May the Preparations Begin

May 1-11, 2022

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

This is a regular diary, covering our regular life, just before we start a long road trip, the activity we hope will become regular once again. There are three parts; war, health, and distractions, but mostly the last.

Ukraine and War

flagLena's workNo word from friend Lena, hopefully holding out in The Netherlands, but we still think of her and her family, including every night as we peacefully use the bed, nightstand, and reading lamp she designed and had crafted for us twenty years ago.

War in Ukraine has entered a more deadly period, with massed attacks in the east and missiles splattered throughout the country. As Russia commits more forces, Ukrainians receive more weapons from Western allies and it makes for a brutal combination.

Victory Day (May 9) came and went without renewed aggressive Putin pronouncements. Just like in the war itself, the air cover failed to show. The evil empire continues to launch long-range missiles, hitting civil and military targets, but Ukrainian trains and roads continue to flow Western arms aid to where it is needed. It remains difficult to imagine how this will end, but a Russian victory is not imminent or even certain.

Health: Cancer, Chemo, and Covid

Covid cases have passed through a nadir and are creeping back up, but it seems few care. Both Marianne and I have our complete set of vaccinations, including double boosters, so we are going ahead with travel plans, albeit by private car not sealed, public, tubes (= airplanes). Dining is outdoors when we can, but museums and galleries will, naturally, be with crowds. We will mask, I assume, even if few others will, as it all becomes our new-regular.

Chemo side effects continue, but diminish. Tiredness, arm swelling, some foot numbness, and wigs all remain, but we hope they will disappear during our travels. Last time, we waited almost a year before we hit the road after chemo and the still-novel virus, but soon we will hit the road before chemo-related impacts are gone. This is a combination of less patience, and four or five vaccinations each.

Marianne had her six-month check-up with the surgeon with no threatening news. The doctor answered a few questions and said there would be another follow-up in another half-year. With cancer, "follow-up" is a forever thing.


plantshillThere are a fair number of distractions as we prepare for travel. At home, I finished a project of replanting part of our backyard hill, this time with cactus and succulents. The idea is to make our garden more tolerant of heat and the irregular watering that can happen while we are gone. Selecting plants at Belmont Nursery and putting them in the ground was fun. However, installing irrigation is just irritating, as I repeatedly cycle back and forth to the hardware store for bits and pieces.

We are trying to arrange for house-sitting during our absence, but details have not been settled. Hopefully, we can repeat having FSU swimmers move in for at least a few days each week, because leaving our house unmonitored for long periods is too risky. Because old things like pipes and wires fail, because that's what age causes, we worry. (It is interesting to remember that when we left the much older Kyiv home for months at a time, we never worried. Flats - apartments- are easier than single-family houses.)

Rotherburgdinner againOtherwise, homey distractions continue. I finished one more puzzle, probably the last for a few months, since packing up every few days does not allow time for assembly. This last puzzle showed one of our favorite, then-local, Bavarian travel destinations: Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

I will miss home cooking, such as the special schnitzel dinner our chef prepared for her sister's and brother-in-law's shared birthday. I think we will both miss the comfort of our regular life on Cambridge Avenue, even as we recognize the benefit of traveling outside our comfort zones.

fruit standOur most important task to get ready for a long absence was to check in with the Rahimi family. This was especially important after two years of Covid visiting restrictions. We broke up the two-and-a-half hour drive to Monte Sereno with a fruit stand stop and it made me wonder how we will handle the days of multi-hour drives across the Western deserts and mesas. Charging our electric car won't be a problem, but servicing the driver and passenger might be.pianist

Down in Monte Sereno, while we waited for the grandkids to come home from school, Marianne tested out the piano. We both had piano lessons as children, but the results of hers remain after decades whereas mine disappeared in weeks. Too bad.golfer

Once the kids got home, we started the after-school shuffle. First, we dropped Sam off for golf team lessons and then we brought Ava to her tennis team match. They are both great at their chosen sports, at least that's what unbiased Opa and Gigi see.


From tennis, we collected Sam at the golf course and drove over to Daves Avenue Elementary School for an Open House. He led us through various projects and reports that lined the classroom and hallway. It was fun to see his pride and hear his classmates lead their parents with the same enthusiasm. We need to do this more often!

school welcome
desk trees torn paper

Friday started with Gigi's Hungarian pancakes (palacsintas), a tradition for Ava and Sam - and us. Then it was off to school for them. Gabby and Mamal packed up and left for a weekend away with friends, trusting grandparents to take over kid-shuttling duty. Marianne had a massage, a Mothers' Day gift from Gabby, and I got serious about making hotel reservations for the San Diego part of our trip. For me, it finally felt like travel will happen.

After school, Ava stopped just long enough to grab a change of clothes before leaving with friend Coco for a birthday party and sleepover. It's quite a social routine she lives in, now that she's a teenager. Sam's after-school was baseball, first practice and then the final game of the season. Sam only played one inning, but he was patient enough to earn a walk, quick enough to avoid three pick-off plays, and then fast enough to run home on a teammate's hit.

sign throw bat
tag not run home

Gigi, Sam, and I finished the day with a Chipotle dinner and screen-watching at home, while Ava went off to a birthday party and then sleep-over with friend Coco. Marianne had Netflix to watch and Sam connected us to basketball and baseball games on the big living room screen. It was all fun, just chill'n.


Sam could not sleep in on Saturday because there was a bit more baseball, this time batting and fielding coaching at the batting cage. I waited for him out along the Tesla parking curb. Los Gatos is THAT sort of place.


girls dogsBack home, we continued to enjoy taking care of kids and dogs. They're all fun, but I think grand-dogs Charli and little Sarbe need even more attention than the humans. And they are most insistent at getting it.Gigi Ava

In the afternoon, Ava and Gigi dressed up and went off to a mother-daughter tea. They both looked beautiful. Marianne was one of two grandmothers standing in for their own daughters. (By coincidence, both grandmothers were nicknamed "Gigi".)

SamMeanwhile, Sam was doing what young boys do: talking with friends and shooting villians. We had seen his older cousins Adam and Spencer spend hours and hours with these same multi-player computer games, so I guess Sam is following in their screen-steps. Violence aside, it's not a bad combination of hand-eye reaction training and socializing.Sam golf

Sam also had a golf match to deal with. His Junior PGA (really) team played nine holes against other teams, another training and socializing event. Our golfer was not happy with his play this time, but he still has a smile whenever he plays. He has good skills and a good attitude, thanks to his dad's efforts I think.sam breakfast

The plan had been for us to stay around to welcome back Gabby and Mamal on Mother's Day and celebrate the day. Instead, we got a 7am phone call from Gabby saying one of the girls from the Friday birthday party had tested positive for Covid. As "vulnerable individuals", this threw us into "Covid protocol", isolating from Ava. I fixed Sam breakfast, we packed up, and we left before Ava woke up or mom and dad returned. (Sam really is getting old!)

So, the weekend had an abrupt ending, but overall it was great. We thoroughly enjoy our two California grandkids, and grand-dogs too, I suppose. Now we need to prepare for our Great Southwest Road Trip (GSRT), departing on Friday the 13th. Ominous.

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne