Category Archives: Family

Memories of Grandma-Part 1

We all have memories from our childhood of what a grandma is. The type of grandmother I am is nothing like what my grandmothers were. Grandmas like them no longer exist.

My grandmothers were of the era where women stayed home, and when at home wore a full apron. They were excellent cooks and always made sure they fed everyone who visited.  When you walked in the door, they were always happy to see you.

That is where the similarities in my two grandmother’s end. They were each special in their own way, but so very different.

My Maternal Grandmother

Grace DeVries Hilts was born May 3, 1899 and grew up one of 10 children. Her parents and some of her siblings were born in the Netherlands. Grandma was born in Jamestown, Michigan. Her mother died shortly after childbirth and her father married the family housekeeper.

Grandma did not get along with her stepmother and married the first man who asked her. She was 18 years old on August 11, 1917 when she took her wedding vows to Ralph Hilts in Hershey Michigan.

I have fond memories of my grandfather, but his stature in life was far below what my grandmother’s had been. I’m sure the early years of their marriage were most likely difficult.

Grandpa was a hardworking man and together they built a life, raising two boys and later my mother. When my mother was born her brothers were already 19 and 23.  

My grandmother was 61 years old when I was born and she became my babysitter. Both my parents were employed full time in Traverse City, and because of the distance from their home in town to the farm, I essentially lived with my grandparents the first 2-3 years of my life.

My parents would drop me off at the farm on Sunday night, visit me on Wednesday evening, and pick me up on Friday night. Because of the time I spent at their home, I developed a very close bond with my grandparents, especially my grandmother.

Memories of things that were part of my life as a toddler have stayed with me for life.

Front Porch Sitting

My love of large front porches probably started with Grandma. I remember sitting on the large farm house porch as the sun was going down. We would watch children playing across the street, but we never talked to them, and they never came over.

The people across the street lived in a large barn and were referred to as “the cherry pickers.” I now realize they were Mexican migrant workers. They would arrive in Traverse City every summer to harvest the cherries.

We also sat on that porch during the day, and Grandma would give me the glass saltshaker off the kitchen table. She told me that if I could sneak up on a bird and get salt on its tail that it would not be able to fly.

Oh, how I tried to get salt on those tails, but I never accomplished that task. I wonder how much salt I put on Grandma’s front lawn. Thinking back Grandma must have found it quite entertaining to watch me try to tiptoe up on a bird, knowing perfectly well that the bird was far more keen then my young mind realized.

Doing Laundry

My grandmother had a ringer washer. Once the clothes had been washed and rinsed, each item had to be run through a ringer to squeeze the water out before being hung on the clothes line to dry.

My most vibrant memory of that machine is when my younger sister stuck her arm in the ringer, and it sucked her arm in and got stuck. Carol screamed and my mother slammed her hand down on a quick release, popping the ringer open. I’m not sure who was more scared, my sister who was stuck or me watching the entire scenario.

When the clothes were washed and rung out, they were carried out to hang on the wash line. I had my own little laundry basket and clothes pins.

A low wash line was strung for me at the end between two poles. That is where I had the task of hanging small items such as wash clothes. A very important task for a two year old.

Down on the Farm

It was a farm and chores had to be done. I remember going into the hen house with my grandmother and taking the eggs out from under the chickens.

I also remember she let me carry the egg basket back into the house – that was gutsy!  I guess when the eggs are available daily if I broke a few it was no big deal. 

We also fed the chickens. I’m not sure what Grandma gave them, but I remember it was in a pan and she would throw it over the top of what to me seemed like a super high fence. For years I wondered how she did that, but now realize it probably wasn’t as high my memory makes it out to be.

Grandma had a few rows of raspberry bushes, and I could go out and pick all the raspberries I wanted to eat. To this day I love fresh raspberries. I wonder if I got my love of other fresh fruit and vegetables from my time with my grandparents.

At night we would call the cows. I can still here her saying “Come Bessy, Come Bessy, Come Bessy Come.”  The next thing you would see is the cows walking over the hill and heading to the fence where we stood.

  • With Grandma Pre-Christmas 1961
  • Grandma with my Mother and cousins
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • My maternal and paternal grandparents on my parent's wedding day
  • My grandma in 1982 - 83 years old
  • Grandma, I am standing and my sister is on the pony
  • My high school graduation in 1978 with my two grandmothers
  • Grandma in November 1964 - 65 years old
  • Grandma and her son/my uncle, Lee Hilts
  • With Grandma on my wedding day, September 12, 1981 - she was 82

Going to Get the Paper

While memories of my grandfather are not as strong, there was one daily activity I loved, and that was going to get the paper. He had to drive to a small store or gas station to pick it up.

This was before seat belts and car seats were used. I remember sitting in the center of the front seat, and as we drove he would let me push all the buttons on the radio. Then when we got to the store, I could look inside a chest freezer and pick out an ice cream or Popsicle. A simple routine that holds fond memories.

I also liked walking the garden with him when he would pick the tomato worms off the plants and drop them into a can. I don’t know what was in the can, but it couldn’t have been good because they died.

Another memory of my grandfather is being in his garage with him. He kept beer out there, tucked behind his toolboxes. He would pull one out and pop it open to drink it.

Thinking back that is the only place I ever saw him drink anything alcoholic. Beer was never kept in the house. My grandmother did not drink at all, so I don’t know if she opposed having it in the house or if he simply did that out of respect for her.

The Move From the Farm

As they aged my grandparents sold the farm. Even though we weren’t there often, they had kept a pony for my sister and I to ride when we visited. That would be no more.

They moved into two-story home on a smaller piece of property when I was a child. It was next to a cherry orchard. It was from there that I first saw the automatic cherry pickers.

I still remember the disappointment I felt seeing that machine violently shake the tree so the cherry’s would fall. I felt bad that the Mexican cherry pickers would no longer be climbing the trees with their buckets to harvest the crops.

While living in that house my grandfather passed away. I was in 9th grade when he died, and Grandma would move again. She moved to a house next to my aunt and uncle’s home.

Grandma didn’t drive, so I’m sure this made things more convenient for her, plus it was a ranch style, so easier to navigate. It did have one wonderful feature, a mini orchard behind it filled with an assortment of sour cherry, sweet cherry, plum and peach trees. A fruit lovers paradise!

Habits I learned and Things I Didn’t Learn

My mother always said I have traits of my grandmother that I probably acquired while living with her. One of those was the fact that I don’t easily share my feelings. I keep things to myself.  I think over the years I have become more open, but I still walk a cautious line in that area.

I used to do a lot of embroidery, and I now have my grandmother’s embroidery basket. I remember my mother saying I make my stitches just like Grandma, tiny and precise.

One thing I didn’t learn and wish I had is how to tat. Grandma put tatting on the edge of everything she embroidered. Dresser scarves and pillow cases all were edged with tatting.

When it came to cooking, Grandma made the best beef and noodles. I never learned how. I remember my mother making it one time and I told her they weren’t as good as Grandma’s. She never made them again. I wish I knew how Grandma made them.

If I Could Go Back

If I could go back and spend just one more day with Grandma, what a wonderful day it would be. I would get up and not get dressed, just so I could hear her say one more time “get your duds on.” 

I would enjoy watching her cook breakfast. I don’t know how she could prepare a full serving plate of over-easy eggs, never breaking a yoke going into the pan or onto the plate.

I would sit in the kitchen and observe her laying an antique curling iron over the stove burner to warm it up before curling her hair so we could go to town. Of course she would change into her “going to town dress” because a house dress wasn’t proper. Once we got home she would immediately change out of that dress and back into her house dress, placing a full apron over it.

I would enjoy the orange slice candies out of the candy dish on the coffee table. They are still one of my favorite candies. I would also grab a couple Windmill Cookies from the depression glass cookie jar that sat on the end of the kitchen table.

My foot would quietly work the peddle on her sewing machine up and down, amazed that she used to sew clothing on that old treadle machine. My mother said when I was little Grandma could look at me, take a piece of fabric and freehand cut a dress, sew it, and it would fit me perfectly.

I would sit and watch the goldfish inside the glass fishbowl that sits in a wobbly, antique metal fishbowl stand next to her chair. She enjoyed sitting and watching them.

At the end of the day Grandma and I would sit on the front porch as the sun goes down. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailor’s delight.

I would watch Grandma standing in the drive waving as I backed down the drive, one last time.

Grandma died on February 11, 1988, one month after my son was born. I have always regretted not making the drive north so she could see her great-grandson prior to her death. Grandma’s health had been deteriorating following a stroke. My mother said she thought Grandma held just on long enough to know that I and my son, Patrick, were fine.

I hope you enjoyed reading about memories of my maternal grandmother. Watch for my upcoming Memories of Grandma–Part 2, which is about the memories I have of my paternal Grandma, Louse Elizabeth Lautner King.

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Filed under birds, children, Family, farm, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

A Country at War With Itself

It is sad what the United States has become in just a short period of time. As we look at the destruction created by the looting and vandalism in the past few days, it is disturbing to see how much anger and hurt is harbored by so many of our citizens.

In truth, this is not a hurt or anger created by only George Floyd’s death, when a white officer pushed a knee into his neck for 8+ minutes, resulting in his death. This came only a few months after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was attacked and gunned down by two white men while out for a jog. It took months for those men to be charged with a crime, and only after a video of the incident went viral on social media.

The protests being waged following Mr. Floyd’s death are the result of pent-up anger that has continued to grow as black people are disproportionately killed by white law enforcement officers.  Blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population, but are 2-1/2 times more likely to be killed by police.

What is further infuriating is that in many cases the officers are not charged for having committed a crime. If charged many are found not guilty.

A huge problem in this country is the blue wall of silence, also referred to as the blue code of honor. This is a silent code under which police officers stay silent, refusing to report other officers who exercise misconduct, criminal behavior, discrimination, police brutality, or any other unethical action. Body cameras and bystanders recording on their cell phone cameras are finally bringing some of this to light.

I was very pleased to see the Minneapolis Police Chief remove his hat and kneel at the spot where George Floyd’s life was taken, and also remove his hat when he answered their questions on the news. This shows him to be a person of moral and ethical character.

When questioned the police chief stated that he fired of all four officers because the other three officers, by not intervening, were complicit with Derek Chauvan having his knee in the neck of George Floyd for 8+ minutes, resulting in death. Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter.  The other officers have not been charged.

I have seen many cities where police officers are walking with demonstrators or kneeling with them in prayer. This shows that not all law enforcement condone the behavior of the bad, but it is not enough to heal the pain that has been going on for too long.

Obama Administration

It was only a short 12 years ago that this country reached a milestone when it elected Barack Obama as President of the United States. This country, with its horrible history of slavery, racial oppression and discrimination, had elected a black man into its highest-ranking position.  That said a lot for how far our country had come.

Barack Obama served for 8 years as president.  During his presidency there were several high-profile deaths of black Americans engaged in encounters with the police and protests led to rioting:

  • Oscar Grant, a black transit passenger, was shot by a white police officer. Riots broke out in Oakland, California. The officer, Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
  • George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, and riots broke out in Los Angeles.
  • Manuel Diaz, a 25-year old black man, was shot to death when he ran from police. Destructive demonstrations broke out in Orange County, California.
  • Kimini Gray, a 16-year old, was killed by police after allegedly pointing a handgun at them. Riots broke out in Brooklyn, New York.

The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013. It was created to give black people a voice in civil rights. Issues included a broken criminal justice system and a higher unemployment level among black Americans. Those problems still exist today.

Black Lives Matter believes in peaceful demonstrations. They do not participate nor do they encourage looting and violent acts like those taking place today.

George Floyd’s Two Autopsies

After the autopsy of George Floyd’s death indicated he died from underlying health conditions, not from the loss of breath created by a knee on his neck for 8+ minutes, people were angry and upset. His family ordered an independent autopsy.

That independent autopsy determined George Floyd’s death was caused by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure”. The difference in the two determinations makes one question whether the first medical examiner works frequently with the police and is part of the “code of blue.” Both medical examiners ruled the death a homicide.

Where We Stand on Race

In 2016 a survey showed 56% of white Americans said the race of a subject made no difference in the use of police force, but only 18% of black Americans believed that to be true.  More than 2/5 of black people said that police in their community made them feel more anxious than safe.

U.S. citizens, looking for change, elected Donald Trump in 2016. A non-politician, non-military, public figure who promised to Make America Great Again.  The question now comes to mind, Is America at War With Itself?

There continues to be racial divide in this country on how people are viewed based on the color of their skin. There is inequity that results in black people being disproportionately injured or killed by white police officers.   

The fact that we have protestors trying to storm the White House and destroying Secret Service vehicles says a lot about what a lot of Americans feel toward President Trump.

Where else in American history can you recall riots where Washington DC monuments were defaced?

Where the Treasury Department was attacked?

Where the White House was at risk of being breached by protestors? 

When Chopper One lands at the White House lawn and is greeted by protestors with their middle fingers raised? 

Why is former Vice President Joe Biden was out speaking with protestors while President Donald Trump is hiding in a bunker under the White House? 

Trump Administration and Racism

It is likely that a culmination of numerous factors has led to the anger displayed toward President Trump.  We are all familiar with his tweets that repeatedly insult people, make racial slurs, and instigate violent acts.  

American people have come to realize what a strong racist their President is. Mayors of cities undergoing riots have asked President Trump to be quiet. To stop posting comments on Twitter that instill violence. To stop posting racial comments from the 1968 racial riots.

It isn’t all about tweets and verbal comments. His tendency toward discrimination against those of non-white ethnicity screams out from his campaign and administration: 

  1. In 2016 there was a strong correlation between Trump campaign events and acts of violence. Data from the Anti-Defamation League showed that counties hosting Trump campaign rallies had more than double the hate crimes than similar counties that did not host a rally.
  2. Counties that voted for Donald Trump by the widest margins experienced the largest increase of reported hate crimes.
  3. Surrounding the election of Donald Trump, hate crimes peaked from October to December 2016 and continued through 2017. This was the second largest increase in hate crimes in 25 years. The highest increase in hate crimes followed September 11, 2011.
  4. Quinnipiac University released a poll that states 80% of African-American voters feel Donald Trump is a racist. 55% of Hispanics feel Trump is a racist, and 51% of all Americans feel he has racist views.
  5. In August 2019 President Donald Trump spoke at the 400th anniversary of the year slaves first arrived on American soil. His behavior prior to his arrival resulted in the Black Caucus of the Virginia legislature boycotting his appearance. In doing so they stated “It is impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the President represents” and referred to his “repeated attacks on black legislators and comments about black communities” and they felt he was an “ill-suited” choice to commence that monumental period in American history.
  6. The Trump Administration is working to roll back President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat racial segregation. This roll-back would make it easier for banks to deny loans to black and Hispanic people. It would also make it easier for cities to confine families to minority neighborhoods.
  7. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has in 2020 proposed cutting back data collection that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market. In 2015 the Obama administration began tracking patterns of poverty and segregation with a checklist of 92 questions that had to be completed to access federal housing funds. The Trump administration is trying to eliminate that tracking system.  Of concern is that the Trump financial regulator could encourage banks to invest in inner city projects such as sporting arenas instead of loans that benefit local residents. 
  8. Black home ownership is at its lowest rate since segregation was legal. White rate is about 73% and black rate under 43%. 
  9. Housing discrimination complaints rose 8% in 2018, as reported by the National Fair Housing Alliance. This is the highest level since tracking started in 1995.

Trump Admnistration Civil and Human Rights Rollbacks

Between 2017 to 2020 there have been at least 79 Trump Administration Civil and Human Rights Rollbacks. Many of those rollbacks have a direct impact on low-income and racial minorities, which include:

*          In February 2017 President Trump signed three executive orders to fight crime, gangs, and drugs, and restore law and order, supporting the men and women of law enforcement. Civil rights organizations viewed these orders as vague and suspicious.

*          In August 2017 the Obama administration ban was lifted regarding the transfer of some military surplus items to domestic law enforcement, rescinding guidelines that had been created to protect the public from law enforcement’s misuse of military-grade weapons.

*          In August 2017 the Trump administration halted the EEOC rule that required large companies to reveal what they pay employees by sex, race, and ethnicity. The rule was intended to remedy unequal pay in American companies.

*          In September 2017 the Department of Justice ended the Community Oriented Policing Services Collaborative Reform Initiative. This program was created to build trust between police officers and the communities where they serve.

*          In February 2018 the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal denied critical health care to those in need. The funding was being diverted to funding the border wall.

*          In February 2018 the Trump Administration’s 2019 budget proposal eliminated the Community Relations Service which was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its purpose was to address discrimination, conflicts and tensions in communities around the country.

*          In 2018 The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education released a new Case Processing Manual that created a larger hurdle for people filing complaints. It allows for the dismissal of civil rights complaints based on the number of times an individual has filed.

*          In January 2019 the Trump administration was considering a roll-back of regulations that provide anti-discrimination protections to people of color, women and others.

*          In January 2019 it was reported that the Trump administration had stopped cooperating with and responding to UN investigators over potential human rights violations in the United States.

*          In April 2019 it was reported that the Trump administration would not nominate nor re-nominate anyone to the 18-member U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

*          In January 2020 the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a proposal that would gut the agency’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. HUD’s proposal would leave people of color, women, and protected communities already harmed by unfair and unequal housing policies at further risk.

Heal the Country

There is a very strong divide in this country. Racial discrimination and violence are at the heart of it. We are a country divided, and it needs to be healed. There is a Michael Jackson song that says in part: 

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me

When Will it Stop?

We are now in our 7th day of protests, vandalism and looting. When will it stop? It is hard to say. We have had a President hiding in a bunker tweeting words that incite violence.  We have more than 37 cities in 22 states plus Washington DC destroyed.

It is time federal and state legislatures took action to make sure that the rights of every person in the United States are protected. Treatment and protection need to be equal regardless of whether a person is White, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Muslim, Jewish, Black, or any other nationality.

This country was built by being accepting of all, a melting pot of immigrants that created a wonderfully diverse country. It is time laws were in place that guaranteed equal treatment for all. Until that is done and people are satisfied that their lives matter, history will continue to repeat itself.

Update:  As this writing was being finalized President Trump spoke in the Rose Garden.  Lafayette Park across from the White House was filled with peaceful protesters. Suddenly right before the speech law enforcement moved in, using tear gas and rubber bullets to force the peaceful protestors out of the park. Why?

It soon came to light. President Trump’s announced that he is deploying the 1807 law to deploy military then commented he was going to a special place.

Those peaceful protestors had been gassed and shot at by law enforcement because President Trump was walking through the park to St. John’s Church for a photo op.

Almost immediately the DC Episcopal Bishop denounced President Trump’s use of St. John’s Church as a prop. The Bishop stated that after having military police fire munitions against peaceful protestors President Trumps actions were an abuse of a sacred space.

And So We Continue

The anger continues. People want the remaining three officers involved in George Floyd’s murder charged. They want equal treatment by law enforcement. They want a justice system that is just.

It is up to the United States citizens to regain control of their country. It is time this country becomes what it was created to be, a melting pot. Many cultures living together, all on equal ground. Equal and just treatment for all races.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one….from Imagine by John Lennon

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, death, decisions, events, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality

Be Kind, Always Be Kind

If you find yourself getting frustrated with an elderly person, think of them like your grandmother or grandfather, then treat them accordingly. That is something in the midst of this pandemic people need to remember. Be kind to strangers – all strangers.

I recently read a post on Facebook, and when I saw this image quote “Even the strongest hands can lose their grip, the greatest of minds can become cloudy, and the biggest of hearts can break. So Be Kind, just always be kind.” I put the two of them together.

The story behind the Facebook post is that the person’s father went to the grocery store to pick up a few items. He did not realize that the aisles were one-way. It can happen to anyone. Arrows posted on the floor, but who looks there when shopping?

BLOG PHOTO

Instead of nicely mentioning it to him, someone snapped at him rudely, belittling him for his stupidity. Her father, feeling ashamed and humiliated, left his groceries in the cart and exited the store without purchasing any food. He did not go to another store. He went home without any food, fearful of making another mistake.

I was grocery shopping and went the wrong way today. I had the store memorized on the directional arrows, and today I was halfway down the first aisle when I realized they had changed them all. Probably because they realized they originally had them backward for the way people navigate through the store. It can happen to anyone.

I have noticed that men are more likely than women to go the wrong way when shopping. Why I don’t know, but 4 out of 5 times, if someone is going the wrong way it is a man. Usually as I’m passing, I’ll say “you’re going the wrong way.” When they look at me confused, I’ll point out the arrows. The normal response is “thanks.”

If you see any person not following the rules, it doesn’t mean they are stupid and uncooperative. They probably didn’t notice that something has changed. You can let them know without being rude.

I would assume the daughter of the elderly gentlemen above purchased his groceries for him. What if he didn’t have family nearby? What if there was no one to help? Was it worth the possibility of him going hungry because of someone’s superior attitude toward him?

Be kind to everyone, especially the elderly. Think of how you would want them to be treated if they were your grandmother or grandfather and act accordingly. Everyone deserves to be treated nicely.

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Family, food, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals

Stay-at-Home Orders: 10 Positive Points

We have all been watching the fear of the unknown unfold before us with the Coronavirus spread throughout the world, but more closely to home here in the United States.

We all need a break from the chaos, and below I am going to give you 10 positive Points to the stay-home orders.

I am in a unique class of citizens. We do not have a “sticks and bricks” home, we live full-time in an RV. Stay-at-home orders affect us a bit differently. We elected to stay put in the RV park here in Yuma, Arizona until things calm down. Being in an area where temps average 107 in the summer is not our choice, but we feel it is the best alternative if things do not calm down before then.

When I think back to one year ago in April 2019 I was winding down on the sorting out of my house in the anticipation of moving into an RV full time. I was prepping for an estate sale, selling my home, leaving my full-time job, and hitting the road. By mid-August, those things had been accomplished.THINK POSITIVE IMAGE

I enjoyed a wonderful fall traveling in eastern Canada, and warm winter in southern Texas and Arizona. Our plans for this summer to hit some national parks before heading back to Michigan to visit family have been pitched. We don’t know when or if we will be able to travel to Michigan this year.

The Port Huron Township RV Park we stayed in last summer is closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus. The Port Huron Lapeer Road KOA is price gouging, charging $75 per night if you want to make a reservation. Under the circumstances, our plans are in limbo.

The coronavirus has been the main focus of news for the past couple of months and will likely be for the next few months ahead. We all need is a positive brain break during our stay-at-home time.  Here are some positives of the stay-at-home orders:

  1. You no longer need to set an alarm clock. Sleep in or get up early, your choice.
  2. You can dress however you want – casual, pajamas, the scroungy never-wear-in-public old clothes – whatever suits your fancy. You aren’t going anywhere, no one is visiting, so it’s all good.
  3. No need to wear makeup – who is going to see you?
  4. You can now read those books you purchased but never had time to read. Clean off that shelf and prepare for a literary shopping spree when the stay-home orders lift.
  5. There is plenty of time to do spring cleaning. Does anyone really do that anymore?
  6. Do the spring yard cleanup, plant flowers, ready the vegetable garden.
  7. Clean the junk drawer, the closet, or the basement. Think how neat and organized things will be once this pandemic is over.
  8. Lower gasoline expense – if you aren’t going anywhere you aren’t using any gas
  9. Skim through recipe books and try some new recipes. Think of all the money you save by not eating out, shopping, going to events and concerts.
  10. More time with your spouse, kids, significant other. Make art projects and play board games. Did out your old hobbies – woodworking, sewing, ceramics, stained glass – anything you used to do and normally don’t have time for.
  11. Sit on your porch or deck and enjoy the sun, listen to the birds, drink a glass of wine.

Use this stay-home time to enjoy life. Someday you will be able to look back and remember the brain break you were awarded in the midst of a pandemic.

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Filed under communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, employment, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, Full-Time RV, hobbies, home, Illness, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, play, reality, spring, summer, time, tourism, travel, winter

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Well, we arrived seven days late, had to cancel a planned 5-day stop between South Padre Island and here, but have finally arrived in sunny Tucson, Arizona.  In a way it doesn’t feel like Christmas.  There is no snow on the ground, the average temperature is around 65 during the day and upper 30’s at night.  I have a meager supply of Christmas decorations which I was finally able to put out upon our arrival, but it just doesn’t have the Christmas feel I am used to.

One thing we will remember in the future, when traveling and doing a quick overnight in a Walmart parking lot, the lot is very busy and very full on the last Saturday before Christmas!  The one we stayed at in El Paso, Texas had a Texas Roadhouse restaurant within walking distance, so we did have a good, but very noisy dinner.  Shop-till-you-drop shoppers get hungry!

The positive side is the KOA campground we are in has citrus trees on every site and while staying here you are welcome to walk around and pick whatever fruit you can use.  Yesterday I went out and picked a couple grapefruit, four oranges and about five lemons (I’m going to make old-fashioned lemonade).  Boy is fruit fresh off the tree way better than store-bought!

Cactus with Christmas Hats

Photo found on internet

As Murphy’s Law would have it, we arrived Sunday in a city that has 360 days of sun per year.  Today, Christmas Eve, it rained a good portion of the day and is forecast to rain again this evening, and then again tomorrow.  Thursday should be partly sunny, and then rain is predicted for Friday and Saturday.  Go figure I would get four of the five days of yearly rain almost immediately upon arrival.  On a positive note, the remaining 98 days I will be in the this state should be bright and sunny.

My Christmas Eve has been quiet, as will Christmas Day tomorrow.  I will miss having my kids and grandchildren coming to the house to open gifts.  The noise, chaos, and mess as gifts are opened and paper strewn around are what makes the holiday.   The positive is that I do not have to deal with snow, ice, or bitter cold.  Everything has a negative and a positive.

Whether you are experiencing Christmas in a winter wonderland or a tropical paradise, I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, events, Family, Full-Time RV, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, travel, vacation, Weather, winter

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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Filed under Adoption, assumptions, cancer, Coping, CPS, death, decisions, employment, events, exploration, Family, Foster Care, grandchildren, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, reality, time, travel, work

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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Celebrate the Positive!

So here we are, ten days into the New Year.  What will it bring?  Has it been a good start?  What about resolutions?  Were they made?  Have they been broken?

My year started out in a variety of ways.  On New Year’s Eve my daughter and her family were driving north to visit family when she hit black ice and rolled her vehicle twice, ending up in the ditch.  The three children, ages 4, 8, and 12, were fine, as was her boyfriend.  My daughter slammed her elbow into the driver’s window and needed stitches, and she had a couple scratches on her face, but other than that no serious injuries.  Unfortunately the vehicle was totaled, and she only had PLPD insurance, so they are down to a single cab pickup with a family of five.  celebrate-small-success1

Here is where viewpoint is important.  Is it horrifying that they rolled….well, yes, the outcome could have been far worse.  Should everyone be upset that they are without a car and don’t have the ability to purchase another?  Of course that is a dilemma that must be dealt with.  However, the overall important thing is that no one suffered any severe, life-altering injuries, especially the children.   So, with that we can say that their New Year got off to a good start.  They came through a scary, dangerous accident without anyone being seriously hurt.   Celebrate the positive!

As for me, my New Year weekend was both work and relaxing.  I had a four-day weekend during which I never left the house.  I took down my tree, sorted and packed items to go to my kids, and also sorted and packed items for me to take when I downsize and others to go into my estate sale.  I came across things I had forgotten about, and spent some time looking at some old pictures of ancestors.   Some would consider a long weekend home alone and working on household tasks a lonely, sad existence.  I am on a time frame to get through all my belongings in preparation for downsizing and an estate sale this spring, so having a long weekend to work on my project was positive.  Celebrate the positive!

Every year I keep a list in my “notes” section on Facebook of the books I read that year.  My goal is always 52 (one per week), but I have never made that.  The best I have done is around 26.  Last year on the 14th of March I had only just finished my second book of the year.  This year I finished my first on the 4th of January and am more than halfway through my second.   I’m not holding my breath on making 52 for the year, but the odds are favorable so far.   Celebrate the positive!

So now ten days into the new year I sometimes look around me and wonder how I am ever going to get through everything I need to by the end of March.  I also worry about my son, who is trying to find a place to live as he is currently staying with me, being able to find a home and move out by the time needed.  On a positive note, he also has quite a few tubs packed with his belongings.  We can only hope that it all falls into place without a problem.  I’m not ready to celebrate yet, but I am trying to think positive.

How is your new year going so far?  Regardless of whether you have had downfalls or things to celebrate, remember to keep thinking positive.  A good attitude can get you through anything.

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Christmas is Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Be Thankful For What You Have

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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

Dirt on My Shirt

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

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

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

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

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

Share with me your
“Boys Will Be Boys” memories

 

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

Babies Don’t Keep

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Filed under assumptions, career, Cleaning, communication, decisions, Discoveries, employment, exploration, Family, habit, hobbies, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time, travel, Writing

Life in the Fast Lane

There was once a popular song by the Eagles, with the lyric “Life in the Fast Lane, surely make you lose your mind.”  That is what my life has felt like these past few weeks.  I finish a day or a weekend and wonder how it went by so fast.  I never get as much completed as I want.

Sometimes when life is making you feel compressed you need to take a step back and relax.  Trying to paddle faster when you feel as if you are sinking just wears out your energy and you drown.  Taking a break can restore energy and prepare you for the next round of chaos.

I have had a whirlwind going around me due to a series of events in my life….a friend who has been staying with me for the past eight months is getting ready to leave on a new adventure of full-time RV life.  My son, who was in prison for six years, came home on the 20th of March and is staying with me.  I have come to the conclusion that I need to downsize and have to go through all of my belongings and determine what I am going to keep and what must go.

Each of these things in and of itself are good changes.  Compiled into one they are overwhelming.  I look around my house and the massive amount of things I must sort through and am not sure where to start.  My son is helping, he has started working on the side of the basement that was my husband’s workshop.  I have set a deadline for getting all of this completed, which in some ways increases the panic of how much must be done.

Even though my daughter and her children live in a separate house, the adjustment for all of us to my son coming home after so long has not been easy.  My daughter is living in a home that my son once lived in.  When he went to prison the belongings he had in that home had to be boxed up.  Both my daughter and son have items in my house that have to be cleaned out.  The sorting, cleaning, and relationship adjustments can be stressful.

Even though I am trying to slow down, I continue to live life in the fast lane.  This week I ate dinner out four of the five work nights because of my schedule…writers meeting, shutterbug meeting, haircut, and shopping all done after work created the preference to dine out rather than in.  Saturday I am on the road around the time I normally step out of the shower so I can attend a writer’s conference an hour from home.  Sunday I’ll need to tackle household chores, and of course Monday it all starts again.   Life in the fast lane, will surely make me lose my mind!

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First Day of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

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

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

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Dinner at Red Lobster

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

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

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Cycle Through Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freedom on the Horizon

For the past six years my son, Patrick, has called me every week, sometimes more than once a week, and each time we engage in a 15 minute conversation.  He always calls me.  I am not allowed to call him back.  We try to exchange as much information as possible in those weekly conversations.  Things that need to be handled, questions, and some general fun information on what is going on in each other’s life.

This past week Patrick called me in the middle of the day while I was at work.  It was a very special call and he was bursting with good news.  He finally received notice on the outcome of his parole hearing, which I talked about in All We Can Do Is Wait.  He is being paroled!  On March 20, 2018 I will be picking Patrick up from the prison and driving him home.

He will be on a two-year parole and is being released on a tether.  It is a six-hour drive home and Patrick will need to report to his parole agent here in our county that same day.   He will need to get a driver’s license.  The majority of his clothes will not fit as he has gotten taller and broader in the past six years.  Patrick was twenty-four when he went in, and will be thirty when he comes out.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and Grace, October 30, 2017

It is exciting to have Patrick coming home.  In the time he was incarcerated he lost two daughters (my granddaughters) to foster care/adoption.  He also missed the funeral/memorial services of one grandmother, two grandfathers, and his father (my husband).  In addition to a general loss of freedom, those who are incarcerated can lose much on a personal/emotional scale as well.

We are both looking forward to the day of Patrick’s parole with excitement, but I think also a bit of trepidation.   Neither of us are the same people we were when he was arrested all those years ago.  There will be an adjustment period as he will be living with me initially while he gets his feet under him.  My home will need to meet the requirements of his parole.   He is used to living under the constant scrutiny and control of a prison and will now have the ability to enjoy freedom within the confines of his parole requirements.    He is used to living with all men.  I am used to living alone.  It will definitely be an adjustment.

The countdown has begun.  Seventy-seven days to go, but who is counting.  Freedom is on the horizon.

 

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Tradition with a Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All We Can Do Is Wait

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

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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