I Think We’re Ready

The day after tomorrow is going to be a Big Day, one we’ve been waiting on for months, and another one of those where our lives are going to change big time. After eight years without, we’re going to be dog owners again.

We are as ready as we can be to add the little puppy above into our lives. We have a crate, a bed, loads of puppy pads, a toothbrush, a comb, and bitter spray to (hopefully) protect the wood. His feeding dishes are set up. We have a collar along with a tag engraved with his name and our phone number, and a harness and leash. We have toys galore, courtesy of Meiling, and we have a vet lined up. The kennel has taken care of all his vaccinations, he has been neutered, and they have had him groomed. The only thing we don’t know is his preferred food, but the kennel will let us know what that is (and be sending some home with us to start him off).

Meiling sent Kai a wonderful assortment of toys – chew, dental, and just for fun – to start off his life with us. The long blue dog was our previous Shihpoo’s favorite, so she though Kai should have one too.

Our hearts are more than ready for this little guy, and we are as mentally ready as we can be. We’ve never raised a puppy before though so it will be an adjustment for all of us. Kai is very energetic, and our current space is small, so we know there’ll be some adjustment there. Also, after approximately six months at the kennel he is used to his routine and friends there, so it will take him a while to adjust to new routines with us as well.

We can’t wait to meet him! He is quite small and definitely favors his toy poodle dad versus his Shih Tzu mom (our last Shihpoo was the reverse). According to the kennel he is at or very near his full height now but will add a few pounds in the next few months. He will always be a small dog though, which is what we wanted this time for a variety of reasons. His caretaker at the kennel says he is an absolutely love and he will be missed.

Life is going to change for us, but once again it will be another adventure and a very good thing!

(P.S. Don’t forget you can leave an entry every day for the coffee giveaway!)

Until One Is Committed

“UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED, THERE IS HESITANCY, THE CHANCE TO DRAW BACK, ALWAYS INEFFECTIVENESS. CONCERNING ALL ACTS OF INITIATIVE (AND CREATION), THERE IS ONE ELEMENTARY TRUTH, THE IGNORANCE OF WHICH KILLS COUNTLESS IDEAS AND SPLENDID PLANS: THAT THE MOMENT ONE DEFINITELY COMMITS ONESELF, THEN PROVIDENCE MOVES TOO. ALL SORTS OF THINGS OCCUR TO HELP ONE THAT WOULD NEVER OTHERWISE HAVE OCCURRED. A WHOLE STREAM OF EVENTS ISSUES FROM THE DECISION, RAISING IN ONE’S FAVOUR ALL MANNER OF UNFORESEEN INCIDENTS AND MEETINGS AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE, WHICH NO MAN COULD HAVE DREAMT WOULD HAVE COME HIS WAY. I HAVE LEARNED A DEEP RESPECT FOR ONE OF GOETHE’S COUPLETS:
WHATEVER YOU CAN DO, OR DREAM YOU CAN, BEGIN IT.
BOLDNESS HAS GENIUS, POWER, AND MAGIC IN IT!”

William Hutchinson Murray

(This is a repeat of a previously published post)

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again . . . . At the beginning of each adoption journey, a slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a home study, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of those documents had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now a couple of inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. for each document to be certified again, and finally the whole thing was again sent by courier to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies had to be made of every page and certification for the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way, there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks our dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that would accept us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We also learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of the work of assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed, and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day, one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream come together so far, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, getting ourselves out of debt, moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined have happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision, and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience have shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten and wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if there was hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone that morning it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China,” and on March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

Beyond Plan Z

We did not see this coming. At all. It was not anywhere on our list of future or possible plans. But . . . life happens. And, family comes first.

As planned, we will be heading to Mexico after YaYu’s graduation, but in early July we will depart San Miguel de Allende for:

Our daughter-in-law works for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and toward the end of last month was offered a two-year posting at the consulate in Nashville. It’s a major promotion for her and, as she says, her “dream job.” However, our son cannot relocate because of his position and the nature of his work in Japan, so they asked if Brett and I would be willing to put our plans on hold and move to Nashville for the next two years as support for M and our granddaughter, K, who will accompany her.

We didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Our grandson, who is now in middle school, will stay in Japan with his dad. They plan to travel to Nashville 2-3 times a year, during our grandson’s school breaks, and our DIL and granddaughter will travel back to Japan at least once a year.

Everything is changing rapidly and plans are being drawn up, reworked, etc. We are being reimbursed by our son for our UK Airbnb deposits and our plane tickets to England. We’re starting the process of choosing and buying a car online to pick up once we arrive in Tennessee, and we’ll again be buying some basic pieces of furniture once we get there as well as other necessities. Instead of London, we’ll be flying from Mexico City to Boston to rent a minivan and pick up our stored things from WenYu to take along to Nashville. We don’t know yet whether we’ll be sharing housing with M and K or getting our own place. M will receive a housing stipend but it’s unknown at this time if she’ll be allowed to use that for shared housing with us or not. There are of course lots and lots of other unknowns as well but details are getting filled in as they come up.

Full-time travel for the Occasional Nomads is off the table for the time being. Following our time in Tennessee, we think we’ll either move to a permanent location in New England or do one last long road trip around the U.S. interspersed with shorter international visits. In the meantime, our priority for the next two years will be to help and support our daughter-in law and granddaughter – travel can wait.

Noho’ana Hau’ole: Life Is Good

(photo credit:Dustin Belt/Unsplash)

Some of you reading this may recognize the title of this post! It was the name of an old blog that I segued into as we moved from paying off our debt to getting ready to move to Hawaii in 2014. It rolled over to another blog, The View From the Treehouse, which eventually became The Occasional Nomads in 2015.

You know what though? Life is still very good. It’s definitely not perfect, nor do we expect it to be, and things go wrong from time to time, but mostly things go right or we’re able to figure out another path to reach our goals. I have always been a “glass half full” kind of girl, and these days we look at life through a lens of positivity, and try to find joy every day.

Over the past few years, Brett and I have been able to pare down many of the things we thought we needed to live a quality life. We are living more simply these days, with fewer needs and a lot less stuff. Doing so has not only helped us reach our travel goals, but left us happier and with more time to pursue the things we enjoy. We consider ourselves a work in progress – we still have a ways to go to reach true minimalism.

Below are a few more reasons life is good these days:

We’re in good health and in good shape for our ages. Brett is 71; I’m 69, and all things considered we’re doing very well, health wise. Neither of us is without aches and pains and other issues of aging, but in the grand scheme of things these things are minor. We have been blessed with good health insurance (Tricare and Medicare), dental insurance, and vision insurance that will go with us anywhere in the world. We are vaccinated against COVID which opens up most of the world to us, and between mask wearing and social distancing we have avoided getting sick (with our fingers are crossed for the future). The (mostly) good weather in Hawaii allows us to exercise almost daily, and we can afford to eat a healthy diet.

Our income is sufficient. We have never made much money. When I look back and remember how little we had when we were raising our kids I’m frankly stumped by how we did it. Life is financially easier now because it’s just the two of us, but we are still not what anyone would call rich or wealthy by any means. We’re . . . comfortable. We’ve developed strategies for coping with high prices over the years, and those strategies have meant we haven’t felt inflation’s effects too much. We’re still able to put money away into savings each month, and help out with college expenses, and between our savings and income we can afford to travel and cover our Christmas expenses this year.

We live in an amazing place. The beauty of Kaua’i inspires us every day, even if we’re only walking at the park, looking out into the yard, or watching the sun set from our living room. We experience the beauty and grace of aloha every day as well in a myriad of ways. The experience of living here has been life-changing, and moving here one of the best choices we ever made.

Our children are doing well. We finally are on the cusp of having a truly empty nest. We always felt our goal as parents was to help our children develop the skills to fly and succeed with their own wings while still feeling grounded and rooted in our family, and as our youngest gets ready to graduate from college in a few months we feel as if we have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.

We have something to look forward to every day. We are excited and full of anticipation over our upcoming travel schedule, but we always look forward to each day, and even the small things we do each day. We still have much to do to get ready for next year’s adventure, but every day we do at least one thing that brings us closer to our goal.

We have everything we need. We have what we need and more, actually, something we’re discovering almost daily as we downsize and get ready to go. Choices we have made along the way, the things we have bought, have served us well and brought us happiness, but it’s time for most of them to be passed on to others. We don’t want for anything.

A long time ago, when I became pregnant, a wise friend, a psychologist, told me I could experience my pregnancy in one of two ways: I could decide to be miserable, or I could decide it was the most wonderful experience ever no matter what happened. I chose wonderful, and in spite of being separated from Brett for most of the time (we were stationed in different places), plus having a physically difficult pregnancy followed by a difficult delivery, it still remains a completely wonderful experience to this day. Brett and I decided would enjoy retirement in the same way, that no matter what came our way we would enjoy this time of our lives to the fullest. Our lives and situation are not perfect nor will they ever be, but for now we are not only surviving but thriving, and looking forward to getting to do what we love most in the near future: travel! We are living the good life in a way that fits us perfectly, and each day is a blessing. Noho’ana hau’ole!

Without Complaint

My grandfather’s USC yearbook picture in 1909.

Do I get ever get bored these days? YES. Do I ever get frustrated and angry that we haven’t been anywhere off of Kaua’i in nearly 18 months? YES, YES, YES! Do I feel at times like I’m in a rut, doing the same tasks over and over and over with no end in sight? YES! Do I wish that things would happen faster than they are? YES (for some but no for others).

Lately I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, who walked on crutches almost his entire life. He was born in a sod house on the prairie in Nebraska in 1887, the middle of three boys, but moved with his family to California after a bout with polio in 1898 left his legs twisted and useless. Instead of becoming a lifelong invalid and hiding himself away he instead decided to challenge the status quo head-on and live the best life he possibly could. He worked as a teenager at the Green Hotel in Pasadena pulling apart wooden crates that the restaurant produce came in. He saved enough to put himself through USC and earned a degree in 1909, when the disabled were expected to stay at home and not be seen. He bought and taught himself to drive a conventional car, and then drove and camped across the whole country and back before the Roaring 20s arrived, repairing the car himself when needed. He married, created his own successful insurance business which supported his extended family during the Depression, and raised three children and put them through college. Although he couldn’t enlist during the two world wars, he served as his neighborhood’s blackout warden during WWII and fulfilled other necessary tasks as he could. He was an active and respected member of and leader in his church and several civic organizations right up until his death in 1959.

My grandfather didn’t ask for help and he didn’t complain – he just got up every day and did what needed to get done. He died when I was seven years old, and for the longest time I just missed the man who read to me, and gave me 3 Musketeer Bars and Black Jack gum (he loved them). As I grew older and learned more about him, I came to see and appreciate what an accomplishment his whole life had been, and he is now one of my strongest role models. Accept what you are given, do what needs to be done, and face what needs to be faced . . . without complaint.

So, I think I can manage to get through another 16 months of living comfortably in Hawaii without complaining. I’ve decided to make the effort to appreciate everything we have here, and how blessed we have been for being able to live on Kaua’i. I will practice patience as time continues to move on, and I know we will eventually reach our goal. Everything doesn’t need to be sold, the bank accounts don’t need to be full, and reservations don’t need to be made right now. I’m looking forward to the future, but want to go forward feeling more grateful and positive about having the time to get to that goal in the best possible shape. And, I want to appreciate where we are now as well as all that we have, which is everything we need.

Japan On My Mind

A few weeks ago I read a detective story set in contemporary Japan. I was familiar with some the setting, but even when I didn’t know the neighborhood I could picture what was going on: the path alongside a river, the bento shop, the apartments. The story was a good one, and kept me guessing until the end, but by the time I finished the book I would have just about given anything to be in Japan again.

It’s been over a year since we left Japan. The grandkids are growing up so quickly: our granddaughter, who was still pretty much a toddler when we left last year seems to have grown about a foot or more, has ditched the training wheels on her bike, speaks English easily, and judging from the videos sent to us is just about completely fearless these days. Our grandson is taller and more mature as well: he bikes to his school every day, is involved in school clubs and activities, and has also gotten bigger and taller.

I miss living in Japan. I’ve accepted it’s not something we can do permanently, but I loved our long stretches of time there and being able to see our family and helping out, our daily lives there, and getting out and about, where a walk in our neighborhood is an adventure, let alone any trip into greater Tokyo. I want to buy KitKats again. At least once a week I check the rentals on Airbnb to see if I can find something affordable near to where our son’s new house is located (there isn’t much), and dream of the time we can return and stay for a while.

Japan’s autumn foliage is spectacular. (photo credit: toxinu/Unsplash)

We are planning to return to Japan next year, in the autumn, hopefully for a month’s stay. The Olympics will be over (if they aren’t cancelled again, which is looking likely), and we’ll get to enjoy the beautiful fall weather for a change, along with the leaf changing, momiji 紅葉, which is almost as spectacular in Japan as cherry blossom season, and the wonderful fall dishes and foods that become available during the season. We’ll get to celebrate our son’s and granddaughter’s birthdays with them.

But I wish we could go now. We’ve been away too long.

The Kids Don’t Want Our Stuff

Many of our treasures came from Japanese flea markets. Our kids could care less. (photo credit: Astrit Malsija/Unsplash)

When we’ve talked with our daughters the past few weeks we’ve mentioned that we’d like them to think about what things of ours they might want, including artwork, antiques, and so forth.

The silence has been deafening.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Meiling mentioned that while she likes our things and knows some of them are valuable, they just aren’t her style, and she thought her sisters pretty much felt the same. She said we should sell what we don’t want before we go and put the money toward our travels.

I was honestly a bit surprised by her thoughts at first. We think our stuff is unique, beautiful, high quality, and valuable, and we’ve worked hard to curate it over the years. But after some thought I realized I never wanted any of my parent’s stuff either, nice as some of those things were. I wanted to collect to my own taste and decorate my own way as well.

Walking through an estate sale is up near the top of my list of depressing experiences. After doing a couple of those I decided I would do anything in my power not to have my children ever have to go through that. Going through a house filled with old books, linens, dishes, bric-a-brac, clothing, furniture, out-of-date technology, dirty tools, etc. that no one in the family wanted was very sad for me. According to Forbes magazine, most children don’t want their parent’s treasured possessions these days. And, as we have found out, a parent’s interest in collections does not automatically pass on to their children.

We now intend to sell and donate the things we won’t want, need or plan to use in the future. We’re not going to get rid of everything, but will downsize once again from what we currently own. We’ll hold a yard sale before we leave Hawaii, and put other items on our local Facebook Marketplace to reduce the cost of shipping what we do keep back to the mainland once again.

When we downsized for our move to Kaua’i in 2014, Brett and I came to enjoy the process as we went along, and found that going through our things before we let them go could be fun at times. We read and reminisced about all the letters that Brett and I had sent to each other during his time in the navy and then shredded them (because we would have been mortified if our children had seen many of them). We talked about books we had read and enjoyed before we sold or donated them. We sold or passed on things to people who wanted them. Done in a period of over a year, downsizing was a very positive experience for us. We have missed nothing we got rid of then.

The kids don’t want our stuff, but we hope to make further downsizing a positive experience once again. Because we have so many fewer things now than in the past, letting things go will require a bit more thought than it did before, but I’m pretty sure we will once again end up keeping just the right amount, and we’ll be happy and satisfied with the result.

A Blast From My Past

As I was doing some random searching to earn Swagbucks this past weekend, I came across the listing for our former beach house in San Clemente, California. Apparently the house had been on the market for a while, and the pictures taken then allowed me to get a look at the current interior.

Oh boy, did the memories come flooding back!

My mom’s younger brother, my Uncle William, designed and built the house in 1955. My dad occasionally went on the weekends to help with the construction; I remember going with him once and staying in a little motel with a kitchenette that had a bottle opener attached to the side of one of the cabinets which fascinated me. The house was considered very modern, classic mid-century design at the time. It was well built, and remains stylish to this day. It’s even had a moment of fame, serving as a location in the 1986 Clint Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge, as the house Marsha Mason lived in.

My aunt and uncle started their family (eventually five children) in the house soon after it was finished, but a couple of years later they moved to another location in San Clemente and my grandparents bought the house from them along with the vacant lot next door. The house became a vacation home for extended family, but because we lived nearest to San Clemente our family used the house the most over the years, sometimes moving there for entire summers and hosting neighbors, friends, and relatives from my dad’s side. We grew a large garden in part of the vacant lot for many years, and played croquet on the rest. The beach was a short walk from the house – we’d walk down in the morning, then back up the hill for lunch and a short rest, and repeat for second session in the afternoon. Almost every evening after dinner Mom would drive us back down to beachcomb and see what we could find as we walked from the overpass to the pier and back.

Overpass (or T-Street) Beach and the San Clemente pier.

The house largely looks the same inside and out, with even some of the colors the same, and the current valuation of over a million dollars is unsurprising based on housing prices in southern California. My grandmother sold the house in 1971 for $43,000. President Nixon had purchased his “western White House” in San Clemente in 1969 and sent property values in the area soaring, and Grandma felt it was time to sell. The house has been owned for the past 50 years by the same people who bought it from her.

The new owners carpeted the house, but it used to have soft red linoleum floors throughout, all the better for sweeping up the sand we dragged back from the beach every day. The kitchen has been remodeled, and while the space appears to work better the decor is a poor fit (in my opinion) with the the beautiful mid-century design of the house. However, the wicker stools at the kitchen counter look like the same ones that were there when we used the house! In the real estate photos the interior is filled with furniture and other stuff while it was uncluttered and minimally decorated when we used it.

My grandparents were parsimonious to a fault, and as I was going through the photos I laughed as I remembered all the things in the house that had needed repairs but that my grandparents (especially my grandmother) chose to ignore because they didn’t want to spend any more than absolutely necessary on the house. For example, the front door became difficult to lock at one point, but instead of having it fixed we were instead told to leave it alone and just stop using the door. It was the same with the bathroom in the outside cabana bedroom, the central fireplace, a wonky light fixture on a wall, and closet doors that fell off their railings. We just stopped using them.

The most powerful memory I have of the beach house didn’t come until after I closed the link the other day: my grandfather died in that house. My grandparents had wanted to go look at it one day in the summer of 1959, and brought me along with them – I was seven years old, in between first and second grade. Grandma and I knew the whole way down to San Clemente that something was wrong because Grandpa was driving erratically at times and kept complaining about not feeling well. When we finally got to the house (a miracle, in retrospect), he laid down on a bed and said he was going to take a nap, but at some point he got up and went into the bathroom, collapsed, and died there, apparently from heart failure. My grandmother broke down the door and found him. Her first action was to calmly ask me to sit in the corner of the sofa in the living room and stay there until she came back. I was an obedient child and did as I was told, and had absolutely no idea anything was seriously wrong. She moved my grandfather into the front bedroom, laid him on the bed, and shut the door, then came and asked me to remain on the sofa while she went next door for a few minutes (I’m guessing because I would have heard the phone conversation in the living room). Grandma came back shortly and sat with me until my parents arrived a couple of hours later to take me home. I remember how normal my grandmother was the whole time, never acting in any way that scared or worried me, and telling me that Grandpa was resting. All of her efforts went toward making me feel safe and calm in spite of what she had to do and what she must have been feeling. There was a big car outside when I left with my parents, and later in life I figured out it was the hearse that had arrived to pick up my grandfather’s body. It wasn’t until the next morning that I learned my beloved grandfather had died; my dad told me when I woke up.

We continued to use the house until 1971, and other than my grandfather’s death, the beach house holds only good memories for me: happy summers walking to and from the beach each day and early evening beachcombing walks; fires in the living room fireplace every evening to take away the chill coming off the Pacific; looking out from the kitchen sink to Catalina Island in the distance (that view now blocked by the house that was built on the vacant lot); reading Nancy Drew mysteries and doing big jigsaw puzzles checked out from the San Clemente library; fresh vegetables from our garden; listening to Dodger baseball games in the evening on a little transistor radio (there was no TV there); croquet tournaments and all the other games my siblings and I invented to entertain ourselves.

It was a magical place.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Brett and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary this past Monday. In the past we’ve usually gone out to dinner to celebrate, but this year we ended up doing something different that gave us more for the same amount of spending. 

We had originally thought we’d have dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, but we turned out to be nervous about dining in, especially with the return of visitors to the island and cases of the virus already starting to climb again. Also, we knew the restaurant would be expensive, and we just weren’t as keen as we thought on spending so much for one meal.

However, the idea of someone else doing the meal prep and cleanup continued to appeal to us and we came up with the idea of giving ourselves a Day of No Cooking. We wanted to challenge ourselves to keep the cost of a full day of restaurant meals the same or less than what we would have spent for one meal at a fancy restaurant. We knew there were plenty of affordable restaurants offering good food, outdoor dining or socially distanced seating, and enhanced cleaning in our area that could make our plan work.

Here’s how the Day of No Cooking went:

The first stop of the day was for breakfast at the nearby Kalaheo Cafe. They offer both socially-distanced indoor or outdoor dining, and we chose an semi-isolated indoor table by an open window. We each had a cup of coffee, and shared an order of kalua pork Eggs Benedict. I am not sure how anyone finishes a full order of this – one half of it (and no hash browns – Brett got those) and I was stuffed! It was very, very delicious though and a wonderful start to our day. The pastries on offer were very tempting as well but we managed to leave without eating or buying one.

We had planned to head to Hanapepe after breakfast to explore the Habitat for Humanity thrift & rebuilding store as well as drop off some clothes, but we sadly discovered it was closed on Mondays. We don’t need or want anything but have always wanted to check out this big store. Our upstairs neighbor furnished over half of his apartment with some very nice things from this place, and we’ve heard other good things about it from others. We ended up going back home for a while with a decision to visit later this week.

It was pouring rain by the time we started down to Hanapepe Old Town for our lunch at Japanese Grandma’s Cafe. We had heard good things about this restaurant, and had wanted to eat there since before we left the island in 2018. We figured lunch would be less expensive than dinner, and we were not disappointed. I had originally planned to order tenzaru (tempura shrimp and vegetables with cold soba noodles) but the calorie load for that meal is outrageous, so instead ordered hayayako (chilled tofu) and vegetable futamaki (sushi). Brett ordered a tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) bowl topped with a soy-ginger sauce and a nice salad. Even though it was raining it was still warm enough to eat outside (under cover). Our waitress surprised us with a very tasty slice of house made matcha cheesecake to help celebrate our anniversary!

One taco al pastor for each of us.

Plans for the day had included a late afternoon walk at Kukuiolono and then picking up takeout for dinner from Paco’s Tacos up at the park clubhouse. A continuing downpour kept us from walking, but we still wanted those tacos! Brett somehow also included beans and rice when he placed the order so he had those as well, and we enjoyed our delicious tacos with some added cilantro, onion, and a few tomatoes and along with a couple of celebratory gin & tonics.

The day was supposed to end with scoops of Lappert’s ice cream, but when it was time for dessert neither of us wanted to go back out in the rain, and we also really didn’t want another dessert. We had eaten enough.

The total cost for our three meals ($88, including tips) was slightly less than we would have spent for dinner and drinks at the restaurant, and our time together was priceless. The total number of dishes that had to be washed in the evening was six: morning coffee cups, glasses for the G&Ts, and the plates for our tacos. We had such a good time that we decided to make a Day of No Cooking our annual anniversary event, no matter where we are in the world at the end of every March!

Empty Nesters, For Real This Time

Brett and I are finally empty nesters.

Our youngest, YaYu, began college two years ago, but at that point we had no nest. We had sold most of our stuff, our car, and when she took off so did we. The label “empty nesters” didn’t seem to fit.

But, once again we have a nest. We have furniture, appliances, linens, and dishes again. We have a car. We have our clothes hanging in closets instead of folded into a suitcase. We’ve been sleeping our own bed since the first of April. The few things we put into storage are back with us. We are happy to be settled again.

When YaYu headed back to college last week, her absence delivered an unexpected jolt along with a deep feeling of emptiness. She had been with us full time since the end of March, and it took us a few days to realize she wasn’t just hanging out back on the deck, or laying on our bed to read. She wasn’t going to help me fix dinner. She and I weren’t going to study Japanese together. Even though we were ready for her departure, it was quite a shock.

Brett and I were full-time parents for 40 years, with only a short six-month break between taking our son to college and Meiling joining our family. There were always kids around doing kid things, needing kid things, from babies through high school. They kept us constantly busy, made messes, argued with us, studied hard, played hard, ate us out of house and home, made us laugh, made us cry, and a couple of times even scared us to death. They always made us proud though. We loved them unconditionally and always felt loved unconditionally in return. Our goal was always to give all our children roots and wings, and prepare them to fly out of the nest on their own to live as good citizens and good people. We feel like we accomplished that goal.

So now it’s just the two of us. We don’t have a new destination or another adventure to fall back on these days and are instead socially distancing ourselves at home most of the time. Brett and I make our own calendar, arrange our own time, eat what we want, fulfill our own needs. It’s wonderful but it’s also a very different experience for us, almost unreal at times. The lack of children in our home has also been a reminder of our own mortality – we knew how old we would be when YaYu left home, and we’re now past those ages.

We are thoroughly enjoying being a couple again, but we also miss our little birds. Other than YaYu coming back at Thanksgiving, we’re not sure how long it will be until we’re able to see our other children again. We have always gathered for the holidays, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year. It’s not just because of the pandemic – they have jobs, and adult lives and responsibilities that don’t allow them to easily get back here these days. Life goes on though, and there is video messaging, Zoom, and other ways to stay close and in touch. But the nest is finally empty, for real this time.