Happy Anniversary

Today my husband and I celebrate 29 years of marriage.

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WOW!

Where did the time go? We blended two families together-6 kids! We are now 11 grandchildren, 3 great-grand children, and a significant number of significant others (all whom I am  glad to say we love dearly).  It was a great deal of hard work and sacrifices along the way…

but let me go back 29 years…

After dating for almost 2 years, we decided to plan a vacation with the kids. After much research we chose a houseboat on Lake Mead in Nevada. It sounded like a great idea! By this time we knew we were going to get married and in fact had matching wedding bands made. It had come down to settling on the specifics of a wedding. Lake Mead, if you don’t know, it  just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada-and as you probably do know is a hot spot for weddings. It wasn’t much of a leap at this point to decide to elope and allow the houseboat, with all of the kids to be our honeymoon.

Without saying a word to anyone, we made a plan. We didn’t even tell the kids until we were enroute for fear they would not be able to keep such a big secret.  At the time we worked in real estate so the only person who knew was the printer who in advance of the wedding printed up my new business cards. It was how we would spread the word to our co-workers. We told the kids to be sure to pack one nice outfit but due to the rush of last minute preparations I did not follow up on their chosen wardrobe. As a result, we were a bit of a rag-tag looking group for the wedding which did not matter in the slightest.  I grabbed the newest dress I had which my sister had given me for my birthday the month before.

Needless to say, most of preparations for this trip were focused on the things we would need for 7 days on the houseboat. We purchased 56-6 packs of soda (okay, a bit of overkill and math isn’t my best subject anyway),  blow up tubing and toys for the lake, sunscreen, food, games, and all of the expected things one might need in the middle of a lake in the brutal desert in mid August.

As we made our way on the just under 4 hour drive to Las Vegas we announced to the kids of our pending nuptials.  At this early stage in our relationship we were in no way the idea of a blended family but they took the news rather well we thought.  Perhaps they were just anxious to get to the vacation on the lake.  Who knows. There were no cell phones in those days so no worry of them tipping anyone off.  We would make the appropriate calls to family after the ceremony.

When we arrived in Las Vegas,  I settled the kids into our two hotel rooms at the Landmark Hotel (we almost cried years later when this hotel was imploded). Thommmee made arrangements including a limo to pick us up and take us to a cute wedding chapel-the limo ride a real treat for the kids!  Our group somehow managed to pull ourselves together and before we knew it we were standing before a minister reciting our wedding vows . There was no Elvis look-a-like or any other corny theme (well, just my cheesy fake flower bouquet).

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It was just simply a beautiful moment.

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  We were soon off then to a buffet dinner in a hotel I cannot even remember.

With a whirl of activity and before we knew it, we were honeymooning on a lake in confined quarters with a group of kids. I couldn’t have asked for more perfect honeymoon!  The kids still talk about what a great trip it was.

29 years ago already and it has been a beautiful journey. Of course that is not to say it was always easy or even fun, but it was our journey . When people see us with our family now there is not usually a mention of a blended family. We don’t consider them your kids or my kids but our kids-our family.  We believe that God has blessed us and brought us to where we are today. We are grateful, we are thankful.

At 25 years we renewed our marriage vows.

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It only gets better!

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Happy Anniversary to the most amazing husband-my husband-my Thommmee. Here is to the next 29 years!

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The Public Library

A much younger person once told me that the day of a public library had passed. He felt there was no need to check out books, sit in a stuffy place while people around him said shhhhh. Computers were a much better way to research any bits of information that a person might need.  Uh…hadn’t I ever heard of Amazon???  Sitting to read a magazine or explore a bookshelf seemed like a waste of time to him. The idea of handling a bunch of musty old books or any other such nonsense seemed incomprehensible. As much as I tried to plead my case for the need of libraries, he just didn’t get it.

Ahhh well…youth…????

With a broken computer at home I am at the library-using a public computer. Having a smartphone or tablet  I seldom need an actual computer these days-except to write a blog post, type or print a document maybe. It might be more fashionable to head on over to a Kinko’s or some other such place, spend a few dollars and act like I don’t really need to be there…but… why would I want to do that when I can do this for free with my

Library Card!!!

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Oh sure, if I want to print something here it will cost me 10 cents a page (although it was free for may years) and I can only use the computer for 2 hours per day…but

 Why not?

If you have read my blog previously you may  know that I have fond memories of libraries-about my father taking us to the library as children while my sister and I checked out stacks of books (for free-if you don’t count the overdue fines we inevitability incurred). Most recently I talked about how much I enjoy the online services offered. I am able to search for a book at online at home, place a request, and then wait until the book is located. A text message will alert me when I am able to pick it up and for how many days it will be held. I can then pop into the library to pick it up. I also receive a text message when the due date is approaching. I can log on to my library account and renew my book several times before I actually need to make another trip into the library. No more overdue fines and super convenient!

OK, you might say. That is all very nice. After all, you can just run to the local big name book or warehouse store to purchase a book. Of course there is Amazon. If you have Prime you can even receive it within hours or the next day. No worry about fines or library cards and all of that nonsense.

Good thought.

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Well….

Today I needed to use a computer. Since the computers at the library are in high demand, I am assuming many other people need computer access for some reason. As I nosily look around, I see people job searching. Some here are seniors, some people dressed nicely-others not so nice. Perhaps  owning a computer is not within their budget. A few students are here working on projects of some sort. For some families a computer might not be in the budget or if they have one the cost of internet is too high. In our area you can expect to pay $60 a month (at least) for home internet service. McDonalds  or Starbucks might not be convenient or available or whatever.

The library is getting busy as kids finish their school day. I see a few young people here-a couple of girls quietly giggling together while they have school work laid out on the tables before them There is a young couple studying. What a  nice way for teens to study together.

I picked up a flyer at the door.

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They are promoting upcoming library events like storytime for kids on Tuesdays  or a free craft corner in the evening. The library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and a date for a puppet show of Alice In Wonderland is approaching. There is a literacy program. There are opportunities for volunteers. The Friends of the Library have a small bookstore where donated books are sold for a fraction of the cost of a new book. Contact your local library to see if they are taking book donations. (Most of us have a few laying around gathering dust and taking up room) Movies and books on tape/CD are found here too!

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Who knows? The children’s reading area might stimulate a lifetime of learning!

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Maybe the library isn’t for you but this really is an opportunity for many…people of all ages!  It is diverse in its offerings and with a county or city library system if your location does not have what you are looking for they probably can get it! The reference librarian is available to direct and assist you in your search.

And its free!

I passed a young mother on my way in today. She had a young boy of about 6 years old in tow. Her arms were overloaded with a stack of children’s books.  They were laughing and talking as they walked away. I envisioned them laying all of those books on the living room floor to explore together. Or maybe she would read to him as he snuggled beside her in a cozy chair. They may have some set aside for bedtime stories. Bonding time. Books can take you places or stir the imagination!

We will go shopping for a new computer this week and I will probably not be back to use the computers anytime soon. Sure, I could pop over to the bookstore and buy a book but I feel my money is best spent elsewhere (we all have our priorities). Sure, I buy books on Amazon if I need to own an actual book. There is, however, something about the atmosphere of the library that makes me love being here. Few distractions, no cell phones, no dirty dishes calling to me!  Maybe it’s the memories it evokes. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure, is that the library system we have here is a gift and I hope it is one we can embrace in a changing world. A library just might be one of the best kept secrets!

Summer, Sewing, & Retirement

Every once in awhile I need an attitude adjustment. This retirement thing is a work in progress. Even after 2 1/2 years I can easily fall into lazy habits, get off track, cringe when I jump on the scale, and well…basically I need to refocus! Not that I am not busy but I sometimes have found myself being busy with the business of being busy.

Huh????

Last week is a perfect example. On Monday I was at the hospital all day waiting for the arrival of our newest great-granddaughter. Very exciting! I was the on call labor coach in case the young parents needed reinforcements. I have been front and center for four of my own (of course), my sister, and four grandchildren. For six others I have impatiently sat in the waiting room. I have completed 3 Lamaze classes, read countless books, and offered too many hours to count of advice by phone, visits to nervous moms, and had more than most of sleepless nights in this miracle of babies, pregnancy, and babies being born. So there was no place I would have rather been!!

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I mean, is she perfect or what????

It was also the weekend visit of one of my oldest and dearest friends, a baby shower of her second grandchild, and a visit from our oldest grandson, home from almost two years away. During the week I met a sister for lunch, had my brother staying with us (and thrilled to have him back),  met a friend for coffee and another dear friend for our usual swimming meet up. Church, household stuff, Bible study, and oh yeah…Thommmee-the most patient and understanding husband on the planet needed some attention too.

Anyway, I realized that all of this business was causing me to stress a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the moments with all of the scheduling. I was talking too much about what I still had to do (how special did that make the person I was with feel?) so….readjusting and focusing on my friends and family became priority. Fortunately, these wonderful people love me as is and were most patient with me. I have to say, I treasure each and everyone of them!

Once I realized what I was doing I reminded myself to do what I love, make Thommmee a top priority, and slow down a bit. After all, retirement does not need a checklist!

What does that have to do with sewing you might ask? One of the things I love is sewing. My newest project is making these Sprocket Pillows.

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(for a niece)

They are so fun to make and a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

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(given to a granddaughter)

I am giving them away as fast as I make them.

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(another granddaughter)

I am not offering a tutorial as I was not able to obtain permission from the website where I found them (besides her tutorial is so fantastic). You can find instructions at cluckclucksew with a template included.

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(my friends grandson-nursery colors black, white, and gray!)

They are simple, fairly quick, and come in two sizes.

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We are leaving in a few days for a trip. It will include a visit along the California coast. Our itinerary open and flexible. Brother is back to work, baby and new parents are doing fine (we saw them yesterday). The grads have graduated, no birthdays, and the diet is out the window anyway.  No sewing next week but, that is alright.

I am ready for some quiet and time with Thommmee.

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Birthdays

Do you hate birthdays? Enjoy them?  While some people plan elaborate parties others prefer to let them pass quietly by. Not our family! We make a big deal out of birthdays for every person-every year.

It’s exhausting!

I was ten years old in 1960 when our parents  decided to load up the station wagon and move five kids, across country from Maryland to California. A moving truck took some of our belongs and Dad hauled a rented moving trailer behind the car. With dreams of starting fresh, they headed out some 3,000, miles for a new life in The Land of Milk and Honey (became known as The Golden State in 1968).

In the days before seatbelts were required (or in fact used much) we were able to spread out and claim our favorite spots for a trip that would take three weeks! Perhaps it was because we had never really vacationed before that our parents made this long journey an adventure. Most days we settled into a Holiday Inn with a pool and spent the late afternoon and evening swimming in a “real” pool! No more blow up or soft sided pools for us!  We must have eaten out some but supporting a family of seven on my dad’s income alone must have been difficult. (Surely there was an ice chest full of Kool-Aid and bologna sandwiches, but I actually do not remember). Dad worked  six days a week and  typical of the times, Mom was a stay at home mother. Thinking back I cannot imagine how they afforded this trip or how difficult it must have been to uproot five kids under ten years old.  I only remember the adventure we had! To see such sights a the Mississippi River, (even Mexico), or the desert of the Southwest was a dream come true for kids who had never ventured far from home. Sure, we had seen the great sights of Washington DC but a real road trip-it was a chance of a lifetime to be sure.

I was never really clear why they decided to leave behind their brothers and sisters, a large number of cousins, lifelong friends, and even a few grandparents. They would simply tell us that they always dreamed of living in California. This didn’t make a great deal of sense since our mom was miserable for the first few years and  Dad really missed his siblings. In those days long distance phone calls were expensive and it was not as easy to reach out to those left behind. Perhaps that is why they made such a fuss over birthdays and with it began the tradition of the

Birthday Party.

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To be sure, they couldn’t have known how it would spiral out of control in the coming years but for our little California family it was everything. Soon another sister came along and now there were eight of us.

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With only two of us sharing the same birthday month, that left seven months in which to celebrate. December with no birthdays allowed us to focus on Christmas and in November, with no birthdays, Thanksgiving was our big event. Easter seldom interfered with any birthdays so we pretty much had a celebration about every month. We did not  invite friends to these birthdays. It was all about family! We had a special dinner followed by your favorite cake (which Mom always baked) and ice cream. Presents were always a part of the festivities. With little to spare (I am sure) our wonderful parents managed to provide a very special celebration. It was never about the extravagance of the gifts but always more about the giving.

In late 1970, things changed, I got married! Now a new person was added to the birthday rotation. The following year we had a daughter and another birthday to celebrate. Two years later another daughter until  there were soon four little ones. I know some of their fondest memories are the birthday celebrations at grandma and grandpa’s house. Adding to the numbers was a slow process and many of the dynamics in the family changed. A brother and sister were married for awhile, eventually a nephew was born, another sister married. And still the birthday parties continued-for every person, every year. Naturally I took over many of the celebrations at my home, my parents added a pool to theirs. Usually it was grandma and grandpa’s house. Dad just loved having his family at his table. The kids loved the pool. We all pitched in.

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As the size of the family increased so did the number of birthday parties. In 1997 Dad died. It really was his love of family and celebrating that kept this in motion  We began to make some changes. My sisters and I established the…

Annual Sister’s Birthday.

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(hamming it up at the Sister’s Birthday party)

  The brothers had a joint party in the spring.  More grandkids and spouses were added.

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(hey, this is supposed to be a happy occasion!)

My son moved out of state with his daughter.  Birthday parties were combined. Then Mom was gone. Still the parties continued. A grandson joined the military and moved away.  Great grandkids slowly arrived.  People had jobs and families to deal with. The kids pitched in and organized and had parties in their homes.  We had beach birthday parties, pool parties, camping parties,  pizza parties, and barbeques.

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Sure, some people couldn’t make it to every party but that didn’t stop us. You can’t change tradition…

…or can you?

Over the last years or so, some of the adult kids have said no to having a traditional party. Occasionally they will opt for small affair of some sort.

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At first I resisted. After all, these were my kids but… here we were some 56 years later. Thommmee and I seldom miss a party. I am tired. A few years ago I told the kids I was done with the party planning business. Invite us and we will come. At first this worked well. They jumped to the challenge.

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(looks like a forest fire!)

They made quarterly birthday events but then… slowly… something strange happened…. some birthdays went ‘semi’ celebrated (at least in any formal way). Sure, we still dropped by with a gift and good wishes or mailed birthday and gift cards. The younger kids were still being celebrated. I closed my eyes and

just let it all happen.

We go when called and never forget (no not one) birthday. My siblings and I still celebrate-so far. As for the big  Sisters  Annual Birthday…? I don’t know. We lost a sister last year and another is planning to move away. That leaves just two. We haven’t yet decided what to do. My brother is off on his own adventure and we don’t know his plans. Yes, the other brother will have a party at the end of the month.

The loving tribute started by my parents has now come full circle, I think. It is, perhaps, time for new traditions to be established. We were taught the value of a loving  family and that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Hopefully these values will continue to be passed on.  I am so grateful for these many years together and many celebrations.  At times it has been difficult to embrace the changes. I am ready to let go. Its funny to me that the kids will not allow me to miss my birthday celebration while refusing to have one of their own.  Despite celebrating with my sisters they always insisted on having some special celebration with me. I always  feel a bit strange about this. Maybe it is their way of giving to me what they received all of these years, or because they love me, or simply it brings them pleasure. Whatever the reason I am going to lovingly accept their gift this year with no fuss-simply gratitude.

Birthdays will somehow always remain a very special part of our family.

Thanks Mom and Dad. You were the Best!

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(I bet they are smiling)

 

 

 

Boys and Girls

Isn’t it interesting how families seem to have more boys than girls, more daughters than sons, or more guys than gals? In our blended family we have 4 girls and 2 boys, 4 grandsons and 7 granddaughters, 1 great granddaughter and 2 more on the way (due in April and May). Thommmee is 1 of  5 brothers and 2 sisters, I am 1 of 4 sisters and 2 brothers.

In our more local/ immediate family we seem be surrounded by girls. As a result, I spend time with the girls in efforts of cooking, sewing, shopping, etc. We all spend time together camping, vacationing, playing games, barbequing,  beach trips, and a multitude of birthday parties. When it comes to doing ‘guy’ things, however, I have often felt that I fell short. I recently decided to make more of an effort to participate in some of the things that they enjoy. Surprisingly (or not) we actually ended up having a really good time.

A few weekends ago my 16 year old grandson and I made plans to attend an outdoors/sportsman event near me.  We were both really excited to spend this time together but honestly I was a bit apprehensive that I would disappoint him or he would be bored hanging out with grandma. Although we are very close and enjoy a very special bond, we are usually a part of a group since he has become a teenager. He lives about 30 miles away and this would also be his first trip managing the congested Southern California freeways by himself. On a Friday afternoon he headed my way as soon as he got out of school and arrived at my house about 3:30. I had decided to just go with whatever I would normally do so we quickly got busy making strawberry jam. Now, I realize this might not be a 16 year old boy’s idea of fun but I figured it was still hanging out with grandma so…. It was fun and he learned a thing or two about making jam.  Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, we took a jar of fresh jam and decorated it for him to give to his girlfriend ( along with his other special mementos).

While I cleaned up, he went outside with Poppa (Thommmee) to barbeque some steaks and veggies. I made potatoes and garlic bread.  After dinner we settled down to play some board games and cards. We baked brownies. We talked. We laughed.  Eventually Poppa was ready for bed but we sat up and talked well past my  bedtime. We really shared with each other and I will treasure that evening forever.

Early the next morning the three of us were up laughing and talking over pancakes and bacon (which is enough to make anyone happy-right?) We didn’t invite Poppa or anyone else to go along on this trip so the two of us headed off to the event. Now, I don’t know what I expected, maybe a bunch of dudes in overalls chewing tobacco or some other foolish notions of what hunters, gun carrying survivalists might look like (sorry if I offended anyone here-I am somewhat a sheltered urban raised girl ). Anyway, it was mostly men (hey ladies, the ultimate place to meet a guy maybe?), normal looking people, a few women, and even a few families. Nonetheless, I am fairly certain I was the only proud grandma accompanied by her handsome 16 year old grandson. We had a great time but for me this was a one time event (just the show not the grandson).

Encouraged by this adventure, the following weekend I offered to take Thommmee to the Gold and Treasure show at the Fairplex (formally know as the LA Fairgrounds). He loves to watch all of those treasure hunting, prospecting, gold digging type shows so he was all in! (maybe this is where I got that stereo-type idea of the outdoorsmen?) They were selling all types of  machines, gizmos,  and every sort of prospecting gear you could imagine. They even sold dirt and a dirt of the month club membership so you could pan for gold in the privacy of your own home…really? Again, mostly men but more women and families at this event…..normal people! I think get these ideas from the shows Thommmee watches. They must pick extremes types to keep the shows interesting.

OK. I tried. I love the outdoors. If you read my blog you know I love to camp, I sleep in a tent and cook outdoors. These two weekends were a bit of a stretch for me but these men  appreciated my willingness to try something new and I got to spend time with these great guys.  I am not complaining at all. Next weekend our church is having a ladies afternoon tea which I will be attending. Not sure this is a fit for me either. I like my jeans, sneakers and bracelets. Perhaps I am someplace in between but I would like to keep an open mind.

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Raising Teens in Today’s World

It is never easy to raise a child-especially a teenager. Anyone who has experienced this can relate to this statement. I  am often grateful that my years of raising my five children is over (yeah-right)!  Watching the struggles of my kids, now parents, raising their own children is hard enough but I can turn the ringer off of my phone and pull the covers over my head at night if I want to. No waiting up to make sure everyone is home and tucked in for the night.  I sometimes cringe when I recall some of the conversations I had with my teens. Occasionally, however, I can smile with a hint of pride on how other discussions turned out. I tried my best but, as you probably know (either being a teen once or raising a teen), things do not always go as planned. It was all very hard work-a true labor of love-but not one I would like to try again anytime soon!

Today I felt more than a twinge of pride when I read my daughters Facebook post. Her courage touched me deeply and I wanted to share what she wrote:

Hi Mom,

I know you aren’t on Facebook anymore. This is what I posted this morning. It was a wow moment. Thought I would share! Love you.

Please read! I have always had open and frank discussions with my children about safety, danger, peer pressure, life in general. Sometimes, I get the eye roll implying “mom, we’ve already heard this”. With my son now licensed and driving, and my daughter in middle school, I continue to, from time to time, remind or reiterate these dangers, providing tips, advice, and love. Last night after my son got home from the football game, I decided to sit him down for another talk. The question often is “why don’t you trust me?” My reply is always the same, I do trust you, it’s the rest of the world that I don’t trust. He became a little irritated by the conversation of what to do if someone is drinking, not getting in cars, call us if you are ever in a bad situation, never let others drive, etc. I am not in any way condoning underage drinking, however I am not naïve to believe such situations aren’t happening at some time or that our children are not at some point being exposed. I felt bad for irritating him, especially following a fun evening for him and a safe return, my timing probably wasn’t great. This morning I got up and was doing my usual reading the news online and came across this story.

‘We felt invincible’

Irritate your children! Talk to them! Pound it into their head! Say it and then say it again!!!! It’s worth it. They are worth it!

Wow is right!

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Guess she was listening after all.

A work in progress…

I have officially reached the age to receive Medicare. When I was younger it seemed a place so far away that surely if I ever reached this ancient age I would be used up and simply plant myself in a comfy chair to wait out my remaining years.

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Guess what?

I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I have now reached a crossroads where I need to decide…

What do I want to do with the rest of my life?

If a normal reasonably healthy woman in the US has a life expectancy of 89 years old, I may have another 20+ or so years left. I realize that death came come “like a thief in the night, we know not when” as it states in the Bible, but just for argument sake, let me assume I will hang in another 20 years with at least moderately decent good health and a few good brain cells working.

So now what?

If you have read my blog you know I have a fabulous husband, many grandchildren, great kids, friends, am active in my church, and between all of that I am pretty busy with events, camping, birthday parties, vacations, and various outings. I also like to sew, get some reasonable pleasure from cooking, some gardening, and have recently started reading again (after a long dry spell).

Where do I go from here?

The first year of retirement  life seemed so clear. I had a purpose-I was now free of a daily required schedule and had the gift of life that retirement allowed. I jumped out of bed every morning relishing in the newness of not having to go to work every day. I was free to pursue the joys of life within my moderate budget. I don’t jump up quite so quickly these days. I joyfully  embraced the time I now had to spend time with those I loved and cared about. That has not changed at all. I was dedicated to getting to the gym regularly. Not so much any more (to be honest less and less). I sewed almost daily. Not now unless I have a specific project. I explored  and planned new adventures, combed blogs and the internet for ideas, and created new creations in the kitchen. Now-well, we have to eat so I have to cook. I blogged regularly. You can see that is not happening these days. I am lucky if I post twice a month. I was energetic and enthusiastic about almost everything. Now, yawn, is it naptime yet?

What happened?

I know, I need to eat better and exercise more.   I tried a crash exercise plan to get back into a groove with little success. Confession time-I have been slacking. I  know I thrive better on a routine so I have been attempting to tighten the reins on my daily activities-but remain somewhat flexible for unexpected opportunities.  (Isn’t it 5:00 somewhere?)

What now?

I crave to find a passion. Should I seek a new passion or revive an old one? Or a combination of both? Should I embrace a cause, volunteer,  get out more, or focus on the projects here at home? Is it all in my head or is it this aching body that seems to have slowed me down? Or is it all connected? Am I just finding a reasonable stride or am I really considering turning into that couch potato I was so worried about becoming? My kids laugh that I am so busy they can hardly keep up with my schedule. Am I being too hard on myself?

????

Life is a journey to be continued…

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