Category Archives: Activities

Vacation Destination: Calgary, Alberta

Looking off into the distance, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies can be seen, drive a couple hours north east and visit Drumheller, a town sunken down into the earth that just happens to have the world’s largest finding of dinosaur skeletons and a huge museum displaying them,  but the main purpose of this destination was to attend the Calgary Stampede, the largest outdoor event on earth.

It is exhilarating to travel somewhere you have never been before.  To experience the beauty of nature and the excitement of a world-renown event.   To visit areas famous for their natural beauty.  That is what I did this past July when I flew from Detroit, Michigan to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a 10-day vacation.    To me travel and vacations are an opportunity to partake in the areas surroundings, take photographs, and experience the culture of the area.

Calgary is surrounded by a vast array of attractions, and I was only able to experience a small amount.  I arrived at night and did not have the opportunity to view the Canadian Rockies from my plane, but when I awoke the next morning they could be seen in the distance from where I was staying.   About 1-1/2 hours drive west from Calgary is Banff National Park.  Canada’s First National Park comprises 2,564 square miles and is located in the Canadian Rockies.  Banff is the home of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, glacier lakes with a beautiful, distinctive emerald/turquoise color water.  The breathtaking scenery makes this park makes it well worth the time to visit.

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A day trip to Drumheller, northeast of Calgary, is a “must see”.  Located in the Canadian Badlands, this unique town is built in an area of land that at some point in time sunk down into the earth that now houses the badlands and an entire town.  This is where you will find the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur skeletons and fossils.   I spent several hours inside the museum, taking a break to lunch at the on-sight cafeteria.

The plan was to visit the Royal Tyyrell Museum in the morning and spend the afternoon driving the Canadian Badlands taking photos.  The Canadian Badlands covers a 35,000 square mile region where dinosaur bones were discovered in the late 1800s.  Nowhere on Earth has there ever been found the quantity and quality of dinosaur remains as have been discovered in the Canadian Badlands.   It is speculated that for some reason this area of land sank down into the earth, creating a drastic drop in elevation and that stampeding dinosaurs fell over the age and died.  The result is one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil regions.  Since the late 1800’s more than 1,000 complete skeletons of dinosaurs have been found and digs continue to this day.  The Royal Tyrrell Museum contains over 130,000 skeletons and/or fossils from this area.

In addition to dinosaur finds, the Badlands is also where gangsters would run and hideout in the “wild west” era.  The terrain of the area was dangerous due to its sunken area, allowing for an easy ambush and law enforcement would not pursue gangsters once they entered the area.  The history of the badlands combined with the gorgeous rock formations makes the area a “must see” on a trip to the region.  Unfortunately a rainstorm prevented the planned exploration of the badlands from taking place.

The main purpose of my trip to Calgary was the Fantasy RV Tours 7-Day Calgary Stampede event.  The tour group arranged RV parking in a stadium parking lot and participants  took a short walk to the train stop for a ride into the town of Calgary and/or to the  Calgary Stampede Grounds.   In addition to the stampede, the tour included a visit to Heritage Park and Gasoline Alley, attending the Calgary Stampede Parade, breakfast in the rotating restaurant at Calgary Tower, and a visit to the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary.

Heritage Park Historical Village includes Gasoline Alley, a “must see” car museum.  I spent so much time in Gasoline Alley that my time was very limited on viewing the rest of this living history museum.  A train ride around the park gave me a nice overview, and because of the way stops are scheduled you circle the park twice before you can disembark at the location you boarded.  The majority of visitors get off and on to visit various attractions.

Our tour included breakfast at the revolving restaurant in the Calgary Tower.  The observation deck of the tower provides a 360° view of the city and surrounding area.  One area has a glass floor you can walk out on for a true view down.   I found the glass bottom very disconcerting, and had to use the rail to walk out onto it.   Across from the tower is the Glenbow Museum, which is a combination art and history museum.  I spent quite a bit of time viewing the historical exhibits and taking photographs.

The Calgary Parade is a kick-off to the Calgary Stampede.  This parade displays the heart and sole of Calgary and the Stampede, with horses, carriages, bands, and more.  Many follow the parade down to the stampede grounds for the opening of the event.  The Calgary Stampede grounds is a huge venue, including barns, a midway, an Indian Village, and the main highlight, the stampede grandstand.   You definitely want to take in both an afternoon rodeo show and an evening grandstand show, which features chuck wagon races, performances, and fireworks.  You will not be disappointed!

My trip to Calgary went way too fast and before I knew it my ten days had ended and I was at the airport and on my way home.  I hope that someday I will get back to the area and have a chance to visit more thoroughly some of the areas I only touched on lightly.

 

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, events, Festivals, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, Photography, tourism, vacation

Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

Quotes have a way of making you think, of getting you to take a step back and analyze things.  If you have been a reader of my blog for a while then you know that quotes frequently pop up as a topic for my blogs.  When life is especially stressful applying the thoughts in this simple quote I found can bring peace to an overly processed world.

Watch a sunrise once a year…..there is something absolutely beautiful about getting out of bed and watching the sun peak over the horizon in the morning.  This is especially true if you are near a body of water.  It is a refreshingly positive way to start the day.  Sunsets are beautiful as well, but if it has been a while since you’ve watched the sun rise, set the alarm and partake in the experience.   Refreshing!

Put marshmallows in your hot chocolate……this seems so ordinary.  So “take off the chill” normal happening in fall or winter.  Then it occurred to me that as I got older I would make a cup of instant hot chocolate, but somewhere along the line I stopped dropping in the marshmallows.  Forgo the whipped cream that has become commonplace, or worse the “naked” chocolate without any fattening additives, and go back to your youth.  Enjoy a few marshmallows melting in your hot chocolate.  Yummy!

Lie on your back and look at the stars…..remember being a child, laying on the ground and looking up at the stars, amazed at the pure beauty and wonder of them.  What a peaceful way to enjoy the nighttime sky.  So many of us live in the city hustle and bustle where there are always lights and we forget to look up at the beauty of the night sky.   As you are walking into your house after dark take the time to look up and enjoy glimmer of the moon and stars above you.  Heavenly!

Never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on…..being that I haven’t owned a coffee table in about thirty-seven years, I can’t say too much in this area.  I think this message has more to do with being comfortable your own home.   My parents always had a coffee table which held things like coasters, display pieces such as an antique photo viewer, or large coffee table books, but never a person’s feet!   As I prepare to downsize and move I am considering re-purposing my mother’s Lane cedar chest (the old fashioned hope chest) into a coffee table.  It would be convenient for storing afghans in the living room and could serve dual purpose as a coffee table.  Of course having owned reclining couches for several years, the idea of a coffee table may be defunct if I continue with that type of furniture.  At the same time the idea of a traditional couch with a table in front has its appeal.  Comfy!

Never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline…..to me this says experience life, be adventurous.  While some of us may be able to climb onto and jump on a trampoline, others may not have the physical ability to do so.  Don’t let small limitations hold you back from what you can do.   Go forth and try new things, take risks.  Live life to the fullest and never pass up the opportunity to try something new.  Exhilarating!

Don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for big ones…..this is something way too many of us do, especially when young and career oriented, which often overlaps with the time-filled days of raising children.  We get our mind set on not just keeping up with, but also exceeding “the Jones’s,” and in doing so miss out on a lot of life’s simple pleasures.   If you find yourself caught up in the rush-rush lifestyle a good way to rejuvenate is to take a walk with a child, or better yet spend an afternoon with one.  They will take you on an adventure of all the things you have forgotten to enjoy.  The pleasure of blowing bubbles, watching a butterfly, gathering stones from a beach, stomping in mud puddles, gathering fall leaves, the smell of flowers, the rustle of the wind in the trees, the joy of watching birds, or even playing with your shadow.  Relaxing!

I hope each of you reading this will take the time to do not only these things, but others that will bring you peace of mind and relaxation from the every day stresses of life.

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, backyard, birds, children, Coping, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, habit, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, spring, summer, winter

Dirt on My Shirt

Anyone who has raised a boy can relate to the Dirt on My Shirt poem that I stumbled across recently.  When I saw it memories of my son and my grandsons came to mind.  It is like they are immune to the idea of cleanliness.  If it looks like fun, dig right in.

Dirt on My ShirtI have very rarely seen my grandson, Corbin, with a clean face.  I think it is magnetic and attracts dirt, all he has to do is walk across a room and it zeros in on him.  Thinking back to when my son was growing up, there were all kinds of messes and things going on that bring to life the saying “boys will be boys.”

Here are some of my “boys will be boys” memories….

  • Walking into my backyard and Patrick and his friend had dug a huge hole in the ground.  Why?  Just for fun!
  • Patrick telling me about taking a boat down the canal using a battery-operated fan for a motor.  I thought he was kidding until I was at a meeting and a mother who lived on the canal commented on these boys running a boat down the canal using a fan for a motor…she thought it was pretty ingenious!
  • My grandson, Corbin, telling me he didn’t have to wash his hands as he flipped them back and forth saying “see they are clean” and “I’ll wash them on Thursday.”
  • Socks that are filthy because why bother putting on shoes, you’re only going into the yard.
  • Cleaning out pockets filled with stones, grass, dirt, and miscellaneous other items.
  • At 2-1/2 to 3 years Patrick had a 2-foot ramp he would use to jump his 2-wheeler.  My mother-in-law, who had raised three boys, didn’t give it a thought.  My parents, who had raised two girls almost had heart failure when they saw him do the jump at 2-1/2 years.
  • My grandson, Austin at 2-3 years old running onto a water park and standing in the running sprinklers fully clothed in shoes, turtle neck top and overalls.1933939_1214548853295_8053577_n
  • Creek findings in my garage:  craw-fish, baby muskrat, fish, snails, snakes, turtles (Patrick, now 30-years old, has a large turtle in a tank in my garage right now) all brought home and kept in fish tanks in my garage.
  • Having all the screws in my dining room chairs removed by Patrick’s bare hands.
  • My grandson, Austin sliding ice cubes from his Koolaid around on the table; when asked what he was doing he said “washing the table.”
  • Hearing a crash and discovering my 2 year old son on top of my refrigerator.
  • Greasy/dirty clothes from fixing things…snow blowers, lawn mowers, anything that doesn’t work.

The list could go on forever, and thinking back on those memories makes me smile.   After all, I can still look at Patrick, now 30 years old, and he will have dirt on his shirt, dirt on his hands, and dirt on his face due to something he has been working on.  Oh, and he still leaves dirt on the refrigerator handle when grabbing something to drink.

Share with me your
“Boys Will Be Boys” memories

 

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Cleaning, Discoveries, Family, grandchildren, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, nature, reality, spring, summer

When was the last time…

…..you did something for the first time?

That is a line in a song I enjoy by Darius Rucker, just click here to hear it.  I was listening to the song and it got me to thinking about how we all develop set patterns of life.  We get up, go through the same routine during the day, go to bed, get up and repeat.

The song goes on to say “Yeah, let yourself go, follow that feeling, Maybe something new is what you’re needing, Like a real life, let your hair down, feel alive, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

Those are thoughts we should all put into action when our life is feeling a bit ho-hum.  It can be something major or something minor.  Just spice it up a bit to re-build your energy and enthusiasm for life.

In July I took a 10-day vacation when I flew to Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede.  While it is not the first vacation I have ever taken, nor the first international flight (I flew to Mexico with a school group in 1978), it was my first time in Alberta, Canada and my first time attending the Calgary Stampede.   It was also the first true vacation I have taken since 2014.when-was-the-last-time-you-did-something-for-the-first-time-quote-1

I am currently in an active sort-of first time events project.  I have started doing some preliminary scouting of homes.  I am planning to downsize and packing and moving an entire home, not to mention selecting and purchasing a home entirely on my own will be a first.   When you have always done things with others, doing them on your own the first time is a different experience.

So, when you hear the question, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?  What is your answer?  What is on your bucket list?  Throw out some ideas….I may want to incorporate your ideas into my list.

 

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time, tourism, vacation

Places I Have Been to For the Last Time

It is a bizarre thought, something that hadn’t really dawned on me.  Then someone considerably younger then me made a comment that he was wondering how many places he has already been for the last time.  He is only 30 years old!   I was baffled that such a thing had entered his mind.

When you go somewhere rarely do you think “this may be the last time I am ever here.”  The older you get, the more likely you are to consider such a possibility, but for the most part we humans have a tendency to expect things to always continue as they are, not realizing how precious that visit may be.

Think about places you remember with fondness, or maybe even with some sadness.  When you were there did it occur to you that it was the last time you would be there?  Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.  When you start rolling that thought around in your head you realize how important it is to cherish every single moment of everything you do, because it may be the last time.

My grandparents house – my great-grandfather had built it when my grandmother was only six years old.  I grew up going to that house for visits with my grandparents and other family members.  After my grandfather passed, my grandmother continued to reside there until she was well into her 80’s.   I eventually got married, had children and took them to visit their great-grandmother in that house.  The last time I was inside the house the family was preparing for an estate sale following my grandmother’s death.  I can’t remember the last time I visited my grandmother in her house because one day she became ill, went to the hospital and then into assisted living, where she remained until she passed at age 94.  While the property was still in the family I would from time-to-time stop and walk around the outside of house and around the yard and barns, taking a few photos.  I knew it was for sale and had been for some time, but even then it never occurred to me that I might be walking on that property for the last time.  Eventually the house sold and my impromptu visits ended.

Cedar Point — a very popular amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  I used to love attending amusement parks, and we always went to one as part of our family vacations when our kids lived at home.  We sometimes attended them even without kids.  Then I was in a bad accident and ended up with severe vertigo.  I won’t go on amusement park rides ever again as I am fearful that the rapid movement of the rides might bring back the vertigo.  My favorite rides were always the fast spinning ones like the spider, swings, Himalaya, and other similar rides.  The last time I visited an amusement park or rode a ride it never occurred to me it would be the last time.

Scrapbook Memories in Chelsea, Michigan –  This was a huge scrapbook store that held 3-day crops several times a year.  My best friend, and I would meet there and attend the 3-day crops.  It was a wonderful time and something we did year after year.  Then one day we received notice that the owner had decided to leave the business and move out of state.  No one purchased the store and it closed.  Lots of memories of fun times in that store.

There are other places as well, my parent’s home where I was raised from the time I was in 1st grade until I got married and moved away.  My in-laws home that holds lots of fun memories.  The house my husband and I built in 1983 and then sold in 2004.  I’m sure if I sat and thought there are many others.  Will I ever go back to Disney World?  Will I someday get back to Hawaii?  When I was there years ago I assumed I would someday return, but in reality, will I ever?

Cherish the time you have at each place you visit, be it on a regular basis or only on  occasion.  You never know when circumstances will make it the last time.

What are the places you have been for the last time?

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, time

Things We Don’t Do Anymore

I was recently reading a book written a while back and it made a reference to calling the time-of-day line.  That got me thinking, how many things that used to be a normal part of our everyday life are no longer done?

  • Calling the Time-of-Day Line (for those of you too young to know what this is, it was a special phone number you could call to get the exact time when setting clocks, etc.
  • Getting up to walk over and answer the phone, then having to stand next to it for the entire conversation because it was mounted on the wall and had a phone cord.
  • Kids going to their friend’s house, ringing the doorbell and asking if their friend could come out to play.  No one called their friends on the phone to arrange a get-together until they were teens.
  • Riding bikes or roller skating without a helmet on.
  • Going to the Drive-In (there are a few still in existence, but they are not common)
  • Getting up to turn on the TV, then again to change the channel, and then again to adjust the rabbit ears or antenna.
  • Reading TV Guide to find out what was on TV that week.
  • Getting up on Saturday morning to watch cartoons, because that was the only time they were on TV.
  • Carrying a checkbook with you at all times to pay for any items you didn’t have enough cash for….debit cards did not exist.the-future-will-soon-be-a-thing-of-the-past-quote-1
  • Paying all your bills by sitting and writing checks, then sending the payment through the mail.  Most young people don’t even order checks anymore, and a lot of them do not carry cash, they use a debit card for everything.
  • Do research by going to the library and reading an encyclopedia
  • Take your rolls of film to the store to be processed.
  • Open up a paper map to look at when planning a journey or to figure out where you are — although paper maps still do exist.
  • If not at home and you needed to telephone someone you had to look for a payphone and then have the proper change to put in the phone to use it.
  • Pull into a gas station and wait for the attendant to come out and inquire as to how much gas you wanted, and while the gas was pumping the attendant would clean your windshield and check your oil.
  • Have CB Radios in cars to communicate with each other — this was a bit of a craze in the late 70’s….my handle was the Gumball.

I’m sure there are more things that I haven’t thought of.  What do you remember doing in your everyday life that is no longer done?

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Uncategorized

Bulleted Reunion

IMG_20180720_185225304I had the pleasure of attending my 40th High School Class Reunion in Eaton Rapids, Michigan this weekend.  The coordinators did a fabulous job of pulling the weekend together with a variety of activities to keep people on the move.  This was especially nice for those of us traveling in from out of town, especially those traveling from out-of-state.

This is my bulleted list of memories of the weekend.

  • Meet-and-Greet at Eaton Rapids Medical Center Conference Room.
  • Great desserts!
  • Friendly conversation with classmates.
  • Tammy (Ball) Albright’s face sign
  • Olive burgers and beer at Abies Bar
  • Woman’s bathroom is small with two toilets, no stalls.
  • Breakfast at Darb’s Patio, always yummy!
  • Glitch in planned tour of high school – Honor Society students are prepared to do tour, school is locked and they don’t have keys.
  • Classmate makes a couple calls and resolution is on the way.
  • Dave Johnson, teacher when we attended, later principal, now retired, has master key to school and comes to rescue, conducts the tour, and does an awesome job of sharing the way it was when we attended, and what changes have been done over the years.IMG_20180721_130944998_LL
  • Touring the high school after 40 years brings back memories, including these mentioned during tour:
    • The Cold Tongue
    • The smoking bathroom
    • Pep Rallies
    • After home game dances
    • Band/band camp
    • Typing class
    • 1-2-3 Roll’em Ferndock
    • World History class lectures in auditorium
    • Theater performances in auditorium
    • Mr. Phillips math classes
    • Mrs. Lohrke, English teacher
    • Mrs. Shimnoski and Mrs. Tuthill, Business/Secretarial Block teachers
    • Various athletes, coaches
    • Teachers and counselors now gone but long remembered
    • Library no longer has a comfy seating area of bean bag chairs, chairs, etc.
    • Senior Bench (now gone)
    • The former layout of the school compared to what it is now
  • Non-Reunion Activity:  Quick stop-over to visit with my sister for a couple hours
  • Walking a block to the Red Ribbon Hall for the reunion because I thought all  parking in front was taken; there were still open spots.
  • Some classmates’ appearance has hardly changed, very recognizable.
  • Some classmates have changed a lot — thank goodness for name tags!
  • Being surprised at how many people recognized me immediately.
  • Good food, good desserts.
  • Good conversation with old friends and classmates.
  • 1978 Graduate photo frame for shooting pics
    IMG_20180721_212645159
  • Fun slide show of “then and now” pictures of classmates.
  • Party Favors:  Eaton Rapids glass and notepad
  • The Red Ribbon Hall has very good acoustics = loud atmosphere.
  • A lot of us still drink, but not like we used to!
  • Many of us no longer “close down the bar” and left before the party was over.
  • Cell phones are great for event pics…I didn’t see a single “real” camera all weekend.
  • Facebook sharing of activities and photos on the ERHS Class of 1978 Page
  • Sad realization that we have lost 11 classmates, a nice memorial table was set up.
  • A quiz of things about our last year of school – presented by Mrs. Wheeler, former teacher.
  • Each classmate was to stand and give their name (maiden) now and where living…which grew as it went around the room to name, where living, married/years, occupation, children/grandchildren.
  • Amazing how many people have stayed in Eaton Rapids and/or the Greater Lansing area.
  • Surprised at how many have moved out of state, or resided in several states.

FB_IMG_1532145667519Time passes so quickly.  How is it we have already been out of school forty years?  Many thanks to classmates Julie and Jane Brenke, and their sister Jill, for organizing the reunion as well as several others who stepped in and assisted them.

 

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If I Received $10,000 That I Had to Spend on Myself…

I saw the thought proving statement, “If I Received $10,000 that I HAD to spend on myself I would…”    That got me thinking, what would I do with that kind of money if I absolutely had to spend it on myself, not save it, not pay bills, but spend it on just me, what would I do?

As my mind started tossing around the possibilities I realized that $10,000 is both a lot of money and only a small amount of money.  It would not purchase a house, a motor home, a boat, or a new vehicle.  On the other hand, if used with a bit of frugality, there is a lot that could be done with that type of “free” money.

I think I would take a few hundred dollars and re-work my wardrobe.    A larger selection and more splashy, bright colored, fun things to wear.  I might even splurge on some new shoes and a purse or two, as I tend to use mine until they are on their death bed, which I have a habit of doing with most of my clothes and accessories.

I might add a few pieces of quality jewelry.   I have some good jewelry, but I have a lot of costume jewelry and I would likely replace some of those pieces.

The majority of the money I would spend on travel.  I don’t know how far that money would take me, but I would think if I watched for bargains I could hit a few places I have never been or adventures I have never taken.    For years I have wanted to take an Alaskan cruise on the inside passage.  I have never been to the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, or Mt. Rushmore.   Scenic photos of Wyoming and the Dakotas capture my eye, as do many other places in both the U.S. and Canada.  I love places that are photogenic, so who knows what might grab my attention.

I have never been on a week-long cruise and that might be a wonderfTRAVELul way to kick-back and relax while seeing exotic places.  I would like to get back to Hawaii someday, and I’ve heard the Caribbean and/or other tropical islands are wonderful places to vacation.  I think it would be neat to travel in Europe, possibly visiting some or all of the countries of my heritage, those being Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Netherlands.   Others of interest are Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Greece, and Switzerland…and I’m sure there are more.  Of course there is always the possibility of a photo trip to Africa, or maybe Galapagos Islands.  The possibilities are endless.

Have I spent my $10,000 yet?  I’m sure I have.  I guess $10,000 may seem like a lot, but I’m sure I could handle spending it all on me if I had to.   Now if only that were reality.  Dreaming…..I’m only dreaming…..

 

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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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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.

lucille-ball-desi-arnaz-marriage-secrets-scandals-7

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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Filed under Activities, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, employment, home, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, Michigan, nutrician, reality, time, travel, vacation, winter, work

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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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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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

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

Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Activities, career, communication, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, habit, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, Meals, mind, time, Weather, work

My Life is a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama

Murphy's Law - one line quoteAfter reading that title you are probably going huh?   If you think about it you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong it will.  Comedy — finding the humor in anything and everything.  Drama — something serious and/or with conflict.  Put those altogether and what do you have?  My life this past week.

Picture Lucille Ball, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire all wrapped into one and you’re probably coming close.  Of course it all didn’t seem comical at the time, there were some pretty good moments of stress, but overall you just have to roll with the punches.

Monday actually started the week off pretty good.  I was busy at work, but afterwards spent a nice evening at home.  Maybe that should have been an indication that all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday evening about 7 pm my phone rings.  “What are you doing?”

“I’m in Rochester at a my Freelance Writer’s meeting, why?”

“Oh shoot, that won’t work.  We were on our way to Ann Arbor and Rob’s car just died on us, we’re in Detroit, but you’re too far away.  We’ll call his mom.”

My daughter, her three young children and her boyfriend, stranded more than an hour from where I was.  I wasn’t really familiar with the area they broke down in, but let’s face it, stranded in Detroit is not a good thing.  She is 32 and capable of handling things on her own, but as a mother and grandmother you worry.  I received a text that Rob’s aunt, who lives in Detroit, went and picked them up right away because the area they were in was a bad section.  Rob’s mother was on the way to pick them up from the aunt’s house and transport them back home.  At least I knew they were safe.

Before they left the vehicle the first time Rob told Carrie to gather up absolutely everything out of the inside of the car, and she was smart enough to even empty the glove box so there was no revealing information about their residence or anything left.  When the aunt took Rob back to the vehicle an hour later it had been trashed – windshield smashed, battery stolen, and inside destroyed.  He popped the trunk and retrieved the diapers and other items they had just purchased and left the vehicle there overnight.  Not worth repairing, the next day they borrowed a friend’s car hauler and towed it to the junk yard, where they got a whopping $168 for it.  Now he is looking for something used, affordable and able to transport him and kids.  In the meantime he is driving my single-cab pickup truck my husband used to use for scrapping.

Caroline came to my house and picked up my extra car, a Ford Fiesta, later that night to borrow because her SUV was in the shop.  Wednesday afternoon I get a call,  “Mom, your car has no oil in it!”

“What do you mean it has no oil?   I just had it changed two weeks ago, drove it home from the dealership and it has been sitting in the drive ever since.”

“The oil lights came on and it made a funny sound, I pulled over and checked the oil, there is nothing in it.”

I called the dealership, they didn’t think it made sense but said not to drive it, they would send a tow truck.  I called my daughter to let her know what was happening.  Okay, moment of emotional breakdown here — my daughter’s SUV was at the dealership having repair work done on it for the third time, which was the reason she borrowed my car after her boyfriend’s car died, my Ford Fiesta she was borrowing is now being towed, my 2-year old granddaughter was at a day care approximately 25 miles from home, my daughter was going to be without any vehicle except for my pickup truck.  It wasn’t looking good, two adults each with jobs in totally different areas, three young children and down to a single cab pickup they were borrowing from me.

Her voice cracked, “Mom, I have no car to drive.”

I took a deep breath to hold it together.  “Where is Alex’s day care center?  If needed I’ll  leave work early and go pick her up.  Am I on the list?”

Stress, Stress, Stress.

The good news — my daughter’s SUV was done and ready for pickup by the time she and the tow truck arrived at the dealership.  The next morning I received a call that my car was fine, they forgot to hit the reset button when doing the oil change and the synthetic oil is clear so it can not be seen.  My daughter had put a quart of oil into it, thinking it was empty, so it was now over filled.  The dealership flushed it out and re-filled, no charge to me.

Thursday I get a call from my daughter’s boyfriend, “Was there a warranty on the brakes for the pickup when Ron had them done?”

“I don’t think Ron had the brakes done, and if he did I have no idea where he had them put on.”

As it turns out, the pickup, which is used mainly for gathering and hauling metal scrap, went quickly from the brakes seeming fine to showing they needed to be changed.  How bad?  Rob pulled into a shop to look into purchasing a set and before he could do that one fell off.  It had rusted off!  He purchased brakes, borrowed tools and changed that particular one right there in the parking lot.  The other one he did later that evening at home.  Good to go, maybe?

The next day Rob was driving the truck about 60 mph when the hood suddenly pops open, comes back and hits the windshield.  The hood latch had rusted through and given out, so now a new hood and new windshield are needed.  They are on a junkyard search for a hood.  Windshield will get replaced.  Did I mention I had just purchased new plates/tabs for that vehicle on Wednesday and this happened one day later?  Ever feel like your life is moving as if you’re on a steep hill standing on sheer ice?

What the heck, might as well finish off my Thursday mowing the lawn, which is on a riding mower so old it is Montgomery Ward brand.  No grass catcher, so it always leaves a nice trail of mowed grass and doesn’t get super close to the garden borders and fence so a lot of areas that always need to be trimmed, but not enough time to do that all in one night.   Hence I finish off my Thursday with a mowed lawn containing rows of mowed grass heaps and a fringe of long grass along all the raised borders, fence, etc.  plus other areas that the rider can’t go into that are still long because they must be done with either a push mower or weed wacker.  Just call my lawn Hillbilly Haven.

So I’ve verbally dealt with brake endangerment and/or replacement, the mowing of a lawn, and decide to take a well deserved rest in the hot tub.  I wear my new bathing suit, one of those tankinis.  Normally I’m a one-piece wearer, but I figured the look of a one-piece, convenience of a two piece, what could go wrong?  Little did I know.  Removal of a bathing suit top in a dressing room v. when it is wet are two different things.  When wet the back of the top feels like it is suctioned to my body and won’t let go.  So here I am in my bathroom trying desperately to extract myself from a bathing suit top that seems to be attached to my body with glue and I’m trying to figure out how to raise the back for removal without destroying the thing.   I can only imagine I must have looked like a really bad contortionist trying to remove myself from the grips of spandex.  I was about ready to break a sweat when I finally got that thing to let go of me.

Friday, sweet Friday.  Buried at work so I stay until 8 pm getting things done, run home and grab a quick dinner than head up to boat night — a huge event in Port Huron every year.  It is the downtown party on the eve of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race.  Upon my arrival I decided to “go live” on Facebook for the first time ever.  Shouldn’t that come with an instruction manual?  Watching the video later it was pretty comical.  I thought I was pausing the “live” part but apparently I wasn’t.  We have the phone being moved erratically, complete darkness when I put it into my pocket for a short period of time. and a view of everyone’s feet walking around.  Guess I should have looked around for an 8-year old to give me instruction before publishing that lovely documentary.

I arrive home from Boat Night about 11:00 pm.  As I’m walking into the house I feel something hit my head.  Hopefully not a spider — they tend to inhabit my front porch at night.  I walk into the bathroom and there on my head is a lime green creature.  It resembles a grasshopper with very long skinny legs and antennae.   I grab a tissue and try to grab it, but miss.  It must fly.  I located it on the wall behind me.  It doesn’t hop, it crawls.  Rather bizarre creature.  Guess I should have taken a picture, but at that particular moment I didn’t think of it.   I grab it in the tissue, throw it in the toilet, and flush.  End of bug….or not.  The next morning I go into that bathroom and guess what — the green bug is dead but floating in the toilet.  I use the facilities, flush and walk away.  A few hours later I go in to again to use the facilities and everything flushed down the toilet, but the green bug is back and floating in the bowl.   This happened at least three times.  It was the dead bug that wouldn’t go…it was haunting me!

Saturday went well, probably because I stayed inside doing paperwork all day.  Not too much tragedy when one is firmly planted in a chair — except when you sit too long and the tendon in your left arm tightens up and your foot falls asleep.  I must say the advantage of living alone when you are hobbling along on a foot that is asleep while trying to straighten and shake out your left arm is that no one is there to witness or video the moment.   I had the movements of a monster in a horror film.

Sunday, sweet relaxing Sunday, a day of rest and leisure.  Who am I kidding, my Sunday was far from that.   I spent several hours doing paperwork, then went outside to work on weed-wacking and raking the lawn.  Well, the batteries for the weed wacker only run about 30 minutes each, and one for some reason died after about 15 minutes, so didn’t get a lot done.   I still have a lot of fringe around the edges of my lawn.

It has been so hot I decided to see if some tree branches that fell in the spring and didn’t get cut up were dry enough I could break them into pieces to put in a lawn/leaf bag for collection.  They were, so there I was He-Woman breaking those limbs down with my small, garden-gloved hands and shoving them into the lawn/leaf bag.  Some of the larger ones required a bit more, so I would stand on one end and bend the other end up toward me attempting to break it off.  Only lost my balance a couple times but with some wild karate chop maneuvers managed to regain my balance and stay on my feet.  Poked myself in the stomach with the end of a branch once, and didn’t scream when I almost grabbed a spider off the ground.  Maybe there is hope for me yet.

So I’ve wacked the weeds, bagged the branches, and now I’m ready to gather the grass.  I like hot weather but it is no fun when trying to rake and sweat is running off your forehead and into your eyes, which makes your eyes sting.  By the time I got to the backyard I wanted to get it all into one bag and be done with it.  It was one very full paper lawn and leaf bag.  No room to roll the top over.  I pushed the grass down as much as I could, but it still was full right to the top.  It wasn’t heavy to carry from the backyard to the end of the drive, but it was awkward because I had to be careful so I didn’t trip and spill it.  Hopefully no one was watching as I did a waddle-walk with the bag gripped between my hands in front of me as I walked the length of the drive.

I decided to sweep off my front porch.  Spiders come out at night, so I am constantly sweeping and/or spraying away the webs.  I’m walking along, sweeping the porch and walked right into one of those fine spider webs you can’t see, all over my face.  Ugghh!  It feels like you have this sticky substance on your face and you just want it off.  There I am, wiping my face with my hands frantically trying to get this web substance off me.   Why in the world must spiders build there webs where people intend to walk?  Can’t they stay away from houses and leave us humans alone?  Apparently not.

Those aren’t all the things that went wrong during my week.  I’ve only blessed you with the highlights.  So how did I get through a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week without falling apart or killing someone?    I look for the humor in each situation.

Picture a favorite comedy show character and/or show….I Love Lucy, Tim the Tool Man, Grace Under Fire, Sienfeld, or any other show.  Picture the main character in one of the above situations.   When reality is not reality but a comedy show it is funny.  When you’re having one of those weeks and living the reality, look for the humor in each  situation.  Try to relax, go with the flow.  It won’t be a Murphy’s Law Comedy Drama week every week.  At least I hope not!

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Filed under Activities, backyard, bugs, Cleaning, Coping, home, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, spiders, summer, Weather, work

Childhood Cravings

I was grocery shopping recently and had a craving for a childhood snack — graham crackers with frosting on them.  I purchased the box of crackers and grabbed what I thought was standard chocolate frosting.  Imagine my delight when I popped open that little container and discovered chocolate mint — double yum!

That got me to thinking about some of the simple things from my childhood that kids today don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Back when I was a child life was more simple.  Summer was spent playing outside.  There weren’t any arranged play-dates set up by parents, we weren’t in day care centers, and our parents did not have us participating in scheduled activities.  childhood - chinese jump rope

We got up in the morning and walked or rode our bike to a friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.  When was the last time a child did that?  Today’s children probably wouldn’t know how.   We didn’t have video games, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other technology that kids today rely on.  So what did we do with our time?  We had fun!

A field behind the house could be trampled down into “rooms” in which we could roll out our baby carriages and play house.  We would lay on our backs and look at the clouds, making determinations on what they looked like.  We played Ring-Around-The-Rosie, Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother May I, Red Rover Red Rover, Tag, Kick-the-Can, and hide-and-go-seek.

We only had three TV channels, and cartoons were a Saturday morning specialty.  Every kid sat in front of the TV watching their favorites.  Between Saturdays we had our comic books to read.   My girlfriend and I would put our comic books into the saddle baskets of our bikes, then read our comic books as we rode our bikes down the street no-handed….and we weren’t even wearing helmets!

childhood - jacksWe would sit on the porch playing jacks.  At one time I was able to handle pick-ups of 20 jacks at a time.  We played a lot.  Do kids play jacks anymore?  Are they even available to purchase?  Ours were tiny metal jacks with a small red ball.    What about hula hoops and pogo sticks?  With a swing of the hips your hula hoop could be forced up to the neck or down to the knees and back to the waste.  Regular jump rope, Chinese jump rope, and hop scotch kept us busy.

I lived in a small town.  We would ride our bikes downtown and go to the library and the dime store.  I did a lot of reading.  Nancy Drew was my favorite, and so was Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie as I got older.   We bought pop in glass bottles out of a vending machine.  Everyone chewed Bazooka bubble gum, and we all loved the little tiny comics that came inside.  Gum wrappers were used to make chains…what we did with those chains I don’t remember.

We looked for 4-leaf clovers.  Flower petals were pulled off one-by-one saying “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Dandelions were held under the chin to see if your chin shone yellow, but I don’t remember why.  If we found a dandelion gone to seed, a “wisher,” we were thrilled….but our father wasn’t if he saw us blowing those seeds out into the lawn.

childhood - pogo stickBack then most people did not have air conditioning.  Windows were open, fans were used.  One strong childhood summer memory does not involve me but my father.  He would mow the lawn and then afterward watch the ball game on TV.  One of my favorite scents and sounds of summer is the combination of fresh mowed grass and a baseball ball game on the TV or radio.

What are some of your childhood memories?  No matter how old or young you are, if you are an adult I am sure things have changed since your childhood.   Do you have childhood cravings?  Do you wish your children and/or grandchildren could experience life as it once was, not as it is now?

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Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

A Murphy’s Law Week

There is a saying “If Anything Can Go Wrong It Will” that is referred to as Murphy’s Law. This past week has had an assortment of bumbles that were not of major proportion and actually had positive outcomes.  When talking to my son on the phone about one of them his response was “so basically you did it all wrong but it was still good.”  Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong it will

Murphy’s Law #1:  I cut a recipe out of a magazine that I thought sounded good.  Thinking I had all the ingredients except broccoli, which I purchased at the store, I pushed ahead with preparations.  A good plan…or so I thought.  The recipe called for Hillshire Farms smoked sausage; I had their Polska Kielbasa so I used that instead.  Next 2 cloves of garlic crushed, I substituted minced garlic.  A large red bell pepper, I had green so the dish wasn’t as colorful but the flavor is equal.  One package of frozen broccoli; I had purchased fresh.  The fresh seemed like a huge amount so I guesstimated how much to throw in.    Tomato sauce, didn’t have any of that either so I measured out an equivalent amount of condensed tomato soup.  No mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator so I used my taco cheese.  On a positive note I did have the instant rice, olive oil and one yellow onion.

The Benefit:  Despite all the substitutions it tasted great and I had leftovers to use for lunch at work and dinner when I got home late.  My son asked me if I wrote down my substitutions so I could make it the same way next time.   It might be easier to re-write the entire recipe!

Murphy’s Law #2 happened when my cable TV box stopped working and my provider informed me it would be $35-$70 to have a service call.  This was the second time the box went out and I told them I wasn’t paying for a service call, I would bring in the box and decide then whether to replace or turn in and cancel TV.

The Benefit:  They could suddenly provide me with a free service call and have the technician call me about one-half (1/2) hour before arrival so I could leave work to meet him at the house.    That led to Murphy’s Law #3.

Murphy’s Law #3:   The day I was to have the service call on my cable TV I received an automated call at work giving me a two-hour block for arrival.  I held for a live person and was informed that they do not make personal phone calls, only the automated system does it.   I explained what I had been told on the phone originally and she said tech’s can’t make calls.  I responded that was not what I was told, that no one would be at the house unless I received a call, and if it doesn’t get handled I will bring in the box and cancel the service, at which point I hung up.

The benefit:  Ten minutes later the service tech called and said he could meet me at my house. That lead to Murphy’s Law #4.

Murphy’s Law #4:  The cable technician and I both anticipated this being a quick 20-30 minute service call/repair.  He ended up at my house working four (4) hours to resolve all issues.

The Benefit:  Numerous problems were discovered which resulted in the replacement of all cables coming into my house, replacement of weird splits to the cable when it was run in the basement, adjustment of the bundle of cords behind the TV putting too much weight on the HDMI TV input and causing problems, replacement of the TV box twice.  My original wasn’t working and was extremely hot, and the first replacement didn’t work.  Four hours later the TV and internet were both working faster and smoother.

Murphy’s Law #5:  I received a telephone call confirming my post-op surgical follow-up appointment, but the time they gave me was an hour later than I scheduled.  The girl found where they did give me the 10:30 slot, but they had keyed it into their computer as 11:30, so she confirmed me for 10:30.  A few minutes later someone else called and said that they had keyed it into their computer wrong, but were heavily booked and if I came in at 10:30, I might not get called until 11:30.  I had booked the appointment six (6) weeks in advance and was not happy.  I asked about coming in earlier, which they were able to do.

The Benefit:  I arrived for a 9:15 am appointment and my name was called almost immediately.  I had X-rays taken, saw the intern doctor, saw the surgeon, and was out the door and on my way to work by 9:40 am.

Murphy’s Law #6:  After analyzing and contemplating for over a week I made my decision on which cell phone to upgrade to and went onto the Verizon website to order, only to find that although it is listed on their website it is not available and they do not have an anticipated availability date.  I didn’t want to wait indefinitely so checked to see if that phone was available elsewhere.  It was, but I either had to pay for it upfront in its entirety or pay interest if I financed it and then it would have had to be serviced through them instead of my cell phone provider.  Ugghhh, back to Verizon’s website I went.

The Benefit:  I decided to get the same brand, just one step down, which was a savings.  The only feature I lost in doing so was the shatterproof shield.  It came with free 2-day arrival and I had it shipped to my work location.  Added Benefit:  It arrived one day earlier than anticipated.

Murphy’s Law #7:  I had shopped and planned several meals to prepare throughout the week, but didn’t get them made due to getting home from work late and not wanting to cook at 7:30 to 8:00 pm.

The Benefit:  I made everything over the weekend and ended up with a batch of leftovers:  stuffed peppers, spaghetti, and chicken noodle soup to get me through the following week.

Murphy's Law - the full versionMurphy’s Law #8:  It has been a crazy couple of weeks at work.  Friday was like a triple Monday.  Throughout the week things had come up that took priority and pushed other things back.  I ended the week feeling burned out and more buried then when the week began.

The Benefit:  I work for someone who understands the pressure and commented that we have both been going crazy, are staying afloat but both need to plan vacation time or we will both burn out.  Added Benefit:  I like to take time off in small blocks and have some short outings/trips planned over the next few months.

Murphys’ Law #9:  I went from an IPhone to a Droid, which results in a learning curve.  First problem was when I was trying to make the transfer from one phone to the other.  I got the IPhone shut down and the Droid on, but it told me it couldn’t be used until I completed some set-up steps and I couldn’t get the steps to work.  I ended up spending 1-1/2 hours on the phone with tech-support to complete the steps.   Thought all was okay, but ran into a problem at work when I couldn’t figure out how to answer the phone.  Then on the second day every time someone posted on Facebook or sent any type of message my phone was playing music really loud, and I couldn’t get the notifications to stop or sound to go lower.  Embarrassing!

The Benefit:  I like the new phone and features not available on my previous model.  I am still on a learning curve but will figure it out eventually.

Murphy’s Law #10:  Saturday I was going to the drive-thru at the bank so wore a sweatshirt and no make-up assuming no one would see me.  I decided to drive through the lot at the car dealership and see what they had in the models I was considering, thinking the dealership was closed on Saturdays.  Wrong!  I got out of the car and was looking at one car when a salesman walked up.   He must have figured any female standing in the rain looking at a vehicle was likely interested in buying.  So there I was in an old sweatshirt, no makeup, hair frizzy from the rain, pricing out vehicles and test-drove one while my vehicle was being appraised for trade-in.

The Benefit:  I got a good trade-in value on my car, was able to lower my monthly payment by leasing instead of buying, and now have a larger vehicle with more room and more perks.

Remember:  If anything can go wrong it will, but if you look for the positive in each situation you will find it and reap its rewards.

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Filed under Activities, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, Kitchen, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, nutrician, vacation, work

Why Write?

I have always loved writing.  As a child I would make up stories and write them down.    I can remember standing and reading them to my mother.  I have no idea what happened to them, I wish I had them now.  I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be an author someday.

As a child I participated in an activity that all writers do…I was an avid reader.  All writer’s read, and generally read in the genre in which they write.  I read a wide variety, but the majority of my reading is non-fiction and memoir.  Those are the categories in which I do the majority of my writing.  I also love reading travel, novels, drama, history, romance and mystery.  The only genres that I am not highly fond of are science fiction, fantasy and horror.

write - must read a lot and write a lot

When I was in my teens I thought about becoming a newspaper reporter and writing on-sight action news.  I wanted to be in the heart of whatever was going on, to put those stories into print.  Unfortunately I allowed my mother to talk me out of it.  She didn’t believe it was an appropriate career choice for a female.   Regrets, some.  But in a way my life is circling around to past dreams, just in a different direction.

As a young mother I took a correspondence class on writing magazine articles for children.  It was fun, interesting, and I l learned techniques and about the publishing world that could be applied to both adult or children’s literature.    Being married with a full-time job and two children, the writing got pushed to the back and was to a certain degree lost in the shuffle.  However during the years my children were young I wrote a “newsletter” for friends and family.  The “Grogan Gossip” was my reporting about the happenings of our life and activities of our children.  Except for the first one, I have every newsletter in chronological order in a notebook.  They are fun to go back and read.  Things long forgotten but saved permanently in the written format.  I still do the newsletter, but only once a year at Christmas in lieu of a Christmas card.

writing - articulating thoughts when speaking v writingWhen you are born a lover of the written word it never goes away, it just transitions over time.  Writing and literature go hand-in-hand.  My high school classes were filled with literature…classes in modern short stories, mysteries,  American literature, Advanced Grammar and Composition,   and more.  When I went back to college in 2010 one of my favorite classes was public speaking because I was writing whatever I chose to talk about.  It was fun!

I have difficulty expressing myself verbally, but I can easily put thoughts and feelings into the written word.  I have always been that way.  You simply bleed onto paper.  That is the way of a writer.   Once I start writing the thoughts just flow.  I can start out saying “I only have time for a quick note” and by the time I am finished I may have 3-4 typed pages.   Writing is as easy as breathing.writing - no time to write short letter so wrote a long one instead

While I have not yet worked my way into the world of published book author, I am writing a book about my family’s encounter with Child Protective Services that led to my husband and my attempt to become foster parents and apply to adopt our granddaughters.   It is a story that should be told.  Many of the injustices we encountered are a nationwide problem that most people are not aware of.  That is why I am writing that memoir.  It is with the hope that in reading our story others will be aware of the danger to family that Child Protective Services poses.  I also hope that maybe someday my granddaughters will encounter the book and realize they were very much wanted and were taken in an unjust way from family who loved them.

write what disturbs youI write in many formats.  I titled this blog Life is a Melting Pot because my life is a jumble of various activities and I like to write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  This blog is not the only regular writing I do.  For the past eight years I have held the position of newsletter editor of Bluewater Family Backgrounds, a publication of the St. Clair County Family History Group.  As the editor I gather content and put together the entire newsletter, writing some articles that go into it.  I have been writing a column called “Who AM I?” for the past five and one-half years for The Lakeshore Guardian, and local free publication.  The column is on genealogy.  I am in my fourth year as an opinion columnist for our local newspaper, The Times Herald.  I select my topics and how often I write a column, frequently selecting topics that can be a bit controversial.  Finally, my daytime job is that of Paralegal in which I spend my days doing legal writing.  All of the areas in which I write are slightly different and I enjoy each one.

writing - isn't about making moneyI belong to a Freelance Writer’s Group and at the meetings I see a variety of people with a wide range of interests.  The group includes people who write children’s stories, adult novels, travel columns, science fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and more.  We all have one thing in common…we love to write!  Writers are like any other type of artist, they are imaginative, creative, passionate about their art, well-read, self-promoters and self-starters.  Writing is something you do solo; you have to be motivated to write or you will never succeed.   Writers love words, language, and people watching.  Everything is a potential story or scene.  If you spend much time with a writer you may find yourself popping up in their stories, blogs, or columns.  You may not be there in name, but you will likely recognize a scene in which you have lived.

So why do I write?  Because it is something I love to do.  Because it is something I have always enjoyed.  I did it as a child and I can continue to do it throughout my life.  Laura Ingalls Wilder is my motivation.  She published her first book. Little House in the Big Woods in 1932 at age 65.  She completed the last book in her Little House series in 1943 at age 76.  Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957 at age 90, leaving behind incomplete manuscripts and her diary.  Some of those posthumous works were edited and published by her daughter, Rose.  Her legacy is my inspiration.  That is why I write.

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Looking Back: A Facebook Review

Every  morning around 7 AM I receive a notification from Facebook that there are memories from previous years on that date.  I look forward to reviewing those memories, looking back on what I was doing or sharing in previous years.  Some of those memories I skim over,  some I share again.

We go about our day-to-day lives and don’t realize how we change over time.  I notice that the type of information I consider relevant has changed.  Postings about day-to-day life have changed.  It is fun to see what I was doing in college a few years ago, how many days I would go without being on Facebook because I was busy, or even the activities I was partaking in on any particular date or year.

I have shared a lot of pictures over the years.  When those pop up on my memories feed it is fun to see how my grandchildren have grown, or the changes in the appearance of my kids, myself and my husband.  Places I have visited, events I have attended, and more are shared through photographs on my personal page, as well as the Times Gone By Photography page I have.

Another fun thing I discovered in looking back is the notes I have posted on my Facebook page.  For several years now I have shared a challenge where you try to read 52 books in a year, and although I have never made it to 52 I have those “notes” from every year where I listed each book I read, the author, whether fiction or non-fiction and the number of pages.  I recently came across a couple other postings I did, one answering questions about how well you know your spouse, and another where you list 25 things about yourself.  I may do that one again, because things have changed.  I am now in the processing of printing off some of the things I discovered and saving them in a scrapbook or notebook for future look backs by myself and/or my children and grandchildren.

We live in a digital world.  Everything is handled electronically and people, young people especially, do not keep things in a printed, paper format.  Give consideration to printing off and saving in a notebook some of the things you share electronically.  Make it a scrapbook of you.  Future generations will be glad you did when everything you have done is lost in the cyber world.

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