America Under Siege

I have procrastinated in every way possible today to avoid writing this post. I took a run, called my mom, my dad, horsed around the internet, but I just can’t seem to get the latest mass shooting in Sutherland Springs Texas out of my mind.

Maybe it is the fact that the incident occurred 2 hours north of my winter Texas home in Corpus Christi.

Maybe it’s the fact it happened in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s the fact that small children were shot at point blank range.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am very angry that very little is being done to prevent it.

Every mass shooting is a senseless tragedy. Every mass shooting leaves in it’s wake a trail of devastation for the families, friends, the community-at-large, and the entire country is called, yet again, to mourn.

And still nothing changes.

We keep hearing it is not the time to discuss gun control.

Please tell me American leaders, when exactly is the right time?

I do not hunt or target practice, nor do I live fearfully and feel I need to be protected in my home. I feel no desire to invoke my right to bear arms. I shot a gun one time in my youth with my uncle close at hand to teach me how to correctly do so. I didn’t enjoy the feel of the gun in my hand nor the jolt it gave me when I shot it. So I really never gave guns too much thought til the last few years.

Now I think about guns a lot. More than I ever wanted to. I should not be sitting here on a rainy and gloomy Texas afternoon writing about mass shootings. I should be writing about light-hearted subjects such as travel, cooking, wellness, things I love and enjoy.

Instead I sit here writing about yet another mass shooting, directly on the heels of the Las Vegas event, hoping it will release and heal the horrendous thoughts swirling through my brain. I am sickened by this cycle of violence.

My only weapon against the war on “homegrown terrorists” are my words. So with my words as my sword, let me slice through a few statistics for you.

According to the website everytownresearch.org

  • on an average day 93 Americans are killed with guns
  • On an average year there are 12,000 gun homicides
  • for every one person killed with guns, 2 more are injured
  • 62% of firearms deaths in the U.S. are suicides
  • In an average month 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S.
  • America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times the average of other developed countries
  • background checks have blocked the sale of nearly 3 million gun sales in America

And here’s a troubling one, according to CNN, the 5 deadliest shootings in the US history have occurred in the last 10 years.

We need some answers, and we do not need to wait for more shooting to occur so we can again claim, “It’s just not the proper time.” That is pure bullshit, and the wimpiest response I have ever heard.

Waiting for a break in the action will not work because the mass shootings are becoming more common, and if we continue to wait until it is politically correct, there will be no break in the action.

I should let it be known, I am not anti-gun. Many of my friends and family own and enjoy guns responsibly. The are well aware of how to govern themselves around firearms. They enjoy hunting. I enjoy eating the fruits of their labor. The older folks teach the younger ones how to use the guns, care for the guns, and how to be safe with the guns. I am sure this is the way of most of our gun-loving citizens.

What I am, is anti-gun violence of any form be it gang violence, mass shootings, crimes of passion, or accidental shootings.

So you tell me America, when is the right time to discuss gun control? When the next mass shooting takes place? two weeks after? A month? Until it happens in your community? Your school or work place? (the two most likeliest places for mass shootings to occur), Your mom? your kid?

It’s not a comfortable topic, but we can no longer wring our collective hands, and say how horrible it is, and continue to do not a damn thing about it.

What is the answer? I am a common woman, I don’t own guns, I don’t pretend to know.  I certainly wish the people who are so adamant on protecting the right to bear arms would at least start to come up with some dialogue, hopefully, leading to solutions.

Burying our heads in the sand is no longer an option.

Because it is infringing on our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And most recently, our right to worship as we wish.

Statistically speaking, during the composing of this essay which took me a couple hours with research and writing, 8 people in the US have lost their lives due to gun violence.

Are you ready to talk America?

I lay my sword down.

 

Year 2 part 3 

The great Smoky Mountains

Traveling north headed to “home base” generally has us stopping in North Carolina for a visit with daughter Shauna and her family. This year was no exception, and involved a very special occasion. After several years of  work and study Shauna was graduating  with her Ed.D. We were very happy to be able to attend the graduation ceremony. Our California kids flew in for the event, and we enjoyed some very special family times. It is a rarity when we can gather some family all in one spot!

well done Shauna!

gramps and the boys relaxing at the tiny cabin

Asher and Travis zooming around the track

an impromptu wiffle ball game in the backyard

The weekend came to a close on Mother’s Day. The Cali kids had a flight to catch. We said our goodbyes, and let them know we would be out to visit in California for winter 17/18.

Shauna and Josh treated us to a trip to the Sierra Nevada Brewery which had recently relocated near Asheville NC. We had been wanting to do this outing for some time and finally got the chance. The building and grounds, the food and, of course, drinks were amazing, and we will be back.

me and the boss

I love this beer!

always good to spend a day with these fine people

We had a few days left, and the kids went back to work, so we took a hike, a run or two, dusted off the old golf clubs, researched a new RV park, and I finally got my Cuban coffee, in Franklin NC, of all places, and it was worth the wait.

Nice view on the links

running on the greenway

sunrise or sunset, in any case its’s beautiful

The time had come to say our “til next times” I so dislike saying goodbye. There is too much finality too that phrase. And it makes me emotional. And as many times as I depart somewhere, I can’t handle all those feelings! It is indeed the hardest part of this nomadic lifestyle.

But, hellos, oh I like hellos. It was time to travel to the mitten for many joyous hellos.

We arrived in Michigan a couple weeks later than normal. It was about mid-May and west Michigan was in the midst of a glorious spring. Vicksburg was our destination, and we were again camping at Oak Shores Resort. A place we have pretty much termed our summer home. Location is the big draw here. Oak Shores is also the first place I camped as a child (see what you started mom and dad!), and it has tremendous sentimental value to me. I also camped here as a parent, and now a grandparent. It’s no wonder I consider it “home.” This year we were upgraded to a site with a deck of sorts that stretched the length of our rig. Such luxury!

our new site

generation #3 enjoying a kids life at the campground

Summer settled into it’s own special pattern of busyness. I resumed teaching a few fitness classes, and added a new class called Fitness in the Park. It is an outdoor free family fitness program offered by the Kalamazoo Parks and Rec Dept. I had a lot of fun designing and teaching those classes.

Sofia and Adelynn practicing drills for Fitness in the Park

Work coupled with visiting family and friends made the summer literally fly by. I really try hard to make sure I spend quality time with my “tribe” while in Michigan, but it never feels like quite enough. Perhaps I feel guilty for leaving them all behind in the winter months.

We had no large family weddings for the first time in a couple years, and it was just a really nice summer filled with family outings, the grandsons baseball, and later on football games. A nice 4th of July family camp out, a few rounds of golf, a 5k, sleepovers with the granddaughters, a trip or two to the big lake, helping out my mom and brother, sister, and son and daughter-in-law with some house projects. Nothing special, just a wonderful Michigan golden summer. And I’ll take that any day.

Kalob batting under the big lights

Jim, Claire, and our newest family member Walter

working on our rock throwing skills

Jami and Sara two of my lovely DIL’s

we learn to camp young in our family

4th of July fun

16 already, this guy and I share a birthday

a reader like grandma

a runner like mom

football already? where did the summer go…

Meggie and Jeremiah, our golfing partners and die-hard Lions fans

Claire has grandma’s fashion sense

future journalists practicicing at the museum

Early September passed in a whirl of activity. Once again readying the rig for travel and becoming homeless for a few days in the process. (A big thanks to Jim and Sara for letting us stay with them!) And another round of see ya laters with the tribe.


Saturday morning, amidst a few raindrops we hooked up and drove off full of enough tribal love to sustain us until December when we plan to return for the holiday season.

til we meet again

Next stop Lodi, NY and the Finger Lakes region…

Autumn In the Mountains

IMG_1932Ah yes, autumn in the mountains, or as it is referred to here, “Leaf Season.” While the tourist season begins to wrap up in Michigan with the long, golden days of summer diminishing, it’s just getting started down here in the Smokies. The leaves are changing, but it is a slower process here than in the Midwest. And the colors are pretty, but not quite as spectacular, in my opinion, as Michigan’s. But the setting sure is outstanding! One old-timer claimed the colors are much brighter here normally, but due to excessive amounts of rain this year, they have been somewhat dimmed.  None the less I have found a few pockets of good color. And a few more dandy hikes, and a bit of German Oktoberfest fun as well.

Shauna decided to use one of her vacation days for a well-deserved day off spent with the parents adventuring. Once again the weather was a bit overcast in Franklin, and when we ventured out, the high for the day was expected to be in the low sixties. Now, this is not my first rodeo on this mountain hiking stuff and normally it is about 10 degrees cooler up at the higher elevations, so we threw in a couple extra layers to keep warm. Our plan this particular day was to drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and take in the scenery, and enjoy a few good trails.

Our first stop was Water Rock Knob. As we climbed higher in elevation, the temp dropped lower and lower. I think it bottomed out at about 40 degrees. Brrr. But being a Michigan girl, as well as a former Girl Scout (be prepared!) a had a couple of extra pairs of gloves in the truck. Some of Shauna’s coworkers had told her of the beautiful views at the top. So up we go….It was not too far time wise, but a very steep up starting with some rustic steps, then rocks. Bruce claims we hiked to Heaven that day, Shauna and I giggled a lot at the views (non-existent.) The staff at the visitor center said they had no views for a week and did not expect sun for several more days. Even though we did not SEE much, it was still a great hike, and warmed us up a bit.

Hiking to Heaven! Sure is cold up here...

Hiking to Heaven! Sure is cold up here…

A bit of a view...to the visitor's center

A bit of a view…to the visitor’s center

Not to be deterred, we traveled on. As we rounded the mountain, we found the sun, and a rainbow to

rainbow. mountain to mountain

rainbow. mountain to mountain

boot! Temps got a bit warmer as we traveled on the Parkway. I spotted a sign pointing the way to another trail system. Hoping for a bit longer hike at this point, we looked over our options. One said difficult, one said easiest. Most of the people hiking at this location were the hard-core backpacking types, with loaded packs ready to roll for a night or two in the wilderness. We opted for easiest. And soon found out why it was not rated “easy.” The terrain was very rocky and appeared to be a mountain stream bed with a bit of water to transverse. With our eyes cast to the ground we stepped gingerly from rock to rock trying to

Don't fall in

Don’t fall in

Easiest!

Easiest!

keep our sneakers dry. I, of course, with my short legs, was the first to get wet, then Shauna, and Bruce nearly made it dry-footed ,but just near the end slipped and got his feet wet too. Ah, the perils of adventure! Otherwise it was a fairly easy hike, and I, for one, am glad we did not opt for the difficult trail. By this time the day was waning, so we headed off the Parkway, and down to the little town of Sylva and O’Malley’s Pub for 50 cent wings and a couple pints of St. Therese beer. It was a really fun day, not quite what we expected, but hey, that is what adventure is all about.

Our hosts for the day

Our hosts for the day

Seeking another sort of fun, and hoping to soak up a bit of local color, Shauna, Josh, and Brent, offered to take us a bit farther south to Helen, Georgia, situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. It is a quaint village, formerly a declining logging town, refashioned into a replica of a Bavarian alpine town which hosts an Oktoberfest running from September through November. We began our day with a short hike to a nearby waterfall, in hopes of burning up a few calories, before we feasted upon German beer and food. The day weather wise was absolutely perfect on this particular Saturday, and as we parked in Helen, cars and people were flowing in from all directions to partake of the festivities. We walked the town a bit, and headed to the beer hall. It was really cool to celebrate my German heritage, and just enjoy the fun. If you are near Helen in your travels, Oktoberfest or not, I urge you to stop in.

Beautiful day!

Beautiful day!

My new Alpine hiking hat :)

My new Alpine hiking hat 🙂

The German's sure do know how to party. And we loved joining them

The Germans sure do know how to party. And we loved joining them

I'm pretty sure those were not lite beers

I’m pretty sure those were not lite beers

Afterwards we headed back to The Pines, our current RV home, and made a campfire. The kids stayed the night. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and s’mores ensued. The next morning Brent challenged us on some two on two basketball. I am telling you, if you want a good cardio workout, play some BB. One game wore this grandma out (girls against guys, we lost) so we played a round of pig, and then Brent and I enjoyed a nice bike ride around the campground. Good times!

Monday Bruce and I found ourselves back at the Nantahala Nat’l. Forest for yet another hike on Winding Stair Gap. Wednesday was predicted to be another chilly day, so instead of hiking in the mountains, we opted to hike the Little Tennessee River Greenway urban trail in Franklin. Pretty much flat, so we hiked the whole darn thing that day, with a couple of side trails, amounting to around 9 miles and logging about 3 hours. (our record hike to date was in Isle Royale, MI; 13 miles of hilly, rocky terrain/8 hours)  We rewarded ourselves with a pitcher of yummy 420 beer at Mulligan’s Bar and Grill.

The Greenway

The Greenway

Last night the good folks at the  American Legion Post here in Franklin invited us to join them for a rousing night of bar bingo. So we did. We did not win a game, but did win a free drink! The people at both the VFW (of which we are members) and the Am Legion have been very kind and gracious (would you expect anything else in the south?) welcoming us to their posts. Both are wonderful places to meet and talk to local folks. They call us the Michigan people.

Bar bingo; who knew?

Bar bingo; who knew?

Our total hiking time is now up to 13 hrs/40 minutes. Diggety! More fun awaiting around the corner…But today, I think I will take a bit of a pause, and be happy of course. You do the same.   IMG_1943

The Sages Have Left The Mitten

bye bye

bye bye

Yes, it is true! After 22 months of planning this dream/goal has become a reality. It was a very hectic and busy summer trying to make sure I spent plenty of time with the family and friends I will not see for 7 months. Geez, it is almost scary to write 7 months, seems like a really long time, but as time tends to go I imagine it will fly by.

It really was a wonderful summer. First off, I didn’t have to work for the first summer since I was maybe 15. Which left me with lots of spare time to visit and help my mom with a few projects, babysit for my grandkids, and generally bug my friends and family. It wasn’t all spent in Kalamazoo County though!

Our daughter Shauna was married this July , and we couldn’t be happier! Josh is a fine man, and his son Brent is our newest grandson. Now we have a matched set of 3 boys and 3 girls. The entire family, minus Kalob the oldest grandson, gathered at Fontana Village in North Carolina to celebrate the union. I cannot express how wonderful it was to have everyone in one location. This has not happened in years. When you have some family in Michigan, some in California, and some in North Carolina, it is darn tough to coordinate a mass meet up! Shauna went out of her way to make sure everyone was comfortable and had a great time.  I did not get any pics of the actual wedding (I wanted to focus on the moment), but it was spectacular with the Smokey Mountains and Fontana Dam in the background. I have always thought Shauna was beautiful whether she is running a marathon, or dressed up to go out, but she truly looked like a princess on her wedding day.  Rain threatened, but held off for the ceremony. The bride and groom were trapped in a truck riding up from the dam to the reception for a bit, due to a cloudburst, but were soon in to get the party started. Great food, good music, and dancing ensued, followed by a bon fire. What a lovely wedding weekend and fabulous memories for all their family and friends.

Beautiful day; Beautiful Bride; happy Dad

Beautiful day; Beautiful Bride; happy Dad

August found us busy in Michigan again as we pared down (for the 100th time it seemed) our belongings. It is tough to decide what stuff to take when one lives in 230 sq ft! We did find time for a family campout with the Michigan kids and grandkids. Lots of food and fun that weekend, and more memories for me to hang onto this winter!

Claire Bear is learning to love corn!

Claire Bear is learning to love corn!

On Labor Day weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at a lake house right on Lake Michigan with or good friends/family Barb and Jim for a whole week. It was nice to be away from the rig for awhile and just enjoy some good times with various friends who showed up throughout the week. And the sunsets, oh my…My friend Laura also taught me how to identify beach glass, so now I have a new hobby when I am at the shore!

Nothing beats a Lake Michigan sunset

Nothing beats a Lake Michigan sunset

After that week, everything began to get real for me. As in I was going to be gone from everything familiar and comforting to me. Tears all over the place. Terrified and excited all at the same time. Talk about conflicting emotions. I was dreading the day I had to say my final goodbyes. I had held it together pretty good (in front of everyone!) til then. We had a family breakfast with Jim and Sara, Jeremiah and Megan, all 3 princesses, and Mom and brother Scott. Suffice it to say, I made it through the breakfast, and the final goodbyes. As I recall I drank my fair share of Coors Light that day. My BFF Janet and her hubby Steve dropped by to share a cold one and get us all hooked up and ready to go. Sissy Pam also came over to enjoy our last fire (gonna use up that wood, darn it!), and say her goodbyes. September was, for me, a very emotional month. I do not consider myself an overly emotional person, and I am here to tell you emotions can be exhausting.

Two of my favorite ladies!

Two of my favorite ladies!

Gonna miss the princesses

Gonna miss the princesses

On September 29th at approximately 10:20 am we pulled out of our seasonal spot to head south back to NC. First time pulling the rig for any length of time and Bruce did a great job of getting us to Georgetown KY, where we spent our first night wallydocking (staying free in a Walmart parking lot.) We were up bright and early, and continued our road trip to Franklin NC to spend the next 6 weeks. Shauna, Josh, and Brent live here, so it is comforting to be with family again as we begin our journey. But dang, those goodbyes are going to come up again!!!

Wallydocking

Wallydocking

In the meantime, we will spend lots of time with them just hanging out and watching some of Brent’s soccer games. Maybe a couple Western Carolina football games, and a whole lotta hikes! Monday we will hit the Appalachian Trail for the first time this fall season. I am betting the autumn season in the mountains will be beautiful.

ahhh....

ahhh….

 

Critical Mass – The point at which change occurs

We made it!!!

Well it seems that critical mass has arrived for the Sages. Change is occurring rapidly as we transition from apartment life (not so bad!) to the rv lifestyle (fantastic!) Since my last post life has gotten very hectic. Once spring finally decided to arrive, there have not been many quiet moments.

After we finalized purchasing the travel trailer, we had a few weeks before we could take it off the lot. The rv dealers take some time to make sure everything is in proper working order (a big advantage over buying privately, we have heard horror stories), and we wanted the Dutchman to have fresh tires for our future journeys. On a blustery Saturday near the end of April we picked him up with the help of our good buddy Steve Kline who hauls Jayco rvs for a living, giving us guidance on the ins and outs of actually towing a large travel trailer. Bruce got the Dutchman home and backed into the lot with minimal troubles, thank goodness. With the trailer attached to the giant Silverado it is almost the size of a semi-truck. As a side note, it amazes me that anyone with a drivers license is allowed to drive one of these rigs, but a semi driver needs a CDL license. Crazy, huh?

Our trailer was parked, but officially Oak Shores Campground does not open until May 1st. So back to the apartment we went to begin yet another round of downsizing, 4th and final time. But it was not all work and no play!

Team Family Tradition 2014

IMG_0962

Now we must defend our title

xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx Our daughter Shauna arrived the next weekend for the Borgess Run For the Health Of It event. Shauna runs the Kalamazoo marathon, and several other family members and friends participate in the Priority Health 5k walk to show her our support. This year all 17 walkers (age 4 months to 60 years) also entered the team challenge. Since we have walked for our 3rd year we named our team “Family Tradition.” We were judged on attire, enthusiasm, and entertainment. And we WON 1st place! It never hurts to have a couple of little girls in tutus to add in the “cute” factor. At one point the Mayor of Kalamazoo Bobby Hopewell, joined in on the fun and walked with us for a bit.

IMG_0915

Food and drink at Shakespeare’s; one of our family’s favorite haunts!

After we completed the walk, the grown-ups were enjoying a couple Big Finish Ales in the beer tent while the children frolicked in the large grassy area as we waited for about an hour until it was time to go look for Shauna running in completing the marathon. My brother Scott looked up and announced, “There is Shauna now!” And sure enough, there she was limping toward us with a very sad look upon her face. Seems she sustained an injury and tried to tough it out, but at mile 14 decided she should find a medic. But she couldn’t and walked 4 more miles (longer than our entire 5k walk!) until she could get some help. She was disappointed that she did not finish, and I think she thinks she disappointed us, but not so!! She is always a winner in my book, and I am glad her common sense won out over her competitive spirit. She is getting married in July and had visions of walking down the aisle on crutches. After the race we headed down to Shakespeare’s Pub for some much needed food and relaxation. All in all it was a great weekend of family and fun!

IMG_0934

Sheer beauty

Shauna headed out early Monday morning to get back to North Carolina, and Bruce and I began the process of moving! We have stayed at the trailer ever since, and I just can’t get this big ole grin off my face for having achieved this monumental goal. We really have worked so hard on this project for 18 months, and I am happy we are stationary for the summer to rest on our laurels a bit. We are such a goal-oriented society, which is wonderful, but I don’t think we take enough time to kick back and enjoy that brass ring for awhile, instead of heading right on to the next prize. STOP and enjoy and bask in your self-created glory!!!

IMG_0954

My Mom playing a roaring game of bags

We did just that last weekend for Mother’s Day. I had my Mom Ellie, my bro, the boys and their ladies, and my buddy Mari out to enjoy a day at the lake and our 1st cookout of the season. We ate, drank, and were merry. My mom really enjoyed herself, and I hope to make it our newest family tradition.

And that, my friends, is what we have been up to. Our current location offers no wifi which is both a blessing and a curse. I am learning how to relax unplugged, but when I want to blog, it is off to the local coffee shop to enjoy some free internet. Although I am not completely unplugged (iPhone!), it is very, very nice, and I would suggest you all do it, except when you need to check this blog!

Livin’ the dream!

In the interim

It would appear I have been MIA for a bit on this blog! We are in the interim stage of being retired and awaiting the arrival of our new home. So just a quick catch up on what’s happening around here.

IMG_0811

A very bright and spacious kitchen

IMG_0812

inside the slideout

IMG_0805

The slideout gives us extra living space

IMG_0810

Bruce looks good beside his new home.

We spent the first couple of weeks continuing our travel trailer search. After much searching and traveling all over southwest Michigan, we finally found a home that had all of the amenities we need for our purposes. We had a strict budget, and it seemed many of the rv salesmen did not understand the concept of x amount of dollars out the door. This means with tax, tires, hitch, and all the other fees that go along with this sort of purchase. Within our budget, we opted for an older well-put together model over a newer, but obviously less well made unit. After months of research into floor plans and designs, makes and model, and quality of manufacturers, I believe we made the right decision. We pick up Home Sweet Home this Saturday, and will tow her to her summer home in Vicksburg.

IMG_0687

The Kalamazoo grandkids

Of course, one can only spend so much time searching for homes. So to occupy our time we have been spending lots of time with our Kalamazoo family and friends. Leaving them will indeed be the toughest part of this whole adventure. I am pleased I took the summer off to create new memories to sustain me til I get back next May. All of my internet RV buddies assure me I will be distressed when we actually depart, but I will quickly get over it! Thank goodness for my iPhone and Facetime. I anticipate lots of days at the campground. I had a “Grandma at the Lake,” and have such fond memories of those days. I will try to recreate them for my grandkids.

IMG_0871

Let the mushroom count begin…

IMG_0867

Living proof of spring!

And, of course, there have been a few hikes going on as well, now that spring has finally decided to grace us with her presence. And just to hush up the naysayers who claim spring has not yet appeared, here are a couple of pics which prove it. Springtime in Michigan means morel mushrooms. Due to a strict code of ethics among mushroomers I cannot reveal exactly where we found these beauties, but it was in the southwest corner of this fine state. It is wonderful to be back out in the woods exploring, playing, and foraging.