Category Archives: impressions

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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DOCUMENT YOUR PART IN HISTORY

I look around, the place has more people than normal for this time of year, but it is still pretty well emptied out. Why wouldn’t it be? Who wants to stay where the summer temperatures go as high as 120° Fahrenheit?

Yet, here I am. Our original plan was to leave here at the beginning of April and visit several national parks and scenic areas through several states before heading to Michigan to visit family. Then head south and west again, hitting Sault Lake City and Colorado Springs for photography and RV conferences before going for a three-month stay on South Padre Island, Texas, followed by winter back here in Yuma, Arizona.

Those plans have been crushed by the Coronavirus shutdowns. We have extended our stay here in Yuma until at least August 3rd. We are trying to secure reservations in Michigan for somewhere between mid-August to early October, but so far have not had any luck. The state is still locked down and the few campgrounds that are open do not have long-term spots available.

Time will tell if we travel, where we will be, and when we will get there. When you live full-time in an RV, campgrounds are an essential part of life.

We are living through an event that will be written about in history books. Have you recorded your stay-at-home location and changes in lifestyle? Have you noted the schools closing, people doing work-at-home because businesses closed, hospitals overrun with patients, people wearing face masks and gloves to protect those around them?

If you have young children, have you recorded their thoughts on what is going on around them? These are memories that may be forgotten over time but will be important to future generations.

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Paul and I are hanging tight in Yuma, Arizona. I walked around the park and took snapshots of the camp, documenting the place that was full when we arrived in February and is now almost empty. A lot of the people here in the winter are Canadian snowbirds who were ordered to return to Canada in March or lose medical insurance due to the pandemic.

So where are you? Have you documented the event? Leave me your comments below.

Stay Safe!

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Nature’s Palette

As you drive to the north end you encounter drifts of sand on the road, then a small sign points to Beach Access #6.  This access is outside the city limits and not maintained, but people use it every day.  The sand is thick, so a 4-wheel drive is necessary.  You maneuver through sand piles that will make you think of maneuvering deep snow if you are from the north.  Once you break free you are on a beautiful beach that you can drive for about 3 miles south and 26 miles north on the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the north drive that has the most to offer.  Every day is the same but different.  Nature creates an ever changing palette intermixed with human elements.   We enjoy driving in the edge of the water, but there is always a possibility a larger wave will come in and leave you a bit wet.  That is what happened to us one day when we had top off the jeep.  A wave hit the side coming in the driver’s side window and splashed so high it came down through the roof opening.

A trail of shells leads you down the beach, not only on the water’s edge, but also up near the dunes.  This is because during high tide the water is considerably higher on the beach, and high winds bring it in even further.   If you are lucky enough to be there on a high winds day not only will the waves be higher, but there will also be sand swirling off the dunes and flowing across the surface of the beach until it meets incoming waves,  giving a soft, mystic feel to everything.   The pounding waves provide a rhythmic music of nature as you drive.

Fishermen line their poles up along the water, sitting in lawn chairs waiting for their catch. some with BBQ grills set up to cook up their meal fresh.  We stopped to watch one bring in his catch, but it was soon discovered he had hooked a sting ray, which he cut his line from so that it could work its way back into the water.  Herons, gulls, pipers and pelicans congregate along the water’s edge, satisfying their hunger with the offerings of the water.

Visitors walk along with a bag in hand, searching for the perfect shell.  On occasion you will see a group of horseback riders from a nearby stable.  We came upon a driver in a car who was stuck in the soft sand along the surf.  We pulled him out with the Jeep’s power wench.  You may sometimes encounter nude sunbathers or swimmers.  Everyone is friendly, everyone waves.   The beach is a relaxing, fun place to be.

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Landmarks, both natural and human-enhanced, mark your way.  Mile marker signs are mounted on the edge of the dunes so you know how far you have gone.  Some of my favorites include a log decorated to look like an alligator, a log with an upside down boot on it, a buoy that washed ashore, a container anchor that has been covered in graffiti, a piece of driftwood shaped like a sea serpent, and even a water rescue pod that has been decorated.  These items are constantly changing, impacted by nature and man, so each day brings a new look.  Sands drift and cover parts while winds uncover new discoveries.  The sea serpent log that was open and clear on our first visit now has sand over parts of it.  The water rescue pod was moved further onto the beach by the US Fish and Wildlife workers as it was sitting on the edge of a wildlife preserve.  A buoy that had drifted ashore was complete one day and missing its top a few days later.

I have enjoyed the time spent on the beach of South Padre Island, Texas.  I will miss nature’s palette of beauty and change when I have gone.  It will be interesting to see what items remain the same, what has disappeared, and what has been added by the time I return next year.

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SEVEN WEEKS AND ROLLING

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

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

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

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

 

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My First Week as a Nomad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is not meant to be lived in one place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing to Relax

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

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

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

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

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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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Don’t Overlook Life’s Small Joys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch a Sunrise Once a Year

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When was the last time…

…..you did something for the first time?

That is a line in a song I enjoy by Darius Rucker, just click here to hear it.  I was listening to the song and it got me to thinking about how we all develop set patterns of life.  We get up, go through the same routine during the day, go to bed, get up and repeat.

The song goes on to say “Yeah, let yourself go, follow that feeling, Maybe something new is what you’re needing, Like a real life, let your hair down, feel alive, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

Those are thoughts we should all put into action when our life is feeling a bit ho-hum.  It can be something major or something minor.  Just spice it up a bit to re-build your energy and enthusiasm for life.

In July I took a 10-day vacation when I flew to Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede.  While it is not the first vacation I have ever taken, nor the first international flight (I flew to Mexico with a school group in 1978), it was my first time in Alberta, Canada and my first time attending the Calgary Stampede.   It was also the first true vacation I have taken since 2014.when-was-the-last-time-you-did-something-for-the-first-time-quote-1

I am currently in an active sort-of first time events project.  I have started doing some preliminary scouting of homes.  I am planning to downsize and packing and moving an entire home, not to mention selecting and purchasing a home entirely on my own will be a first.   When you have always done things with others, doing them on your own the first time is a different experience.

So, when you hear the question, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?  What is your answer?  What is on your bucket list?  Throw out some ideas….I may want to incorporate your ideas into my list.

 

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time, tourism, vacation

Places I Have Been to For the Last Time

It is a bizarre thought, something that hadn’t really dawned on me.  Then someone considerably younger then me made a comment that he was wondering how many places he has already been for the last time.  He is only 30 years old!   I was baffled that such a thing had entered his mind.

When you go somewhere rarely do you think “this may be the last time I am ever here.”  The older you get, the more likely you are to consider such a possibility, but for the most part we humans have a tendency to expect things to always continue as they are, not realizing how precious that visit may be.

Think about places you remember with fondness, or maybe even with some sadness.  When you were there did it occur to you that it was the last time you would be there?  Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.  When you start rolling that thought around in your head you realize how important it is to cherish every single moment of everything you do, because it may be the last time.

My grandparents house – my great-grandfather had built it when my grandmother was only six years old.  I grew up going to that house for visits with my grandparents and other family members.  After my grandfather passed, my grandmother continued to reside there until she was well into her 80’s.   I eventually got married, had children and took them to visit their great-grandmother in that house.  The last time I was inside the house the family was preparing for an estate sale following my grandmother’s death.  I can’t remember the last time I visited my grandmother in her house because one day she became ill, went to the hospital and then into assisted living, where she remained until she passed at age 94.  While the property was still in the family I would from time-to-time stop and walk around the outside of house and around the yard and barns, taking a few photos.  I knew it was for sale and had been for some time, but even then it never occurred to me that I might be walking on that property for the last time.  Eventually the house sold and my impromptu visits ended.

Cedar Point — a very popular amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  I used to love attending amusement parks, and we always went to one as part of our family vacations when our kids lived at home.  We sometimes attended them even without kids.  Then I was in a bad accident and ended up with severe vertigo.  I won’t go on amusement park rides ever again as I am fearful that the rapid movement of the rides might bring back the vertigo.  My favorite rides were always the fast spinning ones like the spider, swings, Himalaya, and other similar rides.  The last time I visited an amusement park or rode a ride it never occurred to me it would be the last time.

Scrapbook Memories in Chelsea, Michigan –  This was a huge scrapbook store that held 3-day crops several times a year.  My best friend, and I would meet there and attend the 3-day crops.  It was a wonderful time and something we did year after year.  Then one day we received notice that the owner had decided to leave the business and move out of state.  No one purchased the store and it closed.  Lots of memories of fun times in that store.

There are other places as well, my parent’s home where I was raised from the time I was in 1st grade until I got married and moved away.  My in-laws home that holds lots of fun memories.  The house my husband and I built in 1983 and then sold in 2004.  I’m sure if I sat and thought there are many others.  Will I ever go back to Disney World?  Will I someday get back to Hawaii?  When I was there years ago I assumed I would someday return, but in reality, will I ever?

Cherish the time you have at each place you visit, be it on a regular basis or only on  occasion.  You never know when circumstances will make it the last time.

What are the places you have been for the last time?

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, time

The Note In My Windshield Wiper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all this analyzing there are two conclusions.

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

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

 

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

20 Facts About Me

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

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

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

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Society is a Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Filed under Cleaning, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, reality, time, travel, vacation

Good Morning!

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

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

Image and Quote found online     Author unknown

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

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

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

Image and Quote found online      Author unknown

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

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

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

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

Image and Quote found online Author unknown

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

Smile – Be Happy – Have a Great Day!

 

 

 

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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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It’s Just Another Day

As I write this only a few hours before the ringing in of 2018 it occurs to me that millions of people are getting together with friends, going to parties, visiting bars, or participating in numerous other activities to ring in the new year.  Year after year I have spent New Year’s Eve the same way — home doing my normal activities until around 11:30 pm when I switch to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve to watch the ball drop in Times Square.  Some years I go to bed immediately after, other years I continue to watch the celebration for an hour or two.

New Year’s Day arrives.  I might flip on the parades to watch a bit.  I change over my calendar to the new year, and empty out my “Good Things” jar.  Overall the day is treated like pretty much any other stay-at-home day, doing whatever activities I choose or need to handle.

best-quote-for-new-year-2018Do I set goals for the new year?  Usually.  Do I achieve them?  Sometimes.  Even though for the most part New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are just another day, they still contain a bit of tradition that is repeated year-after-year.

As I was writing this I looked up and saw my handwritten list of 2017 goals I had set.  Lets just say I had good intentions and leave it at that.  That list just got folded in half and tossed in the wastepaper basket.

I’m thinking instead of setting goals maybe as I go through the year I should make a list of things I accomplish.  In fact, now that I think of it, that would end the year on a much more positive note.  No depressing list of goals I did not achieve to toss into a wastepaper basket.  Instead I will be able to review the year with a list of things I completed — assuming of course I do something productive in the next twelve months.

Here’s Wishing Everyone A Productive and Happy New Year!

 

 

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All We Can Do Is Wait

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

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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