Category Archives: assumptions

SEVEN WEEKS AND ROLLING

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Hard to believe it has been seven weeks since I started my new lifestyle of living on the road full time in a motor home (a/k/a full-time RV).  In that amount of time I have visited Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Canada and Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, Maine in the United States.

One thing you have to do when living this way is be conservative, be flexible, and enjoy life.  Sometimes things go well, and other times the best laid plans can be foiled.  Highlights of my travels and learning curve:

  1. The best laid plans can be foiled when you make a day trip three hours away only to discover that town’s power is out and all businesses (including museum you wanted to visit) are closed.
  2. Pulling off for a quick lunch break takes more planning in a 35-foot motor home towing a vehicle than it does in a car.
  3. Ottawa, Ontario is the capitol of Canada and is a very interesting city, but bring your walking shoes.  There is one parking lot in the entire city and a lot of area to cover.   If you take a double decker bus tour it is a great way to get around, but you may end up with a tour guide who has a strong French accent and is difficult to understand.
  4. Canadians are very pro recycling The question in grocery stores is “Do you have your own bag?” not “paper or plastic?”  Some stores charge you for use of their bags.
  5. You can not stock up when items are on sale.  There is no extra room beyond the refrigerator and pantry.
  6. There is a large percentage of people in Canada who hang their laundry outside to dry….many on pulley-style clotheslines.
  7. When living in an RV, laundry is a necessary evil that must be done in a laundromat (most campgrounds have them) every 2-3 weeks.
  8.   You can live in a house for years and never wave at your neighbors, but in a campground everyone waves at everyone else.
  9. The architecture and culture of Quebec City, with its fortification wall, Citadelle, and French influence is like taking a step into another country.
  10. When you travel full time you need down time.  This is not a vacation, it is a lifestyle.
  11. When you give up on the road signs being true and think you will never see a moose, one shows up on the side of the road and you do not have the camera ready.
  12. No matter how many times you see them, the difference between high tide and low tide at the Bay of Fundy is amazing.  This is where you see the world’s largest tides.
  13. Getting your mail an average of once every four to six weeks takes planning so it arrives in a city where you plan to be at the appropriate time.
  14. A GPS can be your best friend and your worst enemy.  Our Trucker GPS in the RV took us down a road that had been re-done two years ago and no longer goes through — it is now a dead end.  When towing you cannot back up because it damages the tow unit, so we had to disconnect the jeep, turn the RV around and then re-connect before we could continue.  Of course it would have helped if Ellsworth, Maine had put up a “Dead-End” sign, as a woman on the road said it happens all the time and they have been after the city to do something.
  15. In many spots what is promoted as a “scenic drive” is overgrown with nothing to see.
  16. Convection oven cooking is not difficult, just different.  The three burners on the stove-top is much harder to adjust to as it does not easily accommodate large pans.
  17. I have not adjusted to the feel of the motor home when driving in high winds or uneven pavement.  That one is going to take some time!
  18. This is an awesome way to live and I’m glad I took the plunge and jumped in with both feet.

As time goes on I look forward to sharing more of my travel adventures with everyone.

 

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Finally at Peace

When you live with constant turmoil you become accustomed to living as if on a constant roller coaster ride.  The twists and turns of upheaval in your life create emotional stress, and yet you constantly adjust, cope, and keep on moving forward.  This becomes so normal you do not even realize how much stress you are constantly under.

That has been my life for the past few years.  The loss of my grandchildren to foster care and then a battle with CPS when we tried to adopt which resulted in them being lost to adoption by strangers.  My son serving six years in prison for home invasion, dealing with the constant dangers that environments holds.  My mother, father, father-in-law, and then my husband battling cancer and passing away, all within a three year period.  My son being released from prison and paroled to my home; something I had originally looked forward to but which became a very stressful situation.  Peace of Mind

Following my husband’s death I made a determination that I needed to downsize out of my home and into something smaller.  In the midst of planning for that made a decision to  instead downsize into an RV and travel full-time.  During this process I informed both of my adult children that I was no longer going to be able to subsidize them financially, something my husband had always done while he was alive.  This resulted in more stress, but over time success was achieved.  They are both now living financially on their own.

I am finally at a point where success is on the horizon.  My new lifestyle begins on Monday.  I closed on my house today.    Friday is my last day of work.  My daughter moved her family north and is now residing near her fiance’s parents, a situation that is serving well.  Both Caroline and Rob are working at new jobs and my three grandchildren are enjoying life in a more country setting close to their other grandparents.

My son, now out of prison for 1-1/2 years, has obtained his CDL and is working in a position driving semi.  He and his ex-wife have reconciled and are residing in a home they rent near his workplace.   I am at peace that I do not have to worry about him being cold, undernourished, injured or killed in prison.  I wish him success.

For the first time in years my mind is at peace.  My children are both living on their own without my financial assistance, and I am going into semi-retirement.  I will be residing full-time in a motor home, traveling the United States and Canada and doing part-time remote or seasonal work.

For the first time in years I can sleep without my mind churning over the problems, worries, and stress that plagued me for so long.  I hope nothing happens to upset the apple cart.  A mind at peace is a wonderful thing.

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Writing to Relax

I have been, and continue to be, in the whirl-wind of trying to sort through 36+ years of belongings accumulated in my house and reduce the “keep” items down to what I can take with me in a 35-foot motor home, in which I will live and travel the United States and Canada.  Needless to say, this is a monumental task.  I am on the downside now, with only a few things left to complete, and the estate sale is scheduled May 2-6, 2019.

I have been sorting through old items, boxes never unpacked from when we moved here in February 2004, and family heirlooms, mementos and photographs.  Those special items I have painstakingly gone through and divided between my two adult children.  In the midst of all this my son has been moving out.  Between working long hours and moving about 45 minutes away, he has taken a long time in the process with a couple trailer loads of items still left to move.  This has made for a very stressful situation.   We are now down to “crunch time” as the estate seller will need to come into the home and get things priced.  My son made a comment about me pushing my sale back, but I refuse to do that.  I need to get my house emptied, ready for sale, and sold quickly.

closet cleaningI have spent weekend after weekend at home, sorting through all my current items and those in boxes, preparing for my estate sale.  Today I took some “me” time and attended the #RochesterWriters Spring Conference.  I enjoyed a day of informative keynote speakers and instructors, plus socializing with other writers.  It was time well spent, combining instruction in self-publishing with networking.   There is something about spending a day with other writers that inspires one to write.  Even though you haven’t seen me here in quite a while due to everything going on in my personal life, I find myself here tonight writing a quick blog, just to say hi and let you know I am still alive and kicking.

Once the sorting and packing is complete and I have moved into the RV, which will happen on or about April 23, 2019, you will begin to hear from me more often.  As I move into fall and begin to travel the country I plan to post travel blogs of my adventures, and hopefully expand into writing some travel articles for magazines as well.  What the future holds for me one can not be certain, but it will definitely be an adventure and a change in lifestyle.

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Christmas is Magic

A few weeks ago I decorated my Christmas tree with an assortment of carefully selected ornaments, those that had special significance or appeal.  This will be my last “real” Christmas tree, at least for a few years.  Most of my ornaments will be given away or sold.  My snowman collection, which I have been accumulating for years, and many other things that say “holiday tradition” to me will be forsaken for a new adventure.

I have made the decision to downsize out of my house and into a motor home.  When one goes from a house to an RV, most of your possessions must go, and that includes the majority of my holiday decorations, including my Christmas tree.  Some will be given to my adult children, others will go into an estate sale for others to enjoy.  popcorn and paper garland

When you decorate your tree each year, do you have ornaments that hold special meaning?  Are there traditions you have carried on from your childhood?  Long before Elf-On-A-Shelf became a fad, my mother always had an elf on her Christmas tree for good luck.  When I got married I had to have an elf, and when my daughter found out I was downsizing she said “are you taking your elf?”  This is the way that family traditions are handed down.

American Christmas traditions began around 1830 when an image from England of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating the holiday around a table-top tree was re-printed in American publications.   The photo was widely published and by 1900 one in five  Americans had a Christmas tree.  The first trees were decorated with things such as nuts, popcorn strings, homemade trinkets, oranges and lemons.  Newspapers and magazines encouraged Americans to purchase more elaborate decorations, and by 1870 ornaments were being imported from Germany.

German immigrants brought to America the tradition of putting lights, sweets, and toys on the branches of the tree.    My tree has some glass-blown ornaments, Hallmark dated ornaments, birds, elves, glass balls, and ornaments from my youth.   There are ornaments that were purchased as souvenirs, such as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Washington DC, and the Calgary Stampede.  There are memorial ornaments for my father, nephew, and husband.  One year I was given an ornament that depicts two favorite things of mine…books and coffee.  There is a special, sentimental feeling each year as these are brought back out and placed on the tree.

Minolta DSCAlong with tree decorating traditions, most of us grew up with the magic of Santa Clause.  Saint Nicholas was a Christian holy person believed to have lived in the third century, who became known as a protector of children.  The bearded, jolly Santa dressed in red that first appeared in Clement Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas in 1820.   Thomas Nast was an artist who’s first major depiction of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly in 1886 created the image we envision today.  Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly between 1863 to 1886, and Santa is seen or referenced in all but one.   It is Nast who was instrumental in standardizing a national image of a jolly, kind and portly Santa dressed in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop.

Santa lives on today because he exemplifies dreams, hope, wishes and beliefs.  In a world filled with stress, violence, poverty, and hunger, Christmas brings out the good in everyone.  The thought that if you just believe, good things will happen.  Christmas is magic, and if you don’t believe that, watch a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.

 

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Holiday Greetings

vicchristmastradToday I participated in two holiday traditions, a Christmas gathering for the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club and the writing of my annual Christmas letter, which I do in lieu of a card.  The writing of Christmas greetings and handling out of Christmas gifts are two areas where I recently learned the history of the tradition.

In the early 1850’s the first American made Christmas card was distributed by H. Pease, a printer and variety store owner in Albany, New York.  Louis Prang, a German immigrant and printer perfected color printing and introduced a new colorful Christmas card in 1874.  Within five years the sales were over 5 million.  Popularity grew and Americans began sending cards instead of writing Christmas letters or making personal visits.  Cards held their popularity until the 21st Century.  The increased use of the internet led to a 60% decrease in the sale of Christmas cards in the past decade.  In 1958 the average U.S. family mailed 100 Christmas cards.  In 2001 that figure was down to an average of 28 cards per family sent and received.    I know I have dropped my card sending down from about 75 to 30, and the number I receive has also substantially declined.

About eight years ago I went back to what I recently learned was the original tradition.  Instead of purchasing and mailing Christmas Cards, I created a Christmas Newsletter that gave all the information on my family newspaper style.  I use articles and columns to lay out my newsletter for easy reading.  The first year I did this I received many positive responses.  Friends and family enjoyed getting this newsworthy mailing rather than a purchased card with just a signature inside.  Today I wrote and have printed my 2018 Christmas newsletter.

The Christmas party I attended today included a white elephant gift exchange, which is a bit different since it involves the giving of a used item from your home that is no longer of use to you but may be of use to someone else.  They are given wrapped, but do not have the giver’s name attached.  This provides a festive yet inexpensive way to enjoy the act of giving and receiving gifts.

Gift giving was not always part of Christmas tradition.  The act of giving gifts increased from the 1820’s through the 1850’s, when shopkeepers re-shaped the holiday tradition.  Prior to that time people gave unwrapped gifts.  Then Americans began wrapping the gifts they gave, as a gift hidden in paper heightened the excitement and designated it as a gift.  As this grew in popularity gifts from stores, factories and homes of laborers were wrapped in paper that advertised the material status of the giver.  The more grand stores used distinctive colored paper and adorned them with tinsel cords and bright ribbon.

Gift giving became a symbol of materialism, as it signified family ties and the importance of the recipient to the giver.  In 1856 Harper’s Magazine attached the security of a relationship to gift giving when it stated “Love is the moral of Christmas…What are gifts but proof of Love.”  Gifts were given on a declining scale based on a person’s relationship.  The best gifts were given to family and close social circles, lesser gifts in descending order of value to relatives and acquaintances.  The deserving poor received the least valuable and least personal gifts.

The act of giving gifts was controversial, as some perceived it to be a materialistic perversion of a holy day.  Affluence was viewed as a reward from God and charitable gifting as a Christian duty.  A rich man could escape condemnation by acting in a generous fashion to help those in poverty.   Best and Company had an advertisement in 1894 that suggested while purchasing items for Christmas the shopper should think of Children less fortunate and for them the store suggested “a gift of serviceable clothing” be chosen from a group of marked down goods that “would be more than welcome.”

In today’s society the act of giving to those less fortunate is seen in all aspects of our life, including toy donation boxes in stores, mitten trees, and the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive to gather money for providing meals, toys, and other items to those in need.   Over the years I have participated in various forms of charitable giving, including shopping for a needy child and/or family, donating to mitten trees, working as a server at a soup kitchen, donating a stuffed Christmas sock for a designated sex/age child.

As you go through your holiday preparations think about where the traditions came from, jot a personal note in that Christmas card and if you are able, help out a child or family in need.  After all, it is an American tradition.

 

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Be Thankful For What You Have

Thanksgiving has become a day when people are encouraged to express their thanks for the good things in their lives.  Quite often one will say they are thankful for their husband, children, and friends.  Rarely do you hear anyone say they are thankful for where they are at financially or for their worldly possessions.  That just seems inappropriate, cold, and self-centered.  So then why do we allow those things to take priority in our day-to-day lives the rest of the year.

I stumbled across this quote from Oprah Winfrey, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.”  Be Thankful for What you Have

We live in a society where people are always striving to acquire more materialistic possessions…a bigger house, better car, nicer clothes, participate in fine dining, the best of the best.    Unfortunately there are also a lot of people who are unable to achieve those things.  Families that struggle financially, working just to pay their bills without luxuries others take for granted.  Are those people less happy than those who have everything?  Not necessarily.  In some ways they may be emotionally richer.

Your happiness in life is not a product of the wealth.  It is of the relationships you have, the peace you feel in your life.    If you are always striving to better yourself financially, working hard to purchase all the “things” you want, doing what it takes to prove you are an accomplished person, you may find yourself with a lot of possessions but not really happy.   You will always be pushing for something bigger and better, striving for a fulfillment you can’t quite reach.

If you concentrate on enjoying the little things in life — the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, the perfection of a flower in bloom, the joy in a child’s laughter, the sound of the waves crashing on a shore, and personal connections to the people around you, that is when you will find yourself content.  Those are the things that hold value far greater than anything you can purchase.  They are what gives life meaning.

Be thankful for what you have, not what you can purchase.  If you concentrate on materialistic things you will never be fulfilled.  If you focus on what you do have, the things that money can not buy and realize their value, you will find contentment, and anything beyond that is a bonus.

 

 

 

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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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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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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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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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As Long As My Purse Doesn’t Fall In The Toilet, I’ll Manage

For the past few years I have noticed the stalls in bathrooms seem to have shrunk. I remember years ago walking into the stall, closing the door and using the facilities without a problem. You could even take a small child into a normal sized stall with you if needed. Not anymore.

Now when you enter the stall the first maneuver (unless you are super skinny and can squeeze between the side of the toilet and side of the stall) is to spread your legs and straddle the toilet while grasping any belongings with one hand so you can swing the door shut, the edge of it barely clearing your body.

You can now step to the front of the toilet and hang your possessions on the door.  Once done you must repeat the process.  Retrieve your belongings from the door, back up and once again straddle the toilet while reaching to unlatch and pull the stall door open.  If you have removed a coat you have to decide whether to put that back on in cramped quarters or risk dropping it, as well as your purse, into the toilet as you maneuver to make your escape.  why-are-bathroom-stalls-designed-like-this-twitter

The fact is Americans have increased in size  over the past few decades, but the stalls have shrunk considerably.  This was something I kept pondering over and then it occurred to me, the doors used to swing out on the stall.  An outward swinging door gave you more room to enter and exit.  The disadvantage of that was if the latch failed the door flew open and there you were, trying desperately to reach the door and pull it shut while you finished.  If you didn’t grab fast enough you were on display.

Somewhere along the line the faulty-latch display problem was resolved by having the stall doors swing in.  Now if the door latch fails you just give it a small push to close it. Why those in control never thought to increase the depth of the stall by a foot to allow room for the door to swing makes one wonder.   The price we pay to have our privacy maintained is the requirement that you maintain balance while holding your possessions and straddle a toilet with your stomach sucked in tight to allow clearance for the door to pass by.    As long as my purse doesn’t fall in the toilet, I’ll manage.

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The Note In My Windshield Wiper

I don’t know what was more disturbing, the fact that I never noticed the note in my windshield wiper, or the content of the note itself.

The fact that I hadn’t noticed it was disturbing because it was most likely put in their on Saturday, a day in which I had made several stops running errands.  Based on the “er” on the left of the note my guess is that the paper used came from Meijer, but for it to happen at that location also made no sense.

I was at work on Monday and one of the attorneys in our office came in and said “Grace, you have a nasty note on your car, a really nasty note.”

I could not understand why anyone would leave me a note, and my first assumption was that it had been put there while I was in the office.  The attorney had noticed it tucked under my windshield wiper blade, and the paper was a bit stiff and yellowed, as if it had been baking in the sun.

When I read the note I realized it had to have happened when I was running errands on Saturday, because early Saturday it had rained and the note showed no sign of having gotten wet.  I knew I had not bumped anyone’s car with mine, not even a door, so I was baffled at the note.  However, my instincts told me that, based on the wording, it was possible whoever wrote it may have done something to my vehicle in retaliation.  I walked outside and checked my car out all the way around — no damage, so that was a relief.note on car010

My mind then went through my day, trying to figure out the location.  Even though I was guessing at Meijer based on the red “er,” I still wanted to figure out where I may have been parked close enough to warrant such a note.

  • First stop, farmer’s market — parked in a muddy dirt lot, I was the end vehicle and a wide walking path between me and the vehicle next to me.  Definitely not there.
  • Second stop, Kohl’s.  I parked in a normal spot, but my vehicle was dead center on my spot and so were the cars on either side of me.  I don’t think that was a logical location.
  • Third stop was a pool supply store, very small and there were only two vehicles in the entire parking lot with plenty of space between.  Definitely not there.
  • Fourth stop was Sam’s Club.  I parked next to the cart corral, and because the car on my driver side was over the yellow line, I had to park extremely close to the cart corral and was closely watching my mirrors so they didn’t catch on the rack.  If the guy next to my driver’s side wrote the note, then he should have addressed it to himself for hogging part of my spot.
  • Fifth stop was Meijer.  This was the only location where I used my handicap plate and parked in a designated spot, which means there was ample room around both sides of my vehicle.  The note appears to be on Meijer paper, but I could not have touched another vehicle, so again baffled by the message.

After all this analyzing there are two conclusions.

  1.  If the damage to the writer’s vehicle was so bad it warranted the above note, why didn’t they contact the security of the store, or even contact the police?
  2. If their vehicle really was damaged in the parking lot, it is possible that another vehicle was parked beside them, damaged their car as they were leaving, and then I pulled in, parked beside them and got blamed for someone else’s actions.

The bottom line is I will never know the answer to who wrote the note and where it occurred.   Based on the wording I will say I am glad that I did not arrive at my vehicle as they were writing the note as it may have been a hostile encounter.  On the other hand, at least I would know when and where the note was left.  The mystery of the note in my windshield wiper will never be solved.

 

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Discoveries, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, Mystery, reality, time

Dreams + Action = Reality

How often we have a dream of something…a place to travel, an advancement in career, weight loss, or a lifestyle change.  Often whatever that dream may be seems so far off in the distance that we feel it is unachievable.   The problem is that we fail to create a plan of action.  Without a plan the dream is impossible, because without action the reality of the dream will never be achieved.

Some people formulate plans in their head.  Other people, like me, make lists and cross things off as accomplished.  Some are able to just dive in and start working without a plan of action.  Whatever works for you is fine, as long as it works.  Too often when a task seems overwhelming it is easy to let it slide; even if you have the list you never act on it.  Other times set-backs can throw us off balance or cause a backwards slide.  When that happens get your footing and push forward.

The Distance between dreams and realityI am dealing with dreams in various aspects of my life, and the reality is I have been slow in taking action, but every small step I make gives me a feeling of accomplishment and the desire to push forward….I just need to start doing it at a faster pace!

Each of my dreams deals with a different part of my life.  Each has a different game plan.  Each will be worked on and accomplished at different speeds, and some may need to be put on hold while I push to accomplish others.  That is okay.  Even putting some on hold can be part of the overall plan of action.  The important part is to act on the plan.

So, what are my Dreams + Action = Reality goals?

Asset Control:  This sounds strange, but I have inheritance money and/or assets that have not yet been distributed to me and I need to take whatever steps necessary so that all items are under my control.  I also have property and a motor home that I want to sell and need to push stronger to get those sales accomplished.  Once I have achieved those things, my asset control goal will be accomplished and I will be able to better fund my investments for a higher yield, which has a direct effect on my retirement funds.

Downsizing:  I decided some time ago that I need to downsize, and I have talked about it quite a bit, but the “action” part has been slow in coming.  This is most likely because it will be a tremendous change.  I will have to get rid of an overwhelming  amount of items accumulated over a 34 year marriage, sell move from my 4-bedroom colonial with the plan to purchase a 2-3 bedroom ranch-style condominium.  I am finding the action part is both time consuming and somewhat emotional as I will need to part with numerous possessions.  However, after cleaning out my parent’s home following their demise and having listened to several friends also go through the same thing, I realize that the majority of this stuff is not anything my kids are going to want and is just taking up space.  This is my number one priority and the first “dream” I have to make a “reality”.

Retirement:  Being a widow retirement can be very close, within the next three years, or in the distant future.  My full-retirement age of 67 is still ten years away.  My goal is to land somewhere in the middle, around age 62-63.  I know I cannot afford to stay in this house once I retire, and so the push to downsize is a necessity as much as a desire.  The sooner I downsize the faster I can save more money toward my retirement dreams and/or another dream.

Travel:  There are a lot of places I have not been to but want to see, both in this country and others.  While working I want to start taking short trips and seeing a bit of the country.  Once I retire I want to be able to travel much more extensively.  I am even debating whether I want to go ahead and fulfill a prior dream my deceased husband and I had…full time RV.  A friend of mine just started on his adventure, and in helping him get ready to head out I felt the desire come back to hit the road myself.  I have learned that  there are a lot of women driving Class A motor homes and towing vehicles, living the full-time life all by themselves  If they can do it, why can’t I.  Time will tell.

Writing and Photography:  These are both things I do now, but my life has been rather hectic the past few years and I do not have as much time for either of these areas as I would like.  I hope that once I have downsized, and most definitely once retired, that I can devote a considerable amount of time to both of these areas.   I have a book started that I plan to finish and other ideas bouncing around in my head for additional books.

As you read this you may have realized that my dreams are related to each other.  I need financial control of all my assets to achieve my other goals financially.  I need to complete the downsizing prior to retirement.  I need to retire to obtain more time for writing, photography, and travel.  Dreams + Action = Reality.  I better get busy!

I hope that while reading this you have started to formulate dreams and plans for action in your head.  What are your dreams?  I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.

 

 

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20 Facts About Me

I was in a fog and not sure what to write about, when I stumbled across something that was titled “20 Facts About Me.”  Now most of you don’t know me, so this will serve as a quick introduction to who I am.  If you do know me,  you may find some surprises here.   I’m just going to list random things as they come to mind.  Here goes nothing:

  1. I was born September 23rd, which means if you follow astrology I am a Libra and I fit the personality criteria.
  2. I have lived most of my life in unique places:
    a.  Born in Traverse City, Michigan — the Cherry Capitol of the World
    b.  Lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan, which has one of the highest artificially
    created ski jumps in the world.
    d.  From the time I was 6 until just before my 21st birthday I lived in Eaton
    Rapids, Michigan — the only Eaton Rapids on Earth and also once famous for
    its mineral springs.
    e.  I now live in St. Clair, Michigan, which has the longest fresh water boardwalk
    in the world and is located on the St. Clair River, one of the busiest shipping
    channels in the world.
  3. When I was a child I wanted to be an actress/movie star, a veterinarian, and a writer.
  4. I work full time as a paralegal, plus I am a photographer and a writer.
  5. I have never learned my multiplication tables.
  6. I hate personal confrontation but like to stir up controversy in my writing.
  7. I write a genealogy column for The Lakeshore Guardian and am an occasional opinion columnist for the Port Huron Times Herald.
  8. My favorite writer as a child was Nancy Drew, and as a teen I enjoyed reading Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock.
  9. I now read a variety of genres, but primarily non-fiction.
  10. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla.
  11. I was married for 34 years and widowed at age 55.
  12. I was once an avid collector of Precious Moments figurines.
  13. I am a scrapbooker.
  14. I am the mother of two (son and daughter) and have a total of six grandchildren, but unfortunately only have contact with three of them.
  15. I am writing a book about our families involvement with CPS and my husband and my battle with them when attempting to adopt two of our grandchildren.
  16. I love to travel and hope to do more once I reach retirement.
  17. I have a tendancy to become emotionally attached to possessions.
  18. For the past 37 years I have slept on, and still sleep on, a free-flow water bed.
  19. My house is filled with items my deceased husband picked up when going through people’s trash looking for metal scrap.
  20. I have a large collection of bookmarks, most of them obtained for free.

So those are my 20 items.  Nothing too off the wall or bizarre.  Just simple little things that reveal who I am.   What I learned from this, is that coming up with 20 things to list about myself was more difficult than I anticipated.  I’m sure once I post this more exciting, fun things will come to mind.  That is just how life goes.

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Society is a Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good Morning!

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

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

Image and Quote found online     Author unknown

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

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

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

Image and Quote found online      Author unknown

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

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

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

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

Image and Quote found online Author unknown

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

Smile – Be Happy – Have a Great Day!

 

 

 

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Tradition with a Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All We Can Do Is Wait

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

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scampering Squirrel

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

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

Standing Squirrel

Photo by Grace Grogan   Copyright 2014.

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

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

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

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