Category Archives: Travel

Journey

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This is what I am moving toward: my family, grandchildren especially.

I looked at my list of posts over the past year and was tickled to see a post about Monarch butterflies followed by my getting-ready-to-move post. Disconnected? I think not.

Both posts are about migration and survival.

My last post I was packing in preparation for my move from Connecticut to Texas. That certainly qualifies as a migration, and not in preparation for winter, metaphorical or seasonal.

This post is about the move itself.

Day 1

I picked up the 16-foot Budget moving truck at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 14th. My plan was to load up the truck and leave the following morning.

Oh, the plans of mice and men–of mice and men.

I arrived home to find no one working, no one packing, no one accomplishing anything necessary to achieving my goal of leaving the next morning.

I took a few deep breaths and began to engage each son, explaining what I would like to see done and why. I always include the why when engaging my children, grown or not.

I realize now that I handled the move entirely wrong. Hindsight and all that.

Needless to say, we (yes, they finally kicked into gear) continued packing while my moving truck sat empty at the top of the driveway. It remained there overnight. I tried not to cry.

Day 2

Saturday morning dawned, filled with bird songs and cries, sunshine and fluffy clouds. It was a perfect day to begin our journey.

And then I looked around and realized there were only a handful of boxes completely packed, sealed and labeled. The kitchen was not packed.

I had tried to sell as much stuff as I could at a 3-day tag sale. Very little interest and less than $100 made, I now had all that stuff there that needed to be dealt with (dump and Goodwill).

I don’t remember what time the boys finally woke up and began to pack. It wasn’t early.

It was on this day that I got an answer to the question: “Are you going with us to Texas?”

I had been asking my 21-year-old son this for weeks with no answer. I mean not even his typical grunt was forthcoming. He didn’t know.

Suddenly, he was coming with us. He had not assisted us in any significant way prior to this point. I was nearly pulling my hair out.

Now I had one more person’s belongings to accommodate on the truck and my storage unit (which I already rented – my daughter picked up the keys for me that week).

If nothing else, I am a mom. I would never leave one of my children if I could help them be where they wanted to be. And I certainly knew that Texas, specifically Austin, was where this computer programmer, game developing musician needed to be. Of course, he could come with us.

And suddenly things were happening. It was like the trip itself had been holding its breath, waiting for my 21-year-old to commit to the move.

The floodgates opened and stuff flew into boxes, got loaded onto the truck, and progress was being made.

However, not enough got done to leave on Saturday. I announced that I had canceled our hotel reservations for the next two days and replanned our trip for a Sunday departure.

Everyone stopped working and called it a day; not what I wanted.

I was exhausted; I was beyond exhausted. I took two naproxen for pain and called it a night.

Day 3

I had been waking up around 4:30 a.m. the last three days, and this day was no exception. I can get a lot done in the early morning hours. So I did.

Packed boxes were everywhere. Many household items had made it out to the truck in the evening prior, much that had to be unloaded before we could begin seriously loading the truck properly. Yes, there is a right way to load a moving truck, and I had to supervise closely while still trying to pack and supervise the boys packing. I was exhausted by 10 a.m.

Around this time my 27-year-old son arrived to pick up the house and pickup truck keys and discuss caring for the house until his father decided to engage (my estranged husband was giving everyone the silent treatment, refusing to answer the phone or discuss me and our sons leaving for Texas). I had asked one of my son’s friends to help care for the house, to house sit even which he agreed to do.

The second set of floodgates opened and the move was happening.

I knew that the house would be cared for, cleaning would get done, and projects dealt with. I offered money and money talks (even though I don’t have money for such things – you do what you have to do).

Approaching noon, the truck was finally loaded. The cars were loaded with computers and other items that were deemed too delicate to go on the truck. When I drove the truck up the driveway to get it out of the way so the pickup could get back to work hauling stuff off (driven by friend), I realized that the tag sale stuff was still there. Sigh.

I told the boys that we weren’t leaving until everything we weren’t taking was either hauled to the dump or stowed in the workshop and/or garage. We were not leaving a mess (of course not).

An hour later, we were ready. Actually ready!!!

I nearly cried when we pulled out, our caravan of moving truck and two cars.

It took me years to get this move started. I had asked my estranged husband to help me move, to help me sell our house, to help me be near my elderly, very sick mother and he refused. Keeping me in Connecticut was his last bit of control over me. Cutting me off from our finances hadn’t brought me back to him. Forcing me to live in poverty hadn’t brought me back to him. Ignoring me hadn’t brought me back to him. Tough love just didn’t work, because I was not a drug-addicted, rebellious child. I was his equal partner in a marriage that had started out with great potential. Control and abuse destroyed it.

But this day, Sunday, July 15, 2017, I drove away from my prison, declaring that I was free.

We drove across Connecticut to New York and I celebrated.

We drove through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee that first day. We drove for 8 long hours, arriving at our first destination after 10 p.m.

We all crashed, exhausted, but not before a celebratory drink or two. We were far, far away from Connecticut and closer to our destination.

Days 4, 5 and 6

The following days we drove as long as I could handle driving. When I arrived at a hotel where I thought I had a reservation, the lovely clerk made sure we had a room. I found everyone I met along the way was helpful and kind.

Each day we would arrive at our hotel, my legs would be so swollen I could barely walk. I would spend the next few hours drinking Mullein leaf tea with my legs elevated so that my legs would not sustain permanent damage. This trip was not easy for me physically. But it was not going to kill me, so we drove and drove.

I drove the moving truck every single mile. My sons were reluctant to drive it, so I did. I actually enjoyed that truck a bit, being up high, being treated kindly by truckers hauling all the stuff that Americans need to live and enjoy life. The roads were crowded, but most drivers were courteous.

Day 7

Thursday, July 20, 2017, we lazily awakened in our Holiday Inn located in Livingston, Louisiana (very nice place). We were less than 5 hours from our final destination.

I had been trying to figure out how to time unloading the truck into the storage unit and where to park the moving truck overnight. My storage unit manager said I could not leave it there. I couldn’t reach the drop-off facility manager. It was stressful. My contract stated that I could not drop off the truck after hours (which turned out to be untrue).

I had this whole dilemma at the back of my mind as we drove the last miles to Houston. When we crossed over into Texas, I texted my daughter.

“Welcome home!” she texted back. I cried tears of joy.

And just typing those words makes me cry with joy, with relief.

We had picked up four two-way radios in northern Alabama (I think that’s where it was). So we chattered back and forth between cars. When we stopped for gas about an hour away, I told them that the sky looks different in Texas. They didn’t believe me, but I stand by that.

Politics aside (please ignore Texas politics—pols here have all gone insane), Texas is a beautiful, crazy, fun, full-of-life place to live. It is never boring. Never.

That big sky. Oh, that big sky.

We arrived in Houston and drove for about 30 minutes to my storage unit where my daughter and granddaughter were waiting for us. Lots of hugs. So many hugs. I exclaimed over and over how happy I was to finally be in Houston. My granddaughter was happy as always. She is always happy.

I admit the unloading was tortuous. I didn’t do much because I couldn’t. It was crazy hot and humid. My sons were melting. But they did it.

And then I got a brilliant idea. I would just park the moving truck in front of the drop-off location and leave a note that I would be there first thing in the morning to check it in. I left my lock on the back and took the keys with me. Haha! A whole ‘nother story, but it worked out fine. The grizzled, old facility manager and I bonded the next morning after he told me he thought I was just some stupid Yankee for leaving the truck without dropping the keys in the drop box (yeah, I could have dropped it off after hours). So funny!

I called my mom and let her know that we had arrived and that I planned to drive to Austin Saturday to spend the weekend with her and my stepdad.

I emailed a couple of people that we reached our destination safely. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and fell asleep soundly on my inflatable mattress in my granddaughter’s room (she loves that I sleep in her room).

This part of my journey is over. I am without a place of my own right now, but I am welcome in my daughter’s home and my mom’s home. They love me and embrace me. That is what I have yearned for all those years I was being held prisoner in Connecticut (I held myself prisoner as well by trying to do what was right by the house, the property, be responsible and I did have a teenager in high school there).

Update: July 25, 2017

My mom found out yesterday afternoon that she has late-stage cancer. I am devastated. I will be here for her, though. We will walk this path together. And this is why I felt an urgency to get to Texas.

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Special thanks

I want to thank my friend, Charlotte Gelston. She has been my greatest inspiration and the one who told me to just pack up and go. Stop worrying about the house. Just go. So I did.

Charlotte is a woman of God who knows how to show the love of God. It isn’t religion to her; she believes her very life is meant to express God’s love toward others. And it does. I have never met someone who is a more genuine Christian.

I do believe in the power of prayer, and I know that she and the other member of our small knitting group, Ginny, prayed for me every minute and every mile of the move.

Thank you.

Texas farmers market: Cedar Park

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Cedar Park Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lakeline Mall, south side parking lot. This farmers market declares that it is “Producer Verified,” which is important.

Cedar Park Farmers Market just north of Austin, Texas. Lots of great vendors and visitors at 9 a.m. when it opened.

Cedar Park Farmers Market just north of Austin, Texas. Lots of great vendors and visitors at 9 a.m. when it opened.

One of the first things I did when I settled in after arriving in Austin was go online and search for local farmers markets. Thrilled to find one on Saturday mornings just down the road from my mom’s house, I informed my family and put the event on my calendar.

Of course, Texas is experiencing very hot weather this week, but I was determined to go no matter what. Accompanied by my step-dad’s brother, I arrived and sensed the most amazing energy. Farmers markets are usually like that. Vendors who care about sustainability, growing organically, and providing an alternative source of food and local arts is the norm at most of these weekly events. If your local farmers market doesn’t have this positive energy (I feel kind of strange using that terminology, but it is appropriate), find a new one. Drive a little farther, checkout the farmers market in the next town over, but keep trying until you find one that fits your personality and shopping needs. Then connect.

Talk to the vendors. Ask how they grow that or make that or process that. I have encountered only one farmer vendor in Connecticut who didn’t have good answers to my questions, and that made the choice simple not to buy from that vendor. After a little digging I also discovered one vendor at the Cedar Park Farmers Market that mislead me when questioned.

Now to meet some of the vendors:

Can we say Buddha’s Brew Kombucha? Oh yeah! Locally fermented and sold directly to the public, you can’t go wrong. They need to work on their website, though, as it took entirely too long to load on my desktop computer.

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We picked up a couple of melons from the market vendor pictured below, a muskmelon and a hybrid seeded watermelon Stars and Stripes, a Seminis hybrid (hate knowing that I bought anything associated with Seminis – Monsanto), but the grower said it is delicious and I didn’t know the seed source until I started researching for this blog post. Darn if we had so much food that I didn’t get to taste the watermelon. The muskmelon was amazing!

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There is nothing wrong with hybrids. You just cannot save the seeds and grow a true fruit from a seed saved from a hybrid fruit. Hybrids are NOT genetically engineered.

I love to find interesting heirloom varieties of veggies at Farmers Markets and save the seeds. It doesn’t always work as most veggies need to be very mature making them inedible in order to collect mature seeds. But sometimes you can save seeds from veggies especially tomatoes.

Who doesn’t love olive oil? How about Texas-grown organic olives? Who knew? Texas Hill Country Olive Company organic olive orchard is located in Dripping Springs, Texas. They offer free tours to groups of five people or more with their specialty blend olive oils and balsamic vinegars. As do many vendors at farmers markets, Texas Hill Country Olive Company hires people to work at their booths. Sounds good to me. Providing weekend jobs to young people? Excellent.

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Meet Stephanie Bradley, fine artist according to the paper fan that she gave me when I visited her booth and raved about her pottery. I love succulents and I love hand-thrown pottery. Her pots were intriguing. I wanted one so badly. I have her information as she offered to ship anything that I liked. Stephanie is located at the Red Falcon Studio, 943 E. 52nd Street, Austin, Texas.

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And as I researched for this blog post I stumbled upon a few YouTube videos of Stephanie Bradley singing the blues and playing the guitar. What a treat!

 
I just love the name of this vendor: Prickly Pair Flowers. And to see the couple standing there looking so serious . . . too funny! Lovely booth.

Prickly Pair flowers

Prickly Pair flowers

Farmers markets build community. Become a part of yours.

On going home

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It has been two years since I last visited Texas, five years since I have been to Austin.

Next month, I am going home!

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I’m not a native Texan (poor, poor me). I was a Navy brat, born on a naval base who grew up in Miami. But my mom’s people are from Texas. There is a part of me that is Texan, and when I am there I feel like I am home. I never felt that way growing up in Miami. But hardly anyone is a native Floridian, at least not in the sense that their people are from Florida. Almost everyone is from someplace else. The melting pot and all that.

Texas in August is hot!!! Very, very hot. You get used to walking from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned store or office. And you conserve water. You don’t water your yard or wash your car unless it is in a commercial car wash. Austin and surrounding towns enacted some of the most stringent energy and water conservation measures way back in the early 90s. They had to. Everyone kept moving there. And they are moving there again. Texas is booming. As a matter of fact, if I moved there today, I couldn’t afford to rent an apartment.

Now I have something nice to look forward to next month. This month I get to see two of my adult children, my daughter-in-law, and all three of my grandchildren. Lucky me!

Just dreaming, y’all!

Going on an explore: Wethersfield and Hartford, Connecticut

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Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

The house was quiet because the boys were still sleeping and I was ready to head out to Wethersfield, Connecticut. I decided some alone time was just what the doctor ordered. I was heading to Wethersfield to see if Comstock Ferre & Co. would have the heirloom seeds sitting in my Baker Creek Seeds shopping cart. I preach “buy local” so I was putting my money where my mouth is. That and I wanted to ask lots of questions about when to plant, depth for certain seeds, will they have seed potatoes and herb plants in stock when it is time to plant those crops and more. I was well-rewarded for my trip. Not only was it a beautiful drive, Wethersfield is Connecticut’s largest historic district, a treat for anyone to explore.

Comstock Ferre's winter garden - Wethersfield, CT - January 2014

Comstock Ferre’s winter garden – Wethersfield, CT – January 2014

I found every seed variety I had on my list and many more along with some herb seeds including stevia. I am a very happy gardener. I will be starting some seeds next month.

Next, I wanted to visit one of the few indoor farmer’s markets in Connecticut: Billings Forge located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. It was only 5.5 miles from my current location; off I went. Cirling around Hart Road I drove right past Hart Seed Co. and hopped onto I-91 north, exited left into downtown Hartford, navigated a wonderful traffic circle (because it was Sunday and there was no one else around), and a couple of turns later I had arrived.

Billings Forge Community Works in Frog Hollow, Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works in the Frog Hollow neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works is a non-profit community center in the Frog Hollow neighborhood less than a mile from Connecticut’s capitol building. It is described as “a driving force for community participation and empowerment in Frog Hollow through promoting access to healthy food; engaging youth; and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises.”

The Kitchen at Billings Forge:  Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

The Kitchen at Billings Forge: Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

Everything was closed; when I tried to enter the Fire Box farm to table restaurant I found the door locked. A lovely young lady invited me in even though they were not open yet. She allowed me to ask her questions about the farmer’s market (it is open on Thursdays), about the restaurant (she gave me all four of their menus to take with me), and about the housing located in the complex (non-profit, mixed income housing). I shall be returning on a Thursday soon and will try to visit in the warm months so I can learn about the community garden which I did not see on this trip. Food deserts are common in urban communities, so it does my heart good to see an organization like the Billings Forge Community Works thriving in a community where the median income is just over $17k and the majority of children come from single-parent families.

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer's market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer’s market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Fire Box restaurant, at first glance, doesn’t seem to belong in this humble neighborhood. Fire Box employs local residents (according to their website) and provides a menu filled with classically-prepared foods with the philosophy “that the best food travels the shortest distance from farm to table.” Not only is the food sourced locally but the menus reflect the seasonal nature of fine New England dining. Having a business such as Fire Box Restaurant in a poorer neighborhood can provide economic stimulus for that neighborhood. I can certainly attest to the friendliness of the staff, and the parking lot was filling up for Sunday Brunch as I took photographs of the complex. I’m pretty sure most of the Frog Hollow residents cannot afford to order their $9 Disco Fries, though. My 20-year-old wants the Cato Corner Cheese Plate, a “selection of artisanal raw cow’s milk cheeses.” The brunch menu starts at $6 and offers items up to $16 for an organic chicken pot pie. The dinner menu starts with First Course offerings such as Market Salad for $11 and Main Course offerings such as Arctic Char (sustainably raised in Canada) for $26 and New York Strip (Painted Hills, Oregon) for $35. I would suggest that Fire Box consider offering grass-fed beef from Connecticut instead of bringing meat all the way from the west coast. The Calamari does come from Rhode Island and certainly qualifies as local. I love how the menu items include a little snippet describing where the main ingredient(s) come from.

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

I thoroughly enjoyed my explore today. I hope you get to see something new and wonderful today. Happy Exploring!

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My summer fantasy — dreaming amidst the snow

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If I could do anything I wanted, and had all the money I needed, what would I do?

Hit the road, go exploring

Hit the road, go exploring


I would buy a smallish medium-sized RV, pack up some of my sewing stuff including at least two portable sewing machines, one electric and one hand cranked, my knitting supplies, my laptop, my Kindle, my cameras and gear, my kitty Boots, and my boys. I would head out across the country, from the east coast to the west. I would tow a compact car such as a Honda Civic (or something comparable), our bicycles, hiking gear, and anything else we might need to go exploring. I would spend at least two months driving back roads while exploring our beautiful land, meeting its amazing people, and capturing it all with my camera and laptop.

I would photograph, write, knit, and sew, but only if and when I felt like it. I would eat simple foods, do lots of grilling, and I would coordinate our trip so that I could stop at a farmer’s market each weekend for fresh, organic produce. I would enjoy a glass of wine with every dinner (because I can afford wine in my fantasy), or a delicious beer or ale (because I can afford beer and ale).

Near the end of the summer I would head south and land in the Texas Hill Country to stay. I would park my RV in my mom’s driveway until I could find a place of my own, hopefully a piece of land where I could garden and keep some livestock.

And I would continue my education. And I would continue writing. And I would be content knowing that my kids and I had seen a part of the US we hadn’t seen before. If I could do anything I wanted, and had all the money I needed, this is what I would do. What would you do?