Society is a Mess

I have had this jumbling around in my mind for a while now, the horrid mess that society here in the U.S. has become.  It is as if some people have lost compassion, morals, and are on an ego trip.

One area in which I think the media services the perpetrator rather than the victims is mass shootings.    A “nobody” who wants recognition for whatever reason loads themselves up with firepower and ammunition, then goes into some location where they are likely to find a large portion of unarmed victims and opens fire.   The victims have had their lives changed forever, if they are still alive.

part-of-culturesA prime target has become schools, where firearms are not allowed.   By an act of violence upon the innocent the “nobody” — a coward in my eyes because of the venue and victim type he/she chooses — has now become a celebrity.  Thanks to mass media the shooter’s photo is displayed on TV and in newspapers across the country repeatedly, video clips of the shooting and aftermath are played again and again.  Whether captured or killed, the shooter’s name will go down in history of having done something that made them headline news…a celebrity of sorts, even if for the negative they created.

It makes me wonder, would people be so inclined to perform such heinous acts of violence  if the perpetrator was only mentioned once, or their photograph shown for a very short, limited period of time and only in passing?  What if the person who committed the act was “brushed under the rug” so to speak and the news only focused on the victims from the beginning?  Would this decrease the desire to do something considered breaking news, something that the media follows for days or weeks?  It is certainly something to consider.

Another thing that bothers me is the influx of adults who are being found to have sexually abused large amounts of minors or adults in vulnerable positions.  Larry Nassar and Bill Cosby are two recent examples.  While Bill Cosby was already a household name for positive reasons and his name now tainted, Larry Nassar was not widely known until the large sex abuse scandal became national news.  Once again the news media turned a pedophile into a glorified celebrity.   There aren’t many people who hear the name “Nassar” and don’t know who is being referred to.  I have mixed feelings about this.the-great-hope-of-society-is-in-individual-character-quote-1

I think there is a fine line between “the right to know” for both the benefit of news and our own personal protection and the ego trip these people get in obtaining celebrity status, even if in a negative manner.  People such as the mass shooter or sexual abuser, in my opinion, are lacking in self-esteem and/or are so self-absorbed and egotistical that they are unwilling or unable to put the feelings of others before their own personal desires.  This leads them to harm or abuse those around them and in doing so they gain a feeling of power and control.   It would be interesting to see if horrors such as these would be reduced if there were no recognition for such dastardly deeds.  We will probably never know the answer.

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Filed under assumptions, communication, decisions, events, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, school

Life in the Fast Lane

There was once a popular song by the Eagles, with the lyric “Life in the Fast Lane, surely make you lose your mind.”  That is what my life has felt like these past few weeks.  I finish a day or a weekend and wonder how it went by so fast.  I never get as much completed as I want.

Sometimes when life is making you feel compressed you need to take a step back and relax.  Trying to paddle faster when you feel as if you are sinking just wears out your energy and you drown.  Taking a break can restore energy and prepare you for the next round of chaos.

I have had a whirlwind going around me due to a series of events in my life….a friend who has been staying with me for the past eight months is getting ready to leave on a new adventure of full-time RV life.  My son, who was in prison for six years, came home on the 20th of March and is staying with me.  I have come to the conclusion that I need to downsize and have to go through all of my belongings and determine what I am going to keep and what must go.

Each of these things in and of itself are good changes.  Compiled into one they are overwhelming.  I look around my house and the massive amount of things I must sort through and am not sure where to start.  My son is helping, he has started working on the side of the basement that was my husband’s workshop.  I have set a deadline for getting all of this completed, which in some ways increases the panic of how much must be done.

Even though my daughter and her children live in a separate house, the adjustment for all of us to my son coming home after so long has not been easy.  My daughter is living in a home that my son once lived in.  When he went to prison the belongings he had in that home had to be boxed up.  Both my daughter and son have items in my house that have to be cleaned out.  The sorting, cleaning, and relationship adjustments can be stressful.

Even though I am trying to slow down, I continue to live life in the fast lane.  This week I ate dinner out four of the five work nights because of my schedule…writers meeting, shutterbug meeting, haircut, and shopping all done after work created the preference to dine out rather than in.  Saturday I am on the road around the time I normally step out of the shower so I can attend a writer’s conference an hour from home.  Sunday I’ll need to tackle household chores, and of course Monday it all starts again.   Life in the fast lane, will surely make me lose my mind!

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First Day of Freedom

Imagine six years of life where your movements are controlled, where you have no privacy, where you can make phone calls out but no one can call you, your mail is read prior to you receiving it, where you can never go visit, but must wait for people to visit you.   That is the life my son led from the time he was 24 years old until he was 30.

When he received notice in December that he had received parole he began counting down the days.  March 20th seemed like it was in the distant future for him.  For me it went fast.  I was trying to get things done prior to his release, and of course I made the six hour drive to pick him up.

Patrick was released from Newberry Correctional Facility in Michigan’s upper peninsula at 8:00 am March 20, 2018.  Although he is on a tether for the first six months of his two year parole, and he must abide by curfews that in the beginning are tight, it is considerably better than the spot he was at.  So how did Patrick spend his first day of freedom?

I picked him up at the correctional facility, we loaded his belongings into the car and than took our last two prison photos, a “selfie” of the two of us, and then one of him in front of the facility.  Every time I (and my now deceased husband) visited we paid to have photos taken of us together and one of Patrick alone, so this was our last prison photo shoot.

Our first stop was a gas station/McDonald’s combination where he got a McGriddle sandwich — also one of my favorites.  When he asked if he could have bacon added to the sandwich the girl responded “you can have whatever you want” and Patrick responded “those are words I’m not used to hearing.”

I had purchased him a cell phone, but phones have advanced considerably in the past six years.  He was on the phone talking as we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge and I heard him say that the water looked really cool with the ice on it and “if I wasn’t on the phone talking to you I could take a picture.”  He got instructions on how to stay on the phone and take a photo at the same time.

Two years ago my husband/Patrick’s father passed away, and I had obtained permission from the parole agent to make a few stops, Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly being one, where Patrick saw his father’s grave-site for the first time.

We then headed to Fort Gratiot, he did not have to check in with the parole agent until the next morning, and we had permission to go shopping at Kohls to get him some clothes and then out to dinner.  We ended up spending about three hours in Kohls.

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Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

Patrick helped me pick out short outfits for my grandchildren’s Easter baskets, then we shopped for clothing for him.  He had changed sizes while incarcerated and had to try on a few things.  A pair of tennis shoes, four pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, one shirt (couldn’t find many he liked), some boxers, and socks and we felt he had a nice start.  I had already purchased him a nice pair of fleece pants, hoodie, polo, and a v-neck t-shirt prior to picking him up.  During our shopping Patrick had to exit the building and stand in an open area of the parking lot so the satellite could take a picture of him/his location.  He was told that happens frequently in large department stores or malls if in for a while.

Next stop was Red Lobster.  Lobster Fest is going on, and we had the same meal — two different kinds of lobster and green beans with mushrooms, and of course salad and biscuits.  The place was quiet, the service was good, the food was fantastic.

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Dinner at Red Lobster

We were on our way home when my daughter called and said her boyfriend had the truck torn apart and needed to pick up a hose to complete it, could I swing by, pick him up and take him around the corner to the auto store.  I went by her house, dropped off Patrick, picked up Rob and took him to the auto shop, then went back around and dropped off Rob and picked up Patrick and we came home and unloaded the car.

The evening was finished off with Caroline (my daughter) and her three kids coming over for a while, and then Patrick and I watched a bit of TV.  It was a wonderful day for me, and I’m sure a great first day of freedom for him as well.

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Filed under celebration, children, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, events, Family, food, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, travel, Upper Penninsula

What makes a weekend successful?

When you work 40 hours a week, the weekend is your time for everything – social activities, housework, projects, shopping, you pile it all in and attempt to get it done, frequently without success.

Last Thursday I created a to-do list for everything I want to get done by March 18th — that gives me two weekends and the evenings after work.  It is an extensive list, I used a sheet of notebook paper to make it out.  This being the end of the first weekend, I am already feeling either frustration or panic over whether or not I will get everything done.  That got me to thinking, what makes a weekend successful?  76602-there-arent-enough-days-in-the-weekend-quote-1

Friday after work I went to an opening of an art show exhibit at Studio 1219, an art studio I have belonged to for years.  I was there until 8 pm, viewing art and talking with several other artists I know.  I stopped for dinner on the way home.

Once home I cleaned out “junk” email, then shopped online for a new laptop computer.  Being the first time I have made a computer purchase on my own (that was always my husband’s department) I had no clue if what I was looking at was good for speed, memory, graphics, etc.    Luckily a friend had recently ordered a laptop so I pulled up the unit they purchased and compared their information to mine.  Feeling confident my selection was good I placed the order — laptop computer, laptop sleeve/case and external mouse.    I went to bed at 3 am….so much for weekend rest!

Saturday I started a major project — cleaning out my deceased husband’s office.  He had let it pile up the last couple years he was alive and I was literally stepping over and around stacks on the floor whenever I had to go in there.  I pulled a considerable amount of stuff out into the upper landing and found the floor.  Then I got a step stool and hauled everything out of the closet to see what was there.  I spent quite a bit of time going through things, setting some aside as “keep” or “unsure” and a lot of items went into boxes marked “sell.”  Boxes marked for sale I began stacking into the back of the closet.  I still have a lot of stuff on the landing to go through, put away, or temporarily store somewhere during the cleaning process (I currently have a bathroom blocked).   I still have more on the floor in the office to sort, not to mention on shelves and in cabinets, but I have made a decent dent and can actually walk into the room now.

best_is_all_that_matters_1438597959Sunday morning I did a few household chores and worked on my computer.  I had to prepare an Agenda for a meeting and email it out, preview a CD for a meeting later this week to make sure it ran on the laptop okay, plus a few other minor projects.  I then headed out the door for a 2:00 pm lunch event with the St. Clair County Eagle Watcher’s, a photography group I belong to.   This year’s event included a showing of five birds of prey.  Camera’s were clicking as each bird was displayed and talked about.   By 4:30 I was on the road and headed to purchase groceries.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm, unloaded and put away groceries, then chatted on the phone for about 30 minutes with a friend.  I sorted about four days worth of accumulated mail, hand-wrote a draft to a column for a newspaper due this week, then drafted out this blog, which I will likely review and post Monday morning.

There are still a lot of things left on my list to do, way more than I have crossed out.   Now the question is, even though I haven’t completed my list, was my weekend successful?  I did attend two social events, spent the majority of one day working on a large cleaning/sorting project, completed a few other tasks, went grocery shopping, plus drafted a column and this blog,

While it is easy to look at the number of things still on my to-do list and get frustrated at what is left to do, I think I have to log the weekend as a success.

How was your weekend?  Was it a success?  What did you do?  Was it filled with fun, work, or a combination?

 

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Cycle Through Life

As we go through life we develop habits, a way of doing things.  Some of them are our own, some of them are done to accommodate the likes/dislikes of those around us.  As we cycle through life those things change.

We develop likes and dislikes, ways of doing things, and personality traits from our parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives and friends as we are growing.  Then we become adults and move away from those we have grown up with.  Some move away to attend college, some branch out on their own, living the single life, and others, like me, leave their parent’s home when they marry.   Each of those different events will impact the individual person and their overall personality.51bdc659e738f0ad63064c508af86513

I grew up in a small town far away from distant relatives, I left my parent’s home when I married just before my 21st birthday.  With my marriage I moved about two hours away from home.  The person I married was not controlling, but he was nine years older and had far more life experiences than I.  He had served overseas in the military, been married and had a child, and purchased a home.   Looking back I adapted to his way of doing things more-so than he adapted to mine.   He paid the bills, serviced the cars, did home repairs, and was the driving force in any major purchases.  I was more willing to keep things as they were, to more or less “make do” with what we already had.  That is how we lived for 34 years until he passed away in December 2015.

When he passed away I was living on my own for the first time in my life.  I spent a couple years in a bit of a vacuum, going through the motions of life without really experiencing it to its fullest.  I learned to do things I had never done before, such as yard work, getting cars serviced, and paying bills.  You could say in that way I grew during that period of time, but I didn’t really evolve, I simply functioned.

With the help of a friend I began to re-evaluate where I was at and what changes I needed to make.  I took a good look at the investments I had, and the company my husband had us with was not making me any money, in fact after paying the service charges I had lost money over the course of the two years since his death.  I’m not a math person, but I’m not stupid.  I needed a new financial advisor and I followed the recommendation of a friend and made a change.  It has been a good one and I feel my financial future has a more positive outlook.

What-you-dont-have-you-may-gainIn looking at my investments I also took a good look at my living expenses v. income and realized that while I am making my bills with the assistance of my husband’s life insurance, I can not really consider that “living in the green.”  Let’s face it, the life insurance savings won’t last forever, and living month-to-month is not the way I want to spend my retirement.  I also realized that I can not retire and continue to live where I am at.  The decision, I need to downsize.  Now there is a lot of stuff in this house that I must sort, decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to sell.  That will take some time.  I would like to be out in six months, a year is more realistic, and it may take beyond that.  However the longer it takes the more money I am spending on this house that I could be saving or using for more fun things.

Fun things.  I am going to do some fun things this year.  For the first time in about three years I am going to take a real vacation.  I have to admit, once I made the commitment, put down the deposit and booked my airline flights I had some difficulty sleeping for a couple nights, but now I am looking forward to it.  My first international flight on my own, I will be flying to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede and spending 11 days out there.  I have a friend who will meet me in Calgary.  We will be staying in his motor home and taking in some of the scenic sights of the area, doing photography in addition to attending the Stampede.  It should be an awesome trip and I am looking forward to it.

I have a girl’s weekend planned in Mackinac City.  The weekend is a yearly event with my sister and two cousins, and we always change locations to keep it interesting.  There is also the possibility of another weekend trip into Canada with a friend, but that one is only tentative at this point.  59caa4c54b27d61f6a921ea8a3146eb4

So, where am I in the cycle of life?  I am in a growing stage.  I have broken free of the “me” that I was when married and becoming the “me” that I am as a widow.  I have started to walk around my house doing a visual inventory.  “That was him, it goes.”  “That is me, it stays.”  Sometimes it is “That was us” and with those items, some will stay and some will go.  When I move out of this house it will be a good, clean break and I will be continuing the ride as I cycle through life.

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Filed under Cleaning, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, reality, time, travel, vacation

Woman Dies From Exhaustion Trying to Open Cold Medication

I got nailed with that nasty cold/flu bug that is going around.  Actually I think I got cross-contaminated and ended up with a mixture of two at the same time.  I generally don’t get sick except for one cold a year, so I am pretty resilient and have endured this better than many have, according to the news.

I did have to resort to purchasing some over-the-counter cold medication, and then changed from my normal tablet brand to a liquid.  While I understand the need for child-safe packaging, the struggle to access medications when you are already feeling lousy is unbelievable.

The tablets — disconnect the small square holding your two tablets from the rest, then peel back from one corner.  Really? If you can get the edge to separate without breaking a sweat you are a better person then I.   Of course once you have waged a war to accomplish that you will peel back that covering to discover another film backing that you must now press the pills through before they can be taken.  Depending on your stamina, you may have to take a break or alternatively, whip out the scissors and chop that package to get the medication out.

Now we change to the liquid.  Push down and turn to open.  Sure!  Maybe if you are the incredible hulk this is easy, but I’m in a weakened, tired state from my cold.  Coughing horribly while trying to conjure up enough strength to access the almighty bottle of lousy tasting syrup that is supposed to make me feel better is a several minute battle.  At least that is how it feels, I’ve never actually timed it.  How do I know the night version really does any better than the day version?  Maybe I sleep better because I have worked myself into a state of exhaustion simply trying to get the bottle open.

The good news is I am doing better, but am still doing my daily cold medication v. woman battle.  Don’t be surprised if some day you read a headline that says “Woman dies from exhaustion trying to open cold medication.”   I think there is a strong possibility, given the battles I have undergone this past couple of weeks.

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Filed under Coping, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, reality

Good Morning!

I was at a loss on what to write about this week.  So much negativity in the news with school shootings, peace officer shootings, and of course the impact statements of victims of Larry Nassar.  While we want to know what is going on in our world, and all of these items are certainly newsworthy, it still can oppress the spirit and drain you of energy.

A cute frog with buggy eyes is smiling as it hangs on a tree branch surrounded by the words "Good Morning, Have a Happy Day..."

Image and Quote found online     Author unknown

Then I was online and stumbled across a cute little Good Morning image.  It immediately made me smile.  The visual impact of a buggy eyed frog grinning as it precariously hangs on by its feet from a tree branch is enough to bring a grin to anyone’s face.  The message “Good Morning, Have a Happy Day” just says it all.  Regardless of what your situation make the best of it.

We are a visual world and it seems we are constantly burdened with negative images.  TV programs that we watch for relaxation are often crime or medical dramas, the news is laden with the negative rather than the positive, newspapers frequently spotlight the worst of the worst rather than the best of the best on their front pages.   Even video games that our youth play are laden with crime….car jackings, gun fights, fist fights, and even sex and/or hookers can appear in these games.  What kind of message is this sending?  What kind of an impact is all this negative focus having on not only adults, but more importantly on children and teens?

A young boy wearing a striped shirt and printed shorts that hang almost to his ankles walks away with his head down, the quote says "Sometimes it is better to be alone nobody can hurt you."

Image and Quote found online      Author unknown

Take a look at another quote I found online.  This image, even without the quote, portrays sadness.  The little boy wearing miss-matched clothing, walks away with his head bowed.

The visual impact is an overall feeling of desolation.  The quote “Sometimes it’s better to be alone nobody can hurt you” confirms what the photo says.    You wonder what happened to this little boy that he is feeling so desperate and alone.   Is there abuse in the home?  Is he being bullied at school?  Is he lacking in friends?

The viewer’s mood is impacted by this image in a caring, sympathetic way, but the image also has a tendency to give a feeling of depression to the viewer.

Whales swim by a quote "Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy too"

Image and Quote found online Author unknown

We are a visual society.  We are a society impacted by a lot of negativity in our lives.  The way each person approaches life and the way they conduct themselves when dealing with others has a large impact not only on their own life, but also on that of others.  It is easy to be nice, happy and courteous to a buggy eyed, smiling frog.  Keep in mind that the difficult adult or child you encounter may inside be that little boy, dealing with demons you are unaware of and can not even begin to imagine.  Regardless of who you are dealing with, try to be that kind, smiling frog in any situation.  Be kind and courteous and maybe you can turn their attitude around in the process.

Smile – Be Happy – Have a Great Day!

 

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, Cleaning, communication, Coping, decisions, environmental, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, impressions, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time

Maybe I’m related to Lucille Ball

It has been one of those weeks when you could take my life and drop it into an I Love Lucy sitcom and it would be perfect.  For those of you who are too young to remember, Lucille Ball was a wonderful comedy actress who stared in several shows that carried her name…I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucille Ball Show, and Here’s Lucy. 

The fun part of watching a Lucy show was that you just knew she was going to do something goofy, create a catastrophe out of something simple, and the audience would find themselves laughing hysterically at her antics.  It was a type of “if anything can go wrong, it will” and everyone loved watching.

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Lucille Ball- photo found on internet

Now we take my week.  Sunday I was fixing dinner and blew a circuit breaker.  I went downstairs, reset the circuit, continued fixing dinner and blew the same circuit again.  Before I could make a bee-line for the door the Master Electrician currently residing in my house stopped me.  I couldn’t reset that breaker, he had to analyze the situation.  Never mind that dinner is in the oven and that oven is no longer heating because it is on the blown circuit, the analysis had to be done first.  Once he had analyzed the situation and made his determination I was free to reset the breaker and continue with meal preparation.  However there was a glitch.  I had lost track of how much time the food had been in the oven, and while I was getting a detailed explanation on his process the fish became quite overcooked and hard.   Lets just say that meal left a lot to be desired.

Monday comes and I walk into work.  The bottom of my shoes must have been wet from the snow and when I hit the tile floor of the kitchen area my feet flew out from under me and I went down hard on the tile floor, hitting the back of my head on the refrigerator as I went down.  My startled scream was loud enough it brought all three men who were in the building running.  Why can’t clumsy things happen when there is no one around to see them?  Then once I am again on my feet I open the upper cupboard door to fix myself a cup of coffee and in the process hit myself in the head with the cupboard door.  How could I not have enough sense to move my head out of the way?   I’m still recovering from the injuries incurred that morning.

Tuesday was hectic but I seemed to make it through the day unscathed.  I fixed spaghetti for dinner and decided to have a bottle of wine with it.  Only I could manage to get the cork stuck up inside the corkscrew…but with a bit of persistence I got it back out.  Only a moment to recover on that one.

Wednesday, hump day, shouldn’t I be on a roll to recovery now?  Oh heck no.  I was planning to take a second car I have into the dealership for service.  A friend of mine gets all the snow off it, I go to hit the unlock button and open the door.  The battery was so dead the car doors would not unlock.  We finally got the door unlocked by inserting the key, but it was frozen shut!  There is only one door on the entire vehicle with a key hole,  so only one door we could work with.   I called the towing service I have, but after about 45 minutes on the phone they informed me that until I got the door unfrozen and open they would not be able to assist me.   I called the dealership and they advised me to pour hot water on it.  Four gallons of hot water later the door seamed to be devoid of ice, but it still would not budge an inch.   I called the dealership again to explain my problem.   The gentleman from service came out and by the time he arrived the hot water had seeped far enough in that the door opened.  The battery was still completely dead and had to be jumped, but at least the vehicle is now at the dealership.  Between a recall, service I scheduled and a warning light being on, it will be there a while.

If that wasn’t enough I had a meeting to attend Wednesday night, and without anything major happening I did manage to call a green frog orange and a woman named Donna I referred to as Phyllis.  I think because she has such a funny personality I was thinking of Phyllis Diller…..that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So today is Thursday and I didn’t have any disasters, just fumbles.  I was sitting at breakfast talking when my friend says “are you going in to late work today?”  Crap!  I made it…barely!  Then when fixing dinner the potatoes were a bit under-cooked and the seasoning on the salmon wasn’t bad, just something we weren’t particularly fond of.  The bagged salad turned out great!  I think I need a vacation.

Wait!  That is what I forgot about.  I booked a vacation, a real 11-day vacation including airline flights.  Then as I was reading the airline confirmation it said that you should check and make sure you don’t need a visa for the country you are traveling to.  I knew I don’t need a visa, but I clicked on the button anyway and discovered that when traveling to Canada by air they require you to have a passport that does not expire for at least six months after your last flight.  Mine expires five months after my last flight.  I thought I was good, only to discover I have to renew my passport.

Now mind you I have plenty of time, but it did not do the mind and stress level any good.  I found out I can renew by mail and located a local CVS that does passport photos.  I went there after work to have it done, but the girl taking the photos was short and the first two didn’t turn out right, then the camera battery died, then my eyes were looking off to the side.  It was the fourth or fifth photo before we got a good one.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of there.   So I now have the application completed and ready to take to the post office tomorrow.  Lets hope that goes as planned.

Tomorrow is Friday and I hate to speculate on what could possibly go wrong.  Hopefully nothing.  With any luck it will be a no-excitement, ho-hum boring day.  I wonder if Lucille Ball ever had an uneventful, boring day?

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Freedom on the Horizon

For the past six years my son, Patrick, has called me every week, sometimes more than once a week, and each time we engage in a 15 minute conversation.  He always calls me.  I am not allowed to call him back.  We try to exchange as much information as possible in those weekly conversations.  Things that need to be handled, questions, and some general fun information on what is going on in each other’s life.

This past week Patrick called me in the middle of the day while I was at work.  It was a very special call and he was bursting with good news.  He finally received notice on the outcome of his parole hearing, which I talked about in All We Can Do Is Wait.  He is being paroled!  On March 20, 2018 I will be picking Patrick up from the prison and driving him home.

He will be on a two-year parole and is being released on a tether.  It is a six-hour drive home and Patrick will need to report to his parole agent here in our county that same day.   He will need to get a driver’s license.  The majority of his clothes will not fit as he has gotten taller and broader in the past six years.  Patrick was twenty-four when he went in, and will be thirty when he comes out.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and Grace, October 30, 2017

It is exciting to have Patrick coming home.  In the time he was incarcerated he lost two daughters (my granddaughters) to foster care/adoption.  He also missed the funeral/memorial services of one grandmother, two grandfathers, and his father (my husband).  In addition to a general loss of freedom, those who are incarcerated can lose much on a personal/emotional scale as well.

We are both looking forward to the day of Patrick’s parole with excitement, but I think also a bit of trepidation.   Neither of us are the same people we were when he was arrested all those years ago.  There will be an adjustment period as he will be living with me initially while he gets his feet under him.  My home will need to meet the requirements of his parole.   He is used to living under the constant scrutiny and control of a prison and will now have the ability to enjoy freedom within the confines of his parole requirements.    He is used to living with all men.  I am used to living alone.  It will definitely be an adjustment.

The countdown has begun.  Seventy-seven days to go, but who is counting.  Freedom is on the horizon.

 

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It’s Just Another Day

As I write this only a few hours before the ringing in of 2018 it occurs to me that millions of people are getting together with friends, going to parties, visiting bars, or participating in numerous other activities to ring in the new year.  Year after year I have spent New Year’s Eve the same way — home doing my normal activities until around 11:30 pm when I switch to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve to watch the ball drop in Times Square.  Some years I go to bed immediately after, other years I continue to watch the celebration for an hour or two.

New Year’s Day arrives.  I might flip on the parades to watch a bit.  I change over my calendar to the new year, and empty out my “Good Things” jar.  Overall the day is treated like pretty much any other stay-at-home day, doing whatever activities I choose or need to handle.

best-quote-for-new-year-2018Do I set goals for the new year?  Usually.  Do I achieve them?  Sometimes.  Even though for the most part New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are just another day, they still contain a bit of tradition that is repeated year-after-year.

As I was writing this I looked up and saw my handwritten list of 2017 goals I had set.  Lets just say I had good intentions and leave it at that.  That list just got folded in half and tossed in the wastepaper basket.

I’m thinking instead of setting goals maybe as I go through the year I should make a list of things I accomplish.  In fact, now that I think of it, that would end the year on a much more positive note.  No depressing list of goals I did not achieve to toss into a wastepaper basket.  Instead I will be able to review the year with a list of things I completed — assuming of course I do something productive in the next twelve months.

Here’s Wishing Everyone A Productive and Happy New Year!

 

 

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Who said breasts need to go up?

It has happened to me three times now.  I prepare and roast my chicken, it looks great, and then I put it on the table and hear the comments:

“You baked it upside down.”

“It has its butt in the air.”

“The breasts are round and go up, ass goes down.”

Now mind you the chicken tasted fine, it was golden brown, and the breast meat was nice and moist, but my having baked it upside down accidentally on three occasions still led to laughter.  That got me to thinking….who made the rule that the breasts must go up?

I did some research online and while tradition says to roast a chicken breast side up, what I found more often was that chefs recommend roasting breast side down for at least half the time to prevent drying out the breast meat.799257

Most of the fat is in the chicken’s back.  When you place the bird in a pan breast side up all the fatty juices run out of the back and into the pan, and the dryer white meat – the breast – gets even more dry during the roasting process.

If you roast the chicken breast side down, the fatty juices run out of the back meat and down into the breast, keeping it nice and moist.  Then flip the bird over to brown the skin on the breast before serving.  The time for flipping varied in the articles I read from  only 15 minutes prior to serving, 1/2 way through the roasting time, and two-thirds of the way through the roasting time.  The point is, flip the bird over, baste to encourage browning, and serve breast side up.

It was also noted that flipping might be easier if you truss your bird before roasting to prevent the legs and wings from flopping around during the process.  I have never trussed a chicken and will likely try the flipping without being trussed first.

My research did not provide an official answer my initial question of “Who said breasts need to go up?” but it did satisfy me to learn that my upside down chicken is actually the recommended roasting position for moist meat.

Now what do you do?  Easy, if you are roasting a chicken in the breast-down position and forget to flip it for a nice browned presentation with the breasts up, go ahead and serve it upside down.  If anyone comments simply tell them it contains a hidden message, as in kiss my ***.    Message by bird….and we thought it was just dinner!

 

 

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Filed under decisions, Discoveries, food, Kitchen, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, nutrician

Do I like it or not?

We are having our first snowfall of the year…well not really.  We had a few flurries in the air a couple times earlier this year, but nothing that stuck and it has been unseasonably warm until now.  We are getting dumped on.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. you go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? J. B. Priestley

The First Fall of Snow

So with the snow falling and sticking to the roads and people nervous as they always are on the first bad roads of the season, we had to make a 40-mile round trip to pick up my daughter from work due to her car being in for service.  What are my thoughts?

  • People constantly refer to how bad the roads are
  • Some people are very nervous and drive extremely slow
  • Some people are idiots and drive a maniac speeds
  • My car appears to automatically turn of Max Defrost when it is turned off, so auto-start doesn’t give you the max benefit when used.
  • Heated car seats are the best
  • If you forgo using the brush for mittens because the snow is fluffy, you will regret it later when your mittens are wet and fingers feel cold.
  • Freshly fallen snow on bushes and trees with Christmas lights on them is pretty.
  • There is something about snow that puts you in the Christmas mood
  • Yikes!  Only 12 days until Christmas and I’m not decorated and have more shopping to do.
  • Who am I kidding, I wish I were somewhere on a beach, somewhere tropical, not in the midst of a snow storm.

So, I assembled my Christmas tree last night, and I should have put the lights on tonight but it still remains naked.  I’ll tackle that project tomorrow night.  For tonight, I’m going to crash.

If you are in the midst of a snowstorm, stay warm.
If you are somewhere tropical, I wish we could trade places.

 

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I have a leak

It has been a wet month.  The past few weeks seemed to be a challenge on how well I can  handle repairs.  Thanks to a good friend I have staying with me right now, things went far better than they might have.  I’m sure he saved me a considerable amount of money by doing labor that I would otherwise have had to hire a repairman for.

First I had water on my basement floor near my furnace.  I knew it was coming from the humidifier that is attached to the furnace, but I didn’t know why.  Paul popped the cover off the humidifier and discovered that the waterfall filter was not working properly because it was clogged with lime.  We put it into a vinegar bath to see if it would soak clean, but instead it disintegrated.   We went to Lowes but they did not have one the correct size, so we went to Home Depot.  They didn’t have one the correct size either, but the worker informed us that they can be trimmed with a pair of kitchen scissors.  I purchased a filter that was the correct depth but a bit to long and wide.  Paul trimmed it down and installed it.  He then realized that a hose was not staying in the piping properly and got a new coupling to keep it together.  He helped me soak up the water from all over the floor and showed me how to switch the humidifier from winter to summer (oops, that hasn’t been done the past couple years).  If not for Paul’s assistance I would have hired someone to determine the problem and do the repair.  561574

On Thanksgiving day I noticed the area under the kitchen sink was wet.  We emptied out the cupboard and after soaking up the water Paul took a look.  My garbage disposal had rusted out and water that went down that side of the sink when straight through the motor and out the bottom.   That side of the sink was plugged as a reminder and a pail was placed under the garbage disposal.  I was able to prepare Thanksgiving dinner without a problem, then on Black Friday went shopping for a new garbage disposal.  While I was out shopping Paul installed it for me.  Again a tremendous help to have someone who knew the problem and was able to do the work, saving me the cost of a hiring someone to do the repair.

Then on Tuesday or Wednesday a week ago I discovered that my water bed had developed a leak.  Rather than mess with it during the week I waited until the weekend to look for the source of the leak.  It was pretty wet by then.  Luckily I had a repair kit on hand, and Paul helped me locate and patch the leak.  I still have one corner that seems rather damp, so will have to check and make sure I don’t have a second leak.  Not only that, but so much water leaked out that I now need to add water to the bed.  Makes me wonder if adding water a month or so ago started this lovely problem.  Lets hope not.

In the midst of all the leaks, I discovered that both my laptops had memory that was so full it was red lined.  My main one was so bad that it wouldn’t power up with the external drives plugged in.  Once again, Paul sat and helped me go through the hard drive, selecting things that could be deleted or moved to the D drive, freeing up space.   With that being said, I am now able to use my computer and type this story of what a leaky experience the past couple weeks have been.   I’m hoping for a dry December.

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Tradition with a Twist

As we celebrate Thanksgiving the minds of many is already on what has to be done in preparation for Christmas…the shopping, baking, decorating, and the traditional Christmas card mailing.

I have noticed over the years that the number of cards received has dropped tremendously.  Is it because people are too busy to bother?  Is it because people think an email “Happy Holidays” is as good as a traditional snail mail greeting?   Is it because the price of Christmas cards has become so outrageous, and then once bought and prepared the postage still has to be purchased?  The words Tradition and Change

It could be any or all of those reasons, but I tend to believe the cost of cards has had a huge impact on the traditional sending of the card.   The last time I purchased cards, which was several years ago, it was over fifty dollars just for the cards.  I had always sent the traditional card with a newsletter on our happenings for the past year typed and included, and usually a bit of a handwritten personal note on the card as well.   Then life happenings put me in a position to change all that.

In 2010 I did not get my traditional cards bought and the holiday crept up on me.  Still I did not want to miss the traditional sending of the holiday greetings, so I did it with a twist.  I used my Publisher program to make a Christmas Greetings newsletter.  I set it up to read like a newspaper with various topics and column headings and included a few pictures of the family as well.  A separate column was set up where I wrote about each of my adult children and my grandchildren.  Other topics might have been travel, house remodeling/upgrades, and other such items.  I then mailed the newsletter, with no card, in regular #10 envelopes.  I folded them so that the “Christmas Greetings” header was visible when it was pulled from the envelope to give it a bit of holiday feel.

My newsletter was well received.  People enjoyed getting lots of news on the family.  I also heard that the newsletter format was liked because it was a rather long letter, but they were able to pick up and read various columns and then sit it down and finish later without loosing where they had been.   I have not purchased any Christmas cards since then.  Every year I continue to do the Christmas newsletter.  It is printed back-to-back, which cuts down on paper.  Some years it is one sheet (2 pages), other years it has been 2 sheets (4 pages).  A red pickup truck with a Christmas tree in the bed drives down a snow covered driveway toward a large farmhouse decorated for christmas. The ground and trees are covered with snow. A dog walks across the front yard. Red bows and wreaths hang from the mailbox, a pinetree in the front yard and the house.

What has happened over the years since I started this?  Last year I received three “letters only” Christmas greetings.   So far I am the only one using newspaper format, the others were written in the traditional letter style, but they were full of information and happenings from throughout the year.   I enjoy receiving Christmas newsletters.  It is nice to hear about what people you are away from are doing, and it is more personal than a standard card.  It shows you took time, put effort into the greeting, even if it is a letter that has been printed and photo copied.  It still took a bit of time to compose that newsletter.

As we enter the holiday frenzy I challenge you to do tradition with a twist.  If you have already purchased your Christmas cards, then enclose a short newsletter about the past year inside each.  If you have not purchased cards, consider composing a Christmas Greetings newsletter and mail those out to family and friends instead.  You may find, as I did, that in a couple years you start getting those in return as well.  Tradition with a Twist!

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All We Can Do Is Wait

On October 31, 2017 while everyone was prepping for the evenings Halloween fun, I was attending my son’s parole hearing.  It was the first either of us have ever been through so the nerves leading up to the day were rough for both of us, but I’m sure more for him than I.  I visited Patrick the evening before the hearing.  We had a nice visit and were both quite relaxed by that point.  We were as prepared as possible.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

The parole hearing was scheduled at 8:30 am, so McLeod House, the bed and breakfast where I was staying in Newberry was kind enough to fix breakfast for me a bit earlier than normal.  This was nice, as I was able to attend with a satisfied appetite.  When I arrived at the prison I had to go through the normal security check procedures used when visiting a prisoner.

The hearing was being conducted by video, with Patrick and I seated side-by-side at a table and the gentleman from the parole board on two-way video with us.  We could only see part of his face, but we could tell he was inputting information into a computer, reading information on Patrick, and forming his questions as he went.

This was surprising to me.  I expected them to have a written list of questions they went by, but that was not the case.  Obviously each parole hearing is conducted “on the fly” so to speak, with questions tailored specifically to each individual person and new questions arising based on the answers the parole board member receives.

When I arrived the parole board member asked if I had ever attended a parole hearing before, and when I told him I had not he explained that for the majority of the hearing he would be talking to Patrick and I was to sit quietly and listen, and I was not to help Patrick with his answers, nudge him, kick him under the table, or in any other way influence his answers.  At the end I would be given an opportunity to speak.

The gentleman covered my Patrick’s crimes, asked him some questions, and then asked me what I thought about his crimes.  That was a question I had not anticipated and all I can hope is my reaction/answer satisfied what he was looking for.    When given the opportunity I also stated that I have room for Patrick to stay with me, a car he can use, etc.  However given the nervousness of the situation I know I forgot part of what I intended to say.

The hearing took approximately thirty minutes.  When it was over we were advised it may take weeks or months to hear a decision.  Patrick has one required class he will be finished with in a couple weeks, and we anticipate they may wait until he has completed that before issuing a decision.  Hopefully it is not too long.

There is no visiting once the hearing is complete.  I was able to hug him goodbye and then I left the prison.  His earliest parole date is March 19, 2018, so there is plenty of time between now and then.  Hopefully the decision is made quickly so we know the situation.  It is in the parole boards hands so all we can do is wait.

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, parents, time

Making Decisions

Life gets busy and we tend to let time move past without really analyzing where we are in life compared with where we want to be.  It is when we take the time to step back and re-evaluate our position that we are able to determine our next step in accomplishing our overall goals.    This applies to anything in life…employment, relationships, finances, hobbies, etc.

For the past twenty months since my husband passed away I spent time reducing some of my expenditures, rolling over investments without really paying attention to them, and learning to pay bills.  I initially developed a budget but I did it without a clear understanding of my overall financial situation.  I realized I wasn’t in the best of situations, yet allowed myself to float along for a while.   Decisions by successful people

One to two months ago I started taking a harder look at my budget, my overall financial standing, and where I am compared with where I want to be at retirement.   The process while a bit stressful was also very enlightening.  I enlisted the assistance of a trusted friend in reviewing what I had to see if my thought process was on track and solicited suggestions.   The realization was that I need to make some changes, and I need to make them faster than I originally thought in order to secure a better future for myself.

While parts of the decision making put pressure on me to accomplish some tasks faster than I originally anticipated, the completion of those things will put me in a better position both financially and mentally to move forward with my life.  The decisions to make major changes in ones life are not easy, but they can also be enlightening.  While there will be difficulties along the way, and some of my decisions will also impact others, once the dust settles down things should be better for me and others.

decisions2So what am I doing?  I am going to downsize by sorting my belongings and accumulations of the past 36 years into keep and sell piles, and I am going to downsize out of my home and into something smaller and more manageable for me, both in upkeep and cost.   I am changing financial advisors in the anticipation that my investments will provide me with better earnings for my retirement.   I am going to forgo some of my activities and/or volunteer positions so that I have less commitments and more time to devote to things that I need or want to accomplish, such as the downsizing, running my photography business, and my writing.

Life is always evolving, always changing.  If you have areas you believe need improvement or with which you are unhappy, take a hard look at things and make changes that will provide you with the lifestyle and overall happiness you deserve.

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Scampering Squirrel

The other day I had an encounter with a squirrel, well not actually an encounter, more somewhat of an invasion.  I happened to look out the window onto my front porch and spotted a squirrel up on the porch with a huge nut in its mouth.  It seemed to be confused on where it wanted to go.  It came across the porch, then walked toward the steps leading off the porch, then turned around so it was facing the door into the house, then sideways again and disappeared off the side of the porch.

What was the squirrel thinking as he ran back and forth?  Why did he choose to get up onto my porch?  Was he trying to escape the rain?  Where did the nut come from?  This last question is relevant because I don’t have any nut trees on or by my house that I am aware of.  How far did he carry that nut?

Standing Squirrel

Photo by Grace Grogan   Copyright 2014.

One question was answered by this, as I assume that this could be the same squirrel who left the shell from a nut on my sidewalk about a week ago.  I saw the pieces and wondered where they had come from.   Still I wonder where the squirrel was coming from, how far he is traveling to accumulate his nuts, and why he chose to walk up and across my porch rather than through the front lawn.

This is not the first animal encounter I have had.  Past encounters include bunny rabbits, deer on the front lawn, skunks strolling on my driveway and sidewalk, a rooster walking across the front lawn, birds on my porch eating insects out of spider webs, and a woodpecker pecking at my house.

Whatever possesses these animals to pass my way I will never know.  What is going through their minds as they travel across my yard I sometimes wonder.  Why that woodpecker feels the need to peck away at my house rather than one of the trees I cannot explain.  Wildlife in action.  I’m still pondering over the thought process of that squirrel on my front porch.

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Life is Bigger Than That

The thought below struck me as being important when I first saw it as it carries a lot of meaning.  So many people spend time making big issues out of small things.  Way too much time is spent stressed over things that a few months from now won’t even matter.  a.imagine this

We have 86,400 seconds per day to spend either happy and positive or negative and stressed.  So often people who are having a bad day take it out on those around them, and in the process ruin the other person’s day as well.

We all have those occasional days where one thing goes wrong, then something else goes wrong, and before you know it you have had an entire day of things going wrong.  Have you ever considered your attitude when this is happening?  Do you laugh it off and keep going or do you get frustrated, stressed out, angry, and rude?

Taking control of your attitude in moments of stress has a huge impact on your own personal happiness.   Don’t allow the behavior of others to impact your mood; and more importantly don’t let your behavior have a negative impact on others.

One prime example is in this era of social media is people who feel the need to post their personal arguments for public scrutiny.  What is this accomplishing?  Sympathy from others who are not involved?  Quite often I will read posts and wonder why someone felt the need to post something.  Have they considered the emotional harm to the person they are complaining about, who is most likely a friend, spouse, or other family member?  Have they forgotten that once on public media it is never lost and can re-surface at any time?  When posting on social media give consideration to the positive v. negative impact your posting may have, especially on those who you are closest to, those who deserve your love and protection, not public criticism.

As you go through your week remember that when life gives you a bowl of pits instead of cherries, when your parade gets rained on, or when a hurricane blows through you life, to keep a positive attitude and laugh at the blunders.  Search for the positive in the negative and move on.  Chances are 12 months from now you won’t remember it happened.   Don’t sweat the small stuff, live is bigger than that.

 

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Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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A Child’s Viewpoint

I recently had the pleasure of watching my grandchildren for a day.  Time with a 2-1/2 year old, 6 year old and 11 year old always brings a few laughs and simple pleasures.

The simple days, when at six years of age it is a tragedy when your younger sister won’t share her goldfish crackers.  Really?  She only has a couple dozen out of an entire bag, not like there aren’t more to put into a separate bowl for him.   The world is once again at peace, all thanks to a few crackers shaped like fish.

Why is it at 2-1/2 years of age you are capable of stripping all clothing off a doll more than a dozen times a day, but can never get them back on.  Of course once the doll is naked it must be dressed, but Grandma must do that.  The doll is dressed, life is good, until thirty minutes later when that doll is once again, for some unknown reason, naked.  And the hours pass by….

Planning for my future residence, Corbin (age 6) “It would be neat if you had a really big house with a space ship on top.”

Why, I ask, would I want a house with a space ship on the top of it.  The answer, according to Corbin, is simple.  “Because it would be cool!”

Okay, so there you go.  My retirement home floor plans are being laid out now.

When you don’t know how to respond to certain announcements, such as Austin (age 11), “Gunther is dead.”

Austin has autism, so comprehension is sometimes difficult, and he had just been dropped off after spending the weekend at his dad’s house, so with the same seriousness in which he expressed this loss I asked “who is Gunther?”

I received a very straight-faced, serious answer, “He is a Zombie.”

Sorry, I had nothing after that.  I guess the death of a zombie, or the creation of a zombie due to death, has a greater impact on some than it does on me.

Prior to the kids coming over and knowing I would have just Corbin and Alexandria for lunch I checked with my daughter to see what the best food choices would be and planned accordingly.    I had purchased the family size Velveeta Shells and Cheese, and let’s face it, as a general rule Mac & Cheese is a kid favorite.  Apparently sometimes this is not the case.

As he sits down to eat Corbin looks at the food and says “I don’t like macaroni and cheese.”

I responded that yes he does, his mother told me he eats it all the time.

Corbin — “Not today, I’m six and sometimes we don’t like things.”

Imagine that!  I thought six year olds were always logical and cooperative.  Guess I got that wrong.

Blowing bubbles, that wonderful outside activity that all children love to do.  The problem is Alexandria (2-1/2) simply doesn’t understand that it would be preferable if I moved the wand away from my body before she attempted to blow the bubbles right back at me.  Of course that is a toss-up with the other option of letting her hold the wand herself and trying to convince her that if she didn’t put her mouth on the wand to blow, she wouldn’t get the icky tasting soap on her tongue.  The results aren’t in on whether more bubble soap made it into the air as bubbles or if more ended up on our bodies due to Alex’s still to be perfected bubble-blowing technique.

Then there is the issue of cleanliness.  When I informed Corbin that he is supposed to flush and wash his hands after using the bathroom he said “you know, I washed my hands yesterday.”

Good to know, can we do it today as well please.  Of course this goes along with the request he wash his hands and him turning them back and forth saying “they aren’t dirty.”

Girls in that regard are so much easier.  I can say “Alex your face is dirty, let’s wash it.” and she comes and stands beside me waiting to get cleaned up.

A day with children is always entertaining, enlightening, and just plain fun.  Blocks, cars, trains, slides, bubbles, a messed up floor filled with toys.  Cracker crumbs, candy, spilled water, and more.  As the day wears on electronic pads filled with games are great for keeping children from killing each other off and/or driving an adult insane.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, Coping, Discoveries, exploration, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, play, summer, time