Great Texas Balloon Race, Longview, Texas

I arrived in Longview, Texas, early this afternoon after finishing my crewing tasks in Shreveport. I came early so that I could help assemble pilot packets and do pilot registration. Thankfully, at Maud Cobb Convention Center where the pilot registration took place there is a campground with electric hookups so I am staying here until Friday morning when I have to move out to the regional airport where the balloon rally takes place. There is no electricity there so I will do the best I can to stay cool when I am not working the gates or crewing for a balloon. Several pilots that were in Shreveport also came to participate in this event, and I also saw several balloons I had not seen before which is a nice surprise. Several pilots I have met at other events and it was nice to see them and catch up on life. There is an album with all of the pictures I took at the Longview balloon rally.

Since I was there a few days before the competition began, and there was time for some practice flights, I went around to various pilots asking if they needed crew. I found a couple from Longview, Joe and Lynn who have a balloon repair business and it was just the two of them, so I crewed for them the entire time I was in Longview. It worked out pretty good and I did some tasks I had not done before which made it more interesting for me. It’s very different crewing when there are only 3 or 4 people than when there are 6 or more. Joe didn’t usually many choices where he landed and twice it took us quite a bit of time and effort to get to him because we couldn’t find the roads to get back to where he was, or we finally got to where he was and had to find people to open gates so we could get into a pasture. One day we landed in a locked gated pasture that took us about an hour to get to and when we got there I realized I was in that same place last year when I crewed for a different pilot. One morning after we were packed up and driving back to drop me off at my camper, we passed a balloon that landed near a main road and the crew was having trouble handling the balloon envelope with the winds blowing it towards the road. Joe did a u-turn and we quickly got out of the truck and helped the crew get the balloon down and thankfully there was no damage to the balloon or any of the crew. It was a bit scary for a while when the winds kept trying to take the envelope towards the road, a mailbox, ditch, etc. we were glad to be able to help.

Joe and Lynn’s balloon is called the Spirit of Texas and it displays five different Texas flags from different periods of time. The balloon envelope is about 69,000 cubic feet and it is a traditional shaped balloon. For some reason it seemed a larger size. Joe said it could be because of the wide white band in the design. One of the mornings we were on crew we stopped in a parking lot of a gas station and Whataburger and we watched the balloons fly in over the target. We decided we were hungry so while waiting for Joe to fly in and over the target we got something to eat. Some of the balloons went really high so they could catch the directional winds they wanted and drop down to the target. When that happens the balloon envelope gets to be a different shape since the winds are blowing the envelope in different directions.

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There was a party on Thursday night for everyone and it was lots of fun. On Friday afternoon I went to the gate for my assigned times, and after working the gate I went to get something to eat and then went to help Joe and Lynn set up their balloon for the glow. We also were able to listen to the concert and see all of the other balloons around us glow. It is really beautiful when the balloons glow in the dark. It’s not easy to get good pictures, especially when I am trying to hold the balloon basket down and snap photos.

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It was fun watching the balloons flying over the target, it takes a lot of skill and dependence on the winds to get the pilots from more than a mile from the target to navigate the winds at different altitudes to get the pilot to fly over a target at a designated location. Sometimes they are able to catch the winds to get them there and sometimes they aren’t. Also, when they drop their marker or beanbag down to the target, the winds can catch the item and not let it go straight down to the target. One morning I saw the moon in the sky when a balloon was flying and another morning the sun was behind the balloons, these gave me the opportunity of taking unusual photos. Another interesting picture I took, was a bird sitting on a power line and as a balloon got closer, I took a picture where it looks like the bird is almost sitting on the balloon.

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On Saturday afternoon, I worked my shift at the gate, got something to eat, and saw that the weather was getting bad. We could see rain off in the distance and hear the thunder. Then the lightening began and we knew that the balloon glow would be cancelled. Then the heavy rains came and everyone ran to their vehicles. It was too bad the weather turned rainy and most people left. About 10:30 p.m. or so I looked out my back door and saw a balloon or two inflate, and I heard music. The concert started late, and the band performed until early morning. I still heard the music about 12:30 a.m.

On Sunday morning I crewed again for Joe and Lynn and after we got to the field where the balloon landed and it was packed up I was driven back to my camper and I packed up and drove to Crowley west of Fort Worth to visit my friend Sue for a couple of days.

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Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship, and Challenge Coin, Shreveport, Louisiana

I arrived in Shreveport for the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship on July 12th. The Rally begins on July 13th and I have signed up to crew for several days. This is the first year Shreveport is hosting the National Championship. It changes locations every three or four years. In the previous story I wrote about my journey to Shreveport and some of the things I have been doing since I arrived here. I created a photo album with pictures I have taken at this event.

For the morning shifts, I have been assigned to a pilot named Jayson Kimball, who is from Napa Valley, California. He has been a commercial balloon pilot for about 20 years, but this is his first time in a national competition. His balloon is named Turbo. Helping him is his brother Colby and also Odin who happens to be the Mexican National Champion who will be going to Japan this year to compete in the World Competitions. And then there’s me. It’s the four of us on this team and we seem to work well together. Jayson is really excited that he is here and getting to participate. Jayson comes from a family of long time balloonists. There are about 36 balloons at this event. I found this page on the website that shows the names of the pilots and a picture of their balloon. Odin flew all the way from Mexico to help Jayson with his first national championship, that is a great friend!!!

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Since we all go in different directions in the morning trying to find the best location to launch in order to have a good flight to the various targets every day I am not able to get many pictures. Also, with just the four of us as crew we are very busy inflating, and then packing up and being the chase crew. Colby is in the basket with Jayson so it’s just Odin and me in the vehicle and we are also packing up the trailer after Jayson lifts off.

I have been getting up at 4:00 a.m. and about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. when we get back it feels like it should be mid-afternoon and I’m ready for a nap. Friday and Saturday in addition to crewing in the morning, I will be volunteering as a crew member in the afternoon. It’s nice to meet new pilots because they all seem to do something a little bit different, but it’s also nice to work with a pilot I’m familiar with because I know a little how they work and what they want me to do. However, that also is determined by how many crew members there are. I didn’t really want to pack up everything in my camper and drive a few miles to the LSU campus where the Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening events take place. I asked one of the volunteers who lives in town if she could swing by and pick me up and she said she would, it’s sort of on her way to LSU. I thanked her very much. This is her first time volunteering at a balloon rally and she loves it!!!

I saw Al Nels from Ohio who is a several time National Champion. I crewed for him in Longview, Texas, last year. His balloon is the one with the blue top and green grass. You can read the story about his special balloon in July 2015 Great Texas Balloon Race story if you are interested. Everything on his balloon has family meaning. The balloon with the multi-colored squares in a geometric design is Jayson’s balloon, this is the one I am crewing for this year. The pictures  of Jayson’s balloon are as he is coming in over the targets during practice on Wednesday morning.

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Jayson is a commercial hot air balloon pilot, he says that he frequently pilots a balloon that is 300,000 cubic feet and it holds 24 passengers. The balloon he is flying here is about 56,000 cubic feet and it’s a racing balloon which reacts very quickly to the propane burners rather than the larger balloon envelope which reacts more slowly. In fact, it was interesting watching the balloons this morning, the winds were very different in the air and many of the balloons were affected by this difference. The top and bottom of the balloon looked like they were at an angle rather than straight due to the wind differences. I don’t have a picture of this, and it’s a bit difficult to explain. I guess if you look at the pictures above you can see a slight slant to the balloon envelope. Sometimes, if the winds are blowing a lot the balloon even looks like it’s collapsing on one side as it’s swayed by the winds. On Thursday, July 14th, the winds were really picking up and when Jayson landed he came in pretty fast and hard, and there were only two of us to try and stop the basket. We got it done and got the balloon envelope down quickly. I’m glad I wasn’t in the basket when it landed.

Friday, July 15th: The winds were not the best for flying, but these balloon pilots are determined to compete whenever the conditions are safe. The winds were supposed to be getting worse as the morning progressed so the pilots and crew all rushed to their vehicles after pilot briefing and we went to the best location for launching and being able to fly to the targets. Many of the balloon teams went to the same location which was a church with a very large grassy lot next to it. I’m guessing there were about 14 balloons that launched from this site. When I was talking with my friend Jeanie in the afternoon it turns out her team launched from the same site as my team. I was able to get lots of good pictures today. Also, Colby gave me a few pictures he took from the air, and also one of me holding the balloon envelope open while the balloon was inflating. There is a yellow balloon that has cats on the balloon, it’s pretty cool to look at. There are many balloons that I have not seen at other balloon events.

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We went to the LSUS campus in the afternoon for the evening glow and concert, but the weather did not cooperate and the winds were really high, then instead of the balloon glow, concert, and fireworks show that was supposed to happen later on tonight, God decided to give us a big display of lights, sound, and wind, provided by Nature. There were high winds, lightning, and then heavy rain. Jeanie and I ran to her car but we still got soaked. It was really sad because all of the people came out to see the show and some wanted tethered rides. We will try again on Saturday. Before the event was canceled, we all went into the gym to wait and see if the storm would pass and allow us to set up the balloons for the glow, but it turns out after about an hour or so it was only getting worse.

While we were in the hallway at the gym, I saw a young boy, probably about a year old in a wheelchair and there was a sign on the chair saying: Please do not touch me, my bones are brittle and break easily. I prayed for the little boy and his family and thought of all of the things he would not be able to do and how carefully he had to be handled for any activity or life experience, even changing his diaper, or dressing him. Once again, I got to be extremely grateful for my life and physical condition. Before I left home I was in a lot of pain, and I prayed and asked God to please lessen my pain. So far, God has been answering my prayer. The pain has not been too bad and I am able to take my medicine when it is and just relax and not drive.

Saturday, July 16th: I got up in the morning and went to the hotel lobby and found out that the winds and weather were not good for flying so the morning event was canceled. The organizers said that they could use help going to the field and getting it ready for the evening events, so I went and helped. The field was wet and the barricades blew over, but other than that things were okay. The rain really cooled the temperatures, it was 75 degrees at about 7:00 a.m. which felt really good after the high 90’s we have been having. The little fridge in my camper is having trouble staying cool with the hot temperature and me not having electrical connections. So, I went into the hotel restaurant and got some ice in a few small containers I have and I put them in the fridge. I change the melted ice for real ice twice a day and it seems to be helping to keep the fridge cooler. I have a little bit of food that I don’t feel safe eating because the fridge thermometer was not in the zone that I felt was food safe. I also run the generator for about half hour in the morning and afternoon to charge the batteries and also I think it helps the fridge to operate better, at least I hope it does.

Saturday evening: Tonight is beautiful weather for the evening events. There was live entertainment and as it got dark approximately 32 hot air balloons inflated and glowed for about an hour. It was an awesome site to see. I crewed for Jayson and since we have all been working together all week I know more about how he likes things done. After the balloons were packed up the fireworks show began and fireworks exploded in the sky producing a beautiful light show for about 20 minutes. When Jeanie and I arrived at the LSUS parking lot we parked in a spot that would allow us to leave easily without waiting in long lines of traffic and it worked great. Partway though the fireworks display we began walking to the car to get ahead of the crowd and we would stop every now and then to watch the fireworks. By the time they were finished we were at the car. I wish the weather last night was this good, but I guess we needed the rain last night.

I am still getting used to my new camera and when it’s dark I can’t see the settings to change them for night pictures, so the evening photos are using the automatic setting. I didn’t take pictures of the fireworks. I know the camera has a fireworks setting, I need to practice finding it so I can take fireworks pictures in Albuquerque where they have five nights of spectacular fireworks. Sometimes when I take pictures I turn the camera sideways to take a picture. I download it to my computer and the pictures all look like they are the correct way, nothing looks sideways. However, after I insert pictures in my post, for some strange reason, the ones I took holding the camera sideways the pictures look that way, and I have to go into edit and rotate them. It also does the same thing in the photo album sometimes. This is a bit frustrating and also time consuming to rotate the pictures but I want to do that so that when you look at the pictures they are facing the correct way. I took a short 25 second video of the balloons flying over the target but the file was too large to insert in this post. It’s at the end of the photo album pictures.

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Sunday, July 17th: I met Jayson in the lobby in the morning and we drove to the location he wanted to launch from. There were several balloons launching from this spot, but not as many as the other morning. As soon as Odin finished tying down the equipment we began our journey following the balloon to the first target location. We arrived in time to watch quite a few pilots fly over the target and throw their markers. It’s really interesting to watch the pilots navigate the winds from a few miles away and actually get to where the target which is X is on the ground, or where a pole is that they drop a plastic ring about 12″ in diameter over the end of the pole. There is a lot of skill and knowledge involved in competition.

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After watching the pilots trying to get their bean bags on the target, we kept going until we arrived where Jayson decided to land his balloon. He landed in some red dirt on a road where we were not able to get the vehicle down due to a gate. So, Odin and I walked around the gate and go to the balloon and Jayson kept it slightly off the ground while Odin and I walked it down the road and over a few mounds of high grass and dirt to a flat dirt field where we could lay the balloon down and pack it. Our shoes and the balloon envelope had a layer of red dirt, but that’s part of ballooning, we never know where the landing places will be until it happens.

I decided to stay here until Monday so that I could crew for Jayson one more day to make it easier for him. I got more ice for my little fridge to help it stay a bit cooler and I threw away some food that I didn’t feel safe eating since the temperature was not in the safe food zone.

On Monday, after I finish crewing for Jayson, I will leave Shreveport and head towards Longview, Texas, which is about an hour and a half or so west of here. I am updating this story at 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, July 17th.

Monday, July 18th: When I showed up to sign in for crewing this morning John Storey, who also goes by Stormy, asked if today was my last day at this event and I said it was. He reached into his pocket and presented me with a Challenge Coin. He said he was a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and when he retired after 27 years he had these Challenge Coins made with the name he was known by which is Stormy. He said that these coins are given out to to people who go above and beyond and do something extra special. John was a volunteer at this balloon event and was mostly in charge of the crew volunteers, among other responsibilities. He said that he had these coins made in Turkey by a friend that makes them because he didn’t want to be restricted to giving them out like the Air Force requirements state. I was extremely surprised that he gave me this very special coin and the honor I felt for receiving it was overwhelming and a huge surprise. I didn’t know about these types of coins. I stayed a few extra days and worked a few extra shifts to make it easier for John and the pilots and I also did other tasks when it was needed.

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After this unexpected surprise by John, I met my pilot Jayson and went to crew for him. Since today was my last day, John assigned Robin to help us because she could crew for Jayson the rest of the days of competition. I introduced her to Jayson, Colby, and Odin and explained what we needed to do to help them with the balloon and chase crew. Robin said this is her first time being involved with hot air balloons and she was so excited to join us and help. Watching her joy and wonder as she saw the balloons laid out, inflating, and flying was contagious. Odin drove and we tried to keep track of the balloon and we got to some of the targets to watch the balloons fly over them. Robin took lots of pictures, including some of me. It was a fun day and we got to enjoy our time together before I left for the balloon rally in Longview, Texas.

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Traveling west on another expedition… time for another journey!!! AND UPDATE as I traveled to Shreveport for hot air balloon rally.

I left home this morning on another journey west. Maybe next year I will leave earlier and head in a different direction… that is if God has it the plan for meto take another long trip. For now, I am blessed and grateful I’m able to take this one.

Getting me and the camper ready for this trip has taken a lot of thought and planning, not so much for the route, but researching ways to keep my camper cooler inside, especially when I am not hooked to electricity which will happen mostly in the beginning of this trip while I am in Shreveport, LA, and east Texas for hot air balloon events. I have dry camped many times in the ten years I have owned my camper van so I know I can do it and survive okay. The difference this year is not having the upper windows to open. This is really the same as dry camping when it’s raining because I couldn’t open those windows when it was raining. In previous posts I wrote about what I have done to try to keep the interior cooler and why. After reading the post when I wrote about figuring out the best way to lay out the window sizes I needed for the sunshade, one of my friends told me that all of my jigsaw puzzle experience helped me figure out the layout. I was thinking about that as I did many layouts for the various sizes I needed. It seems that no experience we have is ever wasted, we use it in many different unrelated ways.

As time passes and as I get wifi I will update my posts or this story on how successful all the things I am trying on this trip are working as far as keeping me comfortable temperature wise. Today I drove about 180 miles and stopped in a campground in Ocala, FL, and I have the air conditioning on. I’m also hoping by being plugged into electricity that my small fridge won’t have to work as hard as it does when it’s not connected.

Every day when I travel and stop for the day I text several friends and let them know my approximate location. A friend told me about a FREE app for the phone called the Life 360 app. It shows a person’s exact location when GPS is on and the people add each other to the app. I did this with one of my friends so she will know my exact location at the end of each day. This is great to keep track of family members, children, etc.

UPDATE… I arrived safely in Shreveport, Louisiana on Tuesday, July 12th. Along the way since I left home, I stopped in a few different RV parks including Percy Quin State Park near McComb, Mississippi, on I-55 which was very nice. This campground also has many nice cabins that can be rented. The weather has been really hot but I stayed in parks that had electric hookups. The first day I had great traveling weather, the second day I drove in and out of heavy rainstorms all day. I averaged about 300 miles a day of driving for four days which got me the distance to Shreveport, LA. I was able to stay at three different campgrounds for two days each in between driving. I didn’t know how far I would be able to drive each day so I left several days down time before the date I needed to be in Shreveport for the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championship in Shreveport.

When I stayed in the Percy Quin State Park, I was able to see the beautiful lake from my campsite and there was a picnic table at my campsite. Since I was going to be there for two days, I decided to work on the sunscreen material for the windows on my camper. I received the necessary suction cups and snaps before leaving home. I ordered clear snaps since my fabric is black, but the company sent white ones since they were out of the clear. I didn’t know until I called to tell them. They said when they get the clear ones they will send them to me. After seeing how much work it was and how much effort it took to put the snaps through the sunscreen material, I may just leave the white snaps in place rather than changing them out. But then again, maybe one day I will change them since they are being shipped to me on my travels.

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Since I had this really nice big picnic table at my campsite, I held the sunscreen pieces I cut up to each of the windows and attached the top of the sunshade to the top of the window glass and I tried to get it as straight and even as I could. Then I took a nail and inserted it into the screen where it would go into the top of the suction cup where the hole was for the snap, then I separated the fabric more to insert the snap. This was not easy, the screen kept trying to go back into it’s original small square shape. Finally, with much effort, I got all of the snaps inserted into the screen and suction cups, except for the front windshield. I will need some help with that window since the sunshade fabric is 72″ by 29″ and I can’t hold it up by myself and mark where the suction cups and snaps need to go.

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For my upper top windows on the side of the camper that used to open and now are sealed closed, I wrote about that in previous stories, I put the sunscreen on the inside of the window and leave it up all of the time, even when I put the silver reflectix over it to keep the sun out. I really wish I was able to open those upper windows, I really miss having that cross breeze and hearing the sounds of nature when I’m camping, but it’s not meant to be at this time. When I had the sunshade fabric on the driver and passenger windows at the campground I did open those windows to get some air during the daytime. And at the Wyndham Hotel where I am in Shreveport I am opening the windows when I’m inside during the day without the screens. So far I have not had many bugs come inside, other than lots of ants. I put ant traps in the camper so hopefully soon the ants will be gone.

While I am in Shreveport volunteering at the balloon rally, I am parked in the hotel parking lot in a spot that gets shady in the afternoon, it’s on the side of the building and so far no one has told me I can’t park there, thankfully. Otherwise I would have to drive a few miles down the street and park at Walmart and drive back and forth every day which I really don’t want to do since I need to be at the hotel about 5:00 a.m. to meet with the pilot I am assigned to. It has been as high as mid 90’s in my camper. To keep me a bit cooler, I have a small fan that has a USB connection so I plug it into either my auxiliary battery with a 12 volt adapter, or I use an external power supply to run it which allows me a little more flexibility where I can place it since I don’t have to deal with a small length cable. During part of the day I come in the lobby and visit with balloon people, or like now update my website and write stories. I go back into the camper during the day and take a nap when needed.

Also, I have been using my battery operated LED lights that I bought to read which seems to be working well and it keeps the heat down since my regular light bulbs put out a lot of heat. One of the campgrounds I stayed in outside of Shreveport in a town near Homer and Minton, LA is called Kels Kove. It’s a Passport America campground on a nice lake and it has cabins and RV sites. I found a few sites I could use, but it turns out I could not get very level in them, and the ones I could it seems the electric was not working. Finally, I drove around the campground and found a site under a tree that was pretty level. I asked if I could use that spot and even though it was a 50 amp and I only need a 30 amp they let me use it and I have an adapter that would let me connect to the higher amp box. It worked out pretty well for two days. However, other then that location being about 20 miles north of I-20, there was no phone, text, or internet service. I couldn’t even send a text to let my friends know I arrived safely. I tried calling, no call would connect.

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In addition, when I got there and got out of my camper I noticed that the two driver side hubcaps were missing. They were there in the morning when I left the Mississippi state park. Maybe they came off when I was going driving the rough roads with construction near Vicksburg, MS. I don’t know. It seems every trip I lose two hubcaps no matter how well I think they are on the rim. I wrote about the new rims a couple of years ago. When I bought new tires three years ago it was noticed that two of my chrome rims were cracked. The tire store told me that steel rims would be more durable and last better and keep the tires aligned better. So I went with them, and thought hubcaps would work. Evidently, they don’t stay on these rims. When I get home I may go back to the tire place and have them take the tires off and spray paint the rims either black, silver, or white so they look better then the plain steel and then just not use hubcaps. If the hubcaps were going to come off, I wished it was the ones on the passenger side that were not the newer ones, but it is what it is. If that’s all that happens on this trip, I am very grateful and it’s not a big deal. Thankfully, nothing serious has happened. Gas prices seem to be a bit lower as I travel west so I’ve been putting medium grade gas in the camper to help it run a little smoother. While I’m parked at the hotel with no electric, I try to run my generator for about half hour in the afternoon to keep my batteries charged.

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2016-07-09 10.09.03A few months ago I decided that instead of painting my toenails all one color that I would use two colors and do them in different designs each time. It amazes me that I get several comments about the way I paint my toenails, and all comments seem to be positive. So, I took a picture of the way I did them before I left home. Today they will be changed, but I have not decided on the design yet, they will be a medium jade green with turquoise highlights of some type. Maybe just the tips of the nails with the 2nd color. I will see what I feel like when I paint them. That’s about it for this story, I will write about my experience at the Red River Balloon Rally and National Championships in a new post.

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Baby Camel born at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Camper Update, and Health Update

This post has been updated on June 25th. I added the word Update before the parts I added.

On June 17th, I received a picture from Sue Arnold of a baby girl camel born to Lulu at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Okeechobee, Florida. Last I heard the baby has not been named yet. I also received a picture when she was 4 days old. The mother Lulu is a brown camel and she was bred to a Pinto/Paint camel that was brown and white. The baby was born with the brown and white markings like her dad. Until now, I didn’t realize that there was any other camel colors or types other than brown. The picture in the top center is the day she was born and a few hours old. The photo on the top left is when she was 4 days old, the other pictures are her mom Lulu. The top right is when she was expecting the baby. She’s very cute. I have never seen a camel this young. After learning about this species of camel, I did a search on the Internet and found a website that has info and pictures of various types of camels. There are several photo albums and stories on my website about my visits to Arnold’s Wildlife over the past several years. There is a date on each photo album, then you can go to the archives for that date to read the story about a particular album, or you can do a search for a story by subject.

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annie camelUpdate June 25: The baby camel has been named Annie. Here is a picture of Annie when she is a week old. It looks like her mom Lulu is a great mom.

 

 

 

 

As for my camper, I finally got it back from the RV dealer that did the repairs. I would NOT recommend using Wait’s RV in West Palm Beach/Riviera Beach, Florida. When I first contacted them I was hopeful that they would be a great repair place because I was told by the then service manager to bring my camper up that day, he said he knows what the problem most likely is and when I arrived he diagnosed it quickly. Well, after a long drawn out process and leaving it there for over a month, then again 10 more days, not to count the month in between when I was told they would fix it… I brought it back for what was to be 3 to 5 days, which turned into 10 days. The only option I was told is that they had to completely seal the windows closed, and that I would not be able to open them. I had hoped to avoid this solution. But since my camper is older, there is no option to order new windows unless I have them specially made which will take time and a substantial amount of money.

So, the next best thing is that I have a good 12 volt fan that I can run on my auxiliary batteries when I am not plugged into electricity or if I don’t want the noise of the rooftop air conditioner. I bought a 4′ x 25′ roll of Reflectix which is the silver material that is used for sunshades in vehicles. Only being on a roll it is a smooth surface, not folded accordian style like the sunshades. I cut a piece for every window in the camper, hoping that it would keep the camper cooler inside, it works to some degree, but it also makes it very dark inside. So, I went online and found several battery operated LED lights that I can hang in various places in my camper for light. My camper does have lights that operate on 12 volt but the bulbs put off a lot of heat and also run down the auxiliary batteries rather quickly, especially if I am reading for several hours at a time.

I have seen sunshade material on large motor homes, it’s a UV sunscreen that blocks out UV rays and heat from the campers. I had not ever considered it for my van because I don’t keep a ladder with me to reach the top of the front windows. I did some more exploring on the Internet and found out that even though it might not be quite as effective, it can be placed on the inside of the windows. It provides privacy during the daytime where I could see out, but it would be difficult for anyone to see in. It comes in a few colors but it seems that black provides the best visibility and would look the best. I also found a similar material at Home Depot and Lowe’s. The quality might be a step down from the types sold at RV dealers but I won’t have to pay the shipping cost of the screening material, only for the suction cups which I can’t find locally. I even found one of the manufacturers of this material called Textilene in Dothan, Alabama, a town which I drove through several times on trips. They want about twice the cost per yard from a company in Arizona I found that sells their fabric by the yard. However, the shipping cost is about the same cost as the material.

I decided to buy some of this material from the local home improvement store and I can hang it on the inside of the front windshield, and on the driver and passenger windows, and other van windows I can hang it either on the inside or outside since I can reach those windows easily. The upper top windows that I can no longer open I will place the material on the inside of the glass. I had  to do a lot of research on both the types of UV materials, and also methods of how to hang it. I decided suction cups with snap rivets will work the best. I got this idea from one of the RV sunshade companies I found online. After more research, I found a company online to order a large quantity of these suction cups and snap rivets.

I drew out several sketches of the best layouts to maximize the use of the yards of material so that I don’t have much waste. It has taken me many hours for this project, but it’s okay, especially if it helps to keep my camper cooler inside. There are pro’s and con’s to whether to hang this sunscreen material on the inside or outside of the windows, so I will play it by ear and try both ways to see which works best. It will also depend if I am staying in one place for quite a while like in Albuquerque for 6 weeks. I cannot drive with this on the windows, so I have to take it off when I am driving. Unless I have a nice neighbor at a campground that has a ladder, I won’t be able to hang the screening on the outside of the front windshield, it will have to go on the inside, which in some way might be best because it won’t get dirty or wet like it would hanging outside.

The end of last week I received some sad news, one of my close friends told me that her daughter’s husband was found dead on the floor of their house. It seems he died unexpectedly of a heart attack, he was 47 years old. It’s very sad, he left a wife and two young teenage boys.  We never know when our time is up… as I have written many times, live life now!!! Don’t wait, don’t put things off… you might not get the chance for a later time.

I have an inflatable kayak that I would like to sell if you know anyone that is interested, please let me know. It’s in excellent condition, and it weighs about 32 pounds and is in a carrying case.

Update June 25th Sunshade for Camper: After doing more research, I decided not to use the sunshade material I bought at Home Depot. I wanted a better quality product that hopefully will last for a long time. I found out that Textilene 90, made in Dothan, Alabama, is one of the best sunshade materials and it blocks 90% of the UV rays. I called the manufacturer of what I felt was the best quality sunshade. They told me that Innovative Industrial Solutions, Inc. in Boynton Beach which is about a half hour from where I live that carries their product, I called them and spoke with Rodger, he said they have the sunshade I want in stock. However, their fabric is 72 inches wide. So I spent several more hours planning a layout, my other layouts were based on 48 inch fabric, and finally after many attempts and many calculations, I was able to get a layout where there was no waste, no unused fabric for 72 inch fabric. I really was a couple of inches short of what I needed but I would be able to be okay with the few inches short.

I called Innovative Industrial Solutions, Inc. and spoke with a man named Rodger. I told him that I want to buy 9 yards of 72 inch fabric, and asked if he could add an extra couple of inches. I wasn’t sure if he could or not. I drove up to get the fabric and brought it back and went to the local library. Buying locally saved me shipping, and also supported a local privately owned company. If you live in Florida check out their website to see the products and services they provide. If you need awnings or other items give Rodger at IIS a call. He was very nice, and courteous, and he worked with me so that I could get what would work best for me.

I don’t have anywhere at home to lay out a 6 foot by 9 foot piece of material so that I could mark it and cut it. I called the city library and they let me use a conference room where I could put three tables together. It worked out perfect. The width of the tables is the width of the fabric and the length was almost the same as the fabric. Rodger gave me a yellow wax pencil so that I could mark the fabric. I brought yardsticks, tape measures, scissors, etc. and began to mark the fabric. When I got to the last section of two pieces, I realized that they gave me a few extra inches of fabric. So, I went back to the beginning and added an inch to other pieces so they would be a little bigger than the glass measurement.

I ordered suction cups and tacks that I will use to attach the sunshade to the camper windows when I am parked for a few days. I am hoping that it will do what it’s advertised and keep my camper cooler inside and still let me see out.

After I got it all marked and triple checked my markings to make sure it was correct, I cut the pieces and rolled them up to take them home. This material can’t be folded, it has to be rolled. When the suction cups and tacks arrive I will put them into the sunshade fabric. The cost of the sunshade material and suction cups with tacks came to about $120. I know that seems like quite a bit of money, I also spent $40 on the Reflectix to put in the windows. If both of these window treatments work to keep the camper cooler it will be well worth the money.

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I spent many days researching various companies, materials, and suction cups online and decided to do the sunshade fabric myself rather than having it made by one of the companies that does this. Most of them wouldn’t make the sunshades to fit my camper van. They primarily make them for the large motorhomes. One place wanted $240 plus shipping just to make a sunshade for my front windshield. My camper has the windshield and 8 windows. I also found the company that sells the suction cups to those companies so I ordered the same ones since they seem to be made of a better quality material and design.

I saved a lot of money by doing this project myself, and it gave me something to do. I’m glad I attempted to do this myself. I think it turned out well. Since I don’t have a ladder, most of the time the sunshade for the front windshield will be hung on the inside of the van. Maybe when I am camped somewhere for several days and I know I won’t be moving someone in a nearby campsite might help me hang it on the outside. The downside to that is if I want to drive somewhere and no one is nearby to help get the sunshade off the window that will cause a problem, so maybe I will only hang it on the inside. It will still help with reducing the inside temperature.

Update June 25 Health Update and music from Hamilton: On June 17th I had an abdominal/pelvic area CT Scan to see what changes there are in my tumors since May 2015. I still have a few very small tumors and a few other minor things going on. The GREAT NEWS is that my large tumor significantly improved according to the report. It went from 6.0 x 4.9 cm to 5.9 x 3.2 cm. That’s about a half inch smaller. I have not done any treatments, or anything else. I pretty much try to ignore it and I tell the tumor that it’s not wanted in my body. I think of it as an alien thing, not anything that is a part of me. Thank you to all of you that are keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, it’s working. This is the first time since September 2012 when I first found the tumor that instead of growing from a small size to this larger one that it has actually become smaller. I still have several of the symptoms of the tumor’s effect on my insides, like my left leg still gets numbness and pain, my lungs are still compressed, as is my stomach and other organs. The main thing is that I am doing pretty good most days. I have some tough days, but so does a lot of people and compared to what some others have to deal with, I don’t complain. I am so very blessed.

I am starting to get my things together for my trip. Target date is July 6th to be on the road. First stop is the National Hot Air Balloon Championship Competition in Shreveport, Louisiana. I pray that the weather cooperates as I travel. All of the flooding from the heavy rains, and the high winds that many states are experiencing is not something I want to be near or in.

As part of my trip preparation is keeping the inside of my camper van cooler, and also to know I will have periods of time where I will be dry camping without electric. The lights in the camper operate off of my auxiliary batteries and they also burn hot. I went online and bought several LED battery operated lights. They seem to be pretty bright and they don’t put off much heat, if any. I will stick them up in various places throughout the camper. Also, I figured out a way to have some clothes on hangers and not take up much space. I bought some chain and I can hang the hangers into the sections of chain so that instead of having the hangers go horizontal, they will hang vertical. I can move the chain up to be horizontal if I need to. Sometimes we have to be creative to get things accomplished, and also to save money.

I have seen parts of the broadway play Hamilton on various TV shows and I love the music, so I bought the CD set on Amazon when I bought the LED lights. I was surprised that in addition to getting the actual CD, I was given a link to a digital version. So instead of having to wait a week for my CDs I downloaded the music so I can listen to it on my tablet or computer. I am listening to it now as I am updating this post. I can see where this music and the story it tells is addictive. I have a feeling I will put it on my MP3 player and listen to it when I am on my trip. Lin-Manual Miranda is extremely talented to come up with the story and lyrics to Hamilton and everyone else involved is also exceptionally talented. If you get a chance, listen to the music. You Tube seems to have the tracks of this play that you can listen to. Maybe one day they will come out of a DVD of the performance.

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Relay For Life, Deerfield Beach-Lighthouse Point-Hillsboro Beach, Florida

Saturday, April 16th, was the local Relay For Life event at Quiet Water Park. Here are the photos I took at the event. Friday night we had a really severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind. Several of us prayed really hard that the weather on Saturday would be good for our Relay For Life event because the weather forecast predicted rain. Saturday morning it was sunny, as the day progressed clouds began to form and just before the event began we felt a few sprinkles of rain but they quickly stopped.

IMG_0185JB’s on the Beach once again provided the survivor dinner. They served a delicious meal which consisted of coleslaw, fruit, cornbread, baked beans, chicken, pulled pork, corn, and bar-b-que ribs. They also serve the ribs at their restaurant, they smoke and slow cook them at the restaurant. JB’s has sponsored this survivor dinner for at least 5 years and we appreciate them very much.

Oceans 234 once again provided lunch for the volunteers and we thank them as well.

When survivors arrive, they register and get their survivor t-shirt, wristband and dinner ticket, and also sign a banner with their handprint showing the year of their diagnosis and each year they attend the Relay. Throughout the dinner music was provided by Acoustic Therapy. The tables were decorated with purple tablecloths and plants in purple pots which added a nice touch of color. This is a special time for survivors and their caregiver to connect with other people that have the same experiences. There was a man sitting all by himself and I went and invited him to join us or to go to a group of people at another table. I suggested that he not sit alone, he decided to join some people at the table next to us and he thanked me later for talking with him and said he enjoyed visiting with the people he sat with and said it was better than sitting alone. His smile was thanks enough.

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I was asked to carry one of the survivor handprint banners during the survivor lap, and I felt honored to be asked again this year. I have done this in previous years. This year it was pretty windy so we had to be careful holding the banner so that it would be kept fairly straight. My side of the banner caught most of the wind since it was blowing towards us and I am not much of a wind break. We also had to keep our steps about the same so that the three of us carrying the banner were in a straight line. It was a bit of a challenge at times, but we managed pretty well. We can all always count on Gordon to have a smile and give hugs, and to do whatever is needed to help. During part of the opening ceremony he was watching intently from the sidelines and I was able to get this great photo of him, but it took about 5 minutes because there was a lady standing near him that kept walking back and forth and getting in the picture every time I was ready to press the button.

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After dinner I walked several laps stopping occasionally to visit with teams lining the track. On one of my laps I passed a woman who was standing on the side of the track and crying. I asked if she needed a hug and when she said yes I gave her one, and we talked for a while sharing our stories. It reminded me of my first time at Relay when I was crying and someone came up to me and said it looks like I need a hug and gave me one and we walked laps and talked and shared stories as we walked.

The Relay For Life event is often an emotional time for many of us who have been touched by cancer as either a survivor, caregiver, or experiencing the loss of a loved one from cancer. Sharing our stories with one another helps us heal in various ways. Many of us choose to donate our time to Relay by either forming a team, being a committee or team member, being a sponsor, or finding another way to be involved.

I have made some great friends as a result of participating in our local Relay event. I am so very blessed. If I was not involved with Relay I would most probably not have met some of these people who have become close friends that have made my life better for knowing them. Even my mom got involved by helping out with the survivor banners.

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One of the teams was having pig races. The pigs were animated and very cute. Tickets were $1.00 for a race. I think next year this team is going to be buying a large supply of pigs and selling them. They were really drawing a crowd and so many people wanted to buy them. It was funny watching the race.

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IMG_0200The theme of another team was bats and their tent was decorated with anything bat related including cookies they baked and decorated like bats.

 

There was entertainment throughout the night, including a Jazzercise session where people of all ages participated. These ladies had lots of energy and they had lots of people up and on their feet exercising. Some people even did a few moves sitting in their chairs.

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Just as we were getting ready to light the luminaria bags and walk the laps to remember those we lost to cancer or those who survived the fight against this disease, it began to rain. This happened last year too. Sadly, it is not the same to have all of the bags lit in a small area such as under the large awning or on the stage, but the importance of the lap was recognized all the same.  There is no way you can attend a Relay For Life event and not be changed in some way whether large or small. Especially if you experience the Luminaria Ceremony and walk the laps when the only light seen is the candle in the luminaria bags with the names of people either that died or survived written on the bags.

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Years ago, before I started my blog, at our Relay one of the teams gave motorcycle rides in the parking lot as a fundraiser for their team. There were long lines for those rides. However, they offered three motorcycles to give survivors a ride for the survivor lap. When they asked who wanted to ride on a Harley for the survivor lap, I immediately raised my hand. It was really cool. I was surprised that not many wanted to do it. I will admit that it felt strange riding the survivor lap rather than walking it. But I was still glad I rode, it was great fun and I did wear a helmet even though we were on a sidewalk and going slow.

If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer in any way, consider participating in a local Relay For Life event where you live. It will change your life. Over the years I have served on several committees for Relay, including being event co-chair. Yes, it does take some of our precious time. However, the rewards we gain from participating and making new friends, meeting new people, and helping those still suffering from loss of loved ones or seeing the hope gained from those being healed makes all the hours we donate to making this event a success and raising money for the fight against cancer and for the programs offered to patients and their families well worth it.

The reward of seeing someone who just lost a loved one to cancer and them knowing they are not alone really touches our hearts. As does sharing our story with another survivor. Giving hope to others whether it’s surviving the loss of a loved one or watching someone heal from their surgery or treatment is very important. It is a blessing to know we are not alone, that others have walked the path we are on now. Make a positive difference in the world any way you can. Occasionally, as I travel on my trips, I have been able to attend Relay For Life events in other states. It’s interesting to see how other Relay’s do things. It’s basically the same such as having tents for each team, selling luminaria bags that line the track, and giving survivors t-shirts. But there are also parts of the event that differ. One Relay I went to used a can of food in the luminaria bag to weight it down, others used sand. Another Relay gave each survivor either a flower or a balloon to carry for the survivor lap. Another Relay I went to had a lap in which local motorcycle clubs paid for the honor of riding a lap. I was surprised when someone at that Relay, which was in Georgia, asked me to ride on a Harley during their bike lap. It was really cool.

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Butler House, Deerfield Beach, Florida, and Relay For Life Music Fundraiser, and Johnny Carson shows

Today there was a musical fundraiser for our local Relay For Life event and the weather was perfect which was great because this was an outdoor event. I used my new Canon PowerShot ELPH 170 IS camera and it seemed to work really well. It’s considerably smaller than my Canon PowerShot A 720 IS camera that I have been using since 2009, but the zoom feature on the new camera magnifies a little bit larger which will come in handy.

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Photos taken at the event today can be seen in a new album. I have driven by the Butler House more times than I can count and I have been to a few outdoor events there, however, this is the first time I have been inside this historic house from 1923, and the Banyan Tree in the yard is about 100 years old. This tree is absolutely extraordinary, I bet it has amazing stories to tell. The Deerfield Beach Historical Society hosts events at Butler House.

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The house as it currently sits on the property was built in 1923 and although it did receive some damage, for the most part it survived the hurricane that hit Deerfield Beach in 1928. In 1923 it cost $10,000 to build the house which was a lot of money at that time. All of the light fixtures and most of the furniture and items in the house are from when the Butler’s lived in the house. A nice gift shop was added recently. It was interesting to walk through the house and look at all of the items in the house such as the old clothes, hats, alligator purse, light fixtures, and much more. One of the bathrooms had an orchid/lavender tub and sink, but the toilet was mauve. The bear claw tubs are original. The rooms and doors were built so that if windows and doors were opened the house would be cool with cross drafts since the house did not have air conditioning.

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As you can tell by the number of photos I took, I loved the house and especially the uniqueness of the Banyan tree and how the branches have grown over the past almost 100 years. Steve Minotti and his musician friends performed throughout the afternoon and a lot of money was raised for the local Relay For Life team that hosted the event.

Late at night and early morning when I cant sleep I put the TV on and often there are old shows like Johnny Carson, and many more. Looking at the clothes being worn reminds me of the styles back then. Especially with Johnny Carson show. The carpet on the stage his desk sits on is often green shag. The clothes everyone is wearing consists of bright colors and large collars. It makes me chuckle. No one today would consider wearing these outfits. I can imagine in years from now that people watching shows produced today will say the same thing. I took a few photos of one of the shows so you could see what I mean.

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2016-03-23 19.32.14I saw a lovely wood bench on one of my outings and it has a planter on each side of it. I thought it was a great idea. I wouldn’t plant anything that bees liked in the planter, but other types of herbs or plants would look really nice.

 

solar toysI have been buying solar toys at the dollar store and putting them on the window sill in my apartment. When the sun comes in during the afternoon and these cute critters start dancing it makes me smile.

 

Wednesday morning I went with my friend Nona to the American Cancer Society office to put the t-shirts together for the teams for our Relay For Life event this coming weekend. It was fun for us to work together and Nona is a great lady and fun to be with. The walls throughout the office were covered with purple hearts. The purple and white t-shirt quilt that I designed, assembled, hand quilted, and dedicated to ACS in July 2013 is still hanging on the wall. I loved seeing all of the hearts on the wall, it made it feel like a peaceful environment.

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Odds and Ends… what I have been up to lately, Kudu Klips, and puzzles

I have been reading books again. I just finished the newest Debbie Macomber books and I am waiting for the last Rose Harbor series book which comes out in August. It will be the last of that series. In my previous post I wrote about my time listening to Debbie’s talk at a local library in February. I also read the two latest books in Fern Michael’s Sisterhood series. This is one of the best series of books that I have ever read. I think there are about 25 books in this series now. I wrote about this series in a story about a year ago. If you want to read a series where the main characters are the same, but they get into different situations and do different vigilante rescues or creative ways they get even with those who did harm or wronged others this is a great series for you to read. Even men would enjoy this series. It has suspense, romance, comedy, mystery, and much more. As the series progresses it gets more involved. The link above is for the series characters, I didn’t know about this page or read it until after I finished about 20 of the books. I am glad I didn’t because I used my imagination of what the characters looked like. When I saw the pictures on the website, my idea of what the character looked like was different than what was shown. I did like seeing the author’s pictures of the characters, it made parts of the story fall into place a little better. But it is not necessary to check the webpage, reading the books is wonderful enough.

I woke up yesterday to a lot of noise outside, it seems the city is having several streets resurfaced and mine is one of them. There were men and machines that were taking up the old asphalt and laying new asphalt. It was really interesting to watch. When they used the rollers to compress the asphalt I could feel the building and floor vibrating. There was black dust all over all of our cars. Thankfully, this afternoon it rained pretty hard so it washed off some of the dust. I guess they will finish paving the street on Monday.

Besides reading, I have been doing some cooking and baking. I like to experiment when I cook so I put different ingredients into the crock pot or pan I was cooking in and these new recipes I created actually tasted pretty good. Of course, I didn’t write it down but I can probably come close to recreating it, or even trying something different next time. I cooked a turkey thigh and usually I put stuffing under the skin and put seasoning on the turkey and bake it. This time I put it in the crock pot with some onion, carrots, garlic, pineapple, peach jam, and a few spices. I even put peach jam and pineapple in the stuffing that I put in the oven. It was a totally different taste. I pureed the sauce when it cooled enough and I served it over the turkey, and I cooked noodles to serve with it. This dinner sort of tasted like a sweet and sour dish rather than a savory one. For dessert I mixed blueberries, pineapple, peach jam, and cranberries with flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon and poured it into a pie crust and folded part of the crust over the filling and baked it. I have made it before with blueberries, peaches, pears, and cranberries and it came out delicious. Adding the crushed pineapple gave it a slightly different flavor. I opened the can of crushed pineapple for the turkey so I had to think of things to make to use it up.

2016-03-08 12.09.11I have started doing jigsaw puzzles again. Last week the local library had their spring book sale so I went a few days before to help set up the books and puzzles. Someone donated about 200 jigsaw puzzles, the library never had that many. Usually, they have less than 20 puzzles. One of the other volunteers and I set up the puzzle table. We were able to get them all on two tables which was quite an accomplishment. When we were finished the other volunteers saw what we did and they told us we did a great job!!! Both of us bought quite a few puzzles. As we were taking them out of boxes and putting them on the table we pulled out ones we wanted. I bought quite a few to take to Texas for my friends when I leave on my trip in a few months. I’m not sure they will all fit in my camper, but I will take what I can. I bought 8 puzzles for myself, 5 of them are in the photo to the top of this paragraph. One of them is a map of the United States and each state is represented by a part of a state license plate. When I was in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta office last fall one of the staff members had a poster showing the states using license plates and I admired the poster. I was really surprised when I saw the puzzle which is exact same thing as the poster. It’s been fun, and challenging to work on it. I use either small paper bowls or empty fruit or applesauce plastic cups to sort puzzle pieces, it depends on the number of pieces for the section or color I am sorting. I wrote the method I use to work on puzzles in a post about a year or so ago. You can do a search on my website, if you are interested.

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2016-03-10 11.50.05I have also completed two other puzzles. One was only 400 large size pieces. This is very different than other puzzles I do. Usually the puzzles I work on are 1,000 pieces and the pieces are small or regular size. So, to make this more challenging I looked at the picture and then began the puzzle. I sorted the pieces by color like I normally do and I completed the puzzle only looking at the picture about three times.

I also completed a special shaped puzzle of an old car, sort of like a Model T. Within the puzzle of the car were other old cars including an old convertible with wood sides, there was a man sitting on a bridge fishing in a stream, and a dog and woman nearby. In the window of the car were other cars, a house, flower bed, and people having a picnic on a blanket. It was also a fun and challenging puzzle. Being a special shape puzzle, finding the edge pieces is not always easy since they are not usually straight edges. Also, being a used puzzle I never know if all of the pieces are in the box. When I finish a puzzle I always put a note that all of the pieces are included. The few times that a piece was missing, I made one and put it in the box in a baggie with a note that this is replacing a missing piece and where in the puzzle it fits. Thankfully, the few times I had to recreate a missing piece it was not too difficult to color. There was one piece missing in this puzzle and I called the library to see if it was in the baggie they have of missing puzzle pieces… unfortunately the piece I needed was not one they had in the baggie. You have to look at the puzzle closely to even notice that a piece was missing that I recreated.

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So, I put a piece of thin cardboard under the puzzle and traced the shape of the missing piece and cut it out. I got out my crayons, markers, and colored pencils and couldn’t get close enough to the green that I needed. So I went through flyers and magazines I had handy. It turns out that the current sales flyer from the local grocery store had a header of almost the exact shade of green that I needed for the missing piece which happened to be in a patch of grass. I traced the shape of the missing piece, cut it out, and glued it to the cardboard puzzle piece I made. Then I fitted it into the puzzle and shaded the piece with black pencil to match what I think the piece looked like. What are the odds that the sales flyer had the color I needed. When I got the new flyer today it was a different shade of green that wasn’t even close to what I needed. A coincidence??? I think not.

Last year I bought a Nuwave Induction Portable Cooktop not only to use at home, but also to take on my trips since it is small enough to take and it cooks quickly. The only thing is that special pots are needed. Aluminum pots will not work. They have to be cast iron, stainless steel, or any other material that magnets will stick to. I only had a couple of pots that would work so I went and bought a few others in different sizes. Of course, these pots were a bit more costly because they are a better quality to work on an induction cooktop. I bought a three quart pot which has holes on one side of the lid which is working great to cook pasta, potatoes, or even meat. I can drain the water or fat out of the pan without trying to hold the lid offset from the pot and having some stuff fall out, and I don’t need to use a colander. I’m really enjoying using this pot and I will definitely take it on my trip.

When I couldn’t sleep the other night I was channel surfing and I stopped on a shopping network because they had kitchen items and were doing cooking demonstrations using some of the pots and pans. There was a shallow 12″ skillet with a special no stick surface which would work on the induction cooktop. After a while, I went online and read the reviews and there was not one bad review for this skillet. So I decided to order it and it came today. I think it is going to work really good, and it also can go in the oven. It came with a glass lid which will come in handy. I also bought a 2 quart crock pot. I have taken my 4 quart crock pot on my trips and it takes up a bit of precious space and I haven’t used it.

My thoughts are that if I take a 2 quart crock pot it will take up less space and I might really use it, that is when I am staying somewhere for more than a day or two. Probably when I am in Albuquerque for 6 weeks. When I am away for my four or five month trips I frequently either buy a meal somewhere and eat it for a day or so, or else I eat sandwiches. This way maybe I will actually cook a meal and while I am working at the Balloon Fiesta office my dinner and leftovers can be cooking. When I am on my trips it seems that I lose about 10 pounds because I am not eating as well as when I am home, and I don’t snack as much. I rarely cook when I’m traveling, and I seem to walk more. Maybe this coming fall on my trip I will do it differently since I have better cooking items that I am taking. I’m planning on being in Albuquerque from the end of August until mid-October so I will be stationary for a while once again and I will be volunteering again so I should have electric hookups. Hopefully, the weather will be rather mild like last year and not really cold like the other years that I was there.

This story is becoming longer than I thought it would be. I bought a Lily of the Valley plant. It was in a plastic bag and only had roots, dirt, and a small shoot coming up from the bulb and roots. I didn’t have any flower pots or potting soil and I didn’t want to drive to the store so I looked around and found an empty juice container that I just finished and had not thrown out yet. So I cut off a portion of the container, poked holes in the bottom, and went down to the flower bed outside and got  some small rocks for the bottom and took some dirt and planted my plant. I put it on the window sill and it’s growing. It has a few green shoots and it might actually bloom. It seems to be growing rather quickly, it went from planted to having green shoots within a week. When I was a child we had Lilies of the Valley growing in our flower beds and when I got a little older I bought perfume that smelled like that. When I saw this bulb at the store I knew I needed to buy it.

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I have been using these amazing hair clips, called Kudu Klips for about 8 years and I absolutely love them. They are handmade and work great, are durable and easy to use, and don’t damage hair like other types of hair items do. They also stay firmly in place all day long and are comfortable to wear. For those of us with hair that we put up or in ponytails, this is a great item. It even holds hair that is not very long and/or very fine. Several times I have contacted Patti that owns the company and I have bought more from her for either myself or as gifts. I got an email the other day that she was going to be at a craft show about half hour from where I live. Usually she lives on the other side of the state. I got up this morning and drove to the craft show and found Patti’s booth. As we talked we realized that when I bought my first Kudu Klip it was at her first show where she sold them which was 8 years ago. When I order by phone I call Patti and discuss which ones are available and what I want. She doesn’t put pictures of all of her designs on her website anymore because even though she and her husband designed and created these hair items, another company copied their product and they were also copying her designs.

Kudu KlipsHere is a picture of the Kudu Klips that I have in my collection. There are so many beautiful designs and I knew I wanted to buy a few more but narrowing it down to which ones was not easy. While I was there the booth got busy with customers so I helped Patti and waited on customers and showed them how to use these amazing hair clips. There are also videos on their website so when I sold a hair clip I gave the lady a business card and told her to go online to watch the videos for other ideas on how to use them. It was really fun working in the booth and helping Patti. There were about six other customers like me that came to buy more. These things are addictive… and because there are many different designs it’s hard to narrow down the selection. I only planned on buying two new ones and I ended up with six new ones. Now I have nine of them.

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I went back on Sunday and helped Patti in her booth for four hours again. I really enjoyed helping, even though we had some heavy rain and high winds for a little while. Unexpectedly, Patti said she wanted to give me a Kudu Klip for helping in her booth, I told her it wasn’t necessary but she wanted to gift it to me. It was very kind and time passed quickly since we were really busy. As I got to my car raindrops began to fall and it rained pretty hard part of the way home. I’m glad it rained, it washed the black dust off of my car from when they resurfaced the road Friday, and when I got home the skillet I ordered last week was waiting by my door.

Wow… this story seems to really be growing beyond what I thought it would be when I started writing this evening. I haven’t written a story in about a month mostly because there wasn’t much to write about until the past week or so. This afternoon when I left the craft fair my pain level was getting pretty intense that’s why I left so I could come home and take my pain medicine. I was really getting sleepy driving but I made it home safely, took my medicine and thought I would take a nap. But, I opened the box with my new skillet, made something to eat since it was about 3:00 p.m. and then I sorted through my beads, and then decided to start this story since I knew I would most probably not get another chance to write for about three weeks. Here it is about three hours later, I can’t believe I have been writing this post for so long or longer.

When I write, time seems to go quickly and I don’t even realize it. Words just seem to flow most of the time. I have a feeling that I have a ghost writer/spirit that helps me to write. Until I started writing this blog in 2011, the only writing I did was letters and other documents for work. Most of my posts take me between three and five hours to write. I still have about another hour to finish this post because I want to insert pictures, which I do after the entire story is written. Over the past six years my writing style has evolved, as has my knowledge of how to add pictures and links. In my early stories I had no idea how to add pictures, or add a link, I used to ask my friend Pam that created my website to add a link or picture every now and then since I didn’t want to bother her too often. After a while she instructed me on how to do it, I think that’s when my stories began to change how they were written and more links and pictures were added.

I plan on leaving this coming Wednesday for a short camping trip. I will probably be gone for about two weeks. There is an Indian pow wow about two hours north of where I live that I go to every year. It’s also a chance to see my friends that are vendors and travel the pow wow circuit and are in south Florida this time of the year. Then I will most probably go once again to see my friend Sue Arnold at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and spend a few days there. Sue told me she has several new animals since I was there last year. There are about five stories and photo albums from my previous trips. You can use the search feature on my website to find them. Last time I went one of the new animals was Lulu a three year old camel, an albino Wallaby, and a two day old ring tail lemur. If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate funds to, I would highly recommend this one. 100% of the funds donated are used for the care and feeding of the animals. It costs a lot of money to feed all of the animals, including the panthers, bobcats, servil’s, caracal’s, camel and so many more.

I went to the camper to get info for a lock that needs to be replaced, I ordered replacement locks for the storage compartment. It’s due to arrive on Tuesday and I hope to have a locksmith change them before I leave, if not, one of my friends at the pow wow said he will try to replace it for me.

In case you are not aware of it, if you are are over 55 years of age, you can take an AARP driver safety course and receive a discount on your car insurance. I usually go to a location and take the six hour course, this year however, I decided to take the online course which can be done at our leisure, and they give I think it’s two months to complete it. I did it in two days and they sent my certificate by email and I emailed it to my insurance company. You do not have to be an AARP member to take the course. I think it saves $5 if you are a member.

In 2009 before I left for a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, I bought a new camera, it is a Canon PowerShot A 720 IS. It’s served me extremely well. It’s small, has a viewfinder, and is easy to use. The past year or two I have noticed that it seems to go through batteries faster and every now and then when I press the button it doesn’t take a picture. I think I have worn out the camera. I don’t really want to part with it since I’m familiar with it, it’s a handy size and it takes great pictures. The main feature I like is a viewfinder so when the sun shines on the digital screen I can use the viewfinder and see what I am looking for or at. This camera is no longer made, so I looked online and found a few used ones for sale on Ebay. One of them looks like it would be a good deal and in working condition so I called a friend of mine who uses Ebay frequently and he said he would bid on the item for me. So far, no one has bid, Milan is waiting until tomorrow just before it closes to submit a bid on my behalf. Hopefully, no one else will bid on it. I know technology has changed. Milan said I should buy a new camera rather than a used one. I said that I really like that camera and want it because I’m familiar with it. I did research for hours the other day and I cannot find another small camera with a viewfinder. Only a few larger cameras have one. So, I found a different model Canon PowerShot ELPH 170 IS that has good features including a higher number zoom than my camera, so I bought it. I won’t get it before I leave Wednesday so it will be waiting for me when I get back home. It’s a lot smaller than my other camera even though the zoom is more powerful. It has a rechargeable battery rather than using two AA batteries like the camera I have now. The new camera has an extra battery and if I find I need more I will buy another rechargeable one. When I am at the Balloon Fiesta I can easily take several hundred photos in a day and I can use about 8 to 10 AA batteries with my current camera. I will have to see how many pictures I can get off of one battery charge with the new camera. I tried to look on my computer to see how many pictures I have in my Pictures folder. The best I can tell it’s about 41,000 since 2011 and including the 700 I took at Glacier National Park in 2009. I will be able to test it out at the Relay For Life event in mid-April. I need to learn how to use it before I leave on my trip in June or July.

My Canon Powershot A 720 IS did an amazing job and it deserves a rest every now and then. I hope the one I got from Ebay is in excellent working condition. It will be nice to have a backup camera and I look forward, sort of, to learning the new smaller camera and it’s features. I didn’t even use all of the features on my current camera. I generally just use the point and shoot automatic feature. Sunday night Milan called and told me that about 10 seconds before the bidding closed he submitted a higher bid and won the camera for me. I should be receiving it soon, but not before I leave on this short trip.

Guess that’s more than enough for now. I just realized it’s 10:00 p.m. and I have been working on this story for about five hours. The next post will most probably be in about three or so weeks. I will keep Travel Map 2016 tab updated as I travel.

 

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Author Debbie Macomber, words of wisdom, and jigsaw puzzle of home

Debbie Macomber is one of my favorite authors. I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet her in person in July 2011 when I was in Washington State on my first long roadtrip. I wrote a story about our visit.

Debbie has a new book that was released today, February 23rd, called A Girl’s Guide to Moving On. It happens to coincide with the Writers Live talk that she had today at a branch of the Palm Beach County Library. Debbie is so popular that the 250 seats that had to be reserved by those of us wanting to attend the presentation were all taken within 30 minutes of when the reserved seating opened. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones that was able to get tickets for myself, my mom, and a friend of ours.

We wanted to get a front row seat so we got there early and thankfully, we did get to sit in the front row. Debbie was interviewed by a woman from the Sun Sentinel who asked great questions about Debbie, her writing style, becoming an author, and the background behind some of her books. Debbie also told interesting and funny stories about her life, letters and emails she receives from her readers, and also life experiences that have an influence on the stories she tells in her books. We also learned how and why Debbie’s writing style or story lines have changed over time.

Debbie told us today about a real life experience she had with a friend and how she incorporated it into a story in this new book. I got the book out of the local library yesterday and had started to read it. I was already past the part in the book that she described and it made it more real when she told about that experience and how it came to be in the book.  She also told about how when she was a mother of four young children and she would write stories that when hard times presented themselves financially for her family that she knew she had to write it was her passion and her calling. Even though times were difficult, her husband Wayne supported her in this decision. It took a few years before she sold a book. Debbie told us that either a publisher or editor, I can’t remember which, told her something to the effect… to stop writing that she would never write anything that would sell. I am so glad she listened to her heart and spirit.

We, all of her readers, are so grateful that she followed her heart and the path she knew was right for her. Our lives are richer because of having her stories be a part of our lives. Her female characters are strong role models. Despite tragedy, difficult life experiences, serious health conditions including cancer, death of spouses, and so much more, they are determined to continue on in life and to not only survive and be stronger, but to reach out and help others along the way.

After hearing Debbie talk and tell stories, I realize she could have a new career if she wants one as a comedian. Debbie describes herself as a storyteller. I definitely agree with her, she tells great stories and often adds humor to them, or the way she tells the story and her pauses and expressions also tell part of the story. I, along with everyone in the audience, thoroughly enjoyed the presentation that Debbie gave today. The talk was about 40 minutes long, with time for questions and answers afterward. Time passed quickly, I wish her talk was longer. I know she has so much to share with her audience, but we are grateful for the time we did get to share with her.

I knew as soon as Debbie was finished talking that she would be rushed to a table to sign her books that were for sale. I wanted to say hello and give her a quick hug, so I quickly rushed to the stage and I was lucky that we had a library staff member take a picture of us together. I took several pictures of Debbie both before and during her presentation. What I noticed during the talk was that when the interviewer asked the questions Debbie looked directly at her, however, when she answered the questions, she looked at the audience.

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If you have not read any of Debbie’s books please give them a try. If you are like me and many of Debbie’s readers, you will become attached and involved in the characters in her stories. There are several series of books and as time goes on and more books are written in the series we get more invested in the lives of the characters. The Cedar Cove book series was made into a movie for two seasons on the Hallmark Channel. And her Mrs. Miracle books have been made into holiday movies.

One of the librarians at the local library and I exchange books often. She gave me a book called Shade by Calvin Miller. I had not previously read any of his books. In a part of this book a character named Isabel was explaining to Otto about life. I liked what she expressed so I am including it here:

“Isabel sat quietly for a long moment. Otto she said at last, life is hard and swift, swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, says Job. The worse sorts of things happen to the best sorts of people. The trials that come upon us either harden us or they soften us. When they make us brittle, we shatter. When they make us soft, we bend and maybe break a little, but the breaking is what puts the fiber in the tree and makes it stronger. They say that when the highlanders need to find a walking stick, they go high into the mountains where the wind and storms have broken the thin trees so often that the heart of the wood is strong as steel. The highlander never trusts the flimsy, untried wood on the lower slopes. It’s the wood that has fought the storms and lost that is the strongest.”

I have been reading books again, I just finished a few new ones by Debbie Macomber and I also just finished the two newest books by Fern Michaels in her Sisterhood series. I’ve read a few other books in between and I have over 100 books on my bookshelf to be read as time permits. I am planning, or at least hoping to take another trip or two this year. I always take one or two tote bags of books with me and swap them out at various places as I travel. I also have a Nook with a few hundred books in it, but truthfully, I love reading a real book better than an ebook. Ebooks do take up a lot less space in my small camper van, but I still like reading a paper book, especially when I want to go back a few pages or chapters to read something again… or skip forward to see if a character is still in the book near the end of the story.

I finally completed the jigsaw puzzle that my friend Patt sent me of where I live. It was a very difficult and challenging puzzle. I had to look at the picture that looks like an aerial view of the area to determine where each puzzle piece went. Other than a house shaped puzzle piece of where my residence actually is, all the other puzzle pieces were regular shaped pieces. There is a main 3 lane each way road that goes north and south through the area, and there are a few condo buildings scattered along that road. Those pieces were pretty easy to figure out, the rest of the puzzle was difficult.

completed LHP puzzle house shaped puzzle piece

That’s about it for now, my website and stories are now complete. I even finished writing my Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta story.

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All previous stories written and caught up

All previous stories are now written and as of today my website is up-to-date.

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January activities, health update, puzzle of home, Cuban Artist Alex Fuster, insurance company steps to resolution

I have been wanting to write some stories for my website for over a month and just haven’t felt up to doing it. Some days I have good intentions to write, then I go to the store, do some chores or errands, then the window of pain free or relatively free time passes and I take my medicine. Then when it begins to work I get tired and I don’t feel like getting my computer out of it’s bag and setting it up and turning it on. So, I decided since today is a good day and my energy level is pretty good to finish the previous story and write this one. I am going to leave my laptop set up on a small table so when I want to write a story all I have to do is turn on the computer and type, maybe this will motivate me to write the stories for my adventures from the beginning of October through November. For those two months I posted my pictures and wrote quick posts, but I didn’t include details and what I did at the events like I usually do. I will work on those stories soon so feel free to check them in a couple of weeks. Until then, I wanted to write an update of my January activities.

Belated Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s been an interesting one for you. I have not been very active most days, I get out to the store and do errands,I enjoy having meals out with friends, and a few times a week I’m baking and cooking. I have even gained about 6 or 7 pounds. I lost about 12 pounds on my trip last year. Experimenting with new recipes for dinners has provided me with some delicious meals. For the first time made sorghum pecan brittle, this was an interesting experience. It probably would have been easier making it with another person. Thankfully, I had all of the ingredients measured out so I could add them quickly when needed. I had to add a few ingredients and then wait until it reached a specified temperature, then add more and let it reach another temperature, and then one last time add a few more and bring to temperature. I thought I stirred it enough as it cooked, but it seems I didn’t stir it very well where thermometer was near the bottom of the pan and I knew it when I smelled something burning. Making candy is a bit tricky. Other than a slight burn taste, my sorghum pecan brittle came out good. It cracked like it was supposed to and it still tasted good. I might try making it again sometime. I looked online and found a way to remove the burned syrup from the bottom of the pan. It worked after a few tries.

I decided to make lasagna, I haven’t had it in quite a while and for some reason this came out better than other times I made it. I froze a few portions so I could have it when I don’t feel like cooking. I usually make it in a glass loaf pan which works out really well and the slices make a nice presentation. I have been freezing some of the food I’ve cooked, this way it’s an easy dinner. Some days I don’t get very hungry and then when I do I don’t always want to cook.  I also keep some frozen stuffed chicken breasts in the freezer, they are another easy meal. Cook half hour in the toaster oven and they are ready to eat. I’ve taken these on my camping trips too since it doesn’t take up much room in my tiny freezer.

A friend of mine from Seattle named Patt came to visit for a few days, both before and after her trip to Cuba. It was interesting seeing the pictures she took and hearing the stories about what she saw and the people she met. She showed me artwork she bought by a Cuban Artist Alex Fuster which included pictures of his house, swimming pool, and the street he lives on where all the neighbors wanted him to create his beautiful artwork on their houses and fences. He does beautiful paintings and also incredibly creative mosaic tile work. He also has a treadmill in the middle of his swimming pool. Here are some of the pictures she sent me of his home and artwork.

Artist Alex Fuster IMG_1233 IMG_1236 neighbors houseIMG_1237 

A month or so ago, Patt told me she saw something she thought I would like and I should be receiving it in the mail. Well, a surprise package arrived and what was it??? A jigsaw puzzle of where I live. The puzzle piece with the exact location of my residence is shaped like a house, all other puzzle pieces are regular shaped pieces. Patt knows I frequently work on jigsaw puzzles. I have several sitting waiting to be done and two that I started before I left on my trip last July. I have not been working on them much since I got home. Anyway, this 400 piece 12″ by 18″ puzzle is extremely difficult!!! When Patt stayed with me I showed her the puzzle and she said she had no idea it would be this difficult. Other than a divided highway, a few ball fields, and the roofs of a few condo buildings, the rest of the puzzle will be almost impossible to do.

I will eventually get it done, however, it will be extremely time consuming. In order to find where a puzzle piece goes, I have to look at the map that comes with the puzzle, find what rooftop shapes or colors look like the piece and put it inside the puzzle frame and eventually pieces will be joining together. The map that came with the puzzle was a little less than half the size of the puzzle and it was almost impossible to distinguish the rooftops. A majority of the picture of the puzzle is roof tops of buildings and houses. I called the company and asked for a larger size map and they sent me a true to size map which will help my eyes a lot, but I don’t think it will make the puzzle much easier to do. Basically, this puzzle is Google Map view of a half mile radius of where I live. The thought was very nice and greatly appreciated. This is a great unique gift. Puzzles can be ordered of favorite places to visit, or anywhere else. It’s a great quality puzzle and it was boxed nicely.

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I am getting back into the groove of reading books again, I have about 150 or so books on my bookshelf. Many are books by authors I enjoy reading and others are by authors I am not familiar with. Also, some of the books are part of a series and I don’t have all of the books in the series. When I am reading a series and if there are books I am missing which is frequently the case, I go to the county library website and see if they have the book I need. It turns out many times they do, sometimes I have to be on a waiting list. One of my friends is in an assisted living facility and she doesn’t get out so I send her a box of books about once a month. I know she appreciates it and it gives her something to do.

Healthwise, I am very grateful that for the past three days my pain has been minimal from mid morning until mid afternoon, sometimes a little longer. I am so very thankful. I have no idea why but I hope it continues. It could be because my sleep pattern is off and I am awake until two or three in the morning, sometimes four a.m. and if I am I take my pain medicine during that time. I also take some about 7 a.m. and go back to sleep for a couple of hours while it works. I am truly grateful for this reduced level of pain… I hope it continues to not be intense pain for quite a while longer. It’s been several years since I have not had severe pain daily.

I have to be honest, some days I don’t want to get out of bed or even move. Some days I have to make myself get up and moving, especially if I am in pain. I don’t think it’s depression. It could be a little bit I guess. Once I’m up and moving around all is well. Other days the pain is pretty intense, my leg and foot are more numb from the tumor pressing on nerves, and my upper abdomen under my rib cage feels like it’s really bruised from organs pressing against my ribcage. Like other times, after several days or a week the tenderness is gone and I feel almost normal. Looking at me from the outside no one could tell what’s going on inside my body. This is a good thing because this way no one looks at me and feels sorry for me or is conscience of my health condition.

Last January I tore the tendon in my right index finger and after splinting it two separate times last year it still did not heal. The tendon did not reattach to the bone like it was supposed to. I had hoped it would the second time. Because my finger was constantly in a bent position due to the torn tendon my finger hurt and so did my palm, so I decided in the beginning of January 2016 to split my finger again and see if the tendon does reattach this time. Today I took the splint off for about an hour and it seems that perhaps it did reattach this time. I didn’t try to bend my finger very much because it hurts from being splinted for a month, and also I want to see if my finger stays straight on it’s own. Before this last time splinting my finger, the top part with my finger nail would bend backwards towards my palm and be horizontal to the rest of my finger. So far today, it’s standing straight up. I will wean off the splint and keep it on when I sleep for a few weeks to let my finger get used to being how it is supposed to be. It will be great to not have a splint on my finger. It’s not easy to cook, bathe, clean, write, etc. when having to keep my right index finger straight, dry, and clean. I’m glad that I thought to splint my finger this last time because it seems to be working finally.

When I had the prescriptions for my pain medicine filled in early January I found out that the new co-pay for each of my three prescriptions went from $20 each last year to $40 each this year which is a big increase. Last October and November I fell into what I found out is called a Donut Hole and I paid $128 for three refills without knowing it until I got home and saw my credit card statements. I had my prescriptions on auto pay since I was traveling and didn’t want to hold up my deliveries if they could not reach me. Big mistake, I never thought to ask the cost when checking they received my prescriptions because for the year, until October, it was always the same. So, I changed the setting to say that they have to contact me before filling my prescriptions so I could avoid these excessive charges. So now, the co-pay is double, I asked if there is any way to have this reviewed and I was told about something called a tier exception.

I am writing about this in order to inform others. I didn’t know there was something called a tier exception until a few weeks ago. If I had known, I would have applied for it last year and would have saved myself a lot of money for medicine co-pays. You may have to check with your insurance company to see if it’s an option or what process you need to follow. I had to get my doctor to send a request to the insurance company asking for the tier exception and the reason why. Of course, on first try it got denied. So I called the insurance company and asked to appeal the decision. I filed the appeal and told the reason why. My doctor had to write an additional explanation of why I cannot take a drug in the lower tier that would do the same thing.

It took me numerous phone calls and many hours on the phone, and I had to resubmit one of the three medicines for a tier exception again because an insurance company rep wrote the wrong strength medicine on a form they sent the doctor. To make a long story short, the tier exceptions were approved for all three of my medicines which significantly reduced the cost for the prescriptions. However, even though it was on my file not to send any medicine or charge to it my credit card without my approval the mail order pharmacy did, to a cost of $120 when the cost should have been significantly lower. Now, after many phone calls and hours on the phone I am trying to get a refund placed on my credit card for the difference. This is not an easy process. A couple of insurance people I spoke with said I could return the medicine. I said that is not an option because I need it and if I send it back it will take a couple of weeks to return it and have it filled again.

I have learned over the years to write down a date that I spoke to someone, what the company representative’s name is and where they are located. Now, I added their employee number. I began doing this even when I was working and had to contact companies for various reasons. I carried it over to my personal life. It’s been helpful over the years. It seems that when calling customer service, insurance companies, etc. it’s almost impossible to speak with the person who helped me during a previous call. By having dates, names, etc. it documents the process and reminds me when I called or what the outcome was. I have learned that when someone says they will call me back or send me a form does not mean they will. A rep tells me that they are making a note in my file about our conversation or what process they are doing to resolve my issue. They often are not telling the truth or do not follow up like they say.

One time I received a call saying that two of my tier exception requests were granted through the end of December 2016 and that it’s in the pharmacy computer system notes. When I called the mail order pharmacy they said their system is showing it’s not been approved. I called again the next day to see if the system was updated. Still the same response. Finally, after discussing this for a while and saying it’s in their system I told the person to enter a dummy prescription to see the cost, guess what… it came up with the adjusted cost. My comment to that person was see… the tier exception was approved or the cost would be the higher cost. She had no response. I had to file a second tier request for the third medicine since the insurance company wrote the wrong strength on the form they sent my doctor. Even though it was a typo on their part, I was told I have to start the process over for the last medicine.

Of course every time I call to see if something has been done yet to resolve my problems or to see if my tier exceptions have been approved, I get someone different, they tell me that the note that I tell them was written by the person I spoke with a few days ago was not written, or it said something different then what I was told was written. One person gave me her ID number, said she promises she will call me back she knows how it feels not to get a follow up call with the outcome… No call, not even now a week later, and when I called on Friday the person I spoke with said they saw her note, and will write a note about him following up he saw her note. Today I called and the person I spoke with said they did not see her note from a week before only the note from Friday and the person I spoke with on Friday. It’s extremely frustrating. What happened that one person sees a note and another doesn’t???

This morning after several frustrating phone calls and over an hour on the phone with no results or anyone being helpful, I called the mail order pharmacy who filled my prescriptions and asked to speak with a pharmacist. The customer service rep asked why and I said to resolve a problem I’m having. God and the angels definitely were helping me during that phone call and directed me to someone that was able to resolve the issue promptly. I was connected to a pharmacist named Greg. I explained my problem and what needs to be done to resolve the issue and I informed him that people in his company have not done what they said or followed through. I apologized for bothering him, a pharmacist because I know he is busy and has more important things to deal with. I also said that I am frustrated because despite the numerous calls and hours on the phone I could not get any assistance to resolve the issue.

Pharmacist Greg was very kind, he told me what options are available and what he can do to try and get the cost corrected. He said he will call me back when he finds out if the adjustment can be done. I asked if my refill date will be affected and he said he will check and let me know. I asked if it will take several days or a week so I will know when to expect his call. Greg said it should be a few hours or a day at the most. He understood and said he knows other cases when prescriptions were filled, shipped, and charged to the customers credit card without customer approval when approval was needed. As I was typing this post and this part of it specifically, the phone rang and it was Greg. He told me that he was able to have the prescriptions billed again and that the adjusted rate was applied and my credit card will be credited with the difference. Also, he said they were able to use the date the original prescription was filled so future prescriptions will not be delayed. I thanked him and said how grateful I was for his help. If someone early in the process would have been this helpful it would have saved me hours and hours of time and frustration and loss of trust in the insurance company representatives. I know that I wrote probably more than was needed. I’m hoping this info will help someone dealing with issues needing to be resolved.

My goal is to complete the stories about the Balloon Fiesta, Texas, and the Native American Flute Festival soon. After I write a story I wait a few days and read it to see if there are any typos or changes needed. Because I edit as I write and change sentences, sometimes words are not changed that need to be. Or perhaps I think of something else to add to the post.

Posted in 2016 Trip | 1 Comment

December 31, Two Oh One Five (2015) and Surprise… I’m still alive!!!

In May of 2013, based on my medical condition and the large tumor growing in my abdomen, my doctor told me that I most probably would not live to the end of 2013, and definitely not until December 2015. If you have been following my stories for the past few years you know this already. I had to cut my 2013 trip around the USA short in May 2013, and with disappoint I was not well enough in the fall to take another trip in my camper van. I was in Hospice from January 2014 until early May 2014, when I checked myself out and decided to take another road trip, which thankfully I was able to do. It wasn’t always easy to travel due to the pain and my breathing difficulty, but I made it successfully. I am so very grateful.

I went to my doctor the end of November, after I returned from another road trip which was from July 10th through November 16th. On my trip, like last year, there were some challenging days but I did what I could, I took my medicine to control the pain, and in Albuquerque and Texas when I was with friends I asked for rides, when needed, so I didn’t have to drive and could take my med’s, or if I was driving I stopped and rested when I needed to since I didn’t have any specific dates to be anywhere. In November, Dr. Borrows examined me and she said that my large tumor is still growing, it’s very large and hard and we can easily feel it. We can’t feel the other 3 smaller tumors but they might also be growing. She also said that my entire abdominal and pelvic areas are harder than when she examined me in June. My blood tests came back good which is nice. It didn’t say anything about my stage 3 kidney disease so that is probably a good thing. At least I hope it is. I was told to keep doing what I can and eat what I can. Because I was more active on my trip and I didn’t eat as much or snack, I lost 10 pounds, now that I am back home with a large refrigerator, oven and kitchen I have been cooking and baking and gaining some weight back.

We have no idea why God has chosen to let me have this extra time to be alive. It could be all the prayers that are being sent to me by so many people. I’m guessing there is more that God has for me to do and/or accomplish. Maybe it’s to have a different relationship with God, maybe be closer to God, although I feel I have a close and personal one now, and I thank God many times a day, every day, for all of the blessings I have and all that I am grateful for. I can walk, talk, see, hear, breathe (although some days it’s harder to do than on other days), I can do many of these at the same time. I have a safe place to live, a safe car to drive, food to eat, I can pray any way I want, I have so many friends and people who love and care about me, I have money to pay bills and spend on life’s needs and to take trips with in my camper van. I have my camper van Molly who for 10 years has safely let me travel in her to have wonderful adventures all over the United States. There are so many things to be grateful for, even the challenges present opportunities to be grateful for.

I continue to communicate with God and ask if I am doing what I need to be doing with this extra time I have been given, or am I to be working on a different or closer relationship with God and/or others. Whatever the reason, my purpose here on Earth is not accomplished yet. Like the book Illusions by Richard Bach says… Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth has been accomplished… If you are still alive it isn’t.

Continually I remind people to have an attitude of gratitude, to live each day to the fullest, to not put off trips or things they want to do or say until a later time because they may not have that chance. Life is short, unexpected things happen. Every interaction we have with someone might be our last one, or the latest thing we do might be the last thing we get to do. Don’t put things off… we may not get a chance to do or say whatever it is or go where we want to go. Live in the now.

Life has not always been easy for me, especially since 2010. In fact, often it’s the difficulties and challenges that bring me closer to God and my friends. The situations and people help me to reach out and say I need help, or to step out of my comfort zone. There are too many things to list on a gratitude list, which I do every day, although it is usually done verbally not written. I used to write my gratitude list and on the days where something exceptional happened, or I had a different feeling for some reason, I would draw stars on the top of the page. Sometimes one or two stars, other times it might be a 4 or 5 star day. Not every day got a star, just when I knew that God worked a miracle, or there was something I knew made that day special somehow. Then on the days when I wondered if God knew what He was doing, or why something happened the way it did, I would go get my Gratitude Journal and read the pages with the stars. I would then remember the feeling or experience that day and I realized that God has a plan. It might not be my plan. That not everything is about me. Maybe I am just a player in the life of someone else, maybe whatever happened or didn’t happen was for my growth or to put me where I was needed for whatever reason. I don’t have to know, I just have to have faith, hope, trust, and much more. If you do a search on my website for Inspirational Poems or Inspirational Stories you can read some of the poems that have helped me through difficult or uncertain times. Everyday when I pray I include prayers to go to those who need it, some are specific names, others are just letting prayers go to where they are needed. I feel confident that they are sent through the Universe to those in need.

In May of 2013 after Dr. Borrows told me that I most probably would not live until the end of 2013 I looked at things and life differently. I sold my condo and gave almost everything I owned away or donated it. I only had the bare necessities and a small amount of clothes. I rented an apartment since I had sold my condo and living in my camper van full time would be difficult when I would have to go into Hospice or need someone to help me. When I signed the one year lease I told my friend who I was renting the apartment from that I might have to break the lease, here I am now beginning my 3rd year in this apartment. When I signed the lease I was resigned to the fact I only had months left to live.

I have written about some of this in previous posts, however, I want to share some of it again here. On July 4, 2013 when I watched the fireworks I said to myself that this is the last time I will see fireworks, on my birthday in September I had a party with a few close friends thinking it would be the last birthday I would have, the same with Thanksgiving. I did this in 2014 also, however, in 2014 I decided to take another road trip. I knew it would not be easy, but I did it a day at a time and when I had days I thought I should head back and cut my trip short I waited a day or so and whatever it was passed and I continued on and completed my trip.

This past September I celebrated my 65th birthday. When I was younger I never thought I would live to 30, I had brain surgery in 1982 and had an out of body death experience. At that time God gave me more time to live. I tried to make the most of it… did I? … probably not all the time. Over the past 28 years I really have tried to live my life the best I can. The past 6 years have been physically challenging and I knew that my life was closer to ending any day. I have done my best most days to cherish every day and every moment I have with people I care about. My friends have told me that because of me they have been inspired and that they appreciate life more. That’s a good thing and it deeply touches my heart. I am glad that my life has helped others, often I am not even aware of it unless they tell me.

So since I have no idea how much longer God will give me to be alive, I made a decision this past year, I don’t tell myself that this is the last time I will experience something, or see something like fireworks, or celebrate a birthday, or go to the Balloon Fiesta. I don’t say goodbye to friends and tell them I probably will not see them again, which is difficult for both of us. I just live each day. I write my plans in sand because I know that often they get changed for some reason. I try to be open to God’s plan for me and the path I should be on, or the person I need to reach out to. I have friends that tell me they hesitate to check my website because they don’t know if they will read that I have died. I have written my final story. In fact, I wrote it in 2013. I read it again this past January and it is still relevant. In part, it reminds everyone to cherish life and to live it to the fullest and don’t put things off.

Whenever the time comes that my health takes a turn for the worse, or that I am no longer able to write stories, my friend Pam will put an update on my website, and when I take my final trip to be with God, Pam will post my final story with my picture.

I am having to adjust my thoughts too from being ready to die and being at peace with it, to now thinking that I may still be alive for several more years and being at peace with that. Several people have recently been asking when is my next trip. I honestly don’t know. Maybe in April with a short one before then. I’m not sure. I would love to take another trip, and because I am looking forward to another trip I asked my friend Pam who set up my website to add a new page that says Travel Map 2016. Pam and I laughed, a couple of years ago we thought the trip I had to cut short and return home from in 2013 was my last trip. We both cried about it, so did my friend Sharma in Knoxville who I was visiting when I spoke with my doctor and we decided that it was time for me to come home because I had all the symptoms she said meant the end was getting close. Here it is the end of 2015 and I just completed a 4 1/2  month trip and hopefully I will get another one next year, and maybe more after that. I also remember… life is lived a day at a time. Like I read on a billboard once… Dream as if you will live forever, Live as if you will die tomorrow.

Until then… I am still having some fun. Not as much at home as when I am traveling but still there is joy in every day. It’s hard to find it on days I really am in pain that doesn’t seem to want to go away even with medicine, but then I keep saying the things I am grateful for and I put on calming music mostly by my favorite composer, Steinway Artist Kevin Kern.

I haven’t bought myself many things the past few years thinking that it’s only something else to be given away when I am gone. Even my thinking has changed in that area. In the past few weeks I have bought myself several pairs of new shoes, a few new dresses including a couple of dressy ones, now I need to go somewhere to wear them. I bought new handbags, shirts, and a new small tablet with Internet access so I don’t always have to use one of my laptops. In fact, before I left on my trip in July I bought a used 13″ laptop to take on my trip because it was more compact to take then my 17″ laptop, the smaller one worked out really great and was easier for me to use than the larger one. I am working on sewing a quilt for a friend of mine that is having her 4th child in February. Painting an older pair of jeans is another project I attempted. It’s still a work in progress and I even had the courage to wear these jeans out in public, and I was surprised when someone would say they liked my pants and ask where I got them. Here are pictures of my artwork jeans, they are still a work in progress.

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I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with many blessings and challenges and whatever God has in store for you.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 2 Comments

Home Again… Grateful I was able to complete another extraordinary trip

I arrived back home on Monday, November 16th, after being on the road since July 10th. It was a wonderful expedition and I am so grateful I was able to take another trip including attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I traveled from south Florida to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I looked at routes on the map as I traveled so that I could drive on some back roads and highways that I had not driven on during previous trips. This made my journey more interesting and I got to experience new campgrounds, scenery, and places to stop at and explore and take pictures.

Now that I am home again and have Internet connection, I will begin to write the stories I have not written since early October. I have several stories to write including my time at the Balloon Fiesta. As I am able to find time to write, I will work on my last several stories so check back occasionally to see if I have updated my posts. I have posted all of the pictures I have taken along the way, including the flute festival last weekend.

I traveled 5,000 miles on my trip, you can see my route on the 2015 Travel Map tab on the top of my webpage. Thanks for your prayers, they are appreciated. I had some good days, and some physically challenging days. I am grateful for each one. I will update this post as well as previous ones as I get time and energy. Thankfully one of my friends and her grandson met me when I got home and they carried the clothes, food, and other items I had in the camper upstairs into my apartment which saved me many, many trips up and down stairs. I am so grateful to them for their help.

I have some things that need to be fixed on the camper and I’m hoping to have those done soon.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 4 Comments

Native Rhythms Festival and holiday lights, Melbourne, Florida

IMG_3521On my way home to south Florida, I stopped in Melbourne, Florida, to attend the Native Rhythms Festival so that I could see my friends that participate at the event, and also to hear the wonderful, talented musicians that perform, most of whom I have met and heard in previous years. The Native American Flute music to me is very calming and soothing, it also is inspiring and interesting especially when other instruments are played along with the flute. You can read more about the performers, their performance schedules, and this event at the Native Rhythms Festival website.

There was a mound of dirt near the outside of the area where the vendor tents were near the stage and performance area. We noticed that a gopher tortoise, and looking closely deep into her nest when she came out of it we saw a few eggs.

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IMG_3472Jonny Lipford also performed here. I met Jonny many years ago at Musical Echoes Flute Festival when he was about 15 years old and just beginning to play the flute. He is now in his mid-20’s and the father of a two year old son. It has been a great experience to hear Jonny play over the past several years and see how he has now developed his own style of playing the flute and writing songs. He has become a nice, polite, and friendly young man.

It was extraordinary to hear such talented musicians and to hear their new music and see how their music and performances are changing from year to year. I took lots of pictures, and also this time I took some videos of a few performances, mostly when they jammed together informally which I find to be the most interesting. As always, I enjoyed my time at this event and seeing my friends that I see there every time I go, as well as meeting new musicians and people.

There was a man who had an incredible teepee, he said that all of the painting on it was done by him. He did an outstanding job painting all of the animals and designs, they were very realistic.

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My friend Arvel Bird performed with his wife Kim and that was a nice treat. Arvel got a new fiddle and it’s painted very nicely and differently from his previous one. He explained what all of the different colors and patterns represent. I don’t remember the description enough to add it to this post, but it’s very symbolic to him and his Scottish and Native American heritage.

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Florida Bat Conservancy had a booth with different types of live bats, and displays of educational materials to inform people about the important role that bats play with the environment. Check out their website to learn more information about the different types of bats and their importance.

bat houseThey also had a few bat houses to show what they look like. I learned many interesting facts about bats from the lady who was stationed in the tent. Bat houses can also be placed in people’s yards and they will help keep the property and surrounding area free of some types of insects. One bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night. They also have a page on their website on how to build a bat house.

She had some orphaned bats who really are cute and she was telling visitors in her booth things most of us didn’t know. For example, there orphaned bats will not ever fly. Mother bats teach their babies how to fly. Because these bats were orphaned they didn’t have contact with their mother for any length of time and they have to be hand raised and fed and handled by a human. I would have thought that flying is something that would be ingrained in the bats DNA, but evidently not. These little critters are really cute, and very soft to touch. If you or neighbors are having trees trimmed, please be sure it’s not during the season when there are baby bats or birds. Bats will fly many miles to eat insects needed to keep them alive and bat houses can hold several hundreds of bats, even thousands depending on the size. They like to be huddled close together in small spaces.

When I was watching one of the final acts, I was standing to the side of the stage and I saw a woman and her bicycle standing nearby, she had on an interesting outfit. I took a few photos and as she rode away I was able to get a quick glance at her face. I have a feeling she had these clothes from when they were new. I wished I had a chance to talk with her. I liked her spirit and the fact that she was able to dress this way. You will see her in some of the pictures. I think she had a bike helmet on over her regular hat and they seemed to blend together.

As the festival was coming to a close on Sunday afternoon the Boy Scouts held a fundraising walk through Wickham Park where the festival was held. The holiday light display was lit for this walk which kicks off the holiday season and the holiday lights where people can drive through the display for several weeks. I walked the entire mile through the lights and I took pictures of the displays that I thought would come out the best in the pictures. There are more pictures in my album.

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Traveling East

I only have wifi on my phone so this is a short post. I’m back in Florida, will visit friends and attend the Native Rhythms Flute Festival on my way home. I will write stories I am behind on since Albuquerque when I get home and have wifi and time. I’m safe and doing pretty well, just wanted to let everyone know.

Posted in 2015 Trip | 3 Comments

Homestead Heritage, Waco, Texas

Here is a link to photos I have taken at Homestead Heritage near Waco, Texas. The addition to the cafe is new, when I was here in August it was still under construction.The construction was all done with cedar from trees that the men in this community cut from cedar trees on nearby properties. I found out that many of the days that trees were cut were rainy days. However, the men persisted making sure to get the wood cut so that the restaurant addition could be completed. Besides adding a new room to the restaurant, they remodeled the original section and kitchen so that it’s more efficient. One of the other changes was to open up the kitchen and serving area. The restaurant has an entirely different feel and it’s a wonderful dining experience, not to mention the absolutely delicious healthy food, sandwiches on fresh baked bread, and homemade desserts and ice cream.

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In one of the photos you will see a large tree, it’s a papaya tree with fruit and flowers. I saw this tree in August but wasn’t able to find out what kind it was until this visit. This bird is a roadrunner, and the yellow and orange flowers are called the Pride of Barbados.

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I am here visiting friends I have in this wonderful community Homestead Heritage. There are several stories and photo albums posted on my website for my previous visits. As during my previous visits here I really enjoy the time with my friends, and also making new friends, and getting to know families I have known better as we spend time together. I was also able to volunteer and help out at the Gristmill, Fiber Craft Shop, and Cheese Shop and also at the house where I stayed. We had pretty good weather most of the time during my stay, but there were a few days where we had record breaking rains.

The Pottery Shop is building a new wood burning kiln. They are using special bricks that are lightweight, one of the materials in these special bricks is sawdust and the other material is some type of ingredient that bonds with the sawdust to make it sturdy, hard, durable, and great for firing pottery.

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I brought some fresh ground flour home to bake with, there is such a big difference in the taste and texture of cookies, pancakes, cakes, and everything else I make with the flour vs using the flour I buy at the grocery store at home. I went to a whole food store near where I live and the whole wheat pastry flour they sell looks like regular unbleached flour, there is no bran or other parts of the wheat in it like what they mill at the Gristmill in Waco. I can really tell a difference in texture and taste. On my next visit to Texas I will go through Waco to see my friends and buy more flour. Here are a few pictures of the flour coming out of the mill where it’s being ground. There are more pictures and videos in previous stories and photo albums from my visit to Homestead Heritage.

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