Category Archives: Life Changing

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

Dreams + Action = Reality

How often we have a dream of something…a place to travel, an advancement in career, weight loss, or a lifestyle change.  Often whatever that dream may be seems so far off in the distance that we feel it is unachievable.   The problem is that we fail to create a plan of action.  Without a plan the dream is impossible, because without action the reality of the dream will never be achieved.

Some people formulate plans in their head.  Other people, like me, make lists and cross things off as accomplished.  Some are able to just dive in and start working without a plan of action.  Whatever works for you is fine, as long as it works.  Too often when a task seems overwhelming it is easy to let it slide; even if you have the list you never act on it.  Other times set-backs can throw us off balance or cause a backwards slide.  When that happens get your footing and push forward.

The Distance between dreams and realityI am dealing with dreams in various aspects of my life, and the reality is I have been slow in taking action, but every small step I make gives me a feeling of accomplishment and the desire to push forward….I just need to start doing it at a faster pace!

Each of my dreams deals with a different part of my life.  Each has a different game plan.  Each will be worked on and accomplished at different speeds, and some may need to be put on hold while I push to accomplish others.  That is okay.  Even putting some on hold can be part of the overall plan of action.  The important part is to act on the plan.

So, what are my Dreams + Action = Reality goals?

Asset Control:  This sounds strange, but I have inheritance money and/or assets that have not yet been distributed to me and I need to take whatever steps necessary so that all items are under my control.  I also have property and a motor home that I want to sell and need to push stronger to get those sales accomplished.  Once I have achieved those things, my asset control goal will be accomplished and I will be able to better fund my investments for a higher yield, which has a direct effect on my retirement funds.

Downsizing:  I decided some time ago that I need to downsize, and I have talked about it quite a bit, but the “action” part has been slow in coming.  This is most likely because it will be a tremendous change.  I will have to get rid of an overwhelming  amount of items accumulated over a 34 year marriage, sell move from my 4-bedroom colonial with the plan to purchase a 2-3 bedroom ranch-style condominium.  I am finding the action part is both time consuming and somewhat emotional as I will need to part with numerous possessions.  However, after cleaning out my parent’s home following their demise and having listened to several friends also go through the same thing, I realize that the majority of this stuff is not anything my kids are going to want and is just taking up space.  This is my number one priority and the first “dream” I have to make a “reality”.

Retirement:  Being a widow retirement can be very close, within the next three years, or in the distant future.  My full-retirement age of 67 is still ten years away.  My goal is to land somewhere in the middle, around age 62-63.  I know I cannot afford to stay in this house once I retire, and so the push to downsize is a necessity as much as a desire.  The sooner I downsize the faster I can save more money toward my retirement dreams and/or another dream.

Travel:  There are a lot of places I have not been to but want to see, both in this country and others.  While working I want to start taking short trips and seeing a bit of the country.  Once I retire I want to be able to travel much more extensively.  I am even debating whether I want to go ahead and fulfill a prior dream my deceased husband and I had…full time RV.  A friend of mine just started on his adventure, and in helping him get ready to head out I felt the desire come back to hit the road myself.  I have learned that  there are a lot of women driving Class A motor homes and towing vehicles, living the full-time life all by themselves  If they can do it, why can’t I.  Time will tell.

Writing and Photography:  These are both things I do now, but my life has been rather hectic the past few years and I do not have as much time for either of these areas as I would like.  I hope that once I have downsized, and most definitely once retired, that I can devote a considerable amount of time to both of these areas.   I have a book started that I plan to finish and other ideas bouncing around in my head for additional books.

As you read this you may have realized that my dreams are related to each other.  I need financial control of all my assets to achieve my other goals financially.  I need to complete the downsizing prior to retirement.  I need to retire to obtain more time for writing, photography, and travel.  Dreams + Action = Reality.  I better get busy!

I hope that while reading this you have started to formulate dreams and plans for action in your head.  What are your dreams?  I would love to hear about them in the comment section below.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under Activities, decisions, exploration, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Photography, tourism, travel, vacation

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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Filed under assumptions, communication, decisions, events, habit, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, school

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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Filed under celebration, children, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, events, Family, food, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, travel, Upper Penninsula

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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Filed under assumptions, Cleaning, communication, Coping, decisions, environmental, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, impressions, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality, time

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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Desirable Age

What is the desirable age?  That is a matter of your perception of age, your life as it once was, your life as it currently is, and your life as you want it to be.  The desirable age changes based on where you are in life and your personal life experiences.

When you were a child time moved slow.  School started in September and it took forever for Halloween to arrive, even longer for Thanksgiving, and that stretch until Christmas was an eternity.  As you got older and had a better understanding of time and more responsibilities time moved faster until suddenly one turn of events led to the next in the blink of an eye and you are constantly questioning where time has gone.

age - each year is preciousHave you ever found yourself wishing you could go back to the carefree days of your youth?  Do you remember a time when you wished you were older?  We all experience desires to be an age we are not for various reasons.

As a young child it was exciting to become older.  We proudly announced out age, thrilled with the advancement another birthday had afforded us.   “I’m Five,”  “I’m the oldest,”  “She’s too little to do this.”

Proud displays of advancing age and accomplishments.  Age brought wonderful benefits.  the ability to cross the street by yourself, ride a bike, walk downtown, earn money babysitting or getting a part-time job, driving a car, dating, and the list goes on.  Who can forget that ever desired ability to reach the age where you can purchase alcohol?  Everyone started their life and lived the first 21 years of their life with the ever present desire to be older.

Then you become and adult and suddenly life hits you smack in the face.  You have to work, if in college you may have work and school work.  You have bills, responsibilities.  Maybe you’ve gotten married, had kids, or both.  What happened to those wonderful days of high school that you once desired so much to be rid of?  You hit the age of 25, you are now a quarter of a century old.  Where has time gone?  You’re on a downhill roll, approaching 30.  Remember when 30 was old?

age - quote by eleanor rooseveltThose mid-range years of 30-50, you are working, raising kids, trying to have a life.  Time flies by.  They tell you to plan for retirement but seriously, when you are only 30 retirement is decades into the distance.  Why worry?  Spend and enjoy.  By the time you reach 40 you are taking life more seriously. Retirement plans are in place and you may even dream of the distant future with ideas about how you will spend your leisurely days of retirement.  Realistically you are counting the days with a mixture of excitement and dread until your children move from needing constant care to the teen years where less constant supervision is required but there is the potential for stepping onto the wrong path due to peer pressure and temptation.  Then they graduate from high school, enter into college and/or the working world.  Will they marry?  When will they have children (your grandchildren)?

You have become an empty nester.  Some feel lost without children at home.  Some enjoy the freedom to once again not have the responsibilities that they have carried for the past 18-20 years when raising a family.  You are still working, you still have responsibilities, but you have freedom like you haven’t had since young adulthood.    You have reached an age in your life where you may just say “can I just stay here, like this, forever.”

age - old age is 15 years older than i amIt is a wonderful point in life.  You are still young; retirement is a long way off.  You can enjoy activities on a larger scale, whether it be travel, boating, fishing, extreme sports, hobbies, or any other thing that captures your attention.   Life is a comfortable combination of relaxation and excitement.   Some people may desire their youth, some may desire retirement, but overall it is a mid-range point in which time is flying by as you enjoy life.

Retirement age is a combination of state of mind and age from birth.  Those born in 1960 or later like me do not reach full retirement age until 67, those born 1959 or earlier full retirement age is 65.  Early retirement can be taken at 62.  Those ages reflect when you can begin collecting social security benefits.  For those who are widowed you can collect widows benefits at age 60, provided you have not remarried prior to reaching that age.

That desirable age depends on where you are in life and what has transpired in your lifetime.  What you think is desirable or undesirable now may change depending on what happens in your life.   In fact that is what inspired me to write this blog.  I was recently talking to someone and told them I have a reached a point in my life when I wish I were a few years older.  Why?Age - life your life and forget your age

I was widowed at 55 but can not collect widows social security benefits until age 60.  While I may or may not collect them at that point, it is frustrating to realize I cannot receive that benefit for several years.  I have also come to realize that there are numerous discounts on travel, dining, and other perks that I am unable to take advantage of because I am just a few years too young.

Life experiences v. desirable age.  At 54 I had no desire to reach retirement age, I liked being younger.  I used to joke with my husband, who was nine years older, that getting the senior price for him and having to pay full price for me was what he got for being a “cradle robber.”  Ron was already retired but I was employed full time.  We purchased a motor home with the idea of me working a few years and then going full-time RV, traveling the country together.  Then Ron developed cancer, lost the battle, and I became a widow at 55.     I lost 100% of his social security income; I can’t collect widows benefits because I’m not old enough.  Live experiences v. desirable age, I am now looking forward to reaching age 60.  I may or may not collect at that point, but I know the option is there should I want or need to.  age - success by age

I can not say what someone who is in their 70’s or 80’s desires.  I haven’t lived that yet.  I know many people in those age groups are very active.  Remember age is a matter of the mind.  It is my belief that if you think and behave like someone who is younger, your active lifestyle will keep you young, and for that you will have a more fulfilling life.

So what is the desirable age?  In reality every age is desirable.  Every age has its benefits, its “perks.”  The innocence and energy of children, the desires and dreams of youth and young adulthood, the freedom that comes when you become an empty nester, the time and ability to fulfill dreams after retirement.  Enjoy your life.  You are at a desirable age.

 

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It is Me

It is always interesting when you read things that are supposed to be a part of your personality and discover they are accurate.  Astrological signs, the zodiac, those predictions that say because you were born in this month on this date, this is your personality.   I am a Libra.  It is Me.

Libra I BalanceWith today’s internet if you search out something on any sight it will suddenly start popping up in massive quantities.   That was the case with traits of my sign, Libra.  What surprised me was how many of those quotes accurately reflect my personality.

“Libras can take forever to make a decision.”  Anyone who has known me for long will attest that this is true.  Why?  Because the Libra sign is the scales, we like things to be in balance so we must carefully weigh all the odds, then review them, then think about it, then ponder over whether or not we are making a good decision that will keep everything in balance.    Now you may think everyone does that when making a major decision, and I agree with you on that.  But with us Libras it can be a minor decision or a major decision.  Each receives equal consideration, so don’t ask me to make a snap decision between plums or peaches, I need a minute to ponder the positives and negatives of each option.

“Libra knows and feels way more than they express, let things go way more than they should; feel deeply, love hard and aren’t shy about taking the hard road.”
This is so true.  Again, we don’t want to rock the scales so we may be thinking and acting one way, but feeling totally the opposite because we don’t want to cause a disruption.  It is better, or easier, to go along with what someone else wants and keep everything peaceful and flowing than to object and cause a dispute.   Keep in mind this can be the process with both negative and positive things.  I may be feeling something positive, but what if others don’t agree with that, better to keep it to myself and not risk an upset.

There are several thoughts about the Libra personality that play into each other, and as you read through these you may see a flow.Libra over thinker

“A Libra will act as if everything is okay even when things are falling apart.”

“Libras are good at ‘saving face’ meaning they can have more turmoil going on in their lives than you can imagine but guess what?  They won’t let you see them sweat.”

“A Libra bounces back and recovers no matter how heavy the weight you place upon them.”

Those three quotes easily relate to each other, and anyone that has known me for very long knows that I fit that personality.  I have lived for years with constant turmoil of some kind or another.  The majority of people I encounter have no idea what has gone on ‘behind the scenes’ in my life.   When in conversation I have mentioned a small portion of what I have encountered people sometimes wonder how I am able to function.  What the heck am I supposed to do, give up on life?  No, I do what the Libra personality says I do, I act as if everything is okay when inside I’m falling apart.  I don’t let anyone see me sweat, I keep a smile on my face and purge forward.  Because I am determined to maintain a positive attitude I always bounce back.

When a Libra is finally tired of the bullshit they won’t look back and you will be history.”  We Libras may prefer to keep everything in balance, but be aware, we are not pushovers.  We do not like things or people that are unfair, rude, or disrespectful.  We will put up with a lot, we will forgive and forgive and forgive, but eventually enough it enough.  When we have been pushed to our limit we will walk away and never look back.  What happens if circumstances cause us to look back?  We will always be wary.

Libras are also a good judge of character.  “If a Libra appears to be shy or standoffish they’re likely observing your behavior before opening up.”  I like people, but I don’t have a lot of close friends.  We Libras are choosy about who we get close to.  We enjoy being wild and crazy, wacky and weird, but we don’t want people who are going to tip those scales out of balance.  There are a lot of people that simply don’t fit what we consider the ideal friend, and so they remain at a distance; close friends are few and we like it that way.

Libra Leisure and HobbyLeisure & Hobbies are important to us Libra.  We have a wide range of interests and taking time to enjoy the fun things in life is important to our well being.  While we are the scales and like things in balance, we also like to debate issues and I for one certainly go for the win.  However winning or loosing is not the ultimate goal, because knowledge is gained through debate so a good discussion is always good for the brain.  If you always associate with people who think just like you there is no challenge, no gain in knowledge, it is just an ongoing, never changing, boring existence.

Travel is always enjoyable.  Exploring places you have never been or sometimes revisiting places you love and enjoy.  For years Niagara Falls was my favorite city.  That isn’t to say I don’t still enjoy it, it just isn’t the same as it was 35 years ago.  I love visiting historic homes, walking in gardens, visiting areas that are cultural and stopping at scenic outlooks.  No matter where you are there is always something you can enjoy, and with me, something I can photograph.

Over the years I have dabbled in various hobbies and crafts, with my most prevalent being photography.  A hobby that goes with that is being a scrapbooker.  I have also done counted cross-stitch, embroidery, latch hook, and miscellaneous other crafts, plus I love to write.  I enjoy  playing video/computer games.  I do this to compartmentalize my brain.  At work when I take a lunch break playing a computer game while I eat helps my brain to re-energize for the rest of the day.  It gives it a break.  Besides, games are fun!

“Music is often the center of a Libra’s existence.”  I listen to music less now than I did when younger, and I think it may have to do with the environment in which I work or the fact that I now reside alone.  I have learned to enjoy quiet.  When driving alone music in the car is a must – I  “dance” as I drive, singing, enjoying every minute of it.  When cleaning or doing other manual labor around the house if I take the time to turn on the radio I am happier and tend to work faster.  I also take breaks to dance to my favorite songs.  Music just fits every mood, it is energizing and relaxing, whatever you want it to be.

This is just a slight glimpse into the many things that make up the Libra personality.  The more I read the more I know.  This is Me.  I am a true Libra, whether overthinking and weighing the odds of an inconsequential decision far too long, juggling turmoil, sizing up someone before letting them into my inner circle, shooting pictures, playing computer games or dancing in my kitchen, I am a Libra.  This is Me.

 

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Decompress a Boggled Brain

Let’s face it, some of us have this issue more than others.  It could be related to your lifestyle, age, career, family life, or just an occasional bumble in your normal schedule.  Sometimes it is a combination of all those things and is just plain hard to shake.

Maybe you’re like me and have a “to-do” list that seems like Mt. Everest x 3 and you feel like you’ll never get through it all.  When things seem overwhelming it can be hard to get motivated.   Sometimes you accomplish things but no one can tell.  If you spend 10 hours on paperwork, who is going to know except you?   That lack of visual accomplishment can make one feel as if they have nothing to show for their effort.

How do you prevent feeling overwhelmed?  When you want to throw up your hands and turn into a sluggish couch potato, how do you reverse the process?   You have to decompress your boggled brain.  Give it a break from life’s obligations.  Have some fun.

The time you spend decompressing the brain can be anything from a few minutes to a few days.  What I have found is that by taking a break I re-energize and am able to accomplish more than I would if I stayed on the straight-and-narrow work path.    It is easy to think “I shouldn’t be doing this” or “I should be doing this” because of that massive to-do list.   The trick is in the timing.Decompress - everyone needs time

I work full time as a paralegal.  I spend the majority of my workday at the computer writing pleadings, handling correspondence, and listening to people’s problems on the phone.  Very rarely is my to-do pile shorter than about 18″ in height, quite often it is more than that.  I do not leave the office at lunch; it is a one-person office and while eating I take calls or handle people as they walk in the door.  I decompress at lunch by skimming through Facebook and quite often spend time playing a game such as Candy Crush or Tetris Battles while eating.   Playing those games releases the brain from thinking.  Although the mind is active, it is relaxing.   I have found it to be a great way to re-power for the afternoon.

I am a photographer, and for the past three years I haven’t done much in the way of shooting pictures.  That is for a combination of reasons including working on cleaning out my parent’s home after they passed, a bad ankle that I finally had surgery on this past fall, and my own husband fighting cancer, a battle he lost 20 months ago.  I wasn’t going out and shooting because not only was it was physically painful to walk, but I also felt I have so much to do here at home that I should be here working, not out having fun.

So what did I realize?  I had lost my motivation.  I was here and getting things done, but not to the degree that I used to several years ago.   I lacked motivation and my productivity was down, which compounded my feeling of being overwhelmed.  I decided it was time to get out and participate in a few more things this year, attend more festivities and do more photo shooting.

Fun - give yourself permissionI will admit it was hard.  However forcing myself to get out and do things has been beneficial.  I am more physically active, which increases metabolism and energy.  I discovered I am happier by being once again out and about partaking in different activities.  The result is that I am more productive than I was when spending the entire weekend at home.  Why?  Because I have decompressed my brain so I am more relaxed, my energy level has increased, and therefore I am more productive.

When you are feeling sluggish, overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits take some time to decompress the brain.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Do I Like Living Alone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Cherish Surprises

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

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

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

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

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

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

I May Be Sinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Show Me The Bottom Of Your Feet

A step that I completed three times this past weekend.  Having done it for the past five years, I really don’t need any instruction, I now know it is required.  That is only one of the things that must be done when you visit a prisoner.  Those who are familiar with the routine don’t give it a thought, but it is discomforting to someone who visits for the first time.

Knowledge is the main key to a successful visit.  Visiting a prison is not scary, it is just different.  Security measures and dress codes must be adhered to.  Your freedoms are also restricted to insure the safety and control of all inside those doors.  Prisoners in a visiting room are not horrible people to be terrified of, they are just people who made a mistake at some point in their life.  They are in that visiting room spending cherished time with friends, their parents, spouse, children, grandparents.  Anyone who is on their visiting list and has been cleared to visit.

So what is involved in visiting a prisoner?  While I can only speak for Michigan, I would presume that other states have similar practices and requirements.  Step one is the prisoner has to fill out a visitors list, putting on it the people who will or may visit him.  Before a person can go inside a state prison to visit they must fill out an application and submit it to the prison, then wait to obtain clearance.  Once you have received clearance it “moves” with you if the prisoner should be transferred to another location.

Patrick and Me 2 adj croped May 2017080

My son, Patrick, and I during day one of my visit during Memorial Day weekend

Once approved you are free to visit the prisoner during that prison’s designated visiting times.  Information regarding each prison’s visiting hours and other important information can be located online.  You may want to call the prison to verify whether their vending machines use cash or if you have to purchase and load a vending card.  You will need quarters for a locker where you will be required to store your car keys, jackets, or any other items you carry in but are not allowed to take into the visiting room.  Keep in mind that most prisons do not allow you to bring your cell phone, beeper, pager, or any other similar devise inside the building.  Those items must be left in your car.

The easiest way to go about this is to take in the cash you plan to use for vending (some prisons require quarters only in a clear plastic bag and limit the dollar amount per person), your vending card or funds to load one, your picture ID, and your car keys.  You are not allowed to wear anything, such as a watch, that contains a battery or is electronic, but other jewelry is allowed.  An inventory of all jewelry, belts, glasses, and medical items, such as an ankle brace, will be noted at check-in, and then verified that it is still with you at check-out.  That is not because they think someone is going to steal it off you, but to make sure that a visitor has not transferred contraband to a prisoner.  Prisoners are also searched/patted down prior to the visit and again go through a “shake down” after the visit.

Patrick2 May 2017 adj cropped 078

Patrick during day 2 of our visit — this photo has been cropped, which I do with most photos taken at the prison.

Keep in mind that clothing should be conservative — no short shorts, low-cut or revealing clothing such as skin tight leggins, no hoodies, no jackets/coats in the visiting room.  The only thing you are allowed to carry into the room is your funds or vending card and your locker key.

So, you’ve done your preliminary steps, you have been approved, you know when to visit, how to dress, how to bring in funds for vending machines.  Now what?  If possible, it is best to advise your prisoner in advance the date and anticipated time when you plan to visit.  This allows the prisoner to be properly clothed for a visit and to be where his Commanding Officer can quickly locate him.   My son knows the estimated time of my arrival and is able to see me drive by from his bunk window.  When he sees my car go by he walks up by his C.O. and awaits the call from the visiting room so he can be released for a visit.  This helps to shorten the time you have to wait before the visit begins.

When you arrive at the prison take in only the limited items mentioned above and lock everything else in your car.  You will need to complete a sign-in sheet where you fill out your personal information, including your name, address, birth date, the license plate of your car, the prisoner’s number, and your relationship to the prisoner.  You will need to present picture ID, which they will hold until you leave.  They will note any jewelry you are wearing:  2 earrings, one ring, one pair of glasses, etc.  The desk will call back to the prisoner’s bunk and advise the C.O. that the prisoner has a visit.

If your prisoner sent anything up to the desk for you to take home you will receive it from the visitor’s desk, will be instructed to sign that you have picked up.  It is always a good idea for the prisoner to let you know ahead of time what they have sent to be picked up so you have some knowledge of what to expect.  Items they send to the front for pickup are only held for thirty days.  At my most recent visit I had to pick up a large envelope, a very heavy box filled with paperwork and books, and a huge plastic bag filled with numerous items my son had crocheted since my prior stop.  I have a small hand cart I take with me which helps in transporting the items going home from the building to the parking lot.

Make sure you have the appropriate money and/or vending card purchased and loaded before going back to the visiting room.  It is also a good idea to use the restroom prior to your visit, as bathroom visits are limited, require you to be escorted out by a guard, and also require another complete search and pat-down prior to re-entering the visiting room.

Once your prisoner arrives in the visitor area (you will not see this, he will arrive through a separate entry), he will be patted down, enter the visiting room, and be either standing at attention near the doorway until you arrive, or be already seated at an area he was instructed to use by the visiting room officer.   Once he is in the visiting area you will be called and taken back.

You will walk through a scanner, then be told to remove your socks and shoes and show the guard the bottom of your feet.  If it is warm enough, sandals make this step much easier.  You will then put your footwear back on.  You will be asked to open your mouth and raise your tongue.  You will have to stand with your back to the guard, legs spread, arms raised, and be patted down.  You will have to pull out your pockets so they can be checked.  If you are wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves, they will have to be unrolled so they can be checked.  All of these steps are to prevent contraband from entering the prison.  The search and pat-down are done by a guard of the same gender as the visitor.  Your hand will be marked with a black light pen and you will be then taken to the visiting room.

Patrick May 2017 adjusted 077

This photo of Patrick shows how prisoners are required to dress, in their striped uniform and prison issue shoes.  This also shows the way most photos are taken before the mural and is why I crop most photos

Visits in prisons are contact visits.  This means you are in the same room with your prisoner and with all other prisoners who are having visits.  Be aware that prisoners are not allowed to converse with each other in the visiting room.  A cordial greeting is okay, but beyond that they can not congregate and or hold conversations with each other.  When you enter the room you will spot your prisoner and go to where ever they are located.  You are allowed to hug your prisoner upon greeting and upon leaving.  There are usually cards and other games available on a shelf to use during the visit if you choose to, and also some toys for children.  There are vending machines to purchase beverages, snacks and sandwiches.  Keep in mind that this is usually food the prisoner is unable to get during their day-today life and so this is a special treat to be able to eat and drink items such as burgers, burritos, candy, and pop.  They have limited items available in their commissary, but not all.  I normally purchase the photos tickets and food for my son, only having a light snack myself during the entire day I am there.  I go out to dinner after the visit.  I generally go for about 8-9 hours per visit and spend between $25-$35 in vending per day.

Remember, everything in a prison is limited and controlled.  The prisoner is not allowed to get up and walk around, they are not even allowed to approach the vending machines or area where games are stored.  You will have to get everything on your own.  Food items must be removed from their package and put on a paper plate before taking it to the table where you and your prisoner are seated.  There are microwaves available in the visiting room for heating foods.

You will be able have photos taken of your prisoner solo and/or with you.  Photo “tickets” are purchased either at the front desk as you check in or are cards that are purchased from the vending machine.  The cost is very reasonable, $2.50 gets you two 4×6 prints of the photo, one for you to take home, one for the prisoner to keep.  At some point during the visit you will be called up to have your photo taken before a mural in the visiting room.  Photographer is one of the jobs that prisoners can hold while they are incarcerated.   This is the one time when the prisoner is allowed to get up, walk over to have his photo taken, then return to his seat.  The other is if he is going out for a restroom visit for which he is escorted out by a guard.

If you as a visitor need to use the restroom you will have to advise the guard at the desk.   You will then go back to your seat and wait until another officer comes into the room to escort you out.  They will sometimes make an announcement asking whether any additional women and/or men need to go, but sometimes it is not announced, so keep your eye out.  It is often easier to go out when a group is going then have to wait later.  Bathroom trips are limited and keep in mind you will again have to go through the metal detector, remove shoes, get patted down, etc. depending on how far outside of the visiting room you have to go to use a restroom.

If a visiting room becomes crowded some visitors may be asked to leave.  The general rule is first in, first out.  Some prisons base who is asked to leave first on the distance traveled to visit.  If visitor one was in first but traveled 300 miles and visitor two only traveled 100 miles, visitor two may be asked to leave before visitor one.  Generally they will make an announcement and ask for volunteers to leave prior to selecting who must go.  I have only had to leave earlier than intended 2-3 times in the past five years, Father’s Day being one of them.  For that reason I now avoid visiting on that holiday.

Patrick and Me adj cropped May 2017079

Patrick and I during day 2 of my Memorial Day weekend visit. 

When you are ready to leave you must advise the desk overseeing the waiting room, then go sit back down and wait.  An officer will arrive in the visiting room to escort you out.  Keep in mind that it may take some time before you are actually allowed to exit, and  the wait may be extensive if it is during shift change or count.  Your prisoner can advise you on when those things occur.  You may hug your prisoner before departing, and if photos were taken you would have received two copies of each picture — one to leave with the prisoner, one to take home.

During the exit process you will be asked to pass your marked hand under a black light, they will verify you are wearing the same jewelry you entered with, and your drivers license will be returned to you.  Retrieve your items out of the locker and you are free to go.

You have now survived your first prison visit.  A simple walk in the prison.  Nothing scary.  Perfectly routine.

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