Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Atypical Evening

There is nothing routine about our evening routine. It doesn't matter whether Mallory is home or at college we are rarely home together at night, especially in the summer. So I took advantage of the Memorial Day weekend when everybody was home to chronicle an atypical night.

It's Sunday and the whole next day, the holiday, is a bonus day off for everyone. Mallory decided to set up her backpacking tent in the backyard. Hubby saw this and asked if she planned on sleeping outside that night. (Now this had been a 90 degree day so it was not going to be pleasant sleeping temperatures)
Anyway, Mallory thought she would sleep out along with one of the dogs.

Next thing I know Hubby is setting up his backpacking tent as well. Meanwhile, I am thinking "GREAT the whole house to myself".

Well it's 11 p.m. and everybody heads off to bed, Mallory and Scout to her tent, and Hubby to his tent, me to my comfy bed. When I look outside I see headlamps switch on to do some bedtime reading, and I pray that they stay out there all night long.

Budget item "House"

The very first item on my very simple 3 X 5 index card budget system is "House".  Let's face it , a house is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. If you budget well and are really lucky you may even be able to cross off that line item someday. Ours is scheduled to be crossed off in 12 years, but a lot of life can happen in the next 12 years.

The amount budgeted per month for that "house" category has definitely changed over the years.

Our very first "house" was a 12 X 60 mobile home. No frills, no air conditioning, parking at the curb,  2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. In our bedroom we could fit our queen size bed and a dresser and that was it. When we sold it 2 years after we got married, we had it almost paid off and sold it for what we bought it for.

Our second home was a two bedroom, 1 bathroom "real" house. This time we had a window air conditioner in our bedroom, we could fit our bed , a cedar chest and 2 nightstands. We had a separate dining room, a front porch and a two car garage. We were young and ambitious with that house, painting, putting in new flooring, and new windows on the porch. The fun and aggravation we had fixing up that house into a home. The best part was converting the 2nd bedroom into a nursery. Crib, Changing Table, Rocker, cute Teddy Bear wallpaper, all in anticipation of the arrival of a little one.

2nd house - 1st home
We moved soon after Mallory was born. This was at a time when there were not a lot of houses on the market. Our house had three offers within the first couple of days on the market. We wanted to move back to the northside of town where we both grew up. The house we found fit our price criteria and it was very close to the elementary school that Mallory would attend. I never loved that house, it was not the 2-story home I wanted, and it was on a busy street, but it was new and we needed a house since ours had sold. Even though I never loved that house, we had nine wonderful years of memories there. Mallory's first steps, the first time she rode her bike up and down the driveway, walking to her first day of Kindergarten. We also had the best neighbors we have ever had, so maybe we had to move there just to meet them.

When we first bought the house - no yard

Shortly before we moved from this house

Our current home is as close to my dream house as I have been so far. We have four bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms, a four season porch, large deck, and best of all a big kitchen and big dining room. In our bedroom I can fit a King size bed, a dresser, two nightstands and a bookcase. Many happy memories have happened here, Mallory's first day of high school, her first test drive up and down the driveway, her graduation open house, her leaving for college (well that wasn't happy, but we are so proud of her).

Current home

The next home will probably be a down-sized, retirement house, hopefully up in the Leelanau Peninsula, at least that is my goal. Will the line item "house" ever completely go away? Who knows...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Used Car Shopping

We knew we would have to replace my husband's much loved Toyota Avalon this year. It has served him very well for the past 8 years, but with it being 11 years old and having 315,000 miles on it, it was time to let it go.

This is the story of a recent Saturday adventure, driving to Chicago (about 3 hours from our house) to look at a loaded 2008 Avalon with 20,000 miles on it for $23,995. My husband saw this car on line at a Toyota dealership a bit south of Chicago. Yes, it was a drive but the car looked good on line and the price was in our budget. 

We arrived about 9:30 a.m. (10:30 our time), the dealership screamed high pressure sales. We were greeted by "Mary" who was happy to show us the car, but first she and hubby took his car for a test spin, since he was interested in possibly trading his in.

Finally she brings around the car we are there to see , she walks us through all the features of the car, engine to trunk. Then we get in to take it for a test drive, she gets behind the wheel. She has to be the one to drive the car off the lot, then she and hubby could switch places once we turned onto a side road. Interesting...

When we get back to the dealership, "Mary" gives us a tour of the service department (like we are going to drive 3 hours one way for service), the customer waiting area, parts department, etc. Then the fun begins, "Mary" has all the paper work; car fax, their service inspection, and the numbers sheet. Hubby had been given an internet price of $22,800, which he had told "Mary", the numbers sheet says $23,995 and only $500 for his car.  A personal insult to hubby! Mainly "Mary" wanted to know what payment plan we wanted at 14.99% interest. Ah NONE! Negotiations back and forth between hubby and "Mary" and then poof "Mary" is gone and out comes her Manager.

More negotiations with the Manager and we have about had it. It is now 11:00 (noon our time) and we are getting hungry, so we tell Manager we are going to go to lunch and discuss it and then we will be back. Now here is where it gets good. Manager says "Why don't you take the Avalon to lunch?" What happened to they have to drive it off the lot? Now we can drive it to lunch a few miles away and have it sit in a parking lot for an hour while we eat lunch. Weird...

We decided at lunch this car wasn't quite it. We went back to the dealership, told them no to that car. Then they started pulling out every Avalon they had, for us to drive. By the last one I was so done with it all. Thankfully College Daughter called then and saved me. We got back to the dealership and I went and sat in our car giving hubby the perfect out to get us out of there. As hubby is walking back to our car the manager says "what about the car you came here to see, what about $21,500?"

So sorry, too little, too late. Quite the adventure though.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Favorites - P52 Week 21

Two of my favorite things; the beach and my Chacos.

Yes, I have a fairly large collection of Chaco sandals. The college daughter counted them today, 9 pairs. They are not all present for this photo shoot (I couldn't carry them all). I have a pair for almost every outfit. There are still a few colors I would like to add to the collection.

Because of my back problems and high arches, these sandals are the best thing for my feet, back and hips. When I worked retail and had to stand on my feet all day, I would wear my sandals, year round, and never experience any problems with my back, hips or feet. I wore them in the store even in the winter (I wore boots to work). I got a few interesting looks from people in December and January and asked me if my feet were cold, but I didn't care my body was happy.


While I do have a small freelance job at a local furniture store taking pictures of their inventory for their website and Facebook page. I don't really consider that work, my schedule when I go there is very flexible and I don't have to ask off for vacation, I just let them know I won't be in that week. I consider it more a creative outlet than "work". My main "work" is taking care of my family and our home. Some of my many professions are:

Gourmet Chef or Short Order Cook - This depends on the day and whether we are all home to eat together or if everybody is on different schedules for the day. I do love to cook though!

Laundress - Mounds of laundry to wash, line dry (when possible), iron, fold and put away.

Housekeeper - Dust, vacuum, mop, dishes, windows, etc. The only thing I refuse to do is bathrooms.

Guidance Counselor - Available 24 hours a day for whenever the college girl needs somebody to talk to, especially when it is about boys.

Chauffeur - Especially before our daughter got a car again, there were many appointments to go to as soon as she was home from college.

Dog Walker - Once or twice daily walks for Riley and Scout. Exercise is needed to curb naughty behavior.

Purchasing Agent - Groceries, clothes, furniture, dog food, and project supplies.

Appointment Scheduler - Haircuts, Doctors, Dentists, Veterinarian, dog groomer, and social outings.

Lawn Girl - In the last year the responsibility of mowing has fallen more and more on me since I am home.

I am sure the list could go on and on. One thing I know for sure, if we had to pay somebody to do all these things. I would need to work full time just to pay for it. I think I will enjoy my "work" just the way it is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Me - Right Now

Today we were encouraged to write about ourselves. Fortunately Ali gave us a list of 10 questions to answer about ourselves. This is a topic I would like to revisit at the start of  every season of the year, just to see how I answer the questions each time, what changes and what stays the same.

1. Age: 43, on the brink of 44.

2. Favorite part of the day: Morning. I love having the whole day ahead of me. Each morning is a fresh start to make right things that went wrong the day before, and continue the things that were going well.

3. Loving: The photography and writing e-courses I am participating in. I love the growth and confidence I am feeling.

4. Longing for: More opportunities to travel, to take my camera and shoot new things, document life through my writing.

5. Inspired to: Be an inspiration to women through my photography and writing. I think this is the first time I have allowed myself to say this dream out loud.

6. Dreaming of: Leelanau Peninsula. Living there someday. Having a studio filled with soft light coming through windows looking out on to nature.

7. Needing: More time in a day. A Vacation.

8. Navigating: Life as empty nesters (for the most part). Finding my voice.

9. Struggling with: The inability to get everything accomplished in a day that is on my to do list.

10. Knowing: That I am loved and that I can return love. My family is the most important thing to me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Conversations in the Woods

It seems like so many of the conversations about life that my daughter and I have had, have taken place here in these woods.

These woods, are some hiking and biking trails that are quite close to our house, so a quick car ride is all it takes to get here.

Many times when she was still in high school we would come here after school to walk the dogs and to discuss her day. What went right, what went wrong, classes she loved, classes she didn't.

On Sunday afternoons we would come and discuss the bigger questions; what classes to take next year,  boys or the lack there of, what to wear to the prom, what college, will she get married, will she have kids.

The conversations haven't always been easy or dry-eyed on either one of our parts, but they have always left a deep impact on me. Just last week we had one of those conversations here. She was adjusting to being back home from her first year of college and struggling with who she is now. Is she the strong, confident person she has become at college or is she Glen and Sarah's daughter trying to fit back into the family unit. In reality she is both, she just had to find the balance between them.

I, also was adjusting, to losing a big chunk of my free time, having to wake her up in the morning for appointments (not an easy task), different schedules for everyone, more laundry, plus helping her look for a car.

This was not an easy conversation for either one of us, but one we needed to have to clear the air between us. Tears were shed by both of us, but the outcome was so worth it. A better understanding of where each of us was coming from and a better understanding of where we needed to go. Things improved greatly after that conversation and things for the most part are happily different yet the same.

I know we will have more deeply meaningful conversations here; talk about jobs, where to live, wedding plans.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Sunday Best

Sunday, when I was growing up, was a day that centered about church. It was all about getting dressed up in our Sunday Best and driving to church in my Grandma's big boat, sage green, with a white vinyl top, Chevy Impala with my dad behind the wheel.

I grew up in a small, traditional country church. Where it was like going to see your extended family on Sunday. The 9:30 a.m. service started with the sanctuary filling sounds of the organ. On a special Sunday someone might play the piano along with the organ. The services rarely deviated from the traditional Order of Worship. I call this Order of Worship the stand up/sit down Order of Worship because there were asterisks next to the things where we had to stand up. 

There were wooden sign holders on the front wall on each side of the pulpit, the ones with the channels to slide the black letters and numbers into. The one sign listed the Psalter Hymnal numbers that we would be singing that day. The other sign had the Sunday School attendance number from last week and the amount of the Sunday School collection. 

After a sermon that always seemed incredibly long and boring (maybe because our pastors were always older), it was time for juice and cookies. The juice was that horrible, brightly colored punch in the plastic milk gallon size jugs and the cookies were almost always the store bought sandwich cookies. I wonder what that punch has done to my insides.

I was only one of two public school kids my age, and the other kid was a boy. The rest of the kids my age were girls, and they all went to the country Christian school together. They always had a weeks worth of shared experiences to talk about and I had nothing. Sometimes it was a little hard to find my place to fit in.

After church it was time to go home for "Sunday Dinner" which was a big meat and potatoes meal. After dinner was the best part of the day, some weeks my Great-Aunt Viola would come out to visit. She was that fun-loving spinster aunt that everybody wished they had. She would play baseball with us in the front yard and go on exploring adventure walks with us. Late afternoon she would head for home and we would begin the getting ready to go to church process all over again for the 6 p.m. service. This service looked a lot like the morning service minus the juice and cookies.

So even though Sunday involved a lot of rituals and preparation when I was a kid, I still have some fond memories that I would not trade for anything.

Wearing our Sunday Best

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reading Lists

I LOVE lists, but I especially love lists related to reading. It doesn't matter if they are lists I find about reading or if they are lists that I have made about reading. I love them all.

So here is a list of my reading lists:

Battered Pink Spiral Notebook List - I have been keeping this list for almost 20 years. It is consists of a numbered account of the books I have read and their author. I began keeping this list so I could keep track of the books that I have read, I hate buying a book and then realizing that I have already read it. The discouraging thing is, that after 20 years I have only read 821 books, but then when I average only 30-40 books a year I guess it takes a while for them to add up.

Indie Book Lists - These are my favorite book lists to pick up, a new one comes out every month. There is an on-line version, but I prefer the real paper one that I pick up from an Independent Book Seller.

Books to Check Out List - After I go through the Indie list and highlight the books that look good to me, I write the title of the book and the author in this journal. This list mainly stays in my car, so it is always handy when I am at the library or at a bookstore. After I finish a book I really like, I will go on Amazon and find related books that people have liked, those titles go in this journal as well.

Summer Reading List - This is a visual display of my planned summer reading list. I am going to try and be good this summer and stay away from the library so that I can make a small dent in my many unread books at home.

Computer List - I also have an Excel spreadsheet on the computer that lists Title, Author and number of pages read for each book. The spread sheet calculates my total number of pages read. Since I started this list in March of 2004, I have read 119,883 pages.

So as you can tell I am a little obsessed with my reading lists. If you know of any good reading lists that I haven't discovered yet, please let me know.

Mothers - P52 Week 20

This week's theme was a challenge for me and to be honest it was one that I would have skipped if I hadn't made the commitment at the beginning of the year to "Becoming a Finisher" . In my things to "finish" this year, #1 on the list of things to finish is all 52 weeks of Project 52.

I don't have the best relationship with my mother. To be honest shopping the card isle for a Mother's Day card puts me in a state of panic. All the cards talk about loving relationships and how their mother has always been there for them. I am one who has to truly feel the words that are written in a card. So if you get a card from me those words truly express how I feel about you. This year Mother's Day cards seemed to be particularly challenging, not a single generic card in the bunch. I finally resorted to making a card and stamping "Happy Mother's Day" inside. I figure my love went into making the card instead of the words.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Morning Routine

After my first round of problems with herniated disks seven years ago, my morning routine became a maintenance routine. I did physical therapy after an MRI diagnosed that I had two herniated disks in my lower back. My therapist was awesome. She had the just right bubbly, perky, encouraging personality that I needed to make me stop feeling sorry for myself and do the work that I needed to do to get better. I wanted to avoid back surgery at all costs. Angela gave me some exercises to do at home, so I incorporated them into my morning routine. I still do those exercises every morning along with some new ones that I got when I had my second round of problems three years later. I can't tell you the last time I missed a day of doing them. It is too important to me to not go back to that prison of pain again.

My morning routine starts with weighting myself. I did this even before I started Weight Watchers. I need to stay accountable to myself each and every day. After I weigh myself I come upstairs and check my email. Lately, my emails are filled each morning with encouraging words from the on-line classes I am currently enrolled in. After email is cleaned up I make my breakfast, which never varies when I am home. Two 8 oz. glasses of chocolate milk, one to take with all my vitamins, and one to enjoy with my toasted english muffin spread with Cherry Republic Cherry Berry Jam.

I do my daily devotions while I eat breakfast. I have been reading through the Bible and just started over with Genesis. (I started with the Psalms, not sure why I started there, I just did)

After breakfast it is shower time, warms up the muscles before my stretches. I do about 20 minutes of stretches after the shower and then a 15 minute core muscle strengthening yoga routine. I started doing yoga about 1-1/2 years ago through our local hospital wellness program. I find it to be very helpful for my back and builds my core strength.

My dogs know my routine so well, after stretches and yoga, I go upstairs and grab my socks and tennis shoes, and a couple of dog leashes. Riley, Scout and I set out for our 3 mile morning walk. Dogs are a great motivator to walk. All Scout has to do is stare at me with his puppy dog sad, brown eyes and I am a goner.                                                        

Once we get back from our walk the rest of the day can begin. It takes some careful planning some days to make sure I can get it all done, but the fear of going back to that house of pain that I experienced seven years ago keeps me on the straight and narrow path of a reality pain free life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jewelry - The Story Behind the Necklace

Last July my husband and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary.  We got married young and didn't have any money for a honeymoon. We were more interested in saving our money and paying off our mobile home, so that we could buy a house. So 25 years later we finally took our honeymoon... a cruise to Alaska. We took a week long cruise and did three days on land in Denali National Park. We also took our 17 year old daughter, so not quite like a honeymoon.

Our second port-of-call, Juneau, landed on the day of our anniversary. We had a forest hike excursion planned for the day. The weather was not being very friendly that day, rainy and chilly. Fortunately, by the time we got off our tour bus at the Mendenhall Glacier the rain had let up. Our tour of about 30 people  split into two groups, the first group took off with their tour guide. Our group, the ones that had to make one last trip to the bathroom, brought up the rear. The first group was probably 5-10 minutes ahead of us. Our group started down the hiking path and a short distance later we came to a foot bridge. The foot bridge crossed a rolling stream with some nice sized salmon swimming in it. Of course with salmon present everyone was looking for bears, someone asked our guide how often he saw a bear here, and he said not very often. Wouldn't you know just then we hear a rustling in the branches along the stream, and lo and behold ambling out of the underbrush in a female black bear, thankfully no cubs in tow. We watched her, mesmerized as she crossed the stream and went under the foot bridge we were standing on. We watched her come out on the other side, and not more than 20 feet from where we were standing, she decided to do a little fishing.

That was one of the best hikes of my life. We did not see any more bear that day, but the rain forest  area was beautiful, and looking down on the Mendenhall Glacier was awesome.

The next day we were in Skagway, and after we had walked past all the cruise ship owned jewelry stores, I happened upon a local craftman's jewelry shop. In the window was this necklace...

It is the perfect reminder of a wonderful day and a wonderful life.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2011 - Mother's Day 2012 A Year of Change

A lot of changes have happened in my life since Mother's Day last year. Last Mother's Day I was already unhappy with the weight I has at, after that day I was even more unhappy. We went hiking at Ludington State Park for the day and I had Mallory take some pictures of me. When we got home and I loaded those pictures that was the slap in the face that I needed to do something about it.

Mother's Day 2011
I immediately sat down at the computer and signed up for Weight Watchers online. Over the last year I have lost 20 lbs.  and have been able to keep it off. I don't always track my food every week, but if I notice the scale number start to creep up, I immediately go back to tracking everything, and within a week I am right back down again. I am still not at my ideal goal weight, but that is something to keep striving for. It also may be something that I never reach, the point is I feel so much better about myself and more confident this year compared to last year.

Some other changes that have occurred in these past 366 days:

  • I sent my only child off to her first year of college, a college that is 8 hours away none the less. Leaving her there after we had moved her in was the hardest thing I have ever done. She, though has flourished. I am so proud of the confident, strong, social young woman she has become.
  • I decided to leave my part time retail job that I had been at for the past 5 years. Now I have more time to get house projects done, more time to work on improving my photography skills, and more time to just be me. I have more time to be there when Mallory calls and wants to talk, that is priceless time! I do work a few hours a week for a local furniture store taking pictures of their inventory for their Facebook page and their website. It is the perfect creative outlet. 

I have been taking some photography classes on line. In particular a self-portrait photography class for the last 3 weeks. It has really made me look at myself and be proud of the things I have accomplished in the last year. I look forward to what I can do between now and Mother's Day 2013. So here's to the next 365 days :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

there is STILL LIFE in this old dog - P52 Week 19

I noticed the first real signs of aging in my beloved Scout this spring. A few weeks ago we went for a 4 mile walk instead of our normal 3 mile route. He was fine during the walk and for the rest of that day, but I noticed the next morning that he was favoring his right hind leg. I thought maybe it had fallen asleep when he was laying down, but as we headed out for our normal 3 mile route, he didn't get any better. In fact, he got worse. A few houses down from ours I made the decision to turn around and take him back home. This decision killed him as much as it did me. Scout has always been my dog itching for a walk, he actually gets depressed (and naughty) in the winter if we can't get out everyday because of snowy or icy bike paths.

Golden Retrievers are a breed more prone to hip dysplasia, a fact  I know all to well having worked at a Veterinary Clinic for 8 years. Even when both parents are OFA certified there is no guarantee that your puppy is safe when you take home that cuddly bundle of fur at 8 weeks of age. Or in Scout's case a leggy, floppy eared bundle of fur at 16 weeks of age.

The good news is, for now a baby aspirin twice a day seems to be handling the situation. When the time comes for stronger medications that is the direction we will take. Some of the meds. that are out there these days are pretty fantastic. We will keep my boy going for his walks as long as we possibly can, and after that we will snuggle by a cozy fire to warm those old joints. Both his and mine.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fiesta or Siesta - P52 Week 18

Tonight is time for a Siesta...
Tomorrow is a Fiesta!!

Tonight I am snuggled into my hotel room bed reading a good book, getting ready for a good night's siesta. Hopefully that is, since I already had to call down to the front desk to complain about the noisy children in the room next to mine. I mean really, it is a Wednesday night in Mackinaw City, where it is not tourist season until July. Shouldn't these children be at home doing their homework. You know it is bad when one of the moms is standing in the hall talking on her cell phone, and tells the person she is talking to that she can't be in the room because it is too noisy.

Tomorrow, however, will be a Fiesta! I will be seeing my daughter, who is just finishing her first year of college. I know it has only been two months since I last saw her, but I miss her. We have a good mother/daughter relationship. I feel honored that she still wants to call me most everyday and share what is going on in her life. I hope that never changes.

So Tonight Siesta...
Tomorrow Fiesta!!