Settling In

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So, I arrived 800 miles later safe and sound. And since I’ve been here we’ve been on full-out playing, eating, laughing and birthday planning mode!

Me and my boys have been getting to know each other better and learning what each other likes and finds funny. I bought the above double stroller at a 2nd hand shop so we could go Rollin’ together. They are so cute when they hold hands when they’re in the stroller together! Both of my kids are planting a church together with their spouses and some really great people. They meet in a movie theater on Sunday mornings. So, they have to go early to set up. I went early this past Sunday to watch the boys while they were setting up and this stroller was a big help. We rolled around outside then inside. Great fun!

Gideon, the cute guy on the right will be a big ONE year old this week and we’ve been in party planning mode. I offered to make his birthday cake and we’re going big! I made a practice cake to see if I could actually make what my daughter was thinking about. I am NOT a professional. I’m just crazy enough to try.

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Don’t judge! I don’t like anything you see here, except maybe the “sand” layer. We’re working toward an ocean theme. Sand, waves, fish scales, you get the idea. I was trying out some canned icing and found it’s not good for piping unless I add powdered sugar to stiffen it up. Then there’s the HEAT to contend with. We also played around with colors. I don’t like any of the colors you see in this pic. So, I will adjust. The Golden Oreo “sand” turned out good, I think. It was fun working with my girls. I really miss spending time with them. They are so creative and daring (especially letting me make the 1st birthday cake!)

7 weeks after Gideon’s birthday, Manny, the handsome guy on the left will turn ONE year old!

So, I’m settling in for my long visit. We’re so used to having just a few days together that we rush around trying to get in all our fun and talking and hugging before I have to leave. But now, we can relax and just BE. It’s SO nice.

Hope you’re all doing well. In my next post, I’ll talk about feeding the grandkids. Is that a source of tension between you and your kids? Let’s talk.

Peace,

Jill

 

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This Was The Goal!

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Of course there are many factors, many purposes and many reasons because life is not that simple. But one of the goals of freeing up, lightening up and streamlining my life was to do just what I’m doing right now…being able to spend A LOT of time with my kids and grandkids who live half way across the country.

I packed up pretty much all of my clothes in a plastic bin- because I’ve cut down the size of my wardrobe, remember – and threw them in the car and drove 15 hours to my kids to stay for a month.

It’s okay. The husband is okay with me leaving. Not jumping up and down but okay especially when I reminded him he’ll have control of the remote and he can cook all the crazy, spicy, weird foods that stink up the house he wants to.

But let me tell you, it was a breeze leaving the house. Back in the day it would have taken me a week or so to get ready to leave. I would have had to wash a ton of clothes and dig out a suitcase. I would have probably gone shopping because I never really had stuff to wear because I hated most of my clothes in my closet. So, thank you KonMari!

I would have cleaned the house (because I hate coming home to a dirty house) which would have led to the sorting and cramming and the frustration of realizing I need to throw stuff out but I’m too stressed because I have to go on this trip to stop and do that right now which leads to the guilt of having just crammed all my crap into weird places just to make the house look neat and clean and putting discarding and organizing on my to-do list for when I get home. Whew!

Then I would have to pay the bills which would lead to the same ordeal only in the office and file cabinet followed by the guilt of feeling unorganized and worring if we have enough insurance in case there’s a flood or the apocalypse and knowing none of my important files are in a fire/water safe safe and then feeling guilty for not really knowing where those files are, in fact not knowing which files are important. Whew!

But since I’ve done all the decluttering and organizing, leaving for the trip was easy. I paid the bills, filed the necessary papers which took me 20 minutes max. I had one small, and I mean small load of laundry to do. I didn’t have to pick and choose what clothes to take because I only have like 4 pair of pants, 2 shorts, and several shirts. I threw in my sneakers for walking and sandals. I wear my hoop earrings almost every day and my fitbit so I didn’t have to figure out what jewelry to wear with which outfit. I slimmed down my every day grooming routine, so I just threw everything I use everyday in my toiletry bag. I didn’t really have to clean the house because the house stays pretty clean everyday now that I don’t have a lot of clutter.

So, I put all my clothes in a plastic see-through bin so I wouldn’t have to dig through a suitcase for a month. I packed a tote bag to take into the hotel with me for my one night stay halfway there. One basket of snacks and water and I was on my way!

I didn’t leave with that uneasy, guilty feeling of having left things undone or unfinished or out of order. I left free.

Now, I’m here and we’re already having loads of fun. I think all those FaceTime sessions has helped make me a familiar face with the grandboys. They are sweet and social anyway, but they’re not looking at me like I’m something from another planet.

So, now to settle into a routine and try not to be an annoyance. You know, “the mother-in-law.”

Let me say sorry/not sorry if I write and post pics about my grandboys for the next little while.

Peace,

Jill

 

Why I Love Virtual Photo Walks

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I’ve mentioned Virtual Photo Walks before and I’ll probably keep mentioning it because I think it is SO great!

When I was in my 30’s my older sister was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given a few months to live. Being a stubborn, disciplined person, she did everything the doctor told her to do and she lived 6 years longer than they expected. I was one of her main caregivers. Having 2 small kids and caring for her was quite a challenge. My kids spent much of those 6 years in waiting rooms, hanging out with my sister as she gradually became housebound. We watched a lot of TV. We watched all of the O.J. Simpson trial. All of it. (Can you detect my sigh and eye rolling?)

Fast forward to 2015. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like my sister, I walked by her side until she passed. Again, I spent many hours and days in waiting rooms and hanging out at her house watching TV and dreaming of trips we could take if we could.

I don’t know how I forgot about Virtual Photo Walks, but I did. Too many things on my mind, I think.

I remember when I initially found it I thought, “This is the greatest idea ever!” And when I ever have time I’m going to volunteer to be a photographer for them.

Since I’ve “retired” I have started volunteering with them and I want to spread the word, that’s why I’m writing another post about it.

What Is Virtual Photo Walks? 

VPW is a non-profit organization run by volunteers who are passionate about giving those isolated by illness, age or disability the chance to “escape” their isolation and travel the world!

John Butterill, the founder, organizes the walks through a video conferencing app called Zoom. Photographers from all over the world work with John and plan walks and visits to sites from archaeological digs in Russia to volcanoes in Hawaii to sites in Japan. John sets up the video conferencing meeting and connects the participants who may be in their homes or rehabs, day care centers, nursing homes or are in the hospital and they connect with their computers to participate in the walk.

“The Secret Sauce” 

The magic of Virtual Photo Walks is the live, real time interaction the participants can have with the photographer and also the others who are on the walk with them.

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The participants can talk to the photographer, ask questions and make requests like, “Can we see what’s to your right?” or “Can you take a photo of that tree?” Everyone laughs together and are amazed together in real time. It is a completely different experience than watching a video.

I joined a walk to Yosemite a couple of weeks ago from my office. It was so moving to be with the other participants as we saw the mountains and a beautiful waterfall together. On another walk to an archaeological dig in Russia we had participants from Israel and Japan. It was so interesting.

What VPW Can Do

I remember spending endless hours, days, months and years indoors with my sister and later, my best friend. Too weak to go out and sometimes even to leave the bed. Both of them had to restrict their exposure to germs so even though they might have felt okay, it was too dangerous for them to go out. It was isolating! They were lonely!

Virtual Photo Walks can give people who are isolated a chance to travel to another place and do it with a community of people! Nobody cares what you look like – you can cut the camera off to yourself so no one sees you if you’re worried. Everyone is just glad you joined. And away you go to some beautiful or interesting place together to get away from your bed or hospital room for an hour.

It really does carry you away for a while. It’s magical.

Please Share! 

Here is a great video about VPW. Please share with people you know. Share on social media!

As I said, VPW is a non-profit organization. It’s free to join. The participant just needs internet access to their computer.

You are required to make a request to join because John makes sure all the participants are safe and he protects their privacy.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in a walk, you can join here: 

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/be-invited-to-virtual-photo-wa/

If you’d like to volunteer to be a photographer and share the beauty of the world around where you live or where you travel, you can volunteer here:

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/sign-up-to-be-a-vpw-photograph/

You’ll need a smart phone, a good data plan and a tripod.

If you’d like to donate, that would be amazing! Please share with businesses who could possibly donate to help provide equipment and internet access. Donate here:

http://www.virtualphotowalks.org/donate/

Thanks for your help in this very worthy cause!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

Rainy Day & Dead Relatives

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The Spanish Jasmine is getting a good soaking today. It smells so amazing and it always reminds me of my Grandfather-in-law, Manuel, who told me how he loved to sit on the porch at Tita Violeta’s house and smell the Jasmine.

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The Japanese Maple looks so deep and rich it makes me thirsty. Is that weird?

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, dear readers. I’ve been working on a few things. I’ve been acquiring and testing equipment so that I can volunteer for Virtual Photo Walks which I mentioned in my last post.

I’ve also been working on my family tree some more. I got to spend the day with my newly found cousin and cousin-in-law (I just made that up) doing internet research. It was so fun!

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I’ve been digging around in the life of Andrew Jackson Hipps. Go ahead, laugh. Hipps. It’s a German name that may have come from Hepp or Hyp. It is spelled Hipp when the family came to America. When the family moved to Georgia they added an “S.” I’m not sure why unless it’s that southern thing to add an “S” to words like “Walmarts.”

As part of my research I went to Chickamauga State Park where Andy fought in a battle during the Civil War. (Can I call him Andy?)

It was a great park! A million monuments! (maybe not a million but a LOT!) The rangers at the park were SO knowledgeable and were able to show me EXACTLY where Grandpa Andy (is that better to add Grandpa?) would have been!

We had to walk a ways (there’s that added “s” thing again)  in the woods to get to the monument but here’s where his cavalry unit was when the battle began…

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It’s amazing to me that they have the time, 7:30 am!

And here’s the field where they fought…it was raining and yucky, so please excuse my appearance. But it was SO great to be in the spot!

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Doing genealogy is like getting caught in an eddy. You kind of spin around and around, seeing the same things over and over again but occasionally finding a new bit of information which keeps you addicted. 30 minutes can easily turn into 5 hours! Crazy!

So, don’t start working on your family tree! Start working on your family tree! No, don’t!

Swim at your own risk!

Peace,

Jill

 

Minimalist Wardrobe – It Really Works!

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I used to be able to dress myself. You could actually say I had a sense of style. That is until I had my first child. After that my body was not the same.

I didn’t know what I looked good in. I didn’t know how to dress a “Mom.” I was so busy with raising my son that what I wore was way down on the priority list.

Then came my second child. Things changed even more. Then we were financially strapped and even if I knew what I looked good in or knew how to dress a “Mom” I couldn’t afford what I would have liked.

I haven’t been comfortable with my clothes since I was teenager, and I’m half a century now.

My closet and I have had a love/hate relationship for years. I really wished I could have found Narnia instead of all the pieces of clothing that almost fit, I almost liked, that were a good deal but not exactly what I wanted and what I might fit if I lost a few pounds.

I have purged and reorganized and reinvented my clothing so many times that I can’t keep count.

So, during this latest decluttering fest I purged my closet once again.

However, I did something different this time.

Let me tell you what I did. I decided to follow Marie Kondo’s advice and only keep what I love. If it didn’t fit just right (right now) or if I didn’t like the color or length or material, I tossed it. So, I was left with only clothes that I felt good in and I loved. There wasn’t much left to be honest.

But before I had a chance to fill my closet up with more stuff I almost liked, I had to make this latest trip to see my kids. So, I had to pack. I had to put this capsule wardrobe idea to the test even if I didn’t want to.

Thankfully, most of what I had left in my closet were in the black, white, gray and blue color scheme. So, I could combine just about every piece I had to make several different outfits. I ended up packing up just about every article of clothing I own now.

Because I didn’t have much, I didn’t have to wash a ton of clothes before I packed. I also didn’t have to think too much about it. I just packed what I had.

IT MADE PACKING SUCH A BREEZE!

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I couldn’t believe I could pack so quickly with such little stress.

Believe it or not I had something to wear for every situation, even the funeral I didn’t know I’d be attending when I packed!

I have been convinced that a pared down, minimalist wardrobe is the way to go!

I’m so relieved and I feel so free! Clothes have been a burden for years! I know now that I will be able to live with just a few, good quality, interchangeable pieces.

The key for me is to only own pieces that I really love. That way I can and will wear everything! And then all I have to do is the fun part of combining the pieces to fit the occasion. I love it!

It really has brought me peace,

Jill