Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The day after I returned from California, I repacked my suitcase and headed for Virginia Beach, Virginia.  It’s pretty amazing to think that in the course of two days, I traveled the entire width of this great country—over 3,000 miles from coast to coast.  I went to visit my friend Gayle, who retired recently, quickly sold her home in Michigan, and moved back to her hometown.

Virginia Beach is a beautiful city that spreads itself generously along the Atlantic Coast, just east of Norfolk.  There's a naval base here, so this is a typical site.

Gayle's mother still lives here, and Gayle’s been enjoying time with her, as well as the company of her youngest daughter Leah, who is living with her for a few months.

Gayle and I have enough in common to enjoy a good friendship, but we are different is some significant ways.  Gayle is very athletic, where I am definitely not.  She hikes, bikes, runs, and indulges often in her favorite sport, kayaking.  At the time of my visit, she was in the midst of final preparations for a six-week, 631 mile kayaking trip down the Alabama River.  She and a friend are doing this trip together, just the two of them, and it’s by far the longest run they’ve ever attempted.   People often comment on how courageous I am to travel alone around the world, but this is a woman who is truly brave.  She’s traveled to more than 50 countries, about half with her two daughters—backpacking, camping, staying in hostels, eating street food, etc.  I would never attempt this type of travel.  I really admire Gayle for her spirit of adventure. 

I kayaked for the first time with Gayle and her kayaking meet-up group.  And here’s the proof for those of you who might think I’m blowing a little smoke ;-)  It was comforting to have a partner for the first time out.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and I think I might become a fan.  It certainly would help me build the upper body strength I need to schlep my luggage around airports and train stations hither and yon.

Here's Gayle in the sleek new kayak she bought for her upcoming trip.

We also spent several afternoons at the beach, and this, as most of you know, is one of my favorite pastimes.  The tourist season was over, so the beaches weren’t very crowded.  It was beautifully relaxing.

I ate a lot of crab cakes and enjoyed a parting lunch, with Gayle, her mother, a kayaking friend, Jenine--and delicious blueberry-basil mojitos.

There's nothing quite as sweet as time spent with a good friend. The weather was very warm, and the 60 degrees that greeted upon my return to Michigan was a little shocking!

Now I’m settled in the apartment of another friend in Ann Arbor, while she explores the wilds of Chile.  I’ll be her guest in absentia for a couple of weeks, then move back to where I was before I went to California.  No moss grows on this female nomad!


The icing on the cake for me after the wedding was my last day in California, when, for the first time EVER, my two sisters and I spent a day together alone—just the three of us.  We went to a Six Flags park and saw lots of animal shows.



A white tiger

A tiger being fed from a milk bottle


We could also observe other animals in their zoo-like enclosures.


   Sea lions

      Land lions



We didn't go on any of the rides, although this old-fashioned roller coaster was very tempting.

We all suffer from vertigo to some degree.  This ride made me dizzy just looking at it!

We had a great day, and I hope it’s not the last opportunity we have to enjoy some private sister time together.  

It rained a bit on the way home and when we stopped for dinner, we noticed this double rainbow.  It's the second one I've seen since returning to the U.S., and I'm sure this must portend good fortune for the coming year.  


I’ve been on the move here in the U.S. almost as much as when I was traveling abroad.  I just returned from two separate trips—the first to California for a family wedding and the second to visit a friend in Virginia.

My niece’s oldest daughter got married at age 20.  She and her husband looked like children to me, but that’s just because I’m at the other end of the lifeline.

But I’m sure most of my friends will agree that this looks pretty young.  

Madison, or Maddie as we call her, is a beautiful person, and she was a glowing, beautiful bride.  Her new husband Kenny, clearly adores her, which makes him okay with me. 

My sister’s house was a whirlwind from the moment I arrived.  Maddie requested that her Grammy make her famous apple crumble pie as a dessert for the wedding party, so my sister made 15 apple pies.  The first day I was there, I peeled apples for a few of these.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but my sister’s apple pie is definitely worth the calories.

My younger sister Tonya and I helped my niece Shelley with preparations for the wedding party, which took place at her house.  

Each table had a beautiful flower arrangement and candles.

There were candles in glass jars hanging from the trees.

Madison chose to have a barbeque, so we ate pulled pork, smoked brisket of beef, macaroni and cheese, grilled vegetables, and cornbread.  Besides my sister’s apple pies, there were also chocolate pies and a wedding cake.  It was a step away from the norm as wedding dinners go.

It was hard to keep dry eyes when the newlyweds danced for the first time as a married couple.

I lost it during the father/daughter dance—it was just too touching to hold back the happy tears.

This is the very proud mother, my niece Shelley, and my lovely sister Kendra.  They were just beaming all evening.  

Madison's lovely bridesmaids were all dressed in yellow, but with different dresses--I liked that.  The girl on the far left is my great niece Ellie and the one to the right of the bride is her sister Katie.  

The young fellow in front is the fourth of my niece's children, Jonathan, who struck this pose whenever he knew his picture would be taken.  Pretty silly, but funny.

The couple will have a delayed honeymoon in December, a generous gift from my sister and her husband.  They are both still in college and will enjoy this belated celebration of their nuptials during their winter break from school.  

My wish for these two is enduring love and happiness.