“ LIFE IS DISNEYLAND AND ALL THE RIDES ARE FREE”

 

Santana said this in a magazine article about his life and family and career and it made a really big impression on me, gave me one of those “Aha” moments.   I’m just imaging how  how happy I would be  if I went to Disneyland (or any other amusement park) and the rides were free.   I’d be smiling and laughing and enjoying every minute of the day.  Wouldn’t it be great to feel that way all the time, to think that life is one big Disneyland?  It would sure make standing in line at the supermarket or going to the dentist or driving to work on a cold rainy morning a lot easier to do.  I’m going to try it.

The title is from the song “I hope you dance” and it’s right up there, in my mind, as one of the best messages or thoughts or happi=isms ever.     It’s so easy to say things like “I’m too tired”or “I haven’t got time.”  or “I can’t do that” or “I’m too old to learn this.”  It’s harder but a lot more fun to try something new, take a chance, to get out of your comfort zone.  Some people wait to live their lives until they retire or earn more money or the children are grown up or….any one of a hundred reasons; they act as if they were cats with nine more lives to live when actually, the only life to be sure of is today so…lets not sit it out…lets dance!

I’m having a birthday in April and I’m thinking about what kind of legacy I’d like to leave for my family and friends, about how I’d like to be remembered.  I collect (informally)  quotations, sayings, special lines from a  song or poem, even fortunes from fortune cookies so I’ve decided to put put them into a book that I’m going to call Life’s A Beach and Other Happi-isms.   Here’s the first one.

                              LIFE’S A BEACH

There are lots of sayings about life;  “Life is real, life is earnest”,  “Life is for living”, “You only have one life to live.” “Life begins at (pick an age)” Even tee-shirts get into the act with the message “Life is hard and then you die,”which, for some reason, always makes me laugh.

In college my friends and I had deep conversations about the meaning of life until  life caught up with all of us in the form of  love, marriage, children,  careers, celebrations, vacations, moves,  illnesses, death . The years flew without much time to think about the meaning of life; we were too busy living it.

I asked ten people (a mini survey) for their definition of life. Their answers ranged from hard to  wonderful, full of problems, getting better all the time, getting worse all the time, better in the old days, stressful, too complicated, exciting, better than ever, going too fast, over before you know it.  Some people were generally optimistic and happy about the meaning of life; others were pessimistic and gloomy.

I read somewhere (I don’t remember where) that  people are just about as happy as they decide to be.  I’m going to paraphrase it and say, Life is just about as good as you decide it is. 

I’m an optimist; I have a firm belief that I have a right to live as happy a life as I possibly can and I believe that everyone has that same right.  I also believe that happiness doesn’t just happen; it has to be courted and coaxed into being. It’s up to each person to decide what makes him or her happy and then, it’s up to him or her to do that thing (those things)  even if it’s sometimes easier to stay in bed and hide under the covers..

I’ve been very lucky all my life. I had a great marriage for over forty years until my husband Shelly died in 2006; I live a vacation life in Florida and I have a reasonably successful business writing and acting in interactive murder mysteries. I have super-special children , grandchildren and friends, even a wonderful man who came into my life unexpectedly a few years ago. My days are full of swimming, writing, acting, line dancing, reading, people watching on Lincoln Road, outdoor movies, dancing on the Hollywood Broadwalk and, most important, the ocean which is just a few steps from my apartment.   I swim  everyday, even in what native Floridians call winter. So,what’s life?  For me, the answer would be…. Life’s a Beach!

Mitchell Ball has done it again!  Two years ago he introduced  and persuaded me, and (most  of South Florida) to play a game called Pickleball, a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and now that I (and most of South Florida) are playing it, he is promoting another  paddle sport, Pop Tennis!

            “ You have to try it,” he insisted as I, shaking my head and clinging to my Pickleball paddle, tried to refuse, “Just take the racquet”—it looks like a tennis racquet except it’s heavier and  has holes in it—“and a tennis ball “—more about that in a minute—and hit it. Great!  See, you can do it.”

          I had expected to play Pickleball and we were standing on a Pickleball court (20 feet wide and 44 ft long) but Mitchell had sneakily turned it into a Pop Tennis court by adding three feet to both ends making it  20 feet wide and 50 feet long.  He tossed me a deflated (almost dead) tennis ball which is what the Pop Tennis game uses.

       “Serve it underhand,” Mitch instructed  “or”, when I kept missing, “you can bounce the ball and hit it.” That was much easier but I have to say that the supposedly dead ball still had plenty of bounce and I spent a lot of time chasing it.    We played a game.

            “That’s fifteen for me,” Mitch said as I missed a shot.  “That’s 30”  as I missed another one “and “as I missed a third, “that’s forty and my game.”

          “What? Whoa!  Wait a minute. How can the game be over so fast?”

             “Pop tennis is scored like tennis.”

            “Oh.” I didn’t admit that I didn’t remember how tennis is scored.

            “You play six games to one set; a game is scored love (that’s nothing),  fifteen, thirty and forty is game so, we have five more to go. Ready?” ” I groaned but felt better when he said that people usually play doubles.  I actually won one game  but…I think maybe he let me.

           Pop Tennis has been around since 1898 but is played in only in four locations in the United States, Brighton Beach Baths in New York City, Venice Beach in California, the Carolina’s and St Augustine, Florida.   Mitchell is going to change that.  He is now the official  Pop Tennis ambassador for Dade, Broward, Keys  and Palm Beach Counties, is in the process of contacting tennis clubs to set up demo clinics,  has created a website,misterpoptennis.com,  a Meetup group , www.meetup.com/southfloridapoptennis and has a group of people ( even me) ready and anxious to play.

     For more information about Pop Tennis go to the website, join the Meetup or call Mitchell at 786.259.4711

 By Barbara Fox,booksbybarbara.com

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I’M  MOVING

 

I’m moving. I sold my condo and I’m going to rent a big apartment in…well, that’s the question.   I lived  in Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach (briefly)  and the apartment I’m probably going to rent, which is beautiful and spacious and in a wonderful building with a roof-top pool is in Hollywood, a half hour and a million light years away from my favorite place, Miami Beach.

I’m still looking there maybe the; perfect apartment will turn up but, so far, it hasn’t.  It seems that, in the last three months. everyone in the world wants to rent an  apartment so the inventory is low and and the prices are high.   I want very specific things.  The apartment has to be on the beach, have one bedroom with a den or dining area, one and a half bathrooms and a balcony, I want to be able to walk to something (stores, restaurants, entertainment)   but there is  proble. It seems my budget is sort of low. I didn’t think it was but, according to the seven or so  realtors I contacted, prices have gone sky high.  Everyone wants to rent.

          So, I’m moving  and I’m getting really excited.   I like to move, I like change and I love to throw things away, organize other things, and find things I’ve forgotten that I owned.

“When did I write that article?”  I ask myself as I clear out my desk.  “I don’t remember buying that sweater” as I empty a drawer,   “I’ve been looking for that serving plate for a year” as I stand on a stool to begin  wrapping the contents.

As I’m sorting  out the book case I stop to read a chapter in a favorite book or listen to a record. Yes, I still have my record collection (show tunes and folk music) They have come with me for more than  ten different moves (Chicago , Maryland, Washington DC, Miami Beach)  and  I can’t seem to leave them or sell them.  They’re like family and, strangely enough, they still sound really good.

I discard clothes I haven’t worn for years.  Why, I ask myself, “do I need a purple cashmere cape in Florida?”  I reluctantly select about three dozen books to donate to the library and ruthlessly toss out magazines and paperback books and about thirty bottles of half empty nail polish.

I clear out the file cabinet; manuals, old tax forms, bank statements and bills, whole folders go into the shredder or trash bag and then I attack the linen closet.   Flat sheets which I never use, old towels, pillow cases, the mop and broom (never bring an old broom into a new home) and that vacuum that has been broken for two years all join the Goodwill pile.

The kitchen is next.  My fine collection of unmatched plastic containers has to go and so do the chipped glasses, the six pot covers (the pots they covered are long gone) and the thermos that leaks.  I look at my dishes critically; maybe this is the time to buy new ones.

Sometimes I think should put everything in storage, rent a furnished apartment and be unencumbered by stuff but then, I look at my curvy  red sofa and my round glass table with the four black stools and my purple flowered comforter on the king sized bed and my favorite books and paintings, some of which were painted by my late father-in-law, and I think, maybe not.

So I’m moving, I’m scrounging grocery stores for boxes and I’m wrapping stuff and making to-do lists and canceling some things and notifying places.  I’m moving and, I have a whole week more to decide…where!

 

 

i love hotels and cruises and days spas where I can be pampered  with facials, pedicures  and  massages . I love soaking in a bubbling hot tub and candlelight dinners in elegant restaurants  and eggs Benedict  with mimosas for breakfast.  I also, at the other extreme, really like camping in a tent, picnics on the beach and playing skeeball at amusement parks.  I like doing things, going places and I’ve found its possible to do almost anything without spending an inordinate amount of money; it’s possible to live a caviar life on a hot-dog budget.  Anyone can spend money to buy stuff or do things things and its certainly nice if you don’t have to think about the money part but I, an most people, do have to think about it so, I figure,  the trick is to spend the least amount possible and still do and buy the things I want, the operative word here is want.

I  don’t want expensive clothes or jewelry.  I don’t care if my purse is  knock-off or  my earrings come from a flea market or  my jeans are a copy of a copy of a copy.  I love bright colors and matching jewelry and cute bathing suits but most of the things I wear were on sale or come from the nearby discount store.   I don’t have a  good eye (or any eye at all )for expensive or quality stuff. Maybe its because I’m nearsighted but I think  I’m just missing the “quality, expensive” gene.            Example–My late husband and I were browsing in a department store one afternoon and I spotted a ring I liked.  I slipped it on my finger; it glowed and glimmered.

“I don’t know” I said to him as I held out my hand and studied my finger critically.  “It’s pretty but–fifty dollars?  I don’t know if it’s worth hat much.”

“Take  off and put it back Barbie,” he said.”Put it back…now.”

“Why?  What’s the matter?”

“Look at the zeros, It’s not fifty dollars,  I’ts five hundred dollars.”

“Oh,”

Another time he bought me gold earring for our anniversary.  The trouble was that the vendor on the corner was selling identical ones for three dollars; I’m sorry but I actually couldn’t tell the difference.

So the first step in living a caviar life on a hot-dog budget  is  to  decide what is most important, what provides the most joy, the most happiness and then focus on those things,

 

 

I just moved into a new apartment, actually, I bought it. I bought it even though I vowed, when I sold my condo two years ago, that I was through with owning, that renting was the way I would go for the rest of my life.  No more assessments, association meeting, home owners insurance, no more buying appliances or fixing broken doors or air conditioners.  I would pay my rent every month and let the landlord worry about those things while I kicked back and enjoyed getting dividends from all the money I got from the sale of the condo.

It was great; for two years it was great.  I signed a lease for one year and then for the second year. Time flew by and before I knew it, the time had come for the third year lease to arrive.  It didn’t.  I called my landlord.

“Carlos, did you forget to send me a lease?” and this man, who lives in North Carolina, who swore, when I rented the apartment, that he would never sell it, sort of cleared his throat and said “Oh, I was going to tell you, I’ve decided to sell the apartment so you’ll have to leave. You’ll have to move out next month, unless…maybe you’d like to buy it?”

“How much?”  I asked him knowing that the answer would be more than I could possibly afford.  It was. I checked with a few real estate agents  and found, to my shock, that prices had been going up and up in the two years I had been renting.

“You better buy something.” they told me “because prices are only going to keep going up and you’re going to be priced right out of the market to even rent.”

I began the process of looking for another apartment. I knew what I wanted, a building with a swimming pool that was on the beach and within walking distance of some stores and/or restaurants.  Realtors shook their heads when I told them my price range  (it was low) but I was convinced that I would find something.

I’m really not  a picky person and I looked with an open mind but…come on!   I saw tiny studio apartments (you could get a sleep sofa or a murphy bed), a building with no parking, (you can probably find a place on the street,) a building with a balcony and windows facing the garage next door (you can buy heavy curtains), a building under massive renovation (the workmen are very friendly), one possible apartment that  didn’t have a balcony (you don’t need one”) and another that didn’t have guest parking. (so you won’t have company)  Time was running out; what was I going to do?

One morning a realtor I had been working with called. “Listen” he said. “You found out  what’s available in your price range and I know you’re getting discouraged but don’t worry.  I’ve got a great place for you. Now it’s not on the beach and you can’t walk to anything but there are two great swimming pools and the building has enough reserves so there won’t be any assessments and, best thing, you won’t be at the mercy of a landlord.”

It actually was (is)  a really nice apartment in a luxury high rise. It was absolutely affordable and I was feeling pressured and a little guilty about taking up so much of this particular realtors  time and what he was saying made perfect sense so…I made an offer.  It was accepted, two weeks later the moving truck came and here I am.

I actually don‘t mind moving; I kind of like it. I like throwing things away and organizing closets and trying different colors and furniture arrangement.  I don’t mind packing and unpacking (with a little help) and I really loved being able to paint the walls in the different rooms bright colors (gold and purple and turquoise) Renters can’t do that; the apartment I had been renting was all beige.

So I bought the condo, moved in and now, after so many moves, I’ve finally figured out what I absolutely have to do, should positively, definitely do when (not if but when) I move again.

1—Listen to my heart.   I really wanted to move to Miami Beach but got talked out of it because the prices are lower and apartments are bigger in Hallandale/Hollywood but my heart kept saying “Miami Beach.”  Next time I’ll listen.

2—If I can’t find what I want I’ll put the furniture in storage, rent a furnished apartment for a week or a month or travel and keep looking.

3 When I do find a possible place to rent or buy, I’ll spend a lot of time checking it out.  I’ll go to the pool, sit in the lobby, and try to meet a few of the neighbors on the floor of the possible apartment.  I’ll ask myself questions.  Are there people chatting in the lobby, swimming, working out in the gym?  Are there people, period?  I moved into the condo in August (okay, that’s not the best time) and I literally didn’t see another soul, except the security personal and the guy who cleans the pool) for three days.  No neighborsk (I knocked on every door several times), no swimmers in the pool, no one playing billiards or walking on the beautiful grounds or checking out the library. I felt (and still feel) like the heroine in a movie where everyone has disappeared.  Lonely doesn’t begin to describe the feeling. It’s creepy, it’s weird—where is everyone?   The doorman told me that most of the people in the building are snowbirds. “Just wait till November” he said.  “The place will be bursting with activity.”  Should I believe him?

4—I’ll project ahead.   I’ll think about how I’ll feel on moving day. Excited?  Happy?  Sad?  Regretful?  My most prevalent feeling  was that I’ll sell and move again in six months to a year, not an auspicious beginning.

5 I’ll do the math and then I’ll do it again and then I’ll have someone else do it.  I got seduced by the low maintenance fee but, after adding in taxes and insurance and laundry and losing dividends from the money I used to buy the condo, I wasn’t saving that much by owning as opposed to paying rent.

6   Finally, and I’m putting this one in caps because it’s important!  THE REALTOR IS NOT MY FRIEND—I DON’T OWE HIM ANYTHING. I shouldn’t buy something just because I feel guilty.  The realtor I used did, admittedly, spend several days driving me to different buildings and I did change my mind a few times but….he kept calling me!  He kept calling me and saying that he didn’t mind spending the time and that it was his job and he wanted me to be happy.  I tried to be accommodating, I met him at some buildings so he wouldn’t have to drive and I made very quick decisions about the different places and I always thanked him; I even sent him a give certificate to a local restaurant.  The bottom line is, and again, I’m putting it in caps.  HIS JOB IS TO SELL!  MY JOB IS TO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT NOT BUYING.

I was unpacked and settled the day after the movers came.  I bought a desk, a new computer and bookcases and I warned my kids that, the next time I move, the record collection and photograph albums and paintings are not coming with me.

“So” I told them, “if you want these things, figure out how to get them.”

The condo is really very livable, the two swimming pools are heated  and one of them is bigger than a small lake. The view of the intercoastal and skyline and pool is to-die-for and I actually met a neighbor, a real, live person, yesterday. Maybe I just have to give the building some time.

I collect (mentally) short sayings and what I call “fortune cookie wisdom.  I especially like one from the movie about the Hotel Marigold  I don’t know the exact name but the young proprietor says… “Things turn out for the best in the end so, if it’s not the best, it’s not the end.”  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, I’m keeping the number of the moving company handy.