot easier than mixing food coloring in with the sugar at home. (Also cheaper, and better than the ones you find at a liquor store. They seem to not clump up as much.)

If you are entertaining a large group, and want Martinis as your signature drink, use my trick to make up large batches.  Make up some of the martini ahead of time, freeze some of it in small round plastic containers and/or in ice cube trays. (if desired, put some blueberries or blackberries into the ice cube trays so they look nice as they melt.) Then for the event, put the martini mix in a big drink dispenser, or a punch bowl, and use the frozen martini cubes to keep it cold without watering down your delicious concoction!

A toast to you! My Bunko Ladies Enjoying The Berry Delicious Martini

A toast to you! My Bunko Ladies Enjoying The Berry Delicious Martini. They are always willing to try out my new concoctions each month!

Berry Delicious Martini Recipe

I don’t make my martinis really strong.  I’d rather people have fun and enjoy the drink – than get intoxicated and act like idiots.  You can make yours stronger if you want. Most martini’s you get out are primarily the alcohol, with just a splash of the juice for flavor…… adjust as you see fit.

I chill all the ingredients ahead of time, and actually put my alcohol directly into the freezer for a day or so ahead, so it’s frosty cold!

1 Part blueberry or raspberry flavored vodka

1/4 Part triple sec

2-3 Parts Blueberry Lemonade (I use Simply Lemonade with Blueberry)

1/4 Part Simple Syrup (optional)

Put all ingredients in a martini shaker and shake, or  if making a larger batch, put in a pitcher drink dispenser or punch bowl.  Stir, and add the ice you made with the martini mix to keep it cold.

Pour into martini glasses that have had the rims “sugared.”

Garnish with 4 or 5 blueberries on a toothpick, or just throw 3 or 4 berries into the bottom of your martini glass.

Another pretty garnish is a fresh cherry when they are in season.

Martini's in a punch bowl

I used this punch bowl to make martini’s a few weeks ago for a large party we had. They must have been good, because I went through 6 punch bowls in the first hour….. Can you IMAGINE if I tried to keep up with making them by the shaker full????? I would have gone bonkers!  Making them this way allowed me to enjoy the party! At this particular party, I didn’t serve my drinks in my martini glasses, because we were going to be out around the pool, so I served them in Mason-Jar glasses and called it “punch.” For another event, I’d have martini glasses ready, and call them martinis!  It’s all in the presentation ladies!

Living A Royal Life… Part 1 of 3

Adventures With Attitude!, Every Day is an Adventure, Living a Royal Life, Royal Ramblings!, Sensational after 70!, Sexy After 60!

Living a “Royal Life”

Do you feel that you are living life to the fullest? Is your life meeting your expectations, or are you often left feeling disappointed?

I believe that everyone can, and should lead what I refer to as “A Royal Life.” This isn’t the life that the monarchy is living in Buckingham Palace.  It isn’t the life that William and Kate are living……  It’s living YOUR BEST LIFE, while in the midst of “real life.”  We can all take simple steps to improve our lives and to make our life happy, fun, fulfilling and prosperous.

If you think there is room for improvement in what you are receiving from life, please take a look at my attached video.  It the first video  in a series of 3 videos- Living a Royal Life.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to my blog so that you don’t miss any of the upcoming series and other fun and fabulous articles, events and adventures!

Dancing— My Drug of Choice

Cocktail Time, Events, Every Day is an Adventure, Fabulous After 50, Health = Happiness!, My Humble Opinion, Sexy After 60!, Uncategorized
My friend Richard & me dancing at my 60th birthday party last November

My friend Richard & me dancing at my 60th birthday party last November

Dancing— The New Meditation

I have heard for decades that the best way to relax and achieve inner harmony is to meditate. You can’t live in Southern California without having a hundred people tell you “it’s the way to go.” I call BS on that! Don’t get me wrong. If you meditate, and it works for you, more power to you! I”ll even give you an “Om” to go.

Meditation Stresses Me Out!

It’s just that meditation, to me is the greatest and easiest way to stress out I have ever tried. I’ve tried it more than a handful of times and here is exactly what happens. I sit in this place I’ve decided to be quiet in and cleanse my mind. In approximately 30 seconds a committee shows up in my head. The committee is loud. It’s raucous. They all begin to talk, taunt and tease. I suddenly am filled with thoughts of all of the “productive” things I could be doing.…. Should be doing…..Need to get done. I think of things with work that I have been putting off. I think of things I could be writing for my blog rather than just sitting here wasting time. I think of things that need to be done in my house and how many things I need to organize. The closets that could use cleaning and the drawers that need sorting. I think of things that WILL need to be done for work, my house, my blog in the near future. I think about places I could go for travel and enjoyment and want to look those things up on the internet RIGHT THEN.

Meditation- I give it about 3 seconds til I hit the “crazy” button!

I begin to think about things that really bug me, things that have bothered me for a while and things I didn’t even KNOW bothered me. Now I start to get REALLY irritated at the things that I didn’t even know were bothering me.

Any small problem in my life can take on gargantuan proportions when I sit down to meditate. They suddenly become overwhelming.

Meditation Fills My Mind…

While attempting to meditate I start to think about things I have recently seen on Facebook that I thought were really profound or really cute or really irritating. You know the things I’m referring to such as the political posts that differ from your opinion or the people who voice their totally inane and negative opinions on someone’s post, which were TOTALLY unnecessary. The more I am supposed to “empty my mind” the more that comes in to crowd it and my blood pressure goes up. Which is, I think, the direct opposite of the point of meditating.

All of this brain hyperactivity can be accomplished in record time. I’m sure I’ve just spent at LEAST three hours in the process, and when I look at the clock, I’ll be damned, five minutes haven’t even passed! God bless you if this meditation thing calms you down. It just stresses the hell out of me!

The same people who like to meditate, enjoy Yoga. Don’t even get me going on that one! If I’m going to spend an hour in an exercise class, I want to feel like it’s doing something for my body. I can’t get through half a yoga class without wanting to laugh at the absurd positions (which don’t seem to be building any sort of muscle that I can tell). I want to giggle at the silly names they call them. And for some reason, the people in Yoga class are just too damned serious about the whole thing. It becomes a religious activity for them, it seems. Forget Yoga…..I much prefer to do a few crunches, hold a plank, lift a few weights, or Zumba my way to cardio health. In Zumba you can’t help but have a happy attitude! Why…. because DANCE MOVES are happening there!

Dancing is my “Drug of Choice!”

Don & Patti dancing when Don's foot was broken!

It’s a little blurry- but I love that even when Don had a broken foot- we found a way to dance!

I guess the cat is out of the bag. I’m not a Zen girl. My idea of relaxing is planning a party, figuring out my next event, or dancing. Dancing is my “drug of choice.”

When I went through a divorce about 10 years ago, I decided to take up dancing. It was something I’d always wanted to learn, and it was the first thing I set my mind to when I knew the marriage was over. Now THERE is a stress reliever! There is a blood pressure reducer! And, like meditation and yoga combined, it’s GREAT for your body! Within a few months, although I was out every evening and enjoying a few drinks, I looked better than I had in years! I lost weight and toned up, without dieting or even TRYING! (Looking at my body right now, I think I need to get back on the dancing-every-night-wagon!)

I would look forward to my next night out dancing like a drug addict looks forward to meeting up with his “supplier!”  No matter WHAT was going on, no matter how stressful things were, in my mind I’d be thinking….”Just 2 more nights until I get to dance!”  I’d be in the car, and as I listened to music I could picture what dance would go to the beat, what moves you could do to a certain song….. and there was no thought of the stresses that life was giving me at that time!

Ladies dancing together!

We dance with our girlfriends in grade school, middle school and high school. Even into our 60’s, 70’s and 80’s we still have “girl dances! Girls just wanna’ have fun!

When you dance, the committees can’t be in your head, because you are too busy following the lead of your partner. You can’t think about the problems you’ve got going on, what needs to be done at home or what is going on with work. There is only one focus….. Dancing….. what the next move is and where your partner and your body are going to lead you.

For me, dancing gives me all the benefits of meditation and then some.

If sitting in a quiet room, making your mind blank works for you, then go for it!   Just PLEASE don’t try telling me that it’s a stress reliever! Not for my A type of personality! Thirty minutes of meditation a day would probably put me in the grave within the first month!

My grand daughter Nell, and Jodi "cutting a rug." EVERY age can enjoy dancing!

My grand-daughter Nell, and Jodi “cutting a rug.” EVERY age can enjoy dancing!

No matter what problems I have in life, after a few hours of dancing I feel refreshed, at peace and in tune with my body and soul.

Dancing video, Kingston Mines

This video is a bit dark, and for that I apologize!  My daughter shot it of my love and I dancing in the summer of 2016 when we were back “home” in Chicago visiting family.  The place was dark, it was her cell phone, and we didn’t even know she was shooting it. What a fabulous night we all had though! 🙂

 

 

I Saw The Light

Adventures With Attitude!, art, Every Day is an Adventure, Out and About, Travel and Adventure
Chicago Lighthouse Art

This is one of my favorites! I just LOVE the design on it! The Light Within-Diane Robacy

Lighthouses On The Mag Mile

Chicago is a beautiful and diverse city.  When we arrived this trip, I noticed a few decorated lighthouses on Michigan Avenue and looked up what the story was.  I found out that the next day 51 Lighthouses would be debuted throughout the area.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This had a true feeling of movement under the sea. It was lovely. See View by Deborah Maris Lader

Many years ago Chicago was one of the first cities in the United States to participate in this type of art display when they had “Cows on Parade” in 1999-  all handpainted and decorated by local artists.  Other cities have followed suit in years since, with Dogs in Boonton, New Jersey, “Catfish out of Water” in Nashville, and numerous other similar community art projects. Last year Del Mar, CA had horses painted by local artists in honor of the Breeder’s Cup being hosted there. Every city that has participated in these community art projects has benefited by increased tourism and community solidarity.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

I loved the way the poppies were 3 dimensional on this lighthouse. It was simple, but very striking! We Bloom by Vivian Visser

This  summer, from June 19 to August 11 “Lighthouses on the Mag Mile” will be located throughout the city.  The purpose of this display is to bring attention to improving the quality of life for those who are disabled or visually impaired.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

My Layers Run Deep by Hillary Laff-Meyers

Each lighthouse is 6 feet tall, and 30 inches wide at the base, and they become the “canvas” for each of the artists vision of inclusion for all who deal with disabilities. Many of the artists chosen actually live with disabilities of their own, making their work even more poignant.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This one was REALLY different! The hands and eyes coming out of this lighthouse looked SO real! Make the World Felt by Yu-Hui Huang and Eduardo Arias

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Check out how realistic those hands are! They even had imperfections in the fingernails like real hands have!

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Be a Light, Oakton Community College Art and Design Students

Why a Lighthouse?

You may wonder why a lighthouse?  The idea is of a lighthouse being a beacon to champion causes for people with disabilities. The whole project was created by the Chicago Lighthouse, which serves the blind, visually impaired, disabled and military veteran communities. Numerous area businesses and organizations have supported the project with financial backing.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

I loved this one. A Twist of Nature by Didier Nolet

Being a practicing Realtor, I was proud to see one of the lighthouses sponsored by the National Association of Realtors.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This lighthouse – The Path to Ability– was sponsored by the National Assn. of Realtors- so I had to mention it! Created by William Douglas of Project Onward

You Can Own A Lighthouse!

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This lighthouse was incredibly beautiful! it reminded me of Monet- which is interesting, because Monet was visually impaired his last few years, and this artist is also visually impaired! Sailing Chicago Harbor by Jeff Hanson

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This is a close up of the work on this lighthouse. I just loved the three dimensional effect on the flowers.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Northern Lights by Lori and Fiona Murphy

Chicago Treasure by Rich Green

After the display ends on August 11th some of the sponsors will have an opportunity to keep the lighthouses.  Other lighthouses will be auctioned off online.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Rising to Succeed by Ken Klopack

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Dream by Mark Nelson of Gringolandia Studio

It’s amazing that using the same basic lighthouse, the artists could come up with such diverse interpretations!

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Eye Wonder by Lisa Birmingham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t get to Chicago yourself to view these lovely works of art- please enjoy my photos of about half of the beautiful lighthouses which are on display.  And please, be the “beacon of light”  to those around you who may have disabilities.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Feeling the Beauty in Every Face is Not Blind by Peter Bucks

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Lighting my Path by Jim Carrol, The Pet Impressionist – featuring local Patricia Ward and her guide dog Carson

Perhaps this project, and the lighthouses might inspire you to question how you could help to be a part of access and inclusion for those living with disabilities.  If we all strive to make life a bit better for those who struggle, and help to focus  on the “ability” in the word disability, we can all help to light our world and make it a bit brighter.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This little girl was fascinated with touching all of the different colored and patterned discs on this lighthouse. She spent quite a bit of time walking around and touching all of the different patterns on the discs, exploring the colors and looking at the detail.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This is a close up of the detail on this exhibit. This one had some of the most detail of any of the lighthouses! So interesting!

Chicago Lighthouse Art

This one was very pretty. Boundless by Pooja Pittie, an artist with Muscular Dysptropy

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Special Olympics 50th Anniversary By David Holt of Project Onward and Cassidy Winston

Chicago Lighthouse Art

I loved the braille on this lighthouse. The tactile experience is really cool on this one! Touch and See by Kristi OMeara.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Blindfold Brushes by Erika Vazzana

A Chicago Lighthouse

Lift Us by Hamza Muhammad, an artist with anxiety disorder and ADHD

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Rise up by Fernando Ramirez of Project Onward

SHINE
Love & The Machine – Dan Capuli, Amy Loevy & Edwin Capuli

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Close up of this lighthouse and its message.

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Lava Lamp by Chris Silva

Chicago Lighthouse Art

Colorful Cloud in a Dark Abyss by Brandin Hurley

For more information on the “Lighthouses of the Mag Mile” please visit their website: https://lighthousesonmagmile.com/

This link will tell you specifics about every lighthouse and the artist who created it: https://lighthousesonmagmile.com/gallery-artists

Information on the Chicago Lighthouse may be found at: Chicagolights.org

Lions and Tigers and Pirates…….. Oh My!

My Humble Opinion, Raves & Rotten Reviews, Royal Ramblings!, Travel and Adventure, You Can't Make This Shit Up!

Cruising the West Coast of Africa

Silversea Silver Cloud

The Silversea Silver Cloud on our trip.

We went on a Silversea Silver Cloud cruise up the coast of  West Africa recently.   We went to 6 countries to be exact.  There are basically 3 questions people ask you when they hear you have been to “Africa.” Question # 1- Did you go on a Safari (or did you see any “big game” animals- as both are basically asking the same thing.)  Question #2- Why in the world did you choose to go there, of all places. Question # 3-Were you worried about Pirates.

No, we weren’t on a safari, nor did we see any big game animals. That takes place more in central or east Africa.  What we saw most of were goats, pigs, chickens and cats, because all of those animals roamed  freely- and abundantly – through every village and city we were in. We did see some good sized monkeys swinging through some trees one of the days while we were riding in the bus.

In Morocco we saw some camels at a Bedouin camp, and also just roaming around in the middle of the desert. In Marrakesh we saw few snakes, which were being “charmed”  for the sake of tourist. The snake charmers were scarier than the snakes.  You’ve got to watch out for those guys- they don’t want to let you go without getting the big bucks out of you!

Senegal Village Animals

This picture of animals in a Senegal Village shows about the biggest “game” that we saw on this trip. Camels, goats, cats, sheep, a few pigs and a boar were about the extent of our animal viewing!

Other than that little menagerie, no “big game” stuff. No lions, or tigers, elephants or giraffes.  Wrong neighborhood for them.

Why we chose to go to West Africa is another story.  My man had broken his foot last fall, right after we moved into our new house. (Great timing on his part, I have to say- thank you very much!) He was bored to death, and started looking into places he’d never traveled, and trips that would get him closer to his goal of 100 countries.  A “luxury cruise” up the west coast of Africa came up in his search, and next thing I knew, we were going to West Africa. So, question number is now answered.

Senegal Village

This Senegal Village was fairly typical of many of the villages. You’ll see a goat in the background. This village was one of the few that had any sort of “toilet” facilities. This outhouse had buckets in it to go on. Quite sophisticated compared to many!

Was West Africa on the top of my bucket list of travel?  Heaven’s no!  However, if you know me, you also know I’m always up for any adventure, and always up to try the unusual. So- when Don asked if I’d go on the trip, I gave a resounding yes…….

Captain Phillips, Here we Come!

As soon as we mentioned a boat, and Africa the question of safety and pirates came up constantly. After all, who hadn’t seen Captain Phillips, right? So, of course, we asked our cruise line, Silverseas, if pirates were a possibility or concern. The question was poo-pooed- and we were told that pirate activity is on the east side of Africa and we had nothing to worry about. WHEW!

Silly Americans! We don’t even know where the pirates hang out in Africa. Tsk, tsk, tsk…….

So, onward and upward we went with our plans for our trip.  We decided to tack on a trip to Amsterdam to see the tulips on our way to Akkra, Ghana.  Thank God, because if we hadn’t I wouldn’t have found that great shop with the fantastic 1940’s style dance dresses…….. (Good thing I brought that extra duffel, because it was filled up on day 3 of the 23 day trip!)

Patti in one of her 40's dresses!

This is one of the 40’s style dresses I got in Amsterdam! What a find THAT store was! (And BTW- this is my granddaughter Nell at her graduation from grade school a few weeks ago!)

My prior cruising experience has been on the uber-large cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland, Costa- and yes, I’ll even admit to Carnival- back in the day!  Don has only done small “expedition” type of ships.  This cruise, on the Silversea Silver Cloud was to have approximately 200 passengers.

The “luxury cruise” part of the trip had me from Hello.  Unfortunately, the “luxury” provided didn’t add up to the cost of the cruise in ever-so-many ways………..

But I digress…….

Ghana Port

This poster was on the wall going into the Ghana Port. You would not have BELIEVED the one asking them not to poop in the port! That one was really graphic- but unfortunately we weren’t able to pop a photo fast enough! Things run a little differently in Africa than some of us are used to!

As we pulled up to the port (after a rocky start and less than impressive trip to the ship), Don noticed that the back of the ship had large bars added across the back deck where the enormous water cannons were. Water cannons? Why would the ship need water cannons?  We thought that perhaps the ship goes to other areas where pirates might be a concern……..

So, blithely we boarded the ship.

And, as with all cruises, muster is the first order of business on all ships. A lovely letter awaited us when we entered our suite, telling us when muster was to take place, and how focused Silversea was on making our voyage special, personalized, pampering, blah, blah, blah….

Safety First!

Our welcome letter upon arrival on the Silver Cloud

Off to muster we went.  Then the ship left dock. After familiarizing ourselves with the ship, we went back to our suite, to find another letter………… informing us that we were in a “high risk area for piracy

 

If you are of my age group, you will remember Saturday Night Live, and church lady from years ago. Can’t you just hear Dana Carvey saying “How conveeeeenient!” ( Not to mention the following line- “Who made you do it, was it the Devil?”)

How conveeeeenient that the second letter was given to us JUST AFTER we left port!  And worse- it stated that the “enhanced measures” were in effect from April 8-14.  THREE DAYS BEFORE WE BOARDED THE SHIP!

These assholes knew for 3 days before we got on that Captain Kidd, Blackbeard and Henry Morgan were in the ‘hood, and didn’t bother to tell us?  Holy shit. Are you kidding me?

Then the letter went on in explicit detail telling us how to handle the possible boarding and takeover by pirates. My favorite line was, “in the rare event that pirates succeed to board the vessel, do not panic, and do as they say.”

Roger that.  I am going to stay as friggin’ as calm as a clam.  Yessiree! Ahoy there mateys- nothing to worry about.  I’ve seen Captain Phillips. These are reasonable people……….

Silversea- what in the name of all that is normal is wrong with you people?

Where is Johnny Depp When You Need Him?

The pirate with a parrot on the seashore

Not only are we dealing with totally unreasonable people with pirates in the African waters, none of them remotely begin to look like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. There is just no upside to these pirates at all.  Just sayin’.

For the next 4 evenings we were told we had to keep our curtains to our decks drawn and not to open the sliding doors. This was mighty convenient, as the AC was also not working on the ship, and we were in near 100 degree heat………..

If THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!

In the public areas of the ship, every curtain was buttoned up as tightly as a nun’s va-j-j.  Where there weren’t draperies, the windows were covered with paper and duct tape. And the decks and outdoor restaurant were closed down.  No “romantic strolls” around the deck were taking place here folks! I felt like I was in London during the second world war blitz attacks.

Again, I know I am repeating myself here, but if THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!

Another great tip pointed out in the letter was that if the pirates were to approach the ship, and/or board, we were to go to the common areas of the ship and get down with our hands over our heads.  Fuck that shit- I’m hiding under my damned bed and hope they don’t check there for me. I figure that these pirates probably aren’t into doing a lot of work, or they’d have more upstanding jobs.  Maybe they aren’t going to look under all 100+ beds, right? But go hide out in the open- with my hands over my head?  Are you kidding me?  I’m going to come out and line up for the machine gun rally? Come on, I’m smarter than I look! (I’d have to be, or they wouldn’t let me out alone….. But again, I digress.)

(Our Silversea “Pirate Warning Letter”- delivered immediately after the ship left port. At this point it was bit too far for a swim back to shore,  I’m afraid!)

Every Day is an Adventure!

Now I realize that earlier I stated I am usually up for any adventure. I’ve jumped out of planes.  I’ve zip-lined. I’ve snorkeled and dived. I’ve bungee jumped. I’ve married a variety of men.  I’ve had children….. the list of adventures goes on and on.

However, in all those cases, these were experiences that I had preplanned for.  The adrenaline spike is because of the thrill of a “controlled” thrill.  One that most people live through. One that has safety parameters built into it.

Not friggin’ PIRATES! I never signed up for PIRATES!

So, for the first 4 evenings of our “luxury cruise”, while sweating like I was in an Indian Sweat lodge, with my drapes and balcony window buttoned up tightly, I wondered if I would live to see the good ol’ US of A!

There ain’t NOTHIN’ that spells luxury like that folks!

Captain Boczek’s last lines of his letter left me feeling calm, “special and highly personalized” (refer back to letter #1)… “Your safety is of paramount importance for us at Silversea…..”

Really?  Really? My safety is of such utmost importance to Silversea that they didn’t tell me about my tryout for a role in Pirates of the Caribbean before the ship set sail? THAT’S how paramount my safety was to Silversea!

That all being said, I guess we can add a few jackasses to the list of animals previously noted. But they were all on board our ship, wearing nautical costumes!

As you can probably decipher from this post, we did make it out of Africa alive.  No pirate boarding or takeovers.

Don & Patti in Marrakech

The last tour day we had lunch at a hotel which was once a palace. This little room looked like where you’d go to smoke your hookah!

You might have also figured out that I am not going to be the head cheerleader for Silversea!  Oh hell no!  I wish the pirate fiasco and the lack of AC was our only issues on this “luxury liner”, but no…… those were just the tip of the larger-than-hit-the-Titanic iceberg. I’m not even going to mention the numerous small items, like Don finding a shard of glass in his lunch one day. We’ll overlook those “little annoyances.”

Silversea asked for feedback on the cruise, which I provided. Over 6 weeks ago.  Then followed up 2 weeks later- to make sure they had received it. Then again 2 weeks ago again.  No response in any way. Not even a form “we received your letter and someone will get back to you” canned response! The last time around we even spoke to Ricardo who booked our cruise, made him aware of our letters, and resent the correspondence to him directly.  He promised he would “pass it on to his supervisors.” That was 2 weeks ago, with no follow up from anyone.

I’m sure I’m not being ignored.  I think I’ve figured out the problem.  PIRATES!  The pirates probably boarded a Silversea ship which had a company meeting going on with all of the customer service personnel, the head honchos and the marketing people, and they are being held hostage RIGHT NOW!

Someone contact the authorities, and send out a search and rescue team!

Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my “non luxury” cruise lines, and I can get 12 -15 cruises for the money one Silversea cruise cost!  (Not to mention, I’ll have AC in my cabin!)

_______________________________________________I had to add on a little “follow up” addendum to this story. While writing it, I sent a second email to our Silversea representative, Ricardo, telling him how disgusted I was with their company’s total lack of customer service.  I will admit, this particular email was not full of unicorns, flowers and glitter. No, I wasn’t really my most nice on this round.  I did mention in it that I now submitted a review on my experience to cruise critic and that I was now in the process of writing an article for my lifestyle blog regarding Silversea and their Silver Cloud ship.

Miracles DO happen folks! Yessiree! Amazingly enough within a few days I actually received communication from Silversea’s Guest Relations department. They apologized for the lack of response, stating that my original emails were “caught in their spam system.”  OK, hold on here Frank…….. may I call you Frank, Mr. Sansone?  You are going to tell me that Silversea- a large corporation, has a customer service email system, which you ask passengers to send their feedback to (feedback@silversea.com) and when they do, it goes into your spam folder?  Now THAT is a clever way to set things up! Very helpful to all involved……. Of course there was no explanation as to why my letter to Ricardo hadn’t been responded to for over 2 weeks at this point either…….. hmmmmmmm. Maybe their employees letters ALSO go to spam. Again, a clever and efficient way to run things.

So, that all being said, with his effusive apologies- well, kinda- sorta’- this following line of the letter threw me off a bit- “We appreciate your candor in evaluating your experience aboard Silver Cloud which we anticipate will stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product.”  Perhaps something was lost in the translation of my letters when Frank read them, because I would think it apparent to all involved that Silversea, indeed did NOT stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product….. Oh my. Consistant.  At least they are consistent…..

So, in the end, what Frank offered us was some credit on a future cruise, an amount which is basically equivalent to an upgrade from one class of cabin to the next level. SERIOUSLY Frank? Oh, and the other detail is that we must use that oh-so-generous credit for travel within the next two years.  I’m pretty certain that we will be getting our calendars right out and check which of the Silversea cruises are going to fit in our travel schedule. Or………..maybe not.

And last, but certainly not least- the following video has nothing to do with the idiots at Silversea, or even me- but after my rant I thought you deserved a bit of fun- so watch this great video of a young man who has been to every country in the world (how does he do that at this young age?).  He shares some cute little ditty about every one of the countries he’s been to- because…….. as I always say- Every Day is an Adventure!

From Boring to Beautiful!

Adventures With Attitude!, Every Day is an Adventure, Out and About, Travel and Adventure
Carlsbad Mural of tigers

I love this mural, found in Carlsbad, CA. On the side of Witch Creek Winery. I love the play between the black and white, and the color on the 2 tigers.

I don’t know if you have noticed it, but it seems that every time I turn around there are more and more buildings with murals painted on the sides of them.  More often than not, the building where the mural pops up is a small, unassuming would-be-dull little building.  You may have driven by 100 times, and never even noticed it.  Then suddenly – WHAM!  Someone puts a mural on the side of it, and the dull building jumps out and makes a statement!

Some of them are a bit unpolished.  Others are amazing works of art- but in most every case, they do brighten up the area and I really enjoy them.

I thought I’d share a few of the buildings I have noticed in just the past few weeks, as I go about my day-to-day life.  Most have been local to me, but a few have popped up in my trips to Sedona and other recent travels!

If you have photos of murals you have seen, send me a picture and I’ll add it to this post!  It may be the “ever changing, ever growing” mural photo-album!

Side of the Pour House bar in Oceanside, CA.

Pour House, Oceanside. CA. Coincidentally, this is one of the first places I ever performed comedy a number of years ago! It had a different name back then. The Beach- something-or-other………

Wander. Being a girl with Wanderlust, this mural on Coast Hwy. in Oceanside caught my eye!

Leucadia Murals

This looks like an alien takeover to me! This one is on the side of The Whet Noodle Restaurant, Oceanside CA. There were 4 or 5 murals within less than a block in this area!

Carlsbad Mural of surfers

This mural of surfers at the beach is in Carlsbad, on the side of a liquor store at the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive an PCH.

OK- technically this isnt a mural. However, when photographing murals in Leucadia, this was outside a bar there, and it made me laugh- so you are getting it too!

This beautiful beach scene is perfect on the side of Pacific Coast Cycles, in Oceanside CA. I love how the bikes look parked in front of it!

Carlsbad Mural

This mural is in Carlsbad on the corner of State and Carlsbad Village Dr. Kind of weird, because the tenants at the restaurant put their planter right over part of the mural….. Go figure! They could have just moved it to the right a few feet.

Oceanside Mural

The side of a building in Oceanside where “Matafied Salon”

Oceanside Mural at Revolution Coffee

The side of Revolution Roasters in Oceanside, CA. Sorry about the cars, but if I cropped them out, 1/2 of the mural would have been gone too!

Oceanside Surfer Mural

The side of Angelo’s burgers in Oceanside. Typical So. CA. surfer scene!

Vista Mural

A work in progress! My daughter Alyse and I went to the Vista, CA strawberry festival, and he was working on this mural. I’m not sure if this was a new mural he was painting,  or if he was touching up an old one.

A mural at San Diego Airport

I’m not sure this really qualifies as a “mural”, but I liked it, so it makes the cut! After all, we all need a little motivational saying here and there! This is on the outside of Southwest Airlines at San Diego Airport.

Pop Pie Co.

Side of the Pop Pie Company, San Diego. This is such a cool little place!  I just love the vibe, and when I’m down there, I pop in for a quick bite.

San Diego Mural

The side of a building in San Diego next to Pop Pie Co. Very esoteric! I feel like I could build a whole story around this little creature!

Leucadia Mural

This mural is on the side of “Bar Leucadian”, which, you guessed it- is a bar in Leucadia. This place changes their outside paint job more than any building I have ever seen. It was pink for breast cancer awareness, then changed to- gray I think. Now the murals. Someone must have inherited a paint store. Or has a lot of spare change. Not sure WHAT is going on at this place. (I admit I still hold a slight grudge in my heart against them for stopping Country Western Mondays a few years back. It was my regular Monday dance hang out. Bastards to take away my good times with friends! Don’t they know who I am?)

Leucadia Mural

This mural is on the side of “A Little Moore Cafe” in Leucadia, CA

Leucadia Mural

This mural is kind of tucked away off PCH in Leucadia, CA I love the intricacy and detail on this one! I felt that the subdued coloring is really masterful too!

Leucadia Mural

This lovely mural is located on one side of the Royal Liquor Store on PCH in Leucadia. The other side also has a mural on it!

Leucadia Mural

This is the other mural on the side of the Royal Liquor Store on PCH in Leucadia.

Leucadia Mural

This mural is also in Leucadia, off PCH. I’m not going to lie to you- I forget where exactly. (But when I remember I will change this info, so I look like I was well informed the whole time……)

Leucadia Mural

This fun mural is also located on PCH in Leucadia, CA

Patti in front of Sedona Healing Arts

This was outside the Sedona Healing Arts, where I found the “Angel Wings” from the “In Search of Angel’s Wings” post on my blog!

Side of Sedona Healing Arts

Sedona Healing Arts side of the building.

Leucadia Mural

This is a great mural, located in Leucadia, CA. on Coast Hwy. I love the paintbrush which is painted on there!

So that’s it for now, but I think I will be adding more as I come across them.

As I said before, if you have some to send me, I’d love to put them up! Let me know where you took the picture, and I’ll recognize you too!

Meanwhile, take a few moments when driving around to notice and enjoy the many murals out there! They do tend to brighten up a day!