And now, something completely different

So, faithful readers, (both of you), this is my A Word from our Sponsor:

This blog became a victim of a very hectic 10 months that followed the date of 12/18/14. It languished, and the best intentions of the author have thusfar not blown new air into it’s upper respiratory system.

However. The life of the author has become more inclined to provide opportunity to write and reflect. The intention is now to finish the days that followed that lovely Holiday Party at the Covina Home for Adults. They may be sporadic, they may come freely. It’ll be a surprise to us all.

Onward.

~The Mgt

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The Festivities Continue

After a blissful night at the Covina Fairfield Inn and Suites, we drove up the road to Bob Hope’s favorite airport and boarded an 8am flight to Oakland. IMG_20141219_074210

Upon arrival we headed to  Union City, and drove up DeMolay Drive20141219_105513 to the Masonic Homes,

where Russ and the other Exec Board members went into session, and I unpacked our toiletries and a fresh pair of socks at the Event Center.  I set up my “nest” as it was becoming (a sweet loveseat in the Master bedroom where I can put my computer and knitting out and see the view and the tv!  Napping in the loveseat-adjacent bed is also a much appreciated feature.)

After their meeting, we all gathered for the holiday party!  We met in the downstairs dining room for cocktails and what are always the best of hugs from residents and staff, and then to help Santa Claus hand out gifts to residents in the memory care portion of the skilled nursing wing.  (Truth be told, that is the highlight of the evening…these residents are so amazing, and the fun of giving them gifts and listening to them talk about their memories they still retain is so moving.)

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The dining room upstairs is always decked out in its finest, and this year was no exception.  The winter theme with pinecones and blue and white accents was smashing!  Our dinner company was the best…we are always so excited to see who we will be honored to sit with and are never disappointed.  The stories and the histories we are treated to are enthralling and we love hearing how the residents like to tease the staff, especially John!

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We were at lucky table 13, and the residents were very polite listening to Russ deliver the holiday greetings from the Masons of California.  The Grand Lodge Officers are then given the privilege of handing out gifts from the home to the residents, and this year it as …(drum roll)..cash!  Yay!, they loved it and nobody complained it was the wrong color or size!

We received very nice gifts from Gary and the homes, but the best gift of all is the love we feel when we are there!

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We were well entertained with some lovely holiday music…

and as always, I tried my best to maintain a dignified aura of elegance.  Whatever.

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Dinner culminated in the yummy and fancy desserts presented in the most elegant way…and then more hugs and greetings before everyone wandered away to our appointed lodging.

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Always such a special evening, and always so proud to be part of an organization that provides so finely for such fine folks.

miles 379 total mileage 110,179

 

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By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

 

One of the best things about the Grand Lodge year is the Holiday Party Season at the Masonic communities!  As “First Lady”, I was honored to give theme/décor suggestions, and of course, my “go to” is always “Take me to the ocean!”

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Judy Figueroa at the Covina Masonic Home is such a pro and her staff is so creative and hard working, it boggled my mind to see the AMAZING party they assembled! 

We arrived on time this year(!) and had the pleasure of spending time visiting with the residents, many of whom we consider to be dear friends.  They are spectacular;  their energy and wit and outlook on life and aging and fun and Masonry are inspirational and also very often very funny!  The men are consummate gentlemen, the ladies are often feisty broads!  But they all seem, with nary an exception I can recall, living the good life!

 

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The décor was full of bright blues and white and silver…we were really trying for a theme that was reflective of everyone’s Holiday traditions.  Another treat as First Lady is that I got to choose the holiday cards that the Homes sends to all the residents and other dignitaries.  For that I worked with Micki Gerardi up in Union City, and we found a really warm, beautiful card that I hope included everyone’s thoughts and wishes for the time of year that includes so many important religious holidays.  Russ and I also used some down time to send a personal card to each resident family, which might sound tedious, but was really a special time to reflect on the people who make up our communities.  Just writing their names on envelopes and jotting a little note inside a card gave me warmies.  And writer’s cramp, but anyway.

As always, the food and drink at the Holiday Party was spectacular, both in taste and in presentation!  The lobster thermador was a special treat, and the desserts were so good they were gone very quickly!  But the table company was the best part! 

One highlight of the Covina party is always the presentations by former child residents.  Back when Covina was an orphanage, we cared for hundreds of children.  They grew up, and now many of them come back to talk to us about their lives and the amazing successes they achieve.  This year was no different.

They are introduced by Sabrina Montes, who has the privilege of working with them on an ongoing basis, and her knowledge of them as individuals is always so inspiring.  They are all truly family to Sabrina, and you can feel it by their interaction with her.

This year we had a young man and a young woman, one of whom was destined for the military, one of whom was going into education.  They spoke of desperately difficult home lives, and of the initial resentment they felt when they were required to be part of a community that had strict rules and expectations.  They also spoke of how, as they learned to see how those boundaries benefitted them, they began to dream again.  They established personal and professional goals, and then saw themselves accomplish those goals.  We never go away without a little tear in our eyes at the indomitable spirit these young adults posses.  We are always grateful and proud to be a small part of making a difference in the lives of children who would have otherwise faltered and ended up who-knows-where.  THAT is the actual best gift of all…the sense of being part of something larger, and giving opportunity where there once was none.

With that tough act to follow, Gary Charland, Executive Vice President (and Chief Dude) of the Masonic Homes, welcomes the guests and wishes everyone Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year ahead. 

 

 

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Russ gave his remarks, extolling the virtues of the Masonic Homes staff, and their purpose.  He reminded us all that the good we can do in the world starts with making ourselves the best we can, so that we are therefore equipped to help others.

It was also the very special occasion of Peter Doomanis and Yehuda Esshaghian’s birthdays!  They stood on stage while the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday, and then got to cut a special cake that was made just for them!  Yum!  We are so glad that our Grand Family included so many wonderful families with their terrific kids.  What’s a family without kids, I ask you?

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Russ received a really cool gift from Jerry Chandler and the guys from Destiny Lodge…a poster of photos from his visits to the Homes and from Grand Lodge and other occasions!  I got a beautiful snow globe from Judy and the Homes, and we all got to take home the gorgeous blue and silver table decorations and ornaments that were at each place setting.

Thanks again to Gary, and Judy and all the staff.. Russ and I will never forget this night!

After the party, we headed to the home of Robin and Jack Rose for their annual Holiday Extravaganza!  I don’t know how, but we all managed to eat our fair share of the delicious desserts and nosh that Jack and Robin put out.  It’s a great “let your hair down” get together, and we were very grateful that they allowed us all to be in their home again this year!  Thanks, Jack and Robin!

Back to the hotel, and a good night’s sleep before we flew to the Bay Area for the next Big Thing!

Miles 85  Total Mileage 109,800

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One of the newer lodges in the state, Oasis Lodge, meets down in Los Angels in the Shrine Auditorium (talk about cred!) and invited Russ to be Installing Officer this year.  So, we drove down, and parked in that big parking structure, and worked our way into the building. 

One of the remarkable things about installations (any big ceremonies, really) at Oasis Lodge is that it’s held on the same stage as all the big Hollywood productions, which presents some challenges. 

 

Part of the fun was watching Simon and Michelle’s two sets of twin enjoy the day!  Michelle and her friends are such patient, great moms, and the girls were excited and energetic and so cute!  Since the installation was ‘on stage’, the girls could frolic in the “audience” area without getting in the way.  It’s been so much fun watching them grow up!

I received some beautiful flowers (and stayed on my feet on the steps up to the stage!  Yay!) and shared one or two with the little girls.  Every little girl needs a flower!

We typically would have gone on down to Covina (the Holiday party was the next night) but we had to pick up Latifah at the dealer.  She just needed a little tuning up, and we’d need her power and beauty for the rest of the month!  So, we headed home and slept in our own bed.  Too bad the housekeeping staff there is so …subpar.  Hah.

Miles  140  Total Mileage  109,715

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Super Top Secret!! Shhh….or no Elevensies for You!

 

The Hobbit Battle 5 Armies 16

Yeah so…see what that says?  December 17?  Well.  Hah. 

The Conejo Valley Chapter of DeMolay had a little fundraiser.  You know, a “Movie Night”.  But it was in fact a SNEAK PREVIEW of the Big New Hobbit Movie!

I admit, I haven’t seen the other films, but I did read the Hobbit in 4th Grade (seriously) and I was excited to see this flick!  We took Rogelio and his brother, Nico, with us, and made our way to the movie theatre, checked in with Ira Mazer and took our seats.  We felt very exclusive and celebrity-ish, with the whole theatre full of DeMolays and Advisors and family, and a full 2 days before the rest of the country got to see it!

It was GOOD.  Like, laugh, cry, cringe and cheer good!  Oh, and a fundraiser for DeMolay, so …WIN/WIN!!

Thanks, guys, for inviting us!

Miles 10  Total mileage:  109,575

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Installation Season (Con’t.): 202, 351, 357, 442

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So, Friday I had the chance to do a couple of quick loads of laundry (ok, really, just one.  The days of separating laundry by color is long gone.  The only real “white” whites I have are Russ’s socks, which are always inside boots and therefore can be “lazy wife gray”!)  Russ worked all morning (in his gray socks) and met with several clients before we loaded Latifah up again and headed to Wisdom Lodge for the first installation of the weekend. 

We checked into the Courtyard in Santa Ana to change into formal wear, and discovered a couple of things about the room:  20141212_233024First, that the side of the bed I sleep on faces directly into a full length mirror.  Who’s idea was THAT?  I was prepared for the morning face shock on Saturday’s waking.  Ugh!

But, they also thought of this:  20141213_161827Yes, that’s the little sewing kit that is frequently found in a hotel bathroom, but look at what is in it!  Scissors!  Genius!  This is my favorite hotel freebie so far, especially in a very standard Courtyard room.  (It’s the little things, folks.  The little things.)

We changed and scooted to the Pasadena Masonic Temple, where Wisdom Lodge meets, and Russ performed the Installing Officer’s part, with his typical aplomb and I restrained myself from any sort of sidelines corrections or giggling.  DSC02412

I’m guessing this photo was taken at 5:58pm.  How do I know this?  Because the installation was scheduled for 6:00pm and there is no moss that grows on a rolling stone.  There were times when the lodge room was seen to have attendees fleeing for the sidelines as my Eternal Beloved and the rest of the installing crew marched in.  Six o’clock means SIX O’CLOCK, DANGIT!!

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It’s always great to hear about the accomplishments of the outgoing Master.  If given the chance, Russ always challenges a new Master to find one thing about himself that he plans to work on during the year, some sort of personal growth to be gained alongside the growth of the lodge itself.  The Masters never fail to meet such a goal, if only because the quest to find something to improve is a growth opportunity in and of itself.

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And thus a new Master begins a year in the East!  And I can’t leave Wisdom Lodge without a quick photo of another gorgeous interior of a beautifully appointed and maintained Lodge Room!

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We closed our eyes in that Courtyard, (me knowing that morning would bring that scary mirror!) and got some much needed sleep before Saturday’s duo of events.

We arrived at Garden Grove Lodge for the installation of Adrian Stroe, and 20141213_130810And look, we found our buddy, Ray!  He’s always a jokester, and it was nice to see him. 

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Yep, getting ready to storm the sideliners  Look out!  Here they come!

 

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And then a very beautiful installation ceremony was conducted by the lodge, and I had the pleasure of sitting with the wife of the ingoing Master, and learning more about the very interesting story of her family.  The best part of the travels throughout California (no, not the installation ceremony) is getting to know the Masons and their families on a personal basis. 

We had a delicious lunch and then jumped back into Latifah for the drive to Solomon’s Staircase Lodge in Buena Park. 

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Russ installed Solomon’s Staircase #357 and their young, engaging new Master, Michael Opsteegh, and I found the coolest thing in their lobby.  It’s hard to read, but these are plaques that mention Bob West, the Grand Master when my dad was Deputy.  One is a photo of the West’s home in Placerville, which I remember visiting a number of times and even having a sleep over with Bob and Jeannie.  It brought back such great memories to see their living room!

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The second attached to the plaque thanking Edwin Robinson for the “Most Unique, Memorable, Spectacular Gift Ever Received by a Grand Master”!!  In looking at the photo, I’m not really sure what that gift was, but knowing that Bob West was somewhat prone to superlatives, it could have been almost anything.  That guy knew a good time, that’s for sure!

We had a great time at Solomon’s Staircase, and left for the Anaheim DoubleTree Hotel, where we slept a few hours before leaving for San Diego. 

We arrived in San Diego and drove right to the beautiful Scottish Rite Building.  The lodge was ready to go and the installation went without a hitch.  Christian Quimpo  was installed Master, and we were out the door to the next installation!  Times like this it makes it hard to remember what city you’re in, but fortunately the next one was right there in San Diego!

We drove to the cute little lodge building that is the home of the John D. Spreckles No 657, and found some of the guys outside, and other setting up inside.  They had a very cool DJ set up, and probably win the award for most rockin’ installation music!  I believe I heard more than one Queen song!20141214_155000

The youth order participation was strong, and this young man was looking sharp!

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The installation was carried out and the officers were in their new stations!  They had a lovely dinner which we ate quickly, seeing that we had a long drive home.  The traffic was pretty bad until we reached LAX, but we made it home unscathed, if tired! 

So, if you’re playing at home, that’s eight installations so far!

 

Mileage 418, Total miles 109,565

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Living the Life!

 

We spent the night in the Admin House (aka Event Center) at Union City because the next night was the Acacia Creek Holiday Party!  (I told you that Masons know how to party.)

The Acacia Creek property was decorated with a special tree on each and every floor, designed and executed by residents.  The dining room was decked out, and Santa was on hand, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and Mrs. Claus was handing out candy canes.

We were greeted by a happy crowd of residents, and enjoyed a few minutes in the Turkey’s Roost.  We were escorted to our seats and were delighted to find some of our favorites at our table, ensuring that the evening was going to be lots of fun and include lots of laughter. 

Here’s Jeffrey, who does a bang-up job in the party planning department (he’s having fun, I promise!) and also some of the lovely ladies of the Acacia Creek community.  You can see the fantastic tree in the background, and off to the left you can see the dance floor.

Acacia Creek Holiday Party

It’s a good thing that they roll up the carpets and lay down dance floor, because the rug cuttin’ was in full force!  I say time after time that I can’t begin to keep up with these folks, and this night was no exception.  From the time the music started, the happy dancing was enjoyed by many couples.

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I like to call this shot “The Aftermath”.  Whew.  The food was fantastic (any time there are little cups of whisky sauce served with the dessert you know things are going well.

It was a wonderful party, and it’s always so much fun to get together with the community there.  Living at Acacia Creek is such an amazing opportunity for those who choose it, and it’s no wonder we all call these Masonic Communities the Crown Jewels of California Freemasonry!

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The drive home the next day included clouds (rain perhaps?  Please??) and also my initial efforts at learning to spin yarn using a tiny Turkish drop spindle.  Oh yay, another obsession hobby!  We arrived home in good shape, ready for the next round of installations!

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Miles 386   Total Mileage 109,147

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