Survival List for Extended Stays, Part one.

There are a few things that are invaluable when you are going to be out of your home for an extended period of time. This applies whether you are going on a long cruise, staying with relatives or enjoying a timeshare or hotel.

The first must have is a collapsible stool. These can be purchased various places like the  Bed, Bath and Beyond stores. They are small, take up little space but can be used for many many purposes (hanging darkening curtain, sitting on to put away items in low cabinets, as a small table for drinks, storing things in high cabinet or closet shelf, as a footstool for short legged folks).

The second must have, is a roll of black electrical tape that can be purchased for under $2 and is worth its weight in (black) gold. It can be used to blot out those annoying LEDs that can add to your sleepless nights. Place a small piece over the green, red or blinking lights that come from electronic devices, smoke detectors and even the microwave oven. It can also be placed around cracks in a exit door that lets in too much security lighting. It goes on easily and comes off just as well, leaving no sticky residue.

The third item that is very helpful is Command removable hooks. They truly do live up to their advertising. They go on with little trouble and pull off by slowly pulling the tab at the bottom. The hooks can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to hang a blanket, curtain, or comforter over an entry door that lets in too much light or smoke. This can also be a barrier against noise in the hallway or adjacent rooms. They can be used too for extra storage to hang caps, scarves, towels etc.

Being away from your usual comfortable or even NOT so comfortable surroundings can take a toll on your psyche. Humans tend to be creatures of habit, well creatures tend to be creatures of habit too but that’s another blog entry. One of the things I miss the most about living in a hotel is the lack of television options. The list of cable channels available to a spoiled TV watcher are quite limited. The schedule of the television shows that are acceptable do not often coincide with a convenient time to watch them. Satellite TV is not available nor even an option at one’s personal expense as an add on feature (benefit) to hotel residency.

But VOILA! There is a way to have your personal DVR “channeled” to your hotel room. Now I wouldn’t exactly categorize this as a survival item but it definitely has value for the long term visit. Check this out……http://www.dvrplayground.com/article/15414/Have-Slingbox–Will-Travel/

I’m going to try this. It’s cheaper than a plane ticket to fly home and catch up on your favorite shows. Stay tuned for the second part of the Survival Guide for extended stays. Be sure to forward this blog to anyone you know who may need it! I sure wish I had had this information available when I was packing.

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Those four little words he never wanted to say…..

“Her mother and I” …..I listened intently as my son’s father-in-law to be talked about how many years he thought about saying those words and how much he never wanted to say them.  In the end, however, we must let go of those precious gifts that we are given. We have been given stewardship of them only, not ownership as Mr. Dunn also knows. When you have three children but one daughter, it is likely even more difficult to give her over to another man to care for her and her future.

Having your children marry evokes so many emotions. You are hopefully happy, proud, melancholy, excited, anxious, grieving and usually stressed. You have out of town guests to see and enjoy and too many happy moments to take in when you would love to spread out all of that conversation and merry making over a longer stretch of time to fully embrace it all.

My son recently married a wonderful young woman whom I am proud to think of as another daughter. I’ve been praying for her since she was born even though I didn’t meet her until 19 years later. It was a great pay off though.

Now the bride’s father can say “My three sons” with a smile and that peace that comes with knowing that a wedding took place that was ordained by The Father of us all.

There’s gain AND there’s pain!

I’m a pretty positive person by nature. I like to see the glass as half full rather than mostly empty and I tend to lose patience with whiners. But sometimes I can feel a bit whiney myself. Sometimes this bizspouse stuff is just tough going. Someone reminded me recently that I don’t always have to post as the chipper, happy adventurer but with some truthful disclosure about the down side of living in a transitional state.

So if I haven’t lost you after THAT intro here is the rest of the story…..

The most challenging part of this journey is the uncertainty, the inability to plan ahead, thinking, “where will I be”? There is a scripture in Proverbs that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. I think of that applicable Bible verse when I wonder about next month when my niece’s first baby is due. (the baby that the doctors said would never be) I think about it when I wonder where we will be for Christmas and if I will be living in snow another winter. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the effort to continue to build  relationships with women that I may never see again. Why would I want to add one more “goodbye” to my list of too many now? I tend to bond quickly and love hard and loss hurts and goodbyes are sad. Is it worth the effort?

The dilemma also often remains with the housing situation. Hotel vs. Apartment. There is a saying that goes like this, “if I had known that I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself”. That same thinking applies to this quandary. If I had known that I was going to be in this city for 9 months or a year, I would have gotten an apartment with a six month lease and had more space and better amenities. Since I did not know that, it remains a question of whether or not to move NOW into a more permanent living situation. We would have had more space, a patio to relax on at the end of the day and a garage to protect us and our vehicle from the ice and snow.

Sometimes the room is too small and the family is too far and the obstacles appear to outweigh the benefits. It isn’t always rosy. I am thankful, however, for a spouse who will roll with the punches. He is always willing to think outside the box and consider my perspective. He is a good bizspouse too.

How much longer will it be?????

Then I turn the page on the view at hand, make an intentional decision to be thankful and look for the encounter that the Lord has in store for me today. I once again CHOOSE to see this adventure as a pretty full bread basket in this heartland of America.

A town, a lake, another state….

When we talk to the locals about places we don’t want to miss while visiting the Midwest, the one destination that continually comes up in conversation is Lake Geneva.  The town within walking distance bears the same name. The first time we heard about it was in relation to snow mobile races. We didn’t make it for that but thankfully the call to return to our home in Florida was delayed long enough for us to enjoy some of the summer offerings that the region has to offer.

We were not prepared however, for the beauty and ambiance of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Oh my, the sights, the unique culture and the clear water of the lake were a treat like none other that we had experienced here. Being from central Florida, we are accustomed to springs and clean rivers. We are happy to say that we found a whole lake that looked fresh and unpolluted in Wisconsin.

Our favorite aspect of Lake Geneva was being able to walk around the shoreline of the lake, literally walking on the private lawns and lake fronts of residents who not only PERMIT it but actually encourage the public usage in order to enjoy the beauty the lake shore provides. There are walkways and decorative fences and fountains and stepping stones….a virtual smorgasbord of tempting sights for the eyes. Thank you Lake Geneva residents for allowing us the privilege of seeing your beautiful estates from the back and your breathtaking scenery from the lake shore. May we tourists never abuse the privilege by vandalizing or littering your property that you so graciously offer. We can’t wait to go back!

What a heart, our Heartland Has

I had never seen so many working ladders in one room!

How many people does it take to transform two public schools in just a couple weeks time? 100s I can tell you. It takes a lot of time, talent, planning and most of all MONEY to make the most positive impact on a public school imaginable.

From the playground to the driveway from the gym to the classrooms the painting and dry walling, all transforming a dingy old tired school into a haven of brightness and shine! You would have to see it for yourself to believe that it could happen so remarkably. I’m proud to have been even the tiniest part of such an undertaking. I will not soon forget the experience of seeing a church come together to help out a public school. One that likely few members of the church even attend. But that is not important, however. What IS important is the impact that those upgrades can make on the youngest, most vulnerable members of the Rockford community. Heartland Church of Rockford, Illinois spends two weeks each summer changing lives in the public sector. The elementary children that can be easily forgotten in a town that has been stricken with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. A school that sits fairly closely to the crime capital of the town but a school now that those children can be proud to attend in the fall. It’s a place that they can look forward to carrying their backpacks into. They may not know who Heartland church is but they will know that somewhere a lot of regular folks came in and made their school a really nice place to learn.

They may never know that folks came from as far away as Oregon to help with the project or that some people were injured or that some took time off from their real jobs to be a part of their success story but the children will know deep down that someone somewhere cares about them. When they look at new books in their new library or swing on a freshly painted swing, it will make them smile inside.

Heartland Church, YOU Rock!

A true Bread Harvest

There is probably no other food on earth that is eaten more than bread. Whether it is tortillas or pitas or just good ol’ American Wonder Bread, bread is a daily staple in most diets. So there is bread and then there is GREAT HARVEST BREAD COMPANY!

I had only been in Rockford for a couple weeks before someone told me about this wonderful place and drew me a map of how to get there. I didn’t get to go right away because….well good bread can be purchased at any high end grocery store and besides I had already found Panera. Then a friend from Florida who lives here half the year picked me up at my hotel and took me on a tour of the city. The second place she took me was to the Great Harvest Bread Company. We looked in the window as she described the amazing fragrances and delicacies that awaited me TOMORROW because we were there on Monday and the place was closed. So I tucked it away for another time but did not go back.

Then I reconnected with Weight Watchers in Rockford and the desire to seek out a luscious high points+ food item was no longer with me. But after a few months my attention was once again brought to the Great Harvest Bread store. I finally succumbed and stopped by and oh my! It is unlike any other bakery or bread place I’ve ever visited. They have real “bakers” who mix and knead the bread by hand and you can stand and watch them.They use interesting wholesome ingredients and bake each item with pride. The staff greets you with a warm smile…….

The breads shown here are for sampling!!!

and an offer of a sample of one of the delicious mouth watering jewels that was baked just an hour or so ago. There is a large bowl of real butter and a knife just begging to be spread on the fresh delicacy. Oh and when I say “sample” I really mean a nice generous HUNK of yumminess to try.

If you ever get to Rockford, Illinois and it’s not a Monday, you must do yourself the favor of visiting the Great Harvest Bread Company on North Alpine Road. Your view of bread will never be the same!

Sights you won’t see in Florida

Having been a southern girl for most of my life, there are some things that I haven’t seen much. I also have not traveled the country extensively as many of my peers have done. So I find certain sights quite noteworthy or at least worthy of a second glance. Chipmunks are one little creature that do not naturally inhabit the state of Florida.(okay they are in the panhandle but that’s really southern Alabama) So they are a treat to the eyes as they quickly scurry about. I was happy to find one open to being photographed at the Anderson Japanese Gardens. They are accustomed to having folks around their trees I guess.

Chipmunks,always adorable, but more so when you don’t see them often.

Another would be that fire hydrants here are designated with a flag. Now if I had only been in Illinois in the summer,  I would be completely befuddled as to why the firemen wouldn’t be able to see a big yellow fire hydrant on the side of the road and would need a flag to find it. I know that old people tape a flower to their antenna occasionally to find their car in the parking lot but firemen on duty, hunting down a fire hydrant? Ah but since I was here in the winter months and snow season and saw many mishaps and misjudging as to where streets and driveways had gone, I know that flag is to indicate the presence of a fire hydrant.

“Here lies a fire hydrant.”

Another picture that you won’t find in a Florida photo is one of lilacs. The fragrance of lilacs brings back memories of being a little girl in western Pennsylvania. We had them in our yard and when we would play Red Rover and run to the end of the yard, we would run right into the fragrant, colorful lilac bushes. I don’t recall seeing them blooming since then until my extended visit to Illinois. They are in fact, so prevalent here that they trim them up and toss away the blooms with little regard for their value, to us, at least.
Now, let’s talk about food. The Midwest isn’t called America’s Breadbasket for nothing. The opportunities for eating scrumptious food are endless. The downside is that Rockford has been given the dubious title of 4th most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. But let’s not talk about that right now. I know that we have bakeries and eateries in the south that conjure up mouth watering memories but none that compare to what I have seen here. (except for my LaMarrs Donuts in Oxford, Alabama!) Bread, rolls, danish, Swedish pancakes and let’s not forget world famous Chicago Pizza! I’ve used tremendous restraint in limiting my indulgences but I had to have a photo to take home with me. Yes, I DO love my carbs!  So thank you Midwest for making my sweet roll dreams come true.

Grrrrrrrrrilling

It looked so inviting. Some of the guys who stay at the hotel talked management into getting a gas grill for the patio. The weather has been mild and the days for grilling are upon us. We would sit on the patio after work and savor the fragrance of the meat cooking on the grill.

We decided it was time for us to do it too. We bought a grill brush of our own to clean the community grill. We went to the great market and got some steaks and colorful veggies and a disposable grill basket to roast the veggies and make our meal complete. We cut and sliced, we sprinkled and marinated. We gathered our utensils, olive oil and glasses of wine. We carefully made our way down the three flights of stairs, making sure that we had everything we needed. We wanted to enjoy the ambiance of the experience without being interrupted by an unnecessary hike back up the stairs.

The moment had arrived. The final topping on the Memorial Day weekend. We set up shop. No one else was around. The sun had settled on the other side of the hotel and the conditions were perfect to enjoy each other and the succulent aroma of onions, steaks and potatoes being seared on the fire. But then the worst thing happened. ….the worst thing DIDN’T happen. It couldn’t be! There was no propane left in the tank? Surely the hotel staff had prepared for a moment such as this. Of course they had a back up tank in their utility shed. The shed couldn’t be just for bags of salt and snow shovels. We just KNEW they had another tank of propane in there to assist the unlucky guest that drew the lottery number for their steak to be held up from turning from red to brown. But it was not to be…..the hotel had no other tanks and no one to obtain one. They were sorry but there will be no gas at the OK Corral Hotel tonight.

It was an anticlimactic Memorial evening as we schlepped back up to our room, taking the elevator this time in defeat, and dragging our raw steak and sad vegetables along with us. We argued over which take-out place to call at this now late hour to be eating dinner. We settled on Jimmy Johns Subs. It was a very poor substitute for a ribeye but at least they do deliver “ridiculously fast” as their ads proclaim. So “Cheers” to our “Turkey Tom” sandwich as the last hours of our Memorial Weekend faded away.

A park along the Rock River.

A Stocked Market

A hotel bizspouse introduced me to a new market today. Wow–it has colorful and unusual fruits and vegetables, seafood that includes lots of fins and eyes and a wine selection that goes on for days.

I was surprised by the large deli and several attentive men offering to provide samples of the wide variety of choice meats and cheeses. There were breads galore and many grains and dried nuts and fruits in homespun cellophane packaging.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to try fruits and veggies that I have not been accustomed to eating and eggplant would be one of them. Ruining a great pasta dish with a poor pasta substitute like eggplant just seems wrong to me. This one looked more user friendly and indeed it was. After a few days of enjoying the flying penguin look, I sliced it thin and roasted it with olive oil and garlic and mmmmm crunchy little fried like morsels appeared on the cookie sheet. This market has peppers of every color, size and description! They were plentiful and they were CHEAP!

So thank you Mrs.Bizspouse from Alabama for showing me yet another interesting local find. Adventures come in large AND small packages.  There are so many reasons to embrace being on the road and a penguin eggplant is just another one of them!

Is it just me or does this little eggplant resemble a flying penguin?

Standing on the Rock

Everything in Rockford, Illinois has something to do with a rock…there’s the Rock River, Rock Cut Park, Rock Valley College, Rockford College. Rock River Times.  Then up the road is Rockton and Roscoe (switch the S and C sounds and you have rock again).

There are also some noteworthy people from this rocky place. Jodi Benson from Toy Story 3 and the voice of the Little Mermaid is from Rockford. And how about Shawn Wade the bass player for the band, “12 Stones (little rocks).  There is also the well known author John Ortberg, and the female astronaut, Janice Voss, who left the solid rock of earth to go into space. There is Chad Knaus too, the crew chief for that NASCAR rock, Jimmie Johnson. I guess my personal favorite rock reference for the city though would be Rick Nielsen, the lead guitarist for the ROCK band Cheap Trick. So by now, even though there are more, you are likely weary of my rock references so I will move on.

I will move on to the main Rock. The true Rock that I stand on and that is Christ. I know that I couldn’t have gone through some of the events and challenges in my life if I had not had the Lord and His word to stand on and lean on in those tough times. Now traveling along the road and being away from the people, the town and buildings and streets that are familiar and comforting to me for an extended length of time, I rely on the comfort and strength that will never leave me.

I don’t know what lies ahead with our next work project, just as you don’t know what lies ahead with your life. Our circumstances can change in an instant. I literally rest at night assured that God is in my corner and He’s watching out for me. So whatever lies ahead in Rockford or wherever, I say “Rock On!”