Haleakala National Park

Have you ever thought about the things you have intentionally or even inadvertently done that influence people in your life, especially your children? I attribute my fascination with Hawaii and my love of national parks to my dad. When I was about nine years old, our family of six camped across the country in our modified VW microbus. We stopped at some of the biggies – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Rocky Mountain National Park. I loved being in the parks and still consider them high up on my list of happy places.

Bob and I have made this trip with our four children, so we now understand what an undertaking it was and how we probably had more fun than our parents did, though they appreciated it more.

My dad and little sister Linda posing in front of one of the iconic signs. My nine-year-old self took this with my brand new camera.

I think my love and fascination of Hawaii came about a bit more subliminally. Dad made several business trips there and took lots of pictures, which were viewed as slides. That was the choice medium of the day – I don’t know why! Believe it or not, sometimes we kids would ask our parents if we could watch home movies and slides. If you can remember a time before the internet and cable TV, that makes more sense.

The problem was, every time we’d ask him to set up the projectors so we could see how cute we all were when we were younger, the first thing he would show us was Hawaii. He loved Hawaii and communicated that well and often, but when you’re a kid you can only sit through so many landscapes and beach scenes before you mentally check out. Something must have stuck in my brain though, because as an adult, Hawaii was on the top of my list of places to visit.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Bob and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. My dad was very excited to help with the planning. He had saved every brochure from his trips there in the 1960s. He presented them to us, I’m sure, with joyful memories hula-dancing through his head. We stared at them in only slight disbelief that he saved these black and white relics from over three decades ago. “Thanks, Dad!”

Fast forward another 22 years and Hawaii was calling us again. We had two major things in Maui that were unfinished from the year 2000 trip – both involved the spectacular Haleakala National Park, which we visited then. It’s a big park, and it is famous for its sunrises. People make reservations to be transported to the summit for coveted glimpses of the sun rising and then a bike ride down the mountain. On our 25th anniversary trip, we opted out of this because we would have had to leave our resort at 3:00 in the morning to get to the top on time. Sunrises are not dependable, as clouds and rain can quite literally put a damper on them, so you go with that in mind as well. In that season of our lives, we had four kids at home, and there wasn’t much to entice me out of bed at that time of day – not even Haleakala. We have regretted this decision, so when we booked this trip back in January, we determined to embrace that adventure.

That was before I broke my shoulder in February. Would we embrace the biking adventure? Could I embrace the biking adventure? Could I even keep a good hold on the handlebars? Can we wake up at 2:30 in the morning? We decided to hold it loosely – kind of like I would have to hold handlebars on a bike.

My shoulder was doing pretty well, definitely well enough to ride a bike, but my stamina was another thing. Plus, we would be riding along the side of the mountain road for a few hours and my entire body, much less my shoulder, was untested in this arena. Add to that I was beginning to suspect that Hawaii was trying to kill me as everything was just so hard compared to 22 years earlier. I was beginning to lose my drive.

Could 22 years make that much difference? YES! Throw in the broken shoulder and lack of movement for so much of this calendar year, mix it with altitude and elevation changes, and that could be a recipe for a last meal. Even Bob, who continues to mock me by playing pickleball three times a week, was hesitant on this one. We talked about it for a few days and then opted out. It was the mix of getting up early and riding down the mountain all the while remembering that our main goal of this trip was not to injure ourselves. And, we were tired. We were managing to keep up the pace of this trip only by fueling with coffee and diet coke. So, unlike our anniversary trip, we have no regrets.

Where there are sunrises on a mountain top, there must also be sunsets. We’d simply have to look the opposite way. Yep, we’re sunset people, so we headed to the park late morning to do some hiking and would arrive at the summit in time to get a good spot to relax and watch the show.

Our first stop in the park was Hosmer Grove, which was advised for birdwatching.

There is something special about feeling small in the forest.

After hiking through the forest we came to a clearing looking down on a tree covered valley. The birding here is mainly small song birds so I didn’t get any good pictures, but this place was a real treat. We did see several beautiful, red I’iwi and a few yellow ‘Amakihi flitting from tree to tree. This was a most relaxing hike. Bird watching takes my mind off of what my feet are doing.

Photos are from Hawaii.gov online guide to Hawaii’s birds. These beauties were too fast and small to capture with my iPhone.

Thankfully, driving up Haleakala is relatively easy. It’s a slow drive but the landscape is fantastic. We got out periodically and did little off the road hikes and were afforded breathtaking views along the way to its 10,023 foot summit.

This cliff at Kalahaku Overlook had interesting vegetation popping up from the rugged terrain. I loved how the blue sky gave way to the clouds. Literally one minute later we saw this:

Fogbow – I had never heard of them. Fascinating!

Not only are there lots of paths up mountains, Hawaii likes to throw in stairs, too. I guess they like to mix it up.

We made it to the summit and took in the views while walking slowly as the air was a little thin. Also, this was our moment of truth. Would we stay for the sunset? We arrived here at 4:30, over five hours since this journey began, and people were setting up chairs and blankets. We got one of the last parking places.

Japanese Quail

I think this looks like something out of a science fiction movie. It’s the Haleakala Observatories on the summit.

This picture was taken from the top of Haleakala at 4:50 PM. Doesn’t it look like we’re in an airplane? There was still more than an hour until official sunset time not including the beauty that would follow until dark. But, as had become the norm for us in Hawaii, by this time of day we were very tired. Our resort restaurant was having prime rib night. Hummmmm

The trip down the mountain would be over three hours if we waited until the sunset was over. We would be driving in the dark on roads without guardrails in traffic. We would miss prime rib and probably grab fast food. What should we do?

Prime rib? Beautiful sunset? Prime rib? Sunset?

Well, the prime rib was delicious.

The drive down the mountain was lovely. There was no traffic as everyone was heading up. We stopped and took in some great views. And, like I said the prime rib was delicious.

We drove down to this area and were blessed with more beauty and fog bows.

I was enjoying some final views near the top of the mountain when Bob started heading back to our rental jeep. It’s not exactly walking into the sunset, but it’ll do!

Will She Get the T-shirt?

We’re back, Hawaii! It’s been 12 years and we have some unfinished business. This is my fourth trip (Bob’s third), and we figured it’s about time we hiked Diamond Head. How hard can it be?

The day prior to our hike I was encouraged by a t-shirt I saw that stated, “I hiked Diamond Head.” It was generic enough that one couldn’t know if the hike was completed or not, but I gave the man the benefit of the doubt.

My brother, who understands my fitness level, at least I thought he did, also had encouraged me that he thought I could do it. He said it was easy to moderate. He was wrong. Very wrong. As Senor Wences always said, “Easy for you, deefeecult for me.” If you recognize that name, you probably are around my age and have seen the Ed Sullivan Show. But I digress.

It is only 0.8 miles to the summit. That brings you to 560 feet above the crater floor. The trail is very uneven and steep, and there are stairways and semidark tunnels to add to the fun. we were told that it would take 1.5-2 hours to do the round-trip. I usually add another 25% to get to my time.

At the foot of Diamondhead it is quite lovely and serene. It is grassy and there are trees to sit under while you are being refreshed by island breezes. There are a lot of birds, too. Former trips to Hawaii introduced me to the Redcrested Cardinal, one of my very favorite birds. I probably took about 50 pictures of them.

I also got to know the small zebra dove, which is only about 8 inches in length. The dove and the common myna are everywhere in Hawaii. Also in abundance is the common waxbill. It is small, only 5 inches, and camera shy. The waxbills travel in large sporadically moving flocks.

As I am sitting here working on this post, the waxbill came right up on the balcony briefly. I told you he was camera shy!

Another new bird for me is the golden plover. They migrate to Hawaii from Alaska every year. It is a nonstop migration. Think about that!

This pre-hike area and the short time spent there taking in nature was my favorite part of the hike. As soon as we started up, I realized this was not about the journey but about the destination. At least it was for this flat-loving Florida girl.

My main goal of this trip to Hawaii was not to injure myself. That means I use a walking stick and watch my feet while hiking. Therefore, my main views of Diamondhead were of the ground. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all about looking down. There were lots of times when I was so out of breath I had to stop and enjoy the view during recovery.

This was one of those times. The man dropped his sunglasses over the edge and tried to get them with his shoe. Then he dropped his shoe. He had another friend with him and she did not video any of this. I was shocked! He did recover his shoe and his sunglasses and another pair of sunglasses as a bonus.

More recovery times to enjoy the view and the breezes:

Evidently, it would take more than three trips to the gym and a couple of times riding around the block on my bike to prepare me for a hike of any kind. Talk about disappointing! I think the main thing, though, is that I am not used to elevation or inclines of any kind. At least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better.

And then this happened:

I took the video after an hour of hiking and then ten minutes of trying to breathe normally. It was a little concerning for Bob and me.

I ultimately decided I would keep going and reevaluate incrementally. I also decided that I had earned a T-shirt one way or the other. I was sure that Bob was not going to fight me on that!

These are the steps that did me in. you can see the tunnel at the top.

They really like stairs!

Here are pictures from the top. And they were from my phone, not Bob’s! I made it! Now I had to make it down.

I know that my readers are smart people, so you undoubtedly have figure it out by the fact that you’re reading this that I made it! My legs felt like Jell-O at the end, but it was worth it.

So if you are ever on Oahu and decide to hike Diamondhead and someone tells you it’s an easy hike, take note of who is telling you that and remember this story. I would hate to have suffered for nothing! Also, we started the hike before nine in the morning and it is hot in Hawaii. If you decide to do this hike, the earlier in the day the better. Happy hiking and aloha.

I got the t-shirt!

Fun Times in England and Signs of The Platinum Jubilee (England Part 6)

Everywhere we looked, there she was! Queen Elizabeth’s face graced signs, banners, shirts, cups, mugs, totebags, bobbleheads, candy and cookie tins. Oh my! It was so much fun. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the celebration.

Chinatown London

Fancy a read about the Queen? There is an unlimited supply of choices.

Handmade tribute to Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee atop a trash receptacle

School children entered a contest to pay tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Some of the winners were displayed in the shops near Windsor Castle.

These signs were peppered throughout London. I love how polite they are. “Apologies”

While we’re talking about signs, I’m thankful they are generous with their signage. I may be alive today because of signs like this:

I didn’t realize how ingrained in my little brain our American traffic flow is. There are a ton of tourists from the USA and other “right-driving” countries, and the Brits want to keep us alive and well. Jolly good!

You know those annoying humps in the road that are designed to slow traffic? That’s what I thought this sign might be referring to, but it’s not. Plus, when I think of an animal with a hump, I think of a camel.

This sign indicates a pedestrian crossing area. There is a slight hump to the crossing, but the broad white stripes seem to be the zebra connection.

Roads were closed for a bicycle parade one morning of our trip. I was pretty excited as I finally found Waldo!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a mother of three boys (and I can’t leave out my daughter Dena in this question) or if this is just who I am, but I can appreciate some bathroom humor – especially of this kind. I’m going with the mom thing.

I’ll hold it right there, for now. I have one more post to share before we leave England, but first here’s my own little tribute to Queen Elizabeth assembled with my own souvenirs.

The Theatre, Museums, and Harrods, Oh My! (England Part 5)

On our last night in England, our young folk took an evening bike tour. While that sounded good, it was a little too energetic for us. Plus, I had made it almost to the end without injuring myself, so why take a chance.

From our window at the St. Martins Lane Hotel London we could see the advertisement for Amy Adams in the Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I have been a fan since she was in Julie and Julia, plus we literally had only to walk across the street, so the choice was simple.

This play by Tennessee Williams is said to be brilliant. I found it interesting, but I’ll leave the critiquing to actual critics. My favorite part of the evening was being in the theatre.

The most unusual part of the evening was when the “ice-cream man” popped in at the end of the rows to sell ice cream during intermission. I had already determined that the British really like their ice cream. There were shops devoted to it everywhere. But I did not expect it to be pedaled at the theatre. I have learned since from my British friend, Mavis, that it has been that way since she was a child.

Not just vanilla – it’s luxury vanilla

While I’m mentioning St. Martins Lane, a few photos need to be shared. Not the typical spot for Bob and me, but Jesse, our son, stretched us out of our usual choices more than once. Thanks, Jesse. It sure was interesting. It’s fun to be shaken out of the norm now and then.

This wall appears to be a boutique tea counter, but the golden hand which my grandson is gripping opens an otherwise invisible door to a cocktail area.

Are these golden “teeth” for sitting upon or are they individual tables on which to put a drink?

This is the focal point of the restaurant. Makes you want to curl up with a drink and a book. We used the room for late night games of Azul, our favorite board game.

While we aren’t huge museum people, we do enjoy a visit. Because of my admiration of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, not to mention Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the Queen on Masterpiece’s Victoria, the V & A was a must. The museum itself was spectacular.

Finding a Chihuly was a pleasant surprise

The V&A is huge – the world’s largest museum of applied arts with over two million objects. It was founded in London in 1852. Had I done even a small amount of research, I would have discovered that the museum has very little to do with Victoria and Albert and is more about their legacy. I guess I was expecting another episode of Masterpiece – silly me!

The most interesting museum for me was the Churchill War Rooms, located near 10 Downing Street in downtown London. I am fascinated with World War II history, and this museum does not disappoint.

Notice all the different colored telephones – like modern-day phone cases so you can tell them apart

In this hallway the outside weather was posted. If it said windy that meant a heavy raid was going on.

British leaders worked underground while the Germans were bombing above. The fate of the war was decided in these rooms. They were closed and locked after the Japanese forces surrendered on August 16, 1945 and were left undisturbed until 1948 when they became an historic site. As I gazed through the protective glass, I could see telephones, maps, partially smoked cigars – it was like the people could return any minute. It’s one of those places where you can “feel” the history – was that PM Churchill’s cigar that I was smelling?

Would a trip to London be complete without a stop at Harrods? Yes, but why not! Harrods is a department store and considered the best there is in that, well, department. It is actually a store full of department stores and each offers service that is unmatched by just about any standard. Some of the services they offer are toy concierge, a cobbler, private shopping in the penthouse, luxury piercing, and fashion rental service. Restaurants include Gordon Ramsay Burger and The Harrods Tea Rooms, among others.

Prada, Gucci, Boodles, Tiffany & Co, and countless others that I have never heard of are found within its walls. It’s fancy. I think it could be better described as fancy-schmancy. It’s that upscale.

I guess stockings are more of a thing in England than they are in hot Florida.

This is an example of the saying – “There really is something for everyone.”

Stores beckoned shoppers inside via sight, sound, and smell. Even in the stores that did not carry perfume, the strong scent of it (or was that what money smells like?) was more than my sensitive, dry eyes could handle. Still, it was worth a walkthrough revealing how the other half (or some much smaller percentage) lives. All in all, I’ll take Costco.

Palaces and Castles (England Part 4)

What makes one massive, beautiful building a castle and another a palace? I had never thought about that, but those thoughts came with being in England. A little research revealed that the castle has fortification. Castles were built for defense and palaces were more for showing off wealth. If you cross a moat to get in, you’re going to a castle. If you see cannons aiming at you, yep, that’s a castle. If you need sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sheen and sparkle of all that gilded stuff, you’re probably in a palace.

Castles, like palaces, are often among the residences of royalty, but they were built more for defense and protection. When you go to Buckingham Palace, for example, you are more likely to be shown a good time at a state dinner while you are marveling at the artwork and grand surroundings. You have your massive thrones, enormous banquet halls, and gilded everything. Very palatial!

Queen Elizabeth had six official residences. She passed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This was her end-of-summer home and is thought to have been her favorite. I like the thought that she passed in a place she loved so much.

I visited two of her other residences during our time in the London area. Alright, it would be an exaggeration to say that I visited Buckingham Palace, but I saw it – briefly. It happened to be my birthday, and the whole of London was preparing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I had to give it a go. You don’t go all the way to London and not see the Palace. We got close, but that was all we could do. The Mall, which is a tree-lined road that goes from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was blocked off from any kind of traffic, but they left a heavily policed area to cross. I was thankful for that, so as I was shuffled quickly across The Mall, I aimed my camera down the road and there it was!

This gives a lovely view of the barricades with the Palace in the background.

St. James’ Park and Duck Island Cottage, which is a great bird-watching area, are right along the way to the Palace.

I was rather shocked that the Oxford comma was not used on this sign.

While the guys were out golfing, my daughter-in-law, Dacia, and I toured Windsor Castle. I know they love to play golf, but I think we had the better day.

Windsor Castle seemed to me more like a walled city than a castle, but that makes sense as castles are built for defense. I suppose that also speaks to my limited knowledge of castles as much as anything. I was so impressed by the sheer size of it. Touring was splendid, but we were not allowed to photograph most areas.

The mail is delivered in royal fashion. I watched to see if perhaps Her Majesty would come to the curb to see if there was anything worth keeping that day, but alas, she did not. I imagined she was resting up for the Jubilee. I also wondered if The Queen gets junk mail, but again, she probably has people for that; plus, who would dare! What a perk.

Statue of Queen Victoria outside of Windsor Castle

Also at Windsor, this is as close as I got to a changing of the guard. It’ll do.

We also toured Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, which is the birthplace of Winston Churchill (1874). This palace confused me all the more in my distinguishing between palaces and castles. Inside most of it felt more like a government office or museum. The outside looked like a palace for sure. Parts of the interior were very palatial, but it lacked the overall pizazz that I want in a palace.

Hanging on the back lawn of Blenheim Palace.

Front view of Blenheim Palace – very palatial

The British know how to make magnificent gardens.

The Marlborough Mice were tucked here and there throughout Blenheim Palace. It was like a scavenger hunt. Here they are on prominent display at this banquet table.

The Mice close-up

The main reason we visited Blenheim Palace was because Winston Churchill was born there. Our son is a huge fan and named one of his sons Winston. Our Winston had lots of pictures taken throughout the palace and, actually, our entire trip. It was like a Winston BOGO.

Winston in the room Winston was born.

Winston by Winston in the Churchill War Room

Winston and Winston.

I’ll leave you here with this pack of Winstons.

The Cotswolds – Don’t You Love that Name (England Part 3)

Nothing to see here – at least nothing man-made like billboards or kiosks or switchbacks of people waiting to go on attractions. This region called The Cotswolds is the attraction. When you break down the word, “cots” means sheep enclosures and “wolds” are gentle hills. As we traversed the area, that made perfect sense to us.

This was how I pictured the English countryside. When we pulled up to the lovely Slaughters Country Inn in Cheltenham, I felt like I had truly arrived in jolly old England. All I needed was a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The Slaughters Country Inn

We passed along roads with names like Sheep Street, and Talbot Ture and the Monarch’s Way (which is an alley/footpath).

Some signs were not quite as fancy as others.

Each place we looked seemed a bit more quaint than the one before.

Here we got to take a stroll in the rain. Rain doesn’t stop things here like it does at home. Also, fences don’t stop people here like they do at home. Here in the Cotswolds they give you a right of passage through farmland filled with grazing sheep. Not only is it fine to walk through, gates are provided to allow you in and keep the sheep from wandering as well. This was one of the biggest contrasts to home. I loved it.

I loved the stone fences. Simply charming.

On our walk we passed Horse Chestnut trees. They reminded me of a fuller, taller version of our Crepe Myrtles. That is until we got up close. Magnificent!

Green is my favorite color. Our walk interspersed with lush, rolling hills and canopies of trees was truly a study in green.

Sunset after the most relaxing part of our journey.

The slower pace was helpful, because we were about to take it up a notch as far as activity went. Next we would tour a palace and be off to London.

Loving it in Liverpool, and Lytham St. Annes, too (England Part 2)

While the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course may have been the driving force (pun intended) for our stay in Lytham, there was much to see in the non-golfing world here. Visiting a pub during a soccer match was quite the experience. The pub was split into two sides with one side viewing and cheering for Liverpool in one game while the other half did the same for Manchester in a different game. Not having an allegiance either way, we went to wherever there was seating for the six of us and quickly became Liverpool fans – or was it Manchester? By the sounds of the room, it was an exciting game. Both sides of the pub rooted for winners that day, which meant that Manchester won the championship – an event that I still couldn’t explain to you. I’d have been totally lost if I hadn’t recently watched Ted Lasso.

Pub food is great and another must while in England.

Woops, I didn’t photo the food.

After the game, we walked the town. I was particularly moved by the flag of The Ukraine flying across from our hotel.

Golfing continued at Royal Liverpool the next day, so Dacia and I went on a Magical Mystery Tour. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a mystery nor was it very magical, but it featured the Beatles, so it seemed like the thing to do. Plus, there was Beatles music – so just another “Day in the Life.” Oh, boy!

The blue suburban skies were showing off big time as we bussed around the home of the Beatles.

Penny Lane was a hit. It was in our ears and in our eyes, and I’m humming it right now as I write. There was a shelter in the middle of a roundabout, which you likely have heard of. Roundabouts are ubiquitous to England. They drive me crazy, so it’s a good thing I don’t live there.

I am a huge fan of Sir Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him in concert twice (even though he looked about the size of an action figure from our seats high above the stage floor). He brings you into the concert and makes it seem like you’re part of an enormous family reunion. So, I was especially happy to visit the modest home in which he grew up.

George Harrison’s Birthplace

Then there was Strawberry Fields, which began as a children’s home in 1936. It was originally a private home in the Victorian Era before it was bought by the Salvation Army. As of the early 2000s, the Salvation Army no longer maintains it as a home for children but continues to use it for other purposes.

This place has been here forever.

Hanging with John

Liverpool Skyline

To quote The Beatles – “There are places I remember.” Especially if I write about them.

England

The sad news of Her Majesty the Queen passing has given me the inspiration I needed to finally document our late spring trip to England. I hope you’re up to several posts with a British accent.

First, I must tell you how much I admire Queen Elizabeth II. Her love for her country and her people was constantly on display, as was her grace and sense of humor. Hers was a job which she did not choose but she executed her duties in a manner that will long be fondly remembered. I send my condolences to my friends across the pond.

Like Queen Elizabeth, I have four children and eight grandchildren; but this is where the similarities end. This American woman can’t imagine running a country while chasing kids around at sporting events, running carpool, and keeping up with laundry and meals. Well, maybe if I had “people” for those duties, but who am I kidding!

I had never been to Great Britain before, and I am so thankful that our trip was planned during Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee – the festivities and her smiling face were everywhere. The energy was palpable.

Bob and I made this trip with our son, Jesse, his wife, Dacia, and their teenage boys Manning and Winston. The guys are all avid golfers, and this trip was designed around five golf courses. That gave us a great overview of the countryside as well as London, and plenty for Dacia and me to do while they played.

We landed at Heathrow on May 21 and headed to York. How I wish we had more than a half-day to spend there. Perhaps it was because it was our first stop that I so quickly fell in love with York and England. Or maybe it was simply because it’s amazing.

York’s Roman walls have stood for centuries. They are the most extensive Roman walls in England and provide a lovely walking path and picturesque views of York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral north of the Alps, which I thought was a strange starting point for measurement. The 235-foot-tall cathedral towers over the city.

York Minster

As I was on the ready to find souvenirs, turning onto The Shambles took my breath away. Not only is it quintessentially British, but it was also inspiration for the Harry Potter franchise. Part of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was filmed in York. I discovered afterward that York’s railway station was used in the first film. Just as well as we would not have had time to visit it. While I enjoy Harry Potter, I’m not a huge fan, but I have children and grandchildren who are, so I figure any references to Harry or Hogwarts can only up my cred.

I walked into “The Shop That Must Not Be Named,” only to feel like I was in a giftshop at Orlando’s Universal Studios. Mentioning to the young staff that I was from Orlando gave me the only sense of royalty I experienced on this trip. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, coming to Orlando is like a journey to the Promised Land. Except for the excessive heat and humidity, of course.

So ended Day 1. Then we were off to Lytham via a country road which led us to follow signs to The Winehouse. Nothing says, “Welcome to England” like watching your grandsons taste their first scone at a winery next to meadows of sheep and cows.

This was a great foundation for our British experience.

The Problem with Passports

Bob and I gazed intently into each other’s eyes. “What color are my eyes?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, what color are mine?” I replied.

“I’m not sure either, but I’m renewing our passports and the Department of State wants to know.

We’ve been married 46 years, and looked into each other’s eyes so many times, yet I still have trouble discerning what color they are. Thankfully, he has the same problem. We have trouble distinguishing between hues.  

Surprise, surprise – the United States government has gotten pickier. The forms are longer and require more information. Things have changed since we renewed our passports ten years ago.

Uncle Sam now wants us to tell him what color our eyes and hair are. Isn’t that covered with our pictures? I wonder if someone at customs will even look that closely at our eyes. “Sorry, sir, you cannot enter our country because you claim to have green eyes and they are clearly blue with a greenish tint.”

Bob and I have that color eyes that seems to change from greenish to blueish depending on what we’re wearing. I’ve always claimed to have green eyes, but some people have commented on my blue eyes. It’s very confusing, but we knew it was our civic duty to finally lay to rest the eye color question. I wish you could have seen us getting in good light, naked, so as not to affect eye color change. On second thought, maybe not.

Next, it was time to figure out what color hair we have. Bob was easy – gray. As usual, I was more complicated. Typically I don’t think a flip about my hair color, as long as I can cover up the gray. There was not a choice of light brown or dark blonde or mostly blonde with gray roots. I decided to go with blonde – I hope they’re okay with that. (It’s quite the challenging form to fill out.)

Plus, as far as hair goes, it does. It goes for some guys, and it gets colored. Does this mean that I have to keep my appearance the same as my passport photo? If only! The last decade has resulted in some subtle changes in my appearance. I don’t think it’s going to get any better moving forward.

To further vex me, my beloved Costco no longer has a photo department where we can get inexpensive photos to send along to Uncle Sam during our weekly visits there. We were forced to use Walgreens like regular people.

The picture taking was disturbing, too. We decided to get ours done on the way to a dinner date. That way I would have fixed my hair, put on a little make-up and jewelry, and basically not look like I do every other day. Except that day I was suffering from dry eye syndrome and couldn’t wear eye make-up. That’s okay (I thought), I’ll put on some foundation, eyebrows, and lips. I’ll have jewelry on to give me some color and I wear glasses. As for Bob, he took a shower and combed his hair. Life is so much simpler for him!

At Walgreens, things took a bit of a turn. For the photos you are not allowed to wear jewelry or glasses, and you must put your hair behind your ears. Then, as before, they zoom in for a close-up that shows every open pour on your nose and all the new wrinkles you try not to think about, and there you go! Voila! A picture that haunts you because it’s going to be your identifier for the next ten years.

What have I learned through all of this? I am much more vain than I realized. I’ll do what it takes to be able to travel. None of this really matters. And Bob’s and my eyes are definitely green.

Extra credit: Can you distinguish between these Hughs?

Photo credit: depositphotos.com
Photo credit: depositphotos.com
Photo Credit: pngkey.com

I’m So Embarrassed

As I told you in my last post, June was a big month for us. Bob retired and we did some traveling. Looking back on that post, I realized there was more to tell than our effort to have steamed crabs for dinner. In hindsight it seemed wrong that I didn’t mention how proud I was of Bob as I attended his retirement luncheon. (I was extremely proud.) The words “workhorse” and “finisher” were among the many accolades he received.

It also seemed wrong that I didn’t focus on our family being together for the first time in years. We witnessed our youngest grandson seeing the grandeur of the ocean for the first time and take those first tentative steps into the water. Our eight grandchildren totally enjoyed their cousin time, and our kids and kids-in-law were reunited over approximately 300 games. Yes, we are gamers, and yes, I tend to exaggerate. We only brought 30 games (and all but about 2 were played).

I also didn’t tell you about our trip to Stanardsville, Virginia, Williamsburg or Monticello, but there’s time for that later. By now you understand the power steamed crabs has over me. It’s a little embarrassing that they were the first thing I wrote about. In all fairness, though, they were really good, and we hadn’t polished off a table full of crabs in a coon’s age! Even now, a month after we got out the mallets and crab crackers, I can still close my eyes and smell Old Bay Seasoning. (I may need to talk to my doctor about that.)

Oops, there I go again. Back to the family – there were 18 of us gathered in Hilton Head. Our 8 grandchildren range from 2.5 to 18 years old. The power of family was on full display as these kids embraced each other. There is something special about cousins. Even with this wide range of ages, the interactions were sweet (and noisy). Watching the older cousins care for and play with the younger was a gift to me. How I wish we all lived close to each other! But how thankful I am that we can be together despite distance.

They are all pretty cute and amazing, so I’ve included a few pictures of them. Trust me, I could have really bogged down this post with pictures, but I want you to keep reading.

The Beach from crazy to serene

Being a mom to Bob’s and my four kids has been the joy of my life. When grandchildren were added, my cup literally ran over with happiness. One thing I have really missed since we all haven’t lived in the same locale, is having an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. My mom started doing those backyard hunts when my kids were young, and I have taken up the mantle, though sporadically now. When there are only two local grandkids and they’re both teenagers, a bit of the thrill of the hunt is missing. My two youngest grandkids had never participated in the hunt! I saw my opportunity for our June gathering. As Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ every day, so why not do an egg hunt in June.

Who remembers The Unknown Comic from The Gong Show? I present, the Unknown Egg Hunters.

I have kept the plastic eggs over the years and had over a hundred of them. Even with the help of our kids and their spouses, it took a little while to hide them all. But at last, we lined up the grands and the hunt began. We released them by age to even the playing field. That Anderson competitive blood flows through their veins and they were off. Eggs and children were everywhere. At the end of the hunt, prizes were chosen.

We also did a jigsaw puzzle competition. Ella (our second grandchild) is a huge fan of Marvel, as am I. When I came across 48-piece puzzles in a tin with Marvel superheroes gracing the front, I made it my business to find 6 of them. It took four different stops to realize my goal, but I did it.

Our eldest grandson, Manning, and his mom came in first place

I am relatively sure I was much more excited about these puzzles and the whole competition to complete them than anyone else. Did they not realize that each puzzle came with an infinity stone? The older six grandchildren each chose an adult to team with them and the games began. When Layna (the youngest competitor) chose Bob, I felt like they were a shoo-in. Honestly, when it comes to puzzles, he is a ringer. But I hadn’t counted on them getting The Incredible Hulk, which is mostly a mass of green. At least they didn’t get angry when they came in last.

Jett enjoys finishing before Bob (Bumpa)

Games and puzzles and walks on the beach with our tribe are tucked away in my memory. I smile when I think of this group of people whom I love more than I can describe. I’m thankful that God made families and thankful that he gave us each one of ours.

Hilton Head sunset