New Traditions


angel and dogCreative Pension Payment:  Learning New Things About Old Friends

My friend Judy Mackey told me about the red string of fate.  I was not familiar with the Asian legend of gods tying an invisible red string around those that are soul mates destined to be married.  Judy had written a short story about this, and it came up when I told her I wanted to start writing about traditions.  As a military dependent with no roots, I felt like my life was lacking in traditions.  I started to wonder how people with similar circumstances created traditions for themselves. I decided to start with Judy since we are similarly situated; middle-aged, no children/grand-children, grew up as a military dependent, etc.


Me with Judy in Japan 1976

I first met Judy in Japan where our Fathers were stationed and we were attending Camp Zama American High School.  I got to know Judy a bit better the summer of 1976 when  I vacationed in Japan and visited her family.  Over the years we stayed in touch sporadically, due to the distance and lack of technology, until Zama started having multi-class reunions.  We didn’t actually see each other for about 30 years. Once I moved to Texas, we started getting together occasionally for “mini reunion” breakfasts or sushi dinners.

After 40 years, we find ourselves nearly neighbors in Texas and talking about traditions.   Judy commented that Military Brats are “OK” not doing the same thing over and over.  I agreed. Moving all the time, different homes, schools, friends….what would our traditions be anyway?  Her comment was the prelude to learning she didn’t think she had many traditions of her own.  As a half Japanese, Buddhist married to an Italian Catholic, traditions were a challenge.  The first Christmas dinner she had with her then husband  was anything but traditional – shrimp tempura at her parents’ house.  She laughed as she explained how he showed up in a 3 piece corduroy suit, while she was in t-shirt and jeans.

However, hanging around with Judy these days she tells a different story.  She actually does have traditions, or customs and rituals, that she practices.  She is a unique combination of East and West: IKEA furniture with a formal kimono hanging on the wall; chardonnay served with wasabi peas; salt on her front door steps for luck backed up by a “” security camera; and an “Echo Dot” within inches of a crying Buddha sculpture.  angel and dogShe posts cheerful coffee memes on Facebook each morningShe paints angels.  She believes in the red string of fate, eating noodles at new year to celebrate a long life, and staying in touch with old friends like me.




Judy now


Judy is an accomplished palette knife artist, who loves painting still life, people, pets and angels. Her work can be found at Crate & Barrel, DaVinci Gallery, Facebook and at















The Art of Trees – Part 1

Tree sign

European Black Pine in Sapporo, Japan


Creative Pension Payment:  More Time to Appreciate Nature


Trees are badass.  They provide shelter and shade for other living things.  They’re beautiful and diverse.  Artists and photographers love trees.  I live in a community where trees are protected and I can see them from every window in my home.  This is a collection of photos of trees that are special to me.  That’s all.

garden stairs IMG_0983

I took this at Shikinomori Park in June.

Mark Vicksburg Tree

Taken on Washington St. in Vicksburg, Ms. by Mark Winslet.  I love this because it reminds me of historic down town, across the from Attic Gallery and Highway 61 Coffee Shop.

Lone Cypress Deb

Deborah Platt snapped this of the Lone Cypress in Monterey, CA last week.

Maple in Japan

I took this in Sapporo this May.











Writing From The Heart


Painting by Judy Mackey

Creative Pension Payment:  Being able to write about anything

I’ve always been a writer, of sorts.  When I was 12, I wrote a short story.  I even typed up the manuscript, but my Dad got transferred to Japan that summer and it was misplaced in the packing.  In middle school and high school I filled journals with poetry and teenaged revelations.  In college I wrote all the time (my BA is in Communications.) At work I wrote contracts, white papers and occasional articles for company publications. And then I went to graduate school…. It was exhausting after a while.

Now I’m a different kind of writer.  One of my goals for retiring was to research and write about three things:

  1. How people with non-traditional circumstances create traditions for themselves
  2. The non financial aspects of deciding when and how to retire, and how people spend their days
  3. Anything without a deadline

The purpose of my blog is to put that stuff out there, hopefully in an interesting way.  I’ve been told that I write “easily and with confidence”  using “vivid descriptions.”  I’ve also been told I’m too brief and provide insufficient supporting evidence for my “positions.”   The good thing about a blog is being able to write about whatever you want, however you want.  I like pictures and I like being brief.

Contact me if you have any unique traditions or crazy retirement adventures you’d like to share.











Water-Color Lessons

Creative Pension Payment:  Realizing the Capacity to be Creative

My Mother was an excellent artist.  She was also a stunningly beautiful model, a gourmet cook/entertainer, and excelled at gardening and interior decorating.  The perfect 70’s Mom.  Her clients, art students and friends asked if I shared my Mother’s artistic abilities. Uh, hell no!  A daughter’s perception of her Mother’s perfection.

model mom

Model Mom Head Shot


Glam Mom Entertaining


orange flowerIMG_1188

Arty Mom (Water-color by Jacqueline Stubbs)

I followed in my Father’s footsteps, a career supply chain manager and giver of unsolicited financial advice.  I was a tom-boy who liked being outside swimming, playing tennis or  riding dirt bikes with my brother.  I rarely watched my Mother paint.  Writing this makes me a bit sad.  I didn’t see the point in spending time doing something I would never be good at.  I felt inferior to my Mother, who would often remind me to comb my hair and suggest wearing lip gloss. Later in life I learned she also had insecurities and she became my best friend (but that’s another deep thoughts kind of blog.)

70s mom

Curly Hair – Not My Idea


Last year I started going through Mom’s art and was inspired.  I created a Facebook page for it and reported to her all of the “likes” and positive comments.  In a small way, it allowed her to relive her glory days.  Months after she died,  I really starting digging through her portfolios.  I found unfinished work and I thought, “what if I could finish this?”  I decided to take water-color lessons in that moment.

I had never picked up a brush, unless it had house paint on it!  Through a mutual friend, I met my art teacher Vernita Bridges Hoyt.  Though I’m just getting started, I realize water-color is a good medium for me.  Water is clean, like a fresh start that can wash away negative thoughts (“I can’t paint”).  The colors can be mixed to create anything you want.  The method allows for little imperfections or to correct them, as you wish.

I’m not proud of my art work yet, but I’m writing to let you know it’s never too late to learn something new or to be creative when you’ve spent your whole life thinking you aren’t.   I think Mom would be proud, even though I didn’t comb my hair or put on lipstick for this picture.  This is my first completed water-color.  It’s somewhat recognizable.  I think I need a few drawing lessons next.

me with sunflowerIMG_1165

Look Mom!

Eggs Trapped in a Berndes Pan


Creative Pension Payment:  A Lesson in Cooking

My Mother was an excellent cook.  I have many of her fancy pans and other cooking paraphernalia that she considered essential.  However, I was always too busy working and usually single, so I tended to assemble food items rather than create meals.  One of my fancy cooking items was an 8 inch Berndes saute pan.  After listening to a cooking show on NPR, I attempted to fry/steam the perfect egg, later to be laid upon a decorative smear of low fat plain yogurt and sprinkled with Herbs de Provence.

Day 1:  This perfect egg is cooked in olive oil, with a few drops of water to create steam so that the egg whites are cooked without having to turn the egg.  My Berndes pan didn’t have a lid.  I grabbed the closest sized one, a 7-7/8″ Revereware copper lid.  I planned to trap the steam for only a few seconds in order to cook the white without overcooking the yolk.  But I could not remove the lid! I had created a vacuum, complicated by two different types of metal fused together….in just a few seconds.

I was hungry.  I “Googled” the ways to remove a stuck lid.  None were going to solve the problem before I needed to eat some breakfast and move on to the gym.  I left the pan in the sink, with ice cubes on the copper lid thinking that it would shrink, allowing me to free the eggs.  I ate a banana and left for my Deep H2O class at the YMCA.

I was gone a couple of hours.  I returned to find the lid and pan still stuck, stubbornly. I got a screw driver out of my tool box and tried to leverage the lid off.  I’m not as strong as I thought I was.  I “Googled” again – try putting the pan in the freezer.  So I did, overnight.

Day 2:  The next morning I got the pan out.  Fused and completely frozen.  I thought it would be a good idea to heat the bottom of the pan to again attempt my “different temps will separate the pan from the lid” theory.  After a few seconds, I started worrying that the pan would explode on the heater element, so I put the pan in hot water (same theory.)  Nothing happened, still fused. I left the pan in the sink and went out for a while.  Surely returning to a normal temperature would resolve the problem.  No.  It stayed in the sink over night.

Day 3.  I can still hear the eggs inside the pan when I shake it.  Like ping pong balls bouncing off a hi-hat.  Maybe I shouldn’t attempt to get these eggs out.  They are starting to stink.  I realize I have only been trying to save my Mother’s pan.  I’m too sentimental. I say goodbye.  I have many other “essential” gourmet cooking gadgets I can use in my future attempts to be creative.  I toss the pan, still tightly sealed, with the stinky eggs inside into the dumpster and order a replacement pan on Amazon.  I think my next creative pension payment will be in another art form.  Watercolor lessons anyone?