Sharing memories

A rare photo of my dad with his dad

The last of my dad’s siblings passed away recently. Aunt Bunny and I weren’t particularly close, so I had no idea how many family photos and memorabilia she possessed. Possibly because she outlived her siblings, many cousins and two of her three children, she became the logical repository for such family treasures.

Her son Mark and his wife Alice encouraged family to make copies before they took the photos back to their home in another state. My cousin and I scanned photos and genealogy information for several hours, but didn’t quite finish before Mark and Alice were scheduled to hit the road. I’ve continued scanning off and on for several weeks and have just a few more photos left to scan. Whew!

My dad’s mother with some of his older siblings (abt. 1924)

I’m grateful that my aunt kept the photos and documents in good shape, but there are two things she could have done to make these treasures more valuable for the next generation.

Labeling: Most of the photos have some sort of writing on the back, however, some of the writing was faded or illegible. Most of the information was first names only, which isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to connect them with a certain family. Dates and locations would also have been great information.

Share: As the oldest member of the family, it would have been very helpful if Aunt Bunny had shared the photos and documents before dementia faded her memory. It would have been so interesting to hear the stories that accompanied the photos. We also could have been enjoying family history and posting information to instead of it being stored away in boxes.

My dad’s sister Goldie with his soldier brothers Russell and Orville. (abt. 1943)

I plan to work with my mother (who is the oldest of her siblings and the oldest of the remaining cousins on both her mother and father’s side of the family) to not only label photos with names, dates and locations, but include relationships. We need to scan photos and documents for other family members to enjoy now.

What history and memories do you have stored in boxes? Sharing them would make an excellent Christmas present!

Political jabs

I enjoy keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues with Facebook. As we move, change jobs and just get busy with life, it’s difficult to maintain relationships.  Facebook has become a fun tool to make that important task easier.

However, in the past few months, Facebook has become a battlefield of ideology; republicans against democrats, liberals against conservatives and libertarians against everyone. Insults fly unchecked for accuracy. I don’t have an issue with good debate, but that is not even close to what I’m observing.

I believe my friends who share political posts are patriotic citizens. I believe they are doing the job they believe the media has failed to do. I respect freedom of speech and the free exercise thereof, however, is the divisiveness caused by sharing every “joke” making us better citizens? Are we truly more informed voters?

I’ll admit to being a little bit of a Pollyanna, and it might be unrealistic, but can we look beyond the labels? Can we respect that others have a different point of view without trying to convert them to our way of thinking? If we can’t get along with our friends on Facebook, how do we expect Congress to get along and fix the big issues facing our country?

Regardless of whether you agree, please celebrate the liberty we have as citizens to freely vote our conscience without intimidation. VOTE November 6!

Sane savings

I posted previously that we had cancelled our cable, so it’s kind of fun to click through the various cable channels while on vacation. While the husband was watching a football game that had become rather one-sided, I went into the bedroom to see what else was on television. I came across a show on TLC called Extreme Cheapskates.

I consider myself to be frugal so I watched – for a while. The subject of this episode was riding around on his bicycle stopping to pick up dropped coins. His grand total at the end of the day was a little more than $7 in change. He exchanged his “score” at the grocery store for two goat heads, which he fixed for dinner that evening.

As kids, we occasionally walked down to the parking lot of our very small town’s tavern on Saturday mornings and picked up the money that must have fallen out of the patron’s pockets as they fished for their car keys. My friend’s brother once found $20! As an adult, I believe my time has value so I was NOT on board with the idea of scrounging around all day for such a minimal amount of money. Furthermore, if I had found $7 I would be exchanging it for something better than two goat heads!

I was hoping this show would provide some innovative ideas for saving money; after all, it was on The Learning Channel. Unfortunately, it was just like every other reality show. It appears the more bizarre the person, the greater their chance of getting screen time.

Cable may provide more channels than the free channels provided through our HD converter box, but it doesn’t provide more interesting options. I am more convinced than ever that cutting cable was the right move.

Vacation for health

I’ve taken four vacations so far this year, am currently enjoying my fifth, and have a sixth scheduled. The husband has traveled with me, except for my trip to Alaska. We normally take three vacations per year in the spring, summer and fall, so this year has been unusual.

A beautiful fall morning at Eagle Crest Resort in Central Oregon.

Normally, we pack up our Acura MDX and drive a couple of hours from home to a resort we’ve been visiting since 1991. We enjoy a relaxing week with no schedules, no airports, no hotels, no car rentals and no restaurants – and the weather is usually better than at home. We’re able to completely unwind and reenergize, so it’s reasonable to assume there are psychological benefits to taking vacations. However, research shows vacations can benefit you physically, as well.

Sunrise over the Deschutes River at Eagle Crest Resort

According to an article in Psychology Today, studies show that “vacation is good for your cardiovascular health and your waistline, lowers your cortisol levels and your blood pressure, and may aid in recovery from diseases like cancer.”

Vacations don’t have to be expensive or in some faraway location, and they don’t have to be a week long. Even the simplest of getaways can benefit your health. Why wait?

Making a plan

As fall settles in, we’re reflecting on the landscaping projects we’ve accomplished over the summer. We (well, mostly the husband) added stairs to our back deck and to the patio off our basement and updated the stairs to our front porch. We added four trees and eight shrubs and additional solar lights. We also purchased everything we need for our water feature at a closeout sale so we have everything ready to go when spring rolls around.

Now it’s time to concentrate on projects indoors. We have a goal every fall of getting more accomplished in our unfinished basement, but every spring we seem to fall short of that goal. This year is going to be different. We’re making a plan and moving forward!

The basement basically has the same footprint as the main floor of our house, which means we have 1000 sq. ft. of space we are currently not using for anything except some exercise equipment and storage. Our long term plan is to add a bathroom, bedroom, small kitchen and large family room. The short term plan is to finish pulling all the wiring, finish the rough-in plumbing, setting the exhaust for the gas fireplace and insulating the ceiling.

What will make this year different? We’re making a list and scheduling our time. We’re prioritizing projects and cutting them into smaller chunks that can be accomplished in a single work day.

Let’s get started!

Flower power

I was recently made aware of a special on a bouquet of nine roses and decided to purchase them for myself – just because. When I saw them in the store I was so surprised at the quality, I purchased a bouquet for my mother and mother-in-law, as well. We felt happy giving the flowers and our moms felt happy receiving them. Every time I look at my bouquet I feel happy.

Black cites a Rutgers University ten-month study which concluded that there is a link between flowers and moods. “In one experiment, those who were feeling low and depressed felt good almost immediately after receiving a gift of flowers. This research could prove to be the foundation of a whole new paradigm in therapy.”

According to Carolyn Black, a Penn State Master Gardener, “Flowers have a therapeutic effect on us. They just make us feel good. Flowers have the power to lift our spirits.”

The research is hardly surprising, and as Black states, “Science hasn’t discovered anything new.”

“We have always known this about flowers from our own personal experiences. Science has only strengthened our knowledge with solid proof.”

Why not grab a bouquet of happiness today for someone you love – or even yourself!

Going solar

The husband is pretty good at calculating energy costs and will be the first to tell you that installing solar panels is not cost effective. However, because the solar industry is so heavily subsidized by taxpayers, it’s worth it. In addition, since we are taxpayers, we’re actually getting some of our money back!

We chose a package with 14 panels (235 watt modules, microinverters). The contractor received a rebate which reduced the cost of the overall project. Over the next four years we will receive tax credits on our income tax return, which will cover all the cost except about $2000. With the tax credits and energy savings, the husband figures we will recoup our investment in less than three years. After that, any power the system generates reduces our monthly energy bill and increases our savings.

In just one week we’ve produced 116 kWh! However, now that the clouds and rain have settled in for the fall and winter, we probably won’t do as well. You may wonder why we didn’t install the system earlier in the year to take advantage of the summer sunshine, and that may have made sense in terms of “banking” the energy. However, we wanted to wait as close to the end of the year as possible so that we wouldn’t have to wait as long to see our tax credit. We have a good incentive to file our income taxes as soon as possible!

It is a fairly large investment up front, but with all the rebates and tax credits over the next few years, it is worth it in our opinion. I’ll update you on our energy generating progress in a few months.

Vit C benefits

Six or seven years ago I had some non-cancerous lumps removed from my left breast. I wasn’t too concerned and neither was my doctor, but because it was impossible to feel or see what was beneath the lumps, I decided to have them removed. My mother’s a breast cancer survivor, so I want to be very aware of any changes in “the girls.”

All was well, and continues to be, however, my doctor suggested I begin taking vitamin C as she strongly believes it can lower the risk for developing breast cancer. Not everyone in the field of breast cancer research shares her enthusiasm. According to, “Although selected studies have found that women who consume higher amounts of vitamin C have a lower risk of breast cancer, research in general has not shown a strong connection.”  That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of taking vitamin C to prevent breast cancer, but even though it might not help, it can’t hurt.

My doctor gave me a sample of Emergen-C, asserting that this form of vitamin C was absorbed into my body more easily than pills. She also encouraged me to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.

I’ve taken Emergen-C almost every day since that time, and I don’t know about it lowering my risk for breast cancer, but I can tell you that I haven’t had nearly as many colds. Maybe Linus Pauling was right!


Half-year birthday

Remember when you were a child and you were very specific about your age? You were six and a half, not just six. You were almost eight, not just seven. Funny how that changes as we grow older.

I’ve never been too concerned about my age. It doesn’t bother me that I am 52 (and a half, as of today). The only thing that bothers me about being a certain age is that I haven’t accomplished all I’d hoped to by this time.

I’m more aware of time at this point in my life, and it goes by so quickly. The last few months are a blur! If time continues to fly by at this rate of speed, ten years will have come and gone before I know it. What changes will the next ten years bring? What needs will our mothers have, and how will that change our lives? Will we be able to retire and enjoy a life that doesn’t require us to get ready for bed at 8 p.m. so we can roll out of bed at 5 a.m.?(and a half, as of today). The only thing that bothers me about being a certain age is that I haven’t accomplished all I’d hoped to by this time.

I don’t have the answers to these questions. However, I do know that I will not waste one moment of precious time worrying about things that may or may not occur. It’s my half-year birthday, and I’m going to celebrate – with finesse!

Downtown Disney

While the husband was tending to the business of his business trip in Orlando, I brought along several projects to keep me busy at the hotel. I also intended to hop over to Downtown Disney to do some shopping, but our hotel shuttle wasn’t what I’d expected.

We had an early dinner one evening, so I suggested we have dessert at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop at Downtown Disney and grab some souvenirs for the granddaughters. The husband wasn’t excited about shopping and he’s not a big fan of dessert, but he was on board with the excursion.

We were pretty busy on our last trip to Disneyland in 2005, so we didn’t spend any time at Downtown Disney in California. I’m glad we didn’t do that in Florida! The fun thing about Downtown Disney is that you can enjoy the Disney atmosphere without the cost – parking is free and there’s no admission fee.

We headed for the World of Disney store and had a difficult time choosing something for the girls. There’s so much and everything is so cute! We settled on two Minnie Mouse plush toys. I always try to get a Christmas ornament when we travel and they had a lot of choices in that category, as well!

We finished our shopping and were ready for dessert. Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is severely over-priced, but it was something we wanted to do. My waffle cone was stale, so I’d skip that next time, but the chocolate was heavenly!

Before heading back to the hotel, we walked through most of Downtown Disney listening to the different music and looking at the different shops and restaurants.  A very relaxing way to end the day.