To The Crazy Lady

“I don’t understand your specific brand of crazy, but I do commend your devotion to it.” ~ Lani Lynn Vale

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To the crazy lady stalking my FB page and my blog —

1) The anonymous text sent from a randomly generated number to someone other than myself was HIGHLY entertaining, I’m glad our lives are of such interest to you, but really . . . we’re not that exciting. While your vivid imagination probably leads you to believe we are hanging out at swingers clubs, or I’m being pimped out at biker bars, or beaten at home – we are most usually ensconced on the sofa, respectively reading books and enjoying peaceful silence.

2) While I shared a post about Domestic Violence on FB, I have not been in a relationship with domestic violence involved in over 10 years. Just because I share it, does not mean it’s currently happening in my life.

3) Bringing a minor child’s name into your rants is not acceptable. You are completely unhinged, but to prey upon my 15 year old daughter with your accusations and sick distorted claims will not be tolerated.

4) Nothing you have said or done in the past 6 years has given you the results you have desired, so apparently you are a very slow learner. In fact, barging into our kitchen 5 years ago, ranting and screaming, only caused me to laugh uncontrollably because it was apparent then that you are completely insane.

You made the mistake of signing your name to one of your emails because my presence made you so intensely jealous and angry that you forgot to sign it with your usual “a concerned citizen.” So be advised, that while you may stalk me surreptitiously on the internet and driving by, I will be chasing your ass down thru legal channels until you are where you belong. . . .in a mental facility, heavily medicated.

Best regards!

Addendum: for someone who swears she doesn’t stalk my blog, and denies that she knows how to find it. . . this woman was able to quote things today that were only posted here. This is really better than Jr. High drama. Goodnight Carrie.

Financial Fitness

“Financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It’s a reality if you are willing to pursue it and embrace it.” ~ Will Robinson

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Bills. Debts. Payments. Interest rates. Cash flow. Income. Expenses. Student loans. Bank loans. Credit cards. Taxes.

Those words have the ability to make people cringe. Finances and how to handle them are no longer taught in schools. I recall learning this important life skill in a class at school. I also learned a lot from my mother. As a single-parent, single income family, she had to learn to budget and thrift and save. She passed those skills along; I now pass them along to my children.

All of my children homeschooled off-and-on for different grades, and differing reasons. One of my daughters, with the exception of kindergarten, was completely homeschooled. As one of her high school classes, we focused on “Life Skills.”

She had to determine what type of job she was interested in, searching the want ads for listings. She then had to actually contact the job listing, explain that she was a student and, as part of her assignment, was required to complete a job interview. Putting together a resume was part of the assignment. Completing the interview, including choosing appropriate clothing and filling out the application was also required.

She was able to learn the rate of pay for the type of work that interested her during her interview including benefits and then proceeded with the assignment. Learning how to calculate her weekly and bi-weekly pay, included estimating taxes. How to select a bank account and checking account was next on the list. Then we got down to the nitty gritty.

We discussed renting versus owning and she was able to look at apartment ads and calculate her rent and whether (or what) utilities were included. Contact with the utility companies to determine what deposits would be required and what the projected monthly payment would be for the area in which she was looking was her next step. Of necessity, the housing would need to be near her job as she didn’t yet have a car (that was coming).

Next on the list after housing and utilities was looking for a car. She really enjoyed pricing different cars until we went to the bank and she discussed loan options with the bank and learned about interest. We also covered the cost of licensing and registering a vehicle as well as obtaining insurance.

All of this covered the course of a year. The first month was spent on the job search. The second month was spent on housing, and the third on car shopping. The fourth month, being December, we discussed budgeting money for gifts in addition to living expenses, since Christmas was an actual event in her virtual world of learning life skills. In January, we threw in having to prepare taxes. February we started with how to invest by learning the differences between stocks, bonds, money market accounts, savings, and annuities. She was told to choose several stocks from the NYSE and follow them for the month, charting the gains and losses based on a minimal investment.

By March, she had been calculating living expenses and taxes for 6 months. It was time to throw in the art of meal planning and budgeting for groceries. She became a sale ad aficionado for the grocery stores, comparing prices, looking for sales and cutting coupons. This was probably the most exciting month for me as her teacher — we did a lot of cooking and batch freezing of meals.

April brought with it the anticipated virtual tax return. While minimal for a first-time employee, she had to determine what to do with the money. By this point, based on everything she had learned so far, she decided to save part, invest part and spend a small part. Finally, the year came to a close, and in May she wrote a paper about the importance of life skills to a young high school student. This was probably the highlight of my homeschool career, and she remembers that year well and is highly successful as a wife, mother and nurse manager. Even now as we discuss things, she shakes her head in amazement at how little young people know about financial fitness.

Last night, I had a discussion with my youngest daughter. We have several unexpected expenses that have arisen. Her father has made noise about helping pay for medical and college expenses but the noise has never evolved into action, nor do I expect it to do so. While she’s no longer homeschooled, I have made no secret about our expenses and she is learning to thrift, use coupons, special offers, discounts and rewards programs as well.

Financial fitness . . . do you have it?

New Things

“I’m always trying new things and learning new things. If there isn’t anything more you can learn — go off and die.” ~ Morgan Freeman

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Every school year, my son would come to me, worried that he wouldn’t know what he needed to know to enter the next grade. “But Mom, I don’t know 6th grade math.” or “I don’t know how to do 7th grade science.” And every year, I’d tell him, “You don’t need to know how to do it yet, that’s why you go to school . . . to learn how to do it.”

2020 has brought some phenomenal changes — some good, some not so good. Among the best changes? A re-evaulation of how we view education and the different modalities of learning. Prior to this year, the majority of people believed that children HAD to be in a brick-and-mortar school building. Homeschool was for the weirdos or the nerds or the super religious people who wear denim skirts everywhere. (For the record, when we homeschooled, I didn’t even own a denim skirt.)

Along came 2020 and with it the COVID pandemic – and everything changed. School was closed early, students were forced to do virtual learning from home. Parents were forced to deal with having children at home while also attempting to work from home. Now with the beginning of autumn and the return to school, there is virtual learning, on-site learning and combinations of both. Educators are realizing that some children do better in the comfort of their home, rather self-directed at doing their assignments. Other children need the discipline and routine away from home. Parents are realizing what their children actually have to accomplish in school, and it’s not what it was when they were in school.

The face of learning has changed for university students and instructors as well. Adults are having to readjust their expectations. As much as I am an introvert, I love teaching. I love the give-and-take between instructor and student, playing off each other, hearing their feedback and being able to see facial expressions and body language which relays to me the effectiveness of my lesson. Using an online platform such as Zoom or Adobe Connect removes the interaction that is so vital. No longer can I rely on my senses to pick up clues, I have to wait for questions or comments to be typed into a chat box. It is impossible for me to see all students on a screen. They can see me as I teach (when I’m not sharing my screen with my presentation) but the lack of face-to-face feels detrimental to the connection we make in person.

Tomorrow is a run-thru of a virtual presentation going live next month. We try to inject as many mishaps into these practice sessions as possible to prepare us for worst case scenario situations. It requires us to stay on point with our co-instructor. Your partner has a heart attack while teaching? Loss of internet connectivity? The presentation slides won’t advance? The student’s have audio but not visual? Or vice versa — they can see the slides but cannot hear the speaker? We’ll work on timing as well. Speaking in front of a class requires a sense of timing to stay on schedule. Teaching in a virtual room is disconcerting and distorts the amount of time — some will have to slow down their presentation while others will have to share anecdotes that relate to add padding and round out their presentation.

My first experience with virtual teaching was a two-day notice and while it was fun, it was a wee bit nerve wracking. The moderator assured me that my subject matter was interesting and even she learned something she did not know. I remember being nervous and terrified of blurting out something in a recorded session that would be horribly inappropriate. I’m happy to report that students and instructors alike, survived. With the planned rehearsals, nerves should be a thing of the past this go round.

Thanks to 2020 we get to try new things, new ideas, and new concepts.

Thrift Store Finds

“Thrift is not an affair of the pocket, but an affair of character.” ~ S. W. Strauss

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I was raised on thrift stores, I’m raising my kids on thrift stores. Thrift stores. Consignment shops. Garage sales. Craigslist. Freecycle.

Not that we don’t also shop off-the-rack for new items, but there are some awesome deals to be found at a fraction of the price. The saying, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’? Couldn’t be more true.

While I fail epically at having success in shopping garage sales, one daughter is a whiz bang at finding things. Another daughter always scores big at consignment shops for name brand clothing for her boys. I’m more of a thrift shop success story. Antique shops – especially if they are full of things and needing to move items out — have been a success for me as well.

I don’t go in blindly. In the back of my mind, I always have an idea of certain items for which I’m looking, or inspiration I want to create whether with my clothing or in my home decor.

Here are a few of the finds from yesterday’s outing:

A plate with brightly colored flowers, a resting place for a potted plant.

A book on organic gardening published in 1961. Fifty-nine years of knowledge, wisdom and interesting reading.

A trunk just perfect for creating the base of a TV stand. A nice change from the empty Keurig box that had been serving that purpose.

An old suitcase from the 50’s which will also contribute to the eclectic TV stand.

In the past I’ve found:

  • a replacement pot and lid for my 5 quart crockpot (after inadvertently setting it on a hot stove burner and cracking it) – $3.00
  • a small dish to replace the broken top to a wax burner – $0.25
  • a book on investing – $0.50
  • a full-size cast iron bed frame – $129
  • an antique wooden chest of drawers – $35
  • a treadle sewing machine in excellent shape with attachments and the original instructions (delivered to my home) – $50
  • a fireplace surround, mantel, and gas insert – $35
  • a 5-panel wooden door – $30
  • a handmade wooden table with folding legs – $50
  • enough ceramic floor tile to do four bathrooms – $35
  • a complete underfloor heating system – $200
  • an apartment size stacking washer/dryer – $300

Growing up, we didn’t have much money, and I remember there were two thrift shops we frequented with our mother. One was rather clean, the other was dingy and dirty and quite honestly, you wanted to bathe when you got home. At that time there was an upscale store called ‘Chasnoff’s’ and we laughingly referred to that dingy thrift shop as our own Chasnoff’s because my mother would buy dresses, undo the seams and flatten out the material to make dresses for my sister and (eventually) myself when they were handed down.

Thrift shopping is like a treasure hunt – and who doesn’t like a treasure hunt?

Things That Make Me Smile

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~ Anne Frank

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With all the negativity in the world today — COVID, elections, jobs loss, riots, murders, threats . . . . it would be easy to get bogged down in the ever present litany of fear and horror present in the news. The pessimists are out there screaming “the sky is falling” while the optimists are passing a joint and singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The realist is a fine combination of the two – aware that there are bad things happening around them, but confident there is still beauty and peace around them as well.

When I came to Alabama, I determined to surround myself with things that I love, things that make me smile. I suppose this is my version of the Marie Kondo of relocation.

The house, for starters. The age and history. The wood floors, the glass doorknobs. The cotton candy glass in the windows, the wood trim. The stairs and landing going between the kitchen and the entry way.

The area – the beauty of the mountains, the hues of shadows at sunset and the shafts of sunlight rising in the mornings. The humidity, the frequent bouts of rain. The proximity of the ocean and the beach as well as good friends.

The furniture I brought with me are mostly pieces I bought at yard sales, auctions and estate sales. Each piece, whether a chair or chest or bureau, spoke to me on some level and fits perfectly in this home.

My plants – I’ve always been told I didn’t have a green thumb. Then I realized that the person telling me that didn’t have a clue as I’d never attempted to grow anything. I now have several plants, doing quite well.

Sylvia, Hannah, Alvin and the Hussy (the only tomato plant to give me fruit)

The people – from my co-workers, to neighbors, to those who attend church, to the guy that mows my yard . . . everyone has been welcoming and friendly. My children, of course, are the delight of my life.

As we drive home, it starts as a smile and deepens into a grin, the closer we get to the Missouri home. Although we are miles apart, the time spent with family and loved ones also makes me smile. Memories made can never be taken away or lost. From my outspoken daughters, to grandchildren and seeing my sons success when we visit his store — all work to make a smile of pride light my face.

There is beauty around us. You just have to train yourself to look for it and once you do . . . you see it everywhere.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

“My favorite fall or winter lunch is big steaming bowls of soup.” ~ Ina Garten

It is September, yes? Time to get out the fall decor, and colors and . . . menu.

I love potato soup as a basic, comforting bowl of warmth. It reheats well and tastes delicious. When your child has just gotten braces and her teeth are hurting, it doesn’t require much effort to chew. It also contains some of my favorite ingredients: cheese, sour cream, and butter.

I started my day off easily — watering the plants and talking to them, checking on the tomatoes in the garden, feeding the kittens and playing with them, and then running errands before it got too hot. I spent a few minutes cutting and chopping and frying and . . . voila! Dinner was in the crockpot with nothing to do but go about the day and come home to finish it and enjoy the flavors.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2# potatoes diced**

4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1/2 a red onion, diced

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1-2 T. butter

3 c. chicken broth**

Salt and Pepper to taste

3/4 c. sour cream

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 c. heavy cream

Directions

Using a 5 quart crockpot, combine the potatoes, onion, bacon, butter, thyme and chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low 6-7 hours or until potatoes are tender. Mash with a potato masher until the potatoes are almost a pureed consistency, leaving some chunks. Stir in sour cream, cheddar cheese and heavy cream. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or turn crockpot off and let sit 5-10- minutes before serving.

** here are some tips and/or trade-offs if you like to play around with a recipe.

  • You can use red potatoes, russet potatoes, white potatoes, any potato you prefer, each will alter the flavor ever so slightly. I prefer the Yukon Gold for appearance and flavor.
  • You can use store bought chicken broth or chicken stock. In a pinch you can also use three chicken bouillon cubes and 3 cups of water. I often make my own chicken broth by boiling chicken to be used in other dishes and storing the broth in the fridge or freezer.
  • The onion can be red, yellow, or vidalia – the taste again will differ slightly depending on the variety chosen.
  • Retain the grease from frying the bacon and add to the crockpot for an extra smokey flavor.
  • If you have slightly less than 2# of potatoes, throw in a couple ribs of celery, diced finely to add mass, texture and taste to the soup.
  • Cheddar comes in a variety of flavors – sharp, mild, extra sharp. The flavor again will vary depending on the cheese. Explore by using Pepper Jack or Swiss.
  • If you like spicy, try adding a finely diced jalapeno to the soup.
  • Fresh thyme is packaged in small, clear boxes in the grocery store’s fresh vegetable section. I just throw the entire sprig in the pot and fish it out with a fork when done cooking.

Food is a creative way to explore tastes and textures. Again I really prefer the Yukon gold potatoes, the red onion, homemade chicken broth (it just tastes richer), and sharp cheddar cheese. Pepper Jack runs a close second, but seeing as how this batch was being consumed by a new braces wearer – I made it to suit her tastes more than mine.

After stirring the sour cream, cheese and heavy cream into the crockpot and setting it on warm, we took the dog on a walk which was just enough time for the flavors to meld. The weight is slightly heavy with the density of the potatoes and cream, but the sensation of the warmth as it goes down is one of the most comforting tastes and feelings in the world.

The Full Moon

“Don’t worry about making waves simply by being yourself. The moon does it all the time.” ~ Scott Stabile

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While some people dread the full moon, and at times I am among them, for the most part I am fascinated by what the gravitational pull does to those here on earth. When I worked in the ER full time, we were very superstitious about full moons . . . with good reason!

Luna. Goddess of the Moon. If it brings to mind such terms as lunacy and lunatic, you may have spent time in a busy Emergency Department during a full moon. Along with holidays, full moons seem to show an increase in mental health patients presenting for treatment.

In the world of midwifery, many will tell you that women are more fertile during the full moon, or that more babies are born on the full moon. Is it an increase in the gravity or coincidence? Biorhythms or myths?

Some will say that the full moon is the time to release things that are unproductive or holding one back from finding their true happiness. Not that I had much to release, but driving home I glanced over the tree tops to see the full moon high in the sky. Fluid clouds swam across the bright orb and the light flickered thru the trees lining the highway.

It was a sight that made me grin, eager to be home and relax.

The Book of What I Want to Know

“I’m unpredictable, I never know where I’m going until I get there, I’m so random, I’m always growing, learning, changing, I’m never the same person twice. But one thing you can be sure of about me; is I will always do exactly what I want to do.” ~ C. JoyBell C.

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In my last post I mentioned that there are so many books and so little time to explore them all. I have a notebook and a set of pens by my bed. Inisde, I jot down ideas and thoughts that warrant a bit of research to develop them more fully.

It may range from frivolous to serious, fanciful to practical and includes:

  • specific books I want to read
  • authors whose work I’ve enjoyed reading
  • directions to somewhere
  • ideas for gardening
  • how-to tips for DIY projects
  • medical procedures
  • work-related searches
  • gift ideas for specific someones
  • decorating ideas
  • sewing ideas, fabrics or plans
  • quotes from books being read or having been read that I enjoyed
  • Song lyrics
  • doodles and drawings
  • angles and planes of architecture
  • recipes
  • diffuser recipes for essential oils

The Title Page of my Notebook says simply, “Things I Want to Know.” While it may seem simplistic, it is actually the absolute truth. It is a hodgepodge of ideas and thoughts that complement the mental mash-up that is my brain and anyone looking through it would have a better understanding of who I am.

Maybe it the sociology and psychology-loving part of me that finds people so interesting, but I wish everyone had such a book. It is rather odd that as infants and young children, we are encouraged (usually) to explore the world around us. Once we reach school age tho, it seems to change – we are told to be quiet, hush up, focus, pay attention and the desire to explore and learn is squashed.

As adults we make excuses. I’m too busy, too tired, too hungry, too . . .anything. Most would rather plop in front of the television and stare slack-jawed into the screen than pick up a hobby or read a book. I will say, this whole pandemic thing has caused more people to get outside and exercise. And sewing . . .it took me three stops at three different stores to find a sewing machine for the Missouri home.

The Book of What I Want to Know is a wonderful addition to any home library. Create yours today.

Personal Stagnation

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

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I have been known to say, “So many books, so little time!” with a deep sigh because it’s true. There are more and more books published every day I would find utterly delightful to read and there is no way I will ever have time to devour them as I would like.

Same with sightseeing. There are plenty of beautiful parks, settings, places, chapels, museums, historical sites, etc. that I have yet to see and look forward to visiting. But there is no way I will ever find or get to them all.

Opportunities. There is a possibility of a job opportunity in my field. It would necessitate a move (again). Is it a viable option? Do I want the job? Do I want to move again? Having had my dream job for over a year, is it time for me to give another person an opportunity to do this job? Is it going backwards or is it moving forwards? All valid questions, and the best thing anyone (actually two people) has said to me is, “How do you feel about it?”

I appreciate the friends and loved ones who trust that while I may make a decision quickly, I view all the pros and cons as well as all those it affects and make the best decision with which I can comfortably live. There are fears and misgivings with any life change, those are unavoidable. The trick is looking past the fears to see the big picture.

I am not, nor will I be, the type of person who sits back and waits for life to deliver good things. They don’t fall into your lap folks, you have to work to make them happen. On the one hand, I will adopt a “wait and see how I feel” attitude when it comes to plans for the evening. Other days I have a distinct plan in mind that will take place regardless of how I feel. When it comes to life decisions, though, once I know how I feel about it and what the odds are of success – – I make a decision, no waiting.

Life is all about living, not stagnating in place while sitting on the fence.

Lazy Days and Sundays

“Lazy is a strong word. I prefer to call it selective participation.” ~ Unkown

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Anytime I go to the beach there are never two trees magically available from which to suspend a hammock. I suppose I shall have to close my eyes, relax on the bed and pretend.

We, Jo and I, selectively participated in church this week, and how I have missed it the past two weekends. The first weekend away we were in Florida, the past weekend in the Midwest. It’s a cozy feeling to be in your home church with friends.

After church we had leftovers for lunch. I had made Zuppa Tuscano – let me say, I attempted to make it but had to lie down with a horrible headache, and Jo finished it up. I had taken a bowl for my lunch on Saturday and two bowls with me to share with friends. Last night, being too tired to cook, we had dinner at one of our favorite BBQ joints and those are the leftovers we feasted upon.

We drove into a nearby town to do some window shopping and get some groceries. The rest of the afternoon was spent together, just enjoying the sunshine after a short sprinkle.

Years ago, the Carpenters had a song, “Rainy Days and Mondays” — rather a sad song, but . . .

I have to say Lazy Days and Sundays always make me smile.