They are proof that you don't have to have a lot of money to live a full life, but you do need to enjoy life, have a sense of adventure, and occasionally step outside your comfort zone.
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Life As We Lived It
By Patricia Burns
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Patricia Burns
All rights reserved.
1996 ADJUSTING TO RETIREMENT
After my retirement and a wonderful family holiday season, New Year's 1996 was a relative non-event. I was embarking on my first full year of retirement while Ken still pursued the allusive American dream.
Ken would rise early in the morning for work and I would get up soon thereafter for my morning hike with our faithful Samoan dog, Sampson. After our walk, I would spend 2-3 hours on the computer, do household chores, prepare for either a luncheon date; shopping or errands being sure to be back home in time to prepare dinner for Ken.
Ken's mother spent a few weeks with us right after I retired and during her stay with us, I used my newly found free time to chronicle details of her life story in a book detailing her pilgrimage and Ken's roots. At that time, she was 80 years old and was showing some signs of deteriorating health. I wanted to commit her memories and life story to print before it was too late. She had kept diaries of her travels and as I read and transferred her notes and memories onto the computer, I was consumed with her life. I spent hours working on a first draft which, when completed consisted of 277 pages. After she returned to Prescott, I worked on the book and the first weeks and months after my retirement were devoted to committing her story to the written word.
During the winter months it was still dark when Sampson and I struck out for our morning walk. We would walk a mile from our house to a fire road and then an additional 1-4 miles on a fire road that peeked at a radio tower overlooking the city. On average we walked 3-4 miles each morning. After sighting a coyote on a ridge above the fire road on a frequent basis, I became concerned that it might be "stalking" us. There were other hikers in the area but our walk was earlier than most and thus, we had no one with whom to share the coyote's interest. At first, the coyote would run the other way but as time passed it became braver. I was disinclined toward developing a relationship with a coyote and concluded it was time to change our walking habits. Thereafter, Sampson and I continued our daily exercise but in a populated area less vulnerable to the coyotes.
During the Christmas holidays my sister, Thelma announced that she had received a diagnosis of cancer and surgery was recommended. Alarmed, I insisted that she proceed with the recommended surgery and it was scheduled for May.
Two days prior to the scheduled surgery date, I flew to Sarasota Florida for what I expected to be a very routine hospital stay. Two days after the surgery, Thelma suffered a heart attack from which she never recovered and she passed away on June 4, three days after my 63rd birthday. Thelma was vivacious, healthy and always so in charge that I really never considered that she would not always be there for me. She was 19 years older than me and had no children. I was the benefactor of her indulgent oversight as well as her negative critiques.
Always blessed with a loving and caring family I was now the last survivor. My oldest brother, Floyd died in 1951, my sister, Dorothy in 1961 and brothers, Trevor and Carl in 1986. I felt abandoned. Thelma had suffered a major heart attack in 1991 and at that time, the Doctor cautioned her that a second attack could be fatal and that proved to be providential.
During Thelma's hospitalization, Ken and the kids were working 24/7 to complete production for the first delivery of an important long term production contract. It was a critical period. His offer to come and be with me was appreciated but I knew Ken was a "hands on" manager. He would be torn between supporting me in Florida and concern for the business. There was nothing that he could do other than provide support and a niece and nephew were with me. Perhaps I could have managed without their presence, but it would have been difficult. I remain eternally grateful for their support.
I have often reviewed the events of this period and wondered if my actions reflected a mercenary side of my personality that others questioned. To maintain a viable business, it is important to know its priority in the scheme of things. Large companies with an abundance of layers of management and financial wherewithal are able to staff for family leave and sundry considerations. Small companies, like ours, do not have the flexibility in either manpower or money to alter schedules and contract terms to meet personal crises. Ken and the kids were involved in final stages of production and first delivery of a critical contract. I felt that Ken's presence at home was in the best interests of our livelihood and future. It was my presence in Sarasota that was imperative and in hind sight; I feel that I was right.
After I returned home from Florida, Ken and the kids were very busy with an upsurge in business that involved long days and exhausting schedules. I had time to grieve, regroup and adjust to my loss in my own way and on my own time. Quality time with our grandchildren, Lauren and Sean, helped me through the darkness of my loss. They cheered me up and helped me move on. My family understood and supported me as I dealt with my loss in my own way.
After Thelma's death, I was lost. I kicked myself that I had not been a better student to our family history. I now had the urge to preserve what I knew about the family to history and I became engrossed in family memories and spent my time writing what I remembered about our family. This effort provided me closure. I subsequently gave copies to my nephews and nieces but I don't think Ken, Gary or Terri are even aware that the material exists.
During this period, when Ken was able to "extract" a weekend day of relaxation we enjoyed a casual sail with friends and customers as well as occasional Catalina Island weekends aboard our 41 foot sailboat, the WANDERIN' STAR. Workload permitting, we would motor over after work on Friday, enjoy a day on the island and sail back on Sunday. Our friends, Phil and Sheri would join us for our infrequent weekends "at sea". Other weekends we simply went to the boat on Friday night and stayed over until Sunday. Ken usually had some project for the boat that he would undertake as well as we enjoyed the time with our fellow boat owner friends on the dock.
Ken's weekday schedule usually began at 5AM when his inner alarm went off. He was out of the house by 6 and rarely arrived home before seven. He was preoccupied and sometimes became confused as to "who (or what) was on first". During a particularly busy period, the hours of the plant were adjusted from a start time of 7AM to 4AM to meet production and delivery deadline. Ken, who rarely needed an alarm; reset the alarm for 3 A.M. When the crises had passed and they returned to their regular production schedule and hours, he did not change the alarm but simply turned it off.
A few days after the plant had resumed normal work hours the foreman, who had worked straight through the crisis, requested a morning off. He asked Ken to open the plant. Since Ken was usually there at or near the time the plant opened, this was his usual "piece of cake'. He had it covered!
As he went to bed the night before, Ken automatically pushed the alarm. When the alarm went off Ken crawled out of bed, showered and left for work. That evening he entertained me with the highlight of his day. When he arrived at the plant, he was surprised to find no one waiting at the door. He proceeded with unlocking the plant, starting the machinery, turning on the lights and preparing for production. When he finished he returned to the front entrance, certain the employees would be waiting at the door. To his surprise – no one was there. He looked at his watch and a light went on. He was three hours early. He had not changed the alarm to reflect the changed work hours.
Ken habitually reflects a demeanor of "I'll take care of it" in everything he does. It seems no matter what is required; he smiles cheerfully, takes charge and jumps in (head first?). A portion of the plant's production was building props and scenery for the entertainment studios. Gary was responsible for coordinating production and delivery for many of the studio accounts. One summer while Gary was on vacation, Ken, the ever helpful, take charge type of guy, agreed to make one of the deliveries in Gary's absence that week. Ken had met with the customer at the plant but he had never been to their shop. He viewed his personal involvement as an opportunity to further the business connection with the company's commitment to serving the customer.
According to Terri, when Ken was told that the truck was ready to go, he jumped up with his; "I've got it covered" attitude and bounded out of the office and was on his way. Sometime later, Terri heard Yani (the girl in the office) laughing as she talked on the phone. Still laughing, Yani walked into Terri's office and pointed to the flashing phone said, "That's Ken and he wants to know where he's going." He had forgotten the paperwork with the address on it. He knew the vicinity in which the business was located, but not the address. Yani called the customer and made arrangements to fax the paperwork to them for their signature. This is typical Ken and it is a wonder that we survived. Looking back at the nooks and crannies of our many antics in this lifetime adds entertainment to our old age!
As the summer drew to an end, we prepared for another visit to Key West Florida. During a visit to the Keys in 1988, Ken saw Key West as a Caribbean lifestyle accessible by car. He agreed to a time share presentation that I vehemently opposed because I believed time shares to be a poor investment. Ken insisted that we had nothing to lose and a free dinner and amenities was promised. Of course, once they had us, we were willing believers. We purchased a week at the Galleon Resort. In spite of my early misgivings it has worked for us. We bought it to enjoy and we have.
As the September date approached, Ken decided that he would like to include a trip to the Virgin Islands. We approached our friends, Bruce and Gwelda (Haselman) and Phil and Sheri (Levine) for their interest. All agreed and planning was launched.
Bruce and Gwelda have been weary fellow travelers to our adventures and antics since the late 60's when we met and became friends during one of our entrepreneurial exploits. They partnered with us when we purchased the Wanderin Star and continue to be good friends, extended family and special people.
Through the years, Phil and Sheri have also become extended family. It all began when I worked with Phil at CBS. Phil had an avid interest in boats and sailing became the cornerstone for our developing friendship. Phil and I both were early arrivals at work and would visit over a cup of coffee before work. One morning Phil was in my office and as we chatted he pointed to a picture of the Wanderin' Star under sail hanging on the wall behind my desk. He asked, "Whose boat is that?" I responded, "Oh – that's a boat Ken and I own with another couple". And that is how our friendship began. Through the years, Phil and Sheri found themselves caught up in our adventures. Their progress included sailing adventures on the Wanderin' Star as well as a 1990 charter from St Lucia to Grenada with the Haselmans, Ken and I and a 1994 charter with Ken and I in the Bahamas. You might say our friends are and were glutens for punishment on pretense of friendship.
On our way to the Caribbean Bruce and Gwelda joined us for a week in Key West. The week was spent relaxing and enjoying the laid back lifestyle of Key West. We enjoyed a ferry trip and tour of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas which was interesting as well as educational. Ken and Bruce enjoyed a day of sport fishing while Gwelda and I enjoyed a day out and about in beautiful Key West without our spouses.
Bruce and Gwelda flew directly into Tortola from Miami while we flew into St Thomas. From the airport in St Thomas, we took a cab to the ferry dock in downtown Charlotte Amalie, checked our baggage and waited for our 430PM ferry to Road Town on Tortola. In Road Town, we cleared customs and climbed onto a jitney to Nanny Cay, where we were greeted by our sailing partners already on board.
For those of you who are not up on boating slang, a bare boat charter is a boat that one rents sans captain (An amphibious rental car without chauffeur). This was our fifth Virgin Island charter and as always, with the sun beaming down from on high, swimming, snorkeling, eating, exploring, island hopping, rest and relaxation would be the order of the day.
In our absence, our fellow sailors had determined that our chartered boat (a Jeaneau 44) was too small. They had watched as the people who had chartered an Oceania 500 changed to a power boat, which suggested that the Oceania 500 might be available. They wanted to see if we could upgrade? Seeking to avoid early mutiny, Ken made inquiries. Yes the Oceania 500 was available and after the men had viewed the boat, they returned to inform their spouses of the pending move. The information was not well received. Prior to our arrival, the food that we had pre ordered was delivered and our companions had stowed it aboard. Sheri and Gwelda did not want to do it all again and I didn't want to do it at all. They rebelled and I supported them, a friend to the end. After a tough negotiating session it was agreed that the men would do all of the packing, stowing and moving. We acquiesced. It was an offer we couldn't refuse. They won, we lost – but it was a well fought battle. It was now 6:30 and time to "spiffy" up for our 800PM dinner reservations at Skyworld, a restaurant in the hills above Road Town.
A cab picked us up at 730P and now suitably attired the six of us climbed into the waiting van for our drive to the restaurant where we were greeted by Jimmy, the Chef owner, and Vincent, the head waiter. Jimmy and Vincent were formerly with The Upstairs restaurant in Road Town, a favored dining place for Bruce and Gwelda on many previous visits to the British Virgin Islands. Ken and I had enjoyed dinner at the Upstairs with Bruce and Gwelda in 1989 and knew the preparations would be a "feast de resistance". Jimmy now owned Skyworld and it was the delectable preparations of this Chef extraordinaire that prompted our presence.
Dinner was wonderful, as we had expected it to be and reasonably priced. With our tummies pleasantly satisfied and our mood mellow, we bade farewell to Jimmy and Vincent and returned to the waiting van for return to our boat. We suffered "sticker shock" when we were told that the roundtrip cab fare was $96, or $32 per couple. It seemed high but for Ken and I being back in the islands and sharing the evening with good food and good friends was worth the price. For the Haselmans, it was a proper homecoming event.
The next morning Phil was still lamenting the cab fare. He had not yet developed an indulgence into island fantasy. It was their maiden visit to the Islands and their judgment of food and adventure was still unemotional and pragmatic. At last count, Bruce and Gwelda have enjoyed 25 trips to the Virgin Islands, Phil and Sheri, nine with a tenth scheduled. Ken and I bring up the rear with only six. Ours have all been charter trips while the other two couples have comingled their trips with luxury resort vacations. Perhaps we are challenged either as Virgins or in luxury?
The next morning the men quickly completed their moving chores from "Rascal II" (the original charter) onto the Oceana 500, "The Lady Ashleigh Britt", while we ladies organized and stowed clothes in our respective cabins (and stayed out of the way). Once the move was completed, we had breakfast in the open air galley ashore, and waited for our chart briefing and checkout.
Check out complete, our first stop was the Bight at Norman Island. It was apparent that recent heavy hurricane activity had affected business with fewer than usual boats in the channel. When we arrived at Norman Island only one other boat was moored there. That was very unusual for a mid-afternoon in the Virgins.
"The Bight" is a protected anchorage and favorite destination because of its close proximity to the caves located at the base of the cliffs just outside the western edge of the Bight. Norman Island is a privately owned uninhabited island. It is believed that Norman Island is one of a number of islands that formed the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's, TREASURE ISLAND.
Once moored, Phil (our resident chef) went below to muster up lunch, electing not to join Ken and Bruce in a tour around the bay in the dinghy (small boat with motor that we towed and used as a runabout – on land it's called a second car).
When Ken and Bruce did not return immediately, we suspected they were visiting The Willie T (William Thornton) an old ship that had been converted into a restaurant that is a favorite "port of call" at Norman Island. Finally, we heard the dinghy approaching and two happy sailors climbed aboard. As we suspected, they had been to the Willie T and indulged in pain killers (a Caribbean drink with rum) on an empty stomach. Indeed, neither of them felt any pain!
They brought back news that the original William Thornton had sprang a leak and sunk just one week after Bruce and Gwelda visited in July of 1995. They recanted that the replacement boat has a steel hull and is, hopefully, more seaworthy. We enjoyed a relaxed afternoon of camaraderie and as night fell, Phil prepared the first of many outstanding dinners of the trip. Dinner over, dishes done and stars counted, we called it a good day.
Excerpted from Life As We Lived It by Patricia Burns. Copyright © 2015 Patricia Burns. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Chapter I 1996 Adjusting to Retirement, 1,
Chapter II 1997 Old Friends and Deep Roots, 29,
Chapter III 1998 A Little Family History and Brazil, 81,
Chapter IV Brazil Part II, 106,
Chapter V Brazil Part III Igaccui Falls, 125,
Chapter VI Rv 101, 132,
Chapter VII 1999 The New Millennium, 135,
Chapter VIII 2000 Our First Cruise, 162,
Chapter IX 2001 China and a Golden Wedding, 171,
Chapter X 2002 Ken Retires and the Fun Begins, 182,