Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

I have limited internet access so until I get better wifi this story will be short. I posted all of my photos so you can see  them. As the Fiesta progresses, I will add more photos to this album. After several weeks, I will remove duplicates and will write my story. Until then, you can look at the pictures I posted in an album, including those I took during my balloon ride on Monday, October 5th. Unexpectedly, this morning as we were getting ready to inflate, I was told that I would be going up for a ride today. WOW… I was surprised and thrilled. I love to go up in the balloon and will do it anytime. I have crewed for this same pilot for four years now and I really like Scott and his crew for Big Blue.

I wanted to get the photos uploaded so that everyone that wants to can enjoy the pictures. In addition to volunteering in the Balloon Fiesta office since September 1st, I also worked on Pilot Registration Committee. It was great fun, and also as I worked with pilots during registration I had the opportunity to meet many of them, and when I saw a picture of their balloon or they told me what it looked like, as I was taking pictures I kept them in mind and took extra photos of their balloons and I told them they could see them on my website. It really made it more interesting for me when I saw a balloon launch or fly and think I met the pilot for that particular balloon, and in some cases it was a couple and they each had a balloon. Some of the pilots were for balloons that I have loved looking at over the past years.

There is a Photo Gallery tab near the top left of my website with a link that takes you to over 130 albums of photos I have taken as I travel.

There are also several albums of Balloon Fiesta pictures I took in 2011, 2012, and 2014, as well as the balloon competition in Longview, Texas in July 2015, and I wrote stories about my experiences at each event. Feel free to look through my photo albums and read my stories. For a few weeks I am posting all of the photos I took so that the pilots can look at the pictures of the balloons in case theirs is one I took a photo of. In a few weeks, perhaps a month, I will remove many photos, mostly the ones that are duplicates, or those of people crewing on Scott’s and other friends balloons. They will have the photos because I gave them a flash drive with all of the pictures I took during Fiesta. I am the official photographer for our balloon and because Scott is always busy when his balloon launches, I take pictures of all stages of inflating and landing when possible. By posting these photos, it gives people who are not familiar with how a balloon inflates and gets packed, these pictures give my readers a visual on what it takes to inflate a balloon.

Between volunteering for Pilot Registration, volunteering in the Balloon Discovery Tent, helping to set up for the various parties for the pilots and volunteers, and crewing, I keep very busy. I try to get a nap for an hour or two between the morning and afternoon sessions if I can. I have about 240 volunteer hours already this year. That’s a new record for me, usually it’s about 50 or 60 hours. Most of it’s because I arrived a month early and worked every day.

I am so very glad I made the trip to Balloon Fiesta once again. It’s such an amazing event, and I always meet new people, and learn something new. Thankfully, my health is holding fairly steady. I can feel that my tumor is growing and shifting position, but it’s not hindering my activities very much, thanks to my medicine. My balloon crew is aware of my situation and they don’t let me lift or pull anything too heavy. After I leave here on October 12th, I will be heading back to south Florida, stopping in Fort Worth and Waco to visit my friends there for a little while. I might also attend the balloon event in Granbury, Texas, if I can get there before the weekend after Fiesta. I will see how it goes and how I feel as the date gets closer. I also want to attend a Native American Flute Festival in Melburne, Florida, the 2nd weekend in November. That’s about it for now. I added all pictures through October 6th, to my photo album. More will be added hopefully daily.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Albuquerque – Sunsets, and having fun and keeping busy before Balloon Fiesta

As I volunteer and crew for pilots before Fiesta begins on October 3rd, I will add interesting stories and photos to the end of this story.

I arrived in Albuquerque on September 1st, and since then I have been keeping very busy working at the Balloon Fiesta office and also crewing for a balloon pilot on the weekends. At the office, I have been doing various tasks while working under the direction of the Event Coordinator and the man in charge of pilot registration and all of the activities that involves. I have been learning many new things such as how to laminate name badges, engrave name tags, use a different binding machine that I am familiar with, learning to use a machine that folds and staples booklets, and how to count numerous tickets, badges, buttons, pins, etc. into groups for the various committees, and many other tasks. No day has been boring, there is always something to do.

This year volunteers are asked to watch four videos and take the quiz at the end of each video. The Event Coordinator asked if I would watch the fourth video and prepare the quiz questions. That was a fun project. I watched the video several times in order to come up with the questions that would capture the main points of the video which is basically information that the volunteers need to know in order to help the visitors navigate the Fiesta events and the location of various places on the balloon field.

While working in the Balloon Fiesta office, I took pictures of some of the Balloon Fiesta Posters from almost the beginning of Fiesta. They are all very interesting to look at, especially the special shape balloons that have been here over the years. I can’t imagine crewing for some of these interesting balloon shapes. One of the staff members has a poster on the wall in her office that I really liked. It looked 3D even though it’s not. It’s a poster of a map of the US and each state is shown with part of the state license plate.

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I have been meeting lots of people I have not met before and I’m making new friends. One of them is Michelle who I have been helping make name badges for the volunteers. One morning when we were working together she said she was reading stories on my website and she saw that we have something in common other than the usual things like doing various bead and craft projects. It turns out that her daughter and son are junior firefighters at the Bradford NY Volunteer Fire Department, it’s one of the departments that I have donated money for them to buy fire hose and other items, also, her ex husband is a volunteer firefighter for that department. What a small world it is.

IMG_9443This past Sunday when the balloons were inflating for the Quad A event, I met very interesting young men from Brazil. Digo and his brother have a factory which makes balloons, including special shape balloons, many of which I have admired over the past four years that I have been coming here. These are a few of the special shape balloons they created that have been flying during Balloon Fiesta.

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One of the things I am inspired by and in total amazement of is the absolutely breathtaking sunsets that happen every few days. Some are sunsets like I see at other places, but some nights it’s just beyond my imagination how awesome God is that God can create the colors and designs in some of the sunsets. One night it started out with yellow, then turned to various oranges, and by the time the sun set the sky was a bright red. Another night the sky was various colors of pinks, purples, yellows, and I could see rain pouring down in the distance. The large mountain here is Sandia which means watermelon in spanish. It’s very appropriate. When the sun is shining on the mountain it turns from a brown color to a reddish pink color, sort of like a watermelon color.

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This past weekend, I crewed for a balloon called Rising Star which has stars on the balloon envelope, and there is a smiling face at the top of the balloon. There were many other balloons launching and inflating that morning. The mounted patrol officers brought their horses this morning so that the horses could get used to the balloons and the sound of the propane burners so they wouldn’t be upset or spooked during the Balloon Fiesta. After the balloon were packed and everyone left the field, a friend took me to the grocery store and we also stopped at the Balloon Museum. Since I saw it last year, I looked for the new exhibits. One was Two Eagles where two men, an American  pilot named Troy Bradley, and a Russian pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, flew a balloon across the Pacific Ocean. I was telling my pilot friend Scott, who I crew for during Fiesta, about seeing this exhibit and he told me he helped the guys unload the gondola when they returned. It seems he is good friends with Troy and he also helped him when he made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Thankfully, I am parked in one of the RV parks that has electricity which is much better than dry camping, and it will be great as the weather continues to get cooler. Right now it’s getting down into the low 60’s at night and in the 80’s during the daytime. Phil and Ann the rv repair people arrived this past Saturday and yesterday afternoon when I finished working at the office, Phil came to my camper to work on my back steps and he was able to get them working again. It seems the switch I bought as a replacement was the right kind, but it also seems that my old switch was still good. We have no idea why the steps all of a sudden stopped working. Now, I have a step stool that I really don’t need now that the steps work again, but I will keep it so I can use it to clean my front windows so I can clean them without standing on the front bumper which is not a safe thing to do.

2015-09-18 07.39.14 Last Saturday the Balloon Fiesta offered a free CPR/First Aid course to the volunteers, and since I have not had that training in about 12 years, I took the class. It was a great refresher course on how to do CPR. What I didn’t realize when I signed up and took the class is that class participants would receive a little certificate from the Balloon Fiesta along with a nice pin saying that I am CPR Certified. What a nice surprise.  I found this out on one of my volunteer days when my assignment was to match service certificates with pins for the number of service years, in 5 year increments, and there were also certificates and pins for advanced balloon training, and CPR certification.

Here is an album with all of the photos I have taken so far. There most probably will not be another posting until sometime during the Balloon Fiesta, if I have wifi, otherwise it will be after the event when I get wifi. The Balloon Fiesta office has wifi so I was able to update my website today when I could get a few minutes to post this story.

On the wall in the Balloon Fiesta Office I noticed another interesting poster which looks like it was created with pastel chalk. Also, there were two certificates showing that the Balloon Fiesta set two Guiness Book of World Records, one in 2010 and one in 2011. I’m guessing there might be more somewhere, but these are the two that I noticed.

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As my crewing experience and volunteer work continues until the Balloon Fiesta begins on October 3rd, if anything interesting occurs, I will add more to this story and add more photos.  Many of the sunsets continue to be extraordinary. It fascinates me how the sky and clouds continue to change color so dramatically in one sunset. Here are some pictures from sunsets on September 17 and 18, including some in panoramic mode. If you are wondering if I use a colored filter, no I do not. God created these amazing colors and designs. Some of the photos are clouds that are reflecting the setting sun and colors in the sky.

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Healthwise I am doing fairly well. There are some days that are still a bit challenging due to the pain and other things happening in my body, but mostly I am doing okay. I take my medicine so that the pain is not too severe which allows me to function pretty well. I haven’t had to drive because people I volunteer with pick me up and take me back to my camper at the end of the day. This allows me to take my medicine when I need it. I’m really glad I made this trip. I realize every day how much I like to be traveling and living in my camper van, even though it’s a small space. Thanks for joining me on my journeys. I hope you like reading my stories.

If you want to read other stories about my time in Albuquerque and at the Balloon Fiesta, go to my Photo Gallery tab to look at the albums from 2011, 2012, and 2014. I also have stories in the archives for September and October of each of those same years.

Saturday, September 19th, Scott the pilot I crew for during Fiesta picked me up about 6:00 a.m. so I could crew for him this morning. We met several of his balloon pilot friends who were also going to fly. The winds were too strong, so after waiting about an hour hoping the winds would calm down enough to fly, they decided it wasn’t going to happen today so we went out for breakfast and are going to try again tomorrow morning. I need to start going to sleep earlier at night so I will be able to get up at 4:00 a.m. during Fiesta. I got up at 5:00 a.m. this morning and it wasn’t easy. I seem to read at night until about 11:00 p.m which makes it tough to get up really early while it’s still dark out.

I love looking at some of the rocks at different places, this is just a couple of pictures I took for fun.

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Sunday, September 20th, Scott the pilot I crew for during Fiesta flew this morning. He had to get his required one hour flight done witnessed by an inspector. A few of us helped out by being his crew and chase crew. It is almost always an interesting experience watching the balloon fly and try to guess where it’s going to land and how to get there. There are usually roads to where the balloon lands, the challenge is finding them. Especially when it’s out in the middle of the desert and there are no houses or parks nearby. We traveled several one lane dirt roads through fields of brush and tumbleweed and finally got there after Scott landed. Unlike yesterday, today the winds cooperated. Since Scott had to have an hour in the air, he found an altitude where the winds were only about 1 mph. Lower down the winds were going much faster.

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The weather is beautiful today. Scott brought me back to my camper after I got finished crewing, and I took a nap for about an hour or two. I got up about 5:30 a.m. this morning so by 10:30 a.m. when we were finished I was tired. I even went to sleep about 10 p.m. last night. I think I may have to go to sleep earlier during Fiesta so I can get up at 4:00 a.m. every day. Hopefully, like in previous years I will be able to take a nap for an hour or so most days between the morning and afternoon sessions. After my nap, I went to the grocery store and decided to stop for Mexican food for lunch since I have mostly been eating cold cut sandwiches for lunch and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. I have lots of packs of strawberry Twizzlers, and bags of animal crackers, kettle corn chips, pretzels, Jelly Bellies, and snap pea snacks that I munch on while I am reading or relaxing, or to eat with my sandwiches.

September 23rd, was the unveiling of the bronze sculpture of Sid Cutter who founded the Balloon Fiesta in 1972, the detail in all aspects of the bronze statue, including his two dogs, was absolutely realistic. There was another spectacular sunset and the sky came alive with the yellows and oranges as the sun set. It looked like the clouds and sky was glowing and on fire. For some reason I am unable to download the photos of the statue or the sunset with the wifi I am using, but the photos are in the album I posted, near the end of the pictures.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 3 Comments

Antique RV Museum, and Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

I left Waco on Thursday, August 27th, and headed towards New Mexico, taking scenic back roads that I have not previously been on in order to make the trip more memorable and hopefully see interesting things along the way. I have traveled west so many times that taking the same roads is not interesting, especially when it’s the Interstate Highways.

Before leaving Waco, I looked at my maps and various campground books to see where I might want to stop that were reasonable driving distances for me in a day. I found several places that looked like possibilities, two were Texas city parks with electric and water hookups each about 4 miles off the highway, the other two places are ones I stayed in last year in New Mexico. So, the first night I stayed at a city campground in Sweetwater which is just a little west of Abilene. It was a nice campground, very quiet. There were only four rv’s in the park. Texas is the only state I have found so far that has a public campground book at their visitor information center. Most state information centers have only state campground books. Texas Public Campground book has state, federal, and city parks listed with their location and contact phone numbers. Between that and my Passport America campground directory, and my Camping with the Corps of Engineers book, I do pretty well finding places to stay.

2015-08-30 20.04.28 On Friday, I left Sweetwater and headed north on Highway 84 towards Lubbock and Amarillo. I drove about 175 miles and decided to stop in a city park in Plainview which is about halfway between Lubbock and Amarillo. It turns out it was a good stopping place. I spent three nights in this park and I was able to relax and also flush out my holding tanks. Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening there were really severe thunder storms with lightening. I know the rain was very much needed. On Sunday evening, as the sun was setting, it looked like a giant bright orange ball. I’m guessing the dust made it a dramatic color. I took a picture, but it didn’t come out very well. I wanted to exchange some of my paperback books at a library or thrift shop but I couldn’t find any open on Saturday. So, I walked across the street to the County Sheriff’s office to ask if they knew of a library that might be open, and it turns out they said they had a box of paperback books in their garage, so I was able to exchange books there without having to drive anywhere. That worked out very well. I returned the books that I was able to read over the weekend so they could pass them on, and I gave them books that I had read before I got there. What a great surprise!!! I have exchanged books at campgrounds that have a book section, not all of them do. But this is a first to exchange them at a sheriff’s office.

As I was driving between Sweetwater and Plainview on Highway 84 I passed probably 100 miles of cotton fields, and there were many oil wells and oil well fields that I passed too. I also saw many areas where there were fields of the wind generators, considering the winds in west Texas I’m glad to see that the wind is being used for a good purpose. Some fields had cotton, oil, and the wind generators all in the same areas. I don’t remember ever seeing so many miles and acres of cotton growing anywhere. I have seen many miles of cotton but never so much as in this part of the country. Then unexpectedly, all of a sudden, I passed a very large field of sunflowers. The vivid yellow was a nice change in color from the green of the grass and cotton plants. I am posting pictures I took of oil wells and an oil well field in case you don’t know what it looks like. It reminds me of giant grasshoppers as the gears rotate and move. Most are painted black, and then I saw some that were painted white with green accents, and further north there were blue ones.

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Monday morning, I left Plainview and headed north towards Amarillo. During the weekend when I was double checking my route to see if I wanted to modify it and what might be of interest to stop at along the way, I found a website Roadside America that lists attractions and interesting places to see by state. So, I checked to see what might be on the route I was taking towards Amarillo and I found two that I wanted to stop at, one was Jack Sisemore’s RV Museum and the other was Cadillac Ranch, both in Amarillo. They were on my way so I stopped at both of them.

The Antique RV Museum was really interesting. It has at least 16 unusual vintage RVs from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, including one that was used in the movie RV with Robin Williams. It was a touching moment to look at that RV and to walk into it and remember the movie and visualize Robin Williams and the other actors in the RV. Many of the RV’s are available for visitors to go in and see up close, some of the older ones had signs to only look in them. I took lots of pictures in the museum and created an album with all of them. Click on the pictures to enlarge them in order to see more detail or read the poster boards.

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There were also many motorcycles, classic, vintage ones, and there were also several old cars, and antique coolers, lanterns, pots and pans, toys, etc. The way the motorcycles are displayed is very creative. They have them hung along the top of the walls, and another section has them on platforms above each other, looking at the pictures I took, they look like toy motorcycles, but they are full size ones. When visitors leave the museum they are asked to sign a guest book and put a pin in a map of the USA to see where the visitors come from. If you are in the Amarillo area, check out this RV Museum, there is no admission charge, it’s open Monday through Saturday.

I got a chuckle, and had a smile on my face, when I read a sign next to a 1953 camper that said they bought it from an 84 year old lady that said it was time for her to stop camping. How cool was that… when you think about her age and how many years ago they bought it from her, I would definitely say that she was a pioneer and very adventurous. I have a friend named Carol who like me travels solo all around the country, in fact I met her online shortly before I began my travels in the summer of 2011. Carol has been an inspiration to me and we meet up when we can. We are planning on getting together in Albuquerque again this year like we did last year. I bet she would get a chuckle from the solo camper mentioned below. It was very interesting to see the changes in the rv’s over the years and to look at the way they were designed back then. There was even a rv in the museum that was owned by Max Factor Jr, the president of Max Factor Cosmetics. There are many more pictures in the album I posted.

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I stopped at the Texas Information Center in Amarillo to get a new public campground book and new maps. My maps seem to tear since I use them alot and I also make notes on them sometimes. I asked the staff person where to find the Cadillac Ranch site and she told me Exit 60. I have driven on I-40 many times over the past four years and I never noticed the cars standing in the air a short distance off of the highway. I found the site and as I got out of my camper and was walking south towards it, I wasn’t sure that was a good thing to do. The wind was blowing south to north and the red dirt was blowing in my eyes even though I was wearing sunglasses. It felt like the sand was getting imbedded in my skin. I kept going, thinking I was already here and probably would not stop again on my way back east. It was interesting to see, not really much to look at other than graffiti. The cars were all stripped down, and there were lots of cans of spray paint near them. Visitors seem to like to spray their names or other things on the car frames. Walking back to the camper was easier since the wind was at my back. I rinsed out my eyes with eye wash when I got back to the camper. If you are interested, you can read about Cadillac Ranch and see why it was created and what it represents.

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I continued my trip and decided to stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I stayed one night last year. It’s on old Route 66. I was really fortunate, I asked the owner if by chance there were any shady spots, and she gave me one. There aren’t many trees here, but there was one and she parked me on the east side of it so I got some shade.

As I drove on my trip today, my odometer passed 90,000 miles. I thought back to when I bought this wonderful camper van, whom I have named Molly, in Phoenix, Arizona, Thanksgiving 2005, when she had about 24,800 miles on the odometer. I am so happy and grateful that I bought it then. She is 15 years old now and still in great shape. I take care of her so that she will remain in good condition. We have had some amazing experiences together. I hope we get the opportunity to make many more memorable and fun trips together.

Tomorrow I will either stop in Tijeras, New Mexico, just east of Albuquerque, or I will drive straight to Albuquerque, it’s only about 200 miles from here. I have taken my time, and drove reasonable distances each day, not more than 250 miles in a day. It’s worked out very well, I am so grateful. I plan on being in Albuquerque until October 12th. In the month before the event, I will be assigned to several committees to help them prepare for the event. This year I am helping on Pilot Registration in addition to the Balloon Discovery Center and I am working under the guidance of the Event Coordinator for the month I will be there starting this week when I arrive. It should be very interesting, and I think I will be very busy which is good. I will also be crewing for the same pilot during the Balloon Fiesta. This is my fourth year here, so now I sort of know my way around, and I get to see people that I have made friends with over the years that I only see here, but we keep in touch throughout the year.

Healthwise, I am doing pretty well. I had a couple of days when the pain was pretty intense, thankfully, I was able to not have to drive on those days. Then I had a few days where I was relatively pain free, and that felt great. Today, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. in severe pain, so I took some medicine and went back to sleep for a few hours. When I got up about 8:00 a.m. I took two Aleve and after about an hour or so, the edge was off the pain and I was able to drive without intense pain, until it started again in the early afternoon. When I got to the campground, I ate a late lunch or early dinner, not sure which because the time zone changed again to Mountain Time. I took a bit of medicine, and rested until it went away. I am so happy to have my home on wheels which allows me to drive, rest, eat, whatever I need as I travel.

I have so very much to be grateful for. Thanks for traveling on my journey with me. I am so glad and grateful I stepped out in faith and made this trip instead of sitting home on the sofa and wishing I did it. I keep praying and asking God to let me continue on this journey and return home safely like I was able to do last year, and in previous years. Having these adventures sure beats sitting home on the sofa waiting for my life to end. I’m enjoying my travels and meeting interesting people along the way. Every now and then I think about the fact that my doctor told me in the summer of 2013 that I would not be alive by the end of 2015 and so far, I’m still alive and doing my best to enjoy life to the fullest!!!

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas visiting with friends

After I left Sue’s house near Fort Worth, I spent the weekend in a campground at Lake Whitney near Waco. It was so quiet and peaceful. This campground was closed for two months due to the flooding from the abundance of rain earlier this year. The weekend I was at the campground was the first time it was opened in two months, so it was just me and one other camper in the entire campground where I stayed. One night there was a beautiful sunset. While parked at the campground I noticed water dripping on the concrete under the edge of the camper. I thought at first it was from the rooftop air conditioner, but after checking, it seems that the gray water tank from my little kitchen sink had some cracks in it. When I got to Waco and parked at my friends house, they patched it with some type of repair kit with black goop that hopefully sealed the cracks so it won’t leak. In a previous story I wrote about my back step no longer working. So far the step stool is working out okay. In fact, I also use it to wash the front window which is safer for me than when I try to stand on the front bumper to reach the window and the top of the camper over the window.

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I have been visiting with my friends in the Homestead Heritage community in Waco, Texas. I have been here many times in the 17 1/2 years since I learned about this community and made many friends here. There are numerous stories on my website that you can read and several photo albums that you can look at the pictures from my previous visits, most of them at the Thanksgiving Fair and in the weeks leading up to the Fair when everyone is getting preparing the many types of foods that are served and the numerous hands on projects and demonstrations. Here is the story I wrote from my visit in November 2014.

Labor Day is the Sorghum Festival. In addition to other activities visitors can watch the entire process of making sweet sorghum syrup–from pressing the raw cane using a horse-powered mill to cooking the juice into a rich, golden brown syrup, and they can enjoy some samples of sorghum syrup on freshly-baked cornbread made from stoneground cornmeal!  I remember the first time I got to chew on a piece of fresh sorghum, it was really sweet and an unusual taste, sort of like sugar cane. Fresh sorghum syrup is delicious, it’s not quite a molasses taste, but it’s similar. I have watched the sorghum pressed and boiled several times, it’s fascinating to watch the syrup change from the liquid that is pressed to the finished product. It’s all done by hand with many people helping the syrup flow from the beginning of the boiling tray until it’s the finished syrup being poured into jars.

IMG_9222Since arriving here on August 3rd, I have spent two days helping at the Cheese Shop, and also having meals with various close friends, and also preparing fresh pears from the pear trees so that the fruit can be dried in a food dehydrator. I also picked hot peppers and helped to get them ready to be dried so they can be ground into pepper for cooking. As always, I make time to rest and take care of myself, and read. As I walk around the village I see many Roadrunner birds. They are really entertaining to watch. They run a little, then stop and look around and while they do their tail moves up and down, then on they go and repeat the process again and again.

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A few weeks ago a Basket Shop was opened, I went in and met Martha who was weaving some baskets. As I walked through the shop, I saw baskets that were finished and ready for sale, and also that were in the process of being woven by people taking the basket weaving class. I saw a basket that contained walnut slices, they were also incorporated into some of the hand woven baskets. I can’t imagine how a walnut gets sliced into nice looking slices. I bet only a few slices can be cut from a walnut.

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This time of year is when one of my favorite plants is in bloom, it’s the Pride of Barbados. The flowers are bright orange and yellow and almost every bloom is different as far as the variation of these two colors. The butterflies love these bright colored flowers and many other types of flowers in the flower bed. Butterflies are abundant, as are fire ants. I prefer the butterflies and flowers. I have had many experiences with fire ants, and I prefer to not have any more, but I know that is not likely.

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Here are some of the pictures I took this year. Since I have taken hundreds of pictures over the past few years during my visits here, I didn’t want to post another album since it will be mostly the same pictures. The Hydroponics Greenhouse was new last November, so I thought I would include some new pictures here the gardens have been used for several months. It’s about 100 degrees here and it’s between planting season, so not many vegetables are being grown at this time. It even reached 108 degrees a few days this week. It’s way too hot!!! I can’t even imagine the intensity of the heat that Caleb works with in the blacksmith shop.

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wall muralOne night I had dinner at a friends house where I got to enjoy time with their three children who are precious and adorable. I have watched them grow over the years and we stay in touch throughout the year. I have pictures at home hanging on my mirror that they colored for me. I love the new house they are in that I got to see the framing for when I was here the end of last year. One of the walls in the girl’s room was painted with a beautiful mural. While at the house I looked outside and there were two donkeys in the driveway, they evidently live next door and often come to visit.

There are so many beautiful handmade quilts for sale here made by members of the community. I love looking at the designs and the very even and straight hand stitching. I have made several quilts myself and I know how much time it takes to make them and hand stitch them. Getting all of the stitches to be the same size is very time consuming, and my stitches are not quite as small as the stitches on these quilts. In addition to selling quilts, the Gift Barn sells other locally made items such as jellies, pasta, candles, soaps,  Gristmill products, and furniture.

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In case you have not seen how pomegranates grow, here are a few photos of them growing on trees. First there is a small pinkish red flower, then the fruit begins to appear. There are a few trees here that have the beginnings of the fruit on them now, they usually are ready to be picked in October and November.  The Century plant is a cactus like plant that is very large. Once a year it puts up a very tall, about 6 foot or higher stalk that sort of looks like an asparagus tip. This is not the time of year for the spike, but the plant is still pretty amazing to look at. It looks like it would have succulent leaves, but they are very hard and dry. You can’t tell from looking at this picture, but some of these plants are about three feet tall and about that in diameter.

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Texas like other states has some beautiful sunsets. Overlooking the lower pasture land here, where there is an overlook facing west, the sunset is majestic. Here are pictures I took all in one evening. It was really interesting watching clouds move across the sun as it was setting.

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The weather here in Texas has been quite hot. We had several days of over 100 degrees temperature. In fact, it was 107 and 108 for a few days. Then it cooled off to about 98 degrees. There was a BIG surprise on Thursday morning when the temperature in the morning was 70 degrees. Then in the afternoon we had heavy rainstorms, the rain was very much needed. There was heavy rains a few months ago that caused serious flooding, and now I heard that a record was set for the most days without rain in quite a while. So, the rain on Thursday was very much needed. Kim and I went to town to go grocery shopping and we got soaked to the skin from being in the rain.

I will be leaving Waco on Wednesday or Thursday and heading west and then northwest, then west again towards Albuquerque. I called a Corps of Engineer Park a few hours west of Waco to see about camping there and I was told they are still closed from the flooding a few months ago. An hour or so west is another Corps park that is open so I plan on stopping there before heading west/northwest towards Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo, then on to Albuquerque. I will update my website as I can since I will have intermittent Internet service and probably not much to write about for a while, other than maybe posting some photos of campgrounds. I am taking some back roads and going through small towns that I have not been through before so maybe I will find interesting places along my route. If so, I will write about them and post pictures when I can. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see any new posts from me for several weeks. I will try to at least keep my Travel Map updated.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Visiting with Friends, meeting Eddie, and Gratitude

On Monday, I arrived at my friend Sue’s house, near Fort Worth, Texas, to stay with her and her husband Mark for a few days. I always enjoy my visit with them. I mentioned to Mark some of the things happening with my camper that needed some repairs, and he graciously made time to fix them for me. He also spent many hours over a few days to try to get my back step to work. Unfortunately, he was not able to fix it, but he did narrow it down to what he thinks the problem is… which is most probably electrical since the motor that puts the steps up and down works when directly connected to a battery. I  bought a sturdy step stool so I could get into the camper and Mark added some wood slats to the bottom to raise it up about 2 inches for me so that it’s a better height.

Wednesday, Sue and I had lunch with my friend Pat and we caught up on life. Last year lightening struck the apartment building where Pat lived and her building burnt and she had to relocate to another apartment. She lost many of her possessions and furniture. I have known both Sue and Pat for about 25 years.

Sue works out at a gym frequently, and on Thursday morning she suggested that I go to the gym with her and I could walk the track while she did her exercises. This worked out great because I bought new sneakers yesterday so I could break them in by walking the track. The sneakers I bought last year hurt my feet when I wear them for a couple of days. It turns out that either my feet grew a size, or the other sneakers were sold to me in the wrong size. When we arrived at the gym I had to sign in and when I went into the office to do that I noticed that the walls were painted with interesting murals.

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2015-07-30 11.21.44As I was walking the track I saw this banner. Click on it to enlarge and read what it says. Part of it says “Live Life to the Fullest.”

So, after signing in, we get to the gym and as we enter we see a man with no legs receiving stretching exercises by a trainer. I watched him going through his routine while I walked around the track. What an inspiration. His legs were amputated in different locations on both legs. One was below his groin and the other was close to his knee. After he finished his workout and I finished walking the track, I went and talked with him and told him what an inspiration he was to me. I frequently write that there are others with much more serious health issues and problems than I have. Here is a great example. This man’s name is Eddie and he gave me permission to take his picture and to include it on my website. After I took his picture, he said “I have one leg on, and the other across my lap.” I asked if he wanted to put it on and I would take another picture and he said no. Eddie was a joy to talk with, it seems he has a great attitude towards life and he continues to push himself to get to be more mobile and active. He told me is is going on a trip to Wyoming in the near future.

Eddie lost his legs 8 years ago in an accident while he worked for a major airline. I told Eddie about David Nicholson that I met in July 2013 who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan. I wrote about David in a story on my website in July 2013. Eddie noticed that like him, David’s legs were amputated in different locations on both legs. Next time I want to feel sorry for myself, I will remember Eddie, David, Parker, Mary Lou, Albert, and so many others who have greater challenges than I do. Look at how big Eddie’s smile is when I asked to take his picture. I admire his attitude towards life and his dedication to continue to work on improving his muscle tone and keep his body fit.

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dry yardBefore I left Florida, I thought it was really hot temperature wise. I forgot how hot it is in Texas this time of the year until I got back here. It’s been about 100+ degrees. The ground is so dry it’s cracked. It’s hard to believe because a few months ago they had so much rain they had flooding in many areas.

I am leaving Sue and Mark’s house on Friday morning, and I don’t know when I will have Internet again. I will post another story when I have Internet and something interesting to write about.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas, arrival and event

I created an album of pictures I have taken during this week long event.

Here is a link to all of the albums I have posted since 2011, or you can go to the Photo Gallery tab on my website. There is a date for every album, to read the story related to an album, go to the archives for that particular date.


Sunday, July 19th, I arrived in Longview, Texas, where I will attend the Great Texas Balloon Race. This will be my first time at this hot air balloon event and in Longview. Before leaving home I tried to find RV parks near the event and didn’t find any too close. It seems that everyone meets at the Maud Cobb Convention Center on the weekdays for the competition and then the pilots and crew take off for destinations to launch from for the competition targets. Because I am not familiar with this event, other than reading the schedule on their website, I figured I would be driving every day to watch the balloons, and also for the times I have volunteered to help. I wasn’t looking forward to driving all over town every day because I would have to secure everything in the camper before moving it. I prayed and asked God to help me know where to stay and how it will work out. I didn’t make any RV reservations, except for the Friday night through Sunday of the event when I would be at the airport and they had a place for RV’s to dry camp without hookups. Everything Friday afternoon through Sunday was at the airport. The weekday competitions was when traveling was necessary,

I called a local RV store, the Longview Chamber of Commerce, the balloon event people, and stopped at the Texas welcome center, and finally someone that I spoke with suggested calling Maud Cobb Convention Center where the balloon pilots, crew, and Event Staff were meeting every weekday morning. I called and guess what? It’s a city owned facility and they have RV campsites at the Convention Center with either full hookups or ones with water and electricity. I made a reservation from Sunday through Friday so I could have electricity and air conditioning, and then on Friday afternoon through Sunday I will be dry camping at the airport where the rest of the balloon events will take place. I was so happy to find out about this campground and it means I will not have to drive all over town during the week. I usually stop at a grocery stores before going to campgrounds to stock up on food.

A few months ago I contacted the Balloon event coordinators and said I would volunteer to crew and I found out I have been assigned Friday through Sunday to the Puddy Cat balloon which is like Sylvester the cat from the cartoons. However, since I am already going to be in town, I am going to show up every weekday morning, health permitting, and if anyone needs a crew member for the regular shaped balloons, I will offer my services. It will be more fun than just watching. I think everyone is supposed to already have their crew but things can change at the last minute. Otherwise, I will just crew on Friday through Sunday. I am so thankful that the city has a RV park at the convention center, it will save me lots of driving time around the city which I am not familiar with. If all works out I will only have to find my way to the convention center and airport and then back to the interstate when I leave. I don’t know for sure, but I’m hoping once I park at the convention center that I can walk to where the balloons meet and also for the party they are having on Thursday evening.

After the balloon event is over, I am heading to visit with my friends in the Fort Worth area for several days, then on to Waco to visit other friends for a week or so, then on to visit other friends as I travel towards Albuquerque. I am going to try and spend a few days camping at beautiful Lake Whitney. It will bring back many memories, maybe even some tears. Many, many years ago, when Don was alive, we used to camp there often. It’s hard to believe he died about 15 years ago. In fact, it was the first place we camped when we bought our trailer. I remember we took our dogs on the trip and we were almost the only campers in the campground, it was a cold October weekend and unexpectedly a bad rainstorm with high winds made our first camping trip a memorable experience.

Tuesday, July 21st, I arrived on Sunday and helped the Event staff prepare pilot packets and I got to meet many of the people on the Board of Directors. Everyone I met was really friendly and they made me feel welcome. Al Nels from Ohio, was one of the pilots that came to register on Sunday afternoon. He needed another crew person so I was assigned to help him on his balloon called Time Flies. It’s a really beautiful balloon and the design tells things about Al and his family. The cards in the photos below tells the story of Al’s and Andrew’s balloons, click on them to enlarge. Al and his friend/crew mate Randy, and his entire crew and family made me feel very welcome and a part of their team.

I crewed on Monday and then met them on Tuesday morning, but due to the high winds, flights and competition were cancelled on Tuesday. I know everyone was disappointed, but it’s better to be safe than risk an accident to either people or the balloon. Safety is the main priority for balloonists.

Al and his son Andrew both fly balloons, and they mostly fly in competition. Al has won the National Championship title twice and also the World Championship title twice. after watching the balloon pilots navigating from miles from the target, to the designated target, I have a greater appreciation for those who have won championship titles. I can tell how seriously Al, Andrew, Randy and the others he flies with take competition. I have learned several things listening to them discuss the coordinates for the targets, where they need to be to take off from, and much more. They all keep in radio contact both on the drive to the take off site and while in the air. Everything is charted on maps and in various types of GPS systems. It’s really fascinating listening to the discussions. I even learned about true and magnetic poles.

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After the balloon envelope was laid out after landing, Al took out what looked like a bent metal pipe and said it’s called Squeeze and instead of people milking the air out of the balloon envelope for packing it into the bag, this tool does the work so much quicker and more efficiently. It’s really easy to use, I was able to help use it so I know that for a fact. I’ve helped milk the air out of balloons in Albuquerque and I know how hard it is and the time it takes.

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I created an album of pictures I have taken during this week long event.


Monday and Tuesday evenings there were parties for people to have fun and meet each other, sort of kickoff parties. As I am writing this post early Tuesday afternoon, Al called to say he and his family will come pick me up and take me to the party tonight since it’s off premises and he felt it would be better to go with them than me driving there. How very considerate, I thanked him. The party Tuesday night was held at Danville Farms about 20 minutes from the Maud Cobb Convention Center. This is a really nice ranch and there are some interesting pieces of old farm tools and equipment and also the room where the party was held is one of the most creative rooms I have ever seen. Each corner of the room was done differently and some corners were made to look like the outside of a building rather than indoors. There was also an old fashioned high back chair, and a very large light fixture made out of antlers. I put the pictures I took in the photo album, but I will include a few here.

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Wednesday, July 22nd, the winds were favorable for flying today. So everyone drove to Kilgore for pilot’s briefing and receiving the location of the targets for competition. The winds were not as good as everyone would have liked, but everyone made the best of it since no one has control over the speed or direction of the winds. All the pilots could do was to try and find out what altitude had the direction they wanted to travel. We launched from someone’s front yard on a back country road and Al landed in a field at a high school. It was so nice to take off and land on grass, rather than fields with dirt, rocks, and stickers like usually happens when I crew in Albuquerque. Later that afternoon, we learned that one of the pilots had a really rough landing and had to go to the hospital. It turns out sadly that he broke a hip and foot. We are keeping him in our prayers.

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Wednesday afternoon there was a baseball game of the police department vs the fire department, which included dinner with bar-b-que and soft drinks for the pilots, the crew, and their families. Once again, Al and his family picked me up and brought me to the event with them. As it got dark, there was a burner glow. When the baseball game began and it was the fire department team ahead by 9 runs in the first two innings, then all of a sudden, the police team began to get hits and they scored multiple runs and the score last we saw it before going to get ready for the burner glow was 20 to 9, police team winning. It was fun to watch the game and see how some players slid into a base or home plate.

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What also made the game more fun to watch was that every inning it seemed they stopped the game to involve children in an activity. Sometimes it was who could run around the bases the fastest. Another was to see which of two children could get in full fire bunker gear the fastest. Then a small plastic pool appeared on the field and it was filled with water and as a relay, two teams had to take a fire boot and go fill it with water, then run back to their team and pour the water into a bucket. Whoever filled their bucket first won. There was also a dance off between five police officers and children and five firefighters and children. Some adults picked up the child to dance, others danced around each other. We got to experience creative dancing in various forms. It turned out to be a really fun evening with entertainment and fellowship.

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As it began to get dark all of the balloon pilots and their crew went to their trucks and got ready for a burner blast. The pilots also gave out balloon cards to anyone coming by asking for one. Cards show the picture of the balloon on one side, and details about the pilot and balloon on the other side. You can see Al’s and Andrew’s balloon card higher up in this story. The heat from the burners is intense. Especially in 90 degree temperatures. Al has a remote control rigged to his burners, so he was able to be a further distance from his burner than other pilots. The people at the event were fascinated by the burner blast. It really was pretty spectacular.

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IMG_8575And as almost always, no matter where I am at, if the fire department is at an event usually Sparky the fire dog is too. He loves to interact with the children.

Thursday morning, July 23rd, the winds were too high and therefore the balloons were not able to fly. I know everyone was once again disappointed, but it’s better to be safe. So, I went back to my camper and went back to sleep for a few hours. Then I came to the convention center and took a shower and worked on this story, updating it from yesterday.

I love Texas hospitality. I felt it the instant I moved to Texas in early 1980 and when I lived here for 19 years, and when I visit Texas, I still feel it. Here is an example, I asked the administrative staff of this convention center if they have any showers and I was told they have one in case of an emergency situation but Anne said she would ask if I could use it. A short time later one of the staff came and found me and said that I could use the shower, so I arranged it for late Thursday morning so I can still be outside at the baseball game tonight and also possibly crew in the morning and then come back and shower so I will be clean for the party Thursday night and be as fresh as I can for the weekend of dry camping with no hookups. It’s about 100 degrees outside and in the sun, inflating and packing the balloon, it feels much hotter and we get soaking wet.

On Monday a RV parked next to me in the campground, but I didn’t see the people in it until Wednesday afternoon. It turns out they are here for the Dog Show this coming weekend. There was a fenced in area around their camper and I figured they probably had a dog. It turns out they have quite a few dogs, Italian Greyhounds. There were 4 adorable 7 week old puppies. Every one had different markings. There were also 3 adult dogs, one was the mother. I was leaning down to get a better look at the puppies who were on the far side of the gated area. One of the pups came over to me and it was so soft to pet. I fell in love with one that has half of it’s face white, the other half fawn. But really, they were all cute.

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Thursday night was another kickoff party. All of the pilots were introduced and I got to meet the special shape balloon pilot that I will be crewing for. His name is Rodney Williams from Branson, Missouri. If you are in Branson stop by Branson Balloons and see Rodney. I know you will enjoy a balloon ride, he’s a great pilot and a really nice man. Instead of crewing on the Puddy Cat balloon, our balloon was changed to the Tweety Bird balloon. It seems that Puddy Cat, Yellow Bird, the Purple People Eater, and Spunky the Skunk are all owned by a man named John. Rodney was assigned to Yellow Bird who looks sort of like Tweety Bird.

IMG_8942At the kickoff party I met Scott Vesely and David Jones. Scott is the pilot for the Annie the Lady Bug balloon, and David has a non-profit organization in Amarillo, Texas, called Up in the Air for Family Care. They have an annual hot air balloon event fundraiser in October the weekend after the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Friday morning, July 24th, we all met at Maud Cobb Convention Center. We located Rodney and he, Cindy his crew chief, and our crew drove to one of the local banks where we inflated the balloon in a field next to the bank so that their customers and people passing by were able to stop and see the balloon up close and those who wanted to took their pictures next to the balloon. It’s always great to see people’s reactions to the balloon, and also when the burners blast. The loud swooshing sound sometimes startles people because they are not expecting the sound. After we were inflated for quite while the winds picked up and we had to bring the balloon down because it was getting harder to manage it safely.

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After returning from crewing, I drove my camper over to the airport and dry camped on one of the runways being used for the balloon event. I rested for a while, then at 3:30 p.m. I reported for my volunteer work at Gate 4. Then at 7:30 p.m. when my shift was over, I reported to Rodney for my crew assignment for Yellow Bird.

IMG_8734I was able to take a quick dinner break about 7:00 p.m. and when I was in the volunteer tent having dinner, I saw six men sitting at the table next to me wearing Cooter Graw t-shirts. I went over to them and asked if they were our performers tonight and they said they were. They were very kind, after I talked with them for a while I asked if I could take their picture for my website and they said I could. They began performing while we were getting ready to take the balloons down for the night. Even though I am not a big country music fan, and I am not familiar with this group, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them perform. Having had the opportunity to meet them casually and visit with them made it extra special for me. I asked where they are from, and they all live in various parts of Texas.

On Friday night, all of the balloons inflated and after dark there was a balloon glow. It was beautiful watching all of the balloons being set up and also glowing. I love the Old Lady in the Shoe balloon, it’s one of my favorite balloons. I have seen it flying every year I went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. At this event, I got to see the balloon laid out waiting to be inflated, and I got to see it close up after being inflated. This balloon is 147 feet tall, weighs 1,300 pounds without passengers, and there are 12 children. There are many more photos in my album.

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balloonsBrandy, one of the people I crewed with sent me this panoramic picture of the balloon we crewed on and other balloons near us.


Saturday morning, July 25th, all the pilots and crew inflated the special shape balloons, while in the distance the competition pilots began their flight towards the airport field for their competition. The winners of the National Competition, in the first few winning positions, go on to the World Competitions in Japan. It takes so much skill, and a certain degree of luck because of the wind conditions, to navigate the wind currents, the sky, and all other factors to navigate the balloon to be over the targets on the field to score. Al Nels that I crewed for earlier in the week was in the competition and after he came over the field and aimed at the targets, he opened some turning vents on is balloon so it spun around as it traveled across the field. It was really cool to watch a professional balloon pilot doing what he loves, and I got some great photos of the different sides of his balloon. Notice how close to the ground he was to get his marker to the target. It’s evident when watching and talking with these balloon pilots that they love what they do and they take great care with the balloons, and the pride they have as a balloon pilot is evident.

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After watching the other three special shaped balloons, also owned by John, several of us crew members assigned to help Rodney were glad he was assigned Yellow Bird which is a special shape balloon, but shaped more like a regular shape balloon, unlike the other three balloons, so it was easier to deflate and pack it. We helped to pack Puddy Cat twice because it takes more crew and we were finished packing our balloon. The other three balloons have much different shapes and parts to those balloons as you can tell from looking at them. It’s a bit more challenging to get the air out of the sections that are coming off of the main balloon. There were six of us assigned to crew for Rodney, I was the only one that had been on a balloon crew previously.

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Here is our crew milking the air out of the balloon envelope. It’s not very easy to do, especially in special shaped balloons.

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IMG_9076 After the first time of setting up the balloon and packing it away, all six of the crew worked well as a team and everyone felt comfortable with what to do in order to get the balloon inflated and packed. By Sunday morning, which was our fifth time to inflate, collapse, and pack the balloon, everyone on our team was an experienced crew member. We had a picture taken of our balloon pilot and crew and Wayne and Carol printed pictures for everyone of us and we all signed the pictures so we could have a memento from the event. That was a really nice, thoughtful, and unexpected surprise.

As I was watching the competition this morning, and looking at the balloons as they were flying overhead, I noticed that one of the balloons had large holes in the lower edge of the balloon envelope. Look in the blue area above the red ring at the bottom. I’m pretty sure this is from the fabric of the balloon envelope being too close to the burners and the fabric melted. Since it was low down, it most probably didn’t affect how the balloon flew. I’m sure as soon as the pilot is able to they will have these holes repaired. It’s very sad to see this happen to someone’s balloon. I know it was an accident that it happened. This is one of the reasons that pilots don’t want to fly or inflate their balloon on windy days. The balloon envelope can shift position quickly when a gust of wind hits, and damage to the balloon can be a result of the wind change. I know when we raise the balloon when using the burners, and also when bringing the balloon envelope down we all try to be sure that the fabric doesn’t come in contact with the flame or hot metal of the burner.

Saturday evening, July 25th, it was the same as the previous evening. I got more pictures of the balloons, and there was a balloon glow and burner blast. As the balloons were being deflated, the performance Saturday night was the Oak Ridge Boys. They played several of their new songs, and also many of their old hits which I remember from when I was younger. They still sound great.

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Sunday morning, July 26th, was the final day of the Great Texas Balloon Race. The special shape balloons inflated for the last time this weekend, and the competition pilots completed their final competition for their scores.

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After we all said our farewells, and exchanged contact information, we all went our separate ways. Rodney told us about a balloon event he will be having in Granbury, Texas, the third weekend in October. It’s the weekend after the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I might try and go to that event and crew for Rodney. Wayne and Carol said they might go too. I think Scott and David said their balloon event in Amarillo is that same weekend. October is a long way off at the moment. I will see how it’s going closer to that date and decide where my travels take me.

IMG_8718I want to express my appreciation and thanks to the Great Texas  Balloon Race Board of Directors. They have been really friendly not only to me, but to everyone that I saw them in contact with. They made a special accommodation for me so that I could park my camper van close to the gate where I volunteered on Friday and Saturday. It really made it handy and I was parked on the pavement so my spot was level. I was able to get a ride in the golf cart when I needed to go get dinner at the volunteer tent so it saved me walking across the large field. They thanked me for my help during the week and on the weekend. God willing, I will try to come back and help again next year.

Near the tent where the pilots and crew eat dinner, there were street signs which I thought was a clever idea. Each of the signs on the poles were the names of Board of Director members.

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I have been feeling pretty good so far on this trip. I take small doses of my medicine so it’s keeping my pain under control. I am taking on small amounts at a time during the day so it takes the edge off my pain, while not making me too sleepy. It’s also good because I haven’t had to drive anywhere. I’ve pretty much been parked at the location that each balloon event is being held and if there is somewhere off site I need to be at either a pilot or another crew member drives me. The tumor seems to not be changing much at the moment. But at times, it’s still giving me sharp stabbing pains, however, they pass quickly. The numbness in my foot and leg is not any worse and I can still get around fine. I’m trying to make sure that I’m drinking enough water so I don’t dehydrate, but it’s tough. It’s about 100 degrees here and it’s so hot. I am really glad I made the trip. I think being out and on a trip has been good for my spirit and it’s giving me something different to focus on, other than my health condition.

After I left the balloon event about noon on Sunday, July 26th, I stopped at the Wagon Train RV Park in Canton, Texas about an hour west of Longview. It’s exit 536 off of I-20. It’s a Passport America campground and it’s quite cozy looking and it’s kept clean. The owners just redid the camp spots and they are level and all of them have full hookups. It felt great to take a shower and get clean after being all hot and sweaty since Friday. I did not have access to a shower since Thursday, so I used washcloths and did the best I could to get clean. Everyone that was outside during the event stayed in a constant state of being wet from the heat and humidity. There was no way to avoid it. However, we still had fun and enjoyed ourselves.

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Tomorrow morning I drive to spend a few days with my friend Sue west of Fort Worth, then I head to Waco to visit with other friends for a few weeks before heading west towards Albuquerque.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

On the road again, traveling west, UPDATE and camping along the way

I left home on Friday, July 10th, and I drove about 300 miles. I kept driving into intermittent pockets of heavy rain, sometimes while the sun was shining. I got to see full arc rainbows twice. I love seeing rainbows, even though sometimes they only last few a few minutes. In the late afternoon, there was a heavy downpour of rain with lighting and thunder, so I got off at an exit when I could and I sat in the parking lot until it let up enough that I could go in and buy some food. After I bought a few things, and the rain let up, I drove north about 30 miles and stopped in a rest area that has security guards at night. It was so hot that it wasn’t enjoyable, I did however use a small fan which helped it not be so hot inside my camper.

camp 1The second day, I stopped in an RV campground east of Pensacola, Florida, about 4:00 p.m. so I had electricity which is definitely needed in this 90+ degree temperature. I am finding that I get sleepy driving so every couple of hours I stop for about a 30 minute nap. I also stop for gas, food, etc. This campground also has wifi so I am able to update my travel map and write this post.

I turned the refrigerator on Wednesday, two days before I left home thinking it would be cold enough by Friday. It didn’t feel very cold so I moved the temperature lever up on Thursday. On Friday as I traveled it still didn’t feel very cold inside so I stopped at a RV dealer and they checked the lever and probe and put it on the fin again for me. Today, which is Saturday it still wasn’t cold enough so I stopped at a Camping World that I passed and a service guy took the probe off the fin and put it on again. I’m not sure he did it right. After being plugged in at the campground for two hours the fridge is not cold inside. The fins which usually get cold and sometimes have ice on them are not very cold and water is dripping on them. I took the probe off and put it on again. I will leave the fridge door closed until morning and check it before leaving the campground. If it is not cold I will decide whether to stay here another day and night to see if it gets cold, or I will continue west and find a RV repair place and hope they can fit me in to see what is wrong with the fridge. It’s four years old and it worked when I took a short trip in May. Hopefully, it will be working fine by morning. Not every time, but many times when I take a trip there is something that happens or needs repair. I hope this is the only happening or repair needed on this trip. If I need to buy a cooler and some ice then I will. Creative eating will be necessary without a fridge. I have bread, peanut butter, chips, and I will find single portion foods like packages of tuna fish if need be.

Sunday morning, July 12th, I prayed before going to sleep and again during the early morning hours when I was awake that the refrigerator would be working well. I checked it about 8:30 a.m. and the temperature was cool and in the good range on the temperature thermometer I keep in the fridge. I’m so glad it’s working well. I knew it was in the middle of May when I was on a short trip and I hadn’t turned the fridge on again until this past Wednesday. I guess since it’s in the high 90’s and operating on gas is not as efficient for the fridge so it doesn’t get as cold as when plugged into electricity. I know there will be several days on this trip when I won’t have electric hookups, such as at the hot air balloon events, but at the other times I will try to stay in campgrounds. It’s much too hot to dry camp.

I don’t know when I will have Internet again, so this might be the only story for a while.  Until I am at the hot air balloon event in Longview, instead of writing new stories, I will most probably add to the bottom of this post and add the date with the new information. I will try to update my travel map location every day or so.

Sunday, July 19th, I am now in Longview, Texas, staying at the Maud Cobb Convention Center for the Great Texas Balloon Race. They have a campground with full hookups, and also inside the convention center there is wifi so I am able to update my story. I wrote the story below while sitting in Buckhorn Creek Campground when I had no Internet, it will save time to post the story when I do have Internet.

camp 2Sunday afternoon, July 12th, I stopped in Lakeview RV Park east of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So far the refrigerator is still working great. I hope it continues. I drove about 300 miles again today. I am now on Central Time. I am so glad I was traveling west on I-10 today. As I was getting close to where I-10 and I-12 connect, there was a backup of traffic going west due to an accident. It only slowed me down for about a mile and about a 15 minute delay. There were also construction signs, but it seems that the construction was mostly on the eastbound side. The traffic was backed up for about 8 miles going east on I-10 and I-12. I hope by the time I return that it is not like that. As any of us drive, no matter where we are, can be driving along with the flow of traffic and all of a sudden it stops. We never know how long of a wait or how far the distance of the backup is. Sometimes when the traffic is backed up in the opposite direction I check the distance out of curiosity and thank God that I am not in it. There are times that I have been in long traffic delays. It’s not fun as you may know from being in them at times. I am using the hotspot on my phone to update this story.

At sunset as I was walking around the campground I took some pictures of the trees and campsites across the lake. I thought the pictures came out interesting. The trees and RVs are reflected in the lake, it’s a fascinating mirror image.

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Tuesday, July 14th, last night I stopped at Ajax Country Livin RV Park in Ajax, Texas. It’s off of I-49 about half hour or south of Shreveport, Louisiana. I had driven about 250 miles and didn’t feel up to going any further. I found this RV park in my Passport America campground book. So I stopped and I was pleasantly surprised because there was a nice lake on the side of the campground which could be seen from almost every campsite. Also, in the office there was a small library where I could exchange some paperback books. I like to do that because in addition to having new books to read, I almost always find books by authors I am not familiar with.

2015-07-13 14.51.492015-07-13 14.52.10So, I get up this morning to continue my journey and I go to put my back steps up and nothing happens. I am plugged into electricity, and the steps also operate off of the battery which I know is charged because I have been plugged in at campsites all nights on this trip except the first night. I try the switch several times, and try pushing the step in and still nothing happens. The campground has a few campers, but only one had a vehicle next to it. So I waited until 9 a.m. when the campground office opened. I explained my situation and asked Denise one of the campground owners if her husband David could help me. David comes out and says he will see what he can do to help.

After about a half hour we think it’s probably the motor because there is power to the switch and the wires to the steps. David suggests several things we can do to get the steps up, and we consider the options. I also sent a text to my friends Ann and Phil asking for their advice because Phil is a RV repairman who has done repairs to my camper when I am in Albuquerque. He gave us things to try and when nothing else worked we did what both David and Phil said is the best option at this time. That was to remove the pin and push the steps up manually and then tie them up against the frame or whatever we can. David removed the pin and very easily the steps folded up. I had some paracord and bungee cords and a rubber strap so David used those to secure the steps so they would not come loose when I traveled. I am so very thankful to David for his help. He took about two hours of his morning to help me and he wouldn’t let me pay him.

2015-07-13 14.12.58I believe that we are here to help others as we travel through life. I know there are many times that I have helped others without anything in return. I guess it’s the Universe’s way to say thank you. We are put here to help others. It doesn’t matter if it’s offering a hug, words of encouragement or support, or even consolation. It’s also helping no matter what, of giving back, of making life easier for others when we can. For offering prayers to those in need.

If you are driving on I-49 between Lafayette, LA and Shreveport, LA, stop by Ajax Country Livin RV Park. It’s about a mile off of exit 155, near Marthaville, LA. It’s very quiet and peaceful there with seating overlooking the lake.

So, after the steps were secure, I thanked David again, and I headed north towards my destination which for this day was going to be Buckhorn Creek Campground in Jefferson, Texas, just north of Marshall in east Texas. It’s a Corps of Engineer Park. I like staying in Corps parks, they are always kept in great condition, usually have level campsites, and almost always where I can either be camped on the lake or see it from a campsite. I stopped in Marshall and bought groceries because like most Corps and state parks around the country these parks are remote and not very close to towns which makes it quite a drive to go shopping.

2015-07-17 13.57.11Early Tuesday afternoon, I arrived at Buckhorn Creek Campground which is a really beautiful campground. Because I arrived on a Tuesday, there are not many campers here. I see four other trailers in the section I am in and none are close to me. I feel like I have my very own private campground with a close up view of the lake. I hung my hammock between two trees and spent lots of time laying in the hammock reading, relaxing, enjoying watching the birds, listening to the sounds of nature, and having quiet time with God. The campsite I am in is pretty much shaded by tall trees. There are a few times when the sun was shining on me in my hammock and on the camper, but overall it was shady for which I am very thankful because it’s really hot here, especially in the sun.

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I have not had any Internet connection for the six days I have been in this park, and two days before that while I was traveling, not even on my phone. I was able to make phone calls, and send and receive texts if they were short and did not contain photos. I bet when I get Internet again there will be quite a few email messages. When I travel I do not have television either and I don’t miss it.

Sunday, July 19th, My next stop is Longview, Texas, where I will attend the Great Texas Balloon Race. This will be my first time at this hot air balloon event and in Longview, and I am looking forward to this new experience and meeting new people.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Emotional Meltdown, Reality and Feelings

Despite everything happening in my life and the life of those close to me, I very seldom get overwhelmed, depressed, or have emotional meltdowns. When they do happen to me, it’s usually only for perhaps 10 or so minutes and the feelings pass quickly, especially when I call a friend and talk about whatever I’m feeling or what’s happening to create these feelings. Thankfully, it usually passes quickly. I do shed some tears, sometimes lots of tears. It’s okay to cry and feel feelings. I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t. I have learned from personal experience that it’s a long way from my head to my heart. I might know something in my head and know it’s a reality, but sometimes it takes my heart much longer to realize and accept whatever it is. Sometimes it takes weeks or months. I have been through this many times, including surgical changes to my body due to cancer. I knew the operations and removal of body parts was necessary, but my heart and eyes quite a while to accept it. I will admit that frustration is a word I deal with on almost a daily basis. I get frustrated that I can’t always do what I want due being tired or the intensity of the pain, or other reasons. But when I think of what I am grateful for during that time, the frustration seems to disappear, or at least lessen.

If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you know I have been living with serious health issues for many years, the past five years have significantly changed my life and given me a shorter life span. All any of us have is today. However, with tumors in my abdominal and pelvic areas, according to my doctor, my life span is not anticipated to be very long. At least that’s what she told me in 2013 when she told me I would most probably not live to the end of 2013, and definitely not the end of 2015. Well, we are halfway through 2015 and I am still alive. God has other plans for my life and I guess God is not ready for me yet. Many days I am ready, but I guess my purpose on Earth is not completed yet. Sometimes, I think of what I would have missed if God took me when I asked.

There are so many things I would not have experienced, both happy and sad. I would not have gone up in the Goodyear Blimp, or volunteered or had another ride in a hot air balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. I would have missed being able to walk with my friend on her journey with cancer, or another losing her husband. I would have missed sharing life experiences of my friends, I would have missed seeing double full arc rainbows, exploring National Parks, doing fun jigsaw puzzles, eating ice cream sandwiches, traveling around the USA in my camper van, and so much more. I would have also missed being in pain, and even though I don’t like the pain and what I am going through physically, many friends and others I come in contact with on my journey through life tell me that I inspire them, or that what I am living with puts their life in perspective, or that they enjoy reading the stories I write about my trips and life experiences.

A few people ask me if I have tough days, or if what I am going through gets me down because I don’t write about it often. In part, that is why I am writing this story. I don’t have many of those days and when I do they pass quickly. It’s because I do my best to keep an attitude of gratitude. To always look for the positive and what I am grateful for. There are so many people with more challenges than I have, they have worse health conditions or physical restrictions, or they live with much more stressful situations and tragic losses than I do. When I make a list of all I have to be grateful for, it’s difficult to feel self pity. It’s easier to be a victim and say poor me than it is to be a hero and say this is what happened and now I have to live with it the best way I can. No matter what the situation, it’s easier to blame others than it is to take responsibility for my part in the situation. I choose to look at the positive, to be proactive.

I remember watching the July 4th fireworks in 2013 and thinking these are the last fireworks I will ever see, the same with having my birthday, and holidays. The fall of 2013 was difficult for me healthwise. I wasn’t able to take my yearly late year trip out west. I even went in Hospice from January to May of 2014. Then last year in 2014 I went through the same thoughts that this will be the last time, now here it is 2015. Maybe it’s this time of the year that’s more emotional for me. I don’t really know. So now I am not telling myself this is the last anything. None of us know when it will be. It will be when God decides it’s time.

This past Friday night as I was reading a novel I felt restless and unsettled. A feeling of sadness, grief, depression, and of being overwhelmed came over me rather quickly. I started crying. This happens every now and then, and like I wrote it usually passes quickly. This time it wasn’t going away. I did the usual things… thought of things I am grateful for, I prayed and asked God to remove these feelings. I read many pages in my meditation and inspirational books, still no relief.  So I reached out and called a close friend who was able to talk at that time. I was able to tell her what is going on in my life and after a long phone call I felt better. Saturday I spent the day taking my mom on errands since she still doesn’t have her car back from the mechanic. I hope she gets it soon, it’s been three weeks.

Saturday night I was sitting and reading and the same feelings overcame me again. It’s rare for it to happen two nights in a row. This felt as bad or worse than the previous night. I cried for a while thinking the feelings would pass and they didn’t. I reached out to a few friends to see who was available to talk and one of them was home. We talked about what was happening in both of our lives and after a while I felt better. Sharing with someone puts my life back into perspective. Since we are not involved in whatever the situation is that the other person is experiencing, at least most of the time, we can see it from a different perspective and share similar experiences and how we got through them. I am extremely grateful for these special friends who I know save my life and sanity. They feel the same way about me because I am one of their close friends and support group. We feel this connection even if we don’t talk to each other for weeks at a time. We are here for each other no matter what, no matter what time of the day or night.

After two nights and partial times during the day of feeling these overwhelming feelings and thoughts and doubts, now they seem to be not as emotionally painful. It’s not one thing causing this, it’s many things happening all at once. I think I am giving everything to God, but perhaps I am still trying to hold on to things over which I have no control of the outcome. Then my burden gets heavy and I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, and I feel that life it too much to bear. I tell God periodically that I am ready to die. God says not yet there is still more for me to experience here. I was telling a close friend that knows about everything I am going through about this and she said if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t have been able to pray with her this particular day and provide words which really helped her. She is battling two different types of cancer in two different significant parts of her body.

IMG_8391A friend I left a message for Saturday night when I had my meltdown came to visit me Sunday afternoon, she surprised me with a colorful lollypop. As I am typing this story and looking at the lollypop, I realize this is life. Lots of colors. In nature and life, all colors and textures are needed to complete what we see. For example, grass and trees having many shades of green and many different textures makes them interesting to look at. As I travel in my camper van around the country, the different types of landscapes and terrain makes my trip more interesting. My four pound container of Jelly Belly’s with 49 flavors makes it more delicious to eat, even though a few flavors are not my favorites so I eat them with a flavor I like.

A few weeks ago I had a CT Scan to see what changes there are to my tumors and organs since the scan one year ago. There are many changes, and new things that were not there last year, and they are not for the better. I think that has me a bit upset if I think about it which I try not to do. It’s hard because of the symptoms I live with on a daily basis which are in part a result of the CT Scan findings. Most days now it’s more difficult for me to eat, the pain is getting quite a bit more intense. I often wake up with the pain and find that I don’t even want to get out of bed many days. The pain used to start in the early afternoon, now many days it’s in the mornings. Eating is not something I look forward to either and the amount of food I can eat at a time is about half a cup to a full cup of food. I am trying to be conscious of the amount of fluids I drink in a day because I don’t want to dehydrate. Some days it’s not easy to drink liquids. So, I take sips more often and do my best.

I am still planning on taking my trip to Texas and New Mexico, leaving in about 10 days. Last year I took a trip about the same as this one and it was about 4,500 miles round trip. I am going to have my camper van checked out the end of this week to make sure all is well. Something always seems to happen on the road, and thankfully, it’s where I am able to get it repaired. I hope and pray that this year all goes well, and if there are hiccups that they are minor and in a location they can be taken care of easily and quickly. I have no control over things that happen once I do my best preventive care.

This week I will begin packing for my trip. I have to be honest, even though I should be excited and enthusiastic about it, I am not. I remember feeling the same way last year. Once I left, I enjoyed my trip. It’s the getting packed and loading the camper that is the difficult part. I have to pack for several months, and different types of weather. It’s hot now, but, by October and November it will be cold so I have to pack heavy, warm clothes too. I have very limited space in the camper van which makes it a bit more challenging when I think about what I have to take. I have a small space heater for when it’s cold and I have electricity. Last year when it was in the 20’s and 30’s the space heater worked really hard to keep it at 60 degrees, so I bought another small electric heater. This will take up more precious space. So does taking 6 months of medical supplies. Then there are clothes, food, etc. I know it will work out, it always does.

So, I am guessing that this meltdown is a combination of my worsening health condition and pain, the additional findings in my CT Scan results, my friend walking through a serious cancer situation, another friend being upset with me and not speaking with me, having a splint on my finger again hoping the torn tendon will reattach, the uncertainty of life, not eating as well as I need to, my sleeping patterns being off, the upcoming trip, and probably other things I am not conscious of, all of these things are affecting me in different ways.

I guess it’s like an overloaded circuit breaker tripping a fuse. My tears and feelings  of being overwhelmed, and mildly depressed, are my body’s way of letting me know that I am experiencing a lot of things and that I need to just let things go and let them unfold the way they are supposed to. I have to accept, and maybe grieve, the possible loss of a friendship. I have to accept her decision if she no longer wants to be my friend and talk with me.  And I also have to leave the outcome of another friends cancer treatment in the hands of God and to ask in prayer that her doctors be given the knowledge and wisdom on how to best treat her cancer.

So, as I continue on this journey through life, I will do my best. Some days my best is better than other days. I have to remember that I am human and therefore not perfect. I make mistakes. I have to apologize, make amends, correct situations, or whatever is necessary, and forgive myself and others. And for those of you wondering if I have times that my life situation is too much for me to bear, you know I do. But hopefully only for short periods of time. My close friends help me navigate this journey with unconditional love, dignity, strength, friendship, support, sanity, faith, courage, and hope. Even laughter and joy. They are my lifeline.

It’s my choice how I decide to look at life and the events that happen. My choice is to look for the positive and for the many things I have to be grateful for. I know that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I know the reason, sometimes I don’t, or perhaps it’s revealed to me quite a while later. I have learned that sometimes what I have to go through, or should I say grow through, is not always about me. It might be about someone else and the experience that God wants them to have and I might just be a part of their story or experience.

Today I can walk, talk, breathe, see, hear, taste, smell, and so much more all at the same time. There may be a day that is not possible and if that happens, I will deal with it then. During this sometimes difficult and challenging time in my life, I am trying to remember to reach out and say I need help, or I need someone to talk with. It always helps me. I know that the path my life has taken over the course of my lifetime, and especially the past five years, is the one meant for me. It’s shaped me into who I am. If one thing was different, I would be different. How would I be different? I have no idea. I doubt it would be for the better. I like to think that the difficulties and health issues I have had are experiences that I learned from and shared with others to help them when they go through their life experiences. I remember once in the hospital when an IV medicine was burning as it went into my body that a nurse put cool compresses on my arm and it helped. Another time, I was in the hospital and a roommate was having her arm burn from a medicine, I was able to put a compress on her arm to ease her pain. Sometimes little things mean so much. I have a few friends that currently send me cards and emails to let me know they are thinking about me, it really touches my heart.

I know that by people sharing their life experiences with me, they give me hope when I don’t have any. They give me a new way to look at the situation and help me to not feel alone. They tell me that I can survive whatever it was that is or was happening to me because they did. People that had an Illeostomy helped me learn to deal with mine, people who had a spouse die got me through that when mine did, when I had cancer there were people there for me too. No matter what I go through, if I reach out there is someone who had the same or similar experience and they give me the strength and hope that I can too. It’s my responsibility to give it back as it was so freely given to me. We don’t have to know someone to help them. Sometimes someone I just met and I are talking and one of says something that either one of us needed to hear. Maybe they provided an answer to a prayer or question I was thinking about, or maybe I said something that they needed to hear or it answered one of their questions or prayers. We might never know the importance of our contact with another person, or the impact it might have in someones life.

One thing I know for sure is that without a strong belief in God, and many prayers, over the years I would not have been able to survive my journey through life and it’s blessings and challenges. Sometimes it’s difficult to handle good things happening. Yes, we deserve good things in our life. There have been and still are so many loving, caring, and supportive people in my life that continually help me and others. I know that if I didn’t have these special friends that I can tell anything to, no matter what it is, that I would be having a more difficult time handling not only what was in my past, but as importantly what I am going through now. The close friends I talk with don’t say don’t be upset, angry, cry, or whatever else I am feeling. They say they understand and that it’s okay for me to feel this way, that it will pass, that things will work out the way they are supposed to and the way God wants them too, even though it might not be the way I want it to. They tell me with all I am dealing with it’s normal to have these feelings. I can feel feelings, even though they might be uncomfortable. Thankfully, I don’t have to act on feelings or thoughts or let them take permanent residence in my brain.

I have lived with a medical time bomb in me for most of my life that I can remember. After my first bout with cancer when I was 21, I was told I had to be checked often because it will come back. The doctors did not say might come back, they said it will. I was checked closely over the years. Every time I went to the doctor when the doctor said “we need to do a biopsy” I felt like I was living Russian Roulette, one bullet in a gun chamber, when would the click of the trigger be the real bullet. The cancer returned 20 years later, when I was 41. So now with inoperable tumors growing in my body the past few years, I still have a time bomb in me. When will my last day be? I have no idea. I might even die by some other cause such as a car accident, heart attack, a fall, or any other cause. None of us know when it will be our last day or how it will happen. Live each day fully. Let people know how you feel about them, or how much they mean to you.

Friday night trying to get out of my meltdown before I called anyone, when I was reading a meditation book called Night Light, these words helped me: “There are things beyond our control. One of them is the outcome of any circumstance. We cannot expect that if we do all we can, all will be well. Even the most skilled surgeon loses patients. The surgeon knows the grace of God is with the patient, no matter what the outcome. The grace of God is in our lives and the lives of those around us. Though we strive to do our best and to make everything better, we need to remember the outcomes are not in our control. How we accept them, however, is in our control.”

Another book I read that night, The Simple Truths of Life, had words that were also meaningful, in part talked about that we will not receive an email with the subject PENDING DEMISE. “It is unlikely that we will know our “Expiration Date.” “…the days I am living now ARE my final words; not just the “words,” but everything I am currently doing and saying to, or for, others. These are the things that will be remembered by my friends and loved ones. The way in which I am living my life, my actions, my relationships with them on a regular, everyday basis ARE my final words, which epitomizes the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” I realize that is true. I never know when I talk with someone if I will be able to talk with them again. When I had a friend dying, I treated every conversation as if it would be our last one. I knew sometime it would be and I wanted to leave that person with the words of them knowing how much they meant to me.

As I travel on my trip, I will write stories when I get Internet service. I will also try to keep my Travel Map tab updated as to what part of the country I am in.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Upcoming trip, making of a Jeep commercial, and health update

Not much has been happening since I wrote about my time at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in May. Mostly, I have been reading books and getting together with friends for lunch. I did buy a different laptop, it has Windows 8.1 so I am trying to learn how to use it. My 17″ Toshiba laptop with Windows 7 still works, but I find that sometimes it’s a bit large to take into places to update my website. I bought a 10″ tablet last October, but I find that I cannot update my website with it and there are other functions that I cannot do on it that can be done using a laptop. I found a great deal on a 12.5 inch Lenovo laptop with Windows 8, so I installed the updates and put my pictures and music on it and I am getting used to it. There are some features that I like, but it’s a lot different than Windows 7.  It has a keyboard and also a touch screen so I can use it as a laptop or tablet, and it’s a smaller size to take places which is more convenient. It also has a twist screen which is a nice feature.

GtbRI’m planning on taking another trip beginning sometime the week of July 6th. The itinerary is to make my first stop in Longview, Texas, at the Great Texas Balloon Race. I have not been to this event before, but it looks like it will be interesting and quite a bit smaller than the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I signed up to crew on a balloon at the Texas Balloon event and I was told that I would be assigned to a special shape balloon. I have no idea which one yet. I looked at the pictures of what special shape balloons will be there and I recognized them from seeing them at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. I have crewed on a regular shaped balloon numerous times, it will be a new experience to crew for a special shape balloon. There are two concerts during this balloon event, Cooder Graw and The Oak Ridge Boys.

After leaving east Texas, I will stop in Fort Worth and Waco and visit friends there for a few weeks before heading to Albuquerque where I plan on being for about a month. I will be there about two weeks or so before the Balloon Fiesta begins so I can visit with friends there and also do some volunteer work before the event begins. In past years in addition to crewing for Scott on his Big Blue Balloon, I volunteered at the Balloon Discovery Center where I got to talk with people from all over the world and could answer their questions about various aspects of hot air ballooning. I found that having been at this event for several years that every year I know a little bit more, and by crewing I learn till more and can answer questions much better because I have first hand experience.

aibf pinBecause I can be at the Balloon Fiesta before it officially begins, this year my primary area to volunteer in is Pilot Registration. Most of their work is done before the Fiesta begins which works out great since I love to crew on a balloon. This also provides me with time to still volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Center. One of the other things I have been working on while here at home is contacting businesses to try and get door prizes for the volunteer lunch held during the Balloon Fiesta. When I get to Albuquerque, I will continue that project. I like getting to Albuquerque a few weeks early so I can get together with friends I have made there over the past few years that I have been there, and there are several stores and restaurants I like to go to as well. During the Balloon Fiesta they have a Music Fiesta, this year the main entertainment is The Band Perry. I also love to watch the five nights of spectacular fireworks.

A friend of mine in Vancouver sent me interesting links about the making of a Jeep commercial. I thought it would be interesting to include in this post. The shoot took place from June 14 to June 18, 2014. The set was built and produced three days prior to the filming of the commercial, on 400 Granville Street in Vancouver. Materials included: 1,000,000 pounds of boulders, rocks, and sand to break up water flow and give surface disturbances. 250,000 gallons of water, recycled using a closed water system that pumped water from the end of the street back to the top. The water was eventually discharged into Vancouver Harbor. 400,000 pounds of snow – the snowbank was made of snow blanket and fish-ice. Logs, sticks, moss, and 80 fir/hemlock trees lined/covered the street. The trees were boxed and returned to the nursery and other materials were also repurposed. Two wolves were on set. The domesticated wolves were made available from the Animal Insight for Film and T.V.A. representative from the American Humane Association was on set. Observers were able to take pictures with the animals. Check out these two videos, one version and another version.

Passport America Carol's StoryPassport America is a RV Club that provides members with a 50% discount at more than 1,850 campgrounds all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico. I have been a member for several years, every year the savings pays for more than the annual membership cost. I was recently asked by a Passport America staff member to write a short story about me and my travels for their electronic newsletter. At first I wasn’t sure about doing it or even what I would write. So after some consideration, I decided to write a story and I let them decide what content to include. Click here to read the story.

Recently I had a CT Scan done. My doctor wanted to see the difference in the size of my tumors since my scan last June. I could tell that the largest tumor has grown and also shifted position. The CT Scan confirmed it. In addition, there are several additional new tumors, none significant in size at this time. So it looks like I will still be taking my trip. I know it won’t be easy. When I took the long trip last year I had the same challenges and I was able to make the trip successfully, I’m anticipating the same thing this time. I know there will be days that I will not be able to drive long distances, and I will make frequent rest stops, but it’s okay.

I only have a few dates I need to be somewhere and I will leave enough time so if there are days I can’t travel or I can only travel a short distance, I will still get where I need to on time. As I travel, if I have Internet service, I will update my 2015 Travel Map button with my approximate location. I also text a few friends when I stop for the day so they know where I am at that point in time. When I travel there are usually periods of time that I don’t have Internet service, so I will add stories when I can.  I generally use my phone to answer emails while I am traveling. I am looking forward to this trip, which if I make it all the way like last year, will be approximately 4,500 miles.

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Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

I just spent the past five days at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. I created a photo album with the pictures I took the past few days. Towards the bottom of the album are numerous videos I took of the animals, some are short and others are two or three minutes long.

Over the past several years I have visited here numerous times, I always write a story and post a photo album of my visit. Every time I visit I get to see different animals and also new habitats for some of them. The main things that I noticed this visit that was different from previous visits were a 3 year old Camel named Lulu and a new fenced in area is being built for her, an albino Wallaby named Sidney who happens to like peanut butter, two rare black and rust chickens that have a pom pom top on their head, a calf named JJ, 3 three week old Vietnamese Fishing Cat babies, and a two day old Ringtail Lemur. Both the Ringtail Lemur and the Vietnamese Fishing Cats are rare and endangered species. It was interesting watching the Ringtail Lemur baby change over the five days. He got more active and was climbing on his mom and trying to climb on the rope and cage and he also tried to eat the food his mom was eating. I also got some pictures when mom was resting, thinking most probably that she wished the little one would lay still for a few minutes at a time.

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Owner Sue Arnold and I have become good friends over the many years that I have been going there. I have posted several albums and written several stories about my previous visits there over the years, you can look at those photos on my photo album page. Every time I go there, in addition to the animals that are permanent residents there are always new animals that I get to see and sometimes I get to hold and pet them too. Sue’s goal is to rehabilitate and get the animals that are brought to them healthy so they can be released into their natural habitat. There are animals that can’t be released for various reasons so they become permanent residents. Angela and Freddy live on the premises and they help Sue take care of the animals and also help to feed them and do whatever else is needed at the Wildlife Center. Freddy is really handy and he can fabricate things needed from spare parts he collects. He also prepares the meat and chicken that are fed to the panthers and other wild cats and animals that need to eat protein. Among other things, Angela takes care of the animals in the hospital and nursery and she feeds and cleans cages for many of the animals. She really gets attached to the animals and helps to name them.

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If you are looking for a worthwhile charity to make donations to I would highly recommend Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. All of the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals, 100% of it is used for the animals. County, local, and state officials, and many other people bring animals to Sue that need medical help, food, shelter, or pets and animals that they can no longer keep for various reasons, etc., and none of these agencies or people provide funds for the animals upkeep or medical bills, so the care and feeding and also vet bills incurred all come out of Sue’s limited funds that she uses for the animals on premises. Currently, and most of the time, there are approximately 300 animals at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It’s important to save animals and especially the rare and endangered ones so that they will still be around for future generations to see in person, not just in a book. Sue does her best to breed the animals, most especially the rare and endangered species.

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My visit for the entire  5 days was spectacular. I had a great time. I had the privilege of feeding the animals treats and food. I gave them peanut butter and banana sandwiches, cereal, fruit, bread, and other types of foods. The Capuchin monkeys liked to drink water from the hose like people do. They would also put their hands in the spray and then wipe the water on their arms. It’s really interesting to watch the animals interact with each other and also to see the different personalities they have, and also how they decide to eat their food. Some of them just eat their food fast, others savor it and take their time enjoying it.

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IMG_8123Zeke the Capuchin monkey who is about 38 years old has no teeth because his first owner had them removed because they didn’t want Zeke to bite. So for his entire life he has had to eat soft foods. I find Zeke one of the animals that I love to watch the most and also I like to give him the most treats. I have to sort of trick Cricket his cagemate and give her food first so that I can give Zeke his food. Cricket thinks she should get it all. When Zeke gets his treat he takes it and usually sits and looks at it and then decides how he wants to eat it. Sometimes he tastes it first then sits and figures it out. Sometimes he just nibbles and eats it slowly, other times he takes his hands and separates the food item and then enjoys eating it. Like with an orange slice, he might at first suck some of the juice out of the slice, then he separates the membrane from the fruit and then eats it slowly. If it’s a lollypop he sucks on it slowly and I can tell he really enjoys it. Peanut butter sandwiches he eats the little piece whole sometimes, and other times he separates the two pieces of bread.

A year or two ago, a woman’s husband died and she couldn’t take care of Cricket, the female Capuchin monkey that her husband had, so she gave it away. Cricket wasn’t happy in her new home and somehow Sue was contacted and she said she would take Cricket. So Cricket was put into the same cage as Zeke and it was a great match. Over time, Zeke took over making sure that Cricket is happy and he takes their bedding and airs it out during the daytime and then shakes out the blankets and puts them back into the area where they sleep. He always lets her take the food she wants and doesn’t fight her for any of it. He does get his share too. Cricket loves to drink water from the hose when her cage is being cleaned. So whoever has the hose makes sure to put it on a slow stream for her and the other monkey who likes to drink from the hose. It’s really cute to watch.

Here are a few links to a few videos, there are many more videos in the photo album with Zeke eating an orange, the otters swimming, a mama hen and baby chicks, me feeding Lulu the Camel bread, the Kookaburra’s singing, the Lemurs and Capuchin monkeys climbing, and the albino Wallaby hopping.

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I want to thank Alexa Produce in Lighthouse Point for donating fruit and vegetables that I brought to Sue’s to feed the animals. I stopped by before I left home and told Alan the manager that I was going to a wildlife rehabilitation center and asked if he has any fruit and vegetables that he was going to discard or that he can’t sell, and he gave me two boxes of items.

At the Wildlife Center I’ve learned that nothing there goes to waste. Banana peels, scraps, etc. are fed to many of the animals, so if some animals cannot eat a particular type of food or parts of it, other animals can eat it. I even got to feed bread to Lulu the Camel. She took an entire loaf of Italian bread in her mouth and chewed and chewed until the entire loaf was eaten. I watched a very large tortoise try to eat a whole green pepper. That was interesting. Since the only thing the tortoise could use to eat is his mouth, he couldn’t hold the green pepper still and it has a smooth round surface. So for a minute or so every time he put his mouth on the pepper to eat it, it rolled a little. He would try again and again, and finally he was able to get a bite of it and then from that little hole he ate more and more. He didn’t seem to get frustrated and give up. The tomatoes were easier for him to eat.

IMG_8214The Fennec Foxes are really cute, they look like little dogs with big ears. They like to sleep quite a bit. They were a bit hesitant when I went to give them treats, but one got brave and the others watched and decided to get some too. After the first time, whenever they saw me with treats they came to the side of the cage so I would give them some too.

There are still many of the same animals there too that I saw in previous visits, such as Foxy Brown the rare and endangered Fox Squirrel who started a 5 acre grass fire a few years ago when she chewed an electrical wire, she also fried herself. I wrote her story in this post. There are also rare and endangered Indonesian Jade Peacocks, Cotton Top Tamarins, and the Vietnamese Fishing cats who recently had three babies, which had to be removed at birth so that the parents didn’t eat them. Yes, it’s sad, but they ate the babies in the first litter. Now the three babies are being handfed and cared for by Angela and Sue.

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IMG_8037The Kookaburra cage is next to the Ringtail Lemur cage and I spent quite a bit of time there because I liked watching the mama and baby Lemur. The dad was really attentive and he helped the mom groom the baby and he let the baby climb on him too. Last year there were only two Kookaburra’s now there are three. They have a very distinct call. It’s really loud, especially when the two black and while Lemurs in a cage near them make their really loud calls too. It sounds like someone is being harmed. Then in the big field near those cages are donkeys, llamas, deer, horses, and a few other types of animals. The animals calls then sometimes get the donkeys in the mood to bray and then there is a symphony of animals sounds and calls. There are a few new macaws and cockatoos and they are REALLY loud. They do talk and say various phrases which is okay, but at other times they just screetch loudly and also make sounds they heard in their previous home. One parrot makes the sound of a vehicle backing up. Another sound is like the old internet connection like when AOL connected the computer to the landline.

Did you know that peacocks roost in trees, yes, believe it or not, they can fly. They also like to be on rooftops. I saw some peacocks with beautiful plumes but no tail feathers. I asked Sue why and she said they are young male peacocks. They still are beautiful but they don’t have the long tail with the beautiful feathers to carry around yet. Peacocks are very loud and noisy. This is a video of the peacock displaying his feathers and cooling off.

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There is also an incredible Butterfly Garden. There are many species of butterflies here. At one of the entrances to the Butterfly Garden is a viewing platform where visitors can see the entire garden in a glance. When you are walking the path through the garden you cannot tell that it’s one big butterfly with the body, head, and antennae in the center. I wasn’t able to get the entire garden in one picture.

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If you or anyone you know wants to have a nice outing for a day, visit Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. There is a donation box as you enter the zoo area. It’s $10 for an adult and children under 12 are free. Believe it or not, there are people who walk through and do not make a donation, or maybe they give $1 for a group of several people. Maybe it’s all they had, we don’t know. All of the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals. Perhaps you know of an SUV or enclosed vehicle in good condition that can be donated here, I have a feeling it would be greatly appreciated as well. The vehicle used now to transport the animals is rather old and not in very good condition.

It’s expensive to buy the amount of food needed, pay vet bills, and pay the other related costs of operating this wildlife rehabilitation center and taking care of the animals. I saw how much food is used in one day to feed the animals. It’s astonishing. This is also a great place to donate your time. I got to see how much work it is to maintain the property, cages, feed and provide medical care for the animals. The baby animals need special attention as do the sick ones. I know any time you would like to volunteer here would be greatly appreciated. Whether you like to do physical work or not as physical, there are always things to do like cutting up fruit and vegetables for food, filling the animals water bowls, rinsing out cages with a hose, fixing fencing and cages, building pens, and so much more.

If you go to visit feel free to bring some food. I usually bring several boxes of frosted mini shredded wheat, jars of creamy peanut butter, small elbow pasta, American cheese, large cans of peaches, whole grain bread, and fruit. Even bags of dum-dum lolly pops are good. Aldi grocery store has the lowest price for the cereal, peanut butter, and pasta. When the animals get a treat it’s the time to look at them closely and make sure they are healthy and that there are no areas that need attention. Tell Sue that you read about the wildlife center from me.

To visit Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, if you are near I-95 the best way to go is to take either Blue Heron Blvd. if you are coming from the south, or Northlake Blvd. if you are coming from the north. Go west on either of those roads until it dead ends at 710, then go right on 710. From Blue Heron Blvd, go approximately 45 miles, and from Northlake about 41 miles, until you see a small street sign that says 128. Make a right on 128 then stay on that road for approximately 21 miles until you come to a blinking traffic light which is 441. Stay straight, go past the light, then go 2.5 miles and then you will see a sign to make a left on a street which goes directly to the wildlife center. A majority of the trip is spent on back roads with very little traffic. It’s a scenic and relaxing drive.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

Cherish Life, Live life to the fullest, Celebrate the life of Jeff K. and Dan P. Make Memories

ostrich-in-the-sandIf you have been reading my website for any length of time, you know that I often share about how precious life is. That we should live life to the fullest, enjoy every day, tell people that we love them, do not have unresolved issues, make time to do the things you want to do, don’t keep putting things off saying someday… Someday might not come. I wrote an article called Seriously, Really, You Would Rather Be An Ostrich about the importance of having your medical and legal documents prepared because we never know when they will be needed. Also, it’s important to discuss with everyone in your family or support group of friends, etc. what your wishes are if anything were to happen to you.

We never know when our time is up. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or if you are healthy or sick. At some point in time we will all die. It’s not usually when we think it will happen or how we think it will happen. I have known and heard of young children that have died suddenly either health or accident related. The same with teenagers, young adults, etc.

In September 2012, I felt a large tumor in my abdomen. I went to my doctor and she confirmed it. I wrote about this in other stories on my website so I won’t go into the details here. Due to my complicated medical condition and numerous previous operations, I am inoperable, or if they did operate my success rate is extremely low. I decided I do not want any treatment because I choose quality of life over trying things that might help but will make me very sick. In early 2013, as my tumor grew and my symptoms got worse, my doctor told me I most probably would not live to my birthday in September, and definitely not until the end of the year. She said most definitely I would not live two more years. Well, guess what… It’s been one and a half years and even though I am still having health issues, I am still alive.

In March 2013, I started on another cross country trip, it was my 3rd trip, I also went cross country in 2011 and 2012. I planned to be away until the end of the year. God had other plans and based on my health symptoms towards the middle of April, I had to go back home. You can read more in the stories in this link. In part, I wrote: When I was camped at this state park, after getting my campsite set up, I sat on a swing next to the lake. I was talking with God and asking God to help my mind be still, because I was on my way back to Florida, cutting my trip shorter than I wanted, and I was wondering what was going to happen, how much time I would have before my health gets much worse, where I was going to stay, how much more time would I have to live, etc. God took over the meditation and let me know that He/She has a plan for me and I don’t need to know what it is in advance. I received the message that it will unfold as it’s supposed to and all I have to do is stay in today, in the moment, and know that I am being provided for and taken care of. It was a cold, windy, and sunny day. God said my journey will be like this day, there will be some windy times, and there will be quiet times, warm times, etc. It’s part of my journey. I was also given the message that I am walking towards God and that God’s love is waiting for me, along with people that know and love me and will welcome me. I felt such peace come over me. I know in my heart that this is true.

As it has come up in discussion with various people over the past several months, I told them I wasn’t supposed to be alive now, or even at the end of last year. What I didn’t realize until this weekend, was that because of my health condition, I wasn’t supposed to be alive past December 2013, not 2014 as I thought. Big awakening for me. So far I have lived about 18 months longer than was expected. Most days that is such a gift. There are days when the pain is very intense, or when I can’t do the things I want to do that I would rather that I wasn’t alive, but those times pass and then as I live life I realize what I would have missed if I wasn’t here. I even went into Hospice for the first five months of 2014 and I checked myself out and said I need to go live life to the fullest until I can’t anymore.

Some days my best is sitting and reading, or driving shorter distances, or taking frequent naps, eating only small amounts of food. I know “it” meaning my tumors, health condition, etc. will win eventually, but I am not letting “it” win easily. I have to modify my activities but that’s okay. I still live a good life and better than so many who have worse health related issues than I have. I want to do it for those who didn’t get a chance to do these things. It’s about making memories, for us and those we leave behind.

After I wrote the Seriously, Really, You Would Rather Be An Ostrich story, a few of my friends who read my website let me know that they sat down with their family and discussed these important subjects such as what they want done if they become unconscious, or have serious health conditions, what they want for funeral arrangements, etc. The time to discuss these important topics is when things are okay, not in the midst of the event when immediate decisions may have to be made and there is not much time to think about it.

Last Wednesday afternoon, May 6th, I received an email from my good friend Pam who I have written about many times in my stories. We do many things together. In fact, she set this website up for me along with several websites for some of the volunteer fire departments I donated to. The email subject said: Sad News… I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that one of her dogs has cancer, but I didn’t think it was that serious.

As I read Pam’s email I went into a state of shock, thinking this can’t be real, but sadly it was.

Pam wrote:

I am so sorry to have to share some sad news, but Jeff suffered a sudden and severe asthma attack late Sunday night. He spent the past few days in ICU, where he received amazing care, but unfortunately he lost the battle a few hours ago.

We’ll be celebrating his life at a service on Friday.

Jeff thought the world of you, and although he probably never told you, please know he told me. Thank you for your love and friendship.


IMG_9394Jeff was Pam’s husband, they would have been together 30 years on July 19th. I know how much Jeff and Pam loved each other and how their eyes would brighten when they talked about one another or looked at each other. Pam told us that every day she would listen for the sound of the garage door opening which let her know that Jeff was home. Jeff had a great sense of humor and he loved to laugh, his family said especially at himself. Jeff’s heart was huge… he was so loved and he loved so many, especially Pam and their children, and also now the newest member of the family a grandson. All of us who know Pam, Jeff, and their family are sending our healing thoughts and prayers to them and their family and friends during this difficult time.

Jeff photoWe were asked to wear jeans and sneakers to the memorial service because Jeff said if he couldn’t wear jeans and sneakers somewhere he didn’t want to go. Most of us did. At the memorial service, Pam introduced me to family members that I had not yet met, and also some of Jeff’s friends. It turns out that some of Jeff’s friends are volunteer firefighters. They had t-shirts made with Jeff’s name, name of his company, and 1958-2015, the 57 years of Jeff’s life. Even though we wish it were many more years, Jeff lived 57 years, and I have a strong feeling from what I know about him and his family that a majority of those years were filled with love, laughter, joy, shared sorrows, and a zest for life. No matter how long we live, when we die the tombstone, if there is one, says the year we were born, a dash, and the year we died. The dash is the same length no matter how long someone lived, or what they did with their life. I want to live life so fully that my dash is bursting at the seam. I believe that Jeff’s dash burst at the seam. He lived a full life, even though it was much, much, too short for those of us who knew and loved him.

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Pam said that many blessings have come from Jeff’s passing. One of them is that several family members who weren’t speaking are now. How sad that often it’s tragedy that heals wounds or gets people together. I find the people who have the most difficult time with a person’s death is when there are unresolved issues. While someone is alive there is still a way to try to mend the relationship. Once someone is dead it’s not as easy, you can’t go to that person and forgive or apologize. You will have to find another way to resolve that issue so you can be at peace.

Jeff was healthy on Saturday and Sunday. Pam said they had a great time together on the weekend doing things together. I am so grateful they had that special time together. When they went to bed that night, they had no idea that Jeff would suffer a fatal asthma attack, that life would change forever for their family. One of the blessings in this sad experience is that Pam knew Jeff’s wishes. Shortly after I wrote my Seriously, Really story Pam and Jeff sat down and discussed their wishes should the unexpected happen and what they want done regarding health decisions and funeral arrangements. After the memorial service Pam said the talk that she and Jeff had made it easier for her during this sudden, tragic, difficult time. Also, to show how generous this family is and how much they care about others, Jeff’s organs were donated so that others lives can be saved and made better.

Pam told me that I outlived another person. I told her I would rather Jeff be alive than me. I know we can’t swap one life for another. I would have given mine several times for someone else over the years. Everyone has their purpose in life and is here for whatever time we are alive. There were so many things for Jeff yet to experience. A few years ago Jeff walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Early next year his son is going to be married and I know Jeff will be missed. I also know he will be at the wedding in spirit. I would bet he will be with them in spirit and thought always especially during the times he is most thought about like the wedding, birth of new grandchildren, and on so many other occasions and days. In the past few years I have had many friends pass away some unexpectedly from heart attacks, accidents, etc. and some from health related issues. It is not always easy to experience the loss. I think it’s easier when we have seen them suffer and now they are at peace. It’s the sudden, unexpected deaths that I feel are the hardest to have to live with. That’s why it’s important to always leave with kind words, loving words, resolved issues. We may never get another chance with that person, or even them with us if it’s our turn first.

Dan PennerThe same day Jeff passed, a friend long time friend of mine in Texas did too… Dan lost his long time battle with cancer. Dan also had a great sense of humor and he lived life to the fullest every day. I can still hear Dan’s laugh and smiling eyes when I think about him. I saw Dan last year when I was in Texas. He was looking much better than when I saw him the year before when he was going through Chemo and radiation. A few months ago, or maybe it was the end of last year we thought Dan’s cancer was in remission. Dan lived to the age of 75, and still his life ended too soon, he will be missed by his wife Sue and many of us who were his friends.

As I was writing this post I received an email from someone at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, she wrote that one of the security guards at the Gondola Club died last week of a massive heart attack. He was only 29 years old, with a baby boy. Another unexpected sad loss… especially at 27 years of age. Many years ago my family and another family were extremely close. We went on vacations together and celebrated birthdays and holidays together. They had 3 children like our family did and we were all almost the same ages. In 1982, their son who was 24 and a few months different in age from my brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack and his wife was pregnant with their first child. Jeff was born in the same year as my brother, their birthdays were 17 days apart.

For some reason, God still wants me here. I guess there is more for me to accomplish, or share a message about, or be an inspiration to others. Maybe it’s telling everyone about the importance of appreciating life every day and living it to the fullest. To keep an attitude of gratitude no matter what. To not say some day I will… Do it now, while you can. Don’t keep putting things off. Especially important things like having your medical and legal documents prepared. I hope and pray that I am living the way God wants me to and that I am sharing whatever message and adventures that God wants for me. I try to listen to that inner voice and spirit in order to be aware of the path I am to follow for my journey through life.

IMG_9599Make special memories, Happy and pleasant ones, even funny ones. It’s important to those we leave behind to remember these special times. During the memorial service for Jeff, Pam showed photos of Jeff’s life. One of the photos was of Pam and Jeff when we went on the Goodyear Blimp together in June 2013. When I saw that picture it brought back all of the memories of that day. Then it reminded me of when Pam, Jeff, and I went on a helicopter ride in Palm Beach County and after the helicopter ride we went out for Mexican food and Jeff told us stories that had Pam and I laughing. Jeff didn’t like to fly, however, he went on both of those airborne rides with us and I know he was glad he did. One picture can bring back so many memories. If there are no pictures, even mentioning an event or memory brings back that experience.

Remember to live life to the fullest. Cherish every moment. Share the journey with others. Live for the now.

“Live each day as if it’s your last, one of these days you are going to be right.” “Is today the worst day of your life? Then quit looking like it is.” I read these two sentences about 28 years ago and they changed my life. They pop into my mind every now and then and it reminds me of what’s important and what I need to focus on.

I saw a billboard in Albuquerque in 2011 that said: “Dream as if you will live forever, Live as though you will die tomorrow.”

In the book Illusions by Richard Bach, he writes in part… “Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth has been accomplished… if you are still alive it isn’t.”

This poem helped me when my dad died eight years ago. I hope it helps those of you reading it now.


My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hole
Words from the old Carole King song “Tapestry”

In fact our lives are “tapestries,” and the death of a loved one is a ripping, gaping, bleeding hole in the very midst of the tapestry of our life. How, then, is the tapestry rewoven? It does not, with the mere passage of time, magically pull itself back together. Rather, it is rewoven only with the initiative, energy, and strength of the survivor reaching in and grasping the torn ends of threads, painfully pulling back and tying them together. And it is rewoven only with those persons around the survivor cutting threads from their own tapestries and bringing them to the survivor, with love and support and caring and tears and strength, helping to further tie the threads and fill in that gaping hole.

So, eventually, the tapestry is rewoven. But that “glitch” is always there, the roughness of that reweaving is, and always will be, apparent. In fact it may be twenty years from now, as the survivor reviews the tapestry of his or her life, or is in a particular setting, or hears a song on the radio, or remembers a special day of the month, that the rewoven seam is seen and felt again, and the survivor remembers and cries, or feels sad, or is touched by the love and caring expressed by those whose threads are apparent there – and that is perfectly normal. We do not recover from a death, but, when we allow others to help, we can reweave our tapestry, which may include continuing to grieve from time to time in varying degrees of intensity for the rest of our lives.

Many people want to know how to identify “abnormal” grieving. Obviously bizarre behavior that is out of character for the survivor is relatively easy to recognize. But less blatantly, if it seems clear that the emotional intensity of the survivor is consistently getting in the way of regular patterns of functioning (shopping, eating, work, health), then additional support in the form of counseling or medication could well be in order.

In any case, understanding the framework of grieving is useful both to survivors and their support system. It is only as these two work together that resolution and healing may occur.


I received this poem from a friend a few years ago and I posted it in my Seriously, Really story and I think it would be a good fit here too.


A well written piece that is true. It does “bug me” that some of the things that I did not get around to doing (that I wanted to do) – are just not going to get done.

You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

But, here it is – the ‘back nine’ of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember vividly seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that ‘I was only on the first hole’ and the ‘back nine’ was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is . . . my friends are retired and getting grey. They move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me, but, I see the great change. Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant . . . but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become. Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore . . . it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did! But, at least I know, that though I’m on the ‘ back nine’, and I’m not sure how long it will last, this I know for sure, that when it’s over on this earth . . . it’s over. A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done . . . things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not on the ‘ back nine’ yet . . . let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you’re on the ‘ back nine’ or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life . . . so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember, and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.


Remember, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

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Relay For Life Deerfield Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hillsboro Beach

IMG_7852Saturday, April 18th, is the date for our annual Relay For Life event. I’m grateful that I could once again participate. It’s really touching to be at a Relay, especially talking with people and hearing the stories of how Cancer has touched their life and the lives of their family and friends. The theme this year is Banding Together For a Cure. Each team decorated their booth using a theme of various bands. I took lots of photos. The quilt that I made was hung on the back of the stage. It really looked great as part of the backdrop, along with the banner that shows that our Relay came in 20th in the State of Florida last year because we raised over $135,500. As of Sunday morning I heard we raised $93,000 so far. Tickets were sold for numerous gift baskets which raised more money. Every booth sold items or food to raise money for their team.


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As always, the Committee did an outstanding job and they dedicated many hours of their time to ensure that this event would be fun for everyone and also that money would be raised for the fight against Cancer and the services that our Relay money funds.

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There were banners for the survivors to sign. Every survivor traces their handprint and every year that they come back they write the current on their handprint. My mom likes to help out at this area, it gives her a chance to talk with people and share stories. One of the booths was selling paintings by Linda Trotter-Rhodes,  I loved seeing her artwork and reading the sayings.

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IMG_7833Once again JB’s on the Beach donated the survivor and caregiver dinner. Chef Mike, Manager CJ, and Allen prepared a wonderful dinner which included ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and several side dishes and brownies for dessert. They spent several hours next to the extremely hot charcoal grills cooking the food. I was told that Oceans 234 provided lunch for the volunteers who had been there since early morning, thank you to them too.

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Seeing the luminaria bags really is heart touching. Each bag represents either someone who lost their life to Cancer or who survived their battle with it, or who may be dealing with it now.

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JB’s Chef Mike’s wife Pauline opened a shop in the Cove Shopping Center, on Hillsboro Blvd., east of Federal Highway, just before the Intracranial Waterway, in Deerfield Beach called The Sticky Bun. Their son Maxwell designed their logo. My mom and I had lunch there on Sunday. This is a nice relaxing environment to enjoy a meal or even just to have coffee and homebaked desserts. We ate a smoked turkey sandwich with bacon, and cranberry aioli on whole grain bread which I think is homemade bread. Mike told us that he smoked the turkey and made the bacon. The sandwich was excellent, and since Mike cooked the meats there are no preservatives in them. Our sandwich was served with a fresh fruit cup, and I was pleasantly surprised as I ate it to find some blackberries in it.

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If you get a chance, stop by The Sticky Bun, and most importantly, check to see if there is a Relay For Life event near you and participate in some way.

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Camping trip, FIHA Pow Wow, and Health Update

I am so glad I took a short camping trip, it’s nice to get away and have a change of scenery and an adventure. I never know what experiences I will have during my travels, or who I will meet. I planned on being away for about three weeks, however, I returned after two weeks because of an issue I had with a battery. I wrote about it further in the story. I posted an album with pictures I took on this trip.

I arrived in Fort Pierce on Wednesday afternoon, March 25th, the pow wow was beginning on Friday. Thursday afternoon the wind picked up, the sky got dark, and all of a sudden it started pouring torrential rain, it was lightning and thundering, and there was lots of pea sized hail. It was really scary, my camper was “rockin and rollin.” It also rained on Friday afternoon but it did not get as stormy as it was on Thursday afternoon. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful days for the Pow Wow, other than being a bit windy, it was beautiful weather.

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The Fort Pierce Police and Fire Departments were displaying their SWAT vehicles and fire trucks. The children really love these vehicles. There was also someone there that brought baby gators and tortoises that people could feed or pet, and info was given out for educational purposes regarding these animals. The sand hill cranes that seem to live in this marshy area were very visible and vocal.

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As always, attending these pow wows gives me an opportunity to visit with friends I have made over the years that are vendors, I also watch their booths if they need me to so they can take a break or get something to eat. It’s really great to see the younger generation getting involved in learning the various dances. There are two young boys that always go into the dance arena with their fathers and they try to do the same dance steps that he does. It’s so cute. Passing on traditions is extremely important.

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IMG_7752Walking around the campground, I met a couple from Germany who brought over their camper on a ship, they are spending five months in the United States traveling around the country. I told them about my website and gave them suggestions of places to visit where they are heading. A few spots away from where I was parked I saw a van with really cool graphics. I have seen a similar van, I think it was in one of the National Park campgrounds. I went over to the van and introduced myself. This couple is from Holland and they rented this van for a month while they are traveling around the country. It was nice to share stories with other campers and especially when they are from other countries.

Last October when I was in Albuquerque I bought new auxiliary batteries for my camper, and had a new converter installed, I thought everything would be okay for about a year, that’s what I get for thinking. About 3:30 Saturday morning I was woken up by a sound like a smoke detector going off. It was this carbon monoxide detector in my camper. It seems that one of new auxiliary batteries is defective and it was overheating and boiling and the gas or fumes it leaked set off the alarm. This happened a few years ago so I guessed what the problem was. I’m hoping that it did not ruin my new converter that I had installed in October.

When we narrowed down what the problem was and realized which battery was overheating we disconnected it and let it cool off so my camper only was using only one auxiliary battery. The morning after it happened, I noticed that the acid was leaving a white reside on the batteries and tray so I poured baking soda on it to neutralize the acid. Thankfully I had a box of it in the camper. Saturday I poured lots of water on the batteries and tray but evidently it didn’t wash away the acid. When I arrived at the campground at Manatee Hammock in Titusville on Monday afternoon, Richard, the man in the campsite next to me, helped me and we took the batteries out of the compartment and put water on the baking soda to neutralize the acid. We added water and made a paste and rinsed it some and left a paste of baking soda and water on the tray around the batteries hoping to prevent more damage from the acid. The damage the acid did eating away the paint on the battery tray and throughout the battery compartment was very evident. And as careful as I was, the acid got on numerous places on my jeans and made at least a dozen holes in them. Now, I will have to get some patches to iron on and then decide how to decorate my jeans to disguise the holes. These are jeans that fit me well that I like. Thankfully they are not my new jeans that I recently bought.

After we finished working with the batteries, I was talking to Richard and his wife Marie about my travels and it seems they are going to be traveling to the western states where I was in 2011 and I was able to share stories with them and tell them places to visit. I also told them about my website so that they could look at the pictures and stories and see if some of the places I went to are some they might want to explore.

The problem I have now is due to the fact that when my other batteries went bad during my time in Albuquerque last October, the only place I could find the size batteries I needed was at Costco and it seems that even though they are Interstate brand batteries they have to be returned only to Costco. I wanted to return the batteries to Costco and buy them from a regular Interstate battery dealer because then I can exchange them anywhere in the country if they go bad or when they no longer hold a charge. There are not always Costco’s close to where I am camping and traveling so that’s not a very good option for me to buy batteries at Costco. However, several men I spoke with told me to only exchange the bad battery at Costco and then if it goes bad again we know it’s something other than the battery causing the problem. The Costco battery is about $40 less than if I buy it at a dealer that sells Interstate batteries. I’m willing to pay the difference but several people told me just exchange this one battery so I listened to their advice and exchanged it when I returned home.

I stayed in Manatee Hammock campground for two nights. This was a good stopping point, and this way I was able to visit with Beverly and her husband Jim who spend three months there every winter. We met two years ago when we were both camped there at the same time. When I was walking by a campsite there was a squirrel hopping around on a bicycle. I wished it would stay still long enough for me to get some good pictures. At different times it was sitting on the seat of the bike, on the handlebars, the tire, etc. This is the best photo I was able to get that was not blurry, the squirrel is on top of the back tire.

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I also met a couple, Bill and Pam, who were by the pool when Beverly and I were sitting there. They have been married about 20 years and had no children. They decided they wanted to be foster parents and now, since October, they have three brothers that lived in separate foster homes for almost all of their life. They range from about three to seven. Now, they are together and learning what it’s like to be brothers that are loved, fed, cuddled, and they are also learning to trust. They are learning there will always be food for them to eat and parents that will be there for them. It was such a touching story that Bill told me about these boys and the life they had with their mother who is a drug addict and the foster homes the boys lived in separately from each other. Bill said he and Pam are going to adopt the boys. It turns out they live in Chattanooga, Tennessee not too far from my friend Helen. They graciously said they would bring her the bag of paperback books I had in my camper that I was going to mail to her. I thanked them very much and it will be a nice surprise for Helen… that is if she gets the books before she reads this post.

msvfdOn Wednesday morning, April 1st, I headed north to Georgia to see the volunteer firefighters in Southeast Georgia by Jesup, Odum, and Madray Springs. They wanted me to come visit them again. Here is the story when they drove about 900 miles round trip to Florida to visit me in July 2013. After I arrived, Chief Kevin Altman and Caleb came to the station to say hello and visit for a while. I explained what happened with my auxiliary battery and they cleaned out the battery compartment and washed the batteries so there would not be any more acid leaking. They also greased the tracks so the battery tray slides out more easily. Chief Altman also washed my camper for me, and Chief Dent gave me a reflective decal for the back of the camper with the Madray Springs fire department logo on it.

I noticed that the fire department got a new bulletin board and I was looking at all of the articles and photos on it. There are numerous articles with them and me regarding the donations I gave to their department and they also hung the poster of me they made last year during my visit. On Friday night we had a cookout at the fire station. It was great to visit with everyone and I got to see Murphy who was born when I was there last year. It’s hard to believe it was a year ago that I visited them.  Chief Truman from Ludowici came over to visit me the day after I got there. He recently got a new vehicle and he was showing it to Chief Dent and I. When the back compartment was open I saw his fire helmet, it was the one that I signed when they came to visit in July 2013. It still touches my heart and spirit that the three chiefs and several of the firefighters drove 900 miles in one day to meet me. Chief Dent showed Chief Truman the thermal imaging camera they won in a contest, which many of my readers helped them to win by voting in the contest. Thank you so much.

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If you have been reading my posts for some time you know that I often write about the importance of cherishing every day that we never know when it will be our last. Chief Truman told us that a week or so ago his 25 year old niece was driving with her boyfriend as a passenger and she had her 19 month old and 5 year old children in the car with them. It was a rainy  night and evidently a drunk driver came into her lane and hit her vehicle head on and the drunk driver received some cuts and bruises. However, in the car he hit with Chief Truman’s niece, the airbags did not deploy for some reason. The boyfriend was not wearing a seatbelt and he hit the windshield and had injuries that caused his death. Chief Truman’s niece who was driving has 9 broken ribs, her jaw hit the steering wheel and bent it and broke her jaw, the femur bone in her left leg is broken, and so is her right ankle. The 19 month old had a brain bleed that thankfully stopped, and the 5 year old has crossed eyes from the head injury. I saw photos of the cars after the accident. Both cars look like tin cans that are crushed. The hood of the nieces car is pushed up into the windshield. Looking at the accident pictures it amazing anyone lived.

Being at the Madray Springs fire station put me about 450 miles away from home so I had plenty of time to visit and I had a leisurely drive south with a day stopover to see my frind Cindy in North Florida. We even went to a movie. I can’t remember how many years it’s been since I went to a movie. On my trip last year I lost 2 hubcaps and I have not been able to find any to match. The place they were purchased here went out of business and other hubcaps I tried did not fit. Cindy’s boyfriend Byron has an old van and I noticed that it had a couple of hubcaps that matched mine. He graciously said I could have them and he put them on my camper before I left.

Monday, March 30th, was the first day in 7 weeks I was told by the hand specialist that I could take the splint off my finger. I am to take it off one hour a day for 3 days, then increase it one hour every three days for three days. When I removed the splint my finger still wanted to bend backwards like it’s not healed at all. It really was sad and frustrating. All those weeks in a splint and it’s as if it wasn’t. I’m hoping it does get some sort of normal function. It was not easy typing without using my right index finger. On my phone I used the voice to text feature which really was frustrating because it didn’t recognize the words and messages came out all messed up. Trying to write stories on my website without using that finger almost doubled the time to write the story because I had to backspace often to correct incorrect letters in words. Hunt and peck typing is not fun or easy. Even now, without the splint on, I can’t even get my right index finger to work on my phone or tablet very well. I’m hoping gradually as I wean off the splint and start using my finger more it will get its memory and feeling back. Maybe needs to be retrained. It could be be worse, so I’m doing my best to think positive.

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I’m enjoying not wearing the splint for periods of time each day. I can get my hands wet to wash dishes, take a shower, wash my hair, type this story, etc. Otherwise, when I wear the splint I have to wear disposable gloves when doing these things because the splinted finger has to stay clean and dry. I’m just going to have to get used to my finger being bent at an angle and having it seem as if the first part of my finger tip is only connected to the rest of my finger by skin. Thankfully it doesn’t hurt.

When I arrived home after my trip I unpacked the camper and took a few days to put everything away. I did get to read a few books while I was on my trip, I hadn’t been reading when I was home but now that I’m back I am starting to read again. Yesterday afternoon TJ and his wife Janet hosted a fundraiser for our Relay For Life event which is on Saturday, April 18th. I baked a carrot cake to bring and my friend Nona picked me up so I wouldn’t have to drive. There were several musicians playing during the four hours and there was food and snacks. It was a fun event and money was raised to help the fight against Cancer. In their kitchen above their hutch, they have antique ice cream scoops hung on the wall. I find it interesting to look at the various shaped scoops and handles.

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As for my health, not much change since my last update. My tumor still seems to be growing. It’s really sore to touch parts of it, even lightly, and my left foot and leg is continuing to be more numb and have more intermittent pain. As I wrote previously, I’m glad it’s not my right foot and leg. I’m still able to eat, however, my abdominal area is more sensitive to touch and more painful. The sharp pains are not quite as bad but it’s hard to describe but it feels like more pressure on my organs because they are all more tender to touch. It’s like I want to stretch out but there is no room for it to happen. I can’t eat much food at a time due to the compression of my stomach I am guessing. I still have so much to be grateful for. My left eardrum which I punctured by accident last September is giving me a few new things to deal but it’s okay.

I’m still planning on leaving in early July on another trip, and hopefully being away until sometime in December. That’s my plan, I will see what God’s plan is… maybe it’s the same as mine… Maybe it’s different, or a partial trip. I have no idea and I won’t know until the time comes… and then it’s like it is now… a day at a time.

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In Memory of my friend Scott Moen – A sad loss of life

2015-02-27 10.32.50On Sunday morning, February 21, 2015, I received very sad news. My friend Scott Moen had committed suicide late afternoon the day before. He was 51. I immediately felt great sadness, my heart instantly felt shattered and broken. I couldn’t believe it. I saw Scott the previous Saturday. We talked for a while, I knew he was dealing with some things that were difficult for him. I shared stories with him of similar things I dealt with or am currently dealing with and I told him what I did or am doing to deal with similar issues. He knows about my health issues and other parts of my life. Some of the things I have shared with Scott on a few occasions are that some days are difficult, that there are days I don’t feel like being here, but I need to be. I have to reach out to others and hang on through those days because it gets better, issues get resolved. There are great things in store for us and we give strength to others when they see us walk through difficult times. It lets others have a chance to help us, even though it’s difficult to say I need help or someone to talk too. I believe that God gives me a lot of leeway in life and the decisions and choices I make. I think taking my own life before God is ready for me and whatever circumstances happen, whether I die naturally or by accident, one thing that God would not be happy with is me taking my own life. During difficult times now, mostly physically, that is what keeps me going.

The last time I saw Scott the week before his death, and also several other times when we talked, I shared my feelings with him that I have to keep going because if I don’t then it or they win and I don’t want that to happen. For example, my tumors and health issues. It would be so easy to just sit and say poor me, I have tumors that are going to end my life earlier than a normal life span, however, I don’t live that way. I try to make the most out of every day, take trips and do whatever I want or am able to do because I don’t want it to win easily. It will eventually, but I will give it a fight. Also, when I was working and had someone trying to get me fired or demoted so she could have my job, or I had a mean and difficult boss and often thought of looking for a new job I didn’t. I did my best every day, I walked with dignity and kept a good attitude and would not quit because I did not want them to win. I shared these examples with Scott, I told Scott to call me anytime if he wanted to talk. I think it’s harder for men to say they need help than it is for women.

Scott mentioned that he wasn’t eating because he was upset and he lost a lot of weight. It’s not a secret and I don’t think he would mind me sharing what I’m writing in this post. Perhaps it will help someone and perhaps save a life. Years ago when I had trouble eating, my friend Lois who died many years ago used to ask me what would happen to my car if I didn’t change the oil, check the tires, put gas in the car, etc. I said that it would break down and not work. I know when I don’t eat or eat well my thinking is not always rational, I get out of sync, I sometimes get depressed, etc. I asked Scott what he thinks would happen if he didn’t put gas in his car, etc. He said the same thing, that it would break down. I said that’s what is happening to his body. If you want to read stories I have written about Lois and the wisdom and stories she shared with me that changed my life, use the search feature on my website and look for the word Lois, or you can search inspirational poems and stories. These posts with Lois stories and inspirational poems have helped me many times over the years and they still do.

When I left Scott that morning, the week before his death, we hugged and said we were glad to see each other. I saw his eyes get teary so I know what we shared in our conversation was heartfelt. He was at work so it wasn’t very easy to talk because people were waiting for him. I had no idea that it would be the last time I would see him or speak with him. I had no idea that he was in such a state of mind that he would take his own life. When I received word that he shot and killed himself it was such a shock. I was in a state of disbelief for over a week. I have only known Scott since June of 2013, I can only imagine the pain and depth of loss felt by his family, coworkers, and friends who have known him and daily contact with him for years. I have lost people I loved dearly for many years so I can imagine the pain and loss they feel.

On Thursday and Friday nights the week after I saw Scott on Saturday morning, and the days before he took his life, I thought about him about 10 p.m. and I thought he might be working and would be busy so I didn’t call him. He was in my thoughts strongly. I found out after his passing that he had not worked nights in quite a while. I can’t think I should have called him, maybe it would have made a difference. It would not be good for me to do that and it might not have made a difference. If I was supposed to have done it, it would have happened. God would have given me a stronger nudge to make the call. Hopefully next time I get this strong feeling I will take action and make the call, and not hesitate. I can learn a lesson from things I didn’t do just as much as from what I did do.  When talking with someone close to Scott I found out that he had talked with a friend about 4 p.m. Whatever was discussed didn’t prevent what he decided to do. When Robin Williams ended his life it really hurt my spirit too. Not as bad as Scott’s loss of life, because I knew Scott and not Robin. Years ago I felt the desperation and emotional pain I think both of them might have felt. I used to think if I had courage I would have killed myself. Then I realized it takes courage not to take one’s own life, it takes more courage to tough it out and work through whatever problems are causing the despair and these feelings of lost hope and not seeing any other options. If you think about someone give them a call. Do not send an email or text. Take the action and make the phone call. We never know what might happen or what the result will be. I have several friends that we think about each other and it just happens that when we call the other says I was thinking about you. I’m sure several of you have that same connection with a friend.

It’s taking a while but my heart doesn’t feel as shattered and broken as it did for the first few weeks after his death and funeral. I know time heals wounds and our hearts. It leaves the pleasant memories. I like to think of Scott and remember his kind heart and spirit, his smile and the happiness in his eyes when we talked about things near and dear to him. If you have been reading my posts for the past few years you may have read about Scott. He was the manager of JBs on the Beach in Deerfield Beach. I first met Scott in June 2013 when I was looking for a place to have lunch with the firefighters that were coming from Georgia to meet me. When I went to JBs restaurant to inquire about a luncheon, Scott was the person that talked with me. During our conversation he told me that many years ago he was a firefighter. I could tell when he was telling me about it that it was still close to his heart. He said he admired what I was doing to help fire departments get the much needed equipment and by the end of our conversation he offered to host our luncheon and he wouldn’t let me pay for the meal. I wrote about this special day with the firefighters in July 2013. It was a very special day. A few weeks later a fire chief from another Georgia fire department came to get a piece of equipment in south Florida and once again Scott hosted our lunch.

I have many stories about my friend Scott Moen. Scott was off on the day the Georgia firefighters came for the luncheon, however, he made sure that we had excellent wait staff serving us that day. A few days later, I brought a plate of brownies to Scott and also the signed fire helmet, picture, and specially made t-shirts the firefighters gave me. Scott’s eyes lit up when he saw the items, or a story written about my donations. I knew he was happy to see them. Whenever I got something from a fire department, always unexpectedly, I would take it and show Scott. He shared in the joy because it was fire department related. When another fire chief came a few weeks later Scott was working that day and he joined us for a short time. It was nice that he made time in his busy day to sit and talk with us.

In the fall of 2013, Scott told me that they were going to remodel the restaurant and in the process change out the flooring and also install hurricane proof sliding windows on the porch side of the restaurant, and he also explained the other changes they were making both cosmetically and in the kitchen area. He even showed me samples of the flooring and a few other items. I could tell the pride he had for the positive changes and his excitement of what the restaurant would look like when it was completed. I admired his knowledge and the dedication he had for getting this project completed before the upcoming holidays. I was impressed with the work schedule of how the project would be completed working around restaurant hours so that the restaurant would be open for business and how the construction was scheduled to have the minimum impact. His love for the restaurant and his pride in it was evident. If memory serves correctly, I think construction was done on Thanksgiving day and Scott and staff fed them since the workers gave up their Thanksgiving with their family. After the remodeling was complete and the holiday decorations were complete, I went and took lots of pictures. I loved the holiday decorations, the elves were the cutest I have ever seen. I wrote a story and posted a photo album, there is a link to the album in the story. I loved the 3D artwork of the fish and Scott explained how it was custom made for that spot. You can see the picture and read more in my post.

Scott had a sweet tooth and he loved the brownies and cookies I baked, so every now and then I would bake some and bring plates of them for Scott and his staff. One day about a year ago, Scott and I were emailing and for some reason that day I had an urge for mini beef wellingtons. I had gone to several stores looking for some to buy ready made and couldn’t find any. As Scott and I were sending messages back and forth, I asked if they had beef wellington on the menu. He said no and asked why. I told him that I wanted some and I couldn’t find them in the stores. He said no problem, he would have Chef Mike make some for me. I said it wasn’t necessary, I didn’t really need them. Scott insisted and said no problem. I could come by in a day or two and they would be ready for me. I said thank you. A day or two later I went to the restaurant and Chef Mike gave me a large plate with about two dozen mini beef wellingtons on it. What a wonderful treat, it was made special for me. I ate a few that night, and the next night and then I froze the rest so I could eat them gradually. As thanks, I made lots of brownies for Scott, Chef Mike, and the staff. Here is the story I wrote about JBs and the day I got my special treat of beef wellington. It’s also when JBs decorated the restaurant for the holidays. I loved the decorations.

IMG_1458 If you have been reading my stories for a while you know I was not expected to live until this past December 2014. I’m still here… surprise. So, when I had my birthday in September 2013 I decided to have a little get together lunch with my mom, sister, and a few really close friends. I thought it might be my last birthday. So, a few days before I went and met with Scott to arrange the luncheon. I gave him my credit card number so the lunch could automatically be put on the credit card. He said okay and wrote down my credit card number. The day of the luncheon we were escorted to the small room on the patio overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had the whole room to ourselves. Scott was working that day and he stopped by to visit periodically. I told the waitress that I gave Scott my credit card info and to charge the entire lunch and tip to my credit card. Several days later, I didn’t see a charge for JBs on my credit card and I called Scott to let him know. He said Happy Birthday it’s been taken care of. I had no idea he would surprise me like that. I am not telling you this because I want you to think I like Scott because he paid for my meals periodically. I am sharing this because I want you to know Scott as the special, kind, generous man he was. Not just with money, but in so many ways. He was always kind to me, and to my mother when I brought her. He would stop by our table and visit with us when he could even though he was so very busy. My mother would tell me that when she ate there with friends he would always stop and say hello to her too. Chef Emeril Lagasse did a television episode at JBs on the Beach, it’s written about in my birthday story. I know that Scott and Chef Mike were very honored. Mike told me about the special menu he prepared.

For several years JBs on the Beach has provided the survivor dinner for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life event for Deerfield Beach/Lighthouse Point/Hillsboro Beach. They send staff who provides and cooks a delicious dinner at Quiet Waters Park for the survivors and the caregivers. I always try to support and patronize businesses that support our Relay. I know from conversations with Scott, and people in the community, that Scott supports many charitable organizations in the community. I know we are all very grateful not only for the support, but for the friendship that is created when anyone meets Scott.

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In January 2015, my friend Patt from Seattle came to visit and we went to JBs on the Beach for lunch. In my January story I wrote a little about our lunch. Even though there was a wait for a table outside on the porch, Scott had a table for us shortly after we arrived. That was very unexpected. Lunch as always was wonderful. Scott stopped by to chat a few times even though he was very busy. Chef Mike and also Dee one of the managers would always come over and give me a hug and say hello when they saw me. My friend Patt is a professional speaker and she travels all over the country making speeches and presentations. She always uses a rubber chicken in her presentations and they bring humor and entertainment, as well as messages, to her presentation. She always takes rubber chickens with her, and also gives them to people taking trips so that they can take photos of the chicken in different settings with different outfits. My visit with Patt was no different.

In my January story about eating at JBs on the Beach and the story of my visit with Patt I didn’t include the part about the rubber chicken, so I will include it here since it also involves Scott and his graciousness. Of course Patt had her rubber chicken with her and it was dressed in a kimono. She asked if I thought Scott would take a picture of him and the chicken and I said I didn’t know but we could ask, so when he stopped at our table again we asked and he said sure. Patt took a picture of Scott, me, and the chicken. I was not smiling, the sun was in my eyes and I didn’t like the way the picture looked. I told her she would use the caption: Carol is not happy, the chicken might be a menu item.

Before we left we saw Scott and as we said goodbye asked if we could take another picture with him, me, and the chicken because the other photo looked bad. I know he was busy but he made time to take the pictures. We decided to take the photo near the JBs surfboard. I am so glad we took the pictures, I had no idea it would be the last pictures taken of Scott and me. When Patt and I asked for the bill so we could pay for our lunch we were told it was already paid for. Scott took care of our lunch tab. It was very unexpected. The following week, I stopped by the restaurant and brought several plates of brownies for Scott and the staff, and Scott and I had once again a heartfelt talk about things we were both going through. He shared more with me about what was happening in his life. It did not even occur to me that he would think about taking his life over these things. He had also shared during this visit that he lost weight and was not eating or sleeping. Scott’s heart and spirit was as large if not larger than he was. I hope he knows how much we all loved him and how sad and heartbroken we are at the loss of his life. Our hearts will heal but they will never be the same. When I looked at the pictures of Scott and me from December 2013 and January 2015, I noticed I was wearing the same shirt, is that a coincidence… I guess it could be.

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During my visit with Scott, the week after Patt’s visit, I brought brownies, and a copy of the Lighthouse Magazine, to give Scott. Last summer they wrote a nice story about me and my travels and I didn’t remember bringing a copy to Scott. He looked briefly at the story and pictures and said he really liked it and he told me he would read it shortly after I left. Scott was always so happy and proud when I would stop by and show him things I got, or stories written about me. I think it brightened his day. I saw Scott three times in the six weeks prior to his death. None of those times did I ever suspect they would be the last, or that he was thinking about taking his life.

So, when I got the message on Sunday morning, February 22nd, that Scott ended his life the day before, to say I was in shock was an understatement. Like I wrote above, I immediately felt my heart shatter and break, then sadness for the loss of life of a special person who was so caring, generous, admired, respected, and loved. I hope Scott knew how much so many people loved and cared about him and how we are mourning the loss of his life. How sad and devastated we all are and the big hole of loss we are feeling. I spoke with Chef Mike and Dee one of the managers I know from my contact with them at the restaurant and through Scott. I can feel the depth of their loss and broken hearts from talking with them. They and the staff worked with Scott daily for many, many, years on a daily basis. He gave them direction and guidance and so much more every day for such a long time. They had a great teacher and leader and I bet they will continue to carry on the way that Scott taught them. Mike told me that if anyone knew Scott he was their friend. I know I felt that way from the first time I met him and our friendship grew with time.

A day or two after the news of his death, I sent Mike and Dee the pictures I had taken of Scott and them at the restaurant in December 2013, and also of Scott and me taken in January 2015 when Patt was here so they could have the pictures for their memory. I was totally surprised at the funeral service on Friday, February 27th, when I saw the memorial photos in front of the church on a table. In one of the posters on the top left, 2nd photo in is a picture I took of Dee and Scott, and on the bottom right is a picture of Scott and me taken with the rubber chicken. It really touched my heart that they used those pictures when making the poster, I had no idea they would be used when I shared them.

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Both Mike and Dee, along with everyone else in attendance, at the memorial service were totally devastated. Despite their grief, Mike and Dee greeted me and Dee told me how much it meant to Scott when I would stop by and visit him. It really touched my heart deeply that in her unbearable grief she thought to let me know what my visits meant to Scott.

2015-04-18 10.43.29After the funeral service everyone was invited to Oceans 234 which is a restaurant next to JB’s on the Beach. Tommy, the manager of the restaurant created a very nice buffet lunch for those of us who attended the funeral. That was so very kind of him. I asked one of the waiters who the manager was and I went and introduced myself to him and said thank you.

I think almost everyone has days where life and it’s challenges seem so heavy and too much to bear. It’s easy to lose hope and not see the sunshine through the clouds and darkness. I like the Dr. Seuss book, Oh The Places You’ll Go… it is a great book about life and all it contains. In part, it says “unslumping yourself is not easily done” I know that for a fact. I have given this book to many people. When in a slump, or life seems overwhelming, I like to read this book out loud in a funny voice, it always seems to help.

Please, if you or someone you know is going through a tough time, reach out, be aware of their mental state if you can. Talk with them, be there in whatever way you can, call often, do whatever you feel is best so that person knows they are cared about and try to let them know there is help, to keep the faith and hope. The black hole is probably not as deep and dark as they perceive. I have been in that place many times over the years. It’s not a fun place to be. Not having hope feels awful and it’s easy to understand someone in that spot wanting to end the emotional pain. Please reach out. Let them know how much they will be missed and the pain it will cause those of us left behind to deal with the grief of the loss of their life. I know years ago when I was in the despair and felt no way out and had no hope of life being better, that I never thought about those still alive that loved me and how they would feel about my death if I took my life. I hope I don’t lose any more friends because of suicide, it’s so painful to deal with and very selfish of those taking their life. Even though I understand what the person was feeling in that moment, it still hurts. I hope Scott’s spirit is at peace.

I am missing going to see him and share new things with him. Recently I received two proclamations that I wrote about in my previous story. I know Scott would have loved to see them and been so proud of me receiving them. I feel the loss even more when I can’t share things with him like I’ve done in the past.

poster cliffI saw this poster recently and I really identified with it. In case you can’t see it very well. There is a cowboy and horse dangling over the cliff only held up by a rope. There are people and animals on the top of the cliff trying to get them pulled up to safety. The caption says “Hang in there Ol Buddy.” Here is another saying that has helped me over the years. end of ropeThe poster I saw was not a kitten, it was a rope with a knot, then after the knot the rope was really frayed and a mouse was hanging on by holding one strand of the frayed rope. I have felt like that mouse many times. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or situation.

I have learned over the years that sometimes what I think is the worst thing often turns out to be the best thing and visa versa. Paintings, photographs, nature, everything has color. All colors, bright and shiny, dark and dull, are needed to make up whatever we are looking at.

I wrote a story in October 2013 entitled: Seriously, Really, You would rather be an Ostrich. I feel it’s an important story for everyone to read. It’s about the importance of having legal and medical documents prepared because we never know when something unexpected will happen. Scott’s suicide is an example of this. Please read this story, get your legal documents prepared. It will save some heartache and decisions for loved ones left to take care of your affairs. It doesn’t matter what age you are. Life happens.

Any type of death leaves a hole in our hearts and life. I think when someone commits suicide it leaves a different type of pain. We wonder if we could have said something or done something different. Life is precious. This poem has helped me many times I hope it does the same for you.


My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hole
Words from the old Carole King song “Tapestry”

In fact our lives are “tapestries,” and the death of a loved one is a ripping, gaping, bleeding hole in the very midst of the tapestry of our life. How, then, is the tapestry rewoven? It does not, with the mere passage of time, magically pull itself back together. Rather, it is rewoven only with the initiative, energy, and strength of the survivor reaching in and grasping the torn ends of threads, painfully pulling back and tying them together. And it is rewoven only with those persons around the survivor cutting threads from their own tapestries and bringing them to the survivor, with love and support and caring and tears and strength, helping to further tie the threads and fill in that gaping hole.

So, eventually, the tapestry is rewoven. But that “glitch” is always there, the roughness of that reweaving is, and always will be, apparent. In fact it may be twenty years from now, as the survivor reviews the tapestry of his or her life, or is in a particular setting, or hears a song on the radio, or remembers a special day of the month, that the rewoven seam is seen and felt again, and the survivor remembers and cries, or feels sad, or is touched by the love and caring expressed by those whose threads are apparent there – and that is perfectly normal. We do not recover from a death, but, when we allow others to help, we can reweave our tapestry, which may include continuing to grieve from time to time in varying degrees of intensity for the rest of our lives.

Many people want to know how to identify “abnormal” grieving. Obviously bizarre behavior that is out of character for the survivor is relatively easy to recognize. But less blatantly, if it seems clear that the emotional intensity of the survivor is consistently getting in the way of regular patterns of functioning (shopping, eating, work, health), then additional support in the form of counseling or medication could well be in order.

In any case, understanding the framework of grieving is useful both to survivors and their support system. It is only as these two work together that resolution and healing may occur.

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Proclamation from the Bradford New York Volunteer Fire Department and recent happenings

It’s been about a month since I wrote my last post. It’s mostly because I still have my right index finger in a splint and it’s not easy to type, so please excuse typos in case I don’t catch them as I type. It’s taking me about twice as long to type a post.

Since the last post was written, I have been busy. I have to go to the rehab to have my splint removed and cleaned once a week and I have been to the hand surgeon a few times. Last Tuesday morning, I went to Dr. Livingstone and she took the splint off to see if my finger is healing. My finger tip bent straight back like it did after my injury happened. That means that the tendon is not attaching to the bone and keeping my finger straight. So, the doctor says I need to wear the splint for 3 more weeks then come back for her to recheck it. I have to be honest, I was very disappointed and sad. I was hoping that in the 4 1/2 weeks that my finger has been in this splint that it would be healing. Guess not, or if it is the tendon is not strongly attached yet to keep my finger straight. She says if it doesn’t heal I will probably need a pin inserted in my finger. I’m hoping that is not what happens, I am praying that more time allows my tendon to attach to my bone. I have been wearing disposable gloves often every day so that my finger stays clean and dry. It’s not allowed to get wet or the splint gets ruined. Thankfully there is no pain, it’s just inconvenient. I usually use that finger for almost everything. Try cutting food without using that finger, holding items, etc. I am getting good at not using it, but I found that other muscles in my hand are letting me know they are being used more than normal. But now those muscles are also getting used to the increased activity.

Bradford VFD Proc

Chief Rodney Hoad, Kathy Machuga, Jeffrey Greatsinger

I received a surprise email last week. Bradford Volunteer Fire Department in southern New York state sent me two proclamations recognizing my donations to their volunteer fire department. I received an email a few days before the proclamations were sent letting me know that they were being mailed, the fire hose in the picture is part of what they bought with my donation. What a big surprise to receive the proclamation!!! I don’t make donations for recognition, I do it to help the various agencies. This was a pleasant surprise. The three fire departments in New York state frequently send me updates and photos of what they purchased and how it’s helping them. I love hearing from the departments and fire department members. For many years while I was a city clerk, I prepared numerous proclamations, but I don’t remember ever receiving one.  Click on the pictures to enlarge them. It really touched my heart that the fire department contacted their elected officials to request these proclamations.


From NY Senator Thomas F. O’Mara and NY Assemblyman Philip A. Palmesano


From NY Congressman Tom Reed



Proclamation Covers


Last Saturday I got up at 3 a.m. so that I could go help my friend Nona and others work as volunteers at a 5K walk on the new runway at the Fort Lauderdale, we had to be there by 5 a.m. By volunteering at this event our Relay For Life event will receive a large donation. The proceeds from this walk goes to various Relay For Life events in our area. The t-shirt they created for this walk is really cool, and you know how much I love t-shirts. Here is Nona displaying the shirt. It was overcast, and a while before the walk was finished it started to rain really hard. A few of us that volunteered at registration were in an area where we were mostly sheltered from the rain but almost everyone else got drenched. I felt so sorry for them.

nonanona shirt

In February I attended a few local events. One was the Lighthouse Point Keeper Days which included a parade and car show at the park, I took several pictures. John Trudel the Recreation Director will be retiring soon after many years with the city, I think over 30 years. John loves fishing and frequently enters fishing tournaments. One of the inflatable slides for the children was a large mouth bass, I think that is because of John. I loved looking at old model cars. One of my favorites was Mater from the movie Cars. In the evening there was a concert and fireworks. I love watching fireworks. I also attended Pompano Beach Unity Day, and the Nautical Flea Market.

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I have been baking cookies. I found a great recipe for cookies using only 5 ingredients, 6 if you make them chocolate cookies. This is such an easy recipe, and very delicious. This link will take you to the page with the recipe for these cookies which are made using almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut butter. There are many other recipes on this website, including gluten and flour free cookies. Give these cookies a try, they are extremely easy to make. I often freeze some of the cookies I bake, this way I can have some without having to always make a batch.

I have not been reading many books or working very much on jigsaw puzzles. I have been taking more medicine in the late afternoon and into the nights and early morning hours, this is really messing up my sleeping patterns. Some days my naps are 5 until 7 p.m. Then I watch the late talk shows and fall asleep sometime during one show and wake up partway into the next one. I don’t even know I fall asleep. If I’m awake until 4 or 5 a.m. it’s difficult to get up early.

It feels like the large tumor is still growing. I’m experiencing more numbness and pain in my left foot and leg and where the large tumor is located is much more painful to the touch. I do my best to not let it affect my activities.

I’m still planning on taking a trip in the spring for approximately two weeks, then leave after July 4th and heading west and attending hot air balloon events, one in east Texas and of course once again the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I decided that I don’t want to make a 4 to 6 week trip in April and May then come home unpack my camper and then repack it a month or two later for my long trip. Taking the shorter trip will not require me to pack as much clothes, food, etc. since the temperatures will be warmer. When I leave in July I will have to pack lots more things since I’m hoping my health doesn’t get much worse so I can be gone until December. However, on that trip I need to pack for both warmer and colder weather and take more clothes and other items. It’s quite a bit of work to pack my camper van for trips. But it’s well worth it.

If you have been reading posts for a while you know that I always focus on the positive and I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I know that there are so many people who have much more serious health conditions and problems than I have. Just so you don’t think I am always positive and happy, this past week I had a day or two that I was out of sync, I was restless, and short on patience. It was not caused by anything big, it was because of a lot of little things, kind of like the straw that broke the camels back. It started with dropping my mother’s car at the mechanic and heading to my doctors office. We get partway there and the mechanic called, mom did not leave her key in the ignition, so I had to go back causing me to almost be late for my doctor appointment. Then finding out at the doctors that my finger was not healing. Included is my sleep pattern not being consistent and often not being able to eat much food, increased symptoms from my tumors, and a few other things going on. It was the result of lots of different things happening together. I called a couple of my close friends and shared what was happening, I prayed and took action to let these things not bother me and mess with my serenity. Quickly this funk was gone and I am so grateful. I don’t feel this way often thankfully, so it feels really strange when I do, so I get out of it as quickly as possible. Doing a gratitude list works very well.

I find that often I am able to handle problems and situations when they happen, especially serious or important things. Then sometimes afterward I feel the effect and feel out of sync for a short time. I found out on February 21st that one of my friends shot and killed himself. The funeral was on February 27th. I was so sad. I saw him the week before and we talked. It never entered my thoughts that he would commit suicide. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary situation. It’s selfish. Those of us left behind suffer and grieve. I will write about this in a separate story soon. I’m guessing that somehow this was a part of me feeling out of sync this week. The sadness of the loss is difficult. I feel like part of my heart is missing and shattered. It’s different than if he died from something other than suicide.


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