Monday, January 17, 2022

Another New Relative

A few years ago, Larry received an email through one of the sites where we had our DNA evaluated. It was from a DNA relative—one he had no idea about. She had been adopted and was looking for her birth mother. Both Larry and his brother, Casey, had received emails from her.

She indicated they were related on his father’s side as second cousins. She only knew her mother’s age at the time she was born and that she was from California. (The “new” cousin was from another state.)

This one was easy to figure out even though we had no idea that this particular cousin had ever had another child. We were out-of-state ourselves at the time Her daughter was born, so we were unaware of her whereabouts.

Larry passed the email on to his cousin, and we were able to connect her to her first child.

We also communicated with the daughter and invited her to come to California for a visit and to meet the other family members. This has yet to happen, but we are hopeful.


Last week, it happened again. Larry and Casey received emails from another DNA relative. This time, it was a first cousin! She was born in another state where we were fairly certain NONE of the relatives had ever visited. She was looking for her birth father, whom she had never met. She had just gotten her DNA results and was shocked to find out she was over half European. Her mother was Native American, and she had always believed she was, too.

We spent a couple of days trying to figure out who her father could possibly be.

There were four brothers in Larry’s dad’s family. His dad was immediately eliminated because they are first cousins. This left three others.

We went through all the scenarios before Larry dredged up a memory from his childhood that put everything in perspective. We are now over 90% certain we have the right one. Since this uncle had no other children and has been dead for many years, we can’t confirm this 100%, but we are quite sure we have the right person.

The only way to be completely sure would be for Larry’s cousins to take DNA tests with the same site to eliminate their fathers. (We are confident of the outcome.)

We shared our theory with Larry’s brother and our daughter, and they agreed completely.

Since then, we have been in touch with his “new” cousin, sharing photos and other family information. She is understandably shocked with the results, but she is also happy to finally clarify her parentage.

We have welcomed her to the family and invited her to come here to meet her other relatives. We are excited to get to know her.

We love the show, Finding Your Roots. As Dr. Gates always says, “DNA don’t lie.”

This is the side of the family with “boring” farmers. Who would have guessed?

Have you ever had this kind of surprise?

 


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Back to the Park

 After our Disney mini-vacation in September, we realized how much we enjoy the Disney parks. So, our Christmas gift to each other was Magic Key passes for the year. Ours have no blackout days. HOWEVER, you now have to make a reservation in order to go to the park.

When we first got ours, there were no available dates in December at all. I was able to get one date in November, so we took it. I really wanted to see the Christmas lights and decorations in the park.

Near the end of November, I looked again, and a few December dates were open, so I snagged a couple of those!

On the first trip in November, we started at the tree on Main Street. (This is why we don’t take selfies!)


We went on several of the old favorites.


In December, we were able to get on Rise of the Resistance again. I liked it much better in the cooler weather.


On the 13th, It’s a Small World Christmas was back in operation. The only time I like to go on that ride is at Christmastime. (A flood in the electrical room under the ride caused it to be out for several months.)

At least once on each trip, we like to sit in the lobby at the Grand Californian and listen to the piano. We also like to people-watch.


Theme Park aerobics is my favorite form of exercise. Now we’re getting back to it! And I love it!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Our Trip to the North Pole

Ever since I first heard about the Polar Express train in the Grand Canyon many years ago, I have wanted to go. (Yes, I am still a kid when it comes to Christmas!) However, adults were required to take a child with them to get on the train. We had no little ones in the family at the time. Besides, it would have required a long drive and an overnight stay.

This year, my brother-in-love and sister-in-love (Baba and Nana) have a four-year-old great-granddaughter…

I discovered the Polar Express Experience in Perris, California at the Railroad Museum—about a forty-five-minute drive away.

For quite a few years, we have tried to give gifts to create memories. We figured sharing a trip on the Polar Express train would create wonderful memories for all of us—especially four-year-old Everleigh (called “Evie”). So, I made reservations for the five of us for December 2 at 4:30 p.m.

We met Casey and Lucy at their son Shaun’s home in Orange, where they left their car. The drive was smooth and uneventful. However, locating the entrance proved a bit of a challenge. We met it, however!

Pajamas were suggested (not required), however nearly everyone on the train wore them. We did, too!

Uncle Larry, Auntie Lorna, Baba, Nana, Evie

After we checked in, we donned our jammies. (Masks were required the entire time on the train.) I wear children’s masks because the regular ones are just too large. I took an extra. It was pink. Evie loved it, so I gave it to her. (Her favorite colors are red and pink! A girl after my own heart.)

Outside, we took pictures before we entered the waiting area.




Everleigh


Nana, Everleigh, and Baba

At last, we entered the waiting “room” (a large tent), where more photo opportunities presented themselves.


Auntie Lorna, Everleigh, and Uncle Larry

Then we boarded the train.

During the ride, actors portrayed the story of The Polar Express and sang songs from the movie, including serving hot chocolate and Walker’s shortbread cookies.

They engaged the participants throughout the ride.

At one point, elves danced outside the windows, and the kids were encouraged to get near the large window to see them better. Evie took part with enthusiasm.


She also danced in the aisles when encouraged to do so by the cast members.

Near the end of the ride, a narrator read the actual story while the actors passed through the car showing pictures from the book. Evie wanted to get the book at the gift shop. Fortunately, they didn’t have any because I had already bought her one for Christmas. She settled on a little stuffed bear in a conductor’s outfit.

On the last part of the ride, Santa entered the car with his helper, who carried his large bag. He took lots of time with each of the kids and personally gifted them with a bell. The adults got them, too!

Here is Everleigh with her bell.

She would not stop ringing it!

After the ride, we went out for dinner, and she took it with her. She kept ringing it until her Nana threatened to take it—or her—to the car. She finally put it in her pocket.

Clearly, she had a wonderful time and so did we. What a wonderful Christmas memory we will all cherish forever.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Year of Grief

A Year of Grief

One year ago today, a child we have loved since he was six ended his own life at seventeen. As his mother said, “The year went so fast, but the days seemed endless.”


We first met William when his mother left us a message while we were at work. “This is your neighbor. This is a call no parent wants to make. My son broke your window.” He was six at the time, a beautiful little boy with huge eyes. She ended the call with, “His father will bring him over on Saturday to apologize. Be tough on him.

I started laughing. Sure. Be tough? On a six-year-old?

However, on Saturday morning, he and his dad arrived. He apologized, and Larry and I managed to keep straight faces—barely. He was truly contrite. Thus began our relationship with his family, which eventually grew to six children.

In December, we asked their mother if we could “rent” the kids to help finish decorating our tree since I had run out of steam. There were only five at the time, but their cousin came, too. They trooped over, put the ornaments here, there, and everywhere, and I loved it!

When the tree was complete, they decorated the sugar cookies I had baked ahead of time with icing and lots of sprinkles. Of course, they had more inside them than the finished ones. And sprinkles covered every surface. They each had a small plate on which to put the three cookies they wanted to take home with them. I used the rest to serve my guests throughout the holiday season.





Bridget, their cousin, William, Wyatt, Audrey, Claire

The tradition continued through 2019. Last year, we had to cancel, not just because of Covid, but also because one precious child was missing.

I always considered William the most sensitive of the children. That first year, I told them each ornament on the tree had a story. (There are no “generic” ones.) William was the one who would bring me an ornament and ask me to tell him its story. This year, his younger brother, Wyatt, channeled William, asking about specific decorations.

Wyatt always hunted for two specific ornaments: a ceramic surfboard and a tiny wooden sailboat. (When I mentioned this, he described them both without any hints. He shared that memory with me.) Once he’d located them, he always stopped hanging anything else on the tree and sat on the sofa playing with them. (This year, he kept adding decorations to the tree, but he still set “his” ornaments aside.)

We told him he could choose one of the two to take home with him, but Larry added, “You need to leave one so you’ll return next year.” He decided to leave them both so he could hunt for them again.

The oldest child, Claire, always corralled the younger ones and kept them at it. She joined our critique group when she was ten! She was a terrific writer, even as a little girl. And she became one of our best critics. She published her first novel at sixteen. She is now a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame—on a scholarship.

Audrey, the next eldest after William, is my “angel girl.” She shares my love for angels. She is a sophomore in high school and was too busy to join us this year, but I sent home a couple of big angels for her.

Bridget, who is now in eighth grade, was the “messy” one. She was impulsive and demanding and so much fun. She was also independent and opinionated, and I must admit, I really liked those qualities. Now, she is kind and thoughtful and creative and deliberate. Yep, she is growing up, and it makes me a bit sad.

Wyatt has also grown up. His first year, he broke one ornament (to his mother’s chagrin) and spilled his hot cocoa. I didn’t care. I so loved having them there—and I still do.

The youngest, Sydney, who is now six, was only old enough to come starting in 2019. She, too, is growing up. She is creative and neat and enthusiastic.

Thank goodness we were able to have them again on Tuesday to help with the tree and cookies. Once again, they each got a mug of hot cocoa with five miniature marshmallows. And they each left with an ornament from my collection. Quite a few others already decorate their tree.


Lorna, Bridget, Sydney, Wyatt, and Larry

It wasn’t quite the same, and it never will be again. We will always miss sweet, dear William. But I am so grateful to their parents for sharing them with us through the years.

Christmas has now officially arrived in our home. 




Sunday, October 10, 2021

2021 DISNEY ADVENTURE – PART IV - FINALE

September 16, 2021

We slept pretty well, especially since we had gotten little sleep the night before. We didn’t intend to wake early, but we’re not in the habit of sleeping in.

One of Larry’s goals for this trip was to get to see the new Star Wars ride: Rise of the Resistance. In order to get onto the ride, it was necessary to get into the virtual queue. This required checking in through the Disneyland App at precisely 7:00 a.m.

We were awake at 6:45 so, although he was still quite sore, Larry wanted to try to get into the queue. He set up his phone so all he had to do was click at 7:00. We both watched the minutes tick by. At precisely seven, Larry clicked the button.

He received a message that all of the reservations for the day were already assigned.

We could have gone to the park and then tried again at one o’clock, hoping there would be some openings for the afternoon/evening.

We got up, showered, and ate breakfast. Since our passes were good for one more day and we had a reservation, we decided to go to Disneyland and try to get on the ride later in the day, even though any queueing we might be able to get could be as late as ten at night. (We were still tired and had hoped to get home early in the day.)

However, when we got to the entrance, about half an hour after park opening, the lines to get in were quite long. (On our first day, the park was uncrowded and enjoyable.)

We discussed standing in line but decided to go back to the hotel after I looked at my ticket and saw that it was good through the end of the month. Larry was still quite sore, so he didn’t want to go on any of the other rides.

We approached the concierge and explained his injury. Of course, they asked why we hadn’t reported it and were quite concerned. (It was not the hotel’s responsibility in any way.) We assured them that we had no plans to hold the hotel accountable. We just wanted to cancel our Disneyland reservation for that day and change it to another day near the end of the month.

They were quick to make the necessary changes, and to change our reservation to the twenty-eighth. No hassle, no issues, just efficient service. This alone made the addition of the concierge service worth it.

We went back to the room, rested for a short while, packed, called to have our luggage picked up, and left the hotel after a wonderful stay.

We got home early in the afternoon, unpacked, did our laundry, and got to bed early. Our own bed felt wonderful.

 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

We got on the road early, determined to try to get into the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. We left the house about six-thirty. Larry handed me his phone to log into the Disneyland app. I got to the right page and prepared to click the button at seven, o’clock.

Success!

We were in group number fifty-five. They gave us an estimate of how long it took for each group, and it appeared we would be called between eleven and eleven-thirty.

We were surprised that we were able to get into the parking structure as they hadn’t been using it for a few years. We were even more surprised when we discovered that they had added a third six-level section to the parking structure: the Pixar Pals section.


We were directed to the third level: the Cars floor. We were delighted to be parked indoors rather than outside.

We followed the signs (and the crowds) back into the first floor of the old structure, There, strollers and powered scooters were available to rent. (By the end of the day, we questioned our decision not to rent a scooter!)

The security check was located as we exited the structure. Much to our surprise—and dismay—we discovered that the trams were not in use. This meant a long walk from the structure to the park entrance.

Along the way, we stopped to talk to Michael, a security guard. He said the trams would return when park occupancy was increased. At that moment, occupancy was limited to fifty percent.

After the long, tiring walk, we finally reached the park. The lines were shorter than they had been on the sixteenth, and we entered the park at about eight-thirty.

Rather than walk, we decided to take a double-decker bus to the other end of Main Street. (Besides, it was there, and the idea of riding sounded good.) These were A tickets in the old days.


As we approached the stop, the driver mentioned Guest Relations could take care of restaurant reservations and could answer other questions.

We decided to see if we could get into the Blue Bayou Restaurant later in the day. We have gone there for special occasions many times in the past. We walked through Adventureland and over the bridge to New Orleans Square and the restaurant entrance. (This is the restaurant riders see when on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.)

No one was at the front of the restaurant where we used to make reservations.

Since we were already there, we decided to go on the ride itself. We always enjoy it.

As we passed the restaurant, we saw a couple of people inside lighting candles and clearly preparing for service soon. However, as we exited, no one appeared at the entrance.

Larry wanted to go to Guest Relations to check on reservations there and also to see where the queue for Rise of the Resistance was. After looking around, we finally found them in front of the Plaza Pavilion. We asked about reservations for the Blue Bayou, and she told us we would have to go back to the restaurant after they opened. At this time, Rise of the Resistance was loading groups 22 through 38. We reconfirmed that our group would probably be called around eleven o’clock.

Since we had started our day early, we decided to get something to eat. The Jolly Holiday Bakery was right across the street, so we went there. We had a short wait. Disneyland now has a restaurant app where you can preorder your food, but we decided to wait our turn. We each ordered a sweet roll and cappuccino. Larry waited for our food while I went outside to locate a table with an umbrella.

The food took longer than I had expected, but eventually he brought it out. This didn’t seem to make sense since all the baked goods were in the cases and required no preparation.

The coffee and food tasted good, and the rest was also welcome.

We decided to head back to Star Wars Land with another stop at the Blue Bayou. This time, someone was at the entrance. He said they were fully booked for the whole day and told us reservations could be made prior to entering the park. Wish we had known.

It was quite a long walk from Adventureland back to Star Wars Land. By the time we got to the ride, they told us they could board our group. (You have an hour from the time they start allowing your group to enter.)


The queueing seemed overly long and quite boring to me. Perhaps if we hadn’t walked nearly 8,000 steps already, it might not have seemed as far. We finally got to the first part of the ride. I was surprised it was also standing—no seats. I was so tired I had trouble following the storyline.

At last, they loaded the actual ride vehicles. This part of the attraction was much more enjoyable and exciting. And we got to sit down to ride!


Larry was delighted. This was his major goal for coming to Disneyland in the first place. It was a long attraction, and the final section was worth it.

We exited the area and decided to cross Fantasyland to Tomorrowland to get some lunch. We went to what used to be the Pizza Port, now re-themed as Alien Pizza Planet, featuring the minions. We shared a chicken Caesar salad and an order of garlic bread. (This has changed. It used to be actual garlic toast, but now consists of two Olive Garden-style bread sticks. They are still served with a container of pasta sauce.)

Again, being able to sit down in the air-conditioned dining area for a while felt good. We got our second wind.

After a restroom stop, we went on Star Tours. About halfway through the queue, everything came to a complete stop. We probably stood not moving for about half an hour before the ride started up again. No explanation.

We checked to see if the monorail was running, but although we saw the vehicles, the ride itself was still closed. So were the submarines.

By this time, we had walked over 18,000 steps and were tired out, and we still had the long hike back to the parking structure.

We decided to stop by the Grand Californian Hotel once more to enjoy a few minutes sitting in the lobby listening to the piano. (This is one of my favorite things to do whenever we spend the day in the parks.) We crossed over to DCA (Disney’s California Adventure) and entered the hotel through the park. We spent a few minutes in the comfortable lobby enjoying the ambiance and the piano music.

Finally, we were ready to face the LOOONG hike back to the car. We stopped at a couple of benches along the way to cool off and rest.

We finally made it back to the car, tired but happy to have enjoyed the last day of our tickets. Larry finally got to go on the one ride he had wanted to try ever since it opened, and I always enjoy just being in the parks.

Our Disney adventure was now over, and what a wonderful memory it is!


Sunday, October 3, 2021

2021 DISNEY ADVENTURE – PART III

 September 15, 2021 - 2:30 a.m.

Larry woke me with a loud groan. I was afraid he was having a heart attack or a stroke. He couldn’t seem to get out a word. After a minute or so, he managed to croak out, “Cramp.”

I later learned he woke with leg cramps in both legs—the calf of one and the thigh of the other.

I went into the bathroom to get a potassium tablet since I had some with me.

Crash.

I ran back into the bedroom to find him on the floor on his knees. His skin was clammy and he was groaning. Then he fell onto the floor.

Can you say panic?

I was now sure he was having a heart attack or stroke.

He was finally able to get his breath and explained. “I was trying to get to my feet to stretch out my legs, but they gave out. As I fell, I hit the bedframe on my side. Even on my knees, I couldn’t stay upright, so I decided just to let go and lie on the floor.”

The gorgeous craftsman bedframe in the room was high off the floor. The top of the mattress was about two-and-a-half feet tall, and the frame was made of solid oak—a hard wood. I found it quite high. I had to sort-of jump to reach the mattress.

Larry gets leg cramps occasionally when he overdoes. The day before, we had walked at least 18,000 steps, according to the pedometer on my watch. (It doesn’t always record all my steps.) Because he had injured his right leg a couple of months earlier, he hadn’t been as active as usual. (He was using his stand-up board, and his foot twisted as he stepped off, causing him to fall. He probably tore or pulled something. Of course, he wouldn’t go the urgent care.)

I gave him the potassium, and it seemed to help after a few minutes. I kept an eye on him, and he appeared to be back to normal. I wanted to call 9-1-1 or at least report it to the hotel, but he wouldn’t have it.

He got back into bed and tried to rest, but neither of us got much more sleep.

I got up around 9:00, took a shower, and got dressed.

Larry decided a hot shower sounded good. When he got out of bed, I noticed a bruise forming on his side. He also had a scrape. Yep, he had done some damage.

The hot water helped his muscles, and the potassium seemed to have worked. Of course, nothing could keep him from breakfast…

Our park tickets for this day were to start at DCA (Disney’s California Adventure). We decided to go but to take it easy. We entered the park directly from the hotel (one of the perks with staying there).

Since Soaring Around the World wasn’t far away, and since it is our favorite ride in the park, we went there first. (I liked the ride better when it was Soaring Over California, but the revised one is good, too.) We enjoyed seeing it again.


We took our time strolling to Cars Land and got in line for the Radiator Springs Racers. It was the only other ride at DCA we really enjoyed. (We weren’t interested in the new Spiderman ride. We didn’t even try to get a spot in the virtual queue.)


The wait wasn’t too bad for the ride. This day was cooler than the day before, and most of the queueing was in the shade, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable.

The ride was fun—as always. Larry said his side hurt afterward, however.

We walked around a bit but decided to head back to the hotel. Neither of us had slept after his fall, and we were still tired.

By now, it was after noon, so we tried the Afternoon Tea at the Veranda. Once again, we were offered small portions and lots of variety. A perfect small meal. And we had decided to go to dinner at the Storyteller Café that night.

After lunch, we both napped for a while.

At 5:00, we walked to the Storyteller and were seated shortly. This is a buffet with lots of choices—many of which I couldn’t eat. But there was enough variety. Like everything else, the prices have gone through the roof since the pandemic. Our meals—without beverages—came to about $100 ($44 each plus tax and tip). But it was planned for this visit.

We then took a walk through Downtown Disney to see all the recent changes—lots of them. I checked the World of Disney store for a t-shirt, but no luck again.

We returned to our room, watched TV, rested, and went to sleep early. We intended an early start the next day, our last.

 

Next: Day Three of Our Adventure




Saturday, September 25, 2021

2021 DISNEY ADVENTURE – PART II

September 14, 2021

Return to the Park

Since Disneyland reopened, reservations have been required to visit the theme parks. When we made our hotel reservations, we also made reservations for three days at parks. We had park-hopper tickets, but we had to designate one park to begin each day. After noon, we could visit to the other park.

We chose Disneyland for our first day. Larry’s priority was to visit the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge area.



Reservations for the virtual queue for the Rise of the Resistance could only be made using the Disneyland phone app. Guests were required to log in by 7:00 a.m. You could log in again at 1:00 p.m. Larry did, but all of the spots for the day were gone immediately.

Since we already had our tickets, we walked right into the park. We decided to take the train once completely around the park and then get off at New Orleans Square. From there, we walked back to Star Wars Land. It was eighty-six degrees and about 80% humidity.

I don’t do heat well.

We explored the area. There was a lot to be seen. We appreciated and enjoyed the fabulous theming.

By the time we got to the back of the area, we were both hot. I located a table in the shade. Larry left me outside while he went to get us cold drinks. A few minutes later, Larry called. He had located a table inside—in the air conditioning.

It felt much better inside. We remained there for a few minutes while we enjoyed our iced beverages and allowed our bodies to cool off.

As we exited, we noticed that the Millennium Falcon ride had a single-rider line. We agreed to go that way so we could get on the ride. We walked up to the line, and were let in quickly. Larry went first, and I got on two vehicles later.

It is a fun ride—sort of like Star Tours but interactive.

We continued through the land and finally exited through Fantasyland.

On the way into the park, I spotted a t-shirt I wanted. We exited the park through the shops on Main Street, but I didn’t see the t-shirt. In fact, I didn’t see any I liked.

Larry wanted to see the Haunted Mansion (decorated for Halloween) at night, so we decided to take a rest at the hotel and come back later.

Since it was close to four, we decided to try for an early dinner at the Storyteller Café. However, when we arrived, it wasn’t open.

We headed back upstairs and checked with the concierge. Since the restaurant had just reopened, it was only open for breakfast and dinner—after 5:00. So, we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant the next night and take advantage of the hot appetizers at the Veranda instead, since this service started at 4:30.

They offered a selection of Dim Sum, mini eggrolls, veggies with hummus, chips and onion dip, tiny rolls, fresh fruit, cookies, and other choices. Quite enough and delicious. Again, the portions were tiny, but there was enough variety to appeal to anyone.

As it got darker, we headed back to Disneyland, took the train to New Orleans Square, and walked to the line for the Haunted Mansion. It moved along quickly, and we were inside in about ten minutes.

The Nightmare Before Christmas theme once again converted the ride, always fun.

By this time, we had walked most of the day and were tired. We went through the stores on the opposite side of Main Street, but I still didn’t find the t-shirt I wanted.

As we reached the top of Main Street, the nighttime light show began. We watched most of it before leaving the park.

We usually get ice cream on the way out, but everything inside the park was crowded. I looked at what stores were in Downtown Disney, and discovered there was an ice cream store directly opposite the entrance to the hotel.

We walked over there, and we each got a scoop of Cowboy Coffee Crunch: coffee ice cream with a ribbon of fudge and crushed coffee beans. YUMMY! I only ate half of my scoop. Larry ate his and finished mine.

Altogether a busy, happy, and fun day.

 

Next: An Injury





Friday, September 17, 2021

2021 DISNEY ADVENTURE – PART I

This year, I reached the milestone age of 75—three-quarters of a century! A week later, we celebrated 56 years of marriage.

Years ago, we began to give each other gifts to provide shared memories. We have given each other trips, special meals, shows, etc.

One of my bucket list items, ever since it was built, has been to spend a night or two at the Grand Californian Hotel at the Disney Resort in Anaheim.


This place is very special, heavily influenced by the design of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, another place I have wanted to stay since I was young.


Since the Grand Californian has reopened, Larry suggested we spend a couple of nights there with three days at the theme parks.

We gave up our annual theme park passes about five years ago when the prices went through the roof, and we have missed going there.

Some of you may be aware that Larry is usually reluctant to spend unnecessary money, but this time, he decided if we were going to go, he wanted to add concierge service, which included lots of extra services and food available most of the day. (Again, those of you who know him are aware that offering him food carries a great weight. Pun intended.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2021

We got up fairly early, changed the bed, showered, and put the towels in the wash. We didn’t want to leave damp towels in the bathroom for three days in the heat. When they were washed, we put them in the dryer on a setting that would assure their being dry the same day. The bedding and our clothes could wait until we returned home.

Then we drove to Anaheim, left Elsa with the valet, and our luggage with a bellman. When we reached the registration desk, Meg informed us that our room was ready and we could go on up, although the check-in time was 3:00 p.m.! It was then about 9:30 a.m. She also said breakfast was being served until 11:00 a.m.in the Veranda, the club restaurant. (This was the perk of the concierge service Larry wanted most.)

Before we left, she confirmed our park tickets for the three days. (We had made those reservations at the same time we made our hotel reservations. We had to designate the park where we would start the day, but because we are California residents, they were park-hopper tickets. We could change parks at any time after noon.)

We located our room with a courtyard view and called the bell captain. Our things arrived within five minutes.

The room was gorgeous. Whoever designed the interior matched it well to the craftsman style of the exterior. Lots of influence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of my very favorite designers. Just looking at all the gorgeous touches made my heart happy.




We put our items away and then went to breakfast since we hadn’t eaten before we left home.

The very best part of the Veranda was the coffee machine. This was a professional device where we could get an espresso, latte, cappuccino, or café Americano. We both love cappuccino, so it became our go-to while we were there. (I think I probably ingested too much acid from all the coffee I drank during our stay, but oh, was it delicious!

Opportunities for eating extended from 6:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m. Breakfast was served from 6:00 through 11:00 a.m. Afternoon tea was available between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. Hot appetizers were served from 5:00 to 7:00, and dessert from 8:00 until 10:00. (Believe it or not, we never made it for dessert, despite Larry’s sweet tooth.)

Everything was presented buffet-style with very small portions. Larry loved it because he could try EVERYTHING and then get more of one or two things he truly enjoyed. Since I am a VERY picky eater, the variety allowed me to choose those items I enjoyed, and the smaller servings were just right.



After breakfast, I changed my shoes, and then we headed for Disneyland.

 

Next: Going back to the park.





Saturday, September 11, 2021

REMEMBERING 9/11

 September 11, 2001

We woke as usual at about 5:30 a.m. PDT. Because Larry worked quite a distance from our home in Dana Point, we usually turned on Today in LA to see the weather and traffic reports before he left.

A few minutes later, the feed switched to the national Today Show with Katie Couric. The first image we saw was a tower of the World Trade Center in New York on fire. The reporter stated that a small plane had accidentally hit the tower. As the anchors gathered and conveyed updated information, another plane appeared in the sky and headed straight for the other tower. Millions of TV viewers—including us—watched as it flew straight into the building. It immediately became apparent that this was not an accident but a coordinated event.

I had planned to be home that day because we’d had a water leak upstairs, and the contractor had torn out part of the wall behind one of the upper kitchen cabinets to access the pipe. They were scheduled to repair the damage that morning.

Larry took his shower and dressed as I continued to watch the news.

Jim Miklaszewski was on the phone reporting the military response when there was a loud noise. A plane had hit the Pentagon. Jim continued to report even as the building was burning around him.

As the news grew worse, I felt as though I was watching a Hollywood movie—a horror one. Except this was far too real.

Then came the report of yet another plane crash in Pennsylvania…

Since there was nothing Larry could do at home, he decided to go into work. But before he left, he hung our flag. It was the first one on the block. By the next morning, nearly every house sported one.


I watched as the towers fell. I remember the horror of seeing people running away, covered in ash and dust, looking like ghosts. I watched firemen who had managed to escape collapse to the ground with tears running down their cheeks leaving rivulets in the soot. The whole world turned into black-and-white images.

So many individual snapshots live on in my memory.

I was still watching as the workmen arrived. They hadn’t heard the news. They watched along with me as they did their work—all of us still unbelieving.

Meanwhile, Larry arrived at his office. He was the first one there. None of the others had heard what had happened. He informed them. The radio stayed on all day as they tried to make sense of the impossible.

For days, we watched first responders and volunteers work on the Pile, trying to locate people—at first, survivors and then corpses. Each time something was found—often a small item which had belonged to one of those in the building—the volunteers were reenergized and returned to search again.

We were fortunate. Within a few days, we heard from our friends who were in NYC that day. They all survived.

But far too many families were impacted. Children were left without parents. Parents lost children. Many lost friends and coworkers.

And the horror did not end once the debris was removed. For many years, until this day, those who worked in the debris pile have suffered horrible illnesses as a result.

Earlier this year, I was asked to edit Bob Martin’s book, 9/11 Remembered Twenty Years Later.


At the time of 9/11, he was with the NYPD. He had worked alongside the first responders. Many were his friends. He wrote the book as a tribute to those who responded that day and those who volunteered afterward. He lost quite a few friends and wanted them to be acknowledged.

This is a powerful retelling of the events as they affected him and those he knew. Two first-person accounts are included. Their stories are incredible, frightening, and inspiring.

I highly recommend this book, not only because it is well-written and a mesmerizing account, but also because the profits go to a 9/11 charity.

I doubt any of us will ever actually be able to make sense of the events of that day, but sharing our memories, watching the TV accounts, and reading books about it reminds us we were not alone then and are not alone now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

TODAY MARKS A MILESTONE

 August 31, 2021

One year ago today, my life changed irreparably. I was scrolling through Facebook when a private message popped up: Call Officer R____ at the Covina Police Department ASAP. A phone number followed.

My first reaction was: This must be a joke or a prank. But even as I replied, “Why?” I realized it wasn’t.

I made the call, and the officer confirmed my brother, Ron Lund (known as Rockin’ Ron to his friends), had passed away.


Since our father had died in 1954 and our mother in 2011, we were the only ones left in the family. Now, he was gone, too.

Larry and I immediately set out for Covina—over an hour’s drive from our home in Dana Point. This was in the middle of a heatwave with temperatures in Covina between 110 and 120 degrees. Wildfires raged nearby, so the acrid smell of smoke permeated the air. And it was also during the first COVID peak…

Once we arrived, we were met by Ron’s best friend, Bud, and another friend, Joe. Before too long, two of his other friends arrived. Several of his neighbors also came out—in the heat and smoky air—to tell me how much they had appreciated him.

Their stories of his kindness helped me deal with the initial shock.

We spent the next month cleaning out his mobile home and taking care of the matters of his estate. The busyness helped, but it also allowed me somewhat to avoid dealing with my feelings about losing my brother.

Among his possessions, we discovered a slim, spiral-bound notebook filled with his handwriting. I knew what it was immediately because about ten years earlier he had told me he was writing a book. I promised him I would edit and publish it when he finished it, and he even sent me a chapter so I could show him what it would look like edited. We discussed the title and some of his ideas.

Following his death, several of his friends asked me about “Ron’s book.” Since I hadn’t heard anything more from him, I figured he had given up the idea.

Now, here it was. Not a book, really, more of an outline, and only a few chapters. However, I had made him a promise…

I transcribed it and showed it to Larry. I felt I had to finish it, and he agreed to write the rest with me. (Once I had transcribed it, I gave the original to his best friend since he was the first to ask me about it. After all, I still had the words.)

We began with Ron’s original story, but added a great deal of detail: dialogue, descriptions, feelings, etc. (His words ended at the beginning of Chapter 11, and much of the previous chapters contained our original writing.)

After about four months, we finished the manuscript. He hadn’t told us his intended ending, and I’m glad. As we worked on it, we agreed it could only have one ending.

Dominic Drive was published in January of this year.


The cover image is a photo of an actual sign from the street where we grew up. Ron had retrieved it when they changed the signs from white with black letters to green with white lettering, and he had kept it all these years. Larry changed the name to the name of the book.

It has received wonderful reviews, and many friends have sent me private notes about how much they liked it.

On his birthday, May 31, we had a nice luncheon here at our house where his friends shared more of their memories of him.

Between the book and the stories, I have been able to piece together a more complete picture of my little brother. I am grateful he touched so many lives. And I feel as though I have done everything I could to honor his memory. Not everyone is so fortunate.