Tuesday, December 18, 2018


This was our first "improvement" and I was thinking it was a ridiculous idea.  An OUTDOOR SHOWER?  We had TWO perfectly good showers and tubs inside.  He did a good job selling me on it and he was so excited, I just said yes.  BEST yes ever!  After it was built, we never showered inside again.  It is super huge, a nice large bench as well as a shelf on the wall behind the little artsy things (from Walmart).

A lot of houses in tropical areas have outdoor cold water showers without enclosures to rinse off snorkel or scuba gear and sandy bodies.  Happily, we added hot water and a bit of privacy to boot!

We had tons of cedar decking in Oregon and we treated it every year.  They still look brand new because of the product.  No one on Maui sold it (manufactured in Portland, Oregon) so I had to have it shipped over! $$$$  The owner was so nice and said if we sent her a photo, she would give us the shipping for free!  It's like putting hand lotion on wood.  Just gives wood a lot of protection from sun and water.  The first thing we did was have our neighbor kids (and parents) over for an outdoor shower party (with swim suits).  They just thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread!

The door hooks closed to the wall when not in use as Maui does get some wind.  The builder built it just tall enough so that the neighbors on either side could not see in from their second story windows.

Jim, the builder, took a shine to Mr. Ralph and the two of them brainstormed how to make the back yard more usable.  They decided on engineered wood (plastic) and then continued scheming to build it all the way out to the backyard fence!  It would cover the existing cement patio, just meet with the patio door from dining area and be one expanse of lush.

Mr. Ralph created the "fence art" of bamboo shade/fern because the white fence was too blaring white for my eyes!  We had many good times, large groups and small, over the three years that he was alive to enjoy it.  Worth every penny ... and we became friends with the builder!

The following year we added the side deck.  I wanted all green plants with white flashes from flowers or variegated plants.  He spent hours digging up existing plants and putting them in pots, for better soil (hard clay in Kihei) and so he could install a drip system to each one.  The palm trees got their own drip also.

We called this our meditation deck.  There's a gate to the front yard at the end down there, so we could prop it open and people could join us without walking through the house.

After his death, I got rid of the huge Costco dining table and chairs, and bought a few lightweight chairs and a coffee table from Amazon (free shipping) which I put together myself!  So I have two distinct areas ... my coffee nook just outside the dining room sliding door (for four) as well as a small party area for four that we can easily change into a larger area and bring over lightweight chairs.  You might see that some of these seats are two chairs stacked.  Everyone has a spot to sit their beverage.  

At Christmas I would get a giant poinsettia for that back corner and call it good.  A friend helped me string lights on the back fence one Christmas and now I just kept them up all year.  Instant party mood.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


The before look .....

The floor plan for 952 square feet.  Smart planning to put bedrooms as far apart as possible.  The "great" room has cathedral ceiling making those three rooms look much larger than they are.

The kitchen was perfect with a great view of the little backyard.  The first thing Mr. Ralph did for me was to put up little tiny white lights along the lania ceiling.  Just like the Oregon house.

The teeny tiny lanai (patio) with roof extension to keep off the hot sun.  The back of the house faces the West (afternoon sun!).  Not very big to entertain but we set up two chairs and a table and coffee out there every morning

This is the South side of the house.  Notice all that green grass?  It didn't take long to get tired of mowing every week, fertilizing and watering.  

This is the North side of the house.  We called it the junk side as we parked a lot of things out there.  Lawn mower, garden tools, etc.

This was his first project.  Best grass in the whole yard on the north side!  He dug it up and shared it with neighbors as well as put in some patches in other parts of our yard.

This is the east part of the junk side.  Ugh!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


For 30+ years, Mr. Ralph and I (and Kate) vacationed in Maui.  All those years we stayed at the same condo complex, Sugar Beach.  It boasts 7 miles of sandy beach.  Great for walking and shallow into the ocean, which is great for kids.  A very family oriented location and we had seasonal friends ... since we usually planned around school vacations.

Every year, we would go to open houses.  Eventually hooked up with a realtor who year after year would cart us around.  Leslie MS, you are an amazing friend.

When Mr. Ralph retired at age 75, I had surreptitiously arranged for a three month sabbatical to see if we really liked Maui ... or did we just like being on vacation there.  I rented a furnished apartment and a beater car so we could just live there.  As usual, we asked Leslie to show us around.  The perfect little house and finally, just within our reach.  We had some quick thinking to do. 

Kate was out of the nest, the Oregon house was too big and too much maintenance although I wanted a tiny place in Lake Oswego so we could go back and forth.  Just in case she ever got married and had children. 

We DID like living there and we were quickly learning where to go for less expensive food (and yes, there is a Costco and Walmart).  Cheap eats for when we wanted to go out.  Enjoying the beach and ocean and sunshine costs nothing! 

On March 10, 2014 we bought the Dream.  Two days later Kate called to say she was pregnant … due in October. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


I had my six month visit with Doogie Howser (not his real name ... but his real age!) last Thursday.  He walks in and asks (as always) "How are you doing?"  I answered "Embarrassed."

He grinned and told me to spill the beans.  Six months ago I had committed to  next week.  For all of those weeks!  So he gave me one more chance before I have to get my blood work done (to bring down the AIC levels).  Six weeks.  Six weeks of eating holidays.  Christmas cookies are my favorite!  And Chex Mix. 

I know I should be moving more and eating better.  Both of us think that's all it would take.  Being the procrastinator I am, I'd say OK, for sure I am starting ... NEXT WEEK, because six months is a long way off and I can beat this in just three months.  I wanted to lose weight before the big wedding.  (I'm embarrassed to look at photos of myself) and yet I didn't.  So this is my last chance.

Otherwise, I go on meds for Type II Diabetes.

Well, what is wrong with being on medication?  So many oldsters I know (including one of my brother) take pills.  I have a YOUNG friend who learned she had Type II and she began the battle.  Cutting way back on carbs (and she is a FABULOUS cook), doing a cleanse once a week, eating earlier in the day and moving more EVERY SINGLE DAY.  She reversed it!  And lost a little weight to boot.  Visit Leslie at Breakfast with God  (https://breakfastwithgod.net/2018/.)  In fact, I think she did a whole week of fasting/cleansing to kick start her metabolism.

When I was casually thinking of taking the easy way out, she reminded me of all of the horrible side effects of diabetes.  Once I read all of the things that can happen as a result of diabetes, I, too, was scared witless.

The following list is from the Mayo Clinic website.  Verbatim.

  • Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy). The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which often eventually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Eye damage. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Foot damage. Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections, which may heal poorly. Severe damage might require toe, foot or leg amputation.
  • Hearing impairment. Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
  • Skin conditions. Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.

  • Alzheimer's disease. Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be. The exact connection between these two conditions still remains unclear.
So, as of Thursday afternoon, I started looking at grams of carbs on packages. A low carb eating plan is about 50 - 150 grams per day.  One SMALL slice of Dave's Killer Bread is 12g of carbs.  A tiny (2") potato is 37 g of carbs.  One ounce of potato chips is 16g (who eats just one ounce???)  And so on.

Luckily for me, I still like to cook.  I made spaghetti and meatballs (spiralized zucchini noodles)(enough for two dinners).  Spinach salad with warm bacon dressing, toasted nuts and chevre with a grilled piece of salmon.  One half of a 2" potato (my dessert!).  One night Jesse grilled steak.  Tonight will be cauliflower mashed potatoes, stir "fried" mushrooms, peppers, onions, carrots and green beans with a baked chicken breast.  I'm going to make a chicken bone broth based cabbage soup for one day.  

It is possible for me to eat better.  No more finishing up the boys' french fries or mac n cheese.  More protein.  More fabulous salads (my sister is the ultimate salad chef so I'm going to mimic her).  Fortunately I do not have a sweet tooth, so eggs in the morning are perfect (instead of skipping breakfast).

Send me positive vibes!


Oh, gosh!  The season has started!!  My favorite holiday of the year.  Especially because children are involved.

The little family went out to get a fresh cut tree on Saturday as I made a "fancy" family dinner.  The dining room table was transformed from arts and crafts, homework, catch-all and nail polishing station to an inviting Christmas scene.  I bought a Costco roasted chicken and pumpkin pie.  Then I made dressing (Ree Drummond recipe)(some cornbread in it!), gravy, Pennies from Heaven (Silver Palate)(candied carrot coins), cornbread muffins, homemade ranch and a super veggie tray.  And we learned a few more manners ... "I'm finished eating, may I be excused" and they always take their dishes to the kitchen.

I used the fancy wine glasses I inherited from my Adopted Grandmother for everyone.  Each boy had a knife at their setting.  After feasting and enjoying great dinner conversation, we watched The Christmas Chronicles (Kurt Russell) with a fire in the fireplace.

On Sunday, Momma and the boys started the tree decorating.  The best part is listening to them say "Oh, I member dis one" and then they tell the story.  I lost my box of favorite ornaments when we downsized ... and Mr. Ralph took ALL the boxes to Goodwill.  But we have so many memories anyway.  We each gave Kate an ornament each year so she has enough for her own tree!  

Delicate porcelain baby shoes for Baby's First Christmas, Cookie Monster (or coo coo mon mon as her two year old self called him), the Nutcracker, a red car with a blond girl driving for Sweet Sixteen, and so on.

My Mom made her a few ornaments as well.

Their tradition is to let each boy choose their own ornament.  Mr. 4.5 wants a CocaCola bottle and Mr. 8 wants and an action figure. 

Let the magic begin!

Thursday, November 29, 2018


For the past few years here, I have been the Family Hermit. 92% of my life involves one or more of my roommates.  Sometimes it's just the dog, but I have made this place a very comfortable Awkward Widow's nest.  

Since I quit the crazy one person HOA Board of Directors (I'm just not a very good puppet), I have moved myself to the background of condo living.  I'm friendly when I meet neighbors, and I'm neighborly when required.  A new(er) friend of mine, who has been clean and sober for 3 years, asked why I didn't accept invitations from friends and family.  I think I have a touch of social anxiety.  

Many of us know the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable in a social situation.  Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.  For me it is large groups where I know only one or two people ... and they have others to chat with.  My friend and I had a conversation about it and he gave me some good advice. He also struggled with it and learned if I continued to hide behind the uncomfortableness, many aspects of my life, not just the social, could start to fall apart. Kate also suggested that I was setting a bad example for the boys and soon they might want to stay home instead of being with their cousins and extended family.

The grandkids were SHOCKED when I told them I was coming to Thanksgiving this year.  (Part of my hesitancy is that Jesse's side of the family are hard drinkers and they used to pressure Kate and Jesse ... oh, just one won't hurt.  They are also "seat of the pants" when planning.  No one really knows who is doing what or where or what time.  In fact, we were an HOUR late as his Mom gave us the wrong time!)

I asked about the Christmas gathering and heard it direct from Jesse's Mom who is hosting (her).  Someone else told me about the $10 gift exchange.  Another cousin said bring an appetizer or dessert.

A former neighbor called to invite me to their church musical on December 1.  I explained I don't drive in the dark (and rain) any more so they are picking me up!  Me?  In a church?  Beware of lightning and thunder!!

Last but not least, I am hosting a dessert buffet Saturday, Dec 15 when the Christmas Ships drive past our complex on the Willamette River.  This tradition started in 1954 when a few boater friends lit up their boats and took friends for rides!  Now there are two fleets, one on the Columbia River and one on the Willamette.  Once or twice they join forces and on the 15th it is the big combo!  I have 26 people confirmed!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Jesse is a remarkable man.  A good mate, a fabulous father and a great Mr. Mom.

When Deacon was born, they decided to have Jesse be the stay home Dad.  I was invited back when Braeden started Kindergarten.  Jesse doesn't drive and I was concerned about what would happen if he got sick or hurt at school.  The elementary school is about 2 miles away ... all uphill on the way there.  For the first few months, Momma would drop B at school before she went to work.  Jesse and baby Deacon would walk to pick him up at school and they would all walk home.  And then the cold rainy season began.  They decided to let him try taking the school bus.  He LOVES riding the bus.

Jesse does everything around the house.  The never-ending laundry.  It took YEARS for him to allow me to FOLD the clothes.  He hangs most everything except towels, pajamas, sox, jeans and underwear.  I cleaned out both dressers and labeled the drawers.  Now I can help by putting their clothes away and Braeden can find his own outfit and get dressed.  Deacon can almost do it all on his own.

Mr. Mom does 90% of the cooking!  And very healthy.  We go through 3 lbs of broccoli a week.  And carrots by the bushel.  Mr. B loves fruit but Deacon is down to just liking apples right now. We've had sweet potato pasta with herbed cream sauce.  Shepherd's pie.  Spaghetti marinara.  Breakfast for dinner.  Best fried rice ever. 

For years Mr. Mom would clean up the toys in the living room several times during the day.  Now the boys are trained to pick up Legos if they want to play soldiers.  Pick up the soldiers when they want to do art projects.  And so on.  I didn't think Deacon would EVER cooperate with picking up ... he was always "too tired to help, Dadda" or angry that he had to stop playing and have a meal.  I wasn't sure I'd live through his noisy flailing temper tantrums.  And then he turned 3.  Life is so much easier now.

Often the boys have a friend over.  Whenever it was clean up time, the friend would "have to go home".  Our boys were not happy.  Dadda stepped in and would ask the young chap what time he had to be home ... then would arrange clean up time ten minutes before!

Jesse sweeps the hardwood floors EVERY day at least once.  Vacuums every evening.  He does the dishes (very picky about loading).  I rinse mine and put them IN the dishwasher but he rearranges them every single time.

He prepares their beds each night while the boys are bathing, or reading with me, finding their favorite stuffed animals to put on their pillow.  Not always an easy task as Deacon learned early on to hide his Lambie which would stall bedtime for 15 minutes while the parents looked frantically (sometimes in the fridge, under furniture, behind books in the bookcase and once in the freezer!)  Gramma performed major surgery on Lambie and inserted a Tile that we can ring from our phones.

He lights candles every day, dims the lights in order to calm them down at dinner time.  While they eat, he goes outside to sweep the patio, blow the leaves, get the mail, whatever.  Empties the trash cans and does the recycling.  (He's training Mr. B to empty the recycle container into the proper bins).

They get plenty of physical exercise every day, rain or shine.  Ride bikes or scooters or go for a hike.  Walk to a favorite fishing spot even though they've only caught one fish.  When  conditions are really bad, he sets up an obstacle course in the clubhouse or they have a major Nerf gun battle.

The ultimate was just recent.  I visit some neighbors about once a week for wine and snacks and politics and gossip and ideas to change the world.  When I came home at 8pm, he had changed the sheets, made my bed, lit a candle and put a mint on my pillow.

My life is wonderful.