A Million Little Pieces….

There has been a little family drama around here the past 2-3 days because we informed the “kids” we were selling our house and moving to Savannah, GA. My hubby will be 65 this coming February and we are getting tired of cleaning all the snow off our driveway in the winter. He is also the one who gets the wood and tends to the fire. In fact, he does alot of the work around here because he won’t allow me to do it. Whereas, I think that is awfully sweet of him, I am still capable of hauling wood into the house and just may be good exercise for me, but he refuses to allow me to do it.

As you all know from my past posts, my husband has a mentally disabled 18 year old, who has been out of our home for almost a year now. He is autistic, ADHD, PTSD, ODD. All things we are not professionally capable of handling on our own. Last year during one of his violent episodes, my hubby called 911 and after the police talked with not only him but us, they decided to take him down to a mental facility. After being there a couple of days, we had a meeting with the therapist who was handling his case. His anger was still extremely apparent and so we decided it would not be safe for him to come back to our home.

We found a facility who would take him and work with him. It was a residential mental hospital for kids his age, he was 17 at the time. My husband is retired military and we live on a fixed income. However, we had some money in savings and we had been using that for his care prior to him being put into a mental hospital (therapy appts, medication, and other alternative treatments, none of which were working.) When we found out the insurance would pay for care we were very much relieved but a copay of $900 per month was a stretch for us. Since his mother is no longer living and his grandfather, who also passed away, left him some money, we contacted an attorney to see if we were able to use some of the inheritance money for his care. Absolutely! In fact, that is what the inheritance money can be used for, his care.

My husband is not the executor of his estate, my step son’s aunt is so we contacted her. We informed her of the situation and how dire it was and from speaking to the experts, it was the best thing for him. In fact, they continually told us why had we waited so long to get him the help he needed? Our only answer was, we didn’t know the extent of his disability until a jr. high school principal gave us the information to get him tested. We then did what they suggested, weekly therapy, IEP for school, medication. Unfortunately, the medication was only for his ADHD not his autism anger. (We had no idea they had meds for such and his doctors never told us).

My step son is extremely stubborn. What should have taken 2 months in the mental facility, took him 5 months because he refused to listen to anyone, including all the doctors he was seeing. He had to be refrained physically several times because he lost his temper, destroying an office. He was given a shot which knocked him out and when he awoke, he was restrained to his bed. It only took them a few times to do this before he realized he needed to start following the program. Each week, my husband and I made the 2 hour trip there for family therapy sessions and the 2 hour trip back. It wasn’t until he got a new therapist who specialized in autism, that he finally started getting it. She used smell therapy, sound therapy, poetry, and music to dig deeper into his psyche. We did role playing during our therapy sessions, and we finally started seeing a light in a very long and dark tunnel. He did extensive work on dealing with the death of his mother and all the anger he had pent up inside over it. This was the thing that bothered me the most. And by bothered, I mean always brought me to tears because I can not imagine the pain he was in having lost his mother whom he was very close to, well as close to as was possible, because she worked nights and did lots of traveling once she found out she had a brain tumor. Regardless, this was his mother and he would never see her again.

But he did the work and when we went in for a therapy session, he informed us on how he had worked through it. In fact, one of his assignments was to write a letter to his mother. He showed it to us. He not only wrote a letter to his mother which was 2 sentences long, but he wrote me a letter as well which was 2 paragraphs long. He explained how he wasn’t very happy with me when I took away his shot ’em up videos but now he understood why I did that. He told me he loved my cooking, and how, because of me, he loved to read, and he missed me. I cried when I read it and I gave him a huge hug and thanked him for it.

Everyone hates the step mother no matter how nice she is or no matter what she does for her step kids. He actually thought it was my fault for us moving out of California and living in Colorado. I had to remind him how it was his father who wanted to be closer to his mother, his other grandmother, as she was getting up in age and he wanted to spend whatever time she had left on this earth with her. Of course that didn’t happen because as everyone hates the step mother, well, she hated me too, didn’t know me, but hated me. There is nothing I can do about that, I am me and if you don’t like me, I’ll move on. There are plenty of people on this good earth who do like me and it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

Once he finally got ‘it’ at the hospital, there was still much work to be done. My husband and I are not mental health professionals and they suggested he go to a residential group home where he could learn some life skills and prepare him for the outside world as well as continue extensive therapy. We agreed and hoped they could find something our insurance would cover. Unfortunately, they do not cover residential facilities so it was one of the cheapest facilities we could find, with the help of his therapist. It is non profit so all the money spent goes to a good cause. He has been there since July and has made lots of progress. We are so proud of him. He finished high school in November and will graduate in May. He is learning how to apply for jobs, he is on mood altering drugs and is learning how to live a productive life. Yes, things were going very well and in the right direction, until we told everyone we were putting our house on the market and moving to Savannah, GA. That’s when the shit hit the fan.

The aunts don’t want to pay for his housing anymore. They want him on state assistance so he has money in his inheritance for “his future”. What they aren’t getting and neither is my step son’s sisters, who have now taken an active interest in his care, is the money IS going for his future. His future to lead a productive life without living in a group home, which by the way is the best place for him to be because he is around others who are like him. He feels less than when he is around only normal people including family. His one sister called us today and said she wanted to take control of him…really? And what experience do you have besides being a nanny to two children who were autistic and a little bit of research? When my husband asked her what her plan would be if he suddenly had a melt down and started beating up on her two babies, her answer was, “I’ll handle it when it happens.” Sorry, you need to have a solid plan in place as to how you will restrain a 6’4″, 200 + lb kid from beating all of you to a pulp.

Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to my step son’s mental illness. Not one of them ever attended a therapy session with us. Not one of them ever came up, in the four years prior to him going into a mental facility, to take him to the movies or do something with him. Not one of them cared enough to help us out when we needed it most. Now, I’m the bad guy and guess what, “it’s none of my business.” Really?? I was the one living with him for the four years prior, I am the one who has been by my husband’s side while this has affected both of us. I was my step son’s biggest advocate, helping him with this school work, helping his dress for a school dance. I was there when a girl broke his heart. Sure, I blew up at him at times, what Italian doesn’t raise her voice, and this is where we are not professionals to handle his illness.

I feel bad that my step son is going to be ripped out of his group home where he is making such good progress because people who don’t know shit about his condition are worried about spending his money on his future. We know the money isn’t an unending well. But we were also hoping and we encourage him on a weekly basis when we speak to him, the money would last until he finally got enough knowledge to go out on his own. He isn’t going to get the help he needs by living with his family. Hoarding runs rampant in my husband’s kids lives and my step son also has that problem. We don’t need him going from an environment that is clean and tidy and teaching him not to hoard to a house that has crap all over it. That isn’t healthy for him nor is it a smart decision on our part.

There are a million little pieces that affect this situation. It isn’t just one. With the professional care he is getting now, they are addressing the majority of them because they know what they are doing. We love our son and want the best for him. Ripping him away from a situation where he is thriving is not the selfless thing to do, it’s the selfish thing to do. We aren’t abandoning our son because we are moving to GA. We want to enjoy what little life we both have left, and if that is being selfish, then so be it. We are exhausted fighting with people who have no clue as to what is happening in his life. And I’ll be damned if we will allow them to ruin all the work that has been done this past year because they are worried about his inheritance. If push comes to shove, we will involve the lawyer we consulted with last year to finally put an end to all this bullshit.

So, yes, go ahead and hate me. I’ve been told I’m not your children’s real grandmother anyway, so keep poisoning them, it’s what you all do best. After all, you had a good teacher. I know you all blame me for your brother not living with us anymore, and you know what, that’s okay. Because I stand behind my husband and his decisions. I will keep advocating for your brother as well, because he deserves to have the best care he can possibly get. He didn’t have it for years because everyone was in denial. Well, our eyes are all open and for once, we are doing what is best for him, not what is best for you all. He is the important one in this situation, so get over yourselves!

Same old, same old….

If only my scale said “120 lbs” I would be very happy…but that isn’t the case. So, here I am a new year and still the same old weight…I may have put on a few lbs since last writing about my weight…I did do Keto for about 6 months and then we went on vacation…that is a keto killer for sure, especially when your vacation is down South! Grits, beer, bourbon, corn on the cob…need I go on?

For the past 2 months I have been trying to follow a new plan with a wonderful nutritionist, Megan, who runs Macro Mini out of Arizona. It isn’t her fault I’m not following her directions, it’s mine. I don’t know why I can’t eat all the food she has instructed or mapped out for me to eat. Am I rebelling against myself? Do I have ingrained in my mind that I am the weight that I am and there is nothing that will change that? She asked me once if I had a fear of food…my answer….yes and no. Every time in the past whenever I have lost a significant amount of weight, it was by starving myself. When I did Keto, it was IF (intermittent fasting), but with her eating plan, I have to eat like 5 x’s per day. It’s all about Macros and balancing it out.

Since I wasn’t losing any weight (I paid for a 12 week program) she decided to put me on a Mindful eating program. Well, you know what that did? I mindfully ate pasta, pizza, fried foods, cheese cake….need I go on? Portion controlled though I may add, but I thought I was balancing out everything. Wrong! This way of eating will not allow me to lose weight. So last night, she sent me an email, and told me how she really wants to help me lose weight and get into the right mindset but I keep ignoring her suggestions. And she’s right. It was the kick in the ass and reality check I needed.

I paid her to help me, why aren’t I allowing her to help me? So today, I did what she suggested for breakfast. I had one cup of oatmeal with cinnamon, 1/4 cup of almond milk, unsweetened, 1/2 orange, 2 pieces of bacon and 2 scrambled eggs. THIS SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF FOOD FOR ONE MEAL TO ME!! In two hours I will have a snack of almonds and yogurt, for lunch I will have a chicken patty with a salad, cottage cheese, and some avocado, for dinner I will have salmon, broccoli, and salad. For dessert, I will have a JOJO bar and 12 almonds. That will put my macros at 70-75 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs and 70 grams of protein…her program has me at totals for a day, 60 g Carbs, 100 g fat, 100 g protein and 1311 calories….DAILY…

And so, yes, my fear is it is too much food for my body and I won’t lose weight. But I have to give it an honest try in order to see if I can do this. It is the RIGHT foods not the wrong foods. I have increased my cardio which I will do 5 x’s per week, and I won’t stress if I don’t get it in in the mornings, I can workout anytime during the day. I will still do weights as well 3 x per week but on my own as I am not signing up this time with the trainer I have been using. I need to do this for me!

So, here we go again….another year, another eating plan, hopefully a new, healthier me when 2020 comes along.

2019 is already starting off with a bang!

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about stupid shit like politics this year but it seems a certain party now wants to do away with the Electoral College. Really? I guess they must have missed that lesson while they were playing on their phones or passing notes around in class. Some of these so called intelligent people are stating that if you don’t live in a populated state, then you should move to one so your vote will count! (head shake).

This my friends is what will be running this country some day…be afraid..be very afraid…

Twelfth Amendment

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;–The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice…. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President to the United States.

I never did understand why the people have to vote in the Presidential election if the Electoral College has the final answer. But as I researched it further, I found this:
The Electoral College insulates the election of the President from the people by having the people elect not the person of the President, but the person of an Elector who is pledged to vote for a specific person for President. Though the ballot may read “John McCain” or “Barack Obama,” you’re really voting for “John Smith” who is a McCain supporter or “Jack Jones” who is an Obama supporter.

And then there was the story of that poor little black girl who was shot as she and her family went to get morning coffee…the witnesses swore to police it was a white man in a red truck. Turns out, the shooters were two black men. Uhhh…and my question from the first time I heard this story was how did they get such a good description of this white man, in a hoodie, or was it a baseball cap? while they were being shot at? Now, you may want to call me racists but I do know for a fact black people are more racists than most white people. How do I know this? Speaking to my black friends who were honest enough to tell me how it was when they were growing up. How their parents are the one’s who pushed black power, the black movement and all white people will hate you. This may happen in some white families too, but overall, most of us grew up with tolerance. Being Italian, I am all too familiar with racial profiling, however, my attitude is what got me through. I’m proud to be Italian. I’m proud I’m opinionated. If it wasn’t for my upbringing, I wouldn’t be who I am today. There is still prejudice against Italians today, just take a ride through New Jersey with an Irish man.

Trash is trash no matter what color it is.

This weekend was an eye opener for me. Someone we thought we knew (my husband and I) isn’t the person being portrayed to us. This person is nasty, vile, and violent. We have lost all respect for him after we found out what he has been doing to his wife. I had to advise her to make a plan. Make a plan to get the hell out of there before he kills her. And mark my words, he will kill her if given the chance. He already beat her so badly he broke her pelvis, her ribs, and instead of leaving him, she decided to take a bunch of pills in hopes she would die. I am so proud of her for finally confiding in someone as she kept this to herself for almost 2 years. And you know, by looking at these two, you would never know. Domestic violence is a very serious thing. She kept saying to me, What’s wrong with me? Why do I stay? She knows she needs to leave, but she needs to have a plan. My plan is to help her with her plan. My husband and I will now keep a closer eye on her, I will call her more frequently just to make sure she’s okay until we can get her out of there. I also told her she needed to quit drinking with him as it seems alcohol is a key factor in his explosions, plus, if he does attack her, she can at least drive somewhere without being impaired. Until she can come to terms with leaving him, we will be there for her, no matter what.

And so the New Year, 2019, has started off with a bang! Politics, racists, and domestic violence. Same old, same old….and unfortunately, I don’t see an end to it.

Merry Christmas, 2018

It’s been two years now I have been writing my blog. Lately, I’ve been so busy I haven’t written in quite some time. 2019 will be different. I will be writing more about different subjects and hope to include a little advertising.

My writing partner and I continue to bang out our serial killer novel, The Purple Lily. I think it’s going on seven years now? We said last year, let’s see if we can get it done by December. Well, that’s not happening. So, I say we push for June, 2019. Grant is having a hard time staying in the shadows now that he’s dating the homicide detective and a young beer slinger up in Oregon. Charlotte continues to write her true crime novel on most of Grant’s victims, and Tonya, Charlotte’s girlfriend, continues to paint and sculpt beautiful African art pieces for her clients. Daniella, the homicide detective with the insatiable sex drive, thinks she is getting closer to solving all the cold cases Grant has left behind. Though she doesn’t really love Grant, she is with him to get to know him and how he operates. I wonder who his next victim will be?

Jumping from serial killer to Women’s Fiction, my Broken Promises novel is still a work in progress. I’m still not sure if I want to write it in 1st person or 3rd. I’ve done two drafts and I still can’t make up my mind. I guess I’ll keep both versions and talk with an editor on which one sounds better. Since this novel’s setting is in Alaska, my husband and I went there this past June. I visited several areas I have included in the novel and I’m so glad I did, it gave me an even clearer picture of the surroundings and will make for a more accurate description for the reader to picture.

After visiting Savannah, GA twice this year, I’m thinking I may want to tackle a historical romance set in the time of the Civil War, before, during and after. Not like a Gone With the Wind, but something that will have a little mystery or even a supernatural feel to it. Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in America and I can’t wait to go back and do their haunted tour which will be most helpful while thinking up a plot.

My vision for 2019 is to finally get the publication of The Purple Lily in the works and then work on finishing up Broken Promises and get that over to an editor for publication. It will give me a good excuse to go back to Savannah and learn more about her history and start writing a new novel.

Merry Christmas everyone and my wish for you all next year is to find what makes you happy, and do it! We are only here for a short while and we need to stop wasting our time on sweating the small stuff. Don’t leave here with regrets. Happy New Year and thanks for hanging with me this past year.

Why does everything have to be a fight?

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These days no matter what the situation, it seems that everything has to be a fight.

If you follow my blog, you will remember the posts I have written about mental health in this country.  With elections drawing closer next month, gun control is again on the ballot.  Everyone thinks guns are the problem and yet not one person running for office has actually looked at the real problem; mental health.  With the anniversary of so many mass shootings, Vegas, Parkland HS, San Bernardino, Orlando Night Club, Columbine, and others coming up, the scab never seems to heal but it may be time to place the blame where blame belongs; mental illness and not the cold hard metal of a gun.

Gabby Gifford was shot in the head in January, 2008 by Jared Loughner who also killed 6 others and injured 13 in AZ during her campaign for Congresswoman or whatever office she was running for.  (I honestly pay no attention to her because she is one who believes in gun control rather than mental illness.) Where I feel badly this incident happened to her and the others, why hasn’t she looked into the mental state of her attacker?  Here is what was written up about this guy:

“The man who shot former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was unraveling in the months before the rampage, issuing paranoid, expletive-filled Internet rants about government conspiracies, suicide and killing police, according to new law enforcement documents.”

“Loughner’s deteriorating mental state before the shooting has been chronicled in previously released documents, psychological reports and media interviews with witnesses, but the FBI files released Thursday provide some new details.”

“Loughner ranted on his MySpace page about the government spending illegal money, how he couldn’t trust the police and referred several times to suicide and killing authorities. On Dec. 20, 2010, he wrote: “I HAVE THIS HUGE GOAL AT THE END OF MY LIFE: 165 rounds fired in a minute!””

A week earlier, according to the FBI files, Loughner wrote that he was glad he hadn’t committed suicide.

“I’ll see you on National T.v.! This is a foreshadow…why doesn’t anyone talk to me?” Loughner wrote.

In another online post about a month before the shooting, Loughner wrote about strange dreams he was having.

“There are important figures in my dreams that accomplished political aspirations: Hitler, Hillary Clinton and Giffords to name a few,” he wrote.

One report indicates that a witness called the FBI the day after the shooting to tell authorities that Loughner had often been seen at a city library watching videos and that he “would repeatedly talk loudly to the computer causing a disturbance to others in the area.” The witness told authorities they remembered “looking over to his computer and noticing he was watching Giffords speeches online.”

Loughner also argued with instructors and disrupted classes at Pima Community College, leaving one instructor intimidated. A witness told the FBI that Loughner once had a strange reaction to another student’s poem, saying it was about abortion, wars and killing people. “He said, ‘Why don’t we just strap bombs to babies,'” according to the FBI files.

One FBI file dated the day of the shooting says an agent interviewed a woman who once worked with Loughner at a store.  “She advised that Loughner would talk about zombies, guns and things that she and the other employees could not relate to,” according to the documents, (Associated Press, April 11, 2014).

And this is only one mass killer’s background.  Can you imagine if we focused on the others?  What we would find is these are very disturbed individuals, who friends/family/acquaintances (fill in the blank here),  thought were disturbing and yet not one person ever did anything about it until it was too late.  Why?  Because mental health is never dealt with in this country and as long as we allow insurance companies to make decisions for doctors, we will continue to have this problem, we will continue to have mass shootings.  And as long as people keep their mouths shut rather than telling someone about odd behavior, these things will continue to happen to innocent people.

As far back as 1955, our government has been trying to sweep mental illness under the carpet.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities” (2018).

According to WHO, World Health Organization, “Over a 12-month period, 27 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience some sort of mental health disorder, making the U.S. the country with the highest prevalence. Mental health disorders include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse. Over one’s entire lifetime, the average American has a 47.4 percent chance of having any kind of mental health disorder. Yes, that’s almost one in two. The WHO data does not take into account eating disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia; the incidence of these disorders together is about 15 percent in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

In the U.S., only 41.1 percent of people with mental health disorders receive treatment. In other parts of the world, treatment is highly correlated with how developed the country is, and with how much of the country’s gross domestic product is spent on healthcare. Better treatment rates are generally seen in nations with universal healthcare. In the U.S. it’s not the lowest socioeconomic class that has trouble (they have Medicaid, which usually covers it), it’s the second-lowest socioeconomic group that can’t get care. While treatment rates have gone up in recent years (especially for pharmaceuticals), the rate of mental health disorders has not changed much, (Walton, The Atlantic, 2011).

This is staggering!! And yet, when one finally does acknowledge they have a mental illness and their doctor prescribes a drug for them, insurance companies are denying access to them. WHY??

In the majority of school shootings or mass shootings I have researched, every single one of the perpetrators had some type of mental illness.  Whether it be they were molested as a child or withstood years of child abuse, or had an arrest record, or were being bullied in school, were loners, introverts, obsessive, social outcasts, stalkers, some were ordered to receive more therapy once released from a mental hospital with no follow up, suicidal, becoming increasingly distant from family and friends, spending money obsessively, unstable….are you seeing a pattern here?  All of these odd behaviors are a form of mental illness…when, as a nation, are we going to wake up?

So if 1 in 5 Americans can experience some type of mental illness in any given year and 1 in 25 Americans experiences a MAJOR, life altering mental illness in any given year, I’d say we have a very big problem in the US and the majority of people are ignoring it.  Something has to change, and I don’t think it’s gun laws, it’s making our insurance companies liable especially if someone has a history of mental illness.  Or better yet, holding  family members of the mass killer responsible for not reporting them sooner.  I say this because in my research, all family members of mass killers stated their loved one was “odd”, “displayed erratic behavior”, “had violent tendencies”, “were social outcasts”, and yet they did nothing about it, turned a blind eye.

As a society, as a nation, as a people, of which has the worst history of mental illness and mass gun shootings, need to come together as a collective and demand changes in our health care system to insure anyone who needs help can get it, no matter what the age or circumstance, without a fight.  The health insurance companies are the ones getting away with murder.

References:

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2018.

Tucson gunman before rampage: “I’ll see you on National T.V.”  The Associated Press, April, 2014.

Walton, Alice G.,  “Why more Americans suffer from Mental Disorders than anyone else.” The Atlantic, 4 Oct 2011.

W.H.O.  World Health Organization, 2018.

Keto’ing

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About 5 months ago I wrote about not being able to lose weight no matter what I did.  I received some information about Paleo and Keto and decided I would try the Keto WOE.  In these 5 months, I went on 2 vacations.  One to Alaska and one to the Southern states of the USA.

I guess you could say I did a “dirty Keto” while on vacation.  I stayed away from high carb foods as best I could but I wasn’t perfect.  While in Alaska, I didn’t gain any weight (I have lost a total of 13 lbs in 5 months) but put on about 3 lbs from our road trip to the South.  But I must say, it had been years since I placed a kernel of corn in my mouth, however, corn on the cob is a staple food in the South especially in the summer.  So, I admit, I ate corn on the cob, and it was delicious.  I have no regrets.

I continued to work out, several times while on our road trip but not religiously as I do when I’m at home.  So, after being home for 2 weeks, I lost my 3 lbs.  However, I was still not happy with my Keto results.  I mean, come on, following a way of eating, while home, and only losing 13 lbs in 5 months…is not what I would call a major success.

This is when I decided to change things up a bit.  MAYBE I just can’t eat as many calories and fat as my CarbMaster says I can? So, I decided to cut my fat in 1/2 and not go over 1,000 calories a day.  (This is how I lost the 3 lbs I had gained on vacation.) Tweaking my diet has helped me but I’m not sure since it’s only been 2 weeks.  I suppose as time goes on, I will find out if this is what is working.  Plus, my trainer has changed up my program and since I’m only seeing her 2 x per week now, the sessions seem to be more intense.  I’m actually sweating when I’m there!  I like that.

So, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Keto.  I’m giving it another chance only this time I’m not following it to a T like I was before.  I think the key to this way of eating is to adjust it to what is good for your body.  I may have heard that in the beginning from someone, but didn’t pay too much attention to it because I still wanted to enjoy a fat bomb every now and then.  My body processes that as something fattening and sweet, so I really have to limit my intake.  I still do IF (intermittent fasting) but not every day.  I have increased my salad intake which is probably one of the biggest changes I’ve made, and I don’t eat my last meal late in the evening.  We’ll see what happens this time around.

I have increased my thyroid meds too from some I had left over from an old prescription.   If the weight loss continues then I will know it is from both and will speak to my doctor to see if she will permanently increase my dosage.  I seem to have more energy and don’t get that slump at 3:00 pm, this is my measure for my thyroid being off.  It is definitely a learning experience, and I do believe you have to know your body and the signals it gives you.

Let’s see what the next 5 months brings me!

Keto on!!

Hey Y’all

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Just one of the many oak trees with Spanish Moss hanging on it, sure was beautiful

 

After we visited Alaska this year, we decided to do a road trip to the South.  I honestly cannot believe how beautiful our country is and how easy it would be to just disappear.  There are so many small towns, you blink and you’re through them.

My best friend, Adele, moved to Kentucky with her husband.  They purchased a beautiful home on a golf course.  They wanted out of California because her hubby is retired and they both wanted to be closer to their roots. Since her hubby isn’t a handyman, she asked if we could come out and help her put some of the missing items that new homes don’t necessarily have in them.  For the life of me, after working in construction for over 25 years, how did this builder get away with not putting in towel racks or toilet paper holders? Maybe only in Kentucky? This isn’t the only reason we went out, we wanted to spend some time with them and see their new home.

After working, we did some sight seeing.  Kentucky is a beautiful state.  Very green with lush rolling hills,  sprinkled with horses.  Not just any horses; Kentucky Derby horses.  Amazing creatures.  Kentucky is also the birth place of the Woodford Reserve Bourbon distillery, the Buffalo Trace distillery, and we passed a place on our way to our bourbon tastings, the Old Crow distillery, which was in shambles and Jim Beam, as well as Maker’s Mark.  We did a tour at Buffalo Trace and saw how they not only age the Bourbon but how humans, not machines, bottle the bourbon for distribution.   It was really fascinating.   We learned that during Prohibition, Buffalo Trace got away with continuing to sell bourbon because they re-labeled it as medicine.  Kinda reminded me of what is happening in the Marijuana industry.  Although, Marijuana really does have medicinal properties, I’m not too sure about Bourbon. However, I did ask them if they used non-GMO corn and they said yes!  They purchased property across the river from them and they plan on building more distillery holding places like you see in the first picture below.  Four stories tall, barrels are snuggled into iron racks, which are stacked three high.  On the top floor, which would be the hottest floor, the bourbon doesn’t take long to mature.  The bottom floor holds your 15-30 year bourbon’s as it is cooler and it will take longer to mature. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about their bourbon’s but I did like their vodka (they make that as well) and didn’t like their swill, too harsh for me, I prefer smoother swill, bourbon, and moonshine. (Don’t get me started on the apple pie moonshine we got to taste which my friend’s husband got from someone he knows in Kentucky!)

We had brunch one Sunday at a famous old house which was made into a restaurant.  Holly Hill, reviewed as one of the best places to dine in for brunch or dinner.  The setting was historic and the food was to die for.  I highly recommend if you are ever in the that area, make reservations, it’s a popular place with locals and tourists alike.

There is also an old castle, believe it or not, in the middle of Frankfort, which was just opened to the public.  We purchased tickets for a mystery dinner.  As  you drive up, this castle is enormous.  It has two turrets on either end, they have a fountain in the entry way, and as you walk through the gigantic doors, there is a restaurant setting and a bar.  We gathered in the ballroom for our dinner.  It was buffet style but I must say the marinated tri-tip was soaked for 16 hours in red wine and then slowly cooked in a 160 degree oven for 8 hours. It was so tender, you could cut it with your fork.  It was a fun evening.

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The Castle

We met some fabulous people in Kentucky.  My friend Adele’s neighbors were just the sweetest,  Donny and Sandra.  They had us over for dinner on their beautiful outdoor patio and they also came to the mystery dinner.  Sandra has her house decorated to the nines.  Audacious furniture, breathtaking art work on the walls, and shiny hardwood floors.  She is an amazing cook and hostess, which she loves to do since they are both retired.

We even attended a high school football game (been awhile since we have attended any type of high school function) as Adele’s two grandson’s play football for their high school and they kicked butt!

The weather is another story.  The torrential rain falls are blinding especially if your driving.  We had to pull over under an overpass because the hail and rain drops were so big, we couldn’t see out the windshield.  We did not have to live through a tornado, thank God, I don’t do tornadoes.  For the most part, the weather was beautiful, not too hot, in the 80s, and the humidity was tolerable.

After a week in Kentucky, we left the laughter and love of my friends home to travel to Georgia to visit an old friend of my husband’s.  They both still work so we arrived at their home on Saturday afternoon.  Did I mention we took our two dogs with us?  Betty and Nacho were excellent travel companions.  I was a little worried they wouldn’t get along with Adele’s cat but they ended up all being best buddies.  At Mark and Cindy’s house, they have a dog that doesn’t like other animals or kids.  So we shifted the dogs schedules that weekend so ours would spend a couple hours out of the guest room and they would let their dog out and then vice versa.  It actually worked out great.

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This vicious dog and cat couldn’t stand each other…not! 

Our first night at Mark and Cindy’s they took us to a restaurant called Chop Shop.  Wow!  I had the best chopped salad I have ever eaten there and the lamb chops were so tender.  The service was excellent and so was the company.  The next day we just hung out after Cindy made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  We decided to eat in that night so we all piled into Marks new 3500 Dodge Ram pickup and headed to the store.  We made hamburgers, corn on the cob, and macaroni salad for dinner.  I did the barbecuing and got a kick out of Mark, because he normally does the bbq’g but as any of you who know me and how I cook, the grill is always on high heat.  He looked a little worried but I assured him he would love his burger.  I timed each one and as I predicted, they came out perfect and juicy.  We watched a movie and because they had to leave for work so early Monday morning, we hit the hay around 11. I swear my husband and his friend could be brothers, not only do they think alike, but they kind of look alike.

The next morning we all got up at 5 am, had coffee and loaded our truck back up.  We then headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina which was only about 3 hours away.  One thing I love about the east coast is every state is just hours away.  Before I go into our stay at Hilton Head I did want to mention all the small towns our GPS routed us through as we were headed from Kentucky to Georgia.  Hence, my comment above about “you could disappear.” We didn’t stop in any of them but I was able to take some pictures of some of the houses, which some were old and run down but others had manicured, acres long front yards with plantation like mansions sitting on them.   The landscape of the South is definitely different from the north or southwest states.  And even though they continue to get a bad rap due to the Civil War, it’s about time we all get over that crap.  They still grow cotton, corn, soybeans, and other crops however, today, we have machines that do a better job at picking cotton than any human could ever do.

The drive to my brother and sister-in-laws place was uneventful.  We got there around 9 am and she made us breakfast.  My brother was playing golf, so we sat outside in their screened in porch and ate breakfast and caught up with family news.  My brother and my husband got along very well as they have lots in common.  It’s nice to see how receptive my family is to my husband.  Everyone in my family who has spent anytime with my hubby absolutely adores him.  And it’s not because he’s my husband, he is genuinely a  nice person.

We stayed at the Westin on Hilton Head so at 4 pm we were allowed to check in.  We got an awesome deal for our room even though we had pets (military discount).  They didn’t stick us in a smelly room for people with pets, (like the Holiday Inn Express we stayed in Kansas), they put us among the general population.  Our room was big and spacious with a balcony that faced the ocean.  This resort has 3 pools and ocean access.  After unpacking and getting the dogs situated, we met my brother and his wife at a seaside restaurant.  The menu was extensive and the drinks were good.  We had an ocean view table and we took our time eating and chatting.

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One of the pools at the Westin

The next day, we went over to my brother’s and Kathy took us to Savannah GA which was about 30 minutes away.  We crossed over a massive, beautiful bridge and we took a tour throughout Savannah.  I loved listening to the stories our tour guide entertained us with.  The old folk lores, the places where Forrest Gump was filmed, the bench he was sitting at when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates” and then we went to the chocolate shop where he got those chocolates!  There is much superstition among the southern people.  So much so that many people will paint the underside of their house eaves a certain color blue to ward off evil spirits.  In one of the squares (there is 24 altogether) there is a huge oak tree where they would hang criminals.  It is the only place where the Spanish moss (air moss to some Californian’s) will not grow.  All the times they tried to place it on the trees, it refuses to grow and yet all around this one area, there are tons of it growing on all the trees.  They say it’s because there were so many people hanged there, it is haunted and the spirits will not allow it to grow.

We had lunch at Paula Deen’s restaurant (delish) and then purchased some cool kitchen gadgets at her store.  We toured the Prohibition museum where I learned the true meaning behind the Klan (and it wasn’t to harass black people) it was to keep EVERYONE in line to follow the law, which included white people and bootleggers.  The reasoning behind Prohibition, believe it or not, was because men were spending their hard earned money in Speakeasies rather than bringing it home to their wife and kids.  The women got together and protested and were they surprised when it was voted in!  And, women didn’t have the right to vote yet….

The following day we drove into Beaufort.  The history of this area is what fascinated me the most.  It was first inhabited by the native Indians who were living here seasonally as early as 4000 BC. Evidence of early settlement remains today in the form of a 3400 year old “Indian shell ring” located in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve which is on Hilton Head.  Beaufort County was the site of the second landing on the North American continent by Europeans, in 1514. The first landing –Ponce de Leon at St. Augustine– was only a year earlier. The seaport of Beaufort is located at the head of one of the largest natural harbors on the Atlantic coast, which explains the early interest of the Spanish and French explorers that followed . When they sailed up the sound in the 1520’s, they found a land inhabited by many small tribes of Native Americans, the largest of which were the Cherokees and the Catawbas.  Abandoned by the French, the Spaniards built Fort San Felipe and the settlement was called Santa Elena.  However, always under heavy attack by the Indians, the Spaniards decided to leave the settlement and concentrate their efforts in St. Augustine in Florida.  Once again, leaving the Carolina’s to the Indians.

Within a few years, the English had established the first permanent European settlement of South Carolina at Albemarle Point, near present-day Charleston, on the Ashley River in 1670. The proprietors’ first settlers included many Barbadians, and South Carolina came to resemble more closely the plantation economy of the West Indies than did the other mainland colonies.  The first trade was with the Indians for deer skins, a valuable commodity back in England, but indigo became the first cash crop. The climate and soil on the Sea Islands were favorable for its growth, and England was a great market for indigo.

The Settlement of Savannah and the colony of Georgia was set up as a buffer from the Indians –in particular the area around Beaufort where indigo was thriving. Indians last significantly threatened the colony’s existence in the Yemassee War of 1715.

Settlers from the British Isles, France, and other parts of Europe built plantations throughout the coastal lowcountry. Beaufort, the second oldest town in South Carolina, was founded in 1711. Both Beaufort County and its county seat of Beaufort were named for Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort (1684-1714), one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

African slaves were brought into the colony in large numbers to provide labor for the plantations, and by 1720 they formed the majority of the population. The ports of Georgetown, Charleston, and Beaufort became important centers of commerce and culture. In the years before the Civil War, rice, indigo, and sea island cotton plantations brought great wealth to the entire lowcountry region.

During the War of 1812 the British again invaded Hilton Head Island and burned most of the houses located near navigable waters.

As the Civil War approached, Beaufort County was a focal point of secessionist sentiment, and the original Ordinance of Secession was drawn up in Beaufort.

Only seven months after the firing on Fort Sumter, a massive Federal armada steamed into Port Royal Sound and occupied the sea islands and port communities for the rest of the war. Because of this, much of Beaufort escaped the destruction of property –but the economy collapsed.

Besides freedom for the plantation slaves, the Civil War in Beaufort provided an opportunity for their Gullah culture to flourish and saw the establishment of Penn Center, then Penn Normal School, the first school for freed slaves in the South.

The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of Central and West Africans who came from different ethnic and social groups. They were enslaved together on the isolated sea and barrier islands.  The result was an intense interaction among Africans from different language groups in settings where enslaved Africans and their descendants formed the majority.  Over time, they developed the creole Gullah Geechee language as a means of communicating with each other and they were also able to preserve many African practices in their language, arts, crafts and cuisine.

Gullah is a unique creole language spoken along the Sea Islands and adjacent coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia.  The residents in Georgia are typically referred to as “Geechee.” Gullah language began as a simplified form of communication among people of different languages including European slave traders, slave owners and diverse African ethnic groups. The vocabulary and grammatical roots come from European and African languages.  Gullah Geechee language is the only distinctly African creole language in the United States and has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns.

African textile traditions that included sewing strips of cloth into larger patterns were combined with European quilting methods and a creole art form emerged. Quilts with bright colors and designs were originally made for necessity. These traditions also allowed women a  time for social interaction. African songs are the foundation for what may be referred to as Gullah music. Deeply rooted in music traditions brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, the music evolved out of the conditions of slavery that characterized their lives.  The influence and evolution of musical forms that arose out of Gullah music can be heard in many musical genres such as spirituals and gospel music,  ragtime, rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop  and jazz. (https://www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org/thegullahgeechee/

I first learned about the Gullah community in a college literature class.  A story called “The Quilt” has always stayed with me because the meaning behind it was so spiritual.  This trip and hearing their history once again only solidified that spiritual feeling.  I also heard after the Civil War, many Gullah took boats to a nearby island where they stayed and remained self sufficient for decades, without ever stepping foot on the main land until well into the 1900’s.

After a nice lowcountry boil dinner which my brother and sister in law made, we sat outside on their screened in patio until about midnight, we had a pleasant visit and really enjoyed ourselves.  We were having such a good time, we decided to stay an extra 2 days.  We sat at the pool the next day, had drinks, and just enjoyed a relaxing day and lunch together.  It sure was the life.  So different from our mountain retreat.  We shopped at the outlet malls where I purchased some clothing as did my hubby and I got a pair of Maui Joe’s sunglasses, which make me look “almost famous.”

I must say the food is fantastic here and I do miss it.  I was not looking forward to coming home.  We drove back to Kentucky, where we hit another torrential downpour on the highway and ended up in Louisville.  We stayed at a Residence Inn as we were meeting my uncle Charlie and cousins from my mom’s side of the family.  We met them for dinner at an outdoor fish place.  Again, food was great.  Nine years ago I had made a trip back to the east coast to visit family and friends and this was the last time I had seen my cousin’s and Uncle Charlie.  We really had a nice visit and again, all my family loved my hubby.  I keep saying this because this is not how I was greeted by my husband’s family who really never gave me a chance.  They just decided they didn’t like me without trying to get to know me and then took it out on my husband.  I really do love my family because of how accepting and friendly they are.  You never have to guess what their thinking because they will tell you to your face.

We headed for home, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and we decided to do it in one day.  We switched off driving every 3-4 hours, leaving Louisville at 6:30 am and getting home at 10:30 pm (we lost 2 hours).  It was good to get home and sleep in our own bed and I think the dogs were happy too.  Though I must say, Ms. Betty loves grass.  She would roll on her back and just roll and roll, I had to laugh watching her.  She doesn’t get that here.

I wish we had time to visit everyone we wanted to, unfortunately, I wanted to see my good friend Jeannie in Ohio but we just ran out of time.  I’m hoping she’ll come visit us in Colorado.  We did love the south very much and will be going back, hopefully soon.  South Carolina was my favorite place so I’m sure there will be another visit in our future.  The people were so friendly and receptive.  I could actually see myself living there, guess I better get to work on my hubby!

Y’all come back now, ya hear!

 

 

A little voice in my head

Prospect Park I recently wrote a post on mental health in America, which to date, is at a national crisis level.  There are so many people walking around who are mentally ill and yet have no support or insurance to help them.  We hear about these people in the news after they have committed a horrible crime.  Then there are the one’s who had caring family members who decided to take matters into their own hands and forced treatment before things got so bad they either hurt themselves or worse, others.

No matter what some people may think of us, I believe we are in that circle of caring families.  After struggling for four long years with a step son who is autistic, was suffering from PTSD and ADHD with ODD, we decided to take a step where some may say was cruel but in fact, may have saved his life.  My step son was carrying around so much anger within him, he was unable to function in the real world.  Oh, he tried, but always failed miserably.  And even though we were in family therapy on a weekly basis, had him on a special diet, as well as a special school plan, we were failing him.

Unable to communicate his needs to us or his therapist, we witnessed countless meltdowns, screaming matches, destruction of property, stealing, and lying from him almost on a daily basis.  What a disservice to him as well as us as a family unit.  His psychiatrist put him on an ADHD drug, which worked on his ability to focus better in school but did nothing for his mood swings.   His behavior became more and more aggressive to the point where we feared for our lives.  During one of his many meltdowns, which lasted for hours, my husband finally called the police.  We were unable to calm him down or talk to him and it was a last resort.

The police came to our house, spoke to us and decided to take him down to a mental hospital for 72 hours.  After speaking at length, my husband and I decided the help he was supposedly getting just wasn’t working and we needed to take a more drastic approach to his mental illness.  We called our insurance and luckily there was one residential mental hospital two hours away from us where we could send him. However, even though they would cover most of his costs, the co pay was $900 per month.  A steep price to pay in order to get your child the help they needed.

Per our tax attorney, since he had an inheritance from his mother and grandfather, we were told we could use this money as it was for his health and well being.  We contacted his trustee who balked at this but relented in reimbursing us.  They told us his money was “for his future” and frankly, we came back with, “if he doesn’t get this help now, he won’t have a future.”  Really?  Now since we have never received a copy of this said trust, we have no idea how much money he has, and we have since contacted a trust lawyer who has told us we have every right to get a copy of the trust since my husband is his guardian.  Her giving us a hard time about reimbursing us for these expenses only adds to our stress in this situation.  We never asked for dime of reimbursement the last four years he has been in treatment, but with the added expenses and us living on a fixed income, has made it a hardship on us. The part that really frustrated me was when she stated, “well, you guys are taking all these trips.” Excuse me?  A vacation we had planned a year ago is “taking all these trips?” What? We aren’t allowed to take a vacation?  Or does she think we are using his money for ourselves?  We have supplied every receipt to her and nothing says we are spending this money on ourselves.

It took my step son five months in the residential hospital to finally work through most of his anger issues.  We had weekly family therapy sessions where we had to drive over 200 miles for a one hour session.  Never have we asked to be reimbursed for our time or our gas money.  His new psychiatrist changed up his meds until they found the ones that are working for him.  As his therapist told us, this is just an aid but he needs to do the work in order to control his anger.  It wasn’t until the last month and half where we actually saw a visible difference in his attitude.  He stopped screaming at the staff, stopped fighting with his peers, became more accountable of his actions.  Huge improvement!

He was released from the hospital this week and we decided to put him in a residential home so he could continue to get the help he needs.  We had to pay for first and last month’s rent and again, his trustee is balking about reimbursing us.  Our insurance does not pay for his stay here which rings in at $5,000 per month however, he will continue to get daily therapy, he will learn how to live on his own so he can finally be independent.  He has his own room.  He can have his bike so he can get from point A to point B if he wants.  They will school him and he will have house rules to follow.  We met everyone yesterday and they all are extremely nice, including the other kids in the house.  My step son has grown several inches and gained a few pounds.  While he was at the hospital, we had to purchase 3 different size clothing for him.  When we left him, he was cooking dinner for all the other kids.  He gave us a list of things he wants us to bring him which we will on Sunday.  His last request was for me to bring him my recipes!  He loves my cooking.

The decision to put him in the hospital was a hard one but it was the best one.  We are seeing that now.  He is a changed person, a nice person.  His face is more relaxed because he worked through his anger, he no longer is suffering from PTSD because he worked through the death of his mother as well as his grandfather to whom he was very close.  We were worried it would take years because of his autism but as I told my husband, “I think he finally got it.”  He seems excited about his new adventure, his future, and we are excited for him.

We have to thank the staff at Cedar Springs Hospital as well as his psychiatrist and his therapist.  God knows the work they put in to help him has really paid off.  He was an angry kid who never wanted to share how he was feeling.  He did many things for attention, most were not good but it didn’t matter, he just wanted attention.  For years, he was exhibiting behavior that was screaming to be recognized and yet, my husband nor his late wife or myself for that matter, were able to see it.  It took a Middle School principal to see that he had been misdiagnosed by a popular health insurance (Kaiser) and that we needed to take it a step further.

He finally has a promising future.  He still has a long way to go but he is at least on the right path.  I feel for the families who can’t afford to do this for their children.  He is lucky he has a little nest egg to be able to insure he does have a future.  I’m sure both his mother and his grandfather would approve.

Alaska – The Last Frontier

snow landscape mountains nature

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

This year our vacation plans were to go to Alaska, a place where both my husband and I had been before.  He had been stationed there back in the ’70s as an infantry soldier, and I had been there on a cruise for my parent’s 50th anniversary in 2002.  We were both excited to re-visit this vast wilderness.

We rented an apartment in Wasilla through Home Away as we were staying for 15 days.  An old high school friend of mine, who had been up there since she graduated high school and had been trying to get me to come visit for 40 years, and her husband were our main focus for visiting.  As we get up in age, friends we’ve had for a lifetime are people we need to continue to have in our lives, mostly because we never know when we will get the opportunity to see them again or when our journey on this earth will end.  For me, the friends I have today are people who have been in my life for a very long time.

We flew up on United, which had one straight through flight.  We left Denver around 7:00 pm MDT and landed in Anchorage at 10:55 pm AKDT.  It was still daylight out (Land of the Midnight Sun), picked up our rental car, and headed to the hotel where we spent the night.  Never have I been so grateful for black out curtains than I was during this vacation.  In the morning, we contacted my friend, Pat, and headed out to meet them for breakfast in Eagle River (which happens to be the setting of the Women’s Fictional story I’m writing).

We then followed them to their house where we sat around drank a couple of beers and reminisced about our high school shenanigans. It was so good to connect with my friend as we had been pretty close in high school both having just moved to San Diego from different areas and having to ride a school bus until we got our driver’s licenses.   We did some crazy stuff and she had the pictures to prove it!  We did plenty of laughing during our trip that’s for sure.

People who have lived in Alaska for a long time, most have homesteaded the land they live on.  Tom’s mom was one of those who had been up there since the ’50s.  One of the pieces of property she and her husband had homesteaded was prone to avalanches in the winter months.  She had re-built her home three times because she ended up losing every one of them to an avalanche.  Tom drove us up to where his mom’s house was and all I can say is “wow!”.  The land was so steep but what a beautiful view.  No wonder she was so determined to re-build after each disaster.  Unfortunately, Tom’s mom died in an automobile accident on Thanksgiving Day driving over to their house for dinner.  Since it was winter and the sun doesn’t stay up longer than two hours each day and the roads were icy that day, they believe she either swerved to miss an animal or another driver ran her off the road.  Tom and Pat inherited her house and eventually sold it.  However, up at the property, you could still see remnants of an old foundation that had slid down the mountain and some of her plants that re-planted themselves on the hillside.  An old road that lead up to the house was also covered by dirt, trees and plants, and eventually a new road was put in only higher up.  Pretty amazing.

We drove 1500 miles and only saw a small portion of the Alaskan State but what we saw, we were in awe over.  Because of my geology background, I was able to point out extinct volcanoes, as well as land formations by glaciers.  We went to Portage Glacier and Matanuska Glacier, which is a valley glacier 27 miles long by 4 miles wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States and we were able to walk on it.

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We drove by beautiful fast flowing rivers, waterfalls, wildlife (mostly Moose) went to an old Gold Mine, and we stopped into this little town, Sutton, that once was booming during the Coal Rush.  We were able to walk through some of the old buildings including the post office.  Inside the post office, which was extremely small, on the wall was a picture of a  young boy and his mother, who was the post master at the time.  As we were walking through the ruins of an old coal washing facility, Tom and Dana were talking to an old guy who was walking around the place too.  Come to find out, he was the little boy in the picture with his mother who was the post master.  He had come back to town for a high school reunion and wanted to make sure their picture was still up in the building.  Talk about a small world.  And then to top it off, a few nights later, the news station was doing a story on him.  Only in Alaska!

One day in Talkeenta:

Said to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Cicely in the popular TV show “Northern Exposure.”  A turn-of-the-20th-century gold-mining center, Talkeetna has retained much of its early Alaska flavor. Log cabins, a roadhouse and clapboard storefronts line the dirt streets. Main Street, the only paved road in town, greets visitors with a hand-hewn sign reading “Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna.

Gold brought miners to the Susitna River in 1896, and by 1910, Talkeetna was a riverboat steamer station, supplying miners and trappers in the nearby mining districts. The town’s population peaked at more than 1,000 during World War I, declined after the Alaska Railroad was completed and has bounced back as the staging area for ascents of Denali, Mount Foraker, the Moose’s Tooth and scores of other high peaks.

We purchased a “tree face” here. It’s a face that is carved out of wood.  They are all hanging on a tent wall and you are supposed to check them all out,  which ever one speaks to you, that’s the one you purchase.  I have mine now hanging on our wall in our bar room. It said, “pick me” when I looked at its nose!

We ate and drank at many different places throughout.  Plenty of breweries to taste some of that fine Alaska beer, and of course, the fish was so fresh.  We did not go salmon fishing because there was a fishing ban.  Mostly due to the few salmon this year for some reason, so they closed the streams for any fishing to get the population back up.

The weather was chilly and rainy.  Where we stayed in Wasilla, it was windy too.  But that is to be expected when you are in Alaska.  If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes, and that was true.  We met so many of Pat and Tom’s friends which are some of the nicest people I have met to date.  One Saturday Pat invited all her girlfriends over to meet me and we had a blast.  Everyone brought a dish of food and we sat around the kitchen table drinking, laughing and telling stories.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  The guys were in Tom’s man cave (garage) and they seemed to have a good time as well.

Most evenings found us sitting around a bonfire.  Bonfires are a big thing in Alaska because it helps keep the mosquitoes away.  Now I know why they call the mosquito Alaska’s state bird.  It’s not about how big they are, it’s about how many there are.  The smoke from the bonfire keeps them away, well, mostly.  Since they love munching on my blood, I made sure I was protected.

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We drove up to see Denali and wouldn’t you know it, the first beautiful day since we had been there.  We rented very small cabins since the drive was about 4 hours up there.  Once in Denali, we took a bus tour which lasted 6 hours.  Denali was standing there in all her glory and we got some awesome pictures.  Even our bus tour driver said it was the first day of the season there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  We saw caribou, Dal Sheep, a rare falcon, an eagle, but no bears or moose.  At the gift store, I purchased two books on bear attacks, I mean, what else are you going to read when you’re in Alaska?  Plus it will fit nicely into my plot for my book.

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We went into Anchorage and went to a store that sold fresh smoked salmon and reindeer sausage.  Since it was so good, we purchased several packages of each and had it shipped home.  One of Pat’s friends sent us home with homemade smoked salmon, as well as some frozen fresh salmon which her hubby had caught the year before.  What a treat!  We also purchased sweatshirts, magnets, a moose head (carved out of wood for our bar), and some T-shirts.

We went to the Wild life Preserve where they take care of injured animals.  It’s the only place we saw a black bear and a grizzly bear.  Both were putting on shows for their audience.  Especially the grizzly bear who was lounging in a pond and doing back flips making everyone laugh.

In Wasilla they have the Iditarod museum along with some of the dog teams.  The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, entirely within the US state of Alaska. Mushers and a team of 16 dogs, of which at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish line, cover the distance in 8–15 days or more.  After visiting the museum we were allowed to go see the team of dogs on display along with 2 week old puppies, who were future Iditarod dogs.

These dogs are very well taken care of and they practice year round.  Most mushers have at least 30 dogs and they are required to wear booties on their feet especially when they are in the race.  I was surprised to learn many women mushers have won the race which is very harrowing.

Another fun fact I learned about Alaska is their beaches.  They have them but don’t dare take a stroll on one.  The sand is quick sand and it will suck you under in no time!  Best just to admire them from afar.

Our fifteen days went by quick but we had a blast every where we went.  The weather did not bother us as we came prepared with rain gear.  We went to a speedway, just drove around looking at stuff, everything is big there.  The various pictures below are from different places we went to.  A memorable trip, only one sad part of our trip.  Our fifteen year old golden retriever/chow mix decided he’d had enough of life while we were gone.  Sadly we had to put him down as he wasn’t walking or eating any longer.  I hope it wasn’t because he was homesick, but I did get to say goodbye to him over the phone.  RIP Harley boy.  We sure do miss you! These are the last pictures we have of him. 😦

Some more interesting facts I learned about Alaska, their population is about 700,000 but during the summer months it increases to 1 million!!  Respect the wildlife!  They are unpredictable.  While we were there, a man was out hiking and was mauled by a grizzly bear in Eagle River.  A search party went looking for him and found his remains however, the bear was still around and mauled one of the search and rescue people, lucky for him he survived.  The bear escaped and was still on the loose when we left.

The rivers up there are bitter cold.  You can survive in a river for probably 5 minutes if you fall in, you will die of hypothermia.  While we were there a young girl was hiking and fell into a river.  Lucky for her, there was a dog following her and the dog rescued her from the freezing water.  Found out this dog was a rescue and his owner lived at the base of the trail, every day, this dog would walk along the trails, and if someone was hiking alone, he would follow them to make sure they got where they were going safely.  This dog is a white Shepard mix and according to his owner, has saved several people from bear attacks, falling into the river, or helping lost hikers find their way out of the wilderness.  Amazing animal!

We had a great trip!  If you’ve never been, I suggest you go there at least once.  There is so much to see, I only covered half of what we did up there.  We did not go to the Earthquake Museum as the day we were going I got food poisoning.  We did however, go to Earthquake Park.  This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, an entire neighborhood slid into the ocean during last century’s most powerful earthquake. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes.  Natives still talk about it today.  It’s like their 9/11.

Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn was another interesting place.  It’s between Denali and Fairbanks.  We purchased several souvenirs from him and as you can see from the pictures above, it’s an adult only place!

My old high school buddy showed us a great time and not only did we renew our friendship, we got to spend quality time with her and her husband.  It’s a different way of life up there, and I’m not sure I could live there.  The winters are brutal with only 2 hours of sunlight a day, probably why so many people are crafty up there.   And just like it would be a hard adjustment to move there, my friends feel the same way about the lower 48.  They aren’t sure where they would fit in down here because life is so very different.  We left with many good memories and hubby and I said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  Alaska is definitely the Last Frontier!