Gratitude week 100

  1. Wow, 100 weeks of gratitude. I guess that’s pretty good.
  2. My husband successfully completed the 30 day detox diet. I’m proud of him for cutting out alcohol, coffee, sugar, red meat, and gluten for a month. He also lost over 20 lbs.
  3. We weren’t sure if it was going to happen but my husband, daughter, and I finished the 5 mile race on Thanksgiving day. My daughter wasn’t feeling the best and it was a cold blustery snowy day but we did it. I ended up walking half of it because I was having joint pain. So I think I made the right call by making this my last race. It was a good run and I’m grateful for all the years I had fun racing.
  4. Thanksgiving! We had a fun day with family and friends. Arabella even stopped by for a little while. We played some new online games which is one of my favorite things to do when we have people over.
  5. On Friday morning Paul and I went to the Christmas tree farm and picked out two trees. I got a traditional tree and a purple glittery tree decorated with candy. We lucked out because we took the second to last purple tree. Then Angel and I spent the afternoon decorating.
  6. Alex, his girlfriend, and friend went to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) for the weekend for a friend’s birthday. They safely made it back home today and will probably stop by later for games.
  7. I finished designing my 2022 family calendar. I include all the best pictures of the year and it takes me over 4 hours to complete it. I’m not too excited to spend all the time designing the calendar and decorating my house for Christmas but I love how it turns out.
  8. I’m grateful for the 2 1/2 hours I spent talking to my brother Luke on the phone yesterday. I will be hosting the family Christmas party here in two weeks.
  9. Clean sheets.
  10. Pumpkin pie and Christmas cookies.
  11. I’m grateful for the start of the holiday season, Christmas music and movies.
  12. A warm fire when the furnace isn’t working.

Gratitude week 98

  1. I awoke this morning to the first snowfall of the season and it is beautiful.
  2. I’m glad that our landscaping project got done this week before it started snowing.
  3. Even though I had to go in for two blood draws, my bloodwork from my physical came back good. You will have to put up with me for awhile it seems.
  4. My physical and dentist appointments went well and I am grateful to be done getting poked and prodded for awhile.
  5. I had a massage this week.
  6. My best friend came over for a game night last night with her family. I also ran into another close friend earlier that day in the grocery store.
  7. I’m grateful Angel made supper last night. She made English muffin sandwiches with eggs, cheese, and spinach with hash browns on the side. She even made some sandwiches for Alex, his girlfriend, and his friend. I’m grateful when my kids get along.
  8. You are going to hate me, but I am pretty much done Christmas shopping already.
  9. I am excited to go in for a haircut this week. I want to go a little shorter with my hair. I am also thinking about updating my picture on WP. We’ll see how everything turns out.
  10. I’m grateful for a fire in the fireplace on a dark November day.
My front yard with the snowfall.
My backyard with the first snowfall.

Have a good week!!

A night in New Hampshire

It was time to head back south. We needed to check out of our Airbnb at 9 AM. Before leaving I needed to start a load of sheets. The notes also said to take the garbage to the curb. The dumpster was overflowing when we got there flies swarming in circles around the lid. It was expensive. The bed uncomfortably sagging so I would roll into Paul during the night. The coffee pot didn’t even work. I was wondering why it was full of stagnant water the first time I tried to fill it. But the host was nicer than most.

We had plans to spend one night in downtown Portsmouth at another Airbnb. This I assured everyone would be the nicest place because it had the highest price. From Bar Harbor, we decided to stop in Bath for lunch at a pizza place where I was able to order lobster on my pizza. Honestly I wasn’t crazy about the lobster on my pizza. It didn’t seem to belong on pizza next to my pepperoni any more than fish would.

After we sat down and ordered our pizzas, Arabella said she was ashamed of us for not feeding her. She was practically starving. WTF???!!?! She yelled at us that we never had food in the house and was embarrassed to tell her friends we wouldn’t feed her. She said all of these things while we were ordering our food. Her accusations of neglect and abuse were very upsetting to us. Then after lunch, we stopped at the grocery store (because where else would you take your kid if you are not feeding them???). She verbally attacked me in the grocery store in front of everyone.

Thankfully our trip was almost over. I was sad because I thought it would be a good time to bond with Arabella. Maybe if we take her on a trip she would appreciate everything we do for her. Maybe if she goes to a residential mental health facility that we pay for out of pocket she wouldn’t struggle as much with mental illness. The time for bargaining and denial passed. Our daughter was getting worse, not better. It was time to face that.

When we got to Portsmouth, Arabella was exhausted. She said she was going to take a nap and she probably wouldn’t be up in time for supper. At times she has been known to crash, sleeping 12 hours. Maybe she would wake up a new person. In the meantime, Paul and I decided to take a walk around town. There weren’t a lot of shops open so we didn’t stop. Instead we took a walk down by the river and crossed the bridge. Our mood one of mutual sadness. Something was really wrong with our daughter.

We came back to the Airbnb to pick up my mom and Arabella for supper. Arabella was still sleeping and didn’t want to go with. We went to another seafood restaurant. It was really busy and the service was slow. The bartender was also our server and waited on all of the tables around us. The food was unremarkable. The ambiance was nice though.

We got back to the Airbnb later than I thought I would. I brought back some extra food for Arabella in case she woke up and was hungry. When we got back, Arabella was up. She was dressed up wearing makeup and a mini skirt. She turned up her nose at the food I was offering and said she was going to go out to get something by herself.

Although the shops were closed, there was live music playing that we could hear outside of our bedroom window late into the evening. It wasn’t in the least annoying. I thought Portsmouth was a charming and clean town. I was really struck we were not approached by panhandlers at all on our trip. I think the biggest problem we faced was parking (especially in Bar Harbor). I can’t imagine trying to find a parking spot in peak season.

Most of the Airbnb’s we stayed at were old. Some of them were older than the state we live in. The staircase in the Airbnb in Portsmouth was so small there was no way you could carry a dresser up those steps. Comparable to where we live, the cost exceeded the quality. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a review saying it was too expensive because maybe that is the norm for the East Coast. The houses did have a lot of character though and it was an experience.

Our visit to Acadia and Bar Harbor

From Kennebunk, we made our way to Bar Harbor. On the way, we stopped in Bangor for lunch and to snap a couple of pictures outside of Stephen King’s house.

A fitting house for the King of Horror.

We stayed at another Airbnb a couple miles from Acadia National Park for 3 nights. On the morning of our first full day my mom, Paul, and I checked out Acadia. First of all, the park is huge. It took us a long time just to figure out where to go to get a park sticker. Our navigation didn’t work well on our phones. The park was packed, there wasn’t a space available in the main lot or the overflow lot to purchase a park pass.

We thought the park wouldn’t be as busy as it was in the end of September after the school year started. The parking was awful. There really wasn’t anywhere to park along the trails or scenic turnoffs. We did try to stop at one place and our monster SUV hung out a little. We were told to move by a park ranger so we didn’t even get any photos. Thankfully there was one place we were able to stop that was really scenic where multiple cars parked on the side of the road. At that point we were starting to get frustrated by the traffic and parking situation. We probably wouldn’t have wanted to go back if it wasn’t for this view.

The free park map was also really difficult to read if you are not familiar with the area. It did list hiking trails but nothing about the trails in general such as length or difficulty. If you are going to visit specifically to hike I would do a lot of research in advance. We were winging it a bit because we were going with my mom and daughter who don’t have the stamina of Paul and I.

The second day we decided to go to Bar Island. It’s a pretty cool experience because you can walk across the land in low tide to the island. In high tide the path to the island is totally covered with water. I would say it was a moderate hike as it was mountainous. You had to walk uphill on the way there and downhill on the way back on the island. There wasn’t a lot of flat surface on the island itself which was a little more challenging for my mom. The path to the island was rocky.

The view from the top of Bar Island.
Low tide.

We spent the afternoon visiting shops and buying gifts in Bar Harbor. Then we ate lobster on our last evening in Maine.

A couple days in Kennebunk, Maine

From Vermont we drove a couple hours to Kennebunk, Maine. I found our lodging last minute after our Airbnb cancelled on us. It ended up being our favorite place to stay. We stayed in the penthouse suite and the elevator took us to the luxurious top floor of a newer building.

Parking was tight in the little lot with the monster SUV. I directed Paul backwards into the spot planning to take our luggage out of the trunk before he pulled it all the way in. Arabella screamed at Paul saying she wanted to get the luggage out from the side door instead, that her plan made the most sense. She was angry again.

Despite that, we enjoyed most of our stay. Although the forecast said more rain, it was rather warm and sunny on Paul’s birthday. It only rained at night. A parade went through town the morning of his birthday. We went out for his birthday and we all ordered a whole lobster for the first time. Then we spent the day in Oak Orchard Beach. Arabella went to the arcade. We went to the few shops that were open. It was like a ghost town. There were signs that said you had to pay for parking but there wasn’t an attendant to pay. There was an amusement park full of closed rides. We did walk the beach for awhile but the water was much too cold to swim. Even the restrooms were closed for the season due to lack of staff to clean them. If we wanted a bathroom we had to stop and get a drink at the bar.

We did walk around Kennebunk quite a bit as well. Even though we were in Kennebunk and Oak Orchard Beach on the weekend, most places were closed for the season in the end of September.

I would like to say our trip was going well, but it really wasn’t. I still wasn’t sleeping and awoke crying from nightmares. Arabella was up in the middle of the night making noise that also woke us up. She started sneaking out by herself at night while we were in Kennebunk. In her room I saw tons of junk food and a lighter sitting on her dresser. Then she told us she no longer wanted breast reduction surgery, she wanted back surgery.

I was so upset. What did I expect? I hoped her mental illness would take a vacation too. I worried that my mom was having a horrible time. I became jealous that she probably had more fun on the trip she took with my brother Luke and his family a couple months back.

There was a little park on the Main St. in Kennebunk next to the dam. I went under the bridge with my mom and Paul. I stayed until it got dark after everyone else left and cried. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. I was feeling depressed with everything that was happening with my daughter. She was acting hateful to all of us and I just wanted to have a fun memorable trip. I lost a lot of hope that everything was going to be alright. Maybe my expectations were too high.

The next morning Paul, my mom, and I went to breakfast while Arabella slept in. My mom confronted me asking what I was feeling and thinking the night before as I sat watching the water under the bridge. She said that I scared her. I told her I was overwhelmed with grief about my daughter so much so that at times I feel like I can’t go on. I’ve reached my breaking point and it is destroying me. Paul told her that more than anything I just needed her support.

Our first night, Vermont

The night before we left I had a dream that was too good to be true. So much so I considered it another nightmare. I dreamt my dad picked my son and I up in a van. My dad was loving and had a good conversation with Alex. In real life, my son hasn’t spoken to my dad in almost 2 years since discovering his crime. He never wants to see my dad again. In my dream, my dad dropped my son and I off at an apartment complex in a crime ridden ghetto. Instead of getting shot, a gangster gave me the shirt off his back for my trip. It was a fairytale dream that left me feeling sad.

I awoke early after the dream to finish packing. We had to leave early to drive to the airport a couple hours away. I had a hard time waking Arabella up and we ended up leaving later than I wanted to. I didn’t even check to see if she turned off her lights. We took my small car and couldn’t fit all our luggage in the trunk. My mom’s suitcase was wedged between my mom and daughter in the backseat.

The drive and check in at the airport was rather uneventful until we got on the plane. The pilot announced there was bad weather in Chicago and we would have a delay where we might have to deplane. We only had an hour to make our connecting flight. I could only hope that our connecting flight was delayed as well. Thankfully we were delayed less than we anticipated and our connecting flight was also delayed. But that also meant we would get to our destination later.

Although I wore pants and a sweatshirt, Arabella was hot. She decided to wear only a tank top and short shorts that were several sizes too small. Half of her large cleavage hung out and her cutting scars on her arms and legs were fully visible. She seemed to like the attention her appearance was receiving. I was rather embarrassed but she is 18 and not open to feedback.

We got to our destination at the Connecticut airport as the sun was starting to set. The car rental company said we could upgrade from a midsize car to a large SUV and considering our tight car ride to the airport and several hours of driving on our trip, we took it.

We were spending our first night in Vermont which was another hour and a half drive from the airport. It wasn’t easy to drive the huge SUV as dusk was nearing, an unfamiliar city in an unfamiliar vehicle. We wanted to find somewhere to eat as we neared the end of our drive for the evening. We wanted to eat something local to Vermont since we were only spending one night there. Arabella wanted to eat at the chain restaurant she worked at at home but no one else wanted to. We wanted to try something new so we kept driving. We ended up out in the middle of nowhere stopping at the only restaurant that looked open.

Arabella was angry because we didn’t stop where she wanted to eat. She also got angry because her dad said he would not buy her alcohol. She was pissy during the whole meal and only ordered dessert to eat. Afterwards, Paul talked to her alone and apologized that he did not stop to eat where she wanted as it was her vacation too. I didn’t think he needed to because he wasn’t out of line, she was. We both wanted everyone to get along, but that wasn’t going to happen.

The rest of the car ride was very difficult. Paul drove trying to find our Airbnb. We were out in the middle of nowhere. It was pouring outside. The roads were winding and mountainous. For the rest of the ride, Arabella attacked Paul. She accused him of being a horrible father. She said he was abusive. She was angry that we never gave her an actual graduation gift like a stuffed animal although we said the trip was her gift and we were spending a lot of money to take her. She screamed at Paul while the rest of us sat in silence. I was angry at Arabella and worried about what the rest of the trip would be like. I felt sorry for Paul because he was bending over backwards trying to be nice to everyone and he was viciously attacked.

We got to our Airbnb which resembled an old haunted farmhouse. It was cool and damp. It poured all night and the rain ended just before we left. In the morning we found that we were between two rundown houses. It was strange at the house we rented because two of the bedrooms didn’t have curtains on the windows. The host was really nice though and said we could help ourselves to anything in the fridge or cupboards. We found some Vermont pancake mix and Paul ran to the store to buy maple syrup. He made us a nice breakfast in the morning then we were on our way.

Sailing around Door County

The lighthouse entering Lake Michigan from Sturgeon Bay.

The abandoned lighthouse of Pilot Island.

The Washington Island ferries passing each other.

The Washington Island car ferry close up.

A sailboat race we saw on our way back home.

Just another beautiful day on the water.

Here are some of my favorite photos that I promised from our last sailing trip…

Distant shores

I promised I would share some of the pictures I took from our last sailing trip.

We ended up delaying our trip by a day due to storms. The following day the water was still choppy at first.

(Apparently I haven’t shared a lot of pictures lately because WP changed everything again so bear with me.)

A distant lighthouse located somewhere between Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

We visited a new to me marina. On the water life isn’t too busy. It’s nice to get away from all the noise.

Sometimes all we see is a distant sailboat on the endless water.

On the water I can experience peace mixed with adventure. The next evening we anchored out.

We made our way up to Chamber’s Island where we took our kayaks to land and explored a lighthouse.

We jumped into the ice cold waters to cool off on a warm enough day.

It’s really neat to see huge cargo ships on a voyage. I wonder if they think it is cool to see us too…

One of my biggest passions in life is photography and travelling to places I’ve never been to before. This was the first time I visited these places. I love being on the water. I’m not sure why it brings me calm and peace while in many others it would cause fear. Tomorrow, for my birthday, we are going to brave possible stormy weather and go on another adventure.

NOLA

We drove across a bridge for a half an hour and entered a whole new world called New Orleans. We saw many different things we don’t see at home like houses on stilts, moss covered trees, and interesting looking boats. I remember feeling a certain kind of melancholy, a homesickness of sorts, that happens when I’ve reached a place far from home. It’s hard to believe that I never left my country.

The city of New Orleans itself was bustling, busy, and congested loop of bridges and old style European houses. To be honest, the city made me feel rather trapped. All the houses were so close together. Plus there were so many people. (Although everyone was saying how dead the city was because of COVID). We stayed at an AirBnB in the French Quarter. It was a good place for adventure. The place we stayed was over a hundred years old.

The entrance of our apartment.

We unlocked the gated door after parking in the fenced in driveway. I’m not used to gates for doors.

The yard also hosted a grapefruit tree which Paul and I went round and round upon. Was it an orange tree? Or a lemon? Paul finally asked the owners and they told him to help himself. He said it was the best grapefruit he ever ate.

The city was also very pet friendly. A lot of people walked with dogs and there were cats everywhere. Several people had signs to not feed the animals. One of those signs was at our AirBnB.

We even got a wake up call from a cat in the morning which was the only thing that reminded me of home.

When we arrived in the city, we had our hottest day of the trip which was 75 degrees. It was incredibly humid but felt different than our high humidity days at home which doesn’t even make sense. By the time we left the high temps were in the mid 50’s.

We spent a lot of time walking around the French Quarter. We checked out quite a few shops and bought souvenirs for the kids. We even checked out a shop that sold Mardi Gras type costumes. I would’ve loved to have bought one, but they were quite expensive and people would look at me as if I totally lost my mind if I dressed that way at home. I did buy some beads with rubber duckies on them which were super cute. People in New Orleans dressed with such flair.

We spent a good chunk of time walking on Bourbon St. Since we were one of the few tourists, we got targeted more often by beggars and scam artists. We had about 3 people ask us a day where we got our shoes. They bet if they guess right, you have to give them money and they get mad if you don’t. Then they tell you that you got your shoes on Bourbon St. Thankfully I heard about the scam online before we left.

I did have a guy put beads around my neck and ask for money. We did give him a couple bucks and I also gave him my leftover food which was appreciated.

Just keep walking…

Bourbon St. was creepy at night. But it was the most happening street with restaurants and live music outside. What really really bothered me is that we got approached at night by young kids asking for money. We were approached first by two pre-teen girls, then a little later by little boys alone. They had to be anywhere between 8 to 10 years old. I couldn’t imagine the life of those children or the things that probably do or could happen to them out in the streets. Personally I would not feel safe alone there at night.

Paul really loved the food in New Orleans. Almost every night he ate raw oysters. We tried different Cajun and Creole dishes and ate po’ boys and gumbo. I liked the fried alligator. It tasted like chicken.

One of the major problems of the city was that bathrooms were hard to come by. I saw several people unzip and pull up to the wall in broad daylight. The city has serious drug and alcohol problems which I guess probably isn’t unusual for a big city. We got offered edibles countless times. We saw a man having an angry conversation with himself. We saw another too drunk to stand although he was trying. We came across a scene where someone on a bike had a close call with a car. The lady was screaming expletives at the man holding up traffic. It was a great place to visit, but I would never want to live there.

We walked around Jackson Square and walked inside of the oldest continuous Catholic church in the USA. It was very beautiful and ornate as expected. One thing I wasn’t expecting was that there were fortune tellers right outside of the church. I didn’t understand it because in my mind they blatantly didn’t belong there. It was like accepting a one way ticket straight to hell and I’m not even Catholic.

We were hoping to take a paddle wheeler ride but the day we were hoping to go it was very windy with a high of 55. For some reason they cancelled the tours for that day so we went to the aquarium instead.

By far our favorite thing to do near New Orleans was to go on the Airboat Adventures tour in Lafitte. Thankfully we were able to see some alligators in the wild. Apparently the tour the day before did not have any alligator sightings.

Without wildlife it was absolutely stunning too.
The mossy trees which are homes for spiders and snakes plus can hide a few alligators.
I thought this bad boy was going to crawl up into the boat.

One of the other things we enjoyed was visiting the Oak Alley Plantation. This was a sugar cane plantation with hundreds of slaves. We saw the slave quarters. It’s really hard to think that people were forced to do such brutal work in the heat with inadequate food and housing. We got a tour of the plantation house which was rather awkward. The tour guide was a black man and three other black people were on the tour with Paul and I. I felt horrible sadness for the way black people were treated as slaves. There even was a job for a child slave to pull a rope for the fan over the massive table. I couldn’t imagine a child having to do that. Sometimes history isn’t pretty.

The trees in front of the plantation house are several hundred years old and were planted when they were adult trees to show off the wealth of the owners. The trees created good air flow in the summer for the huge house.

Oak Alley Plantation

One of the other things I really enjoyed doing in NOLA was taking a cemetery walk. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the cemetery was closed for renovations before I bought the tickets. I was hoping to spend all of our time in the cemetery on the tour because it was so fascinating. Instead we walked outside the closed gates and spent the rest of the tour looking at mansions of the rich and famous in the Garden District.

All of the cemeteries we saw in New Orleans and surrounding areas had raised tombs because of hurricanes and flooding. I wondered how it all worked because there seemed to be a lot more people that lived in the city than tombs. What I found out was that more than one person can be buried in the tomb. When someone dies they put the body in a casket in the tomb. After a year or two the bones are removed, placed in the back, and it is ready for the next person. Hopefully there is not a plague or pandemic where multiple people need to use the tomb at once. The tomb can be used for multiple generations of family or sometimes clubs get together and purchase a tomb for burial of its members.

Sometimes the tombs are abandoned or fall into disrepair. We purchased the tour through Save Our Cemeteries which uses most of the money from tours to upkeep tombs. They go through great lengths to try to find the owners of the tombs, but if it is found to be abandoned the tombs can be sold. From what I gather, a lot of people choose cremation.

I wasn’t planning on ending this post with death and despair, but here we are. New Orleans is a great city to visit, but again I wouldn’t want to live there.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

When we got off the plane in Little Rock, we didn’t feel like we were far from home. The airport was rather small much like our own. It was a dreary cool winter day. The trees were without leaves but there wasn’t snow on the ground. It took about an hour to drive from Little Rock to Hot Springs. One thing we noticed was there were a lot of semis on the highway we took the first half of our journey. There were signs stating that no semis should be in the left lane. There were some periods of construction and at times I felt we were rather close to hitting a semi in the rental car that Paul never drove before.

We arrived at our destination the 1890 Williams House Inn at suppertime. Joe, the owner, gave us a tour of the inn which was beautifully decorated in the time period of the house. He said that although the house was owned by a doctor, he never practiced there which pretty much meant that no patients died there and the house wasn’t haunted. The breakfasts were amazing and there was always homemade food to snack on like cake.

We decided to walk the first evening to dine at Steinhaus Keller, a fabulous German restaurant that looked like it was in a renovated stable. I have to say that this was my favorite restaurant on our trip. Hot Springs was also my favorite location along with the B&B.

I did find Hot Springs to be a rather interesting town. There were plenty of immaculately restored Victorian mansions a couple of blocks away from run down places with graffiti on the walls, broken glass, and a filthy mattress in a vacant lot. There was a great divide how neighbors lived sometimes a block away from each other which I found to be unusual.

The following day we shopped along the Main St. and finished the afternoon with a soak and spa treatment at the Quapaw Bathhouse. Paul and I had our own private jacuzzi spa in the healing waters. Afterward we had a cool down period where they brought us cool washcloths with peppermint oil. Then we had a massage which was excellent. The masseuse seemed to find all of my trouble spots. They seemed to blend a mixture of hot and cold both to the baths and massage which was different than anything I’ve experienced with a spa service. Later we walked through the public bath area. It was just like being at a public pool except the water was presumably hot.

The Quapaw Bathhouse building itself was almost 100 years old. That just added to the experience. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we couldn’t tour the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. We did watch a little online before we went and the history of bathhouses and health practices in the early 1900’s was downright fascinating.

While we were in Hot Springs, we checked out the gangster museum. It was well worth the $15 it cost to go inside. Back in the day, Hot Springs was a resort town for gangsters like the notorious Al Capone. There was gambling, prostitution, and liquor during the prohibition. The gangsters spent a lot of money there. Now I didn’t see any gangsters while I was there, but as we entered town we saw multiple police officers surround an apartment building. For as small of a town as it was, there seemed to be a large police presence there.

While we were there, the temps hovered between 45 and 55 degrees. On the coolest day, we hiked at Hot Springs National Park. It was rather hilly so it was a good workout. There weren’t really springs on the hiking trails that I saw. The town itself had water fountains but the water was cold. There was a place people could go to fill up water jugs from the springs. I’m not sure if that water was hot. There were a few steamy spots right around the park entrance area in town.

Hiking rest stop.
Hot Springs National Park in winter.

I would highly recommend visiting Hot Springs. Maybe not in January when it is rather cool. There were plenty of fun things to do. I really enjoyed the town. The people were laid back and really friendly. It seemed to be a very dog friendly town. It was also the childhood home of our previous president Bill Clinton.