Category Archives: exploration

Childhood Cravings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play, reality, summer, time

Do I Like Living Alone?

I recently had a friend in a long-standing marriage comment that they wouldn’t mind living alone.  I was surprised.  Their comment had to do with everyone needing space, time alone.  Residing on your own provides that.

When my husband passed away in December 2015 I was thrown into living on my own for the first time in my life.  I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and we were married 34 years.   I don’t mind living alone.  There are benefits.   My friend’s comment got me thinking, do I like living alone or have I adjusted out of necessity?

When you are married or involved in a co-habitation relationship patterns develop as to who does what.  One person pays the bills, another handles correspondence.  One mows the lawn and snow blows, the other cleans the bathrooms and vacuums.  Cooking involves making foods that both people like and predominately follows the preference of the person cooking.  Decorating incorporates the likes and dislikes of both people.  Each person tolerates things they don’t particularly care for out of consideration for the other.  It is a cooperative living arrangement that also provides companionship and support.   Living Alone

When residing on your own there isn’t anyone there to help carry the load.  You must figure out how to juggle it all on your own.  When like me it is suddenly dropped in your lap it has a definite learning curve.  Sometimes things don’t get done in the time frame you would like.   The benefit is that there is no one is there to interfere with what you want or the schedule you keep.

I can eat dinner when I want, whether it is 6:30 pm, 9:30 pm, or anywhere between.  I can cook what I want the way I want.  I only have to consider my own palate and my own schedule.   If I don’t want the TV on, it isn’t.  If I want the radio blasting at 2:00 am while I clean house, it is.  There is no noise, no one talking as I read my book with my meals.   Pictures on the walls, knickknacks set out, and the arrangement of furniture can all be changed to the way I prefer.   This is a slow, gradual process.  The house is slowly becoming more “me.”  I have made subtle changes that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.   I’m sure they will become more prominent over time.

So that brings me back to my friend’s comment.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  I think living alone has been a good experience for me.  I have learned to do things I  never did in the past.  The basics of life always handled by my husband such as taking a car in for maintenance, handling the banking, trading in my vehicle for a new one, applying for a mortgage modification, meeting with a financial advisor, paying bills, gathering information for yearly taxes, mowing and trimming the lawn, etc. now must be worked into my schedule.

My husband, Ron, handled a lot.  I’ve never even painted a wall or put windshield washer fluid into a vehicle.  He handled it all.  Ironically Ron taught our son and daughter to do house maintenance, yard maintenance, how to use the generator, power washer, electric drills, shop tools, and how to hook up the trailer and pull it.  He just never taught me.  Those were things he took care of and there was no need for me to know how.  Ron took care of me.  That is what he felt his position was and I accepted it for thirty-four years.  Good or bad it is what it is.  Now I move forward.

I think living on my own and learning new things has boosted my self-confidence.  I have to handle things and if I don’t know how I make inquiries to find someone that does.   I have dealt with a plumber, a heating and cooling person, camera repair, computer support, and resolved issues with a hot tub repair. I have ventured into the unknown and survived.

I also think living on my own has been good from an emotional standpoint.  Ron and I were very wrapped up in each other’s lives.  We were happiest when it was just the two of us and we spent probably 90 to 95% of our free time together throughout our entire marriage.  We attended festivals, events, shopped, did photography, traveled, ate meals, watched TV, and so on together.  We had a few things we each did on our own, but the majority was together.

Living Alone 2The reality is most couples are not as completely consumed in each others lives as we were.  They spend more time doing things on their own and socializing with others.  Living alone has allowed me to adjust to doing things on my own.  I am still learning how to involve others in my plans so I am not always a solo act.

I think this adjustment period is important.   If at some time in the future I become involved in a relationship in which the decision is made to reside together I will be better prepared for the reality that most couples do not spend the majority of their free time wrapped up in each other’s life.  It will most likely not be such an all encompassing relationship as I had in my marriage.  I will also know that I am making that decision because it is a person I want to spend time with, not because I am lonely and/or trying to recreate what I had in my past.

So now we are back to where we started.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  It has been and will continue to be a growing experience.  I have adjusted.  I am comfortable and would consider myself happy on a day-to-day basis.  I don’t desire it in the long term.  I hope that in my future I find someone who is interested in residing together and enjoying the benefits of daily companionship.   In the meantime I will make the most of living alone and enjoy it.

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, reality, time, Uncategorized

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Cherish Surprises

It is easy to get wrapped up in the mundane routine of everyday life.  You get up, have breakfast, check your email, pack your lunch, drive to work, drive back home, and so on.  Your habits are routine, your interactions with others are routine.  It is all the same.

Don’t let monotony drag you down.  Even when each day is a repeat of the prior one, you can bring some variety into your life, or into the life of others.  By doing one, you create the other.  The end result is you will both probably benefit from the interactions.    surprise - momens seize us

Now if you are wondering what can you do to create surprise in someone else’s life, think about what things you find to be a pleasant surprise.  Moments you cherish.  It can be anything big or small.  It is something that creates a moment of pleasure, of surprise, it makes you smile and brightens your day.    At the same time, if you tend to overlook those moments when they happen to you, learn to cherish them.  What am I talking about?  Easy.

A phone call from someone when you least expect it, an impromptu opportunity to get together with a friend, finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket, an unexpected opportunity to travel, a handwritten letter in the mail, when a child brings you a bouquet of dandelions, a wild animal standing near the roadway, spotting a rainbow, and the list goes on.  There are no set rules, whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you smile, that is your surprise.

To cherish the surprises, you need to be alert to the small things in life that we often overlook.   Be more attentive.  Enjoy life and cherish surprises.

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Filed under celebration, exploration, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind

I May Be Sinking

I had such big plans, a long list of things to accomplish around the house and in the yard.  Things to organize, things to sell, things to clean.  I had deadlines that have passed.   I do have things crossed off, but the list is long and never ending.

Now I look at my list, at my yard, my house, stacks of paperwork to do, cupboards, drawers, closets and rooms to clean out and organize, things to sell or donate, and find myself frustrated at what I have not yet accomplished.   I want it over and done, neat and organized, manageable without me feeling overwhelmed.    I feel like I’m sinking in a mucky hole and I can’t make the climb back out.  overwhelmes

Now don’t get me wrong, small accomplishments give me great pleasure.  Unfortunately I frequently get a project partially done then get swung in another direction and don’t quite complete the task, so it is there dangling like a carrot in front of a horse, and I can’t quite reach it.    Part of the problem is I am feeling overstretched with what I need to accomplish, but what do I give up?  What do I let slide?  What am I overlooking or letting slide that I shouldn’t?  What if I’m doing it wrong?

The idea of letting things slide and not get completed does not formulate well in my brain.  I want balance, harmony, peace.   My life is out of sink.  I need downtime to relax and rejuvenate, but don’t feel like I should do that when I have other things to get done.  I need to get things organized in my life to bring it balance.   At the same time on those occasions when I “screw off” and get away from the house, even for a few hours, I feel Priorities - schedule themrejuvenated again.   It is a battle of the brain, which way to go.

Then I wonder, how did  I do things before?  Why is it a few years ago I could find time to scrapbook, write, read, attend festivals and events, go out for the day shooting photos, go places, do things.   Why am I not fitting those things into my life on a regular, weekly basis now like I did then?   Is my failure to go out and do those things causing me to falter in the other areas?   But if I spend time out doing things, then I’ll never get things done here.

Self-analysis can be enlightening and frustrating, it can help one reach a resolution to an issue or it can make one feel they will never accomplish their goals.   In my case, I’m still sinking in that muck.  If I want to get out I have to figure out how to balance my life.  I have to push myself harder to get things done.  I have to make a point of doing things I enjoy such as going to places where I can take pictures, attending events, or something so simple as sitting on my front porch and reading a book for an hour.  I haven’t even visited my favorite spots in probably close to a year.  I used to visit them all the time.  Balance - harmony and life

I have to get the balance back into my life.    Balance brings harmony.  Harmony brings the sun and dries up the muck.   Hopefully it is soon!

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Filed under Cleaning, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, mind, reality

Treat Time Properly

If you have been a reader for a while you know that I like quotes and sometimes use them as inspiration for my writing.  I stumbled upon the quote Self-help and in reading realized how well it fits me.  Self Help

How to stop time:  kiss.  This one shouldn’t need an explanation.  Lets just put it bluntly, kissing is a huge turn-on.  It can make time stand still or make it spin.  It is relaxing, comforting, exhilarating, exciting, enticing, enjoyable.  One of the best feel-good things there is.  Enjoy!

How to travel in time:  read.  Reading is a wonderful way to escape from the world.  Pick a subject, dive into a book and loose yourself as you travel to another world.  By selection of topic you can go anywhere, into the past, into the future, travel in outer space, get lost solving a crime or be entranced by romance.  The world is yours and the choice is yours on where in time you travel.  Pick a destination and explore.

How to escape time:  music.  Music has the ability to make you feel good and get the body moving.  It is energizing and relaxing, happy, and sad.  It can wake you up; it can put you to sleep.  It can create elicit memories of the past or help you dream of possibilities for the future.   There are no rules.  All you have to do is feel…enjoy the beat, sway to the rhythm, let the mind wander, escape reality, let the music flow as you escape in time.

How to feel time:  write.  I think this one is mis-labeled.  I don’t feel time when I write so much as I lose time, or rather loose track of time.   Anyone who is a writer, who truly enjoys writing, knows the feeling of becoming absorbed in their writing and not wanting to stop until all those thoughts that are in their brain course down through their arms, into their fingertips and onto paper.  Those thoughts must be put down and preserved.   If you want to lose time, write.

How to release time:  breathe.   How true this is, and how very important it is to understand.  You release time when you breathe.   When you breathe you release stress, refocus, re-energize, maintain balance.   You let time fade away and you regain your life.  To have a balanced, enjoyable life you have to allow yourself to breath and release time.

The answer to self-help is time.  Time to enjoy all the aspects of life.  Time to escape all the stress of life.  Time to be whatever you want to be.  Read something that exhilarates the mind.  Kiss with tenderness; kiss with passion.  Grab someone and sway to the music.  Breathe.  Relax. Enjoy.  Then put all those memories on paper.

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Filed under communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, Writing

My Astrological Sign Causes Sleep Deprevation

I climb into bed at 12:30 am and lie there awake, tossing and turning, unable to sleep.  I look at the clock, it is 1:30 am, 2:15 am, 3:00 am, 4:30 am….I get up at 6:00, this is not good!  That is how I spent several nights in a row a couple weeks ago.  Every night, tossing and turning, the mind churning away.  Then I realized the problem, I am a Libra.

I can hear many of you going huh?  You are wondering how an astrological sign can create sleep deprivation.  I am a Libra, the sign is the scales of justice.  We like peace, fairness, everything in balance.  When the scales tip out of balance, or when a Libra personality thinks they may tip out of balance it is disturbing.

The part of the Libra personality that others often find very frustrating is that we are indecisive.  We want to weight all the options, keep everything in balance, and certainly don’t want to upset anyone else in the process.  When in a relationship the decision making process is easier because we can use the deferral method.

Anyone who has associated for long with a Libra will here “whatever you want,” “either one is okay,”  “What do you like?” “It’s up to you,” “I don’t care,” and so on.  Making a decision is so difficult we defer it to someone else.  This method works great as long as you have someone to defer to, but if you don’t the decision making process can be agonizing.Libra I Balance

That is what happened to me.  For the first time in my life I had to make decisions and in the process spend money…two things I am not good at.   Part of the problem is that I was making several decisions all in the same time frame and my mind went into a panic mode.   In the overall picture these were not major life-altering decisions, but in my Libra mind they had to be carefully weighed, checked, and then weighed again.  Heaven forbid something should go wrong.  And of course it did.

My cell phone was 2-1/2 years old and the battery wasn’t lasting.  I needed to replace the phone.  The question is which one to get?  For two weeks or more I analyzed them online, made lists, double checked features, and compared price.  I asked friends what they carried, I agonized over the decision, but finally I made a selection.  I go online to my cell phone carrier, make the selection, attempt to place the order, and the phone is not available and they don’t know when it will be available.     Back to the drawing board to make another selection, which I did and now have my new phone, but the decision making process was not easy.  To top it off I was also in the process of deciding to shut off my land-line phone and go to using only a cell phone.

So I had two decisions regarding phones causing my scales to wobble and tilt, and if that wasn’t enough I threw in another decision.  I had spent 1-2 months contemplating a trade-in of the car that had been my husband’s for a new car, something bigger.   The thought of trading his car that he had customized was hard, trying to decide whether I wanted to buy or lease, pick a color, pick the vehicle itself, and more were upsetting the harmonious flow through my brain.

Car buying was something I didn’t do.  My husband was a Ford retiree, there is no negotiating, tell them what you want, get a value for your trade-in, and close the deal.  The process was not difficult, very simple actually.  But the mind rolls, should I have traded his car, did I get a fair trade-in value, did I make a good decision on my new vehicle, did I make the right choice in upgrading to 12,000 miles per year, or should I have left it at 10,000.   It was four days from when I stopped and looked at vehicles to when I picked mine up; four days of agonizing over and justifying my decision.

Libra over thinkerAfter several nights with no sleep I finally realized what the problem was.  I wasn’t used to making these decisions.  I had always left them to my husband, but now with him gone I had to handle these things myself.  Once I realized that my mind was playing tricks on me and keeping me awake needlessly over decisions that were reasonable to make I was able to once again resume normal sleep.

Why did the realization of the problem allow me to sleep?  Because they were good, well-thought out decisions.  They are choices that are good for me, no one else.  When I realized I was lying awake trying to analyze my own decisions I was able to re-balance the scale, stop it from tipping and upsetting my sleep patterns, and resume a normal routine.

Will I ever get out of balance again?  Of course.  I am a Libra.  We are notoriously indecisive and while I may have balanced a couple small decisions in the large scale of things it is logical to realize that things will come up in which the scale is tilted.   Just keep in mind that if you ask me to make a decision you may hear “I don’t care” or “whatever you want” rather than a true answer.  That is how I keep my scale in balance.

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A Murphy’s Law Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Write?

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

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

write - must read a lot and write a lot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Attitude Analysis

Your attitude, the way you think or feel, is generally reflected in your behavior.   Your own personal demeanor affects the way people view and respond to you.  The attitude of people around you has an impact on the way you respond and behave toward them.  I believe that temperament impacts people both emotionally and physically, and for that reason a positive attitude is important to a person’s emotional well-being.

attitude - focus on possibilitiesYour own personal attitude has a great impact on how you feel throughout the day and your overall outlook on life.  If you feel that life has thrown you the scrungy bone and you must gnaw away at it, you will likely make very little progress and will feel depressed, over burdened and uninspired about life.  Not only will your attitude leave you feeling low, but it will be portrayed in your dealings with others, and may leave them feeling oppressed by emotions as well.

Alternatively if you go through your day with a positive attitude, knowing that no matter what happens things are going to improve, your positive outlook will not only keep you emotionally stable, it will affect those around you as well.  Why?  Because with a positive mindset you maintain an emotionally healthy attitude, and that positive outlook is well received by all around you.  Attitude - how a man treats others

The attitude a person portrays has great impact on how others perceive them.  This is frequently most obvious when dealing with economic differences.  A person’s temperament  when interacting with those he/she perceives to be below their social class is one of the most obvious insights into a person’s character.  Stiffness, curt politeness, a lack of genuine friendliness or outright rudeness is evident in those who think themselves better than others.  Far greater is the person who realizes those differences yet treats all with kindness and compassion.

If you have the opportunity to take part in a gathering in which there are a wide range of economic levels sit back and enjoy the show.  People of money may snub those who they view as being below them.  Those who are of lower income ranges may be intimidated by the social status and obvious wealth of others.   The true judge of character in this type of setting is the person of wealth who treats those who are Attitude - how you react to itstruggling economically with consideration, kindness, and as an equal.  This is a person of great integrity.  They recognize that they have obtained wealth, but they do not fault those around them that have been unable to achieve that goal.

It is important that a person maintain a positive attitude as that is crucial to success, and the key to success is belief in one’s own ability.  This does not mean you will always achieve your goals.  The key to keeping positive is to always be striving for something.  Regardless of whether or not you succeed, attitude is at least 50% of the battle.  There is a saying, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either Attitude - the one you feedway you are right.”  That is how strongly attitude affects your ability to succeed in whatever you set out to accomplish.

As you go through life keep your attitude in check.  Think about how it affects your own emotional well being.  Think about how it affects the emotional well-being of others.  Don’t focus on problems, focus on possibilities.   Keep your integrity about you and let it guide you in how you handle interactions with others.  Think positive.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in others.  A positive attitude will take you farther than you ever dreamed possible.

 

 

 

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Happiness is…

love-is-side-by-sideI may be dating myself, but back in the 1970’s there were cute cartoon images, often portrayed by a little chubby couple, and quotes of “Love is…”  I was thinking of them the other day and it got me to wondering, what if we applied that formula to  happiness?  What makes a person happy?

I started jotting down things that make me happy.  There are so many simple things in life that bring pleasure.  I  suggest you make your own happy list.  You will realize how many wonderful things there are that bring joy to you every day.


Happiness is…

…a long weekend
…a cup of coffee and a good book
…a child’s laughter
…the smell of freshly mowed grasshappiness-is-a-family-vacation
…getting together with family
…a sunny day
…a day shooting pictures
…good friends
…the smell of lilacs
…a day scrapbooking
…time with grandchildren
…art fairs and craft shows
…children in costume yelling trick-or-treat
…singing and dancing to the radio
…planning a trip
…visiting somewhere you have never been
…traditions
…a warm summer day
…an old-fashioned country fair
… listening to a child’s viewpoint on life
…kettle korn popcorn and caramel apples
…time with your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, significant other
…the glow of a fireplace
…creating Easter baskets and watching the kids go through them
…the beauty of freshly fallen snow
…carnations
…watching a parade
…the sound of water along the shore
…snuggling under a warm blankethappiness-is-a-warm-blanket
…front porch sitting
…handwritten letters
…peanut butter on a spoon
…walking a nature trail
…relaxing in a hot tub
…the glow of a Christmas tree
…historical and cultural events
…memories
…discovering and learning about your ancestors
…doing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness)
…unexpected surprises
…a feeling of accomplishment
…seeing my byline on writings
…writing, writing, writing

This isn’t the end.  The more I think, the more I realize a lot of things make me happy, bring a smile to my face.  I hope you have lots of things to put on your own “Happiness Is… ” list.

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Remember The Good Ole Days When People Talked To Each Other?

Have you ever looked around at people when out in public?  Have you considered your own conduct when socializing with others?  What about the way you make and maintain friendships?  We have become a society in which a large portion of our social interactions are electronically based.

I think there is both a positive and a negative to this development.  Social media…blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Stumble On, etc. are all great places for exchanging information and keeping in touch with others.  Social media is especially helpful in allowing families to stay in touch when they reside in various spots around the country and/or world.  I spend a fair  amount of time on Facebook and Pinterest so I am not at all opposed to it, but I do have some concerns.social-interaction-pay-attention-on-twitter

People are losing the ability and/or willingness to deal with people on a personal level.  They are unable to tuck their cell phones away and simply have a meal or conversation without repeatedly checking their phone.  Not because they are receiving phone calls, but because they are viewing their media feed, texting, posting articles, or other such activities.

I will admit to on occasion doing the “check-in” post letting my friends know where I am at and/or what I am doing.  Pictures of meals, selfies of people and who they are dining with have become common place.  People don’t sit at a table and converse with each other, they sit across from each other, each on their phones a/k/a social media.

social-media-strap-phone-to-foreheadA couple years ago my husband and I were in a restaurant that was quite busy and we had to wait for our table.  I was looking around the restaurant and I  mentioned to him that he and I looked very out of place.  The reason being we were the only two people in the entire restaurant, both the dining and bar areas, who were not on our phones.  We were talking to each other instead!  That is sad….people are losing the human connection.

It has gone so far that some restaurants have pads attached to the tables for games, order placing, paying bills, etc.  No human interaction.  What kind of message is this sending to our youth, and what will the overall affect be on society?

There is nothing on social media that cannot wait.  If your family really needs to reach you they will call.  The jokes, posts, news articles, photographs, and more that are posted on a regular basis do not have to be reviewed every ten minutes, thirty minutes, or hour.  If you miss a few the world is not going to come to a screeching halt.  Heck, people have become so self-absorbed they probably won’t even realize you are missing.

So what should you do instead?  Take a break.  Go to dinner, have a conversation, go for a walk, and don’t check your phone and/or post for at least an hour or two.  At first it may seem difficult, depending on how much of an addict you are.  However I would be willing to bet that you will find it refreshing and strive for more unconnected periods of time.  You may end up like me, wondering why people can’t just step away at least a few hours a day.  social-interaction-human-more-important

Look at it this way.  Life is meant to be experienced live, not through the power of electronics.

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A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Mentally Strong Habits

I recently came across an article online titled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” by Dr. Travis Bradberry and wondered where I fall in the realm of things.  Do I fit the mentally strong?  Am I stumbling along at a pathetic rate?  While articles such as this can be great for self-evaluation, sometimes you just don’t want to know the answers.

Curiosity got the best of me and I forged forward in my quest for knowledge.  Depending on how far back you reflect, I can easily say the past six years have been stressful, but I feel I am doing well emotionally.  I just keep trudging along and don’t think about the conglomerate mess my life has been.

Six years ago I was in a bad accident when I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle,habits-of-successful-people landing me in a trauma center for seventeen days, rehab for two months, and then a year of physical therapy and medical follow ups after that.  Two of my granddaughters were taken by Child Protective Services and put into foster care.  My husband and I applied to foster them and were denied, we later applied to adopt them and again CPS fought us and we lost.  Both girls have been adopted by strangers.

My son was sentenced to 6-22 years in prison for home invasion; his earliest possible parole date is in March 2018.  Two cousins passed away, as did a 19 year old nephew who had brain cancer.   Other deaths in the family included my father-in-law, brother-in-law, both of my parents (18 months apart), and my husband.  I spent about 1-1/2 years traveling back to my old hometown to work on cleaning out the house my parents had resided in since 1966.  While this was going on my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, had surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy as he fought the disease for about 15 months before the cancer won and he passed away.   I am now scheduled for surgery on my ankle due to residual deterioration from my accident and am once again facing a lengthy recovery.

habits-things-to-give-upI look at the list of things I have handled in the past few years and in my opinion have coped well with everything life has thrown at me.   I have often felt that I have strong coping mechanisms but don’t really know why.   I am baffled when people have one issue on their plate and are falling apart at the seams.  I delved into the article hoping to discover what it is that makes one person successfully juggle a plethora of issues while another crumbles under the slightest amount of pressure.

What the article explained is that mental strength is a matter of emotional intelligence.  The article stated  “Emotional intelligence is the ‘something’ in each of us that is a bit intangible.  It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.”

The article consisted of a list of thirteen things emotionally intelligent people avoid.  This piqued my curiosity as I don’t conscientiously avoid much of anything.  What I found is that of the thirteen items listed, I do eleven of them naturally / subconsciously.  Two items I falter on, but what the heck, we all have areas needing improvement.

The two weakness I have were actually the first two items listed:

  • They don’t stay in their comfort zone
  • They don’t give in to fear

I feel these two areas are related and to a certain degree overlap.  While I don’t totally avoid these two behavior patterns, I don’t follow them 100% either.  I tend to operate on a certain level of caution which prevents me from venturing two far outside my comfort zone.  Fear is not a physical fear but an emotional fear of doing something, such as public speaking.   While I have taken on the challenge of completing  numerous things this past year that I never have in the past, the combination of my comfort zone and fear of unknown territory has also prevented me from fully tackling a few others that should have been addressed sooner and more frequently than they have.  My weaknesses, the areas I need to work on.

I was happy to discover that the other nine items listed are all areas where I meet the criteria for having emotional intelligence:

  • They don’t stop believing in themselves
  • They don’t beg for attention
  • They don’t act like jerks
  • They don’t hold grudges
  • They don’t hang around negative people
  • They don’t feel sorry for themselves
  • They don’t feel entitled
  • They don’t close their minds
  • They don’t let anyone limit their joy
  • They don’t get eaten up by jealousy and envy
  • They don’t live in the past

If you tend to let the stress of life get you down, if you are unable to roll with the ups and habit-secret-to-success-if-in-your-daily-routinedowns of life and have difficulty coping you may want to read 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.    Explore the areas you need to tackle so your life can move forward in a more positive direction.

If you are like me and feel you easily cope with the stresses of life, I still suggest you read the article in its entirety.  You may find areas in which you can improve.  As for me, I’m working on alleviating my fear and expanding my comfort zone.  Look out world….here I come!

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What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Traveling Solo

Memorial Weekend was not the first time I have ever traveled solo, but it is the first time I have done so since the passing of my husband in December 2015.  It was a good trip.  It was a fun trip.  It was a relaxing trip.  It was a lonely trip.    Rather than elaborate in paragraph form, I decided to do a list of bullets, highlights various activities, thoughts, and observations.

 

  • Destination Sault Ste. Marie via Newberry, Michigan.  For those who do not know, these cities are in Michigan’s upper peninsula and are a 5-1/2 to 6 hour drive from my home.
  • Even though I set the cruise control at 74 instead of my normal 85 I still made the trip in the projected six hour time frame going to Newberry on Saturday morning, and that included two stops along the way.  I made it home from Sault Ste. Marie in 5-1/2 hours on Monday with three stops along the way.
  • For those of you who do not know, I have a son in Newberry Correctional Facility and was going to visit him.  I was very surprised to find that it was not busy at all with visitors.  I had anticipated a wait due to the holiday weekend, but was pleasantly surprised to find I could get in right away.
  • Stopping along a two-lane road near a wooded area in the upper peninsula to shoot, from a distance, a large group of trilliums results in an attack of nats, no-seeums, or baby flies (I was told they were all three of those things).  The invasion was so intense that just getting in and out of my car resulted in a large quantity inside, which I was then rolling down the window and trying to shoo out as I drove away.  Maybe it would have been better had I not been wearing perfumed lotion?

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    Trilliums along roadway. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • Drinking a margarita with my meal resulted in me going from being a good tipper to an exceptionally generous tipper, but I’m sure the waiter was happy.
  • Having a GPS in the car is great, especially when it tells you your hotel is in one spot, which is a hotel under construction.  After placing a phone call you find out your hotel is about 1/2 a mile farther down the road and on the opposite side of the road.   However it did have a handy landmark – across the street from Walmart, and next to the State Police post.  Hmmmm, I never once saw a State Police vehicle the entire time I was there.
  • No-leak ice pacs will create a puddle in your fabric insulated lunch box if they thaw completely and will leave a stream behind you when you attempt to carry it.
  • On Sunday morning all the country music stations, actually almost all the radio stations in general, are either talk shows or church sermons/music.  I found a rock station out of Traverse City/Kalkaska playing music, so of course I had to crank it up and dance my way from Sault Ste. Marie to Newberry for my second day of visiting with Patrick.
  • My favorite place for breakfast in Newberry had several new books by local authors, but I only selected and purchased one.  That is what I most often buy when I travel, books written about the area in which I am visiting and/or by local authors.    I also purchased a book in a gift shop in Sault Ste. Marie by another local author.  DSC_9246
  • It is great to discover that your cousins from the Traverse City area happen to be visiting Newberry as well and you are able to get together for an impromptu dinner and chat for a couple hours.
  • I am a chicken when it comes to setting up my tripod and taking photos in the dark on an unlit street when by myself in an area with which I am not familiar when by myself.  I never gave it a thought when Ron was with me.
  •   The International Bridge looks awesome at night lit up in red, white, and blue, but I have no pictures (please refer to my previous post above).
  • At America’s Best Value Inn an accessible room is truly accessible.  When I am staying at a location where I am unsure on whether or not they have elevators I will book an accessible room to make sure I am not climbing stairs alone with my suitcase, etc.  (I have a very bad ankle).    Usually “accessible” is a room that is on the main floor or not far from the lobby or elevator, but beyond that nothing unusual.  The one in Sault Ste. Marie was wheelchair accessible, had a wooden floor, a fully wheelchair accessible shower, and a raised toilet seat.   Of course the best part was a king size bed, which I had all to myself.
  • I greatly overestimated how much time I would have in the room to read and/or write and packed way more items than needed.
  • The Tower of History in Sault Ste. Marie provides a nice view of the entire city and locks.  There is a small museum on the main level.
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Tower of History.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • There is an island, Sugar Island, that is accessed by ferry that would be interesting to explore on a future trip.  It is inhabited by a small amount of people and also houses some businesses, but is also supposed to have nature areas.
  • It is hard to access and walk the areas near the water and locks when downtown.  The park where the locks are located is gated, has a security entrance, and closes at 9:00 pm.  The park itself is quite large and features two stories of viewing platforms for watching ships/boats go through the locks.  Unfortunately I missed seeing any go through.
  • Lockview Restaurant has very good fresh whitefish that can be ordered done in five different methods.  I chose broiled and it was very good.
  • Patrick informed me that Street Outlaws is an awesome program.  Monday night was a season premier that was two hours long.  I did enjoy the parts I saw, but unfortunately fell asleep and missed a good portion of the races.  It was rather cool that they were racing Detroit in that episode.
  • My ankle is impacting my decisions on what I do or do not do, which means it is affecting my day-to-day quality of life.  If it does not improve by fall I think I will need to go in for a consultation with my surgeon and likely have an ankle fusion done over the winter.  As someone who is terrified of surgery, that statement and acceptance of the likely need is huge.
  • I am a much more conscientious spender when traveling alone than I was with Ron.  This does not mean I was previously a spender by nature, quite the contrary.  I was and am more likely to put off doing things, whereas Ron was always more likely and willing to buy or do whatever he or I wanted and figure out how to pay for it later.  I guess he was either a good influence or a bad influence, depending on how you look at it.
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    Sault Ste. Marie and International Bridge.   Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2016.

  • I need to plan a longer stay to do and see some things I want in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Buying a bag of fresh on sale at the fudge shop is good.  Munching on it to stay awake all the way home and in the process eating the entire bag is not.  I had a miserable stomach ache later to remind me not to make that mistake again!

Overall I had a fun time this weekend.  I managed to traverse the city at night without getting myself horribly lost.  I forgot to take my book with me for the times I was dining, so utilized social media to keep myself entertained instead.   My first weekend trip as a widow was fun.  It was relaxing.  It was lonely.    The next one will be better.

 

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Filed under decisions, exploration, habit, handicapp, Holidays, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, travel, Upper Penninsula

Looking Back: A Facebook Review

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, exploration, Family, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Scrapbooking

Trying to Juggle but Falling Behind

I have always been a fairly organized person.  Someone who gets involved in clubs and takes on a board position and/or committee chair person.  I commit to things and meet my commitments.  Busy is Better!

Lately I was struggling to get things done, and found some items on my to-do list week after week.  What happened?  Why was I suddenly falling behind, not juggling my life the way I always have?  Then there was that moment, the flip of a switch, the lightbulb came on and I figured it out.

I am no longer juggling just my responsibilities.  I am also juggling those of my deceased husband, plus the additional phone calls and paperwork that have to be done to get everything transferred into my name, his name removed from things, etc.  Then of course there is the learning curve in which everything he did takes me a considerably longer amount of time because I don’t have a full grasp of it yet.  That is improving, but it is a process.

Every process, every learning curve has its bumps in the road.  There are frustrations that come with everything.  The frustration of living in a computer generated world in which computers rule what happens and people follow the computer rather than thinking and using logical, common sense.  The aggravation that is felt when all the appropriate steps have been taken, only to find out the company didn’t do what they should have and so you have to take further steps to correct things.

I applied for a mortgage modification and got approved, but they never told me not to make a payment, so I have made them all, but in the meantime they are holding my payments in “suspense” while they complete the change over and are repeatedly sending me delinquent notices, including by certified mail that I had to go sign for.  When I called I was told those are computer generated notices and I will continue to receive them until they get everything rolled over.  And how long will that take?  Oh, about two more weeks.

I drove over 35 miles to a main cell phone store to switch the account from my husbands to my own name.  I gave them all my information, told them to remove my husband’s phone and two pads he had.  Put the account in my name, leave my daughter on as a manager.  The phone and pad did get removed, but when my daughter called to get assistance with her phone the pass codes I gave them weren’t working.  As it turns out that is because they never made the switch.  They still had the account in my husband’s name, had me as a manger, which I had been before my husband’s death, and removed my daughter as a manager.    Then I had to wait and call back on a weekday, because this I found out on the weekend.  When I called I informed them it was rather incompetent being I had stood in their store with a death certificate and yet they left my husband on as the owner of the account…a dead man has no responsibility to you to pay the bill!  Got that one fixed.

That is only two in a long list of situations that have created chaos in an already chaotic situation.  Then of course there are the regular duties of paying bills, service on motor vehicles, and lawn mowing that my husband always handled.  My daughter commented that she knows she needs to come over and mow my lawn.  I told her instruction on use of the riding lawnmower would allow me to handle the task myself.  Seriously, I have driven boats, jet skis, motorcycle and moped, I should be able to handle a wild and crazy lawnmower!

So, when I got to really thinking it about it I finally realized, the reason I am trying to juggle but falling behind is because I am handling everything that was previously handled by two, and I haven’t gotten the process down yet.  On a positive note, I am improving.  It is a process.

 

 

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Filed under Coping, death, decisions, exploration, habit, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

In a Squirrel’s Mind

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2014.

I was sitting at my desk this morning when I looked up to see a young squirrel hopping across my front yard and up onto a raised bed surrounding our tree.  He then perched on the wall for a moment, turning his head looking around before he scampered up the tree and onto a bottom limb,  Mr. Squirrel then sat on the limb, facing the road, watching traffic go by.

What was his reason for going to the tree and stopping first on the wall and then sitting on the branch?  What was the purpose of this observation?  Was he looking for someone, meaning another squirrel?  Was he contemplating the safety of venturing out and crossing the road?    Was he just enjoying the morning view, something to do for a moment?

After a few minutes he scampered back down the tree and without hesitation hopped off the raised flower bed, onto the lawn and ran back from the direction in which he had originally come.    What was his next destination?  Why was he going there?

We will never know what was going on in that squirrel’s mind.  What his purpose or goals were at the moment.  In our hectic, fast-paced world it is relaxing to contemplate for a moment what is going on in the mind of an animal that appears to take action that in some form or another had a purpose, we just don’t know what that purpose was.

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Filed under backyard, environmental, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature

Cemetery Shooting

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

The quietness envelopes you. A light drizzle of rain can add to the atmosphere. The headstones are old and weathered, some no longer can be read. Some are sinking into the ground, barely visible but still maintained by loved ones of the modern day with flowers or flags beside them. Ancestors who are not forgotten but are sinking into the ground forever.  There are headstones with elaborate carvings, statues signifying the importance of the person or an affluent  family.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014

Grave of Chester Haight.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Grave of Chester Haight. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Look at the dates. One hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, walking on ancient burial ground. What were their lives like back then? What was the ceremony like that layed the person to rest at this location? What was the reason for their passing? Life spans were not as lengthy back then. What did they accomplish in such a short time on earth?

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Crawford Settlement Burying Ground. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

The most heart wrenching are the baby plots.   Infants, toddlers, and children laid to rest at such a young age. What caused them to pass before their life had begun? Was it childhood diseases that no longer exist? An accident? Why do so many children die at such a young age?

These are the things that go through the mind as you wander old cemeteries. That is why I love shooting pictures at cemeteries. They are peaceful, calming, and are wonderfully interesting places to take photographs.

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

I like to stop at old cemeteries when by myself.  Most people think I’m a bit crazy to enjoy wandering a cemetery for an hour or more taking photographs, only to leave that one and drive to another. I have visited as many as four cemeteries in one day, each one with something different to offer.

I hope you enjoy my cemetery photographs. If you ever want to take a peaceful walk, stroll an old cemetery. Don’t go to a modern one, they lack  personality. Pick an old one with ancient, tall headstones, weathered with age, and enjoy a relaxing stroll.

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2013

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Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

Almost lost but not forgotten.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

Almost lost but not forgotten. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2013.

 

 

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Filed under exploration, genealogy, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography