Keep, Toss, Donate

I’m not a very sentimental person. At least, I’m not someone who gets attached to things. Fortunately, this trait comes in handy when it’s time to do a purge of “stuff” – even when the stuff isn’t mine. In 2010, we moved my parents from the house they had lived in for over 45 years to a much smaller house right across the street from us. My purging skills came in handy because my Mama was the complete opposite of me; for Mama, the memories and the items were tied together so she didn’t get rid of much. Let’s just say there was a lot of stuff to go through. We made many trips to the landfill and Goodwill. Of course, there was also a pile of things that I set aside for family as well.

Also in 2010 we moved my mother-in-law from her condominium into an Assisted Living facility. Fortunately, my in-laws had already downsized a couple of times: the first when they moved from the home where they raised their sons into an apartment, the second when my mother-in-law moved from the apartment to a condo after the death of my father-in-law. So, while we had some things to go through, it was nowhere near as much as what we dealt with when my parents moved.

The next opportunity to practice my “skills” came after my Daddy’s death. Kenn and I were still working full-time so Mama moved to North Carolina to live with my oldest sister and her husband. We tried to do some cleaning out before Mama moved but it was too hard on her so most of it took place after she left. This was the hardest one. There were a lot of items that went to friends and family but there was still a bunch left. This was the hardest purge for me. I was heartbroken and missing my Daddy and Mama’s leaving was kind of like losing her too. Yet, we needed to get the house cleaned out so that the owner could rent it out again. I did as much as I could but once I hit the I-can’t-do-this-anymore wall, we took the remaining boxes of stuff and stored them at our house. When we unexpectedly found our dream home a few months later, all of those boxes moved with us.

I steadfastly ignored the stack of boxes for as long as I could but finally had to grit my teeth and start working my way through them. Some were easy such as the boxes and boxes (and boxes) of papers to shred. Fifty year old income tax returns and bank statements anyone? However, there are the things that fall into What The Fluff territory that I have no idea to what to do with; the things that seem like they would be important to someone, but who? My Daddy was into model railroading and we had several boxes of N gauge train cars and tracks, miniature buildings, etc. Kenn had a brilliant idea and contacted the local model railroading association who gladly took all of the railroading paraphernalia off our hands. I came across several metal boxes containing photographic slides among my Daddy’s things. The photos dated back to the 1940s and 50s; none of them were labeled. I didn’t know who any of the people in the pictures were and had no way of finding out. Even though it hurt my soul a little, these pictures went into the trash. Cold? Possibly. However, I just can’t bring myself to keep boxes of photos that mean nothing to me.

Now I find myself faced with items like the ones pictured: newspapers and magazines dating back to the first moonwalk and possibly other historic events. These aren’t newspapers that have been properly preserved; they are folded in half and yellowed with age. However, I can’t just toss them because of their historical significance. So, dear readers, do you have any recommendations? A Twitter friend recommended contacting local museums however, where I live there are no local museums, LOL.

Dealing with all of this stuff for so many years has made me determined to not leave our boys with a mountain of crap to deal with when Kenn and I shuffle off this mortal coil. Of course, there will be some stuff, that’s unavoidable. Sorry, not sorry, for the random rocks and baggies of shark’s teeth guys!

Until next time, happy (and hopefully uncluttered) trails!

Little Camper in the RV Park

Okay, I realize that my experience in mostly solo camping is hardly on par with the ordeals encountered by the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the other brave pioneers who dared the unknown wilds of our country, but it’s the closest I will ever get since I don’t ever see myself boondocking. (This post is best read with Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman playing softly in the background.😉)

We towed our camper to the “wilderness” of South Carolina (aka an RV park) in mid-January 2022 where it would become my home for the next few weeks as we eagerly awaited the birth of the newest members of our family – girl/boy twins. (FYI: The twins are here! I blogged a bit about them HERE.) Shortly after we learned about the existence of the twins, I told Kenn that this was what I wanted to do. I knew that twins were likely to be born early and I wanted to be close by so that when my daughter-in-law went into labor I would be on-hand to take care of my grandson rather than being several hours away.

Technically, the first “excitement” was Winter Storm Izzy but that happened when Kenn was with me. (I posted about it HERE.) My first solo problem to resolve was when I woke up freezing at 4:30am the morning after Kenn left. Obviously, the propane tank was empty so it was just a matter of switching over to the other tank. Easy peasy, right? In this case, yes and no. I pulled on my boots and threw a coat on over my pjs and wandered out into the pre-dawn cold where I pulled the cover off the tanks and made the switch but then couldn’t turn the valve to the On position. I even tried turning the valve to the Off position just to see if it was already open and… nothing. The darn thing wouldn’t turn either way. I noticed that the line connected to the tank seemed to be loose so I tightened it before deciding to go inside, thaw out, and redress the problem once the sun came up. Once I could see what I was doing, I realized that not only was the connection to the tank loose, it wasn’t threaded properly at all so I removed it and reattached it at which point the connection showed green instead of red. I wish I could say that I realized that everything was good to go at this point, but I didn’t. I was tired, cold, and frustrated. (Seriously? This was my first day on my own and this is how it started?🤦‍♀️) It took Kenn reminding me that the green connection should mean that gas was flowing to the camper before I tested the heat – which was working fine.🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I reduced the temperature on the thermostat in order to reduce my propane consumption and let the electric space heater do most of the heavy lifting as far as heating the Micro Lite went.

When Kenn came back for the weekend, we took both propane tanks to the nearest Ace Hardware for refilling/topping off. (Side note: we later learned it would have been cheaper to go to Tractor Supply.) We also used this as a test to make sure that I was able to disconnect/lift/move/reconnect the tanks both when empty and when full; I could.👍 Ruby is such a big truck that getting the tanks in and out of the bed was a bit of a struggle but I could make it work. Oh, we also checked to make sure that I was able to turn the valves on both tanks, which I could. I don’t know who tightened that valve so tight the last time the tanks were filled but geez, dude. I couldn’t turn it at all and it was a struggle for Kenn.

The next problem, a clogged camper toilet, occurred when Kenn was packing up to leave so we resolved that one together. The next solo problem, no water, occurred the morning after Kenn left. (Hmmmm. Does anyone else see the pattern developing here?🤔) I discovered the lack of water when I made my pre-dawn visit to the necessary. Fortunately, after Winter Storm Izzy, we began keeping a few gallons of water on hand for just such an emergency. Honestly, I was surprised. Yes, the temperatures the night before were in the 20s (Farenheit) but so were many others and I had left water dripping just as I had on all of those other nights. Once the outside temperature rose above freezing, I went outside and disconnected the water hose so I could move it into the sun; that’s when I discovered the problem: the water had frozen at the connection where the flow enters the camper. I used some of our stored water to melt the ice plug at the connector and then flushed the hose to make sure there was no ice in it. (There wasn’t.) Before reconnecting the hose to the camper, I MacGyvered a protective cover for the connection out of a zippered plastic baggie and a dish towel. It wasn’t pretty but did it help? Yes. Maybe.🤷‍♀️ There were several more nights in the 20s and we only had issues one more time,

My MacGyvered protective cover

It may not seem like much, but I’m proud of the not-quite-a-month I spent sort of on my own. (Kenn was with me on weekends and when the twins arrived.) You see, I’m one of those people who’ve never lived on their own. I didn’t want to move home after college, but I did since I wasn’t sure I could afford to live on my own. I wound up staying there until Kenn and I married. I’ve proven (at least to myself) that I can live on my own and deal with whatever comes my way.

Until next time, take care and happy trails!

A Cure for the February Blues

February tends to be a rough month for me. In 2010 Kenn and I moved my parents from my childhood home (their home of almost 50 years) to the house right across the street from us. They remained there until my daddy died on February 16, 2016. Daddy had been Mama’s primary caretaker until about 3 months before his death. However, Kenn and I were both still working full-time and in-home care for Mama was prohibitively expensive so she moved to North Carolina to live with my oldest sister and her husband. Daddy’s death was hard enough but Mama’s move immediately afterward felt almost like losing her. We made regular trips to NC to visit but it was obvious that Mama’s health was also failing; she died on February 24, 2017. (My sisters and I would not have been surprised if she had died on the anniversary of Daddy’s death.)

Everyone’s grief journey is different. My experience is that grief lessens over time but it doesn’t completely fade. I also don’t look at the calendar and go “Oh, wow. It’s February. I need to be sad.” Invariably what happens is that I find myself feeling blue and wondering what in the heck is going on and eventually realizing “Oh. It’s February. No wonder my heart is aching.” Kenn is a great support and is always willing to provide hugs as needed. I also turn to Mass Effect, my favorite video game, and spend time saving the galaxy with my virtual friends. (What can I say? Some people have comfort foods or books or movies. I have a comfort video game.)

Mama and Daddy

The picture above is one of my favorites of Mama and Daddy. It was taken at our local Cracker Barrel (their favorite restaurant) in February 2015.

This year, I have something new to ease the February blues. Earlier this month, our oldest son and daughter-in-law welcomed twins. Meeting (and cuddling) these new little ones has definitely brightened my life. I will always miss my parents and the anniversaries of their deaths will always be hard, but having two new lives to celebrate (year round, not just in February) will certainly make things easier going forward.

Until next time, happy trails and… take the time to hug your loved ones and tell them how you feel.

Adventures in Camping: Winter Storm Izzy

This isn’t the post I originally had planned for this week; that one has been postponed until the 27th. (A winter storm takes precedence, LOL.) Kenn and I hauled our travel trailer to South Carolina on Thursday, January 13th. This is going to be a longer stay for me but I’ll go into that in another post. We always keep an eye on the weather for our destination when traveling but apparently didn’t pay as much attention as we usually do. It wasn’t until I heard the weather reports on the drive up that I realized that there was a real chance that our destination would receive snow and/or ice.

Since I’m going to be here for a while I had elected not to bring a lot of groceries with me and just do some shopping after we arrived. We made a Walmart run after getting the camper set up and resting for a bit. We were able to find most of the things we needed but several areas (especially dairy and luncheon meat) had been cleaned out. We visited with our family in the area for a bit on Saturday and then hunkered down for the storm. I use a white noise machine and ear plugs when I sleep but some sort of noise still woke me up around 5am on Sunday morning. I could see snow accumulated on the skylight in the bathroom and sleet/freezing rain started shortly afterward. (We eventually realized that the recurring noise was the awning over the slide snapping in the wind.) Once the sun came up, we ventured outside. (As Southerners, we rarely see snow and ice so we have to enjoy it while we can!)

Snow selfie in front of the RV park office
Our campsite fairly early in the storm
Our trucks wondering what in the heck is going on

We wound up with 4-6 inches of snow interspersed with layers of ice. Now, I know you Northerners are probably rolling your eyes at how Southerners panic over a little snow. However, there is a reason for our panic: simply put, we aren’t equipped for winter weather. (I saw one snow plow in this area.) In my home state of Georgia, we don’t have snow plows or road salt. We also don’t have snow tires or chains nor do we know how to drive on snowy/icy roads. The safest thing to do is to send us home until everything melts – after we buy up all of the bread and milk in the area, of course.😂

It looks like we may have another round of snow and ice rolling in next weekend so, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make another run to Walmart!

Until next time take care, stay warm, and happy trails!

A Throwaway Tradition

Traditions are important to me, holiday traditions especially so. One of the first times I remember being impacted by a change to tradition was as a child. When I was young, my mama made Stollen, a German bread, every Christmas as a nod to our German ancestry. The year she announced that she wasn’t going to make it anymore, I was crushed. It wasn’t so much that I missed the bread; I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t even like Stollen. What I missed was losing something that was always there, or at least had been as long as I could remember. It took until I became an adult to realize that yes, traditions are important, but flexibility with those traditions is also important. A tradition that is too rigid to change is a tradition that becomes a chore instead of a joy. My mama realized this, hence her decision to no longer make Stollen.

After our oldest son’s first Christmas, Kenn and I created what would become one of the first holiday traditions for our small family. After spending that Christmas on the road running from one family’s house to another and not having any time to enjoy the day or each other we decided that our future Christmases would be spent at home; if our parents wanted to see us on Christmas day, they could come to us. (We all lived within 20 miles or so of each other; it’s not like we were expecting anyone to fly across the country.) That tradition has remained in effect all of these years. Now that our sons are grown and one has a family of his own, that tradition may change. If/when it does, we will go with the flow.

One of the first changes I made to one of our own traditions involved our Christmas tree. I had had a love/hate relationship with Christmas trees for a long time. I loved the finished result but my perfectionist tendencies when it came to getting the lights and garland “just so” tended to turn me into a Grinch. Add to the mix cats who live (and love) to knock ornaments off the tree and rearrange the garland daily and some days having a tree was just exhausting. Once the kids were no longer interested in helping decorate the tree, I really wasn’t enthusiastic about going through the steps anymore. Things kind of came to a head in 2016, the year my daddy died. There was a lot of “life” and loss that year and I just didn’t have it in me to deal with a Christmas tree. Kenn disagreed which was fine. I told him we could have a tree but he would be responsible for all of it: the lights, garland, decorations and re-decorating it daily. Eventually I got Kenn to understand that my lack of desire to have a tree had nothing to do with grief (even though that was more than enough), it was more the culmination of years of stress. Yes, the grief was probably the final straw but it wasn’t the ultimate cause of my lack of interest. So, in 2016, we purchased a pallet tree. No garland, lights, or decorations required. Instead, I hung the Christmas cards we received from the strings on the tree.

Our 2016 pallet tree

In 2017, we purchased a 4 foot, pre-lit tree and haven’t looked back. I love our small tree and have no desire to ever go back to a larger one.

Our current tree. It makes me happy.

However, one of our traditions is designed to change every year and then to get thrown away. You see, I love plates for every occasion but have no interest in spending money on dishes that only get used once a year; I also have no interest in finding storage for them. However, I have found a way to indulge my love: Hobby Lobby always has a wonderful selection of seasonal paper plates. So, every Thanksgiving and Christmas I indulge in a new set of plates and napkins. Not only do I get to enjoy a different design every year but we get to enjoy gathering with our family without the worry of having to run the dishwasher constantly.

Our 2021 Thanksgiving plates
Our 2021 Christmas plates

So, what’s the point of this post? It’s just a friendly reminder to not let yourself get locked into traditions that no longer have the meaning they once did. It’s okay to change things up. Do what makes you happy – even if you throw it away afterward.😉

Until next time, take care, happy trails, and Merry Christmas!

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

I am pleased to announce that I crossed the 50,000 word finish line of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) on November 23rd. (I was determined to be finished before Thanksgiving.) This means that I now have a short story to revise and submit to an anthology and a still unfinished full-length novel that’s still a bit of a hot mess, but that’s okay – that’s what first drafts are for. My plan was to stay on top of my blog posts and count those words towards my goal but it didn’t work out that way; sometimes stories just need to be written. It was nice to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving without having my word count hanging over my head.

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s time to start focusing on the next big thing which in our family is the birth of twins. (Our oldest son and his wife are expecting twins. The due date is in February 2021 although we all expect them to come earlier.) Oh, and Christmas is somewhere in there too.😬

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – or at least a bearable one, LOL! As someone who had a hate/hate relationship with Thanksgiving for many years, I completely understand that sometimes holidays are just something you have to get through.

Until next time, take care and happy trails!

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month. (Also called NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short.) This is the month when writers across the globe – including yours truly – commit to writing a 50,000 word “novel” in 30 days. Are we crazy? Probably. Is it fun? Strangely enough, yes. The NaNo community is made up of people who love to write and run the gamut from published authors to those dipping their toe into the writing pool for the first time. Some people write novels, others write scripts or fanfiction; it doesn’t matter so much what is written as long as the 50,000 words are new.

I have a tendency to get into my own head when I’m writing and can spend too much time second guessing myself or going back and revising what I’ve already written. The limited time frame and word count goal force me to push all of that to the side and just write. Most of my novels and short stories (written as Isabella Norse) have been born during NaNoWriMo. I usually write as “rebel” meaning that I’m not starting a brand new novel. (My rebel status is no great surprise to anyone who knows me, LOL.) This year I plan to use the first 12,000 words or so to work on a short story that I’m planning to submit for an anthology and the rest of the words I’ll put toward completing My Fair Vampire, the next entry in my Kudzu Korners sweet paranormal romance series.

Another reason NaNoWriMo works for me is because I’m an extremely competitive person but I’m also a sore loser, LOL. With NaNo, I’m mostly competing against myself. I’ve participated in NaNo every year since 2011. In spite of my competitiveness, I haven’t “won” every year. There are times when I’ve just had to let it go, and that’s okay; there are no NaNo police to come around and rap me on the knuckles with a ruler. The NaNo community is very supportive; we cheer each other on when things are going well and cry on each other’s shoulders when they aren’t. It’s also great because non-writers don’t really understand how characters can take over a story and take it in a completely unexpected direction or how a writer can have a character they hate. (Several years ago Kenn asked my how my story was going and I told him that I hated the heroine’s best friend. He just looked at me and finally said “How can you hate her? You created her.” Yes, I did, but that didn’t keep her from being a complete jerk. Once I got to know her a little better my opinion changed and she got a book of her own, LOL.)

Wish me luck!

Road Trip: The Wheels on the Trailer Go Round and Round

We have had our Micro Lite since January 2019; prior to our recently completed road trip it had less than 3,000 miles on it. In just under a month, we added almost 5,000 miles. Needless to say, this extended “shake down” revealed a few issues and we came home with a list of repairs to be made. However, the first – and biggest – issue was a major one.

Yep. We had a blowout. These tires were the original equipment and one of the main recommendations in the travel trailer groups I’m in is to replace the original tires as soon as possible for a couple of reasons. First, manufacturers by tires in bulk and they may sit in a warehouse for 2-3 years before being placed on your trailer. Second, the original tires are frequently called “China bombs” for their supposed country of origin and propensity for blowouts. We discussed replacing the tires before our road trip but that discussion was as far as it went. I was driving on I-81 near Frackville, Pennsylvania when this happened. However, when I think back on this incident, I count my blessings:

  • This section of I-81 wasn’t busy and we weren’t surrounded by semis like we had been in Virginia
  • Our Micro Lite has two axles so we still had three tires to keep us rolling (slowly)
  • I was approaching an exit where I was able to get off the interstate and pull onto the shoulder where we could inspect the damage
  • There was a whole lot of nothing at this exit but we saw signs for a Cracker Barrel and limped our way there and availed ourselves of their RV parking while we changed the tire. (We also treated ourselves to lunch. At this point we both needed and deserved a break.)
  • While we ate, I did a quick internet search and found Ken’s Tires less than two miles away in Frackville. My Kenn gave them a call and they had a tire in stock that could become our new spare. Our server gave us directions (including drawing a map) and, once we finished lunch, we made the trip to Ken’s Tires and had the new tire installed on the wheel. They had us back on the road in less than 30 minutes.

So, with one disaster averted, we began a renewed discussion on what to do with the remaining tires: try to find somewhere to have them replaced while we were on the road or wait until we got home. We decided we’d feel better if we went ahead and got the remaining tires replaced. We were flying by the seat of our pants for most of this trip – the only reservations we had made in advance were in Lubek, Maine. We couldn’t afford to get off the road in search of new tires and miss our arrival date. Lubek is a tiny town but we knew one of our next stops would be in Farmington, Maine and there were several places to buy tires in that area. Kenn settled on Tire Warehouse in Farmington and the phone calls began.😂 (Kyle and Brandi deserve some sort of award for all of the calls from Kenn that they patiently fielded over the next several days.) The GE Endurance tires that we wanted are back-ordered and wouldn’t be available until February 2022 so it was onto another brand. After much research, Kenn settled on Hankook tires and Kyle was able to get them in prior to our arrival in Farmington. When we arrived at Tire Warehouse, the staff replaced and balanced our tires and had us back on the road in about 30 minutes. Oh, and as for our decision to go ahead and replace the tires while we were on the road… the technician changing our tires sliced his hand on the exposed steel belt on one of the other tires. So, we had at least one more blowout in the making. Yikes.😬

Stay tuned for more (probably not as exciting, LOL) posts about our road trip over the next few weeks. Until next time, happy trails and check those travel trailer tires y’all!

Them’s the Breaks

We don’t have a garage. As a matter of fact, we’ve never had a garage. Our first home (less than 900 square feet) had no covering at all for vehicles. In a way this worked out for the best since Kenn’s little rattletrap truck sacrificed itself and took most of the of the damage when a huge section of the tree in our front yard fell; the poor little truck was severely dented but it kept the house from taking more damage than it did. Our second house, built in 1962, had a 60’s style carport ringed with wrought iron. The carport was just big enough for my Toyota Highlander as long as we opened the doors carefully in order to avoid hitting the wrought iron on the left side or the brick wall on the right.

Fast forward to our current house, also known as The Cabin. The Cabin has a stand-alone covered carport big enough for both vehicles – or at least it was until we bought Ruby. I think we were on the way home from the dealership when Kenn expressed concern that Ruby wouldn’t fit in the carport. I, on the other hand, was confident she would and, I was right. Ruby fit but we had to take care not to clip the side mirrors on the support posts. Then Kenn replaced the factory mirrors with ones we could extend when towing the travel trailer. These wider mirrors narrowed the room for error when parking Ruby significantly. We learned to be extremely careful both when parking and backing out and we’ve both had our share of close calls. Sadly, our luck ran out this past weekend.

Poor Ruby

Of course, we were both a little upset (especially Kenn, since he was driving). However, we both knew it was just a matter of time until this happened although it would have been nice if it had taken longer than 5 months, LOL. I told Kenn that we need to make sure the replacement mirrors fold up so we can just close them up before parking to eliminate this problem in the future. But, you want to know the worst part? The existing soon-to-be-replaced mirrors also folded up. It just never dawned on either of us to actually fold them up in order to eliminate the parking problem. It was a true facepalm moment.

We all have these moments

One of the good things about life is that we never stop learning. Sometimes the lessons we learn are hard ones, others not so much. This one is definitely in the latter category. A broken sideview mirror is an incovenience and replacing it is a bit of an expense but, in the long run, it’s no big deal. But, you can rest assured that we will be folding Ruby’s mirrors up in the future!

Until next time, happy trails and watch your mirrors!