Category Archives: reality

Memories of My Grandma – Part 2

The memories I have of my grandmothers, two very different but wonderful ladies, are as different as they were. Although they were both born during a time when women didn’t work outside the home, my paternal grandmother did on occasion out of necessity.

Both of my grandmothers wore a full apron when at home. When you arrived they were always happy to see you, and you knew your were going to be fed a full meal. While my maternal grandmother always made homemade pie, my paternal grandmother favored cake and cookies. Her sour cream drop cookies were the best!

If you haven’t read Memories of My Grandma – Part 1 I encourage you to read it, as it will show how different two very important women in my life were.

My Paternal Grandmother

Louise Elizabeth Lautner King was born on January 1, 1912. She was born into the well-known and respected Lautner family.  The Lautner’s had immigrated from Bohemia in the 1800s.

Eight Lautner brothers settled a huge track of land that became known as the Lautner Settlement in Traverse City, and they became prominent dairy farmers. When my grandmother was growing up her father, Louis Lautner, was a restaurateur.

Grandma Wins Beauty Contest

My grandmother won a “most beautiful baby” contest when she was 2 years old. Her prize was a doll that was larger than she was. After having 3 sons, she gave the doll to the daughter of a needy family and thought she would never see it again.

When Grandma’s 90th birthday was announced in the Traverse City Record Eagle the family she had given that doll to decades before saw the announcement. They still had Grandma’s doll and Grandma was reunited with her prize possession at her 90th birthday party.  

My grandmother’s desire was that the doll be donated to a museum. My aunt and uncle took the doll and a framed scrapbook page I made for Grandma showing her pictures with the doll at 2 years and 90 years to accompany the donation.  I don’t know if the donation has been made. It would be neat to visit a Traverse City museum and see my grandmother’s doll on display.

Growing Up

When Grandma was 6 years old her father built the farmhouse she grew up in. Grandma remembered hearing the sirens that signaled the end of World War I on November 11, 1918 as her father was working on the home. 

Grandma lived in that home from the time she was 6 years old until she placed herself into assisted living in her late 80’s.  I don’t know the exact dates, but I estimate it was around 82 years she lived in that home. 

My grandmother grew up at a time when education for females was not considered important.  When she graduated from 6th grade her parents refused to attend the ceremony. They didn’t think it was important for her to be educated. I think it is sad that Grandma’s parents refused to witness this important day in her life.

Grandma had a bit of a wild side to her. She met the man that would become my grandfather when he and a friend pulled into the yard of the farm. She thought Grandpa was cute. When he invited her to go out riding in his car, she hurried to get her chores done and left before her parents knew.

Louise Elizabeth Lautner married Dominic Florian King on January 18, 1931. Grandma was 19 years old; Grandpa was 9 years older. Grandpa moved into the farmhouse with Grandma and her parents. A year after the marriage her parents moved out and Grandma and Grandpa continued to reside and raise their family on the farm.

After their marriage Grandma taught Grandpa to sign his name. He was a smart man and a hard worker but lacked a formal education, having only attended school through the 3rd grade.

My grandparents worked the farm and raised three boys there, including my father. They had a considerable amount of property, but that didn’t keep them from suffering financial loss as a result of the great depression.  Due to a need for additional income my Grandmother sometimes worked outside the home in canning factories.

Memories of the Farm

From the time I was about 3 years old we lived several hours from my grandparents. Prior to that time we would visit, but I don’t have much recollection of time spent there.

On our trips to visit family in Traverse City we always stayed at the home of my maternal grandparents. We visited my paternal grandparents on every trip, but my memories of the farm are scant.

I do remember when they had the property across the street from their home, which included a barn and pigs. Other than walking over to see them, I don’t remember anything about the pigs or barn.  I assume they slaughtered them for meat.

When my parents were dating my grandmother made Schwarz Sauer. That is a German soup made with pigs’ blood, but my mother never ate it. Grandma had made her an alternative dish when she was visiting during that meal.

I remember walking the woods of the property across the road, searching for morel mushrooms with my grandparents. The property seemed huge to me as a child, and it was sizeable.

They sold the land across the road when I was a young teen. It was purchased by a Mennonite family, and for a long time one huge house stood grandly on the land. That land is now a subdivision.

As an adult I drove through the subdivision and was impressed with what a prize piece of land my grandparents had and sold. There are areas on the property with a view of Grand Traverse Bay.

I have always wondered why my great-grandfather didn’t build his home on that section of land.  The spot he chose for his home did not offer the scenic views available across the road.

Back on the other side of the road where the house is located, the property behind the house had two large barns and a chicken coop. I do not remember any of those having livestock in them, but I know that when the farm was in full operation it did.

As a child I remember going inside the barn with my father and grandfather. It was filled with farming equipment. I remember standing and tilting my head way back to see the upper loft. Being a city kid, I was amazed at the barn’s size.

There was an outhouse that still stands behind the barns. When the home was sold 2-3 years ago but had not been used in decades.  I wish I had asked if there had originally been one closer to the home.

I know the electricity was put into the home when my father was a child. He spoke of running from the fields in excitement when the lights came on for the first time. I’m not sure when the house had plumbing installed.

I remember Grandma keeping ducks in a pen attached to the chicken coop. I wasn’t there often enough to have any detailed memories of that. There was a large field next to the house and the property ran as far as you could see behind the barns.

The property went all the way from M-72 where the house was back to Barney Road. They had a total of about 50 acres just on that side of the highway. As a teen my cousins, my sister, and I road snowmobiles on the property one winter. We ran in a loop through the field, back to Barney Road, around the woods and back. I was amazed at how far we could go and still be on their property.

  • Louise Elizabeth Lautner, age 6, December 21, 1917 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Grandma watering her garden
  • Grandma with Ron and me on our wedding day
  • Grandma, Louise Elzabeth Lautner, 6 months old with her father
  • Grandma - Louise Elizabeth Lautner - 4 years old
  • My grandparents, Louise and Dominick King
  • Grandma with my daughter, Caroline
  • Louise and Dominick King - Easter Sunday 1930
  • Grandma after winning most beautiful baby contest, age 2 with her prize
  • Louise Lautner King with horses Barney and Chuck hooked to plow
  • Grandma and Grandpa - on the back Grandma wrote it was a picture of her and Dominick before they were married. She was 17 years old with a glass of homebrew in hand. "Ma took the picture so guess her and Pa approved"
  • Grandma ready to go help her Dad with the hay, didn't want to but had to - age 16 years

The House and Yard

The house was unique, and part of that had to do with my grandparents remodeling the home before I was born. It had wide wood trim throughout that I always liked, and a big front porch.  The porch was not often used, at least when we were there, but did have a glider seat on it.

Porch Sitting

The back of the house had a huge cement porch that resembled a patio. Near the house was the cistern, which we were warned to stay away from. A cistern is a reservoir tank for rainwater. When placed near a home like that it is often used for flushing toilets. I don’t know if that was its purpose, but it was near the bathroom.

The land was at different levels near the house, so on the side of the porch you could walk onto the driveway. From the back of the porch you had to go down steps to reach the yard. Because it was of sizeable height in that area Grandma had flowerbeds planted beside it. On the other side of the porch, you could again walk right off and into the lawn.

Grandma had a wash line in her backyard. There were flowers planted at each of the poles, and what most didn’t know is that was where her deceased German Schnauzers were buried.

The first, Poody, was trained to do tricks. I remember as a kid how fun it was to watch him jump through a hoop held in different positions. He would also sing when prompted.

After Poody was given his resting place, Grandma and Grandpa got Hantze. They decided not to train Hantze to do tricks, but he was a good dog. Hantze traveled with them, and loved a nice dish of ice cream.

The back porch was where Grandma enjoyed sitting. She had a large rose bush along the house that my mother had purchased for her early in my parent’s marriage. Grandma had a garden hose that ran out of the house for watering the flowers, but the best was the hose direct from the well.

One time my sister got the hose from the house and sprayed me with it. It had a lot of power, but Grandpa said he would fix me up and took me to the well house. He gave me a hose that ran direct from the well and the pressure was awesome!

I was able to stand on the back porch and spray my sister, Carol, as she was running away. She was almost to the barns before I couldn’t spray her anymore.  I can still see the spray of water arching up into the sky and back down at Carol’s back as she ran. What fun that was!  

On the Inside

We never entered that house through the front door. You always pulled up into the drive, went down by the barns and turned around, then drove up and parked on the drive so you were facing the road when ready to leave. Grandma lived on M-72 and cars went by fast.

You would enter the back door, which took you into a shed. You would go down a few steps, then back up a few steps into the back of the kitchen. If you turned left before entering the kitchen, you stepped up into the storage area of the shed.

The shed had a counter and cupboards. It was an overflow storage of sorts and where grandma sat cakes and cookies so they stayed cool until ready to serve. It was also through this area that you walked to go upstairs.

The Kitchen

The kitchen was a huge, traditional country kitchen. The door you entered through from the shed had a glass center, so you always knew if Grandma was in the kitchen when you arrived. She would come rushing to the back door to greet you upon arrival.

As you stepped in there was a large farmer’s sink to the right. That was used for washing up after you had been in the garden or other miscellaneous tasks. There were two large wooden rocking chairs, one on each side, my favorite spot in the kitchen.

To the left was Grandpa’s chair, and beside that a long low table holding magazines and other miscellaneous items. Grandma’s chair is on the right, next to the window. From there you can look out onto the drive if awaiting the arrival of guests.

When visiting I loved sitting in the large wooden rocker and talking with Grandma as she prepped food. Chatting involved catching up on the latest gossip. You found out everything that was going on in the family.

Grandma loved gossip!  I can still here her saying “oh go on!” when she was questioning something or as emphasis in one of her stories.

Beyond those rocking chairs was the kitchen table and refrigerator, and then the stove, counters and cupboards stretched across the back. There was a stool Grandma would sit on while cooking, which allowed her to keep an eye on food while chatting.

The layout of my grandparent’s house was interesting. Probably because they had done some remodeling, which added character to the layout. I loved the wide molding and built-in cabinets.  

Living Room

Leaving the kitchen you stepped into what I had always known as the living area. To the left was the entry to the bathroom. Normally not something worthy of mention, but I always thought it was interesting it had another door that went out into the shed. Most likely because it made it easier to access the bathroom if coming from upstairs.

The living area itself was long and narrow, running probably 2/3 the depth of the house. The part immediately off the kitchen had once been a formal dining area. This was evident by the huge built-in china cabinet. That is where Grandma displayed family china, photos and knick-knacks.

In front of the china cabinet was a recliner, and next to it a stand with the black rotary phone on it. This was a convenient set-up, because Grandma could sit down and talk on the phone, but still have a clear view of the television at the other end of the room.

The rest of the room had ample seating for family gatherings, plus a small organ. Grandma enjoyed playing the organ, polka music being her favorite.  Off the front of the living room was the front door.

Grandma’s Bedroom

Off the side of the living room was what my grandparents used as a bedroom. I believe it had originally been a parlor. There was no door, just an arched entry with built-in book cases on either side that faced into the living room. The bedroom itself was bright and welcoming with windows on two of the walls.

Upper Floor and Basement

I didn’t get into the upstairs or basement of my grandparent’s home except on a few occasions.  I found them both interesting and worthy of mentioning.

The upstairs was, as typical of the day, unheated. It was made into two bedroom areas, but there was no doorway between, just opening to walk through one room and into the next. That is where my father and his two brothers slept when growing up.

One neat feature was that on both sides of the room there were small doors below a slanted ceiling. That was how you accessed a long narrow attic space. I remember Grandma had all kinds of things stored inside. Lots of unknown treasures!

My grandparents had a Michigan basement. I’m a city kid, I was amazed to go down into a basement that had dirt walls and a dirt floor. It was cool down in there and that was where she stored produce. It was dark and damp, had a low ceiling, and without someone with me I would have found it scary.

Things About Grandma

My grandmother had a wonderful sense of humor and loved a good laugh. She enjoyed attending parades, festivals, and loved polka music.

I didn’t realize it until she was gone, but my grandmother had a talent for writing. After she died I saw poems she had written in her 80’s and they were very good. I wish I had known we shared that interest when she was still alive.

Another regret is that I wasn’t able to spend more time with her as an adult, hearing stories of her years growing up and living on the farm. There is much I missed by living so far away.

Grandma loved surprises. One year after I was married, I didn’t know what to get her for Christmas.  She was in her late 70’s or early 80’s at the time, and I came up with an idea. I made her a certificate saying she would receive one gift a month for a year.

When I made that certificate, I had no idea what I would send her. It was a fun year for both of us. I was struggling to come up with ideas, and she was waiting anxiously for her monthly package to arrive. One of her favorite gifts didn’t cost me a penny.

I had received a head scarf for free with a cosmetic order. I didn’t wear scarfs but Grandma did, so off it went in the mail. She was thrilled!  Grandma liked the print of the fabric, it was the perfect size, and it didn’t slip off her head like some of them did. I never anticipated that kind of success from a freebie!

Grandma was living on her own in that huge farmhouse. She didn’t drive and it was a good distance from town for anyone to reach her. Grandma had been in and out of the hospital a few times, and without telling anyone made some calls and decided that the next time she was hospitalized she would not be going home, but would instead go into assisted living.

That must have a hard adjustment, leaving the home she had been in from the time she was 6 years old. Grandma did like to socialize, and being in the home she no longer had to fix her own meals, so the move had its benefits.

Grandma Turns 90

Grandma was in the assisted living facility for her 90th birthday. The family decided to hold a surprise birthday party for her. It was a wonderful gathering with two very special moments.

Grandma had been best friends with Mary from the time they were 6 years old, but they hadn’t seen each other in years due to their advanced age. Mary’s daughter brought her to Grandma’s birthday party.

When Grandma saw Mary come in she jumped up and rushed over. They hugged and then Grandma announced to everyone who Mary was. Two best friends beaming with joy at being together again. If only all friendships could last like that.

The second special moment was when Grandma was presented with the doll she had won in the beautiful baby contest at age 2. She was very happy to see the doll and kept referring to it as her baby. Photos were taken of Grandma with her doll. 

I later made a scrapbook page of her with the doll at ages 2 and at 90, which I framed and gave to her the following Christmas. It hung on her wall until she passed.  

What do you give a woman for her 90th birthday?  I didn’t want to do the normal stuff, so I decided to make a 90 Years of History book. I used my scrap-booking hobby to fill a 4” 3-ring binder.

I researched and found at least one event and coordinating photo for every year of Grandma’s life. These were not personal events, they were world events, U.S. historical moments, and technological advances.  It all began with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

It was a fun project, and revealed how things had changed during her lifetime. I received a card from Grandma later that said it took her a while, but she read the entire book. She was also surprised at all the things that happened during her lifetime.

Grandma Liked Eye Candy

Grandma may have been old in years, but she still appreciated a good-looking man. When she first went into assisted living, we figured there must have been a male resident she liked. She took a bit more care with her hair and makeup. She also was wearing nicer looking clothes.

After one of her surgeries Grandma needed physical therapy. She told me her therapist was a good-looking man with a nice body. She summed it up with “he’s cute!” Grandma said she didn’t mind going to physical therapy at all! 

When Grandma was turning 90 I knew she would receive tons of sentimental cards decorated with flowers. I decided to shake things up a bit.

The card that accompanied my gift had a well-built man, shirtless, in tight jeans and a cowboy hat sitting backwards on a ladder chair. I wrote inside that I thought she needed at least one card that wasn’t full of flowers. She loved it!

A couple weeks after the party I received a note that she really liked my card, and that she was still fanning herself.  She may have been 90 but she wasn’t dead yet!

Grandma died in 2005 at the age of 93. The book and scrapbook page I made celebrating her 90th birthday were displayed at her memorial. The book was returned to me. The scrapbook page is to be displayed with the doll in a museum.

If I Could Go Back

I would love to go back and spend a day with Grandma on the farm. It would be a fun day, filled with laughter.

As enter the house through the shed and walk into the kitchen Grandma will turn from the sink and rush over saying “well, hello Gracie,” giving me a kiss and hug. She will walk me through the house, showing me anything new she has gotten since my last visit. I will get an update on each family member she has received a photo of.

We will sit in the living room talking for a while. Grandma will get out the old Victrola and records. I’ll crank the handle to hear the music just like I did as a child.

When the phone rings Grandma will rush over, sit in the chair and pick up the receiver. “Oh, hello Mary, I can’t talk right now, Gracie is here. I’ll call you later, Bye.”  Mary may have been Grandma’s best friend, but when you were vising, you came first. That is a courtesy people have lost these days.

While Grandma fixes us something to eat I will sit in large wooden rocker and listen to her fill me in on the latest family news. She will sit on her stool by the stove waiting for the hot water to warm in the kettle.

Grandma will fix us both a cup of instant coffee.  I think it was a “modern convenience” that she liked. Instant was the only type of coffee I ever remember having at Grandma’s house. I don’t normally drink instant, but when visiting Grandma, I do.

After lunch Grandma will go out in the shed to get a cake she baked for my visit. It is made from a cake mix, but exceptionally moist because she always adds a cup of sour cream to the batter.  

We go outside and walk around the yard as she shows me her gardens and how they are doing. She decides the bushes need some water, and I haul a lawn chair over for her to sit in while holding the hose.

When the watering is done we sit on the back porch and enjoy the weather. She talks about how the nicely the rose bush is blooming against the house. We talk about the barn on the adjacent property, and how it is falling apart compared to how nice her barns look.

Before I leave Grandma grabs me a gallon jar of homemade pickled bologna, and another of homemade dill pickles to take with me. I’m in snack heaven! 

As I climb into my car I look up. Grandma is watching out the kitchen window by her rocking chair. I knew she would be there to wave goodbye. She always is.

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Filed under Family, farm, freindship, friends, friendship, grandchildren, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Be Thankful For What You Have

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Dirt on My Shirt

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

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

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

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

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

Share with me your
“Boys Will Be Boys” memories

 

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

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

Things We Don’t Do Anymore

I was recently reading a book written a while back and it made a reference to calling the time-of-day line.  That got me thinking, how many things that used to be a normal part of our everyday life are no longer done?

  • Calling the Time-of-Day Line (for those of you too young to know what this is, it was a special phone number you could call to get the exact time when setting clocks, etc.
  • Getting up to walk over and answer the phone, then having to stand next to it for the entire conversation because it was mounted on the wall and had a phone cord.
  • Kids going to their friend’s house, ringing the doorbell and asking if their friend could come out to play.  No one called their friends on the phone to arrange a get-together until they were teens.
  • Riding bikes or roller skating without a helmet on.
  • Going to the Drive-In (there are a few still in existence, but they are not common)
  • Getting up to turn on the TV, then again to change the channel, and then again to adjust the rabbit ears or antenna.
  • Reading TV Guide to find out what was on TV that week.
  • Getting up on Saturday morning to watch cartoons, because that was the only time they were on TV.
  • Carrying a checkbook with you at all times to pay for any items you didn’t have enough cash for….debit cards did not exist.the-future-will-soon-be-a-thing-of-the-past-quote-1
  • Paying all your bills by sitting and writing checks, then sending the payment through the mail.  Most young people don’t even order checks anymore, and a lot of them do not carry cash, they use a debit card for everything.
  • Do research by going to the library and reading an encyclopedia
  • Take your rolls of film to the store to be processed.
  • Open up a paper map to look at when planning a journey or to figure out where you are — although paper maps still do exist.
  • If not at home and you needed to telephone someone you had to look for a payphone and then have the proper change to put in the phone to use it.
  • Pull into a gas station and wait for the attendant to come out and inquire as to how much gas you wanted, and while the gas was pumping the attendant would clean your windshield and check your oil.
  • Have CB Radios in cars to communicate with each other — this was a bit of a craze in the late 70’s….my handle was the Gumball.

I’m sure there are more things that I haven’t thought of.  What do you remember doing in your everyday life that is no longer done?

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Filed under Activities, assumptions, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, reality, Uncategorized

As Long As My Purse Doesn’t Fall In The Toilet, I’ll Manage

For the past few years I have noticed the stalls in bathrooms seem to have shrunk. I remember years ago walking into the stall, closing the door and using the facilities without a problem. You could even take a small child into a normal sized stall with you if needed. Not anymore.

Now when you enter the stall the first maneuver (unless you are super skinny and can squeeze between the side of the toilet and side of the stall) is to spread your legs and straddle the toilet while grasping any belongings with one hand so you can swing the door shut, the edge of it barely clearing your body.

You can now step to the front of the toilet and hang your possessions on the door.  Once done you must repeat the process.  Retrieve your belongings from the door, back up and once again straddle the toilet while reaching to unlatch and pull the stall door open.  If you have removed a coat you have to decide whether to put that back on in cramped quarters or risk dropping it, as well as your purse, into the toilet as you maneuver to make your escape.  why-are-bathroom-stalls-designed-like-this-twitter

The fact is Americans have increased in size  over the past few decades, but the stalls have shrunk considerably.  This was something I kept pondering over and then it occurred to me, the doors used to swing out on the stall.  An outward swinging door gave you more room to enter and exit.  The disadvantage of that was if the latch failed the door flew open and there you were, trying desperately to reach the door and pull it shut while you finished.  If you didn’t grab fast enough you were on display.

Somewhere along the line the faulty-latch display problem was resolved by having the stall doors swing in.  Now if the door latch fails you just give it a small push to close it. Why those in control never thought to increase the depth of the stall by a foot to allow room for the door to swing makes one wonder.   The price we pay to have our privacy maintained is the requirement that you maintain balance while holding your possessions and straddle a toilet with your stomach sucked in tight to allow clearance for the door to pass by.    As long as my purse doesn’t fall in the toilet, I’ll manage.

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The Note In My Windshield Wiper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all this analyzing there are two conclusions.

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

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

 

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

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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20 Facts About Me

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

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

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

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