Category Archives: Discoveries

My First Week as a Nomad

My first six days as a Nomad were interesting, fun, and sometimes frustrating.  In many ways it feels more like a vacation rather than a lifestyle change.  It is relaxing and interesting, and sometimes not at all what is planned.  If I can experience all this in six days, I can’t imagine what the future will bring.

On Monday we left Port Huron, Michigan and traveled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  Our original plan was to stay only two nights, but after reviewing travel information about the surrounding area decided to extend our stay to a total of four days.

On Tuesday we visited the Bush Pilot Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.  Paul was a bush pilot when he lived in Owen Sound, Ontario as a teen so this was on his “hit list.”  The museum was interesting, with several planes on display inside the hanger where the museum is located.  We viewed two movies, the first was an “on board” experience with a bush pilot, and of course took the rider through a series of mistakes and mishaps that can happen on a plane, including an unexpected storm, dozing off with the plan on autopilot, and more.  The second movie was in 3D and took you into the heart of fighting forest fires.  You experienced time in flight with the commander of the entire firefighting operation, in flight with a pilot doing water drops, and on land with a ground firefighting crew.  Both movies are well worth the time it takes to view them.

A small town about four hours northwest of Sault Ste. Marie is the home of Winnie-the-Pooh, and houses a statue of Winnie, as well as a Winnie-the-Pooh and Railroad Museum.  I wanted to go there so a day trip was planned.  Part of the trip goes along the shore of Lake Superior, and we figured we would find photo ops along the way.  A visitor guide worker had told us about an off-road trail on that stretch which Paul wanted to check out.  We didn’t locate the trail she used, but did access a logging trail, which about 20 minutes in we decided was not offering any photo ops so turned around and continued on our journey.

We did find a couple spots to stop and take photographs of Lake Superior, and a small rapids and river we walked in and photographed.  It was interesting that this entire route had very few towns, gas stations, or any other type of business or rest area to stop at.    So scarce they were practically non-existent.  We saw a rest area/visitor center which made a good stop for a few minutes.  They had a small gift shop where Paul decided to pick up a couple energy bars to tie us over until lunch, which we planned to eat in White River.  That purchase turned out to be a very good decision.

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We munched on our energy bars, and decided to stop for gas as we rolled into White River, because we would need it to make the full journey back to Sault Ste. Marie.  There were barriers up across the gas pumps and an attendant walked over and informed us that the pumps were not working because the entire town of White River had lost power and nothing was open.  We drove through town and took pictures of the Winnie-the-Pooh statue.  The attendant was correct, absolutely everything, including the museum we had just driven four hours to visit, was closed so we started our journey back.

Not too far south of White River was a small gas station with full-service pumps.  The attendant there shared that the last time White River lost power they were out for a week.  He also let us know that there was a restaurant on Hwy 17 just south of Wasmus where we could get lunch/dinner.  By now it was after 2:00 pm and we were definitely getting hungry.

We drove the two hours south and located the restaurant.  Our luck had not yet changed; on the front door hung a sign that they were closed until 5:00 pm.  It was only 4:30 so we decided to drive on.  We were not far from our campground when we found The Voyageur Lodge, which included a small restaurant.  The menu was limited, but the food very good.  Paul had an open face hamburger, which had gravy to which he added mushrooms and onions.  It normally included fries and coleslaw, but he switched the fries for onion rings, which he said were very good.  I opted for a fish sandwich which also came with fries.  The sandwich was made with whitefish which was lightly breaded and very nicely done.    We shared a butter tart for dessert, also very tasty.

Our final day in Sault Ste. Marie we drove into town and visited the historical canal sight.  At the end of the island was a swing damn, one of only nine built and the last in existence.  It is used in emergency situations if there is a problem with the lock.  This is also where the lock is located for small boats, and we were lucky enough to see two of the Soo Locks Tour boats use the lock at the same time.  The difference in elevation between Lake Superior and Lake Huron is 21 feet, so quite interesting to observe the lock in operation.   A nice way to finish out our stay.

Friday morning we said goodbye to Sault Ste. Marie and drove east through Ontario, stopping at a small campground in Lavigne, Ontario.  We are here only for two nights.  One day of rest and computer work before continuing our journey to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, where we plan to spend four days.

We did take some time from our paperwork to photograph some very decorative scarecrow displays around town.  These have been prepared as part of a plowing competition in September. I finished out our last night in Lavigne with a walk around the park, taking a few photographs of Lake Nippising, which the campground is located on.

So far my life as a nomad has been interesting and relaxing, even if Winnie-the-Pooh’s hometown did leave me a bit frustrated.  I guess in this lifestyle you simply have to go-with-the-flow when rocks appear in the river.

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Filed under Activities, Canada, decisions, Discoveries, education, exploration, impressions, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, nature, summer, tourism, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Life is not meant to be lived in one place

I have reached the point of excitement.  My new lifestyle will soon be moving from life in an RV in my local area to actual life on the road.    I am now on my last two weeks of work, with the 16th of August being my final day.  I am training someone to take my place at work, will soon have the closing date on my house, and once that is completed we will set off on our new lifestyle.

This past weekend Paul and I opened up the “basement” storage in the motor home and got the last boxes out of my car and into the RV.  Not everything is sorted and organized the way we want, but I am at least officially in the motor home totally and completely.  The next two weeks will be a whirlwind of finishing up things at work and training my replacement, a doctor’s appointment, turning in my lease vehicle, finishing up paperwork, listing the second home I own for sale, and closing on the home I was residing in.   In someways the day when I can “hit the road” seems so far away, and yet so close.  Time passes quickly when trying to get everything finished in the final moments.  Trave as far and as long as you can

We are now starting to plan the first leg of our travels, and it is exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time.  I am semi-retiring prior to retirement age, so will need to do remote or seasonal work while on the road to supplement  the spousal pension I receive.  Until I have a steady income from remote or seasonal work  I will be concerned about finances.  That is just me.

At the same time, if I didn’t jump at this opportunity now to travel full-time I know I would regret it for years to come.  You only live once, so might as well make the most of it.  What are that chances that I will ever again run across the opportunity to live full time in a motor home traveling Canada and the United States with a person with whom I am compatible who is also a fellow photographer?

I hope this is a life style we can enjoy for several years.  The opportunity to experience a variety of cultures and the diversity of nature as we travel cross country is something I am looking forward to.  As I travel I plan to keep a journal about my travels.  I enjoy freelance writing and hopefully you will see my writing and/or photographs not only in this blog, but also in published magazines and journals.

If you have any “must see” locations in Canada or the United States, please share.

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Filed under career, communication, decisions, Discoveries, education, exploration, hobbies, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, reality, spring, summer, time, tourism, travel, vacation, winter, work, Writing

Acorn Drop = Drunken Squirrel

One day I was flipping through Facebook posts when a friend commented “So I am sitting on my deck reading and enjoying a glass of vino when a frickin’ squirrel drops a frickin’ acorn directly into my glass! Really Mr. Squirrel! I could not do that if I tried!”

Now, I am not the type of person who can let this type of comment pass, it just gets the mind rolling on the possibilities on how this story could have progressed……

What if Carol had picked up the acorn after it was nicely wine soaked and thrown it back at the squirrel?  Would the squirrel have discarded it as “damaged” goods, not worthy of storage?  Would it have taken the acorn into its mouth and carried it back to store?  Would it have held the acorn, licking the wine off it?  index

If the squirrel carried the nut in its mouth or licked it clean, would the wine have inebriated the squirrel.  Would Carol have then been entertained by a drunk squirrel staggering about on her lawn?  What if the drunken squirrel climbed the tree for more acorns and in its drunken state staggered a cross a limb and fell out of the tree and into her class of wine?

What would the mental state of a drunken squirrel be, especially after falling from the tree and into the glass of wine?  Would it have been a friendly, happy drunk or an angry, hostile squirrel?

My thought is, the next time Carol is sitting under a tree drinking a glass of wine, she should keep on hand extra treats in case an angry, drunken squirrel lands in her wine glass.  Let’s face it, most wild animals turn happier when fed.  Maybe a bowl of wine for its drinking pleasure would be a good idea.

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Filed under backyard, decisions, Discoveries, food, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, nature, nutrician, spring, summer

Loved by Wildlife

While I have only been living in an RV for a little over a month, Paul has been enjoying this life for a year now and has shared some wildlife dilemmas he has encountered.   Depending on where in the story you are, the experiences can be perceived as frustrating or funny, possible even fearful and confusing for the creatures involved.

The first incident was when Paul was staying in a campsite and continuously heard something running back and forth on the top of his motor home.  He could not figure out what any creature would find so entertaining as to scamper back and forth, but didn’t really give it much thought.

Then one day a fellow campground tenant asked Paul if he realized that a squirrel had built a nest on the top of his slide.  Now this is a sheltered location, as the slide has a built in canopy over it.  Paul got up on a ladder and looked at the top of the slide.  The nest was positioned in the middle of the slide, and he could tell it was about two feet wide and no idea how deep.  Now how to reach it?

Paul had a long-handled squeegee and decided that would do the trick.  Standing on the top of the ladder he reached the squeegee in as far as possible and pulled the nest toward him, letting it fall to the ground.  He repeated this process several times until as much of the nest as he could reach fell to the ground.  He then moved the latter to the other end of the slide and repeated the process.

After he had removed the nest one of the observers mentioned that when it fell to the ground baby squirrels had run away from it.  One of the campground workers when and got a shovel and scooped up all the nest debris and disposed of it elsewhere.    Now the question was, how had the squirrel gotten up onto the roof of the motor home, as there were no trees nearby.  Paul heard the sound on his roof again and went out to observe.

The squirrel was climbing up and down the ladder on the back of his RV.  He said the mother squirrel looked to be in a big of a panic, running back and forth, looking all over as if to say “where is my home?”  and “where are my babies?”   Despite the fact that the nest had to be removed for him to bring the slide in and move to the next location, I had to feel sorry for the poor mother squirrel who thought she had built a safe haven for her little family and it was now missing.

Now we move to fluttered friends.   A nest with eggs was found on one of the support arms for one of the slides and was removed, then on at least two other occasions birds built nests on the lower portion of the slides.   One bird was unintentionally suicidal.  As we were getting ready to leave after the jeep was parked less than 48 hours a bird had built a nest on the top of his front passenger side tire — and it was tightly muddied to the tire!   It was removed before we drove off.  Can you imagine the shock of all those birds who had found what they considered an ideal place to construct their homes, only to return and have them totally gone.

This makes me wonder, why is this RV and Jeep so loved by wildlife?   With trees nearby why select a man-made object over nature?    It will be interesting to see what other creatures may be attracted to our motor home as we traverse the U.S. and Canada.

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Filed under backyard, birds, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, travel

And the Beat Goes On….

Life has been in a bit of a turmoil, but good turmoil, for a while now.  I spent several months sorting through my belongings in preparation for downsizing from an 1800 sq. foot home into an RV and having an estate sale to eliminate what I am not taking with me.

I joined Paul in the RV on the 23rd of April, and my estate sale was held May 16-19th.  The weather that has been miserably cold and rainy was, for the most part, warm and sunny that weekend….except for a tornado warning the last couple hours of the sale.  The sale was a success, and the company I had conducting the sale for me is getting the home cleaned out so the real estate company and finalize steps needed to list it for sale.

Preparing to put my home up for sale created a whirlwind of things to be handled.  As it turned out, the home needed a new roof, which has been completed.  I hired someone to mow the lawns, and despite the mush the rain has created in spots, he managed to complete the task at least twice.  I have someone hired to clean out flower beds and shrubbery, but the weather has prevented that from being completed thus far.  Some inside drywall repair and painting, carpet cleaning, and power washing the outside of the home and it should be ready to go on the market.  Hopefully it will be a quick sale.  aa40d21aceb22bfc8cecc2045524bef5

Moving into a 35-foot RV creates challenges when trying to finding places for everything.  The kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom are pretty well organized now.  I still have lots of boxes to go through and where to put items.  The problem is, being a writer, a good portion of those boxes contain paperwork, and I am not sure if they will all be able to stay.  Other items end up in unusual places.  My bottles of wine are under the bed, shoes are in a drawer, and at this point the driver’s seat is holding a chess board, backgammon board, and some paperwork.  The number of boxes that have been emptied is impressive.

One of the greatest challenges is realizing that there is not the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer space I was accustomed to having in my home.  One weeks worth of groceries for two people creates a full refrigerator.    Our pantry is full.   Convection oven cooking is not difficult, just an adjustment.   Living is a bit more simplified.  There isn’t room for clutter.

My Memorial Day weekend is a time for more sorting and organizing.   Whatever you do this weekend I hope it is fun and enjoyable.

 

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Filed under Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, food, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

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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Filed under Activities, assumptions, career, Cleaning, communication, decisions, Discoveries, events, Festivals, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, time, tourism, travel, Writing

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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Filed under assumptions, celebration, children, Discoveries, exploration, Family, Festivals, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, winter

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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Filed under assumptions, celebration, decisions, Discoveries, events, Festivals, friends, friendship, habit, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, winter

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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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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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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Babies Don’t Keep

I recently stumbled across a poem I have loved since the first time I saw it…Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow old we’ve learned to our sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

There is nothing quite so relaxing as a baby snuggled up against your shoulder, their head tucked against your neck, as you rock them to sleep.   I rocked my kids to sleep all the time, to the extent that training them to go to bed without being rocked to sleep first was difficult.  However I would not forgo all those hours I spent in a rocking chair with them cuddled against me for anything.

In today’s rush-rush society rocking babies to sleep is something that has fallen out of practice.  You hear of people putting babies into a crib with a bottle to fall asleep.  Mothers who nurse feed the baby and then immediately lay them down.  There isn’t that extended cuddle time when you are holding and rocking the baby without a reason other than just to cuddle.  It is sad to think there are two generations missing out on this special time….the generation of parents and the generation of babies.  Cleaning and Scrubbing 2

Modern lifestyles are lived in the fast lane.  We have babies, then rush them into preschool as early as age three.  By the time they reach kindergarten children have been attending day care or preschool for 2-3 years, maybe more.  Many children are enrolled at the elementary age into sports or other activities.  By the time the child reaches high school they have a schedule of school, homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities, then comes graduation and college.

Time goes fast.  If you are a mother of young children, cherish those moments.  Take the time to sit in a rocking chair with your baby on your shoulder or your toddler on your lap.  Read them a story, let them fall asleep, enjoy that quite cuddle time, then carry them to bed.   Before long they won’t want to sit and cuddle and you will miss those times.  Enjoy them.  Cherish them.  Because as every mother soon learns, babies don’t keep.

 

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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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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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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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First Day of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20180320_160215167

Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

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

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

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Dinner at Red Lobster

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

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

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Cycle Through Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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