Rick and I only had 2 breaks of 4+ weeks in a row at home in 2009.  What would you do if you lived in California but both of your adult children along with many friends and the rest of your families lived Back East?  Since returning from living in Africa in 2006 and 2007, supposedly now permanently in California, we have traveled for part of every month in 2008 and 2009.  During these 2 years, we spent a month in Central and South America and traveled twice (Rick thrice) in eastern and southern Africa for about 12 weeks.  Rick skied in the Rockies and Sierras for about 15 ski days.  I drove with a friend across the U.S.  That doesn’t include many trips to greater Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. as well as multiple visits to North Carolina.

We are incredibly fortunate to be able to travel to so many interesting international and national locations over the last 4 years.  We are blessed with lots of friends and family across a few continents.  Who would have thought that semi-retirement for us and our friends would be so busy we have less time to meet?  Because we, our family and friends are generally healthy, we believe that it is important to be citizens of the world, to have a purpose in our lives, and stay closely connected to those who are important to us.

So will the Walleighs continue to be rolling stones?  We have both entered our sixties, though I for one have now stopped counting past 60 (nice round number!).  My illness this past summer (see June 2009 below) has given me a sense of urgency to do as much as we can while we are healthy. Yet it is soooo nice to be home for at least a month or two to spend time with our wonderful Calif. friends who are like our family.

With College Friends for New Year’s

I have known 3 of my closest friends since the beginning of college (Tufts University, Medford, MA)–over 40 years. Rick has known these women longer than their husbands have since he and I were “college sweethearts.”  We’ve both have become friends with their husbands for over 20 years. One couple was not able to join the rest of us on our tour of Napa and Sonoma Valleys in May 2009 so we all decided to celebrate our New Year’s together at their “country home” in Carmel, NY about 1 hour north of Manhattan.  The 8 of us arrived at various times on December 31st to their house on the lake.  The scenery is always gorgeous and the agenda is always relaxed: eat, go for a walk, eat, switch rooms, eat, sleep and repeat.  This was the 1st time we had allowed husbands to join us in what has been the 4 women’s occasional retreat so we hoped they would tolerate the lack of busy-ness.

None of us had been there in winter, so the view from all around the house was white and truly breathtaking–literally since the temperature hovered in the 20s/30s on our walks around the frozen, snow-covered lake.  Our hubbies seemed to get into the relaxation mode, appreciated the great wine from our May 2009 trip, and especially enjoyed the deluxe “home-cooking” which the women took turns creating.  We let go of 2009 and toasted in 2010 with great champagne from Napa.

I know I have been the catalyst for gathering the group when I visit NYC, but I am regularly rewarded by celebrating 4 women whose lives have been woven together while conducting very different individual careers, families and interests. We always come together as if we’d just seen each other last week.  I take great strength and pleasure in their being part of my life!

Mid to Late December, 2009 – Walleigh Christmas in North Carolina

Though Diana was able to get the Thanksgiving weekend off from her 2nd year of pediatric residency to spend it with our family in Maryland, as also happened in 2008, she did not have time fly to Calif. for Hanukkah or Christmas.  So we sent 8 days of Hanukkah presents with her when she drove back to Greenville after Thanksgiving.

Then Rick and I created our 2nd annual start-to-finish, Walleigh-catered Christmas in Greenville, NC.  We bought a tree, decorated it and the house, purchased/wrapped/opened gifts, served Christmas breakfast, and cooked a complete Christmas feast for only 12 (vs. almost 20 in 2008.  Two couples among Diana’s friends were accompanied by their 2-week old boy and 6-month old girl, both of whom provided entertainment along with 2 dogs (Scooter and Koty) and a cat (Mimi).

Adrian joined us for a few days on either side of Christmas Day then flew back to Boston before New Year’s Eve.  We all spent as much time as possible with Diana and Bryan (boyfriend and Xmas-clean-up volunteer) between their long shift hours at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.  Bryan works in the “PIC-U” (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) and this month Diana is in clinic during the day and covering all pediatric departments when she’s on night call.

At least this year Rick and I did not need to remove all signs of the holidays before we left on Dec. 30th.  We left her house at 4:00 a.m. to drive Diana to the Raleigh airport with us so she could fly to Seattle to visit a few college friends as Rick and I flew to NY to spend New Year’s weekend with my college friends.

Early December, 2009 – Kenyan Friends in Calif.

December was hectic as usual but with a slight twist.  Two of our Kenyan friends arrived in SFO on Friday, December 4th to attend a conference from Dec. 6 – 11 run by Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) which is affiliated with Santa Clara University. Pauline was my boss/colleague in TechnoServe in Nairobi leading the Young Women in Enterprise program.  Judy’s husband is the Country Director for TechnoServe Kenya. Rick and I spent a lot of time with her, Fred and their 2 adorable sons while we lived in Nairobi. Judy leads a multi-artist, multi-media center for performing and fine arts.

Judy and Pauline stayed with us in Los Altos before and after the residential leadership training program.  Both of these amazing women received scholarships to be taught by Santa Clara and other university professors about becoming global leaders and join a network of 100 women across Africa, India, Middle East, South America and the U.S.

S.F. Touring and Calif. SHOPPING with Kenyan Friends

Rick and I expected that we would spend most of Judy and Pauline’s free time showing off our beautiful northern California scenery then fit shopping in between tours. With the upcoming holidays, our friends preferred to be hunting and gathering family gifts in our local Walmart, Target, Penneys, Kohl’s and Macys.  We cooked a mini-Thanksgiving and a weekend brunch at our home then took them out to typical Californian restaurants: Cheesecake Factory, North Beach (Italian), and Xanh (Vietnamese). San Francisco was their favorite place, especially the steep streets, huge houses, Golden Gate Bridge and ocean views everywhere. But we also showed them around Palo Alto, Stanford University and the “real Silicon Valley.”  Both had thought of Silicon Valley as a town or an industrial park, so were shocked to see the many campuses of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco, small companies, start-ups, etc. spread out across the region.  Because Google had funded a business plan competition in TechnoServe Tanzania both were delighted to take photos at an impressive Google building.

Looking for poverty in the Bay Area

Our visitors requested that we show them “poverty in America” because we had often discussed with them in Kenya that there are poor, hungry people in the U.S.  So I drove them around East Palo Alto, looking for poverty.  Though there were a few streets with some trash along the edges, the individual homes were generally well-kept, grass was mostly cut with trees and occasional flowers, at least 1 car in every driveway, and people were well-dressed.  Even the few apartment buildings were generally in good condition. The people we saw did not look abused or starving, even if they didn’t look happy.

Then on the way to downtown San Francisco, we detoured to Hunters’ Point, where Rick and I had never driven.  There were individual homes similar to East Palo Alto as well as more and larger apartment complexes.  We saw one boarded up for future razing, which itself was not terrible on the outside.  More trash was in the streets, there were not a lot of stores, and generally the few people along the streets looked angry or glum.  But by comparison to the slums of Nairobi with millions of people in wooden or tin-sided huts, no running water, pirated electricity, sewage in the streets, and trash everywhere, both East Palo Alto and Hunters Point looked like Nairobi’s middle class housing.  Except for the homeless, most people have roofs over their heads, sturdy homes, running water, electricity stays on if you pay your bills, food is available, support services can be found… Ironically, our U.S. poverty would be what most Africans dream of, especially if they live in the urban slums.

Things we take for granted that Judy & Pauline don’t

They loved all of their time in Calif.  Other than their leadership program, they especially loved the shopping and food, but were overwhelmed by the wide variety of everything thus forcing them to continually make choices–among prices, quality, styles, locations, types and amounts of food.  As we had imagined, they were amazed at the size and variety of stores and malls (typically 4 to 10 times larger than the largest mall in Kenya). The diversity of races, socio-economics, and styles in all the stores, streets, etc. is far greater than in their homeland–if you don’t count the 40+ tribes.  And of course, the U.S. has plentiful food, running water, continuous electricity, reasonably-priced clothing, shelter and services, religious diversity, etc., etc., etc.  Seeing everything through their eyes renews our prospective that we are truly blessed to live in the U.S.

November, 2009 – Thanksgiving already under our belts – literally

For many years, the Walleigh clan has gathered annually near Washington, D.C. to celebrate Turkey Day, which our family considers even more important than Christmas or Hanukkah because of everyone being together.  Until a couple of years ago, Rick’s mother hosted the event for her 4 adult children’s families including a total of 9 grandchildren (now 16 to 32 years old). But Aunt Linda took over these enormous responsibilities.  Since then she moved into a huge house in Gaithersburg, MD so not only did she serve 20 for Thanksgiving dinner this year, but housed 14 of them for several days!

This effort is like planning the logistics for troop movement.  On Thanksgiving evening we fed 16 people, cleaned up, went to bed and got up to start the big meal for 20. Linda had already cooked 2 large turkey breast sand made the stuffing. I made 2 pumpkin and 2 pecan pies. Her son Alec brought home a 32 pound organic, free-range turkey from the farm where he works part-time. Linda placed herbed butter under its skin and Fernando manned the barbeque grill roasting the bird.  There were 15 pounds of potatoes, and many pounds of stuffing, veggies, 3 different cranberry sauces, etc., etc., etc.  Some guests brought side dishes to be heated last minute. We said grace then sat down to eat around 6:00pm and by 8:30 p.m., everyone was cleaning up or in a food-daze, stuffed to the gills.  Clean-up carried on for the next couple of days in addition to having a 3rd family dinner at a local Indian restaurant to celebrate the wedding of the niece (see Maine wedding below).

At times this 4-day weekend felt as though we were living in a Hollywood holiday movie with drama, misunderstandings, and hyper-sensitivity… The good news is, most of the events went smoothly and most everyone is still speaking to each other.  Like childbirth, the memory of any difficulties fades and we look forward to the next year’s traditional gathering.  I know that I do!

Summer to Fall, 2009 – 5 weddings and 2 Reunions

o       A family friend of Diana’s age, Julie B, had a small ceremony in San Francisco with just her family.  The amusing part was that she, Diana and another childhood friend sort-of had her honeymoon (without the husband!) in Costa Rica a few weeks before when they celebrated their mutual 30th birthdays.

o       Our niece had a small ceremony in Maine in August.

o       We attended a friend’s wedding in Seattle and during the August weekend had a fun afternoon with Diana’s college friend who had moved out there in 2008.

o       Mid-Sept. Rick and I drove to Yosemite for a long weekend during which we attended the wedding and surrounding celebrations of Jenny, a long-time family friend.  Since they were about 1.5 years old, Jenny and Diana were in a playgroup that became an extended family for us. The parents are all still very close friends.  The wedding, held outdoors in an astounding setting behind the Ahwahnee Hotel, was a ceremony that wonderfully blended Jenny and Josh’s religions as well as their lives. How could a wedding not be beautiful in our favorite spot in the world?

o       In early October was Rick’s 35th Reunion of Harvard Business School.  For a couple of days before that, we wandered around Chatham and Cape Cod with 2 of his HBS buddies and their wives. Rick thoroughly enjoyed catching up with his section-mates (HBS’ 700 annual students were divided into 10 sections for building camaraderie) as well as attending current event classes taught by HBS professors and other dinners.

o       On the Saturday of Rick’s reunion, I organized a lunch-time reunion of my own with 3 childhood friends.  All of our mothers were in a weekly bridge club so we had actually known each other in-utero!  For the 1st decade and a half, we all spent many days together at the beach, traveling, parties, etc. I had visited Ellen a few times over the years, but I hadn’t seen Herb and Paul since I graduated from high school. I had never met 2 of the spouses, but ironically, I had attended Hebrew school (which I quit when I was in 8th grade) with Herb’s wife though I hadn’t seen her since then.  What a kick to see each other after over 40 years—and still be recognizable!

o       Mid-October was the last of our 5 weddings in 2009, but the 1st of the children to get married from our nearly-30-year-to-date Golden Gate Gourmet Group. Sheryl and Nick’s ceremony was also outdoors on a lovely autumn day in Tilden Park in Berkeley, CA.  They also blended their own unique style, religions and lives. Nick’s brother-in-law received a special one-day license to officiate at their wedding (who knew this was possible???), toddlers were the flower girl and ring-bearer, grandparents walked down the aisle, and parents were also part of the wedding near the chupa, so this was definitely a family affair.  We partied in Tilden’s Brazil Room and 2 days later, the bride and groom fly to Brazil for their honeymoon. What a joyous, lovely end to our 2009 wedding season.

July, August, and September, 2009

Based on my illness described below, my travel did slow down though did not stop altogether. We spent time in

o       Sierra lakes with friends over two four-day weekends.

o       Boston with family and friends then drove out to Cape Cod for a few days with Golden Gate Gourmet Group (4 G’s, our gourmet cooking group of nearly 30 years)

o       Washington D.C. to spend time with my mother-in-law while Rick was in Kenya and Mozambique during late August to early September. Mom and I have a very special 40-year relationship that goes beyond mother- and daughter-in-law.

June 22 – Weekend with Gourmet at Lake of the Pines

I’m definitely feeling better though still at 80 to 90% of my normal energy levels (see June 15 entry below for reasons why).  I admit to using my “conditions” as an excuse to doing very little.  However, it was wonderful to drive up to our friends’ 2nd home at Lake of the Pines for a few days’ R&R.  I was let off the hook for cooking and planning meals, as the men are all the time, so I merely enjoyed hanging out with long-time friends.  We took boat rides on the lake, read, ate, and some of us cycles and walked (not me).

Not having to explain myself—or even just talk–because we have known each others’ lives for 30 years or more, is unique to Gourmet, my college friends, and Diana’s old playgroup. I know I am blessed by many circles of support outside of family but ESPECIALLY these friends.  It gives me great peace.

June 15 – Unexpectedly no trip to DC & NYC

Talk about life-changing experiences that give one a new perspective…I am now at home, but was unexpectedly admitted into Stanford Hospital on Mon., June 8th.  For those interested, see details below of my 5 days in hospital, including 4 in isolation. I’ve also provided below a list of amusing episodes during hospitalization which fall under the category “you’ve gotta laugh or you’ll cry.” However, they definitely helped offset my serious diagnoses and recovery efforts.

The good news after being kept for 4 days in quarantine is that I do not have tuberculosis.  The bad news is: I am being treated for significant pneumonia in my right lung, blood clots in my left lung, and Atrial Fibrillation–all with no clear causes.  Any of them could have triggered each other.  My extensive family history of heart and peripheral disease, my being on estrogen, and my having taken lots of long flights are key risk factors but do no necessarily explain why this happened now.  Thus I will be visiting specialists, meeting a lot with my primary care doc, and taking many tests to determine root cause(s).

Meanwhile, thank you for your thoughts, prayers, moral support, etc.  I will continue to need them for a while.  You can choose to read the details below or not but do glance at the list of amusing episodes.

Overview/timeline of my illnesses

NOTE: Dr. Diana was in regular contact with my attending physicians throughout the following period, acting as my advocate and “momma bear” (a role reversal!).

–        Thurs., June 4: 102.5 fever and chest tightness led to my starting antibiotics.

–        Fri., June 5: Rick flew to DC and I postponed my flight until Tues., June 9th.

–        Mon., June 8: Because I still had 102.5 fever and chest tightness, my primary care doc sent me get a chest x-ray and EKG.  My heart-rate had elevated to 152 beats per minute (normally in 70s) so I was admitted to the E.R. Then because I had pneumonia and my heart had been in significant atrial fibrillation (AF) I was admitted to Stanford Hospital for overnight observation to ensure that just the pneumonia had precipitated the AF.  Once in my double room, someone noted that because I’d been in Africa, I might have TB so I was quarantined to a “negative pressure” room for where all entrants had to wear masks, gloves and if desired, gowns.

–        Tues., June 9: The attending physician and his ducklings (senior residents, junior residents, med students, etc.) are concerned about the “impressive” size of my pneumonia in my right lung, AF, and fever so want to keep me longer.

–        Wed., June 9: The attending physician was still concerned so sent me for a chest angiogram (at 1:00 pm so I know I was not likely to leave today…).  He returned about 2:30pm to tell me that my left lung has blood clots and though it’s unclear due to the pneumonia, probably my right lung does also.  He started me on intravenous blood thinner until my new Coumadin blood thinner pill takes effect over several days. During the previous few days, I’d been struggling to provide sputum from my lungs (yes, how gross!) so that 3 tests can be negative for TB. I’m hopeful I’d provided the final sample tonight!

–        Thurs., June 10: About 4:00 am when I was given my new round of intravenous antibiotics, the nurse noticed I was back in Atrial Fibrillation, elevated heart rate, etc. so I started an intravenous “beta blocker”.  Rick arrived at Stanford after an early morning flight from D.C.  He was there when the attending physician told me he was concerned that the pneumonia still seemed “impressive.” But he was so pleased that it was causing unique-to-pneumonia sounds which could be heard quite clearly, that he had my assigned med student (who’s been very attentive for days) come listen.  About 1:30 pm, the nurse flung open my door without a mask and stated that I was TB free. Shortly thereafter, I was wheeled downstairs for an ECHO ultrasound of my heart to look for any heart structure issues. After 3pm, the attending doc returned to introduce me to his 5 or 6 new chief residents whom he was taking on special rounds.  I became the teaching model so everyone could listen to my “tubal breathing” and compare it to my left lung.  Some time during that day, after Rick and I were trained on injecting me with the beta blocker, I gave myself 2 injections. Though I will need these injections for only a week, my empathy and respect grow tremendously for the several friends and relatives who self-inject for diabetes, pain, etc.

–        Fri. June 11:  My assigned med student told me that my heart structure is normal though there are a couple of spots showing mild damage. Over the course of the next few hours, it became clear that I was going to be released from the hospital so I started receiving the long list of “do’s and don’ts,” how to deal with the several new meds, and other forms.  Rick and I arrived home about 3:00 pm.

Episodes that Lightened Up Wendy’s Hospital Days
6 Degrees of Separation

o       On Tues. morning the attending physician introduced himself and proceeded to teach/discuss my case with the multitude of residents stuffed into my room.  He was standing next to my bed so I could read his name on his white coat: Dr. Abraham Verghese.  He asked if I had any questions, so I asked if he was related to the author of a new book, The Stone Cutter.  He corrected the title to Cutting for Stone and said he is the author.  I told him I had his book downloaded, though I hadn’t started to read it, onto my Kindle which was next to my hospital bed.  I’m absolutely convinced that that connection ensured that I got his best attention and skills throughout the week.

o       Starting Mon. afternoon in the quarantine room, I was followed daily by a young doctor who was actually a medical student though his title was “sub-intern.”  I spent more time with him than another health person last week so as we talked early on, I mentioned that my daughter was a pediatric resident who had moved to North Carolina from Boston. As it turned out, he had been a neurology researcher at Mass General Hospital—as Diana had been—who worked for the husband of the women for whom Diana worked!

–        Stanford’s nursing care was excellent overall. Most days and nights were a totally different group.  I particularly liked 3 nurses—one daytime and two from night—and one daytime nursing assistant who had grown up in Nigeria but had lived here for almost 20 years.  Not only was she kind, knowledgeable and competent but took initiative to find answers she didn’t know.  And she loved looking at our website, saying it was like a little visit home.

–        Being quarantined made me feel like a pariah, as if I had done something wrong or people didn’t want me around.  Everyone’s masks were definitely uncomfortable. I had a hard time understanding people with accents (80% of staff) whose speech was further muffled by the masks. Plus I never knew what anyone looked like or how to gauge their reactions.  When I left my room for a test, I had to wear a mask, too.  So when that door opened I actually felt joyful to be released, like escaping prison!

–        If you must have blood drawn frequently, you must rely on a wide skill-range of phlebotomists. Some are timid, some are arrogant, and some are just in a hurry.  I bruised myself less as a novice self-injector than many of the phlebotomists who worked on me. When you bruise as easily as I do under normal circumstances, phlebotomists’ having wide variety of skill levels led to my very colorful hands and elbow crooks.  When I showered Friday night for the first time since Monday morning (oh, yuck!!!), I looked as though I’d been hit by multi-colored paint balls.

–        Who could have ever predicted that my freedom would depend on my spitting capability?  TB tests on persons traveling from outside the U.S. now require lung sputum because the old TB tyne-test or sub-cutaneous test is not accurate enough on foreign TB bugs. Now one must provide 4 vials of which 3 results must be negative. During one of my prior typical, bronchial colds, I could always bring up sputum from my lungs.  This time, when my freedom from my room depended on it, I was dry-coughing.  So it took 3 days—and 2 sessions with a respiratory therapist—to literally cough it up successfully. Moral of the story: hawking-up (sp?) a good one is a helpful life skill.

–        When one is tied up to a telemetry device measuring blood pressure, heart-rate, breathing level, etc. as well as an intravenous device dripping life-critical drugs, it is wise to plan ahead when you want to pee. Urgency is never good, but especially when one is getting intravenous saline solution, drinking lots of liquids, attached to oxygen, and is connected up in 10 or more lifelines only some of which are mobile. Let’s just say that one time I couldn’t quite get the mobile intravenous device all the way into the bathroom, but major disaster was averted.

–        Beware when entering “Planet Hospital” because you quickly lose your senses of dignity, shame, privacy as well as real-world perspective.  Everything narrows down to you, your room, your nurses, doctors, and tests.  Being naked in front of total strangers is no problem.  Spitting, pooping, and peeing become regular discussion topics.  Time slows significantly, to be measured by crappy though well-intentioned meals.  And being in a teaching hospital means you are almost always group-examined and discussed as if you aren’t there.  Yet Planet Hospital was keeping me functional, so no matter what, I was grateful to have such excellent care.  It was bizarrely OK to let go of any sense of propriety in order to get well again.

May 2009 – Napa and Sonoma Valley Wandering with College Friends

We and 3 of my college friends (of 40+ years) and their husbands have been gathering together annually or more for over 20 years. In May 2009 two couples
visited us on our home turf so Rick and I drove and hiked them around less-touristy sites and then took them to a few of the Bay Area’s ethnic restaurants in both Mountain View and San Francisco.  The main purpose of the trip was to drink the best wines and eat at the best restaurants across Napa and Sonoma wine country.  You can see our enjoyment on the web page.  In our 5 days up and back from the 2 beautiful valleys, we stayed in 3 lovely and unique Bed and Breakfasts, visited and drank at many boutique wineries “by appointment only”:  Domaine Chandon (champagne), Stag’s Leap Winery, Groth, Merryvale, Pride Mountain, Sherwin Family, Barnett, Shramsberg (champagne) and Chateau Montelena.  We even tasted olive oils and vinegars!  Of course the wines were wonderful, but one of my favorite memories is the private tour at Merryvale by the Assistant Winemaker, a friend of Adrian’s.  We took a break from wineries by hiking on a beach along the Sonoma Coast. The evening meals were eating marathons of fabulous, complex dishes in multiple courses at: The French Laundry, Bouchon, Terra, Cyrus—4 of the top 5 restaurants, and Rick and I had already been to the 5th twice–and John Ash & Co. What can you say about such a tour?  Life doesn’t get much better than great food, wine and long-time friends!

February to March 2009 – Back from Western, Eastern & Southern Africa in 6 Weeks

I’ve integrated more commentary into the web pages rather than duplicating with my blog this time.  It’s been awhile since we updated our website so we’re proudly announcing that we’ve posted pictures from our February to March 2009 trip to Ghana, Kenya and Namibia.

Rick taught a project management class to TechnoServe staff in Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique.  Wendy also supported TechnoServe by visiting and profiling Ghanaian clients (Pharmacist, Laundromat at College, Fruit Delivery, IT Services, Pig Farmers, and Rural Library) and young Kenyan women entrepreneurs (Cecilia, Rachel and Lydia) .

Then our intrepid friend Carolyn joined us for her 2nd visit to Africa with us. She and Wendy toured central Kenya  including: the animal filming site for Out of Africa; clambering down rocks and a thermal stream in Hellsgate; being mesmerized by thousands of flamingoes at Lake Elementaita; and playing with a 2-month old rhino and “toddler” elephants at Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.

Then Rick, Wendy and Carolyn flew to magnificent Namibia to:

  1. Spend time with the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert; visit thousands of years old rock art; meet new animals on safari (Desert Elephants);
  2. Tour a village of statuesque, bare-breasted Himba women;
  3. Hike the red dunes–some over 3,000 feet high–of the Namib-Naukluft Desert;
  4. And travel over steep hills and flooded dales for tens of hours throughout the country.

Not only did we hunt with the San Bushmen but also witnessed their killing 25 kilogram African Porcupine with only spears; and learned how they survive on one meal a day.  It is amazing to contemplate how little their lives had changed–probably for millennia!

Our journey highlights were the Bushmen, changing colors of the Namibian desert and as always, connecting with so many wonderful people and cultures.

Jan. 21, 2009 – Reflections on My 60th Birthday with LOTS of Celebrations

Though I’m definitely feeling old(er), from all the activities below, I know I am well-loved.  Turning 60 feels a bit impending but it’s better than the alternative. I certainly know I am very fortunate to have had more adventures, travel, and general experiences than 99% of Americans.

I am extremely lucky to have such wonderful friends and family.  Adrian suggested that I should consider getting a hobby and volunteer somewhere.  I’ve thought about both very seriously.  I really believe that I have a fulfilling hobby already: religiously (no pun intended) staying involved with friends and family (maybe my kids would say too much!) who are scattered across multiple coasts, countries and continents.  I will, however, take his advice and do some volunteering when I return from Africa.

Meanwhile, I am following up celebrating more than 60 days’ worth of my 60th birthday with a trip to Ghana, Kenya and Namibia.  Pretty great!

Jan. 10, 2009 – Party with Friends

In late summer 2009, my friend Phyllis asked me over lunch in SF whether I was going to have a big bash for my 60th.  I was really thinking “no” but then thought about how much fun my 50th party was.  Rick had arranged for about 20 of us to meet at a cooking school in SF to eat, drink and be merry while cooking our own dinner.  Besides the fact that cooking is a hobby of many of our friends, the party was memorable because it got together our very diverse sets of friends who have always heard about each other without being acquainted. So I asked him if we could replicate that with a bigger crowd.  He contracted with Draeger’s cooking school in Menlo Park, I listed everyone whom I wanted to attend, he emailed everyone, so on Saturday, Jan. 10th 40 of us gathered to cook our own dinner.  Some (yes, mostly women) were more serious chefs than other (mainly men but who’s stereotyping), but talk about eat, drink and be merry, Draeger’s practically turned off the lights to get rid of us.  But who would want such a great evening to end?

Dec. 5 – Celebrations Carry on into December

About 10 days after my official birthday, I flew to Boston to spend a bit of quality time with my son and his girlfriend, stay with my favorite aunt and uncle for 2 nights, and hang out with more college friends.  Ben, Ruth and I got caught up on happenings on my side of the family, talked about their vacation in Florida to escape winter, and my upcoming trips to Breckenridge, CO then Africa. Over dinner on my 2nd night at their house, my aunt and uncle surprised me with a chocolate birthday cake (what else could I desire?) and gift.  The next night I had dinner in a trendy Boston restaurant with college friends and their husbands whom I have known also for years.  Food was good and the company was great! On my last night in Boston, my college friend Judy, who had fixed me up with Rick (and our sons went to the same college and were in the same fraternity!), took a bus down from Maine so we could have a long overdue girls’ night together.  There were a few hours of sleep that evening, but most of our less than 24 hours together was—wait for it, wait for it–talking about family, friends, life, etc.  An added bonus was briefly catching up with my sister-in-law and niece for dim sum in Boston’s revived China Town.  All-in-all, a wonderful whirlwind continued the next month’s celebration of my 60th.

Nov. 28 – Party at Linda’s with Walleigh Family

On Thanksgiving Day, the family had gathered in a new venue: Linda and Fernando’s new (as of Spring 2008) house.  This was Rick, Adrian, Diana and my first Walleigh Family Thanksgiving in Maryland which was not at his mother’s house.  Because most everyone was still in town, the Albans hosted a family gathering on the night after Thanksgiving.  It was a warm, just-right ending to my 60th birthday week.

Party on Nov. 23rd my actual 60th birthday

On the Sunday of my actual birthday in Bethesda, Maryland, I had what would be the 2nd in a multi-month celebration of my turning 60.  Rick had carried my gifts in his suitcase then gave them to me at Grandmommy’s house. We met Linda and Fernando, my sister- and brother-in-law, along with my beloved mother-in-law (truly!  No sarcasm intended!) for brunch at Matisse restaurant, just over the border from Maryland in D.C.  Though I missed Adrian and Diana, I would see them in a few days, and this intimate gathering was lovely!

Oct. 17 to 19 – Weekend with College Friends

A month ahead of my actual birthday, I flew into New York to spend the weekend with 3 of my closest friends–who have known me since freshman year of college.  It was incredibly wonderful to kick off my 60th birthday celebrations with women (of the same age!) who have grown up together and despite living 3,000 miles apart, continue to see each other at least once a year. Because of these visits, emails and occasional calls, our lives are comfortably woven together.  All our children—now adult including 2 married–have met over the years.  Even our husbands like each other since we’ve spent time as couples together at reunions, weddings and graduations.  I’m so lucky to have them part of my life!