A Day Well Spent

How finding a place to volunteer helped me find myself.

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There is a certain type of satisfaction that for me, has been misssing for much of the past year of my retirement. As a teacher, a mother and a wife I have always believed in service to others.  My career was so satisfying because every day I felt like I was making a difference in the life of my students.

I started looking for a place to volunteer where I could contribute and feel like I was doing good work in the service to others.  Recently, I started spending time with some new friends of mine.  Today I hung out with Joey, Jasmine, Kula, Ruby, Chocolate, Adam, Adriana and Candy .  These are the amazing rescued and trained horses, mini horses and pony at Kachina’s Place in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Kachina’s Place provides therapeutic equestrian activities for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations.  I started volunteering at Kachina’s Place about a month ago and immediately I knew it was going to be a great fit.  These are my people, I belong here.

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Sweet Joey nosing around

I love horses and have always been aware of the keen sensitivity that horses demonstrate.  They are great readers of body language and can be very empathetic, not to mention the fact that they are beautiful, graceful animals that are lovely to watch.

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Ruby, the former racehorse is a sweetie

Volunteering at Kachina’s Place felt right from the beginning.  The stables and setting is beautiful and the horses are sweet, calm, gentle and very endearing.  Franky Greaves the trainer is patient, kind and has set up a perfect environment for the therapeutic riding and equestrian activities.

Kachina’s Place is a special horse ranch with four horses, three mini horses and a pony.  The ranch is in a picturesque location complete with mountain views, a garden, a grassy area for yoga and eight very well cared for horses.  Special needs students taking lesssons may also be asked to groom, feed, clean up after as well as ride the horses.  They may complete a yoga class in the grass, groom a horse with help or help clean up stalls and the field as well as learning to trust and ride the horses.

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Trainer Franky with a student practicing balance.

Recently several clients came and together we groomed some horses, did some yoga on the grass, cleaned stalls, took turns riding  and painted (with non-toxic paint) one of the mini horses, Adriana, who loves to be pampered and brushed.  We practiced teamwork, turn taking, responsibility and had such a wonderful time.  Everybody enjoyed themselves, especially me.

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Cleaning up after the horses with my buddy.

I love volunteering at Kachina’s Place and at the end of the day I know it has been a day well spent.

Kachina’s Place is a non-profit organization, if you would like to donate or learn more about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go to: https://kachinasplace.org

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The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

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My hummingbird, a work in progress
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Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.

Day Trippin’ In Arizona

Why you need to take a road trip in Arizona

Some days you just want to get out and get moving.  Recently I had one of those days.  I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”

He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road.  My husband is the driver for two reasons:

  1.  He is the constant line leader.
  2.  I am a lousy driver.
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My husband, an excellent driver

 

Even though we’ve  lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail.   The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail.  We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.

President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies.  “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”  He was right.

Slowly we drove along the  steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles.  Along the way we passed several single lane bridges.  There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges.  You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross.  Luckily for us the route was not busy

.  This is not a drive for the timid motorist.  Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons.  I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else.  Yet another reason why I am not the driver.

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View of the colors along the Apache Trail

An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants.  So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.

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Canyon Lake
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Another photographer pointed out this lone bright orange poppy

We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail.  Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel.  We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us.  In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard.  I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.

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An ocotillo ready to bloom with the colors of the desert in the background
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Superstition Mountains in the background
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Even though we couldn’t alway pull the car over, we still enjoyed the view
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Century plants, ocotillos, brittle bushes and prickly pears along the way

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Older, Apparently it’s Unavoidable

Getting older is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Age is a sticky subject for me.  I don’t like to admit that I’m getting older but the reality of life is that getting older is better than the alternative.

I guess when you admit that you are getting older you also become more accepting of the reality of your own mortality.  And that is something I’m not ready for.

Maybe one of the positive things about age and maturity is that your perspective changes.  Now I don’t worry about what people think about me.  Gone are the days of insecurity.  You can like me if you want, but it’s not something that I crave any longer.  I am not afraid to give people my honest opinion.

Knowing that life is precious and fleeting, I really want to experience everything I can.  I do try to live my dreams.  Going to Australia and seeing the Great Barrier Reef last month was something I wanted to do since I was a kid.   I fell in love with the spectacular pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, and the idea of visiting a far away place.  My brother Neal, who keeps EVERYTHING  from our childhood (and archives it  )recently sent me the National Geographic School Bulletin from 1968.  This was the magazine that ignited my desire to to see Australia.   On the cover was Australia’s Barrier Reef.   As a nine year old,  I saw those pictures and knew I had to go there.   It was on my Bucket List.   It may have taken me almost fifty years, but I got there.  It no longer looks like it did in 1968, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

 

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Captivating article about Great Barrier Reef “one of the most awesome spots on earth.”

I was finding Nemo inside the magazine in ’68, thirty five years  before Pixar even dreamed of the movie.

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Clownfish from 1968 magazine

Right now I’m dealing with the realization that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to.   I fractured my foot a couple of weeks ago, climbing the stairs.  No, it didn’t happen when I bungee jumped off a building, or when I was snorkeling , or hiking or riding a speed boat.  It happened when I was just climbing the stairs!

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My new “boot”

I’m in a walking boot now  and it is very uncomfortable to walk in.  When I went to the store yesterday I sat in a cart scooter, acknowledging my disability .  I drove around Costco and knocked over a couple of displays, but no people.  Those things are really slow, and loud when you back up.  It took me twice as long to shop as it usually does.  I felt vulnerable and old.  Two things I wish to avoid.

I may accept the realization that my body isn’t as strong as it once was, but I am not giving up.  I realize this is my new reality. It’s probably time to give away my roller blades.  But I refuse to let it slow me down.                                                                                Age is only a number.

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My rollerblades, not for sale……. yet

 

 

 

 

Singapore: (Where Today is Tomorrow and I Have No Idea What Happened to Yesterday)

Why you need to visit Singapore

We had been traveling for over twenty nine hours to get from LA to Singapore.  But all of the Ubers, taxis, TSA security pat downs and planes were completely worth the effort to get here.  Singapore simply put, is spectacular.  It is a beautiful clean, metropolitan city that honors its history and diverse cultures.

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Singapore at night

The journey was relatively painless on Qatar Airlines. We left LA on a Wednesday and arrived Friday morning.  Somehow we lost a day but no worries.  We’ve never flown with Qatar before but would happily fly them again.  The courteous staff, tasty food and extras such as socks, headphones and entertainment system made for a comfortable journey.   We flew coach but had isle seats, a quiet plane and no annoying captain announcements about where we were flying over.  On the second leg of our flight I was sitting with a mom, her five year old and the most adorable six month old.  I held the little one to help her out and they were the best behaved children anyone could ask for.  I slept well on both flights.

By the time we arrived in Singapore I was well rested and ready to explore this beautiful city.  My poor husband had not slept but after a brief nap in our AirBnB he was ready to go out and show me the city.  The weather reminds me of Florida, hot and muggy with frequent afternoon rains.  We bought an umbrella that doubles as a walking stick.

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Chinese New Year The Year of the Rooster

We arrived on the eve of Chinese New Year.  We explored Chinatown did some shopping and had some delicious food from the hawker stands.  The area was packed with people anxious to celebrate the new year.  Stands were selling Chinese herbs, mandarin oranges, decorations and many items to celebrate The Year of The Rooster.  The streets were brightly decorated with colorful orchid lights, lanterns and giant roosters.  On the stage there was music, dancing and at midnight fireworks.  When visiting family and friends the Chinese custom is to bring an even number of mandarin oranges to wish one another an auspicious new year.  At the visitors center we were given oranges and welcomed.

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Streets in Chinatown decorated for the new year

We had some delicious dinner at the hawker stands, but chose not to have the dishes that included live frogs since we are not really adventurous eaters.  We left Chinatown at about two in the morning and the streets were still bustling.  As we walked back to our flat from Chinatown, we noticed even at this hour men were cleaning the streets from the celebration making Singapore a very clean city.

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City view from the marina

This week we have visited Orchard Road, where high end shopping is at its finest. Because we love to travel I spend my money more on experiences than on things.  We did stop for some snacks and drinks.  Apparently its a good idea to check prices before you order or you end up paying $20 for a glass of pear cider.  But it WAS really good cider.

We had the opportunity to enjoy a neighborhood dragon parade.  All of the kids had a chance to try on the costume and witness the dragon dance.  The best part of the parade was when they handed out confetti rocket launchers to everybody, including the three year olds.  Nothing says celebration better than an explosive in the hands of the three year old.  The neighbors were so friendly we really felt like we were part of the community.

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Dancing dragons and children playing with explosives, so much fun to celebrate
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Who doesn’t love a confetti rocket launcher?
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Colorful confetti exploded all around
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The best part of any parade is how much the children enjoy it

Must Do Activities

We went to the Gardens by the Bay and enjoyed the beautiful flowers and visited the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Shopping Plaza and the Float at Marina Bay.  There was a carnival like atmosphere.  Lots of families waiting for fireworks, and enjoying various “Fair Foods” like deep fried Oreo cookies, ice cream and squid on a stick.

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View of the Maria Sands Hotel

 

We love Chinatown for its food, shopping and overall active vibe.  They offer a Fish Spa treatment, where you place your feet in a tank and a bunch of fishies nibble on your skin.  The experience is worth the $30 and feels pretty good.

For dinner one night we went to Mama Chong’s to enjoy a Singapore specialty, Chili Crabs.  They are a pricey item,  about 40 bucks a serving, but well worth it.  The local beer here is Tiger and it is delicious, a nice combination of a mild yet slightly sweet beer.

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Singapore’s specialty chili crab

We rode the Singapore Flyer, a giant enclosed ferris wheel.  The views of the city, the bay and the night sky were phenomenal.  It cost 33 bucks each but the pictures and experience were unforgettable.

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Inside view of the Singapore Flyer

Get a MRT Pass to ride the incredibly clean and efficient subways to almost anywhere in Singapore.  It is well laid out and all of the signs are also in English.

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The clean and comfortable Singapore subway system MRT

I can not leave out the body and foot massages we treated ourselves to.  I had a sixty minute body massage followed by a thirty minute foot massage at Joneling Chi Spa.  My Fred Flinstone feet always hurt, but following my foot massage they were feeling fine.  During the body massage I was pretty sure that the ninety pound girl was accompanied by a three hundred pound suma wrestler.  All I know was that at some point she was straddling me and somebody was doing handstands on my back!  I was being massaged by her hands AND her feet.  I consider a massage a wrestling match, where I am loathe to “tap out” no matter how uncomfortable I might feel.  When our massages were complete both Greg and I had smiles on our faces and said we had never experienced anything like that before.

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View from the Singapore Flyer

 

 

 

 

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The year in review

This has been an epic year for my husband Greg and I.  I retired from a teaching job that I loved, learned to live with my husband full time, started blogging, traveled extensively and rekindled my passion for photography.

My husband and I have learned the dance of being retired together.  He has his hobbies and interests and I am learning to take time to do the things that I love.  First I had to figure out what those things were (writing, photography, crafts)  but now we give each other space, so that later we want to spend time together.  This year our European travels have included Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  My husband and I are very different people, he is quiet organized and cerebral and I am spontaneous, outgoing, and attention seeking.  But the one thing that we agree upon is that we both passionately love to travel and meet new people from around the globe.

For this blog  I decided to include some of my favorite photographs from the year.  I hope you enjoy them.

 

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View of the Vatican at night from our balcony

This was a special gift we enjoyed nightly in Rome, our Airbnb was located in a fabulous area with shops, restaurants and so many sights to enjoy.

 

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A wonderful dinner at Alfredo e Ada with a young California couple in Rome

Sometimes you find you stumble upon a real gem of a restaurant, a family run place with homemade pasta and delicious specialities offered each night.

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Greg, enjoying a sweet gelato at the end of the day

 

The location of our Airbnb in Florence was just steps from the Ponte Vecchio.

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Pointe Vecchio in the evening inFlorence

The sheer size and beauty of David was worth the trip to Florence.

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Michaelangelo’s David

We spent five days in the beautiful area known as Cinque Terre, where we enjoyed the spectacular scenery, hiking and seeing the beautiful cities clinging to the cliffs..

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Manarola on the Cinque Terre coast
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My attempt at an “artsy” photograph from Nessun Dorma
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Trattoria Dal Billy a fabulous restaurant with even better views
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I love this photograph of a lovely Italian lady checking out the neighborhood

Following Cinque Terre we rented a car and explored Siena and Tuscany.

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Appetizers and wine with views of Siena from our backyard.
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Sienna at sunset
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Tuscany landscape

It was a great pleasure to turn in our car in Rome and board the Celebrity Equinox.  No unpacking for a week and we were able to visit some great new places on the way to Barcelona.

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Grass growing on the top of the Celebrity cruise ship
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View from the hilltop town of Eze, France
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We loved the sangria, beer and olives in Mallorca
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Street view near our flat in Barcelona
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La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece

After a week in Barcelona we took a flight to Geneva, Switzerland to visit friends and see much of the pristine beauty of Switzerland.

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“The Void” on Mont Blanc, France
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Fabulous times with friends
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Sunflower fields in Switzerland

We left Switzerland and headed for a few days in Amsterdam, a city we loved because of its beauty, accessibility, friendliness and rich history.

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Greg standing by the canals in Amsterdam
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A different point of view
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Zaanse Schans windmills

Next, we flew to London for a few days before we boarded a cruise to the British Isles.

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The band playing Queens’ “Fat Bottom Gor;s”
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Belfast’s famous murals
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Falling for Giant’s Causeway with my friend Brooks
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Looking up from Giant’s Causeway
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Nearing the end of our journey, taking time to snuggle together.
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One last stop before we fly home, a lucky detour to Stonehenge 

 

 

I hope you enjoy seeing some highlights of Europe 2016.  I promise there is more travel to come in 2017.  I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy new year.

Christmas Memories

Remembering the Christmas traditions of my childhood of Christmas Joy.

I love Christmas and I always have.  As a child, I could not wait for Santa to arrive.  My family would decorate the house and go to bed early on Christmas Eve.  We would always put out cookies and buttermilk for Santa, because that’s what he liked.  While we were sleeping Santa would put up the tree and decorate it for us!  I really don’t know how my parents did it all.  No wonder my mom was always a bit stressed just before Christmas.  We had traditions as children, we would visit Santa, bake my mom’s delicious butter cookies, go to Christmas mass, decorate our house and have parties with friends and family.  But one of the most meaningful memories I have is my mom always finding the family that had very little and giving them special Christmas gifts.  We would wrap presents and bring them to a family that lived on the edge of town, or to the little boys that were in foster care, or to a young pregnant teen that had been kicked out of her home.  What my mom did was show us all the true meaning of Christmas.  My parents grew up in the middle of the Great Depression.  My mom was one of eight children and her own mother died when she was young.   She never forgot what it was like to be poor and hungry and she never forgot to give back to others.

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Christmas in the 1960’s with my mom, sister and brother (the Native American)

At this time of the year we often stop to reflect and give thanks for all of the riches we have in this world.  I’m grateful for the health, love and presence of my family and friends.  Every year we have continued many of the holiday traditions our family started.  I host a holiday brunch with girlfriends where we enjoy shopping, french toast, mimossas and the company of good friends.  Together, my family hosts a Christmas party for friends from far and wide.  My kids bring their friends and everyone has a blast.  At the end the guests leave with some homemade Irish Cream.

When my kids were small I would often get lost in the hectic pace of Christmas, shopping, baking, decorating and wrapping gifts.  One day when my kids were driving me crazy my neighbor knocked on the door and asked if she could “borrow my children for a few hours.”  “Absolutely!” I replied.  She explained to me that the children were going to go house to house collecting toiletries for gift baskets for the homeless.  What a great reminder to me about what Christmas was all about.

Every year we look for a needy family or group and shop for them.  There is nothing that makes me happier than bringing some Christmas joy to others. I wish you all some Christmas Joy.