Category Archives: Life is a Melting Pot

Memories of Grandma-Part 1

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

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

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

My Maternal Grandmother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front Porch Sitting

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

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

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

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

Doing Laundry

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

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

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

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

Down on the Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to Get the Paper

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

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

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

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

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

The Move From the Farm

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

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

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

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

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

Habits I learned and Things I Didn’t Learn

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

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

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

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

If I Could Go Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED …WHAT IF?

Have you ever looked back on decisions made in your life and wondered What if I had made a the other choice? What would my life be like now?

Of course, the preponderances about how your life would have been different are all fiction, and they can be good or bad.  So have some fun, wonder what if and see what you come up with. Here are a few of mine.

What If Wondering…What if I had made the other choice?

What if I had followed my dream of studying journalism and become a “breaking news” action reporter?  I didn’t because I let my mother talk me out of it. Call is sexist, call it the era in which she was raised, or call it a mother being a mother.

But what if I had forged ahead on my dream?  Would I have written great articles that resulted in a huge demand for my services? Would I have graduated from newspaper writing to televised reporting? Would I have traveled the world to exotic countries or dangerous war zones?

I will never know the answer, but sometimes the speculation leads to regret. I wish I had followed my dream. Now I write from the comfort of a motorhome while traveling throughout North America. I’m not a high-demand reporter, but I am having fun.

What if I had married my boyfriend from high school? We had been together off and on from the time I was in 7th grade until two years after I graduated high school. My parents didn’t like him. Friends assumed we would end up married. Heck, we assumed we would end up married.

Then I met the man that would become my husband. Ron and I were married 34 years when he died. If I hadn’t met Ron, would I have eventually married Brad?

Speculation is yes, but it wouldn’t have lasted. It was too volatile of a relationship. Good for a few months, then separate for a few months. He wanted commitment, but he didn’t want commitment.

Brad wasn’t ready for anything that required him to settle down and not play the field. Sixteen months after I met Ron, we married. I think on this one the What if would not have ended well. I think we are better as friends.

What if I had applied to Ford Motor Company when I had the opportunity?  Ron was a Ford employee, and somewhere around 10 years into our marriage each employee was allowed to sponsor one application. He asked me if I wanted it and I turned it down.

I had always worked for small, family businesses. I was happy in that small, close-knit setting. He had complained about the red tape it always took to get anything accomplished in a big corporation.

Looking back, I may have made a huge financial mistake. What if  I had applied and gotten hired? I would have worked at a higher pay scale, had my own benefits, and had my own pension upon retirement.

At the same time, maybe I didn’t make a mistake. From an emotional standpoint, I have never regretted working for small family-run businesses throughout my career. If I had taken that job, I might still be working but close to retirement.

If I had been hired into Ford I would never have had the opportunity to go to college and become a paralegal, another job I loved doing. I am now living and traveling in a motor-home full time throughout Canada and the United States. I work remotely during the hours I want. 

I don’t have the benefits and financial security that job would have brought me, but I don’t think the What if would have led to as much personal happiness as I have enjoyed. That leads to my final scenario.

What if I had downsized into a Condo? After my husband passed away, I spent 2-3 years in a bit of a muddle both emotionally and financially. When I began to look at things closer I realized I was living beyond my means and needed to downsize.

While I pondered between moving to a smaller house or a condo I started separating my belongings into what I would keep and what I would put in a  moving sale. Then the offer came.

Paul asked me to come on board with him and travel full-time in a motor-home. After analyzing my finances I realized it was feasible and changed my plans. I notified my boss I was leaving and started planning for the biggest downsize of my life.

Was it good decision? Yes. Travel between August 2019 and April 2020 went as planned, and we saw a lot of area. Covid-19 led us to the decision to stay put in Yuma, Arizona during the stay-home orders. We will remain here until August, when we finally hit the road again with stops planned in Port Huron, Michigan; Knoxville, Tennessee; and South Padre Island, Texas before we head back here to Yuma, Arizona for the winter.

So What if I had downsized into a condo or small house?  I would still be doing cold Michigan winters and working full-time in an office. I would have spent the stay-at-home period isolated in my home by myself.

Better an Oops Than a What If

Instead I have traveled to many of the spots I may never have ventured to on my own, and there are many more to come. Some think I made a huge mistake to pack up and go before I reached retirement age. You know what I think – Better an Oops than a What if. 

What are your What ifs in life? Do you regret the choices you made? Do you think your life is better because of them?  Comment below on your what ifs in life.

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Filed under decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, travel, Writing

A Country at War With Itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama Administration

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

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

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

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

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

George Floyd’s Two Autopsies

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

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

Where We Stand on Race

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

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

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

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

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

Where the Treasury Department was attacked?

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

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

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

Trump Administration and Racism

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

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

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

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

Trump Admnistration Civil and Human Rights Rollbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heal the Country

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

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

When Will it Stop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And So We Continue

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

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

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

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

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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Filed under Activities, assumptions, backyard, Canada, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, flowers, Full-Time RV, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, reality, spring, summer, time, tourism, travel, winter

Be Kind, Always Be Kind

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

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

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

BLOG PHOTO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stay-at-Home Orders: 10 Positive Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twists and Turns

We all experience them from time-to-time.  The twists and turns of life created by things we aren’t expecting or choices we make.   It is what we make of them that determines our destiny and happiness.

My life was a whirlwind of twists and turns for several years, with the culmination being my decision to sell my home and the bulk of my possessions, leave my job prior to being of retirement age, and live and travel on the road full time in a motor home.  LIFE IS A MATTER OF CHOICES

When I made that decision I knew I would need to find some type of remote work.  I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a spousal pension from my deceased husband and some savings/investments to help me float through the beginning of this, but not enough to sustain me long-term.   I plan to live a long time and my investments need to support me in old age!  Income on the road is a must.

I have always loved writing, and one of my goals when I set off on this was to expand my writing career.  When you travel throughout the United States and Canada, travel articles for magazines is a good possibility.   The income generated from that is not steady enough to support this new lifestyle, and so I continued looking for part-time remote work.

I applied for and was accepted on a contractual basis to be part of a pool that writes ad-scripts for radio advertising.   This is giving me some good experience, but is more of a pocket-change job than a lucrative career, so I continued looking.

I joined The Barefoot Writer, then signed up for a course on becoming a copywriter with American Writers and Artists, Inc.  I had not even started the course when two days later I received a response to another contractual job I had applied for and have now accepted to write marketing blogs for various companies.

As part of a pool of copywriters I am obligated to complete five assignments per week.   This includes research and writing a marketing blog that meets the clients specifications and the company’s QC requirements.  I look at this as a wonderful opportunity to make money while that is compatible with the instruction I am getting from my copywriting course.

I’m sure the time spent learning to juggle work, class, travel, and photography in a time-efficient manner will leave me twisting and turning. Now, if you are a long-time reader of this blog you know that I am a photographer and sell my work on Fine Art America.  I am also looking to expand my sales avenues for my photography, so add another matter to my juggling act.

I am starting off 2020 with a juggling numerous things that are the culmination of the twists and turns of my life.  Here’s to what should be a very interesting year!

Please comment:  What are the twists and turns you are juggling?  What are your plans for 2020?

 

 

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

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

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

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

Cactus with Christmas Hats

Photo found on internet

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

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

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

 

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Planning Flexibility

We all plan out our lives, whether it is the routine we use at work, getting the kids to bed and then up again for school, or what we will do on vacation, we all have a plan.  What happens when that plan doesn’t work, or something happens that means those plans need to be changed?  Do you get stressed or just “go with the flow?”

There are times when no matter how well you have activities planned, something will happen that throws a wrench into the pot — it can be job loss, car problems, an accident, a fire, natural disaster, or someone made a mistake.Blessed-are-the-flexible-for-they-will-not-be-bent-out-of-shape_

In dealing with problems I have noticed there are those who get stressed, angered, frustrated, and do not cope well.  There are others that may feel frustrated but seem to be more flexible, adapt where necessary, and continue on without experiencing much stress.

Why is it people are so diverse on how they cope with problems that arise in their life?  Is it learned from when they were children observing their parents?  Is it their natural personality?  Is it something that happened in their lifetime that impacted their manner of handling stress?

In my opinion, it is all of these combined together to create a personality and coping ability that is unique to each person.   A person’s everyday lifestyle, economic level, personal experiences, and childhood combine together and impact how each person will handle different challenges as they occur.  The same challenge may be handled with ease by one person, but create immense stress in another.  There is no right or wrong, it simply is.

A person who has always lived a financially strong life will likely find it difficult to handle a sudden loss of income that leaves them unable to purchase everything they need, much less want but don’t need.  A person who grew up in a low income family or has spent the majority of their adult life with financial struggles would also find loss of income difficult, but they are more prepared mentally and emotionally to handle dealing with meager funds.

Someone who grew up in an environment where every minor problem was over-exaggerated into a major catastrophe will likely not have the coping mechanisms of someone who grew up in an “accidents will happen” and “life goes on” mindset.  The first would teach you to always be on edge and the person will likely “fly off the handle” at bumps in the road, while the second is more likely roll with whatever life throws at them.     While there is not a right or wrong personality, it is likely that the person with better coping mechanisms will have a less stressful life. 

What about someone who has encountered war, been in a horrible accident, experienced death of a loved one, or been assaulted?  There are uncountable incidents that could happen to a person which may have a profound effect on their way of thinking, what they fear, what angers them and how they react to various events.  Those lifetime encounters impact their way of thinking, how they plan their life and how flexible they are.

Whatever your personality type and how well you cope with upsets to your daily or lifetime plans, keep in mind that the more flexible you are, the happier you will likely be. Stress is normal in life, and there will be times when the best laid plans are disrupted.  Allowing those disruptions to create undue stress can make you more irritable and does nothing to resolve the problem.  Stay calm, focus on the solution, and make adjustments where needed.  Remember, flexibility does not always, but can, result in something better than you originally planned.

 

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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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Driving the Chesapeake Bay Bridge- Tunnel

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

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

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

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

Artillary Memorial_GLG0588_0109

Bunker from WWII

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

 

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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

Finally at Peace

When you live with constant turmoil you become accustomed to living as if on a constant roller coaster ride.  The twists and turns of upheaval in your life create emotional stress, and yet you constantly adjust, cope, and keep on moving forward.  This becomes so normal you do not even realize how much stress you are constantly under.

That has been my life for the past few years.  The loss of my grandchildren to foster care and then a battle with CPS when we tried to adopt which resulted in them being lost to adoption by strangers.  My son serving six years in prison for home invasion, dealing with the constant dangers that environments holds.  My mother, father, father-in-law, and then my husband battling cancer and passing away, all within a three year period.  My son being released from prison and paroled to my home; something I had originally looked forward to but which became a very stressful situation.  Peace of Mind

Following my husband’s death I made a determination that I needed to downsize out of my home and into something smaller.  In the midst of planning for that made a decision to  instead downsize into an RV and travel full-time.  During this process I informed both of my adult children that I was no longer going to be able to subsidize them financially, something my husband had always done while he was alive.  This resulted in more stress, but over time success was achieved.  They are both now living financially on their own.

I am finally at a point where success is on the horizon.  My new lifestyle begins on Monday.  I closed on my house today.    Friday is my last day of work.  My daughter moved her family north and is now residing near her fiance’s parents, a situation that is serving well.  Both Caroline and Rob are working at new jobs and my three grandchildren are enjoying life in a more country setting close to their other grandparents.

My son, now out of prison for 1-1/2 years, has obtained his CDL and is working in a position driving semi.  He and his ex-wife have reconciled and are residing in a home they rent near his workplace.   I am at peace that I do not have to worry about him being cold, undernourished, injured or killed in prison.  I wish him success.

For the first time in years my mind is at peace.  My children are both living on their own without my financial assistance, and I am going into semi-retirement.  I will be residing full-time in a motor home, traveling the United States and Canada and doing part-time remote or seasonal work.

For the first time in years I can sleep without my mind churning over the problems, worries, and stress that plagued me for so long.  I hope nothing happens to upset the apple cart.  A mind at peace is a wonderful thing.

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Life is not meant to be lived in one place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Acorn Drop = Drunken Squirrel

One day I was flipping through Facebook posts when a friend commented “So I am sitting on my deck reading and enjoying a glass of vino when a frickin’ squirrel drops a frickin’ acorn directly into my glass! Really Mr. Squirrel! I could not do that if I tried!”

Now, I am not the type of person who can let this type of comment pass, it just gets the mind rolling on the possibilities on how this story could have progressed……

What if Carol had picked up the acorn after it was nicely wine soaked and thrown it back at the squirrel?  Would the squirrel have discarded it as “damaged” goods, not worthy of storage?  Would it have taken the acorn into its mouth and carried it back to store?  Would it have held the acorn, licking the wine off it?  index

If the squirrel carried the nut in its mouth or licked it clean, would the wine have inebriated the squirrel.  Would Carol have then been entertained by a drunk squirrel staggering about on her lawn?  What if the drunken squirrel climbed the tree for more acorns and in its drunken state staggered a cross a limb and fell out of the tree and into her class of wine?

What would the mental state of a drunken squirrel be, especially after falling from the tree and into the glass of wine?  Would it have been a friendly, happy drunk or an angry, hostile squirrel?

My thought is, the next time Carol is sitting under a tree drinking a glass of wine, she should keep on hand extra treats in case an angry, drunken squirrel lands in her wine glass.  Let’s face it, most wild animals turn happier when fed.  Maybe a bowl of wine for its drinking pleasure would be a good idea.

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Loved by Wildlife

While I have only been living in an RV for a little over a month, Paul has been enjoying this life for a year now and has shared some wildlife dilemmas he has encountered.   Depending on where in the story you are, the experiences can be perceived as frustrating or funny, possible even fearful and confusing for the creatures involved.

The first incident was when Paul was staying in a campsite and continuously heard something running back and forth on the top of his motor home.  He could not figure out what any creature would find so entertaining as to scamper back and forth, but didn’t really give it much thought.

Then one day a fellow campground tenant asked Paul if he realized that a squirrel had built a nest on the top of his slide.  Now this is a sheltered location, as the slide has a built in canopy over it.  Paul got up on a ladder and looked at the top of the slide.  The nest was positioned in the middle of the slide, and he could tell it was about two feet wide and no idea how deep.  Now how to reach it?

Paul had a long-handled squeegee and decided that would do the trick.  Standing on the top of the ladder he reached the squeegee in as far as possible and pulled the nest toward him, letting it fall to the ground.  He repeated this process several times until as much of the nest as he could reach fell to the ground.  He then moved the latter to the other end of the slide and repeated the process.

After he had removed the nest one of the observers mentioned that when it fell to the ground baby squirrels had run away from it.  One of the campground workers when and got a shovel and scooped up all the nest debris and disposed of it elsewhere.    Now the question was, how had the squirrel gotten up onto the roof of the motor home, as there were no trees nearby.  Paul heard the sound on his roof again and went out to observe.

The squirrel was climbing up and down the ladder on the back of his RV.  He said the mother squirrel looked to be in a big of a panic, running back and forth, looking all over as if to say “where is my home?”  and “where are my babies?”   Despite the fact that the nest had to be removed for him to bring the slide in and move to the next location, I had to feel sorry for the poor mother squirrel who thought she had built a safe haven for her little family and it was now missing.

Now we move to fluttered friends.   A nest with eggs was found on one of the support arms for one of the slides and was removed, then on at least two other occasions birds built nests on the lower portion of the slides.   One bird was unintentionally suicidal.  As we were getting ready to leave after the jeep was parked less than 48 hours a bird had built a nest on the top of his front passenger side tire — and it was tightly muddied to the tire!   It was removed before we drove off.  Can you imagine the shock of all those birds who had found what they considered an ideal place to construct their homes, only to return and have them totally gone.

This makes me wonder, why is this RV and Jeep so loved by wildlife?   With trees nearby why select a man-made object over nature?    It will be interesting to see what other creatures may be attracted to our motor home as we traverse the U.S. and Canada.

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Filed under backyard, birds, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, travel

And the Beat Goes On….

Life has been in a bit of a turmoil, but good turmoil, for a while now.  I spent several months sorting through my belongings in preparation for downsizing from an 1800 sq. foot home into an RV and having an estate sale to eliminate what I am not taking with me.

I joined Paul in the RV on the 23rd of April, and my estate sale was held May 16-19th.  The weather that has been miserably cold and rainy was, for the most part, warm and sunny that weekend….except for a tornado warning the last couple hours of the sale.  The sale was a success, and the company I had conducting the sale for me is getting the home cleaned out so the real estate company and finalize steps needed to list it for sale.

Preparing to put my home up for sale created a whirlwind of things to be handled.  As it turned out, the home needed a new roof, which has been completed.  I hired someone to mow the lawns, and despite the mush the rain has created in spots, he managed to complete the task at least twice.  I have someone hired to clean out flower beds and shrubbery, but the weather has prevented that from being completed thus far.  Some inside drywall repair and painting, carpet cleaning, and power washing the outside of the home and it should be ready to go on the market.  Hopefully it will be a quick sale.  aa40d21aceb22bfc8cecc2045524bef5

Moving into a 35-foot RV creates challenges when trying to finding places for everything.  The kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom are pretty well organized now.  I still have lots of boxes to go through and where to put items.  The problem is, being a writer, a good portion of those boxes contain paperwork, and I am not sure if they will all be able to stay.  Other items end up in unusual places.  My bottles of wine are under the bed, shoes are in a drawer, and at this point the driver’s seat is holding a chess board, backgammon board, and some paperwork.  The number of boxes that have been emptied is impressive.

One of the greatest challenges is realizing that there is not the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer space I was accustomed to having in my home.  One weeks worth of groceries for two people creates a full refrigerator.    Our pantry is full.   Convection oven cooking is not difficult, just an adjustment.   Living is a bit more simplified.  There isn’t room for clutter.

My Memorial Day weekend is a time for more sorting and organizing.   Whatever you do this weekend I hope it is fun and enjoyable.

 

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Filed under Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, food, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

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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Filed under celebration, communication, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, spring, vacation, winter, work