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.

IMG_3191 IMG_3235 IMG_3203

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.

IMG_0560 IMG_0558IMG_2366

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.

2015-02-27 10.31.47 2015-02-27 10.32.50

IMG_2418 IMG_2364

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2015 Trip | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Bradford VFD Proc

Chief Rodney Hoad, Kathy Machuga, Jeffrey Greatsinger

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


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


From NY Congressman Tom Reed



Proclamation Covers


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

nonanona shirt

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

IMG_7664 IMG_7665 IMG_7686

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.


Posted in 2015 Trip | 1 Comment

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.

IMG_7708 IMG_7709 IMG_7710

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.

Posted in 2015 Trip | Leave a comment

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.

2015-01-12 09.28.55 2015-01-12 09.30.01 2015-01-12 09.30.47

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.

image description 95772otterparadecatweb image description

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.

2015-01-09 14.22.29 2015-01-09 14.22.35 2015-01-09 14.23.20





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.

east hill truck fire helmet Fire truck

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.

IMG_6899 IMG_6903 IMG_6911 IMG_6916 IMG_6918IMG_6947

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.

IMG_7183 IMG_7184 IMG_7186

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.

IMG_7195 IMG_7196 IMG_7216

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.

IMG_7120 IMG_7122 IMG_7172

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.

IMG_7578 IMG_7579 IMG_7580

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.

IMG_7382 IMG_7385IMG_7140

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.

IMG_6921 IMG_6922 IMG_6923

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.

IMG_7405 IMG_7407red barn desc

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.

IMG_7439 IMG_7444 IMG_7465

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.

IMG_6963 IMG_6972 IMG_6973

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.

IMG_6829 IMG_6832 IMG_6834

IMG_6877 IMG_6891 IMG_6896

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.


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.

Posted in 2014 Trip | Leave a comment

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:

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.

IMG_6776 IMG_6778 IMG_6781 IMG_6784 IMG_6785 IMG_6786




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.


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.

IMG_6792 IMG_6791 Pecans IMG_6790 Pecans

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.


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.

IMG_6670 IMG_6671 IMG_6672 IMG_6674 IMG_6675 IMG_6676 IMG_6678 IMG_6679 IMG_6680

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.


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.

IMG_6698 IMG_6697 IMG_6696

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.

IMG_6582 IMG_6583 IMG_6602

IMG_6613 IMG_6624 IMG_6631IMG_6646IMG_6650IMG_6658

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.

IMG_6589 IMG_6591 IMG_6594

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.

IMG_6719 IMG_6720 IMG_6723 IMG_6724

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.

IMG_6566 IMG_6567 IMG_6569 IMG_6598 IMG_6600 IMG_6601

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.

IMG_6231 IMG_6232 IMG_6235

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.

IMG_6745 IMG_6760 IMG_6771

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.

IMG_6729 IMG_6735 IMG_6736 IMG_6738 IMG_6741 IMG_6744

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.

IMG_6774 Jalapenos IMG_6778 IMG_6782

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.


Sue and Carol

IMG_6537 IMG_6540 IMG_6544 IMG_6545 IMG_6546 IMG_6547 IMG_6551 IMG_6552 IMG_6553 IMG_6555 IMG_6564











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.


Posted in 2014 Trip | 1 Comment

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the New Mexico Horse Rescue, and heading east into Texas

I’ve posted a photo album with 554 of the approximately 2,600 photos I took during my time in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta. The Balloon Fiesta website has lots of great information. I suggest that if you attend the event, sign up and volunteer in some capacity it makes the event more fun. There were professional photographers at the Balloon Fiesta, their photos are fantastic. It looks like currently only one photographer has posted photos, check back later on to see if there are others.

Friday, October 3rd, the day before the Balloon Fiesta opens, Scott and his crew which includes me, went to the Alice King Community School and we inflated the balloon and had it tethered so that the children could come over and watch the process and to see the balloon up close and talk with Scott, get their pictures taken, and get a balloon card. It was great to see the children’s faces watching the balloon. When Scott needed to burn the propane, he warned the children so they wouldn’t be afraid of the loud sound the burners make.

IMG_4510 IMG_4526 IMG_4535 IMG_4542 IMG_4582 IMG_4590

IMG_5085A few weeks before the Balloon Fiesta begins Scott and his crew and probably other balloon pilots get together with the mounted police and they burn the propane so that the horses get used to the loud sounds of the propane burners so that they don’t get spooked or upset during the Balloon Fiesta.


IMG_4598At my first Balloon Fiesta in 2011, I met David who is one of the Launch Directors called Zebras. I saw him in 2012, and again this year. In fact, his camper was parked next to mine in the RV park. This year David was the Launch Director for Scott’s section of the field. Many Zebra’s really get into the dress code and have Zebra items they either wear or attach to their uniforms.

IMG_5766I have been really enjoying my time at the Balloon Fiesta. I’m getting to meet many new people, make new friends, and visit with friends from previous years. In the mornings I crew for my friend Scott on his balloon Big Blue. Then, if he doesn’t need me to go on chase crew I volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Center. If he needs me for chase crew, I get in the truck and ride with his fiance Keralyn and others that are on chase crew and we all keep an eye on the balloon so we can hopefully get to where he will land before he does, or at least very soon after.

My friends Mary and Denny who I also met in 2011 and stay in touch with crew on No Worries and now Norman the Dragon. I also met the crews and/or owners for the green frog, scuba diver, whale, the bees, and many more special shapes.

IMG_5847 IMG_5857 IMG_5903 IMG_5929 IMG_5965 IMG_5992IMG_6136 IMG_6169IMG_6365IMG_5679 IMG_5681

Saturday, I noticed that my auxiliary batteries didn’t stay charged for very long. I found out by experiencing a check light on my fridge when I woke up at 4 a.m., along with the beeping of my carbon dioxide detector. Also, when I turned my lights on they were very dim. I ran the generator for about half hour before I had to catch the bus to the balloon field. Later in the day, I called Phil the RV repair man that is here to work on campers that need repairs. In 2012, he replaced my leaky and faulty water pump. Phil tested the auxiliary batteries and said they are not good any more, they are 3 years old. I had them replaced in 2011 when I was in Washington state. Instead of me having to drive around town to find batteries at 7:30 p.m., one of my neighbor campers Ronnie took me. We went to Walmart and they didn’t have the proper kind so we went to Costco and got there about 20 minutes before they closed. Phil installed the new batteries and I ran the generator to charge them fully. Thankfully, that did the trick, all is well at the moment. Update, a few days later… the batteries still were not holding the full charge, so Phil installed a new converter for me. We are hoping this solves the problem.

I was talking with Ronnie as we drove to get batteries. It turns out that about 39 years ago he lost his left leg in a railroad accident. It changed his life and he started a business many years ago making artificial limbs for people and animals. He is also very involved with animal rescue organizations all over the country. It was very interesting talking with him and learning about all he does to help people and animals.

Phil and Ann are people I met on my first visit to Balloon Fiesta in 2011. Over the past few years we are becoming friends. I’m glad they are here and we are getting to visit and exchange stories about life experiences. Their cat Wiley got sick the other day and it turns out he had pancreatitis, sadly, he passed away Saturday night. The RV Escapees Club wrote a nice story about Ann and Phil. Here are the 4 pages of the article.

Phil Ann Story 1   Phil Ann Story 4Phil Ann Story 2Phil Ann Story 3


Sunday afternoon Robert Mirabal performed on the stage. I have known Robert for many years, I’ve heard him perform at several Native American flute festivals. You can read more about Robert in my November 2013 story about the Native Rhythms Flute Festival. I uploaded some audio clips of his performance in my Balloon Fiesta album, they are at the end of the album.

IMG_4964 IMG_4973 IMG_4982

IMG_5651A few balloons away from our balloon was the Wonder balloon. It brought back memories of childhood when I used to get small individual loaves of Wonder bread. Amanda who is in charge of the Wonder balloon is really nice, she gave me two bags of Wonder balloon pins to give out. I loved watching the expressions on people’s faces when I gave them a pin. For children, they loved having a pin, especially if it was their first pin or if they are experiencing Balloon Fiesta for the first time. For the adults, many said they remember Wonder bread from their childhood like I did.

After we inflated the balloon on Tuesday, October 7th, Scott handed me a form to sign, and he asked me to sign it, unless I don’t want to go up in the balloon. I said I would love to go up in the balloon and I signed the form without hesitation. I love going up in the hot air balloon, and Scott is such a great pilot that almost all of his landings are pretty gentle. Liz and I joined Scott on this flight. We flew about 45 minutes on our ride. I was so grateful and I loved every second of the ride. I took lots of pictures from setting up the balloon through packing it after the flight.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

IMG_5246 IMG_5268 IMG_5279 IMG_5295 IMG_5303 IMG_5321


photo 1 photo 2

IMG_5327Scott and Keralyn

IMG_5335 IMG_5339 IMG_5340 IMG_5343 IMG_5354 IMG_5361 IMG_5363 IMG_5378 IMG_5385

IMG_5400 IMG_5401 IMG_5402

The direction of our flight took us over the RV park where my camper is located. I searched and found my camper. My camper is on the right in the center photo below, to my left is Erin and Joe’s camper, and to the left of that is Mary and Denny’s camper. To the right of my camper is David’s camper.

IMG_5412 IMG_5413 IMG_5427

We had a great flight, and Scott found a street he wanted to land in. Thankfully, Paul and Keralyn got there ahead of us and they caught the drop line… Outstanding catch. We landed in the street between two walls and sidewalks. I didn’t realize it at the time I took the pictures as we were landing, but in one of the pictures below is the shadow of our balloon just before we landed.

IMG_5503 IMG_5504 IMG_5507 IMG_5513 IMG_5515 IMG_5577

For some of the landings during the Balloon Fiesta event we landed in dirt fields, other times we landed on paved or grassy surfaces. We all liked landing on grass or on a road better than the dirt with brush and stickers. One of the days we landed on a dirt road, our clothes sure got full of dust. My navy blue pants and red jacket looked almost beige.

When I wasn’t crewing, I worked at the Balloon Discovery Center Tent, sponsored  by 7 Eleven. They gave out Slurpee’s and candy. In our tent there were exhibits and banners explaining various aspects of balloons, such as size, shapes, types, crewing, and also a flight simulator where people could stand in a basket and virtually fly and land a balloon. There was also an craft area where children could color paper hot air balloons, an activity booklet, or decorate one with stickers and take the item home with them. One of the exhibits in the Balloon Discovery Tent is a banner of the Smokey the Bear balloon. It shows the dimensions of various parts of the balloon.

IMG_4839 IMG_4841 IMG_4853 IMG_4855 IMG_4856 IMG_4865

IMG_4846 IMG_4863 IMG_4864


NASA also shared our tent space and they had many exhibits about various aspects of space flight and related items.

IMG_4850 IMG_4851

Over the 3 years that I have crewed and volunteered, and that Scott has answered my questions and explained various aspects of ballooning, weather, etc. I have found that when I volunteer in the tent that I am able to answer lots of questions that visitors ask and I can also explain what I have learned from hands on experience. It definitely makes it more interesting for me and I’m sure for the visitors. When they ask what they should see or do, I know what I find interesting and I recommend things to them, such as going to the pilot briefing at 6:15 a.m. Pilot’s briefing is very interesting. This is where the pilots receive information on the wind conditions, wind speeds at various levels, and the weather conditions. It’s also announced what pilots have done something outstanding that they are recognized for, or what pilots have done something they shouldn’t like fly too low over the field. It is a good feeling when I’m asked how the pilot changes flight direction that I can explain it, the same goes for other questions. If I don’t know the answer, I try to find it out for the person, or if no one is available to provide an answer, I ask Scott and then I have the knowledge the next time I’m asked.

Between crewing and volunteering for the morning and afternoon shifts, I tried to get a nap of an hour or two before reporting back to my volunteer station. I had about 3 days where the pain was a bit too intense, so I just took it easy and didn’t volunteer the afternoon shift on one day. There were 5 days of spectacular fireworks. Every evening of fireworks was a different fireworks show. They had the most unusual fireworks that I have ever seen. Some nights I watched from the field, other nights I watched from my camper. Thanks to Mary and Denny, and Roy, I got to watch NCIS and NCIS NO, and NCIS LA at their campers.

This year the temperatures were mild compared to previous years when I was there. The coldest morning the temperatures were in the low 50s and it warmed up to the 70s and maybe 80 degrees. In 2011 and 2012 there were days when it was in the low 30s and we had frost on our shoes. This was a pleasant change.

There are many side stories about my time at the Balloon Fiesta. I want to share some of these stories with you, however, they are not in any particular order. As a volunteer we are served breakfast beginning at 4:30 a.m., yes really. I was at the balloon field before 5:00 a.m. every morning. Our usual breakfast was either a breakfast burrito or eggs, sausage, and a roll. One morning I only ate a little so I took a burrito with me to eat later. I wasn’t very hungry, and I was busy crewing and volunteering so after my shift was over about 11:00 a.m. and I was walking to get the bus back to the campground, I stopped at one of the food vendors who sells burritos and asked him if he thought the burrito I got at 5:00 a.m. was still good to eat. He asked to see it, and when I gave it to him he handed it to one of his workers and told him to throw it away and give me a fresh, hot breakfast burrito. I told him it wasn’t necessary and I didn’t expect him to give me one. He said he knew that, and that’s why he did, and he didn’t want me to take a chance on getting sick. I thanked him and went on my way back to the RV park.

When I got back to my camper, I ate part of the burrito before taking a nap before my next shift. The next morning I went by the burrito booth and thanked them, I found out by asking that the man’s name is Bryan. We talked a while and got to share our stories a bit. Every time I walked by his booth, I stopped and said hello to Bryan and his crew. I also bought a burrito the next day and then the last morning of the Balloon Fiesta I stopped by their booth and bought some tortillas they were selling because they had so many extras. I gave several packages away to people in the RV park, and Bryan told his staff to give me an extra burrito and pack of tortillas for me since I have a long trip ahead of me. I offered to pay for the entire purchase, but he insisted on giving me some food at no cost. I thanked Bryan and the guys again and made my way to the camper.

I have a friend named Carol Anderson who is a single woman traveler like me. In fact, she has been an inspiration to me since 2011 when I first found her online. I met Carol in 2012 when we were both at the Balloon Fiesta at the same time. Carol is an extraordinary woman and a truly gifted writer. She has had a website many more years than I have. I found her website when I was checking to see if anyone had carolsadventures when I decided that’s what I wanted to use. It turns out her website is similar to the one I wanted to use and I wrote and asked if she minded me using carolsadventures, she was gracious and said it was okay with her, that’s how we met. Check out Carol’s website and stories. Carol volunteered as a Greeter this year at the Balloon Fiesta, so on the mornings she worked I stopped by the gate where she was stationed to say hello and visit for a while before I reported to crew for Scott.

todd jelly bellyThere are many tents lined along the midway. Many are food vendors, and there are also lots selling various items like jewelry, pins, shirts and merchandise, chairs, etc. Other tents are of places to visit, state police, casinos, and civic organizations. A few days into the Balloon Fiesta I saw a large tent that said Jelly Belly. I had to stop and check it out. They had a wheel to spin for a treat, which was usually small packages of Jelly Belly’s. I started talking to one of the men, his name is Todd, he’s on the right in the above photo. I told him how I’ve been buying many 4 pound containers of Jelly Belly’s at Costco and I eat a lot of them while reading, and doing jigsaw puzzles, and I also give the containers as gifts. I also mentioned that I eat them to get rid of the bad taste my pain medicine leaves in my mouth because it’s bitter. Todd was extremely kind and he put handfuls of the small Jelly Belly packages in my tote bag so I could keep them in my pocketbook or pockets to have for when they are needed, and for me to share with others. I really appreciate his kindness.

One day when I got back to my camper at about 11:30 a.m., I took a nap and woke suddenly and knew I had to get to the Balloon Fiesta office, I thought it was so I could use their wifi to upload my photos and create a story. When I got to the kitchen to set up my computer there was a woman there eating lunch and a man at the soda machine. He offered to buy a soda for the woman and me. I declined at first, but he insisted. After he sat down with us we started talking. He looked really tired and he said that about a month ago he was diagnosed with cancer and that he is on pills as a form of chemotherapy. It’s zapping his strength and causing him not to feel well along with other symptoms. I knew then that God woke me up and told me to go to the Balloon Fiesta office for a reason. The timing was perfect, a few minutes either way and our paths would not have crossed. I shared parts of my life story and journey with cancer and what I’m going through now with him and I gave him my contact information. He also has a strong belief in God and a positive attitude. I’m so grateful that we were able to talk and share our stories with each other. I know that having someone to share with that has been where I am or going through what I have been through helped me and I have a strong feeling that by sharing together it gave him hope and encouragement. I also loaded some of my peaceful relaxing music and the healing meditation on a flash drive for him. I hope he uses it and finds the peace that it brings to me. Please keep him and his family and friends in your prayers. I told him that I would ask my friends to keep him in their prayers and he said that would be fine.

geico lizardIt rained a few times during the Balloon Fiesta and twice there were full arc rainbows. There were a few afternoons where the sunset was beautiful colors. Geico had a booth on the midway and I had my picture taken with the Geico lizard. One of the mornings when I arrived at the field, I looked at the moon and noticed there was an eclipse and the moon was a reddish color. Other people were looking at the moon too, when it wasn’t trying to go behind clouds. I was told it was called a blood moon and that it was also an eclipse and a rare sight to see. I don’t have a picture because I didn’t think it would come out good in a photo.


sunset 2 sunsetIMG_6469 IMG_6466

IMG_6472On Saturday afternoon I connected with my friends Barbara and Eileen who live near me in Florida and are on a trip with a tour company. They are visiting several National Parks in southwestern states and their first stop was the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was nice to see them and spend some time together.

Once again, I was the unofficial crew photographer, I always give Scott a flash drive with all of the pictures I take at Balloon Fiesta and I make sure I take lots of pictures of his balloon being inflated and packed and I try to also get his crew and family in the pictures too. In between, I take pictures of balloons inflating and lifting off of the field. Since we are on the far north side of the field, I don’t get pictures of balloons in mid field or to the south. Now that I am an experienced crew hand I know a bit more about how to help without being told, and what to watch out for as the balloon is inflating or landing. I also learned to always have my gloves handy.

I took way too many photos to post in my album, so I selected pictures I thought would be the most interesting to look at. I took almost 2,600 pictures during my 2 weeks at the Balloon Fiesta event, this photo album contains many of the pictures. This includes the 9 days of the actual Balloon Fiesta, the Balloon Museum album contains those photos. The winds on the last day were too high, so there were no balloons inflating or flying. In fact, Sunday afternoon when we were back in our campers the winds were so strong that not only was my camper rocking, so were others. I was in Mary and Denny’s motorhome and it was rocking too. I shared the photos I took with Mary and Denny, and also a few other people. It’s so easy to get carried away taking pictures, and digital cameras make it so easy.

When deciding whether or not to make the long trip to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta and stopping along the way both there and back to see friends, I wasn’t sure that physically I would be up to the challenge because I was having some physically difficult and painful days for several weeks before I was due to leave town. I decided to make the trip and if I could complete it great, and if not, than whatever I was able to do would be find. Thankfully, I made my furthest western destination Albuquerque. I’m so grateful that I made the trip. Yes, there were some painful days and yes there were some amazing experiences. They all are part of my journey and I’m so glad I made the trip. As I write this post I think about all I would have missed experiencing and the people I would not have met if I hadn’t taken this trip. Once again, I choose to live life to the fullest… that’s all we can do. I still want to cram as much into life as possible until I can’t do it anymore.

On my way east towards Texas, I stopped at the New Mexico Horse Rescue Ranch, Walkin N Circles Ranch to see their facility and check it out for a story on my website, and also to see what they do and what their needs are for the possibility of donating funds to help them. The staff members seem to really care about the horses and the horses get fed proper diets for their condition. It is really sad that animals are abused and/or abandoned. This facility is using hydroponics to grow grasses to feed the animals because not only does it have more nutrients, but it also saves them money if they don’t have to buy grain and hay. As you can see in the pictures, there is no grass growing on this horse ranch, so hay and feed has to be purchased or grown in order to feed the horses. A wagon load of hay costs approximately $5,000 and it lasts almost 3 months. The hydroponic grains that they grow on the ranch feeds approximately 15 or 16 horses. I was told there are usually at least 70 horses on the ranch, sometimes even 100 horses.  If you are looking for an organization to donate to, I would recommend this one in addition to others that I mention in previous posts.

IMG_6476 IMG_6508 IMG_6511 IMG_6516 IMG_6522 IMG_6530

IMG_6495 IMG_6496 IMG_6498

After my visit at the horse ranch, I continued heading east towards Texas.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 1 Comment

Albuquerque Balloon Museum, and arrival at Balloon RV Park

On Thursday, September 25th, I went to SuperCuts to have my hair washed before heading to the RV lot near the Balloon Fiesta Grounds. I also stopped at the grocery store and at the propane dealer to get my propane tank filled. Because I volunteered to help set up the Balloon Discovery Tent on Saturday, September 27th, I was able to get into the RV lot a few days earlier, it opens to the public on Monday, September 29th. Currently, there are not many campers in the lot, by the weekend and throughout this event, there will be over 1,800 RVs. Sometimes 800 or so arrive in a day.

The RV lot volunteers made chalklines throughout the RV lot which is many acres in space, so that they know where to park the campers. It rained and washed their marks away. Sunday it was sunny, so they remarked the spaces. Then Sunday it rained and washed them away again, so they had to remark the field for the 3rd time. The building in photo on the right below is a General Mills cereal plant. They make Cocoa Puffs and some type of berry cereal. When they are baking the cereal we can smell the sweetness and flavor. At night when they burn off the ovens, it smells like burnt toast.

IMG_4334 IMG_4340 IMG_4342

When I arrived at the RV lot, a RV park volunteer named Roy, who I met when I was here in 2011 and who I talk with periodically, showed me where to park my camper. Thankfully, it’s a level space near where I parked in previous years. It’s pretty convenient to the bus stops for the shuttle bus to the Balloon Fiesta, and not too far from water faucets and the garbage dumpster. I also saw and talked with several other volunteers that I met in previous years.

On Friday, September 26th, which happened to also be my 64th birthday, I went to the Balloon Fiesta office to see what items they have available. I always like to browse at the many items they have for sale. I was talking with one of the volunteers working in the gift shop and I was telling her about my website, what a surprise I had when I pulled up the website and saw that Pam had posted Birthday Wishes and a virtual cake and basket of flowers on my website. It really touched my heart. I had several phone calls and emails wishing me a happy birthday. How wonderful to have so many people care about me. I’m glad I made the trip out west, what a great way to celebrate my birthday again… at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

About mid-afternoon, a couple arrived at the RV lot and they were being parked next to me. It turns out that they told Roy that it’s their first time at the Balloon Fiesta and that they are volunteering at the Balloon Discovery Tent, so Roy parked them next to me. Their names are Erin and Joe, and their children are an eight year old boy named Zack and a six year old girl named Reagan. We talked for a while and since it is their first time here and also volunteering, I shared my experience with them and gave them some helpful hints and info that I found helpful during my previous two times here and also volunteering. While I was talking with them, a friend called to wish me a happy birthday. When Erin and Joe heard it was my birthday, Erin offered to bake a chocolate fudge type cake for me. I thought that was so nice of them. Roy called and said he made meatballs and spaghetti for dinner for a covered dish meal for the volunteers, and he invited me to come over and eat dinner with him before he brought the dish to the RV lot volunteer dinner. It was a nice birthday and what a surprise to have dinner and dessert made for me.

On Saturday, September 28th, Joe, Erin, Zack, Reagan, and I arrived at the Balloon Discovery Tent at 8:00 a.m. to help with setup. There were quite a number of volunteers and we did as much as we could with the items available. The tables and chairs and other items were not delivered yet, so we went back on Sunday and Monday to work more on getting the tent prepared for opening day on Saturday, October 4th. The Albuquerque Box table really needed some sprucing up so the five of us did that on Monday. It looks lots better than it did.

joe erin carolOn Sunday, September 29th, after we finished with setup at the tent, Joe, Erin, and their children and I went to the Balloon Museum. It turns out on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. is free admission. Joe was taking panoramic pictures with his phone, he showed me how to do it on my phone. I’ve had my phone since 2011 and never knew I could take panoramic photos with it. It turns out that Joe knows a lot about computers and he helped me find a good tablet at a reasonable price. I’ve been wanting one for quite a while but didn’t know what one to buy. I ordered it and it should be delivered to my balloon pilots house on Monday. Joe said he will show me how to use it and install apps that I can use for various activities and also for things that will be handy when I travel.

Back to the Balloon Museum… We found it very interesting to read the storyboards throughout the museum. I really learned a lot that I didn’t know, not only about hot air balloons for the fiesta, but also how balloons were used during several wars, and for weather purposes. They had displays for balloons and other aircraft that went across the oceans and around the world. I took pictures of the storyboards and aircraft and they are in the album I posted. You can click on the pictures to read the stories. There are so many interesting stories, it would take lots of space and time to write all of them. I am only posting a few here, feel free to explore the album to read more.

IMG_4417One of the most surprising stories I read was about how over 1,000 school children in Japan were enlisted to make Fugo balloon bombs. They didn’t know that’s what they were making and many of the students when they got older were grief-stricken when they realized what happened. Here is one of the stories written in the display, there are several in this grouping, you can read them in my album.

Another display was about commemorative postage stamps with hot air balloons. I recognized these stamps because earlier this year my friend Jack in Fort Worth sent me a block of them he collected years ago, so I could add it to my door poster.

IMG_4496 IMG_4497






There is a sculpture of a girl and if you click on the photo, and look closely at the bright colored ribbon she is holding, you can see that it’s probably thousands of very tiny origami paper cranes connected together. Many years ago, when I lived in Fort Worth, I belonged to an Origami Club and we made lots of these cranes. I also made them when I traveled in airports and gave them to children who were waiting for flights.







There are hands on exhibits in the museum where people can attach pieces of fabric to make a balloon envelope, there is also a flight simulator where a person stands in a gondola basket and using the instructions on a sign virtually flies a hot air balloon and tries to land it on a target. This is an exhibit that gets moved to the Balloon Discovery Tent during the Balloon Fiesta. It’s one of the most popular exhibits. Zack and Reagan had fun  flying the balloon.

IMG_4485 IMG_4484 IMG_4483 IMG_4482 IMG_4480 IMG_4481

Next to the virtual balloon flight was a mural, when I looked more closely, it turns out it is a jigsaw puzzle. I have seen this puzzle at the jigsaw puzzle store near where I live. If I remember correctly, I think it’s a puzzle that has 32,000 pieces. If not, it has 25,000 pieces. It took volunteers about six months to assemble this puzzle. Most of the pieces are the same shape and not very large. I remember talking with the owner of the puzzle store and he says that when puzzles are very large in size, there are several bags in the box, each bag represents a section of the puzzle. Also, when I was looking in the museum gift shop, they had many puzzles, including several by Lori Schory who if you have been reading my posts know that she is now a friend of mine since I assemble many of her special shape puzzles. I sent her an email informing her that her puzzles are in the museum gift shop.

IMG_4468  IMG_4476 IMG_4478 IMG_4486  IMG_4472 IMG_4477


Friday, October 3rd, I will be crewing for Scott and we will be inflating a balloon at an elementary school so the children can see the balloon being inflated, and get in the balloon basket and have their pictures taken. It’s great to see their excitement when the balloon stands up and they can get close to it. I went with Scott in 2012 when we went to a different school.

The Balloon Fiesta begins Saturday, October 4th, so I will be crewing and volunteering through Sunday, October 12th. I will try to write another story sometime next week, if I get a chance.We have free afternoons Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. If you are wondering about how I’m feeling, I’m doing pretty well. I have had a few days when the pain was a bit intense. Thankfully, it was during the days before the Balloon Fiesta begins so I was able to take my medicine, nap and relax. If I hurt during the event, I will take my medicine and do what I can.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday Carol!

HappyBirthdayCarolHappiness and blessings to our very special friend!

Carol, I hope you’re enjoying an absolutely wonderful adventure
and please know lots of love and warm wishes are on their way!



Posted in 2014 Trip | 1 Comment

Oklahoma City National Memorial, and Albert Gray Eagle and Studio 222, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

After camping in Arkansas for several days, I arrived in Oklahoma City and parked in front of my friend Albert Gray Eagle’s house for a couple of days while visiting with Albert, his niece Tori, and his wife Penny… and their 2 dogs and 3 cats. I’m really glad I planned this trip to stop and visit with them for a few days before heading to Albuquerque. Other thank visiting and catching up on life, I got to also take a shower and wash my clothes.

Albert and Tori work with Studio 222, to provide educational experiences to children. Further down in this post is my story on Studio 222. On the way to Studio 222 on Tuesday, we drove through downtown Oklahoma City and Albert pointed in the direction of where the Federal Building bombing happened in 1995, and a memorial park has been created. I asked if we could stop by it Wednesday on our way to Studio 222 so I could see it and take pictures. The new building is a few blocks away.

We left about an hour early on Wednesday, so we could have enough time to walk around the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It was a pretty emotional experience, especially looking at the chain link fence where there are so many items that people left, and continue to leave, remembering their loved ones and the event of that day. Seeing where the day care center was very touching as well. The Reflecting Pool down the middle of the Memorial area, the Survivor Tree, and the Field of Empty Chairs really made an impact of the events of that day, as did other parts of the outdoor memorial. I took lots of pictures while we were there, including the signs, they are in my photo album. I think you should be able to read them if you click on them to enlarge. Click on the 2nd photo down on the right and read the text in the rectangle above the window.

IMG_4179 IMG_4181 IMG_4183 IMG_4186 IMG_4199 IMG_4212 IMG_4215 IMG_4226IMG_4237 IMG_4241IMG_4235 IMG_4254 IMG_4274 IMG_4259IMG_4262

The story and significance of how the various parts of the park reflect the events is amazing. Parts of the original building still stand, and the Field of Empty Chairs is even arranged to represent the events of the day and destruction of the building. Each of the 168 chairs symbolize a life lost, with smaller chairs representing the 19 children killed. The chairs are arranged in nine rows, one for each of the nine floors of the building. They are placed according to the floor on which those killed were working or visiting. Each bronze and stone chair rests on a glass base etched with the name of a victim. If you are interested in reading more about this Memorial, you can enlarge the signs in the pictures in my album, or go to the the Oklahoma City National Memorial website.

IMG_4200 IMG_4208  IMG_4209IMG_4215 IMG_4229IMG_4233

There are hand painted tiles in the area where the day care center was located, and on the walkway in front of the wall of tiles there are large pieces of slate where people can draw and leave messages.

IMG_4295 IMG_4294 IMG_4293 IMG_4290 IMG_4282 IMG_4284


On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons for a 9 week period, Albert and Tori go to Studio 222. I went with them this Tuesday and Wednesday. Studio 222 works with local school personnel as well as professional artists from the Oklahoma City area in order to provide a positive environment where inner city youth from high-poverty areas can develop a strong, healthy self-esteem and resilience against at-risks behaviors. This after school program provides leadership and character-building programs, visual and performing arts curriculum, and physical fitness activities. They provide a meal for the children, and sometimes, this is the only food they have all day. Many of these children come from less than ideal home situations. I got to meet several of the children, and saw the artwork they created. I also listened to Albert and Tori teach 5 boys how to play a song on the Native American cane flutes that they made.

I was impressed with many of the art projects the children made, including this large mural of a brick wall. The background is a large piece of fabric painted gray. Then pieces of foam were painted a brick color and glued to the background. Then it looks like graffiti and images were painted on the wall. It was really cool.

IMG_4316 IMG_4331 IMG_4327

IMG_4317 IMG_4318 IMG_4323 IMG_4325 IMG_4328IMG_4333

We were watching the weather and it looked like Oklahoma City was going to get heavy rains over the weekend, so I left this morning in order to miss the rain. I felt pretty good today, so I put in a long day of driving. I did stop frequently for breaks, gas, snacks, etc. This afternoon, I arrived in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and I stopped in a RV Park that has wifi so I could write the stories of my adventures the past week, and also upload my pictures to photo albums.

Tomorrow, I drive to Albuquerque, where I will be until October 12 or 13. I’m looking forward to attending the Balloon Fiesta, where I will also be crewing on the same balloon as in 2o11 and 2012, and I will be volunteering in the Balloon Discovery Center too. It will be nice to see the volunteers and friends I know from my previous years here. During the actual event, there will be live cam coverage on the Balloon Fiesta website.

Emotional Mojo just sent me the link for the you tube video interview they did with me before I left Florida. Here is a link to the story I wrote when they first contacted me. They have lots of interesting and inspirational videos on their website.

Healthwise, I am doing remarkably well. I am extremely grateful that the pain has been been minimal for the most part. I take my medicine when needed, and it has been controlling the pain. When I drive, I take frequent breaks and stop for gas, snacks, and naps when needed. I’ve been able to drive about 300-325 or so miles a day usually, rather than the 200 miles I anticipated. Because I was ahead of schedule, I was able to spend several days camping and exploring Arkansas which I really enjoyed. Sometimes, I drive for an hour or so and then stop for a short nap, about 30 minutes, then I continue on. It seems to be working just fine. Other times, I can drive with only breaks for gas or snacks, then continue on. I find that by between 2 and 3 p.m. I am pretty much finished with driving for the day, by then my body seems to feel sore and ready to stop.

I am not sure when I will have wifi to update my website again. I’m guessing it will be sometime during the Balloon Fiesta, in early October, when I walk up to their headquarters near the campground so I can use their wifi to upload pictures and write a story.

Posted in 2014 Trip | 2 Comments