Category Archives: exploration

Driving the Chesapeake Bay Bridge- Tunnel

While in Virginia I was able to ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel twice – once going over, once coming back.  This is an experience worth a special trip.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened on April 15, 1964 and was selected as “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in a worldwide competition.  In 1965 it was described as an “Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  From shore-to-shore the bridge-tunnel measures 17.6 miles and is the world’s larges bridge-tunnel complex.  It consists of 12 miles of low-level trestle, two 1-mile tunnels, 2 bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway,  4 man-made islands and 5-1/2 miles of approach roads for a total of 23 miles.   The clearance below the bridges varies from 40 feet at the Fisherman’s Inlet to 75 feet over the north channel.

I took the drive, which crosses over the Chesapeake Bay,  from the City of Virginia Beach north to Cape Charles, Virginia on the Delmarva Peninsula, then a few hours later made the return trip.  I shot photographs from a moving vehicle, which show driving across the bridges, going through the two tunnels, and on the way back I was able to capture a ship passing over the tunnel and between the bridges ahead of me.

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Once you cross over onto the Delmarva Peninsula be sure to stop at the Visitors Center for information and directions to the 1942 Bunker of the Winslow Battery from WWII.  It is within walking distance from the visitor center, or if you prefer you can drive to the location where handicap parking is available.    It is a unique treasure hidden from view and well worth the side trip.

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Bunker from WWII

Despite the official name change to Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge Tunnel in 1987, honoring the man who spearheaded the building of the project, to preserve the bridge-tunnel’s identity and name recognition it continues to be known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The bridge-tunnel is one of only ten bridge-tunnel systems in the world, three of them are located in the water in the Hampton Roads area of Tidewater Virginia.    I went through the Hampton Bay-Bridge Tunnel on my way to the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.  While it gives you a small taste of what is to come, the overall experience is small in comparison.  If you get the opportunity to experience the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, do not pass up the opportunity.

 

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, exploration, Full-Time RV, Life is a Melting Pot, tourism, travel, vacation

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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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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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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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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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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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

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

Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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

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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Killing Myself Preparing for Vacation

 

Am I the only one who feels like they have to go into overdrive in order to prepare for a vacation?  I recently planned for a 10-day trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  In order to prepare I had to complete several things.travel-checklist-suitcase-world-map-260nw-449655331

  • Book Airline Flight
  • Reserve parking for my vehicle near airport
  • Passport due to expire five months before my flight, six months is the minimum,  passport renewed
  • Go to bank to get US money exchanged for Canadian funds to take on trip — but my bank doesn’t have them plus charges a $12 fee; go to second bank that does not charge a fee and lets me obtain funds, which they have on hand, because I have a credit card issued by their bank.
  • Go back to bank closer to trip to withdraw US funds to travel with.
  • Check for good photo ops where I will be traveling to
  • Order meals for the two flights (coming and going) that are in excess of four hours.
  • Check the airline baggage requirements for international travel; order a suitcase that meets airline specifications for checked luggage
  • Measure my carry-on bag to make sure it meets airline requirements.
  • Check the list of airline regulations to make sure I am not doing anything to raise the hackles of TSA.
  • Make last-minute checklist so I don’t forget anything
  • Make sure all camera batteries are charged, SD cards clear, all camera gear needed is ready to go.
  • Continuously analyze whether I want to pack my laptop, just an external drive to download photos onto using my friend’s computer, or if just the SD cards will be enough and I can download after returning home.
  • Get haircut.
  • Work extra hours to get everything organized for when I am away.
  • Wash clothes on an “off day” so they are clean to pack and/or ready for return to work after vacation.
  • Pack suitcase and carry-on bags
  • Print boarding passes
  • Leave for trip — See ya when I return!

How many of you go through similar rituals when preparing for a trip?  Do you have any tips to make travel prep easier?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Do I like it or not?

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

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

The First Fall of Snow

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Does nature know when school starts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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