Archive | May, 2012

The closest I’ll get to time travel: An interview with my Grandma on her 100th Birthday

9 May

Apparently longevity runs in my family (at least on my Mom’s side).  My Great Grandma lived into her late 90’s, as did her sisters.  My Great Aunt Frieda lived to be 108.  She was a child when railroads were expanding in Iowa.  That is where my Grandma L grew up.  In west central Iowa.  I spent most of my childhood summers there on vacation.  They are the type of leisurely days only a child can appreciate…walking to the library with my sister and returning with stacks of “Nancy Drew” and “Dana Girls Mystery Stories,” catching fireflies on balmy summer nights and playing cards while swiveling back and forth in a linoleum chair.  I can still remember the cool, musty smell of the basement where my sister and I attempted to play nicely together.  And always homemade rhubarb pie, local sweet corn, and other treats.

So what does 100 years old look like?

Grandma L is pretty adorable.  She doesn’t like talking about her age, and she modestly informs us “I have no aches and pains.”  She isn’t in a wheelchair.  She has a walker, but if she has someone who will offer an arm, she can walk just fine.  Her memory is also functioning pretty well.  However, Grandma L doesn’t remember all the details anymore, and her frustration over the years that crept by is tangible.

Me with Grandma L on her 100th Birthday

Me with Grandma L on her 100th Birthday

My family all gathered recently to celebrate Grandma L’s 100 years.  I took the opportunity to talk with her about some of her memories and supplemented that with information my sister gathered several years back.  I hoped, perhaps somewhat ambitiously, to have a few of her memories from each decade of her life, a historical timeline of sorts.  In my own way, I wanted to travel through time with her.

What emerged was perhaps something much more valuable.  Travel most frequently seems to be bound by date and location.  But travel is also seeing something through the perspective of another…

The Top 5 lessons I’ve learned from my Grandma’s 100 Years

Education is important: My Grandma was the only girl with three brothers, growing up in rural Iowa during the Great Depression.  Her parents insisted she finish high school.  For her own children (my Mom and Uncle), it was always an expectation they would go to college.  All of the four grandkids (of which I am one) are well educated.  And so it will continue to be.

Someone has to lead.  It might as well be you: So it turns out my Grandma’s Mom was a bit of a trendstarter.  The 1920’s, that rabel-rousing decade, saw women cutting their long locks as “the bob” came into fashion.  Great Grandma was the first in town to chop her locks and everyone else followed.  She also started wearing shorter skirts and shoes with buttons.  The rest of the local women followed suit.  That makes me proud.  It takes courage to be a leader, and I am inspired to know it is in my DNA.

Music and the Arts are vital to the soul: Grandma L liked to dance.  After all, the barn dances in the hayloft were a big deal when she was growing up.  “Those floors were so slick” she says, remembering.  During our conversation, she mentioned a few verses of a song she liked.  A quick search on a nearby phone located Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.”  Grandma started bouncing her head as we played it for her.  She would have been 47 when it first hit the airwaves.  Grandma L never claimed to be musical, but listening and dancing were always a part of her life.  I love feeling connected to her through this song and imagining her and my Grandpa dancing to it.

Evolution becomes revolution: Grandma remembers that she was the 3rd in town to have TV.  When I asked her if the transition from black and white to color was significant, she said “Not really.  The colors weren’t nearly as bright as they are now.”  However, in a rare moment of high level reflection on all of the social, political, and technological changes seen in her life, Grandma said “it has really been a revolution.”  At a moment in time, the changes may seem, and actually be, incremental, but in time they become real progress, real revolution.

Even love at first sight takes patience: My Grandma remembers the exact moment she met my Grandfather.  He was working on her Uncle’s farm.  She stepped out of the car one day, and he came around the side of the house.  “Our eyes met, and I knew he was the one I would marry.”  Still, it would be 5 years before they married with sometimes weeks passing in between their dates.  My Grandfather died over 20 years ago, but my Grandma still speaks of him with love.  “I miss the old guy,” she says with flirtatious tone to her voice.  “He was a good man, a really good man.”

One bonus lesson: Be in the present

I couldn’t help but be reflective during the 100th birthday celebration weekend.  I treasured each second I got to spend with Grandma L.  I even got to paint her nails for her (a lovely pink shade).  She enjoyed it because she had painted nails throughout most of her life.  What color?  “Well, there really only was one shade.  It was a Revlon brand red color.”

Birthday Girl!

It also occurred to me that she doesn’t get to choose what she can remember and what details are inaccessible.  The present matters.  At the end of your days, will you be able to remember today?  And if you can’t pick and choose, the better you make each day, perhaps the higher the probability those days will be the ones you remember.  I don’t claim to have any of these lessons, let alone this one, mastered.  But I’m trying.

A closing thought…

As I traveled the world, I always sent Grandma L postcards.  I ended each of them the same way.  I’ll end this post similarly.

“Remember that no matter how far I travel and wherever I go, I will always be thinking of you.”


Cabo San Lucas: A few of my best tips for a great holiday

1 May

Cabo San Lucas has been on my radar for a long time.  Growing up in California, it is a pretty easy trip.  In my opinion, it is the west coast version of the Caribbean for east coasters.  I’ve been three times-once as a teenager, another time during business school over New Year’s, and my most recent trip in late December 2011.  Each trip was different and enjoyable in its own way.

Why I was headed to Cabo for vacation

I’m only going to write about my most recent trip.  There won’t be spring break tips or a safety primer.  I was headed down for R&R to belatedly celebrate a close female friend’s birthday and successful recovery from breast cancer.  It also turned out that another male friend of ours was heading down at the same time.  I owe the restaurant recommendations to him.  My friend and I were staying at a timeshare in between San Jose del Cabo (SJ) and Cabo San Lucas (CSL).  I won’t be providing a review of the Club Regina Los Cabos (attached to, but independent from, the Westin Los Cabos), but I did enjoy the location.

A quick note on cars

The main road between SJ and CSL appeared to be quite new.  It even had little lights on the road that are motion sensitive at night and light up.  Parking in either of the towns could be a bit of handful, though not insane.  That said, I wasn’t the one doing the driving.  Honestly, it gave us a ton of flexibility.  If you have someone in your party willing to drive/park, I would recommend it.

A beautiful house during a walk along the beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

My “typical day”

8am: Awaken to the sounds of the ocean

10am: Brunch, frequently out

Afternoon: Activity (walk on beach, ziplining, horseback riding)

Late afternoon: Soak up the sun by the pool (covered in SPF 50 and a wide brimmed hat)

Evening: Nice dinner

Late Evening: Fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean

A few of my recommended activities

Ziplining: I had been ziplining previously in Costa Rica, and I find it fun.  We selected Wild Canyon Adventures.  It was a nice course that took several hours.  There was definitely a bit of hiking in between stations so be forewarned.  Also, if you have a lighter person or a child, I highly recommend they pair up with a heavier person when possible on the tandem ziplines.  I fall on the petite side, and I had a few times I didn’t make it all the way.  I just had to pull myself the last few yards, but it does get tiring.  Great tricep workout though.

Todos Santos and nearby beaches: I wrote about the stunning nearby beaches in a previous post, and I do also recommend the town of Todos Santos.  It is colorful, cute, and makes a great day trip.  One big caveat: the road to Todos Santos is currently under major construction.  It was slow, rough, and we spent the majority of the time behind major construction vehicles.  If you are short of patience or have young children, proceed with caution.  That said, the drive is beautiful, and I’m sure it will be even better with the new road.

Sunrise from in front of our hotel room, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Sunrise & Sunset: I was on a quest to find great spots to watch both, and I feel successful in those endeavors.  Chosen locations were confirmed by a local photographer.  For sunset, head to the Sunset Da Mona Lisa Restaurant.  You don’t need to eat there.  Grab a drink at the upstairs bar and then walk around the stunning vista as the sun sets behind the famous El Arco.  For sunrise, we climbed down on the rocks in front of our hotel room.  If you are staying elsewhere, I’m sure you can grab breakfast at the adjacent Westin for a similar view.

Be sure to look up: The stars are just spectacular (this coming from a girl who resides in CO, not too far from the mountains).  My friend and I curled up under a blanket on our patio late one night and just spent some time being peaceful and looking up.

Where to eat in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose

I ate well in Cabo.  Coming from a landlocked state, we all wanted to eat as much seafood as possible.  You’ll notice that in my comments.  Yum, I’m getting hungry just writing this.  In no particular order.

Nick-San (CSL and also across the street from La Palmilla): Good Japanese food.  Not inexpensive.  Very nice ambience and good cocktails.  Not sure how it truly compares to great east and west coast Japanese restaurants.

La Dolce (CSL & SJC): Good Italian food.  The tiramisu was only ok, but they have a chocolate peanut butter dessert (we ate it late night at a different location).  They said it is always on the menu.  We completely devoured it.

Mama’s royal cafe/Felix (CSL).  Omelet and stuffed french toast were both great.  Brunch.  Very chill

Misiones de Kino (CSL): REALLY good.  Brie appetizer, fish with garlic, shrimp with pineapple and coconut shrimp were all amazing.  This might have been my favorite meal.

French Riviera Bakery

Baan Thai (SJC): This is totally legit Thai food, and I have very high standards.  Tuna main, tuna carpaccio, and green papaya salad were some of our faves.

Solomon’s Landing (CSL): At the marina by the Wyndam Hotel.  Looks very cheesy, but the food was delicious and our waiter was super helpful.  Everything we had was great, but I particularly remember their homemade corn tortillas.  Also, it would be an easy place to take kids, in my opinion.

French Riveria Bakery (SJC): We had breakfast here several times, and the pastries are great.  I particularly liked the chocolate croissant aux amandes.  Beautiful little building as well.

So what are your favorite spots and activities in Cabo?

Header Photo: Sunset in Cabo San Lucas.  All photos © W2S Hilary

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