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 | Leave a comment

Cherish Life, Live life to the fullest, Celebrate the life of Jeff Kagan and Dan Penner, 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 at Cleveland Clinic, 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 at the Coral Springs Funeral Home.

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.

xox,
Pam

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, who had a challenging start in life as a preemie and who is now doing well. 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.

 TAPESTRY

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.

“THE BACK NINE”

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.

LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY! HAVE A GREAT DAY!

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.

TAPESTRY

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.

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

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From NY Congressman Tom Reed

 

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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.

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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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January and February 2015 Happenings

It’s hard to believe it’s the beginning of February already. Time is surely passing quickly. I’ve been reading books and I am currently working on 3 jigsaw puzzles. One is a small enough size that I can sit in bed and work on it. The other 2 are too large to move so I work on them in the living room. Healthwise, there are no significant changes. My sleeping pattern is really messed up. I’m often up until early morning hours like 2, 3, or 4 a.m. then I sleep late in the mornings unless I have somewhere to be or something I need to do early in the day. It really feels strange when I get up at 10 or 11 a.m. and then all of a sudden it’s after noon and I haven’t done anything except get dressed and maybe having something to eat.

I did go to two local outdoor events the past two weekends so I could get fresh air and exercise. I went to the Nautical Flea Market and the Pompano Unity Day. I am making an effort to walk every day. I try to park in a far parking spot at the store so I can walk farther. I’m trying not to put on the weight I lost on my trip. Now that I’m back home and cooking again, I’ve been eating small amounts of food and snacks more frequently. I’m also putting my chair outside on my porch in the afternoons when I read so I get more fresh air.

It seems that God is keeping me occupied with other health issues so I don’t focus on my tumors, pain, or any related issues. As I wrote in the previous post, I have no idea how my life will play out. Here is another true life example:

On Monday afternoon, January 26th, I was cleaning a small spot off the carpet with a thin cotton cloth and when I stopped and took the cloth off of my right index finger, which is the finger I used to clean the spot, I noticed that my finger bent backwards at the first knuckle. It would not go straight, it kept bending backwards. I called my doctor’s office and they were getting ready to close. I was told to go to an emergency room or emergency clinic. I knew I did something serious to my finger since there was no resistance between the top of my finger and the rest of the finger. Now when I see spots on the carpet I will either leave them for a while or use a sponge or something sturdy to clean it.

I don’t really like going to emergency rooms and spending hours there. I know whenever I have taken anyone to an emergency room, or gone for myself it’s several hours before being treated and released. So, I called my insurance company to get the name of an emergency clinic. I went and it took about an hour before I could see their doctor. He took an x-ray and it showed that I did not dislocate or break my finger. He thought I tore a tendon in my finger and he injected cortisone into two places in my injured finger and he put a splint on it to keep it straight.

The next day I went to my primary doctor and she agreed that it looks like I tore a tendon and have what is called mallet finger which is a torn extensor tendon. She said I need to see a hand surgeon which I did on Tuesday, February 3rd. The hand surgeon said that I do have mallet finger and she said it should heal okay with splinting for 6 or more weeks. But the finger has to remain straight, even when removing splint to dry the finger or checking my skin under the splint or else the splint time has to start over. I’ve read numerous pages on the Internet about this type of injury and it seems that it should heal with only being in a splint. I’m glad, I sure don’t want hand surgery.

The hand surgeon didn’t have a splint that fit me correctly, they were all too large. So, she put the smallest one she had on my finger and taped it so it would stay on. I had to go to a rehabilitation center where they made a splint to fit my finger. I am doing the best I can to minimize use of my index finger. While I am typing this post I am not using my index finger which makes it awkward to type and I have to backspace often to correct incorrect letters.

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It’s amazing how important my right index finger it is and how often I use it. I bought several boxes of disposable gloves and I use them for almost everything I do since I have to keep my finger clean and dry. It could be worse, thankfully it’s only a finger in a splint and not my entire hand. In 1980, I broke a finger on my right hand and had my entire hand and my right arm in a cast up to my elbow for 6 weeks. That was definitely not fun. Living alone makes things a bit more challenging to do everything. Try brushing your teeth, washing dishes, eating, etc. with your non-dominent hand.

I was watching a television show today and Kobe Bryant was the guest. He had his right arm in a full sling that was strapped around his neck and waist, he didn’t say why. I was and am grateful only my finger is in a splint.

IMG_7704I’m still working on jigsaw puzzles, I just completed this one. I have 2 others started. I was able to finish this one since it’s small, only 500 pieces, and easy to work on. The other puzzles have 1,000 pieces and are a large size.

That’s about it for now.

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2015… Wow!!! It’s Incredible that I get to be here in 2015 and experience all it brings

EIt’s January 2015!!! Surprise!!! I am still alive and doing relatively well. Evidently God still has plans for my life. So, despite my doctor’s guess of my shortened lifespan due to my health related issues, God still has more for me to experience, share, do, etc. As Richard Bach wrote in his book Illusions“Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth is accomplished… If you are still alive it isn’t.” So, evidently my mission is not completely accomplished. I’m trying to do my best to keep close contact with God and be aware of the path I’m supposed to be on, or the things I am supposed to be doing, or the people I am supposed to be in contact with through various experiences or happenings.

In a way it feels a bit eerie or out of sync. In 2013, and again confirmed in 2014, based on my doctors examination of me, and feeling the large tumor and it’s placement, she didn’t think I would be alive at the end of 2014. So, on July 4th when I watched the fireworks, I thought this would be the last time I saw fireworks, the same for my birthday… it would be the last birthday I would celebrate, and in both 2013 and 2014 I saw the fireworks and celebrated another birthday. I realized that every day any of us live we are closer to dying. No one escapes that experience. The timing is up to God. So we all need to appreciate every day and live it to the fullest. I have written about this many times. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We only have the moment we are in.

I feel like it’s the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, Water scenerio I have heard about many times. A jar is filled with rocks, then we are asked what else can we fit in the jar and we say nothing else will fit. We are told that pebbles will, then sand, then finally water will fill the rest of the space in the jar. I don’t know what stage my life is in. I might be in the sand or water stage, then again, I may be in the rock stage. I just found this story on the Internet about Rocks, Pebbles, Sand and I like what is written better than any other story I’ve read, even though it doesn’t include adding water as the final item. Here is a  Rocks in a Jar version, it’s not as informative as the previous link. Please read these webpages when you have time. They might give you some food for thought. None of us know what stage our life is in, no matter what our age.

I am so glad I took the trip I did from early September through mid-December. It  was great fun. Since I returned, I have been baking cookies and brownies and giving them to friends and businesses I frequent often. Everyone loves receiving surprises, especially home baked ones.

When I started my trip in September I left a shamrock jigsaw puzzle partially completed. Shortly after I got back from my trip I began working on the puzzle and finally finished it. It is really beautiful. All of the detail is hard to see in the picture. Now, I just started two new puzzles. One is large so I can’t fit it through the door into my bedroom, so I started a smaller one so I could sit in bed and work on it. Both puzzles are 1,000 pieces. The puzzle with the ferris wheel has 119 hidden objects in the picture. Some of them are scissors that make up part of the ferris wheel, a suitcase that a boy is sitting in as a ride and using a baton as a bar to hold onto, and a guitar that is the roller coaster ride.

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After I complete these two puzzles, I have two more waiting to be done, in the meantime when I go to stores I will keep my eyes open for puzzles I want to work on. I am including the link to the puzzle store I shop in and the puzzle company I like the most for their unusual puzzles in case you like puzzles and want to explore these sites too.  I already know that I want to buy three Sun’s Out puzzles, the otter, a hot air balloon, and perhaps the State of Texas that I saw online a few months ago. I am going to have to ask Lacy at Prestigious Puzzles to order them for me, or I can order them online. I put pictures of them below so you could see them. I like the otter puzzle the best. These special shaped puzzles are all designed by Lori Schory who I have made friends with the past year or so when I wrote to her telling her I like her designs. Most of the puzzles I do are her designs. She kindly sent me four puzzles to work on, the penguin puzzle is the last of the four. The shamrock puzzle is made with pictures she took in Ireland. The otter puzzle is made with pictures she took at the London Zoo.

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I have found several websites that write about the health benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles, here is the link to two of them. I might add more in a few days: 42 benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles, another is health benefits of puzzling.

My time since I have been back home has been filled with doing errands, having lunch and spending time with friends and my mom, taking naps, reading, talking on the phone, and baking, and not much else except resting which is necessary. The pain seems to be increasing a bit and I’m having to take more medicine more often to control it which sometimes makes me extra tired. I try to take the minimum that I can so I don’t sleep all the time. I had bloodwork done recently and it shows that my kidney function is only a little worse than it was in June 2014 which is good. We thought it might be considerably worse, thankfully, it’s not.

The symptoms caused by the growing tumors are still becoming worse, some days are worse than other days. It changes almost daily and there is no rhyme or reason for it. Sometimes I am awakened in the early morning hours having trouble breathing, other times the amount of food I can eat at a time or in a day is half a cup to a full cup at the most, and when I go to pee it takes a while before anything comes out. I’m still getting numbness and sharp pains in my left foot and leg. We know all of these symptoms are due to the increase of size in my tumors and the pressure it’s putting on my organs. So, I just keep going on and doing my best to ignore the symptoms and not let them ruin my day. If I have to increase my medicine to control the pain I do. If it means I have to sleep a bit more, I do that too.

It could be easy for me to continually think that the end of my life is coming when I have difficulty breathing, or can’t eat much food in a day, or that my kidneys and bladder are totally compressed or blocked when I can’t pee easily. I have to admit there were a few times that I did think that for a short time when it happened a bit more severely than previous times. But then after 3 or 4 minutes when I could pee, or when I went a night without waking up short of breath, or when I can eat a more food in a day,  that I think it’s not now, I just have a new normal. My doctor and I think that my end of life will come when my organs get so compressed that I cannot pee, eat, or breathe, but in reality that might not be how it plays out. My heart could give out, I could have a heart attack, I could choke on food, fall down steps or have a serious fall, be in a car accident, a plane could fall out of the sky and land on the roof of my building, or many other events could be the reason. It’s out of my hands and in God’s hands. I have very little control, if any. So, I live each day to the fullest I can.

Some days are better than other days. Still I do my best to keep an attitude of gratitude and thank God every day for the life I have. So many people have it much worse than I do. I have a safe place to live, food to eat, money to buy what I need, enough medicine to control the pain, a car with insurance to drive with gas in it, people who love me and check on me frequently, I can walk, talk, and breathe at the same time. I can see, hear, feel, and have clean clothes to wear, shoes, a nice bed with a soft blanket to sleep in, and so much more to be extremely grateful for. It far outweighs any challenges I am experiencing. If there are times I feel sorry for myself, I limit them to a minute or two. I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t have those times where I feel sad or frustrated with how my health condition affects my life and life expectancy.

In October 2013, I wrote a story called Seriously, Really, You would rather be an Ostrich? about the importance of having legal and medical documents prepared so that should the unexpected happen then your wishes would be known, and you can be taken care of in accordance with your wishes whether it’s for a short time or longer or even your final wishes. Have the legal documents prepared so if the unexpected does happen, it could save arguments and guesswork for who should be your representative and make decisions. When things are going well and there is no pressure to prepare these documents is when it should be done, and it’s the time to discuss various topics with those close to you. Please make time to read this important story. Age should not be a factor, I know young people in their 20s and 30s that have died unexpectedly in car accidents, or had health conditions that became fatal. We never know when life changes. If we have our documents prepared, it makes it easier for those we love and/or who are in charge of our affairs should we become unable to make decisions, even temporarily. They won’t have to guess what we want done with things, or if we want life support, surgery, maybe you want to be an organ donor.

It can be so easy to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself, but that’s not me. Some days I really have to talk to myself and tell myself to get out of bed, that I cannot just stay in bed and not do anything. I also give myself permission to sleep later in the morning if need be. My sleeping pattern is all messed up since I often nap in the late afternoon into the early evening. Sometimes I am awake at 2:00 a.m., sometimes I am awake until 5:30 a.m. Then if I sleep until 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. half of the day is gone when I get up. It really feels odd. I try to listen to my body and rest when I really need to, but other times I push myself past that point so I don’t get in a rut of sleeping all of the time.

JBsOne of my friends that lives in Seattle came to stay with me for two days before she took a flight out of Miami airport. It was nice to see Patt, the last time we saw each other was in July 2011 when I was in Seattle during my 2011 trip to the northwest. We went to a RV Show and looked at motorhomes and pull type campers. I still like my camper van the best. Patt gets to see the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic Ocean, so we ate lunch at JB’s on the Beach sitting outside on their porch looking out at the turquoise ocean and watching the pigeons and seagulls. It was very nice. Check out their website and on their main page you will see beautiful pictures of not only the restaurant, but also of the beautiful beach and fishing pier, in Deerfield Beach. The water is almost always a beautiful turquoise. As we were leaving the restaurant we saw three brightly colored motorcycles parked out front. They were really amazing and I would have loved to take a ride on any of them.

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During Patt’s visit this week we talked about many topics. One of the things we talked about is my medical condition and how I’m dealing with it. She said she admires my positive attitude and how I have chosen to live my life. She said I’m an inspiration to her and many others and she said that she frequently tells people about me. I told her that I want to write an article that says something to the effect that dying slowly when you know it sucks. She laughed and we talked about dying suddenly vs knowing it’s coming but not knowing exactly when like is happening to me. A story I wrote in July 2014 expressed some of my thoughts about that topic. I try my best to live with a positive attitude and as a result it seems I am an example to others of how to live without feeling sorry for myself because of my health condition. It’s not really hard for me to live with a positive attitude and with one of gratitude because it’s how I have lived my life for about 27 years. I find that living in the solution and not the problem provides me with a better way of life, a more peaceful and contented spirit, and peace of mind, no matter what my life situation is. There are still days that I don’t want to live this way anymore, or at least not for a long period of time, that I’m tired of the pain and limitations that my tumors have caused. But those days or moments are very few and they do not happen close together thankfully. I’m grateful that I don’t dwell on them or give them attention, so they disappear quickly.

If my health continues the way it is now and doesn’t get significantly worse, I am planning to take another trip the end of March or early April. I have to figure out a route. I know that I want to be in east Texas in early to mid July for a hot air balloon event, and I want to be in Albuquerque the end of September through mid October for the hot air balloon fiesta again. Other than that I have no destination selected. I really would like to explore the upper Michigan peninsula, but it’s quite a bit north and then to come all the way back south is a long distance. I need to find interesting things to experience through the middle states that I have not seen already. Perhaps go further west than New Mexico and come back east to Albuquerque. I’m sure I will find a good route, even if it evolves as I’m driving. That has worked well on previous trips. Talking with people in campgrounds along the way has often provided me with interesting places to stop and see. I have also been able to share information on places that I went to and found interesting. I really like having my website, it’s nice to look at pictures I’ve taken and read stories I wrote a few years ago. It brings back wonderful memories, and also reminds me of things I forgot that I saw or did.

My concern about taking another trip is the same concern I had for the two trips I took in 2014. There were days I could not travel so I stayed where I was until I was able to go on. Since there is no control over the growth of my tumors and their effect on my health condition, I don’t know when I might get a blockage which we feel will cause the end of my life. I don’t want to be far away from home and have to make arrangements to get back home. I prefer to be able to drive myself home, rather than have to either go in a hospital somewhere near wherever I would be traveling, or having to fly home in a distressed medical state. I have to have faith and trust that God will continue to allow me to watch my symptoms and hopefully let me have sufficient time to get home on my own. I almost cut my recent trip short a couple of times, but when I stayed where I was for a day or few days I found I was not getting worse. I can hurt anywhere, I don’t need to be home. I can manage my pain wherever I am and it’s more fun to be traveling and exploring the country than staying home and reading and watching television. If I should suddenly die while I’m on my trip, I have prepaid funeral arrangements including travel insurance to transport my body. Like I said before, I don’t focus on this, but it is in the back of my mind and thoughts.

In 2011, I pretty much did almost everything on my Bucket List. I have a few things left on it which are seeing the Northern Lights, going to Alaska, Italy, and Greece, watching episodes of NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, and NCIS New Orleans being filmed, and going to the Ellen Degeneres Show. Watching Ellen always brings a smile to my heart and often makes me laugh. I love watching the Carol Burnett show that was on years ago. One of my friends sent me a DVD set of several episodes and I laugh when watching them. I like watching everyone’s face to see them try to not laugh at each other’s actions or comments, many of which I’m sure are ad lib, especially by Tim Conway. Recently, ME TV began showing a half hour of the Carol Burnett show episodes every night at 11 p.m. It is a great way to end my evening.

So, now that I am still alive I need to add to my bucket list. One of the things I have wanted to do for years is go see the Macy’s July 4th fireworks. I don’t really like large crowds and to see the fireworks from a good location I am guessing I would need to get there really early and then it would be a challenge to find restrooms, places to eat, etc. and then have to navigate through the crowds and get transportation back to a hotel, that is if there are any hotel rooms available. I don’t really think I have the energy or stamina for the experience of being in large crowds in New York. So, like in previous years, I will be happy to watch the fireworks on television. I get to see a great firework display in Albuquerque during the Balloon Fiesta. It’s not the Macy July 4th fireworks, but they are still pretty incredible and very beautiful.

I have done so much more than I would have even thought to put on a bucket list, so instead of creating a new bucket list, I will continue to live my life one day at a time and be content and happy with how each day unfolds. It’s been pretty good living this way so far. I did intentionally plan most of my 2011 trip which included my dream of going to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and I accomplished that, and also attended in 2012 and 2014. I didn’t have a ride in the Goodyear Blimp on my bucket list, and I had that incredible experience. I am convinced that if I am to have a specific experience or adventure it will happen. Sometimes it takes the help of a friend or effort on my part, other times it just happens. I am so blessed and grateful for the life I have, even the difficulties and challenges. They have helped me become the person I am.

Here is an amazing dog video that someone sent me. It’s incredible dogs doing tricks, stunts, catching a frisbee, and jumping rope at an Eagles Halftime show. I hope you enjoy it.

The Webbs Mill VFD, Bradford VFD, and East Hill VFD who are three of the volunteer fire departments in New York State that I donated money to sent me pictures of the equipment they bought with my donations. I want to share the pictures with you. Check out the fire helmet on the top of the tree. It really touches my heart that several of the volunteer fire departments and other organizations I have helped keep in touch with me.

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When you get a chance listen to this version of Amazing Grace, a friend sent me this link.

That’s about it for now. I wish everyone a blessed 2015, I hope you enjoy every day and let people in your life know that you appreciate them, love them, etc.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 5 Comments

Return home from trip, Back home in Florida, and Health Update as of the end of December

On December 11th when I returned home to south Florida, I added this post to let everyone know I was home. It’s now the end of December and I finally have time and energy to add to this story and add an update as of December 25th, the day I am writing this post. Last summer, and also earlier this year, my doctor didn’t think I would live to see the end of 2014. Now, it’s about a week away and I am still alive. Evidently, God is not ready for my life here to be over yet.

I arrived back home in south Florida on Thursday, December 11th. After I left Waco, I took my time driving back. It took me four days. It was not always an easy drive, due to pain. I stopped frequently to rest or take a nap, or my pain medicine. I stopped in Yulee, Florida to visit with my friend Cindy for a few days. We baked cookies and caught up on life and I told her about my trip. I also was able to wash the rugs in my camper, they got pretty dirty on my trip. A friend of mine met me when I got home and helped me unload my camper so I could not have to go up and down the stairs to my apartment as many times. It also saved me from carrying anything heavy. I am so grateful for Dale’s help. I still find it difficult and not easy to ask for help, or admit I need help. I’m trying to be better at it. I know when I help others it feels good. Lois told me many years ago that if I don’t let others help me then I am depriving them of feeling good for helping someone else. Lois died in May 1989, yet her positive impact on my life still has a positive effect all these years later.

I am so glad that I made the decision in early September to take another trip. I really prayed hard and sincerely about it for a few months, and at times I was hesitant to take the trip due to the increase in my pain and symptoms I was experiencing due to my tumor and health condition. I kept praying and taking action for taking the trip. After much prayer, thought, talking with my doctor, and planning, I decided to take the trip. I wrote about this in a story the end of August or early September.

Anyway, thankfully, I made the entire trip. There were a few times I thought I would have to cut the trip short due to health symptoms, but I waited a day or so and decided to continue on the journey. I am so happy I did. I enjoyed my entire journey. You can read the stories in the posts I wrote since September. Wow!!! I also got to go to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, crewed for Scott and went up in his balloon again, and volunteered at the event, among other experiences and adventures.

Now that I am home and have time, I finally wrote the story about the Homestead Heritage Fair, so I hope you read it, along with a few other stories I wrote about my five weeks at Homestead Heritage where I had the privilege to visit with many of my friends there and to help out in various ways such as working at the gristmill, cheese shop, and picking vegetables in Kim’s garden, and the other places I visited on this three month expedition. The Yarden family who I have become very close to over the past several years let me park my camper in their front yard and they include me as part of their family, and they invite me to eat meals with them.

Since I’ve been back home, I’m slowly getting everything put away. I got my clothes put away within a few days, however, it’s the other things that seem to be taking a bit more time. I’ve been baking a lot of cookies and brownies for the holidays and giving plates of goodies to friends and places of business that I use frequently. I brought back cheese, jelly, spiced pecans, and Gristmill products and I’ve been gifting them to friends as well. I also am enjoying the same items I brought back since I brought back enough for me to keep too. My mom loves the spiced pecans and my friend Ahavah that makes the pecans gave me the recipe, so I made a two pound batch for my mom and I gave her several types of my cookies too.

I wanted a blanket for my bed, so I went to one of the big box stores as they are called and I found a very soft, plush blanket. I love the soft feel of it. I also found some 50 x 70 throws that are really soft so I bought three of them too. I will keep one or two home to use for my naps, and the other will go into my camper as a blanket on my bed there. I might put two in the camper. I find when it’s really cold, that if I put a blanket under me, over the bottom sheet, that it keeps me warmer and it’s a great feeling to have something soft to lay on. I guess it might be like in olden days when people laid on animal skins that were soft and plush.

For the past year or so my doctor said to eat whatever I can because there were and are times I can’t eat much at a time. I was eating lots of things that were not low calorie, such as ice cream, pasta, etc. I gained about 25 or so pounds. On my recent trip, I was walking more and not snacking very much, and not eating much. As a result, I lost 22 pounds. This summer I had to buy pants a size or two larger since I couldn’t fit into my jeans. Now, those jeans are way too large. So, a few days ago, I went and bought pants two sizes smaller. If I lose or gain a few pounds these jeans should still fit me. I am not trying to gain weight, but I’m guessing I will be since I’m now baking and cooking and able to snack more often. I still can’t eat much at a time, so I eat small amounts a little more often if I can. I seldom get hungry, I look at the clock and based on the time, I know I should eat something. I also have to make sure I drink enough fluids so I don’t dehydrate.

I went to the doctor the other day and she confirmed what I already know. I could tell by her expression when pressing my abdomenal, chest, and pelvic areas, that’s where the large tumor I have that is located, that she is puzzled by how I can still be alive. I know I am. My entire abdominal, chest, and pelvic areas are extremely hard, as is the tumor which is definitely larger than it was in June. We have no idea how my organs are still functioning, we know they are but at a lesser capacity, based on my symptoms. My tumor is still growing, and it’s pressing more on the nerves in my left leg, and pressing on my organs more. For the past few months, occasionally, I wake up during the night or early morning having trouble breathing. The tumor is pressing on my diaphram, and it’s also causing my bladder, lungs, stomach, etc. to be more compressed, therefore, causing me to eat less, have less oxygen in my lungs, etc. I had bloodwork done to see if my liver and kidney function is different than the bloodwork I had done in June. We don’t think I will have another CT Scan, but we will decide after the doctor sees the results of the bloodwork.

I am going to make an effort to make myself walk and try to be as active as I can. I don’t want to gain the weight I lost so I know I will have to watch what I eat, even though it might be tough. I like to eat cake and cookies, pizza, pasta, etc.  I am not going to stress over it.

That’s about it for now. Happy Holidays Everyone. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement, friendship, and so much more!!!

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments

Homestead Heritage Fair, Waco, Texas

The Homestead Heritage Fair began today, Friday, November 28th, and it ends Sunday, November 30th. The weather is beautiful and there were approximately 9,200 visitors in attendance today. It’s a new record, the previous record was 9,000 in one day. Both Friday and Saturday had days of record attendance. It’s estimated there were at least 25,000 people in attendance during the three day event. Thankfully, the weather was really good all days. It was a bit more windy than everyone wanted it to be, but temperature wise it was good. Monday morning it was really cold and windy, so we are all glad it held off until after the fair. If you get to Texas, please be sure to visit Homestead Heritage. Feel free to check out their website, there are many interesting shops with links on the website. You can also order many items online and have them shipped.

I posted pictures online that I took during the Fair and during the weeks leading up to the fair. Instead of creating a new photo album just for the Fair, I added the approximately 700 pictures I took in the past three days to the album I created a few weeks ago. So, if you already have looked at the pictures in the album, skip through the first 200 pictures and look at the rest. I added each day’s pictures after the previous day’s pictures so if you see the yellow and white striped Gristmill tent, or the Cheese Tent, etc. know that the next set of photos are different than the previous day’s photos even though they might look similar. There are also pictures of storyboards that have stories that several of the children that live here have written about different experiences they have. I hope the text is clear enough so that you can read their stories. I took pictures both with and without the visitors so that you can see the various booths and exhibits. Looking at the pictures with the visitors you can get a feel for what it was like to walk around during the Fair.

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On both Friday and Saturday of the Fair, friends of mine from Dallas and Fort Worth came to visit with their families so I walked around both days giving tours of the grounds, exhibits, and demonstrations. I was also able to explain about various areas such as the Aquaponics Greenhouse, Gristmill, cheese making, weaving, etc. since I have been helping in these areas, or watching them be completed, for a few weeks this time and in previous years. My friends told me that they enjoyed the Fair and even more so because I was with them explaining things and making sure that they saw what was of most interest to them. The aquaponics area had a small scale garden using plastic barrels and goldfish.

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Of course, we made sure that we sampled many of the delicious foods and desserts. There were so many unusual and regular foods that it was difficult to choose what to eat. I’m glad there were three days to the fair so I could eat a variety of these foods. I even bought extra foods and desserts so that I could eat them on the drive back home. It turned out well, I didn’t have to cook on the way back.

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The choirs and orchestra performances were outstanding. One of the children’s choir songs sounded like rain and thunder. The sounds were made only by stamping feet, and rubbing, clapping hands and snapping fingers. Another song, performed by the adult orchestra sounded like a train, including a machine that made steam that looked like a steam engine was there. Another amazing and humorous performance was when one of the very talented musicians played the part of making believe he was a new student that was just learning to play the piano. His “teacher” played the part well. Then a short time later, two other musicians joined in and all four of them were playing two pianos. They continually played as the four of them walked around the two pianos, not missing a beat of the song. It was magical and very entertaining.

Fresh apples were pressed into apple cider which was sold in one of the food booths, and the Gristmill was demonstrating how a portable mill that was used to grind grains operated. Because it is portable, it was moved from town to town grinding grains at various rural towns in olden days.

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The Native American Trail Marker Tree I found very interesting. I’ve seen it all of the years I have been at Homestead Heritage, but until this year when I saw the sign explaining about the tree, I didn’t know it had a purpose other than serving as a bench.

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The Brazos Valley Cheese Shop tent had a display showing the wheels of cheese, and a case with a cowboy hat, cowboy boot, and turkey all carved out of cheese. As I wrote in the previous stories I wrote recently, the cheese is made in the mornings after the milk from local dairies is delivered.

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Josh Stewart that works in the Cheese Shop is an extremely talented artist. His paintings and drawings are remarkable. I really enjoy looking at his artwork.

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My friend Kevin who is extremely involved in Homestead Barns did barn raising demonstrations where visitors could help raise parts of the barn structure. Kevin and his company build barn houses all over the country. I have been in a few of the structures he’s built since they are on the Homestead Heritage property. Check out the Homestead Barns website to see some of these beautiful houses, including the Crawford Ranch where President Bush and his wife Laura live. Their house was featured in Architectural Digest a few months ago. At the fair there was a poster explaining why barns are painted red.

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My friend Shahar is very involved in the Homestead Gristmill. He went to mills in other states and learned how to mill grain and he has taught others here how to operate the mill and grind grains. Checkout Homestead Gristmill on their website. They will gladly send you any items on their website, I can tell you everything is very delicious and non-GMO.

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Randy and Terri own Brim Seed Company. I found their tent very interesting. All seeds are no GMO, organic, and the best seeds to buy for a healthy food crop. Living in a small apartment, I found myself very interested in several items in their tent that would allow me or anyone to grow vegetables in a small area, either with or without soil. The hydroponic towers to grow plants using only water with nutrients was very interesting.

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Homestead Fiber Craft Shop is an amazing shop. They carry traditional types of yarn, and also hand dyed and spun yarn. All of the dishtowels, scarfs, hats, quilts, etc. are handwoven, knitted, or sewn here and every item has the name and age of the person that made the item. My friend Shlomit who is 13 hooked a rug that was the base for a barnyard scene. Other girls crocheted animals, a barn, and people to complete this scene. Another group of girls crocheted a tea set. I am so impressed by the skill of everyone here.

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The hay maze, children’s animal petting area, and hands on craft’s were really popular. The children loved making candles, weaving a coaster, assembling a wood boat, and many more hands on projects. It was fun watching the children do these various projects.

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The Fair was over Sunday afternoon and then everyone packed up all of the merchandise, food products, etc. that was left in the booths so they could get ready for business the next day. On Monday morning, almost the only sign that there was a fair this weekend were the tents that were still up.

I’m so happy that the Fair was a huge success, just like it always is. The weather cooperated and everyone there looked like they were having a great time enjoying the food, listening to the demonstrations, looking at the exhibits, and learning about various aspects of this community and the way they live.

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Madray Springs Volunteer Fire Department needs our help to win fire equipment

Update: December 15, 2014, Chief Dent notified me that his department did not win this contest. He said to thank everyone who voted.

My friend Fire Chief Ashley Dent in Madray Springs, Georgia, needs all of our help to win a contest that runs through December 10, 2014.

Madray Springs is one of the volunteer fire departments that I am close to and donate funds to. This is one of the fire chiefs that drove down to visit me last year. In May I spent several days at their department, I wrote a story about my visit with them.

Chief Dent sent me an email on Friday, November 28th, and he wrote: We are in another contest. We are the only department in the USA to enter and we are competing against 3 departments overseas. The contest winner is determined by Facebook votes. The winning fire department receives nearly $50,000 in equipment/SCBA air packs that firefighters wear to breathe clean air when fighting fires in smoke filled rooms, or in dangerous situations, etc.

Voting is open now through December 10th. People can vote once a day at: http://woobox.com/v8ejxj/vote/for/5310203

This link takes you to a video they created for the contest and on the top of the video frame is a vote button.

Knowing Ashley and his department, if they win, and other departments need to borrow this equipment, they will lend it to other departments, or bring it to where it’s needed.

PLEASE: Pass this info on to all of your friends and contacts using email, Facebook, and whatever other methods you have.

Posted in 2014 Trip | Leave a comment

Still in Texas, Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching

I’m still here at Homestead Heritage, I plan on leaving on Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend and heading east towards Florida. I’ve been staying very busy. Mostly I’m doing the same things I’ve written about in my previous two stories so I haven’t added any new stories. I most probably will not post another story until after the fair when I am back east and I have Internet. If anything important happens before then, I will add another post.

The Homestead Fair is rapidly approaching, everybody’s getting really busy setting up booths and doing the final tasks to be ready for the fair. Approximately 18,000 to 20,000 or so people attend this three day event. I’ve been listening to the choirs rehearse. All of the choirs are really extraordinary, however, I love listening to the young children sing. They are so enthusiastic and many of them have waited years to be in this choir, they have watched and listened as their brothers and sisters sing in the choir and now it’s the their turn, I think the youngest age they can join is six years old.  One of the songs the next age group performs sounds like various sounds you hear in a rain storm. Snapping fingers, rubbing hands together, and stamping feet, sounds like the wind, lighting, and thunder. The entire song is the sound effects they make and they start off slowly and quietly, then it increases to sound like strong storm, then it ends quietly.

My health is about the same, and I am managing pretty well. I still take my medicine to control the pain and I try to take naps every afternoon. The weather was pretty cold for several days, it got into the low 20’s at night and in the low 40’s during the day. For the past day or so I think it reached a low of high 30’s to low 40’s at night and in the low 60’s during the day. Today it rained pretty hard most of the day which is good now since many acres of wheat were planted this week and the grain needs the rain to grow. Everyone here is praying for good weather and no rain for the Thanksgiving weekend fair. This week everyone will be setting up the various booths.

Well, that’s about it for now. I knew that several of my friends watch my website for updates, so I thought I would post this short one to let everyone know that I’m doing well and there is nothing new happening. When I leave Waco, Texas, as I travel east when I get an Internet connection, I will update my Travel Map with my approximate location. Happy Thanksgiving. I have so many things to be grateful for… I am truly blessed. Thank you for being a part of my life. Best wishes to you and your family and friends.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 3 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas, my visit continues

I started the story about my time here at Homestead Heritage in Elm Mott, near Waco, Texas, in October and I’m going to be here most probably through Thanksgiving. So, since it’s now November 11th, I decided to write more about this wonderful place and what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks in this new story. You can explore the various links on this site to the gristmill, cheese shop, gift barn, and other types of shops. The Special Events tab at the top has the Homestead Fair information and video you may find interesting to explore. I also have an album with the pictures I’ve taken here.

As an update to the October story, I am still helping to harvest vegetables from Kim Yarden’s garden. It’s supposed to be below freezing tonight and for the next few days so this afternoon we picked all of the vegetables including green tomatoes so they won’t be ruined with the freeze. I know that we would have liked the freezing temperatures to wait a while so the tomatoes could turn red, but that’s not the way it happened. The wispy type plant is an asparagus bush. Other vegetables like cabbage, swiss chard, and carrots love the colder temperature.

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I’m still helping out at the cheese shop two days a week. The cheese is sold at farmers markets throughout the state so on Tuesday and Wednesday we package the cheese so it can be shipped on Thursday. Every time I am there I learn new things about the process to make different cheeses, Marc is really good about answering my questions and explaining the process to me. We also get to sample the cheese as it’s being cut, eating some of the small pieces cut off of the large wheels. Since the last time I was here which was in 2012, the packaging process has become much more efficient and better thanks to the vacuum packing machine which seals the cheese in air tight packages, and the remodeled shop which has a storefront and an area to cut and package the cheese.

Today, one of the cheeses we were packaging was smoked Gouda. The cheese is made, aged, and smoked here on the premises. The smokehouse is a very old building and just walking by it the smell of smoke is very strong. Today, I learned that when packaging smoked cheese we have to be extra careful because the smoke leaves a film on the wheel of cheese and when it’s handled the smoke dust for lack of a better word comes off on hands, the knife, and any surface it touches. So in order not to have fingerprints on the cheese surface we handle this cheese more carefully and make sure the knife, gloves, and work surface don’t have the brown smoke on them.

One of the things I have become very conscious of during my time here, and especially for some reason this visit, is that almost everything is done by hand and in made in small batches. This is the case for all the food types prepared, not only at the Cheese Shop and Gristmill. The same goes for the ice cream, ice cream cones, breads, etc. As for the cheese, depending on the type of cheese, it’s made in batches of 100 gallons to 400 gallons. The cheese making process is done by people, not machines. The same with cutting and packaging the cheese. One of my jobs is to put the labels on the cheese packages and to weigh them and put the sticker on the package.

When we made the Malawach dough last week, we made it in batches using 5 pounds of flour for each batch. I think we mixed and rolled out 10 batches of dough. The same at the Gristmill when making mixes or other type of flour products. It is made in relatively small batches. This ensures the quality is good, and also that it is made and sold fresh. Many days the flour is ground and sold the same day. And each bag for every product is labeled and filled by hand, not a machine.

Friday afternoon I was not feeling that great. My insides and back were really hurting bad. So on Saturday morning I slept late, and during the day I took more medicine than I remember taking in one day to control the pain. I don’t know why it was so bad, but it happens occasionally and I have no control over it. I try to find the balance in taking medicine so it takes away the pain, or at least most of it, while not taking too much so that I sleep all the time. Sometimes, I have to just sleep until I feel better. In the afternoons I try to rest and sleep for about an hour or two. It’s a good night when I can sleep through the night, or at least most of the night. I’m finding that the past month or so my pain has been increasing quite a bit. I think the tumor is growing in size because it’s more sore by touching it. It seems to be pressing more on my organs causing a few different symptoms, but nothing too more life threatening than I’ve been experiencing, as far as I know. It would be nice to have a glass window so I could see what’s happening inside me. Since I didn’t have a good day healthwise, I stayed in bed until almost noon resting and napping.

I’m camped in my friends, the Yarden’s, front yard and they include me as part of their family. I join them for meals and to sit and visit and talk, and I also get to take a shower and do my laundry. I am so grateful to them for including me in their family. I also learn quite a bit in all sort of ways. They have lots of muscovy ducks, I’m guessing now about 100 of them? A few times a year they slaughter the ducks and then freeze or can the meat and broth to enjoy all year long. These ducks do not quack, you don’t even know there are ducks on the property if you don’t see them. For some reason if you have muscovy ducks there are no flys around.

Saturday morning was a duck slaughter day. I was invited to help but I didn’t want to do that. I watched a few years ago when another friend here killed the turkeys and chickens for our Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving. That was enough for me. Saturday, after the ducks were cleaned and were being cut up to freeze or can, I helped package the duck meat and after the bones were cooked for broth I took the meat off the bones and we made duck salad with it, sort of like chicken salad. It tastes almost the same. Saturday night we had duck cacciatore for dinner, it was really good. One of my favorite dishes the Yarden family makes is duck enchiladas. You really can’t tell that you are eating duck, it tastes like beef or chicken depending on how it’s cooked and with what seasonings.

On Sunday, we had a workday at the Gristmill, there were about a dozen of us working at various things such as filling granola bags, putting mixes into bags, and someone else was grinding and sifting cumin. Yes, fresh ground cumin… it smelled like someone was cooking enchiladas or some other wonderful smelling dish. My primary job at the Gristmill this year is putting labels on bags. It’s easy for me to do and I can sit while working. Working together is a great way to get to know people and share stories about our lives and what we like to do.

After finishing at the Gristmill about 3:00 p.m., I went over to the kitchen where my friend Ahavah and several other ladies were making sorghum pecan brittle and caramel sauce for candy apples for the fair. Before the pecans are used for anything like the brittle or spiced nuts, we open every bag and sort through the pecans to make sure there are no rotten pecans or parts of the shell. After the brittle was cooled, I helped package it. After it was all packaged, Ahavah told me to take the bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan so I could snack on it later on. It tastes so delicious. It’s made with rice syrup, eco sugar, butter, cream, and pecans which were grown on the Homestead Heritage property.

The ladies also made caramel sauce that would be hands on project for children during the fair Thanksgiving weekend. Ahavah wanted to try to find something different for the children to roll the caramel apples in besides nuts, so they were trying crushed pretzels and white chocolate chips. In any place we work with food, everyone wears aprons and hairnets, and in some cases like the cheese shop we wear rubber gloves too. We make sure that everything is clean as we work.

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These same ladies, along with a few others make various jellies such as prickly pair, jalapeno, and habanero. I don’t normally like spicy foods, but after trying the habanero jelly, I really like it when a small amount is put on a cracker, especially if it has a little bit of cream cheese on it too. I find the habanero jelly is not as hot as the jalapeno jelly, I think it’s because of the red peppers added to the habanero jelly. Two years ago when I was here I helped make the jelly… boy was it tough to be in the room when the pepper jelly was being cooked and put into jars.

Monday I worked at the Gristmill, I got to package the cumin that was ground on Sunday, along with cinnamon, and ginger, and I put labels on bags that would be used as needed. Then I came back to the camper and picked up pecans from the ground and filled a basket with them, and then I laid down in the camper and took a nap. I try to help out at the Gristmill two or three times a week. That with two days at the Cheese Shop gives me a pretty full week. The most I try to help in a day is four or five hours at the most. That’s about it for my physical limit. Some days it’s two or three hours.

Here are photos looking up into the pecan tree. These are native pecans which are smaller than other pecan types. When the pecan is ripe, it separates from the green covering and falls to the ground. In the photo on the right you can see a pecan separated from the covering and ready to fall to the ground.

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Besides the pottery shop, the woodworking shop, and the fiber craft shop, there is a blacksmith shop. When I walked by the other day, Caleb was making axes. It really is a hard job, the force of hitting the hot iron with a sledge hammer is tough on the arm.

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One of the new techniques of gardening here is aquaponics. I’ve heard of hydroponics, but not aquaponics. The basic difference between the two I think is aquaponics uses fishes. Elizabeth explained the process for this type of garden. There is a large 8 x 8 foam tank for the fish, and another tank for overflow and to keep the tank full, and the fish tank water will be pumped into the vegetable beds where the plants take the water they need and evidently somehow clean the water which is constantly being pumped and recirculated through the vegetable beds. Various types of fish can be used, and when they are mature the fish can be taken out of the tank and eaten.

The family building this aquaponic garden is doing a modified version, they are adding soil to the vegetable beds in addition to the gravel. This provides additional nutrients in the soil and it gives the plants more stability. The pipes are in the bottom of the bed, then gravel, then a layer of fabric, then the soil. The greenhouse has an opening at the top which can be opened or closed as needed for heat or cooling, and the sides can be rolled up for the same purpose. Having this controlled environment can help to eliminate bugs, and control weeds, and the raised height makes it easier to take care of the plants and harvest the crops.

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In several areas around the grounds of Homestead Heritage there is a plant called the Pride of Barbados. I see the plants by the cafe and gristmill most often since I go by there frequently. This is the most unusual and beautiful plant that I always enjoy stopping to admire. The colors of the flowers are unusual and they vary bloom to bloom.

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There is an area that has some animals and one of them is an alpaca, it has a very unusual face. Look closely at its mouth, it seems to have a split lip.

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That’s about it for my activities here for now.

On a different subject, I’ve had a few people tell me I should write more about my health situation and how I’m dealing with it emotionally and physically. I do write about it periodically, but I don’t want it to be the focus of my life. Yes, my life and activities are more limited because of my tumors and how they are affecting my body, but I like to focus on what I’m able to do even by modifying my activities like sitting when working, or not walking as far and asking for rides to where I want to go, and taking longer naps daily. I have to take more pain medicine than I was previously and it’s been hard to do emotionally, because I don’t like taking medicine of any kind. Thankfully, my pain medicine does not affect my mental state. It only takes the pain away for which I am very grateful.

I do on occasion write about my thoughts regarding what’s happening to me physically and how I deal with it, but I like to focus on what I’m able to do and accomplish during this time I have left to live. It’s almost the end of November 2014, and last summer my doctor said she didn’t think I would live to see the end of December 2013… wow, almost a year longer than expected, and I’m still alive.

I have no idea how much more time God will let me have to live. I like to think that I have used this extra unexpected time wisely. That I have made an impact in a positive way to help others, and I believe that I have. What more could a person want. I feel close to a Higher Power that I choose to call God. I try to live the way I think God would want me to do. I do my best every day to have a positive attitude and be grateful for the life I have, even with health issues. Yes, there are days when I feel sad, but it only lasts a very short time, sometimes less than 5 minutes. Mostly, it’s at times that catch me unexpectedly. I might be doing something or talking with someone, and it occurs to me unexpectedly at that moment that I might not have many more opportunities to do this again or talk with this person, or see another eclipse for example, or share special moments with friends and family. I have shed some tears, but not too many and not too often. If I didn’t I don’t think I would be normal… whatever that is. On a rare occasion I will just let myself cry for a while to get it out of my system and feel my feelings. It’s okay to do that too, but I don’t want to stay in that place for long. There is so much to be grateful for and to still do with my life.

I’m very grateful that I have several close friends that I can talk about anything with, including when I feel frustrated due to my limitations, and sad on occasion when I think about my life ending sooner than might have without the tumors and their affect on my body. I have no control over the growth of the tumors or their affect on my organs, nerves, muscles, etc. I have no idea when they will further compress the nerves in my leg that might cause more loss of feeling in my left leg, or when they might put more pressure on my internal organs to compress them further then they are now, which might result in still less lung capacity or eating still smaller portions of food, or put more pressure on my bladder and intestines that can cause other complications which I know are a possibility. There are many scenarios, but I do my best to not think about it or focus on it because that would not do me any good. I’ve learned worry doesn’t accomplish anything, however, prayer accomplishes a lot. It brings me closer to God and I know that God has a plan for me and my life. Worrying is suffering in advance. Things I worry about might not even happen, nor happen the way I think it might. It’s even possible that the end of my life might not even happen as a result of my health condition. People die from falls, auto accidents, all types of unexpected events. So, I leave my life in God’s hands and just pray  for God’s will and ask to be shown what that is every day.

An example of worrying about things that might not happen is that I brought my walker with a seat on this trip in case I needed it since my left leg and foot has numbness from the tumor pressing on nerves in my left groin and pelvic area. When I was at the Balloon Fiesta one night in my camper by accident, I hit my right foot on the edge of a table leg and a few days later when I was putting on my sneakers I realized my right foot was swollen and bruised and it was not happy to be in shoes. When I left on my trip, and as I traveled, I didn’t even think about hurting my right foot. My left foot and leg were good most of the time and didn’t hinder my activities, but my right foot did.

No one knows when their time is up, or when they might unexpectedly have a serious health condition arise in their life or the life of someone close to them, or when an accident or injury could change their life. Once again, I like to express my wishes that everyone live their life fully every day. We never know what tomorrow might bring. Don’t miss what is here for you now. I have always liked to walk rather than ride a bike, even though it would get me somewhere faster. By walking I get to enjoy the scenery, stop to admire a flower or butterfly, stop to talk with someone rather than waving as we pass, smell the fresh air, look at the clouds, the sunrise or sunset.

Live each day with an attitude of gratitude, no matter what. There is always someone who is going through something more challenging than I am. It keeps my life in perspective.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco and Meridian Volunteer Fire Department, Texas

I am doing well and having fun visiting with my friends at Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas. I have been helping at the Brazos Valley Cheese Shop, and also at the Homestead Gristmill. Also, I’ve been visiting with friends I’ve made here over the years. I visited here in October 2011, November 2011, and October and November 2012, using these links you can read about those visits.

During my time here, I have been taking pictures, including many of the cheese making process. The cheese shop gets fresh milk early in the morning, from local dairies right after the cows are milked. The cheese making process begins upon delivery of the fresh milk. There are several vats used to make cheese. The largest is a round steel tub that holds up to 400 gallons of milk. My first day at the cheese shop, there were 350 gallons of milk which would produce about 330 pounds of cheese that afternoon. I took pictures and some videos of the cheese making process, and I also got to taste some of the fresh cheese curds. Salt is added after the curds are drained. It was my first time eating curds and surprisingly I really liked the taste, they also squeak when chewing them. When the whey is drained from the curds it goes down a drain into a tank where it is collected and then pumped into a tank that goes back to the dairy and fed to the cows. The whey has lots of nutrients so it is used in beneficial ways, such as feeding it to livestock and watering vegetable gardens. There is a large window from the retail portion of the cheese shop, so that visitors can watch cheese being made.

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After the cheese is put into the molds and pressed into the cheese wheels which are approximately 15 pounds each, they are brought to the cheese cave that was built a few years ago. Since it’s so hot in Texas in the summer, a cheese cave was built about 16 or so feet below ground where it stays cool and is climate controlled, and it has pine shelves to hold the cheese while it ages. Various cheeses have different aging periods. Also, the different cheeses require a specific PH factor in order for it to become a specific type of cheese.

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Over the past several years, the Brazos Valley Cheese Shop has won first, second, and third place ribbons from the American Cheese Society for several of their cheeses. You can see the ribbons in several of the pictures. I remember when Rebeccah who was the first one that started making cheese called me many years ago to tell me she was now making cheese at home. I don’t think any of us imagined that it would turn into such an amazing business and that the cheeses would win such prestigious awards. I’m so proud of everyone here that is involved in this process. I’ve been able to watch and realize the progress and growth of this cheese business.

I learned a few years ago from one of my visits here that in order for a cheese to be called cheddar, after the whey has been drained from this particular cheese, the solid curd slabs are placed into a metal cutter which cuts the solid slabs into sort of french fry looking pieces, then the salt is added. Without going into all of the details of why, it has something to do with the PH factor and the absorption of salt into the cheese.

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swiss cheeseI also learned that in order for Swiss cheese to have the holes in it, in addition to the natural enzymes that affect the PH factors for this cheese, temperature plays an important part. The pressed curds have to cure at about 70 degrees for 3 weeks before it can be put into colder temperatures to continue to cure into the Swiss cheese final product.

Everyone here is busy getting ready for the fair held during Thanksgiving weekend. One of the items we are making in the cheese shop is marinated feta cheese. In two days we processed about 30 dozen jars of marinated feta cheese, and we have many more dozen to do. In the cheese cases, I saw that there are several wheels of cheese that were sculpted into different shapes, such as cowboy hat, boots, a mouse, and a cheese tray with fruit shapes.

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The Gristmill has been grinding grains constantly during the day to keep up with the demand.Three mills operate using the water wheel, and 3 operate using electricity.

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Now that gluten free products are in more demand, the Gristmill is building a new facility to grind the gluten free grains and make various mixes. Having this new building ensures there is no cross contamination between gluten and gluten free products. One day I got to watch the frame of the new building going up.

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On Thursday evening the firefighters at the Meridian Volunteer Fire Department about an hour away from here came and picked me up and took me to their fire station for a cookout. It was great to meet the firefighters and several of their wives. They showed me the equipment that I bought their department, some of which is blue fire hose that they said is used at every fire. They gave me a department patch and also one of their t-shirts which has a really cool graphic designed by one of their firefighters. One of the fire departments in New York state gave me the nickname of fire equipment angel, it was a few days before I was at the Meridian fire department, so when Meridian gave me the shirt after dinner, I chuckled to myself because the graphic on the t-shirt I was given has angel wings. I noticed a decal on their fire trucks and the wall in the fire station that I liked.

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There are several new types of gardening being done here, one is Aquaponics. I’ve heard of Hydroponic gardening, but not Aquaponics. The difference is that Aquaponics uses fish, and here they are including using soil in addition to the water to grow the vegetables. It’s very interesting how this method of gardening is being used. I will add more about it shortly, it will be in my November Homestead Heritage story. Internet is intermittent here so I update this story as I can.

On Saturday morning Betty who is a former city clerk friend of mine that lives near Austin, she brought her sister Carol and their friend Lori, I showed them around and we had lunch together, and caught up on life. My friend Kim that lives here joined us for lunch and then invited Betty, Carol, and Lori back to her house where she showed them her garden and gave them some jalapeno peppers and other vegetables. On Monday afternoon another former city clerk friend Linda and her daughter came to visit with me, so I got to show them around and have dinner together.

One day I picked jalapeno peppers and Kim and I put them in jars, added brine, and canned them. It was so cool to pick the peppers in the morning and within hours they were processed into jars of peppers. As the vegetables are maturing and reaching their full growth, we pick them and in many cases freeze or can them so they can be enjoyed all year long. There is a very old and large pecan tree near where I am parked. I’ve been collecting them for the family I’m staying with so they can eat them all year. I hear them falling on my camper, and theses are easy to collect. I’m trying to get them before the squirrels get them for their winter storage. I’ve also seen many roadrunner birds around these grounds. They are really interesting to watch, and I was told they eat snakes so they are good to have around. They run and then stop to look around and their large fan shape tail raises and lowers, then they run on to another spot and stop and do the same thing.

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I’ve been alternating my time between working at the cheese shop and gristmill. To fill in other time, I’m visiting with friends here, and helping out where I’m needed. We are making many foods for the fair. A couple of days I helped make Malawach, pronounced sort of like Ma la wok. The dough is flour, gluten, cane sugar, water, and oil. It’s rolled into 5.4 ounce balls, they rest about an hour and then are rolled out and butter is spread on them, then they are folded into a small square and rolled out again. They are then cooked in a skillet until golden brown. We cooked a few to taste, it was so delicious and very flaky because it’s folded and then rolled out again so it has layers in the dough. I definitely could get hooked eating these. I will probably buy some of this mix so I can make them when I get home.

When I work at the cheese shop and we package the cheese, there are always small pieces of cheese left, and the people at the cheese shop are really nice to me and let me take some with me so I can snack on them in my camper. The cheddar cheese and horseradish pecan cheddar are my favorites.

I’ve also been invited to dinner at people’s houses where we get to eat together and then talk for a few hours afterward. It’s great to get to know each other better and share stories about our lives.

I’m making time each afternoon for a nap and I’m trying hard not to do too much so I don’t strain my body. I have to say that wherever I’m working, the people there make sure that I’m not overdoing it. I’m doing pretty well, my shortness of breath seems to be gone for the time being, thankfully. I’m still controlling my pain with medicine, some days I have to take more breakthrough medicine than on other days.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments

My Time in Texas, Fort Worth and Elm Mott near Waco

Monday, October 13th, after leaving Albuquerque where I just attended the Balloon Fiesta, and then spending a couple of hours at the horse rescue about an hour east of Albuquerque, I continued driving east and stopped for the night in Amarillo, Texas, at the Welcome Center. Tuesday morning, I got up and drove to Fort Worth where I am spending a week or so at my friend Sue’s house. Sue and I got together with a few of our mutual friends for lunch and dinner a few times. It’s great seeing my long time friends that I seldom see anymore since we live in different states.

Don and CarolBefore I left on this trip, I contacted one of my high school classmates who lives in the Dallas area to see if we can get together when I get to Fort Worth. He said to let him know when I arrive, so I did. We met for lunch and had a great time sharing our stories and catching up on life. Don is his name and he was active in football and other sports during our high school years. I remember that even though I was shy and introverted in school that Don was always kind to me and talked with me, as did several other guys and gals. Last year when our class had our 45th reunion and they found me on the Internet, I received cards and emails from many classmates, we didn’t stay in touch after graduation in 1968. It has been great to reconnect and several of us stay in touch now. Don and his family take trips and we have been to some of the same places so it was nice to share our experiences about those locations.

IMG_6534Sue and her therapy dog Pepper volunteered their time at a homeless shelter in downtown Fort Worth, as did several other owners and their dogs. It was really amazing watching the people at the homeless shelter interact with these special dogs who have been through training courses with their owners.

On Monday morning, Sue and I went to spend a little while in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. She wanted me to see the changes made to Sundance Square where they took a large parking lot and changed it into an area where there are water gardens and sitting areas for concerts, or for people to just sit and enjoy the park and nearby businesses. A section of the street adjacent to the park is closed to vehicles so people can safely walk through this area. I was really fascinated by the water garden features and I took some videos of the water as it changed from soft flow to waves and another from almost no water spouting upward to large spurts. MVI_6558 The side of one building had a large western mural painted on it. This park area is nice addition to the downtown area.

Sue and I also walked by the Bass Performing Arts Center where large marble angels extend out from the side of the building. In 2011, Sue, her husband Mark, and I went to the Performing Arts Center to see Bugs Bunny conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, it was so funny and wonderful.

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Sue and Carol

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As Pat, Sue, and I were discussing where I would be going after leaving Fort Worth in a few days, I was giving thought to the tentative plans I had to drive to see some friends in Leander, which is south of Waco and north of Austin. As much as I would like to have time with these friends, I don’t think I will be driving the extra two hours south to get there. The past ten days have not been the best for me healthwise. My pain has been increasing quite a bit in my abdomen and where my tumor is has been more painful and sensitive to touch. My appetite is less and I often don’t feel like eating much, if anything at all. So, I decided to leave Sue’s house the end of this week and go to visit with my friends in Elm Mott, near Waco in Homestead Heritage. I have spent lots of time in this community, you can search my website for other stories written about preparing for the Thanksgiving Homestead Fair and the fair itself. The stories will be in October 2011 and 2012.

I was planning on staying there at Homestead Heritage until after Thanksgiving so I could help everyone get ready for the Thanksgiving Homestead Fair, but I will see how I’m feeling in a week or two and then decide what my travel plans will be. If I’m feeling okay I might stay longer. My firefighter friends in Georgia want me to come visit them again too. So, I could stay in the Waco area for two or so weeks, then head east towards Georgia and Florida and stop along the way to camp or explore new places I have not been to yet. That way, if my health continues to worsen, or the pain keeps increasing, I will be closer to home. Right now, I’m about 1,400 miles from home. If I get to Georgia or north Florida, it will be about 400 to 600 miles from home. I will do this journey like I’ve done the previous six weeks of it, a day at a time. I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, so I can continue to write my plans in the sand and revise as necessary.

 

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