TO WRITE OR NOT TO WRITE

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To write or not to write, now that is the question. It being Saturday afternoon and Monday morning writing class looming on the horizon, little bits and pieces of quotations are floating thru my mind. It also being the last time we meet until the fall months, there are two ways of looking at writing. Either I can work hard, write splendidly, and go out with a bang, or I can sigh, think, everyone is leaving and so it really doesn’t matter anyhow. I can just look thru my old inventory, so to speak, and skim by with no problem. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last either, so what’s the big deal?
Actually, this seems to be a pretty good synopsis of our lives, I think. Most of us seem to be a combination of these two pathways in life. Sometime we are going forth gung ho, looking forward on a trail towards success and happiness no matter what we must do to achieve it. And at other times we seem to cross over to the easier trail, taking each day as it comes, accepting whatever comes our way, and thinking, No big deal, anyhow. And there are a lot of reasons for our uncertainty because success and happiness usually takes a lot longer to accomplish than we want it to. Particularly since patience is a quality that I myself find hard to find all too often.
At some time in our lives most of us learn the word acceptance for ourselves at least, and forget that once we were the younger go getters, intent on making our way in the world. We marvel at the younger generations and how busy they are, how intent upon making their path successfully and forget our own past efforts. Each group has to learn their own way, and we can watch them doing it, and remember what it was like to feel pushed.
And we can help them in the small everyday ways by showing our encouragement and love for them and their efforts. For me, writing seems to be the way for me to remind them that we all are on the path, in different positions to be sure, but with the same goals of happiness and success for them and their families.

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I CAN’T MAKE UP MY MIND

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I can’t make up my mind. Every time I look in the mirror I am reminded. I have a dilemma. It probably doesn’t seem like much to anyone else, but it sure does to me!
I have a problem. My hair is finally turning very gray. For years I have faced this problem with great courage and called up my hairdresser and enlisted her help with my decision to continue being a woman with light brown hair. Each time my hair started to get pretty long I would start the debate with myself as to whether the time had finally come to give in to Mother Nature and let the gray take over. After all, look at all of the money I would save by doing it. I have reached the age where most of my peers are either gray headed or have beautiful shining white hair. They don’t seem to be bothered by it any more. But there is something in my mind that has just refused to let the change occur naturally. I have accepted the fact that my body really is getting older, but when it comes to my hair that is another whole ballgame. I can still do something about it.
So it is off to my hairdresser. I voice my anxiety to her, and she knows just what to do. An hour later and now I am a lighter shade of blondish brown hair. I smile in the mirror. I have put off the gray, at least for a few more months, and I can relax, at least until the next time it starts to peek its head out. It is true that I can’t fight Mother Nature forever, but I have overcome the battle for now.

THE SUBJECT IS MOUNTAINS

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Mountains! Of all the things in life that I dream about, “Mountains” has to be close to the top of the list. Whenever I think of the experiences that I have had in my lifetime it seems like mountains always played a definite role. It brings back memories of places and people and things that wound thru my life as I yearned always to go where the shining mountains were.
My first experience was Colorado. For years my father had wanted to go to the West to visit. He had a dream of how it would be seeing the mountains, he talked about it enough that he made me yearn to see it for myself. And in about 1950 he found a way to make it happen. My grandpa Hillyer, and Aunt Elsie, drove one car, a 1948 or so Studebaker, and my father and mother drove their old car, a 1940 Ford I think. I had a brother and two sisters so each car had 2 children in the back seat. Today I had to call my brother, Larry Strong, to check on what kind of cars. We stayed in little cabins on the way and cooked our meals on picnic tables as much as possible. When we drove thru Skull Creek, Colorado the roads were so steep that our old car had a lot of trouble. The water kept boiling over, and then we would stop and let the car cool off. We carried a jug of water wherever we went. It was a wonderful trip, but on the way home I still remember how tired everyone was. There were no superhighways at that time. The detours were set up so that you had to drive miles and miles out of your way. You couldn’t set up your cabin ahead of time so often you had to drive later at night while trying to find housing for eight people. But we had seen our mountains and for my dad and me it stirred us to continue to dream of them.
Next big deal. My husband Preston Jager, was drafted into the army in 1953 and eventually we ended up based in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson where our first son was born. We roamed the mountains of Colorado and surrounding states for about 15 months before returning to Michigan. My love for the mountains was deep and sure but it was only a dream then.
The next experience was when in 1966 my husband and I took our four boys aged 6 thru 12, in an old car and two tents, and drove across Canada to British Columbia. We camped all the way, cooked on picnic tables, put the tents up every night, took them down every morning for 2 1/2 weeks. It cost $1 a night to camp in Canadian parks at that time, and we were really on a budget. We came back to Yellowstone and the boys went fishing and hiking also. Six people in a car was quite an experience, but I had seen the mountains and now the boys had too.
Next big deal. 1977. Moved to Colorado with my husband, Gary Bosley, and altho originally a mechanic soon he became a logger, and with a camper we started spending our Monday thru Fridays living in the San Juan Mountains. Home to Pagosa Springs on the weekends to get ready to go back to the mountains to cut right of way for Forest Service roads. Now I lived right in the mountains, walked its many paths and climbed ever higher for the next road to be cut. Wildlife abounded wherever we parked, and my camera was busy most of the time.
But time has a way of changing things and the logging was shut off by the government. So we joined three of our sons working in the oil fields at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was estatic to live in that beautiful place. We spent a lot of our time driving all over the mountains just as we had done in Colorado. Later on we also worked in Oklahoma, meeting new friends there.
Eventually we returned to Colorado. My husband became ill, and now living in Colorado no longer was an option for me. He was buried in Pagosa Springs, a few miles from where he had climbed those shining mountains, and I returned to Michigan where we started from.
But there is a happy ending to all of this. In 1992 I married my farmer, my husband, Bob Rider, and started introducing him to the pleasures of traveling to the West whenever we could. We visited those places I had lived, plus many more, and there were lots of mountains mixed in with them. I made sure of that. And the pictures of them are now enshrined on my screensavers, so that I can remember all of the shining mountains. I can take them with me no matter wherever I go and remember just how much fun it all was. Mountains are for inspiring. I can look up to the sky and know that all is well.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH?

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Sometimes when we are rushing thru our daily lives, immersed in a major problem at work, or trying to catch up or keep up with the people that surround us, it is hard to know that we have chosen the right path to follow. Maybe it is that we have filled up every spare moment with tasks that have to be done whether we like it or not. The people that we take care of, our children, our parents or spouses, all depend upon us to keep things running smoothly. Even our bosses at work expect us to be an example of efficiency no matter what needs to be done.
And at the top of the list is our own inner voice, telling us what we are responsible for – clean houses, clean children, good balanced meals, and the ability to keep it all working properly.
Our inner voice can be our own worst enemy, commenting constantly as we work our way thru the day. And why should that be? After all, we chose this path, didn’t we? We looked at all of the choices available to us, the education or lack of it, the spouse or lack of one, the children that came into our lives, and all of the responsibilities that came with them.
As one of the seniors that is on the later side of life, I can look back in wonder at just how busy our lives were from the age of maturity when we first began to make all of the choices. I have to dig into my memory bank in order to remember just how crazy it all was. When I look at the lives of our grand children I am reminded of just how busy we really were. We didn’t have time to debate whether we were on the right path or not, we were just headed towards the future and did whatever had to be done. But eventually for most people, things begin to change, children grow up and away, and we start to question our busy lives. We look for what is most important, and while we are doing that we may notice that the younger generation is starting to take over, giving us some freedom from the constant push in our lives.
We take pride in their accomplishments as they mature. We see how busy they are and hope that they will find a way to stop and smell the roses along the way. They are on their own path too, following along behind ours. We have just gone on ahead of them to a new phase of our existence.
So as you think about your path and how far you have gone on it, remember that the example of your path may inspire those following you. Encouragement will go a long way towards helping others as they grow steadily in the direction they desire. And you can rest assured that you have advanced on your own path as you make your way thru life.

JUST ANOTHER REASON TO COME TO FLORIDA

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When I am lucky enough to be here in Florida for a few months each year there are always plenty of reasons for me to make a statement of love for my adopted state. It isn’t that I love Michigan any the less, as there are numerous reasons for me to care for the state that I was fortunate enough to be born in. Where else can I enjoy Lake Michigan, the lakes, the boating, canoeing, and the fantastic sunsets. The variety of plants, the farms filled with orchards or cattle or fields of corn or wheat are everywhere. The land of Hiawatha, all of the Great Lakes, the miles and miles of forests filled with trails and lakes and bicycles paths. I love Michigan and in harvest season there is no place I would rather be.
In Colorado where I lived for quite a while there were the mountains and the clear air and the feeling that you could reach up to the sky for your Maker. There was a sense of adventure, a new place that many Americans have traveled to for the last few centuries. It was a place where I felt at home from the very first altho it was very different from Michigan. But life intervened and I eventually returned to the state of my birth, Michigan. I became a part of the orchards and the farms and the forests again, and I loved it.
Now here I am today, in Florida, and the weather channel says we are going to get some solid rain and thunderstorms this afternoon. We are rejoicing because our lawns, our gardens, and our crops, all need the refreshing rainfall. It is strawberry season in Florida and heaven has arrived. Imagine living where the markets and stores are filled with fresh, local strawberries, every day for weeks. Strawberry shortcake every day if you are so disposed to do so. Festivals will abound for shortcake or sundaes all around the surrounding area.
There will be specials in the restaurants and also Church festivals. People will relax and enjoy the products that our local farmers have provided for us. Each year people dream of coming to Florida to soak up in the sun and get warm again. But one of the things that should bring them here in February is the sweet succulent strawberry and the shortcake that follows it.
Maybe our state planners should decide that when they next advertise for Northerners to visit us, they should mention the beautiful strawberry. Nothing could show off our state in a better way than to mention the fresh fruits and vegetables that are fresh off of a local farm. Fresh tomatoes in February? There is no way for anyone to compete with that.
We had fresh tomato and bacon sandwiches for lunch today. Come on down, our dear neighbors to the North, and we will welcome you with the best shortcake in the country to be had, and it is all here waiting for you.
Ah, the rain is about here, and the strawberries will continue to ripen and we will be thankful for Florida. Strawberries, another reason to be grateful in a wonderful state.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A LIFE MAKES

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Sitting here in a warm and very pleasant temperature on a sunny day here in Florida, tapping away at my laptop, I am reminded very vividly of an old song from my teenage years.
“What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours,”. I think that it was Jerry Lester, the early time comedian who sang it. A bit of trivia. Remember Dagmar, the blonde he admired?
Well, if 24 hours makes a difference, how about 24 years, or fifty years, or whatever figure you choose to pull out of your distant past? It is two days before Christmas, no matter where you are, and the chances are that you are scrambling to keep up with all of the things you have to do to get ready for the big day. Shopping for the big items on your list may have finally been done, but there are still all the little extras that you must get in order to make the coming holiday absolutely perfect. There is still that last minute trip to the grocery store, or maybe the meat market or fruit stand. All of the things that have been left to be done at the last minute are staring you right in the face and there is no more time to dilly dally around, you must do them right now.
The tree is looking gorgeous, full of old fashioned balls and lights that remind you of the childrens attempts to make the sparkling tree look like an event out of Fairyland. You remember all of the years they brought their ornaments right home from school and couldn’t wait to hang them on their very own tree. Some of the ornaments may have come from your own childhood of so long ago. It is a tree of memories, and especially for you who have lived thru them all.
If you have children impatiently waiting for the big day you are doubly blessed, because you can see the wonder of Christmas thru the eyes of a child.
As adults we become accustomed to the hustle and bustle and just want to get thru it as best we can. But as a little child is filled with the spirit of the big day there is a glow about them that brings happiness to everyone who is lucky enough to see it.
So why am I thinking about Christmas in a fond but distant manner as I sit here, typing away? It is because time passes and lives change, and days and years go by and nothing really seems to stay the same as we age. Our park is filled with a lot of happy and contented seniors who have chosen to spend a part of their lives in a warm and sunny climate. Sounds wonderful, and it is. Our children are happy for us that we have the opportunity to do this, and there is constant communication with each other thru the miracles of technology. We have plenty of things to enjoy here and no one seems to be complaining about the way our lives have developed.
But when a holiday looms before us, and we remember all of the days and years when we were the ones rushing thru the toy stores, finding just that perfect thing for eager hands to open on Christmas morning, the little thoughts tend to come creeping into our heads of when it was us that did all those things and made things work just right. Our memories will stay with us forever, we hope, and we know just how lucky we were to have made them. We are proud that our children have carried on our sense of making a happy and jolly Christmas for everyone.
Here in the park people will get together for the special day, and they will remember back when. Back when it was us staying up late at night, sewing doll clothes or putting a bike together after midnight, and we will rejoice that life goes on, as friends and family carry forth the Christmas spirit wherever they go.
So here is a Happy and joyous Christmas to all of our Facebook and Twitter friends, our families, and scattered old friends, no matter where you are, as we remember that Life goes on and we still have all of our memories. It is a good time to think back and reminisce about all of the people we have loved over the years.

THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN

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IMG_0364 I bring you another glimpse of the past, the house that I grew up in. Probably its not too interesting to anyone who never lived in a Midwestern town, in a house that was built by my father during the Great Depression of the 30’s.But as time goes by the old memories seem to be coming back to me and I marvel at how resilient my parents and their friends were.
The Great Depression affected everyone, at least in the world that I lived in. The pictures of men standing in long lines waiting for a chance at one job where thousands were hopeful are a haunting memory that shows up on the internet even today. If you were extremely lucky you might get hired for the WPA, but often you had to leave your family behind and go to another state to use a shovel or drive a truck.
In Michigan there had always been numerous factory jobs and that is where most young men started their work life. But after the stock market crash in 1929 work began to disappear. Jobs that had always seemed safe no longer existed. My father was one of the ones that lost his job. There was nothing to be had anywhere. He had always been a hard worker and couldn’t stand to stay home and have nothing to do.
So he decided that he was going to build a house. He and my mother and I lived in an apartment upstairs in my grandparents home and my mother had the patience of a saint, I do believe. My grandmother was an extremely religious woman of her time and she didn’t believe that women or girls should wear slacks or pants, and she didn’t mind telling you so. My mother was young and modern but she was a stay at home mother like other women, and so she was under watch all of the time.
My father borrowed $200.00 and decided that he was going to dig the basement himself. The house must have been about 24′ by 24′, or so. In Michigan you need a deep basement for your furnace and your water heater. Our basement also had to hold a coal bin. So he started digging, and digging, and kept at it until it was accomplished. My parents are no longer here to tell me how they got the money to start the actual house, but somehow they did. It was a two story, and they finished the lower level, where there was one bedroom, but the upstairs had to stay unfinished. So my brother and I had the whole floor to ourselves. The two by fours were up to show where the walls would be later on. I was on one end, with two younger sisters showing up eventually. And my brother had the little room on the other end because it wouldn’t do to have boys and girls together.
So for years this was my bedroom and I spent many hours, reading under the covers late at night, with a flashlight sometimes. I would also sit by the window where there was a streetlight that helped out some. Since my parents were downstairs I got away with it a lot. My sisters were 8 and 10 years younger so they had cribs and youth beds in our room and I hated that.
After growing up, getting married and going with my husband to Ft Carson, Colorado where he was in the Army, my dad put on a big new addition to the house and all of a sudden everyone had a lot more room. He was so proud of that room and being able to do it for his family. Eventually he built a much larger house for he and my mother, but this time he didn’t have to do any digging.
Looking back at how all of our lives have changed, I marvel at how people like my parents, Marjorie and Truman Strong, were filled with resilience and pride in their accomplishments. Our generation has much to be proud of, and I hope that we can pass this on to our descendants.