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Monday, October 25, 2010

And Then There was a Party!

I love a party so when Friday rolled around and the preparations for the big 50th birthday celebration were finished, I was excited to see what the evening had in store for us.  Our dear friend Victoria catered the party and her food is so absolutely delicious everyone was happy!  I didn't get any photos of the food.  Too bad.  Trust me.  It was amazing.  Some of my book club friends came early to decorate and they did a nice job hanging black balloons and streamers throughout the house and scattering little 50's everywhere.  I'm pretty sure we'll be finding them throughout my entire 50th year!I had purchased a new dress for the grand affair and a pre-party photo shoot yielded some nice shots! My friend Sandra insisted that wear a 50 badge...she mentioned all royalty wear badges and then proceeded to crown me with own tiara.  Guests began to arrive and I felt the need to tell them that the crown wasn't my idea!  It was quite amazing to watch people from so many different aspects of my life arrive at the door!  They came bearing beautiful gifts and well wishes and my cup of friendship was running over.  After feasting on the glorious food, we began the program which was simply moving, funny and heartfelt. It all began with a "Jodi Quiz" that Doug had prepared. Some of the questions were a little outrageous but goofy fun was had by all trying to analyze my life!
Some of the gals from the American Women's Club sang a little re-write of Dancing Queen by ABBA.  Seemed terribly appropriate!  Very cute.  Jokes were made and then Doug began his portion of the evening!  After saying a lot of funny things, he started in on the heartfelt stuff.  He had written a couple of songs so he and Chris started in.  The first one was a re-write of an old song, but the second one was composed entirely by him and it was called She's Fabulous. I have tried and tried to upload the video and it's not working.  Sorry!  There were many moved to tears during this amazing performance.  It was so adorable and wonderful and just about everything I could ever hope for.  I gave a speech of thanksgiving and then it was time to eat cake!  I didn't get pictures of the cake but I did almost dumped the entire thing on its head goofing around trying to show off my biceps!  Luckily Victoria was at the ready and caught it before it made a giant mess on the floor!  Then people lingered and chatted and soon the evening was coming a close.  I felt so happy.  What an amazing effort by Doug.  How thrilling that one's friends would come and celebrate and find joy in it all.  How special to be gifted with flowers, days at the spa, beautiful scarves and make up kits, books, bags, dinners and clothing.  I'm savoring every minute of what I think is the greatest party of my life, after our wedding reception.  Doug...you outdid yourself this time honey. And I was the grateful recipient and I am so thankful to you and to all of my friends who made this evening an absolute joy.  You all eased me into my 50's and I could not be more thrilled to be alive amongst you all.

First There was a Birthday...

Last Tuesday I hit the big 5-0.  I was actually quite excited about the day and was not disappointed.  Doug brought me coffee in bed, and when I finally did get up, there were 50 roses on the table, cards, gifts, and breakfast cooking.  Doug's breakfast beat the Denny's Grand Slam any day! Tuesdays are my tennis mornings so I took my 50 year old legs to the court where I did proceed to win 3 sets of doubles!  Afterward, my lovely tennis lady friends had arranged for a lunch and Wendy served a beautiful cake that she had made and decorated.  It was beautiful and delicious. I arrived home to flowers and gifts that included some home made beer with special labels made for the occasion, that were awaiting me on our kitchen table.  Our house looked so beautiful with all of the lovely flowers that were gracing our presence.  By the time this full morning and early afternoon was over, I was ready for a nap.  So I took one!  How delicious to crawl into bed on a Tuesday afternoon and take a little snooze!  After some time, Doug appeared with a card and a bottle of champagne.  He had earlier informed me that we had to leave for dinner at 5.30 and now he was revealing why...he had also purchased tickets to the Swan Lake ballet at the Opera House!  It's one of my favorites.  In the end, we skipped dinner, relaxed, got dressed up and walked down to the Opera House and enjoyed a very moving, incredibly powerful performance of this amazing ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  It was just breathtakingly beautiful.  Throughout the day my phone buzzed with text messages, phone calls came in and my Facebook page was one big, happy greeting from people who I have known from so many different walks of life.  It was a full and rich day and I was feeling very blessed.
After a short walk home, I hopped into bed and landed on yet another card and another gift.  Doug revealed to me that there would be a party on Friday night.  Sounded great to me!  But the absolute top of the birthday cake came when I opened a calendar of photographs of New York with a little note saying, "We'll be there in January.  Our good friends the Cowgers are meeting us there.  Happy 50th Birthday sweetheart."  I was ecstatic!  I have ever been to New York and have dreamed of the day when I might have the chance to wander around Manhattan.  At 50, that dream will come true!
Thanks to my wonderful husband, I enjoyed a truly special birthday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thinking About Growing Old

It's the eve of my 50th birthday and so a little reflection on life is in order I suppose.  But what really gets me to thinking about growing old are my visits to Palm Springs.  My parents live in a mobile home community called Sahara Park.  I love this park.  I think it is beautiful and well-kept and there is a genuine spirit of real community amongst the residents. 
This is the view from the front porch swing of my parents' house.
That's their brown house on the left in the distance.
I love reading their funny little monthly newsletter and sitting by the pool between 11 am and 2 pm because that's when the best gossip ensues, although this time around, with the temperatures still quite high at midday, the 4 pm-6 pm poolside yielded good info as well. 
The pool and jacuzzi where you can all the scoop on everyone!
There's bingo on Tuesday nights, coffee mornings a couple of times a week, water aerobics every morning at 9.30, monthly pancake breakfasts for a buck, and seasonal potlucks and parties.  There's a beautiful clubhouse with a pool table, card table and large screen TV and there always seems to be a little something going on.  More importantly, the residents do watch out for one another.  Oh sure, they complain plenty about who didn't take a shower before they got in the pool and argue about whether they should fry or boil the sausage for the pancake breakfast, but when my dad needed a walker just after his surgery, someone found him one the same day he asked for it.  When an ambulance screams through the park on the way to someone in need, my parents wonder aloud who it might be and feel concerned for those involved.  In the twilight of their lives, these folks count on one another to provide a sense of belonging when jobs no longer do that.  Some have family nearby but most have retired to this warm spot and now live far from family, kids and grandkids.  Many are snow birds who enjoy an entirely separate life for half the year.  Whatever the case, I have loved getting to know the community called Sahara Park and I guess that's why I hope we live there someday.Which brings me back to my original thoughts about growing old.  I wonder when Doug and I are living in Sahara Park one day if we'll want statues all over our rock yard?  Will we decorate our mailbox?  I'm sure we'll have a dog but there's a limit on how large pets can be so Tanner won't be able to with us when we move in.  We also have to be 55 so we have at least 5 more years to consider the option!  Flags celebrating the season are also popular.  And don't forget the humming bird feeders.  The birds are fun to watch.  Just about everyone has a nice size TV and it is likely that a high percentage of residents are watching Wheel of Fortune from 7.00-7.30.  I'm sure we will too!  I just wonder what I'll be like when I'm older.  Will I be the one to complain about the folks not taking a shower before getting into the pool?  Will I go to Bingo?  Probably because I like to go with my Aunt when I'm in town on Tuesdays!  Will my house be full of clutter and stuff I don't need but can't get rid of?  To be fair, in downsizing to live in the smallish places that inhabit Sahara Park, most people have already downsized considerably, so a few pieces of memorabilia are quite all right.  I hope I'm active like the 91 year old man who can't really walk but faithfully goes to the pool twice a day to do leg exercises.  I love the men in Speedos and the women in two pieces, not because they look so fabulous, but because they are not afraid to be themselves.  I think no matter what I'll always have a two piece swimsuit.  I love my nut brown tummy too much to ever let it go!  What will it be like to grow older?  My parents have done it well in spite of the challenges of injuries, health issues, and cancer.  But their athleticism as younger adults has bode well for them in their older years and that inspires me to stay fit now.
So, on the eve of my 50th I'm feeling pretty good.  I'm not as fit as I once was but I can still move well and will start my birthday by playing tennis and hopefully winning a set or two!  I'm not as skinny as I once was, but I'm not as fat as I could be either!  I love my husband and my dog and my home in Sweden.  I'm blessed with an amazing set of parents and an in-law family that loves me and who I love too.  I love my church and feel that my vocation has been fruitful.  Life has been a big surprise.  When I was 30, I had just met Doug and we were beginning our journey together as a couple.  At 40 we'd lived in Sweden for 2 years and I never thought I'd be here to celebrate my 50th!  I never thought we'd be without kids, but that's the way the chips fell for us so we've made the most of our life by enjoying one another, pouring into other relationships and truthfully, traveling the world.
I wonder what I'll be like when I grow old.  I'll probably still be pretty opinionated, still cheer for the Angels, still hope the Vikings win the Super Bowl someday, still be a democrat, still love Doug, still want a dog, still be a little restless and hopefully still be loving God and others wherever we land. And I really, really, really hope when I grow old I land at Sahara Park.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Traveling Across 9 Time Zones

The day began on a sultry Wednesday morning just as day was breaking. I stopped to take a couple of final shots of this beautiful desert paradise before boarding the plane for the first leg of a three leg journey.  At 7.15 a.m. the plane took off  and I knew that I'd be en route until 11.00 p.m. California time, or 8.00 a.m. Thursday morning Stockholm time.  Long travel days are weird.  You don't go outside, you eat weird food or not enough food, you sit for long periods of time and in my case flew half way across the US to Chicago and then half way across the world to Sweden.  Fortunately, I had minimal layover time in Los Angeles and Chicago and encountered no delays.  Thank God.  The layovers and delays kill you when you are on a long journey. 
The day was beautiful with clear blue skies across the nation.  The views from above were stunning and reminded me of what a beautiful and diverse landscape the US enjoys.  The desert gives way to the coast and once headed east again, the Grand Canyon spread out below me.  Then I was treated to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and finally the flat farm lands of the midwest.  As we descended into Chicago, the autumn color popped out at me and the magnificent skyline towered alongside of Lake Michigan.  This was a prelude to what awaited me in Stockholm (the autumn color that is, not the magnificent skyline!) although the temperature in Chicago was still in the 60'sF and I'd heard Sweden was already hanging around 30F.  After a quick plane change in Chicago, I was headed out over the Atlantic.  It was dark for much of the trans-Atlantic journey and even though I had two seats to myself, I found it difficult to settle in and snooze.  Even so, the flight went rapidly and soon we were making our descent.  I was disappointed that it was still dark as we flew over Norway as the mountains and fjords of Norway make for a great re-entry to Europe.  The morning darkness was also a stark reminder that the day light is on its way out now and soon, we will have dark mornings for many months to come.
It was cloudy and windy and rainy as we landed in Stockholm and the pilot gently let us know that it was about 5 degrees C or 35 degrees F.  Brrr.  It was 35C when I left Palm Springs.  I had made a 30 degree C drop in temperature.  Good thing a new down vest was on the top of my checked luggage!
Doug met me in my dazed state.  Although the clock said it was Thursday, 8.00 a.m. my body clock was telling me that it was approaching midnight Wednesday and having not slept much, I was groggy and hungry and felt generally like a truck had run over me.  Fortunately, jet lag goes away within a few days but it's always such a strange sensation to spend 20-24 hours getting from one place to another.
Because I was in an airplane or going through security for the better part of Wednesday, I had no idea of what was going on in the world.  I missed the entire Chilean Mine rescue that everyone was a buzz about.  I felt kind of sad that I missed sharing this global event.  I didn't go outside, change my clothes, brush my teeth, or exercise during that entire day of travel.  I'm thankful I don't have to do it very often.
Once home and unpacked, after a necessary nap, I did take Tanner for a midday walk hoping to juice my senses a bit and that was a good decision.  The air was cold but had given way to a beautifully sunny autumn afternoon.  Walking through the park, watching him run and play, taking in the colors of autumn,and breathing the fresh air helped me mentally catch up to the physical journey I had just experienced.  Sometimes we say our bodies get there faster than our minds and our hearts and it takes a few days to figure out where we are emotionally and physically.  In fact, as I write this blog I am up at 3.14 a.m.as my body clock just isn't quite adjusted to the Swedish night yet.  I've been very disoriented upon waking, not sure where I am, what city I'm in, or what time it really is as I am constantly doing the math that lands me at the 9 hour time difference between Stockholm and Palm Springs.  For the past two weeks, I've been adding forward to figure out what time it is where Doug is.  Now I'm subtracting again to orient myself to my parents' day.  These things are all part of living in one part of the world but loving others who live elsewhere.  The long journey home, either going or coming, is never fun.  The most you can hope for is uneventful and smooth, which all three legs were for me this time around.  I still marvel that I can leave the desert of Palm Springs and hours later arrive in the forests of Sweden.  I am grateful for this relatively quick, efficient mode of transportation. I remain very thankful that these big 'ol jet airliners can transport me between worlds and people that I love.  I often think about the early days of immigration and how taxing and expensive the journeys across the ocean were.  People did it once, perhaps twice in a life time.  If the most difficult things I have to endure while traveling to love ones include sitting uncomfortably for long periods of time, eating lousy food, and feeling mentally whacked out for a few days, I can handle it.  Besides, the upshot is that in my own funny way, I truly got to see the world from above on my journey through 9 time zones.




Sunday, October 10, 2010

You Can Take Jodi Out of California, But...

You can't take California out of Jodi!  Funny that this jingle was from a cigarette television ad way back in the late 60's.  Anyone remember it?  You can take Salem out of the country, but you can't take the country out of Salem.  As if a cigarette really transported you to the countryside.  But I digress.
Here I am, two more days in California and it's been awesome as usual.  There are just some things about California that I love and long for and it is only by being here that those longings get sated.  So here are a few of my favorite things about the place I grew up.
I love the weather.  Duh.  It's hot and sunny day after day and even if the weather is a little bad, a day later it's great again.
 Trader Joe's.  Seriously, there is just no better store than Trader Joe's.  I harbor a secret desire to work there when I'm retired.  It's just such a fun place to browse and shop and they have great food and drink.  I bought this giant basil plant for $3.00 and have used its bounty almost every day since!
The desert landscape.  You got your mile high palm trees, your amazing mountains, the beautiful flowers, the weird and wonderful cacti, the piercing blue sky, the stunning sunrise and sunsets that turn the landscape lavender.
Listening to country music in the car.  What's there not to love about a music genre that sings about patriotism, women, beer, and lost loves?  It's such a funny slice of American life.  Just this afternoon, I heard a song about living in a trailer park.  No where on earth, I'm telling ya!
Shopping: Great outlets, TJMaxx, WalMart, SteinMart. DSW Shoe store.  Great prices, amazing selection. 
Swimming and tanning.  It's shallow and unhealthy, but I still love getting a good tan!  I love laying in the sun, lounging in the pool on a raft, snoozing and reading.  There's really just nothing more relaxing for me.
Jacuzzi.  I love the outdoor hot tub with the jets of water that sooth my muscles and provide restoration.  Sitting out there at night under a star lit sky is pretty special.  Haven't done that on this trip.  More fun with Doug than alone!
Grilled steak.  My dad grills the best ribeye around and we usually indulge in this tasty dinner at least a few times.  Love it every time.  My favorite food.
Del Taco.  One of my most favorite fast food places, the tacos and burritos are hard to beat.  It's cheap and good and we wish there was one near our house in Stockholm.
Of course, anywhere you go on holiday is special, but for me, being in California is wonderful.  I have come to love the desert and the Palm Springs community and my dream is to retire out here eventually.  There's just something about being here that calms my spirit and brings me joy.  I am so thankful that my parents live in this beautiful place.  It's always great to see them, but it's a special bonus that they live in the place I call heaven on earth.

American Customer Service

So the good news is that my parents finally decided to buy a new washer and dryer after needing to do so for about 5 years!  I looked at the Lowe's website to get an idea of what we were talking about and discovered the big Columbus Day sale!  So on Friday my mom and I jumped into the car and went and bought big, white appliances!  We arranged for them to deliver the new set on Saturday morning.  The best part of the delivery deal is that they also haul the old ones away, hook up everything and basically get you ready to start washing and drying immediately! 
I left early on Saturday to go outlet shopping and when I arrived home, they new set were installed and looking good.  I immediately set out to do some laundry!  Amazing what anything new will inspire you to do.  As I was loading the washer with towels, I was kind of wondering what I'd done with the beach towel I was using at the pool.  Then it hit me...my swimsuit and the beach towel were in the old dryer from the night before!  I had forgotten to remove them and when the guy came to haul the old set away, he didn't check to see if there was anything in them!  I could not believe it!  I still had 4 days of sunshine and pool time ahead of me and here I was without a swimsuit!  And remarkably, even in Palm Springs, none of the stores have swimwear in stock right now.  It's all autumn fashion!  So, I quickly called Lowe's, explained my predicament, and the guy who had helped us in the store said he'd call me back.  He then proceeded to call the delivery guy, locate our old dryer and arrange for the delivery guy to deliver my swimsuit and towel the next day!  Seriously...how great is that?
Now, I love a lot of things about Sweden but customer service is not their strength.  I seriously doubt I would even had reached the same salesperson and for sure, they would not have gone the extra mile to locate my lost goods.  And for sure, even if they had, I would've had to go to the store to pick them up, which I would have gladly done in this case!  So sure enough, today at 11.30, just after we got home from church, the Lowe's delivery guy showed up with my stuff...how great is that?  I was poolside by 12.30. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Foreigner at "Home"

Being back in the US is always weird and wonderful.  I feel quite at home in many ways, but in other ways, things seem strange to me and I don't always feel confident that I know how certain things work.  It's a weird feeling to be in one's home country yet also have feelings of being a foreigner.
So for example, I love grocery shopping here but also feel totally overwhelmed and sometimes a bit sickened by the prolific amount of food, brands and choices that are available on the shelf.  I'm not entirely sure how to use the credit card machine upon check-out and I forget that they bag your groceries for you in most American supermarkets! It takes me forever to buy groceries because I have no idea how the stores are set up and I find myself scanning the shelves, often with my jaw dropped open, trying to navigate the number of choices that sit before me.
I'm utterly unfamiliar with the lingo that is needed for today's modern coffee shop so I usually just end up saying I'd like the smallest cup of the darkest roast you have.  A small here is usually quite large.
I was trying to put gas in the car the other day and could not figure out how to use the automatic pay machine.  After watching someone else use the machine and proceed to pour gas into their car, I quickly drove to the same spot and followed exactly in her footsteps.  I successfully filled my tank!
And I've been totally overwhelmed by the Halloween displays, candy offers, costumes, decorations, etc. in every store I've been into!  I have also seen quite a lot of Christmas stuff already and that just seems WRONG.  
And yet...I still feel more at home in the US than I do in Sweden in many ways.  The stores are familiar.  I know where to get things without wondering if a certain store will carry it or not, and I do love browsing around stores like Target and WalMart.  So much stuff to buy...too much really, but it's amazing how you can get caught up in the goods and their low prices.  Now that the airlines have put the kabosh on luggage, I really have to think twice about what to carry back to Sweden.  Even so, there are certain things like chocolate chips, brownie mix and ziploc bags that help me feel more at home in Sweden when I'm longing for a bit of the US.