Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zipped Up! (A-to-Z Challenge completed)

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Well, it’s the last day of April, and I’ve now zipped up my 26th blog post of the month to finish the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge.

At the beginning of the month, blogging about a different alphabet letter each day seemed fairly do-able.  I wrote out a list of various words for each letter to give me blog topic ideas, and most of them were RVing-related.

But as you readers know, just as soon as those plans got made, life decided to revise them.  Most of the RV topics flew out the window, and my daily posts began to get delayed into small batches of posts at a time.

In the end, though, I’m glad that I continued to see this project through to its completion.  It’s been hard to prioritize the mountains of work that have hit me and the family since my mom’s death.  So, this little blogging project has often times seemed like the one thing I could comfortably manage and maintain control of.

I’m going to try and continue blogging more often in the future.  Probably not up to a daily level, but hopefully more than the 2 or 3 posts per month I’d been doing previously.

Who knows where I’ll be next year, but I’d certainly like to try the A-to-Z challenge again next April, and encourage my fellow blogger friends to do the same!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yoga Bear

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Earlier this year, I started attending a weekly yoga class here in town.  I was encouraged by one of my older friends who said yoga was absolutely critical to her ability to maintain her body’s agility and flexibility.

So, I trotted my overweight “Tinman” body over to the Community Rec Center to see if the fine yoga instructor could turn it back into a youthful, svelte machine.

Well, the svelte part hasn’t happened just yet, and when Spring came, my fellow classmates decided to forego the gym for outdoor activities and our Spring yoga classes got cancelled.

Now, I try to practice my yoga moves at home on the living room floor.  I remember how to do most of the moves just fine and am able to get most of the same stretching benefits as before.  But there’s just one downside to my new yoga studio….

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When Millie sees me laying on the floor, she hovers over to give me a quick inspection…

and then goes to bring me her Frisbee.

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Yoga, schmoga….. it’s time to PLAY!

sigh!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

In Search of Xanadu

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Ok, you darn A-to-Z Challenge, do I really need to blog about the letter “X”?  Well, here it goes!

Xan·a·du (zn-d, -dy)
n.
An idyllic, beautiful place.

Most RVers, and certainly all nature photographers, are motivated to travel by one compelling reason—the (seemingly) endless pursuit of that “perfect” place.  Our Utopia.  Our Xanadu.

When I took my first big cross-country RVing trip with my T@B trailer back in 2007, I remember visiting Montana del Oro State Park on the central California coastal bluffs overlooking the Pacific ocean one cloudy afternoon.  The scenery was pretty nice, but as I started shooting a particularly nice little cove, I couldn’t help but wish something would make it “spectacular.”  God must have been listening to photographers that day, because within a few minutes, he poked the sun out from behind the clouds, rolled a perfect wave onto the beach, and I got my Xanadu!

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A few years later, I was at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, and had driven past the island at Lake of Two Rivers at various times during the week.  It was pretty, but I’d seen islands in a lake before, so no big deal.  Until the last morning of my trip, when a layer of ground fog floated across the lake at sunrise. Ok, now THIS was looking more like the Xanadu I’d been searching for!

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As thrilling as it is to see a landscape transform itself from “just pretty” to “pretty spectacular", I’ve more often had a different feeling when traveling to beautiful places, especially if I’ve lined up a long consecutive itinerary of pretty places.  Pretty gets boring.  The “wow” factor, that Xanadu moment, becomes increasingly elusive. Now, that long journey starts feeling like endless miles of pointless searching.

Perhaps the frustration comes from the realization that Xanadu doesn’t always require a physical place.

Monks and priests seem to often find it within the walls of their monastery.  Homebound-people sometimes describe the same feeling from just sitting at home.  They don’t need to travel long distances looking high and low to find it.  Their Xanadu is found from within.  A virtual Utopia!

Are we travelers and RVers the unfortunate few who have yet to discover this within ourselves?

Or do we simply have the bar set that much higher because of all the spectacular places we’ve experienced in the past?

Perhaps Xanadu is ultimately the combination of both our physical and spiritual worlds.  The idyllic place cannot give us complete serenity until we can bring to it our own serenity.

Where is your Xanadu?

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Walk in the Woods – Seeing an Endangered Species!

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After what seemed like weeks of cold and wet weather, we finally got a couple of warmer sunny Spring days to enjoy here in Chicago!  I met up with my friend Kate, and we decided to take her kids (my goddaughter, Olivia, and her brother, Bradley) and my “fur-kid” Millie for a walk to the local forest preserve after lunch.

7-year-old Bradley was eager to walk run Millie up and down the trails, while 11-year-old Olivia was interested to compare my recent Master Naturalist classes with her own Junior High science studies.

Not much of any green was showing yet on the bushes and trees in the forest, but the groundcover was now growing, and we spotted a number of birds and animals out gathering their daily food.

Around a bend, we came upon a turtle stopped out in the middle of the trail (most likely scared out of it’s wits with the gathering crowd!). 

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I held onto Millie and kept our distance, allowing my zoom lens to get a better look at the turtle.  After a few minutes, when the little gal decided that none of the human giants around her were there to cause her any harm, she stretched her head and legs out a bit further from her shell, and poked her tail “rudder” out to make a fast dash to the grass and woods in the distance.

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The kids had never seen a turtle up close before and were thrilled to watch at how quickly it moved!  Within a few seconds, the little thing had made it safely to the grass and gave a short glance to tell us “thanks” as it headed on to the shade and safety of the woods.

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I didn’t realize until researching my photos later that we had actually witnessed a close-up encounter with an Illinois Endangered Species!  Click the photo above larger, and you’ll see by the distinctive yellow throat that this is a Blanding’s Turtle.  They used to be quite common in the Great Lakes region, but have increasingly lost their habitat in the past few decades, and are prone to get run over by cars because their natural protective instinct is to retract completely within their shells rather than to move quickly out of danger.  These turtles are also slow to reproduce, not typically breeding until they are 20 or more years old (they can live into their 70’s!).

I hope that turtle has many more happy years at the forest preserve!  How cool!!!

A short time later, as we rounded another bend in the trail, Bradley pointed out a few white tailed deer trying to camouflage themselves in the barren woods.

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They did a pretty good job of blending in until they decided to walk out onto the trail!

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Still always a treat to see these common, but beautiful, animals up so close!

After the thrilling animal sitings, the kids took turns trying out the binoculars to look at birds.  My little point-and-shoot camera was not up to zooming in sufficiently for any good bird photos, so I stuck to just focusing on the kids and the thrills they were having at discovering so many different species around them!

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Hopefully, this day will be far more memorable for them than an afternoon indoors playing video games Smile

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Unvirtuous Vegan Vagabond

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Well, it seems with all the flurry of activity and emotions this month, and hosting out-of-town visitors as well, that an unwanted guest managed to slip their way into the house and has been hiding out in the kitchen all month.  Yes, the “Food Crack” dealer left my fridge and pantry filled with lots of sweets, snacks, and booze left-overs.

The virtuous vegan would have thrown all that stuff out, and I did a good job at immediately pitching any items with meat.  But, I was much less rigorous about the “vegetarian” and higher calorie vegan items— what vegan would not want to drown their sorrows with chips, salsa, beer, and cookies?

Of course, now I’ve discovered that all my newer-sized jeans are becoming too tight to wear comfortably.  So, with my 1-year vegan anniversary looming on the horizon next month, it’s time to take action!

I’ve now evicted the Food Crack dealer from my kitchen, and am preparing to start my first Juice fast later this week.  Hopefully, this will be a good way to renew my Vegan vows and re-dedicate my fitness and weight-loss efforts that I’d been neglecting in recent weeks.

Now that Spring has sprung, I’m also hoping to get the View out and start doing a little vagabonding as well.  No time for long trips until my Master Naturalist class finishes up in June (and I get further along with projects on both my and my mom’s houses), but I can at least get out for a couple days at a time to take a break and recharge.

Thank you to my fellow Vegan Vagabonds, Tessa and Evelyn, who have been posting to the Vegan Vagabonds Facebook page and blog site these past few weeks.  Hope you guys will let me jump back onto the wagon and continue the ride!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unbroken

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My A-to-Z Challenge word for today is “Unbroken.”

I had envisioned that this day would be difficult—my first day alone without my brother and without my mom.  But my stepsister, Holley, had different plans.

About 15 years ago, my stepsisters realized their lives were getting way too busy and they were not staying as connected to their dad (my stepfather) as often as they wished, even though he lived just a few miles away from each of them.  So, the three of them carved out one morning a week to meet for breakfast at a local dive, Uncle Bill’s Diner, that had just opened up.

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For about 5 years, they’d meet up at 7:00am the same day each week at the unassuming little diner.  The same waitresses would serve them, and Uncle Bill would cook up their meals.  They soon discovered fellow patrons who were meeting there regularly as well, particularly, a retired police officer named Tommy who would always dine at the next table and share jokes and tall tales with my stepdad.

Ten years ago, when my stepdad died, my mom and stepsisters decided to carry on the weekly breakfasts.  A small, but significant, way to ensure that our two families stayed “connected.”  Soon, Holley’s husband Mike, began joining the gatherings as he was now the eldest patriarch. 

My stepsisters’ mom started attending as well.  She and my mom had always been amicable to each other (even while my stepdad was alive).  But now that he was gone, they became even closer friends and would often go shopping together after the weekly breakfasts.

I joined these family breakfasts only rarely.  A 10-mile, jam-packed expressway sat between my house and the diner, and as I often worked late nights, I preferred not to wake up that early to do that ugly drive.  But, a few times, I’d set my alarm and make an exception, and would always tell myself afterwards that I should more diligently reserve the time each week to continue joining them.

Now that my mom is gone, the circle is once again changing.  With no present work commitments  (due to my Leave of Absence), my priority is to attend this family breakfast each week instead.

The same waitresses were still there today to serve our meals.  Tommy, the retired cop, was still at his table next to ours telling jokes.  I sat in my mom’s old seat and had a great hour sharing a fruit plate and catching up with the family. 

The circle remains unbroken.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Travel Day

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I’m so glad we decided to do Mom’s burial on Monday’s warm and sunny Earth Day, because today was much colder and rainy.  With all the memorial events completed, I drove my brother and his girlfriend to the airport for their flight home to Colorado.  It had been awhile since I drove in Chicago’s morning rush-hour traffic!  Sure am glad I don’t have to drive in that every day anymore!

It was sure nice to have them both with me these past few days and weeks.  We started talking about future get-togethers this summer which will certainly be something fun to look forward to. 

But, for today, once I got back home, it was a day to do virtually nothing else but rest and recharge after the life-changing events of the past few weeks.  I really needed it!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Saying Goodbye

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is S for “Saying Goodbye”--

My mom was an avid gardener and tried to always make whatever patch of land or pot of dirt much prettier and greener than she found it.  She also was passionate about conserving our national parks and the plants and animals that call them “home.”  So, what better day and better week to lay my mom to rest than on Earth Day during National Park Week.

After many days of cold and/or rain, Mom’s “Return to Earth” day was warm and sunny.  We wanted it to be a small and intimate event with just the family and her best friend, Dolores, attending so I rented a big white passenger van to transport us all together down to the cemetery.

When we made this same trip 10 years ago to bury my stepdad, it was a hot summer day and we had a rather “slap happy” long drive to the cemetery after 4 days of mourning, so we anticipated that today would be more filled with fun than with sorrow.  Traveling together, indeed, made it felt like one of the many family road trips we had taken in the motorhome with plenty of laughter and singing.

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My mom loved, absolutely LOVED, going out for brunch and so we decided to do a late morning brunch to one of her favorite restaurants, Egg Harbor CafĂ©.  Thankfully, eating there on a Monday was far less crowded than a Sunday!

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After tummies were full, we headed down to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery just south of Joliet, Illinois.  The cemetery was only 4 years old when my stepdad was buried there in 2003.  It is now significantly more occupied, and when the trees begin blooming in a few weeks, will look quite peaceful and lovely.

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Since my stepdad and mom were cremated, their remains are a stone wall columbarium that is quietly tucked away at the edge of the woods.  There are stone benches also built into the structure and it’s a lovely place to sit and listen to birds singing.

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Rest in peace, Mom.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Remembrance

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is R for Remembrance.

It was my Mom’s memorial service today.  She didn’t want a church funeral or open casket visitation, so we planned a somewhat less formal “Celebration of Life” event at her subdivision’s clubhouse.

I had been stressing out over getting this event catered and quickly organized over the past few days, and did have a few close calls (like getting half way to the event and realizing I had forgotten to put the bags with the party tablecloths, napkins, cups, etc into the car!).  No worries, though.  The family came together and everyone pitched in to ensure everything was set up nicely before guests arrived, and then cleaned up after they left.

I had selected Whole Foods Market to cater the event, and they turned out to be absolutely fabulous.  The catering manager herself delivered the food and set up all the trays without us having to worry about anything.  Guests all seemed to really enjoy the mix of unusual and upscale-traditional selections.

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My stepsister, Holley (who is a church choir director and professional singer) sang two wonderful songs while her husband, Mike, played guitar and read two scripture passages.

My stepsister, Carol, (who is currently finishing up her seminary studies) led the eulogy and did a wonderful job of summarizing the essence of our mother—she said that Mom had a way of connecting people with each other, like weaving single threads together into a tapestry, and she then sang a cappella the first few lines of one of Mom’s favorite songs, Carole King’s “Tapestry”:

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

It was absolutely perfect. 

My contribution (a photo slideshow of my Mom) managed to not only make the family laugh and cry, but many of her friends as well.

My brother and I were deeply moved at the stories others shared with us—things we never knew about my mother that made us appreciate her that much more.  The clubhouse manager said about 10 years ago, my mom had walked into her office once summer day with a surprise bouquet of flowers saying “these reminded me of you”.  She said no other resident had done something like that for her before or since, and it was a random act of kindness she had never forgot.

Another woman thanked me for including Mom’s photo in the newspaper obituary.  She was a cashier at the local grocery store who my Mom always made sure to visit with weekly in the 20+ years the lady had worked there.  She never knew my Mom’s name but had recognized her photo in the paper and had to come pay her respects.

Mom’s next door neighbor of 28 years stood up during the “open mic” segment to tell the story of how my mom instigated the neighbor’s very first date with her husband.  I never Mom was responsible for them coming together! How wonderful!

But, perhaps the most incredible connection revealed was from one of her oldest friends.  My grandfather had baptized him and he and my mom had been friends throughout their childhood, even attending each other’s high school proms back in the 1950s:

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Pat is a pilot who still lives in Kansas City and still gets together with a few of the parishioners from my grandfather’s old church, Hyde Park Christian.  They had not seen me and my brother since we were little babies, but knew they had to send Pat up to see us when news was heard of my mom’s passing.  So Pat hopped in his plane and flew in from Kansas City to do just that!  After shared memories, and a few tears, he posed for a photo with my brother and me.  What a happy way to end this monumental day for us all!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Quandary

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is Q for Quandary--

My brother’s girlfriend, Karen, flew in today from Colorado for the weekend family events (Mom’s funeral and burial).  He was fairly familiar with the drive down to Midway Airport to pick her up, so I didn’t bother to ride along and just let him go down there solo.

About the time she was to land, he called me in a panic—the expressway was closed due to river flooding from yesterday’s rains, so he had been re-routed through some neighborhood streets, which also turned out to have numerous flooded out spots.

Thank goodness I let him borrow my Subaru (with it’s GPS navigation) to continue re-routing him as he’d reach each impasse.  And, thank goodness Midway had a nice Potbelly’s sub sandwich for Karen to nibble on while she waited for her ride to arrive!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pouring

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is P for Pouring!

A monster storm rolled through Chicago last night and today to dump over 6 inches of rain on some already water-logged land.  I’m fortunate to live on the highest spot of the subdivision (and not have a basement in my house!), but some others in the area were not as lucky as these photos from Huffington Post display.

Area rivers and flash floods made commuting next to impossible.  We were very glad to just be working around the house today.  I focused on computer stuff and paperwork while my brother focused on washing, waxing, and detailing the cars (aren’t I lucky to have such a nice brother?!!!).

Sunny skies are forecasted by the weekend, so hopefully the flood waters will recede quickly for those impacted.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One Hundred Thousand

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Still woefully behind in the A-to-Z Challenge, but now catching up!

With the significant family events occurring recently, I’ve been remiss to properly thank YOU blog readers for helping us hit an important blogging milestone—Winnie Views pages have now been viewed over 100,000 times! 

Thank you for riding along with us (and still sticking around these recent months when we’ve not been able to travel).  Some new travels are high on the agenda this summer, so I promise to have some new destinations to blog about soon!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Naturalist 1st Class

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is N for Naturalist

As if this week was not busy enough already, it also happened to be the first week for my Illinois Master Naturalist training classes.  I didn’t want to be missing the very first class, and figured a few hours away from all the Mom stuff would probably be a good thing for me anyway, so I went.

The sessions are being held at the University of Illinois Extension office way out in the boonies of Kendall County about 40 miles away.  I arrived about 2 minutes late, but found one last open seat in the back row of the classroom.

The training program had not been run for a couple of years due to budget cutbacks, but fortunately this year, the Kendall Country Forest Preserve District stepped up to help the U of I restart the program. 

There turned out to be about 22 of us who will be going through the program this year.  A wide mix of people—some have taken the U of I’s other “Master” certification program and are Certified Master Gardeners, others are already working at area Forest Preserves and looking to round out their knowledge, and then there are a majority of us who are retired or semi-retired who are looking to volunteer at parks, and learn more about nature so that we can share that with others.

The class coordinator put us through some fun “ice breaker” activities to get us interacting with each other.  One involved having us fill out a checklist of what unusual things we had experienced in nature (such as watch a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, find a robin nest with eggs, hunt and find Morel mushrooms, see a family of Red Fox, etc) and then walk around the classroom to find others who had experiences for the checkboxes you had lacked.

Another exercise had us rank from 1 to 10 our feelings on some current environmental ethics questions.  We then had to walk around the room to the number on the wall that corresponded with our ranking. 

While some of our values were quite universal (i.e. we all stood at the 10 sign for strongly agreeing that “It is important for people to preserve wilderness areas even if a vast majority of people will never visit them”),  we were surprisingly not as much in agreement for statements like “Global warming caused by human pollution is an undeniable fact” (about 1/3rd of the class were “undecided” while the rest of us stood at the “strongly agreed” sign).  The point was not to chastise, but to raise awareness that others who you may assume share your values and beliefs, may very well not, and that it will be important for us as citizen scientists to study all sides of a question and open our minds to different points of view.

I think I’m going to really love this class over the next 2 months!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Memorial Planning

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is M for Memorial.

While my brother’s focus this week is on muscle power (to continue tackling the jobs around Mom’s house that I would not be able to accomplish on my own), my week’s focus is on getting Mom’s memorial service planned.

She didn’t want a formal wake and church funeral, and yet, we knew she would have wanted some kind of memorial.  So, I called her best friend, Dolores, to brainstorm some ideas, and she provided some really great ones!

My mom was a social butterfly and loved to spend hours upon hours talking to her friends, so what better way to memorialize her than a “Celebration of Life” – a happier event where friends can share their stories, view old photos, eat, drink and be merry. 

I initially called around to some of the banquet halls in the area, but they were not well-suited to the our rapid timeline, unknown number of attendees, and desire for flexibility.  I then happened to remember where we’d held all of our important family parties in the past—at her subdivision’s clubhouse.  A quick call to the manager, and she was completely accommodating.  We could have the whole clubhouse all day!

My mom had lived in the same subdivision for nearly 40 years, and had organized wonderful parties at the clubhouse to celebrate my stepdad’s 65th birthday, and another to celebrate when my stepsister turned 50.  It would be our turn to honor her.

So, I’ve come out of retirement and put my project manager hat back on to get everything planned out— catering, drinks, flowers, decorations, photos, tribute boards, friends and family recruited to help get everything set up, etc.   Fingers crossed that this can all come together by Saturday!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Labor Day

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Another catch-up post for the A-to-Z Challenge.

Saturday was unofficially dubbed “Labor Day” for the family to start tackling the immense job of sorting through my mom’s household possessions.  My stepsister and her husband (Holley & Mike) came to assist me and my brother.  I am my mom’s power of attorney, so any kind of documents got routed to me to determine if they needed to be responded to, saved, or trashed.  Holley focused on sorting through clothing and shoes, while the guys put their muscle into sorting the bigger/heavier stuff in the basement.

Endless decisions (keep? give to friend/family? donate? sell? recycling? trash? decide later?) that seemed daunting at first, became easier as the day wore on.  Some sadness, but lots of laughter as well whenever we’d come across an old photo or keepsake that prompted old family memories.

While, at times, we each took turns cursing “why on earth did she keep this old thing?” or “here’s another _____ “, we also were grateful and thrilled find treasures that we thought were long-lost. My brother found photos of the big “circle trip” he had taken around the U.S. 20 years ago.  Photos he had lost years ago and never dreamed he’d see again.  That was repeated with each of us finding similar personal mementos. 

I suppose that’s one of a mother’s most important jobs—to hang on to items that will become cherished by her children much later.  Thank you, Mom!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kindness of Strangers

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Today’s A-to-Z Challenge letter is K for Kindness.

Living in a large metro suburban area filled with busy expressways, and crowded shopping malls, it seems most people here live “hyper-active” lives.  If you don’t have your kid signed up for 10 extra-curricular activities a week, don’t have yourself doing extra projects at work, and have not jam-packed your social calendar at home, well, those next-door neighbors will be proudly “one-upping” you the next time you commiserate across the backyard fence about your lives being so “busy, busy, busy.”

In our Information Age, it seems there are always too many blogs and websites to read, too many emails to manage, and too many tweets, text and instant messages to respond to.  When can we ever find the time to connect with each another for more than a nanosecond?  To pause thinking only of ourselves and our own needs, and genuinely express an act of kindness and concern to others—even to complete strangers?

The faster our society runs each year, the less likely these small acts of kindness would seem to occur.  Yet, this week, I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by how kind people can be.   From the nurses who never left my mom’s hospital room before asking what they could do to also help me and my brother stay more comfortable, to the dozens of condolences we have received in the days since—most from people we’ve never actually met in-person.

This demonstrated to me that in the crazy-busy world we live in, it is still possible to carve out a few moments of time each day to express genuine kindness to others. Such simple (and free) gifts to give, yet so meaningful to the person receiving it.

I remember the movie “Pay It Forward” a few years ago having a strong impact on me, with it’s message that giving random acts of kindness to others and encouraging them to do the same, would ultimately return the kindness back to you one day.  I resolved to become a kinder more generous person.

If the death of a loved one can have any silver lining, it is this— to renew one’s faith in humanity.  The kindness “paid forward” to others, does indeed come back to you just when you need it the most.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Juicing Experts Out There?

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More catch up posts to get back on track with the A-to-Z Challenge.  J is for Juicing!

Long-time readers recall that last year I adopted a vegan diet. For the first 8 months or so, it was amazing.  Excess weight was coming off with zero effort (no exercise, no starvation).  I dropped 30 lbs without trying.

But around the holidays, I started adding a few more sweets and starches (still vegan, but certainly more calories than before).  As a result, my weight began to stabilize.  No further weight loss, but no weight gain either.  Just a steady “holding pattern” for the next few months.

Well, that’s now apparently been all shot to hell this spring.  Having to eat out much more often than usual, I’ve been eating more vegetarian meals and most of these restaurant meals have been much higher in calories and sodium than the home-cooked vegan meals I was making before.

As a result, I’ve gained back a whopping 9 pounds in the past 2 months.  So, it’s time for renewed vigilance and a dietary “kick in the pants!”  Once the family events conclude next week and the out-of-town guests go home, I think it’d be an excellent time to try a 7 or 10-day juice fast.

Have any other vegans tried this before?  Did it help kick-start weight loss?  Has anyone done it with their existing Blendtec or Vitamix blender? (I’m trying to avoid the added storage space requirements of a dedicated juicer, and am wondering if I could use my existing Blendtec and strain it instead).

Finally, what were/are your favorite juice recipes or recipe websites?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Impossible Jobs

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Still catching up for the A-to-Z Challenge.  I wanted to sincerely thank everyone who commented with their condolences on my previous post—your kind words have been quite healing to me and my family and very much appreciated.

It’s incredible how quickly one’s life can change. Last Friday, my mom was enjoying a pizza lunch with her kids and just one day later she was unconscious in a hospital bed.  The quiet and peacefulness of the final afternoon my brother and I spent with my mom on Tuesday, was replaced by what seemed like a sudden and immense list of “to-do’s” on Wednesday.  From deciding on the funeral arrangements to notifying everyone we could think of.  On top of that, we also had my mom’s house to begin tackling—40 years of her collected treasures and household items to sort through, and lots of overdue renovations to make it attractive to today’s picky real estate buyers.

The list seemed so incomprehensible and impossible, that about all we could do on Wednesday morning was ignore it to get some much-needed sleep!

But, with steadfast determination, we are now slowly beginning to make our way through this impossible long list of jobs.  I have continually repeated to myself the common riddle: “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time!”

My mom wanted to be buried at my stepdad’s grave at the national military cemetery here in Chicago.  When I asked the funeral director how that could be arranged, she said it would help most to find and bring my stepdad’s discharge papers from the military when we came later that day to finalize my mom’s arrangements.
  
My mom was good about keeping important papers, but she was even more proficient at keeping all the unimportant ones too!  Where on earth would we find this single, ancient document in the few hours before we had to meet the funeral director?

Somehow, as if to confirm that Mom was indeed now watching over us and expertly guiding us through the house, we found the necessary 1940’s document with only minutes to spare!  We arrived right on time to our meeting with the funeral director, and it went off without a hitch—we had all the necessary documents, and the cemetery arrangements were able to be smoothly completed.

Perhaps the rest of these impossible jobs will get done as easily?!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Heaven’s Newest Resident

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I suppose some of you were starting to wonder why my posts had been so minimal this week, and if I had decided to discontinue my participation in the A-to-Z Challenge.  Earlier this week, I thought I’d not blog again for a good long time, but here I am tonight now wanting to catch back up and continue forward.

Last Friday, after spending a great couple of days with me and my brother, and enjoying a nice lunch out with us at her favorite Chicago deep-dish pizza place, my mom’s life forever changed.
 
She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance just after midnight unable to breathe.  My brother had been staying with her and was still pretty shook up when I arrived to the hospital a short time later.  Within a matter of minutes, just before 2:00 a.m., the Emergency Room doctor and chaplain were asking us to make a gut-wrenching decision.  The paramedics had inserted a breathing tube and had been giving my mom CPR on the way to the hospital.  She was now on a respirator while the E/R team waited to learn (from me) if she had signed a DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate” document) for which she had.

I was grateful to not have to make that dreadful decision alone.  After discussing our options for a few minutes, my brother and I gave the E/R doctor the “o.k.” to take her off of life support and let nature take its course.  We stayed with her all night in the E/R, all but certain that she would stop breathing again at any moment.

Inexplicably, even though she never regained consciousness, her body continued to fight for four more days before finally letting go.  The hospital staff were superb, providing us with a private room with 2 reclining chairs, pillows, and blankets so that my brother and I could continue to stay by her side around the clock.

At times, it was very difficult to watch, and we wondered why God was waiting so bloody long to take her.  But at other times, we knew this was Mom’s way of making sure everyone in the family had time to say their goodbyes, and for the deep philosophical conversations to occur with each another.

On Tuesday, April 9th, at half past 6 pm, she gently crossed over to the other side while my brother and I held her hands, and my stepsister (the minister of the family) delivered a most beautiful prayer.  She was now at peace.

My mother, Sue Thorsen, lived life fully and on her own terms. She was kind and loyal to her friends, and generous to her family and those in need.  She taught my brother and I to be forever curious and fiercely independent.  To treat others as we would wish to be treated, and to leave the natural world around us a better and prettier place than we had found it.

Thank you for showing us the way, Mom.  We will miss you tremendously.

Sue_Feb 2012

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Girl’s Guide to RVing

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G is for A Girl’s Guide to RVing, our topic for today’s A-to-Z Challenge.

A few years ago, I did a few step-by-step posts with pictures on common RVing topics that many newbies (particularly women) seem to struggle with.  These posts have become the most-popular posts of this blog.  After a few of these posts, I thought I’d highlight the collection on it’s own page and called it A Girl’s Guide to RVing.  The information is certainly not exclusively geared for women, but I wanted a catchy title and “A Girl’s Guide to RVing” seemed to fit the bill.

So if you happen to be a new to the world of RVing, and are curious about things such as how to dump your tanks, how to hook up a toad, or my thoughts on selecting an RV,  give this Guide page a look!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Focus on Family Today


Sorry for the short post tonight, but fully focused on family today.  So blessed to have most of our family together today.


Friday, April 5, 2013

I’m now an Escapee

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Tonight’s A-to-Z Challenge topic – becoming an escapee!

Venture into any RV park, and chances are you’re likely to find one, or maybe two.  They might be tucked into a far shadowy corner, hiding away from the faster-paced “transient” population.  They were probably once transients themselves, darting from park to park on a nightly basis, but they’ve become far too smart for that. They now prefer to lay low and move their little hide-away more slowly and much less often.

Who are these elusive and exclusive people?  Escapees, of course!

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Uh, no.  Not those kinds of escapees!

RVer Escapees.  Those folks smart enough to leave vacation “frenzy-mode” travel permanently behind and live full-time in their RVs.

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I signed up as a member last week and a big packet of membership materials arrived on my doorstep today, including my official member card! 

So, consider me now a card-carrying Escapee!

The club was founded in 1978 by Joe and Kay Peterson to fulfill three basic needs for full-time RVers:  Support (an array of services, and friendship of fellow RVers), Knowledge (via various events, seminars, magazines, and forums), and Parking (the club has a number of owned and affiliated RV parks that offer RV sites at a very low cost).  These three things together make the acronym S-K-P (or “Escapee”!).

New memberships are usually $70/yr, but if you’re a member of Passport America, Thousand Trails or others, your 1st year is discounted, and if you’re a member of the Good Sam Club (as I am), the first year is just $35-- this seemed like too good a deal to pass up!

I’ve not been to an Escapee RV park yet, but I’ve heard they are quite friendly with plenty of activities (granted, most might cater to their predominant demographic of “old geezer” RVers, but I guess I should be honest and admit that I’m not the youngest spring chic cruising down the highway anymore, so if I’m now old enough for an AARP card, I’m likely now an old geezer candidate myself!)

While the various events and “Birds of a Feather (BOF)” special interest sub-groups sound interesting (and I’m sure I’ll look into them further), I’m most curious to check out some of the Escapee parks and co-ops themselves to find a potential future “home base” (after a few years of full-time RVing when I might wish to settle in one place again for part or all of the year, yet still continue to live in my RV). 

Are there any other Escapee members out there?  Any feedback or recommendations for me on parks you’ve liked (or other aspects of the club)?

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