On the Boardwalk!

Taking a year off from work, we are truck camping around the USA! One of our first stops to test our self-designed truck camper was the famous New Jersey Boardwalk! All we had previously seen in New Jersey was the turnpike traveling through. So, on the way back to Florida from visiting relatives in Massachusetts, we ventured off the turnpike and headed east on route 33 to go experience what those songs on the boardwalk are singing about! We took an exit about dusk and headed east on route 33. After dark we arrived in Neptune, NJ which is about halfway down a beach that runs 141 miles from New Brunswick in the north to Cape May Point, in the south. Advice from some former Jersey natives via cell phone said this area might be to our liking, and safer for truck camping than more populated and rowdier neighborhoods of Atlantic City to the south.
Even at night, off season, the boardwalk is impressive. Each picturesque house is adorned with lights and accoutrements that beckon you to rent them for the season! We took a stroll along the boardwalk at about 9:30 pm, saying hello to a few others braving the cooling night air to walk their dogs or exercise. Then, for an hour we drove up and down the coast from Asbury Park to Belmar and back gawking at three story summer rentals with architecture ranging from Romanesque to Storybook and peering into the flickering windows of permanent residents still up watching an evening show.

Jersey Boardwalk 3Jersey Boardwalk 4
Parking is unlimited in off season, but we were careful to read the signs. By 11pm we were tired and chose a house with vacant windows and a big rental sign to park in front of, just across the street from the official boardwalk. The boardwalk side demands front-in-diagonal-parking, and since our truck tailgate is our front door, we chose to parallel park on the opposite side of the street rather than have our door out into traffic. The temperature was a mild 59 degrees, just perfect for sleeping. Our set-up takes less than two minutes. We stand on the tailgate, raise the hinged roof of our cap, pop in a triangle-shaped foam panel on each side, and presto-chango, our inconspicuous looking truck cap becomes an attic-shaped bedroom, complete with a bed already made, a camping toilet and a tiny kitchen. We even have solar lamps. All this  in one parking space!                    Jersey Boardwalk 2
By 11:05 pm we were snuggled into our comfy bed, being lulled to sleep by the peaceful sound of the waves lapping onto the sand. Around 2:00 AM, the gentle sounds started to change. The breeze slightly rustling our curtain window, turned into a steady wind and the temperature began to drop. The foam side panels rattled slightly in their grooves. We huddled together in our warm blankets and drifted back to sleep.
By 5:00 AM we really came to understand why March is considered off season at the Jersey shore and why our camper is best for fair weather camping. The temperature had dropped to 34 degrees, our curtain window danced like a tattered rag from it’s attachment to the raised cap, and the foam panels had developed a peculiar whistling sound as they expanded and contracted with each 15 mph frigid gust.
Suddenly, one foam panel was ripped from it’s grooves and all the frigid Atlantic air came pouring into our cozy space! Fortunately my husband caught the panel before it went flying down the boardwalk like a kite. We were out of the bed like a flash. Shoeless, jacket-less, laughing, and shivering, we closed up our little room and ran for the heated shelter of the truck cab. We left the seashore to visit the local Dunkin Donuts, then returned with our hot coffee in time to watch a beautiful sunrise!

NJ SunriseNJ Boardwalk Guard
We will always remember what happened on the boardwalk! Maybe we’ll even write a song about it!

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Weebles Wobble, but We Don’t Fall Down

That old commercial. “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down” used to tickle me. My toddlers played with them. I never imagined that I would become one. It is nearly as painful to admit verbally as it has been to experience physically that I started 2016 as a Weeble.

In 2015 I had a desk job.  It doesn’t matter if you are good at your work, if you love your co-workers, if you believe in the ‘product’ – sitting at a desk for the majority of your day and staring at a computer screen is NOT good for your health.  It does NOT help a person thrive physically.

So, although 2015 was actually a wonderful year in many ways, – lucrative, intellectually challenging, filled with friends, family and some travel – it was not a healthful year. Therefore, my husband and I decided that in 2016 we would make health a priority. Because after all, if you haven’t got your health….

We wanted to throw ourselves into a program, but we couldn’t! We have always loved sports, especially tennis, racquetball, and biking! Our bodies, however, were in protest mode!  My left knee totally vetoed the fast twisting motions required by tennis and racquetball!  My husband’s job required a lot of heavy lifting and repetitive motions, so by the end of a day his sore muscles and bruised ligaments screamed, “Enough already!”

So, in the beginning we just limped to the stop sign at the end of our street and back – 2/10 of a mile! We looked like Grandpa and Grandma Weeble. We rocked side to side, hanging onto each others arms. We barely made it back, crawled up the three stairs to our front door and went in to take a nap.

Each day we committed to going a little farther! Around day 4 we drove to a trail and walked 4 miles. It took about 4 hours! That’s a pretty slow pace when you consider some people have broken a 4 minute mile!  We drove home and it took nearly as long to get out of the car and crawl into the house. Yet, we challenged each other to continue. Sometimes there was a pain in my heel that would not go away until we were two miles into the walk!  Another time we walked the last two miles in the rain!

I am thrilled to tell you that WALKING WORKS! Simply walking. Just putting one foot in front of the other. Just moving forward! We are just 12 days into our commitment, but we already feel things changing.  We have not lost all the weight we need to lose. We have not been perfect on our raw-food-only eating plan. We have not done stretching exercises or yoga.(yet)  We even took one day off from our commitment to walk while we re-tiled our kitchen counter.

This morning, on our 3 mile neighborhood walk, we noticed that we aren’t wobbling as much!  We are walking a little more like humans. Instead of the side to side motion, we are standing straighter and moving forward, so our pace is a bit faster.  Pain has noticeably decreased.  The knee twinges less.  The heel stops pulling after only a half a mile.  My husband is 10 pounds lighter – me only 5. Yet, any improvement is significant improvement and we are encouraged!

 

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Changes are coming!

Can you feel the excitement?  Changes are coming?

After my last post, our lovely intern went to work for Trades of Hope .I stopped blogging and spent the year untangling and repairing the mess that happens when someone embezzles from a clinic. My husband spent the year being asked to oversee larger and more complicated projects. We were glad to do these jobs, and they added to our financial security, but they consumed all our time.

Finally, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s take a year off!”

Wow! Is that possible?  Can we live for a year unemployed?  Will we have trouble finding work in 2017? Will we be desperate to find work half way through 2016 because we have depleted our savings?  Let’s find out!  We have decided that we don’t want to wait until retirement to attack our bucket list, or even to formulate a bucket list. We have a measure of success we want to achieve. Success for us means free time!

Time to sit and chat with friends.  Time to tickle the grandchildren and count to 100 for hide and seek.  Time to read a book. Time to lay in the sun. Time to garden. Time to learn a new skill – like a language or an instrument.  Time to experiment!  Time to clean up the messes from our experiments!  Time to try some of those Pinterest things on our boards!

So, we are cleaning up our area.  In October I finished at the clinic.  My husband is hopeful that his current project will wrap up right before Christmas. Then we will agree to only those commitments that intrigue us (like helping his sister assemble her kit house in the mountains in May) and not obligate us for longer than a two-week period.

We are leaving our jobs and closing down our non-profit.  Just like any great novel, you have to close the page on the last chapter before you open the first page on the next one!

Yes, we do have some savings. Since we live simply, I was able to put away my earnings in preparation for gas money and those payments you can’t get away without, like car insurance and phone bills. In fact, I thought I had more than enough for rustic camping (remember I am the planner in the family) but then we got a roof leak! Since my husband was so busy on other jobs, we hired a company to do our roof. They were done in three days – at three times the price of what my husband could have done if he had the time. And, it wiped our most of our savings!

So, we can cry in our milk, or we can say, “Let’s go for it anyway!”

Here are some links to people who inspire us:

Homegrown Revolution

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

RobGreenfield.TV 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interns Are Wonderful!

This summer we have hired an intern/executive assistant/Gal Friday! I highly recommend this idea. We have bartered room and board for a multitude of necessary services! Our wonderful intern, Julie, even prepares vegan and raw recipes! She graciously credits me with introducing her to raw cuisine – but she has taken it to an art form! In addition to this invaluable talent, she also has a degree in Fine Arts with a specialty in using natural and recycled resources to create beautiful items – from jewelry to woven accessories to display installations. So, we are already brainstorming new recipes to help our journey to health as we also brainstorm products to give some of our new artisans at Trades of Hope a jump start in their businesses!
This week we have been treated to raw cheeses, raw tacos (complete with ‘meat’ filling and ‘sour cream’, apple ravioli among other delicacies! She has enjoyed Daytona Beach and our many farmers markets and the produce growing from our tower garden! I believe we are going to have a blessed and super productive summer!

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You would look more successful if……

I recently had someone tell me that I would look more successful if I bought a new car. I managed to listen politely without losing my cool. I wanted the person to feel valued and heard. I also wanted time  to consider if the point they were making was a valid one.

For the past thirty years I have led a very public life, from traveling abroad as a missionary, to being a speaker, author, blogger and recently Executive Director for Trades of Hope. So, I have served in a variety of forums that each have a set of expectations for me.

That is not a negative or inappropriate situation. We all grow up learning to evaluate the expectations of others. Mothers want us to keep our room clean, teachers want us to pass in our homework assignments on time, bosses want us to show up for work. Whenever you apply for a job or volunteer to represent a group of people, you should always do that to the best of your ability. At certain points, however, you have a responsibility to yourself and to the greater society to reject expectations that are unrealistic or irrelevant.

What I found myself objecting to in my friend’s remark was the concept of success that was inferred.  You would look more successful if…..  Well, what look are we comparing ourselves to? If we take the media as our guide the list of my necessary improvements could become very long. I would look more successful if I bought a new car, lived in a bigger house, purchased a new wardrobe, lost weight, got a face-lift, flew only business class, used a certain credit card, etc. etc.

What is success?  I’m a goal-oriented person and I know that I get a special sense of elation when I finish a project, or accomplish a task.  My husband is a process-person, he likes to have fun along the way, while he is doing something. So, together our measure of success is to accomplish our goals and enjoy the process. Actually, we think we are pretty successful. We have not reached all our goals – yet – but we are enjoying the process. When we accomplish the ones still in front of us, we will inevitably set new goals. That is the joy of life – creatively setting new goals or even changing goals if we want.

So, back to the new car. I realized that my friend was measuring my success according to his standard. People have a tendency to do that. I once read that Warren Buffet, despite being one of the richest people on the planet, lives a life of ordinary frugality. Maybe he even drives an older model car. I wonder if people are foolish enough to make the mistake of judging his ability to do his job based on his automobile or wardrobe choices.

I cannot fault my friend’s standard. It just doesn’t apply to me. Although I know I might look fabulous in a new car, the car I own right now meets all my expectations. It faithfully gets me from point A to point B in safety and comfort. The car does not speak for me or write my books. Neither does it host a TOH party or appear anywhere on my resume.

So, I think I will just wait to buy a car, or a new wardrobe, or a bigger house when and if I decide I need one and choose to make that one of my goals.

If you have someone in your life who challenges your definition of success, remember that only you can determine your success. Their standard may simply not apply to you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you or should you trust a person over the internet?

You probably should not write a post when you are disgruntled, but writing is cathartic and therapeutic, so I’m going for it! And the person I am writing about will understand this since he claims to be a writer, too. He also says that writing keeps him out of jail, distracting him from a variety of other unhealthy choices that men of lesser character in his circumstances use to find their daily bread.

I was babysitting yesterday, doing a lot of rocking and cooing with a three-month old. I love it, but when she is sleeping, which is often, I had a documentary going in the background. It was about the privacy we are all losing because of social media. That is not the direct cause of my mood at the moment, but it is connected so bear with me.

In all honesty, I bounce back and forth between feeling like I should protect my right to privacy and wondering if we would all be better people if the lack of privacy acted as a protective governor on our craziness. Not that I think a Big Brother, the church or the government should dictate how to behave, more in the way of allowing our own conscious to be visible to anyone at any time without any dark corners to be pulled into and talked out of being the best we can be. Perhaps if we learned from a very young age that our actions can have lasting repercussions on others around the world we would make more loving and purposeful choices.  Too often, however, we don’t learn these important lessons until we are caught, by parents or teachers or some significant other person and our impact is pointed out to us in a disciplinary fashion.

We all know the truth of verses like Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and John 8:7 where Jesus says, “let any of you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.” Most of us can look in the mirror and see both our inner and outer flaws and imperfections. Sometimes, however, if another person could really look at the heart (like God can – I Sam 16:7) what looks like a bad choice may actually have been the best and most loving choice in the situation.

So, back to the point. Why am I disgruntled? I am trying to decide if I have been played for a fool. I cannot see into another person’s heart or read their motives without conjecture. I never want to write (I didn’t intend the pun – but it fits) anyone off, but I also don’t want to waste my time or resources.

Some years ago I went on a missions trip to Haiti. I was assigned a task to clean up an old desk in an office as part of a renovation. Simple enough. I was also given a helper, a young Haitian lad named G. He was fifteen or sixteen at the time. He’s now twenty-two.

Unfortunately, as happens in many orphanage and mission settings, locals often adopt an American.  People in poor settings learn to become survival savvy. Children can perfect this art. By pecking order and other mutual agreement, the children in an economically distraught situation will divide the rich visitors among themselves to be their special friend for the duration of their missionary stay. The hope is that whatever material wealth is possessed by the visitor will be bestowed on the child at the end of the stay.

This is not anyone’s fault. The children (sometimes all the way to adulthood) have not been taught any different. Even if they are instructed not to ask for things, they can see immediately by a myriad of different signs that the visitors come from a land of plenty. The visitors, for their part, are often in shock at their first glimpse of true poverty. Overwhelmed by the sheer inequality of life, I have watched grown adults peel off their watches and leave their backpacks, clothing and new tennis shoes as a sign of friendship and solidarity. So, this weird relationship of taking and giving is created.

Having already worked in many impoverished countries, I had long since learned not to buy new clothing for a missions trip and just bring my normal stuff, which is not what anyone here in the States would call ritzy. I think there is a tendency for people to buy new clothes or shoes because our mothers drilled into us that when we are going on a trip, we should look our best and have clean or new clothing. A missions trip should be different, but often people still succumb to those old maxims. Packing my worn (and often favorite) clothing is my miniscule attempt to not make the disparity in economics looks even greater than it truly is by showing up in brand new clothing. Point of fact is that even the poorest of Americans is wealthy in comparison to most of the world. Another point of fact is that most Americans do not walk around in brand new white tennis shoes every day.

G could probably tell by my clothing and lack of luggage that his prospects were limited. He also was not your typical mission compound child. His mother was employed by the organization and he attended school outside the orphanage. We talked in his limited English and my non-existent Creole as we worked together. He stayed in the room, but not always with the task. He was chatty and knew who to ask or how to find the tools I needed to scrape and sand the desk. That was all. He shadowed me around the compound. He asked about my family. I showed him pictures. I never gave him money or gifts. I did give him my email and FB information.

G sends me FB texts almost everyday. He is persistent, relentless. He tells about his mother, his siblings. Sometimes they are sick. Life is not easy in Haiti. His opportunities are limited.He tells me I do not understand. He asks for money. He tells me I can send it Western Union. I do not. I tell him it is inappropriate to ask. I correct his English and tell him he should call me Mrs. M and not Mom. I tell him that he should help his mother around the house and do well in school.

At seventeen he complains that he has to get up before dawn to go to school. He says that often he goes all day without eating. I wonder how and where he gets the money to be on the internet. He tells me friends help him.  I tell him to be grateful for the opportunity to have an education and to work hard at his studies.

When he is eighteen, G says there is no money to continue school. Please can I help. I am going on a mission to Port au Prince. It is far from where he lives, but if he can get there, my husband and I will give him the money for school. He gets there. I am uncomfortable to have this large young man putting his arms around my shoulders for photos. My husband is there, so I hope for his confirmation or hesitation. He doesn’t know. We give him the funds for school. He uses some funds (did he have any previously?) to buy new clothes (to make you proud, Mom) and souvenir gifts for my family.

Now it is a year later. he still has not finished school. Even as I write this I am feeling like a naive idiot. And I shouldn’t be, I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and consider myself a good judge of character. G is hard to read. Life in Haiti is difficult. Opportunities for young men without education are limited. These things are true.

I have given him very little despite his dogged persistent over the past seven years. He is clingy and immature, even on social media. Our longest communications have been on FB. So, how can I even make a decision? Do I continue to dialog with this individual? Do I ignore the little notice jingle and move on to other business at hand as if he is not a human being living in a very difficult place reaching out for hope? Does he really want to be a writer? Or has he insidiously leaned how to read off of other people’s FB pages what their interests are and then try to use that as an emotional opening?

I am physically safe from this individual many plane hours away. How do we use social media, allowing ourselves to be public and vulnerable, and remain emotionally safe? How do we tell the difference between being emotionally safe and not wanting to take on added responsibility? Right now I don’t have answers. I just keep coming up with more questions.

Comments welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Northeast!

It is a joy to visit “home” again here in the northeast. It is an eye opener this time of year. The winter is over, but the aftermath of winter is still visible all around. The paint on the buildings and the shingles on the roofs look beaten up by the harsh weather. Lawn furniture, tools, doghouses and other yard “debris” is visible as the soft blanket of snow is removed. Like a child who was hiding under the covers, it emerges, smiling. with mussed hair.
Mud is everywhere. The ground is thawed and people do the little dance of banging off their muddy shoes inside the door. We still hurry to shut the doors because the air is too chilly  to dawdle. Wood stoves billow out a toasty welcome. Kitchens are the hub of activity, where food, conversation and fellowship stays warm.
I understand my love affair with food here. Coffee and warm breads invite people out of the cold. Portuguese sweet bread isn’t part of my menu in the south. Seafood! New England seafood! I’ll never relate to anyone who doesn’t love full-bellied fried clams, lobster or fish and chips! Those are forever part of my childhood, even as I try to eliminate them from my adulthood!
My memories of New England are tied with the smells and tastes here. And it’s all good! Yet, there is a time to put away childish things. I know I should eat for my health! And I will! Right after this trip!

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Women Helping Women in Costa Rica

I recently returned from Costa Rica. What a wonderful trip with my sister, Holly! I am sitting here in amazement, still pinching myself that it really happened as it did!
If you had told us when we were kids that we would one day travel to impoverished destinations together to help create jobs; I am sure that neither of us could have even imagined such a thing!

Yet, that is the reason we were there! Holly is one of the co-founders of Trades of Hope, a company created so women can help women. They reach out to give women in poverty a chance to become entrepreneurs and create sustainable business. If you have not yet heard of this incredible company, please read their story! Here is the link, www.mytradesofhope.com/MelodyMonk.

It is a heart-warming and phenomenal concept that is truly helping women around the world. I have the privilege of seeing lives change first-hand! The company has grown to over 600 women in three years! It is a vehicle for change that I believe is unprecedented.

I have worked with those in poverty for many years as a missionary – looking for, testing and teaching many types of self-sustaining opportunities. My husband and I have taught English and computer skills, introduced fish farming and hydroponics, helped create vertical gardening systems, instructed regarding solar and wind power and even supplied small machinery for local commerce.

Trades of Hope, however, enables us to take a critical step further. It is one thing to encourage people to think as entrepreneurs and establish a home or community business. It is another step forward to help ensure that the business has a market to sustain its viability. Trades of Hope is unique in that it has a mission to not only enable women in poverty to make quality products, but to function as a mass marketing engine for the products made.

I cannot speak more highly for the founders and the heart they share to make this concept be a win-win-win for all concerned. Their home party business model pays the artisans first, then inspires a paid army of women around the U.S. to inform people about the artisans’ needs and sell the products.

They also give more through a program called Gifts of Hope with which they even supply the first step for women trying to support themselves. Gifts of Hope has funded the tools necessary to begin a business. They have purchased materials from cloth to sewing machines, to goats, piglets or chickens to help women be self-sustaining.

As we were in Costa Rica, working with nationals who reach out to children in need in a very poor community; I was overjoyed to know this ministry will not only continue, but five other women in the neighborhood received employment. As those women received their first paychecks, three more came to the door and inquired about work. As orders grow, so does their opportunity. There is potential to change the entire community and inspire the next generation to greater creativity and hope.

As we market their products, I feel a great deal of responsibility to help those women keep working, but it is also an easy privilege for me to tell their story (what they do for the children is remarkable) and show their beautiful creations. They are also learning Business 101, Product Design, Marketing and anything else we can help them learn! And, they are free to take all of their newly acquired knowledge and expand well beyond Trades of Hope.

As we were planning this trip, Holly created new title for me – Job Creation Specialist for Trades of Hope. So, just like when we were children, dreaming up careers, playing grown-up, feeding and caring for all around us (both real and imaginary) – we get to do it now for real! What an awesome job! I hope we get to play this game for many years to come!

What is really great is that everyone who wants to play can join the game! It’s unlimited!

 

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Cruising!

My husband and I just took our first cruise. It was a cruise I “won” by taking a survey over the phone two years ago! I only had to pay the tax at the time and could use it within three years providing I book my dates 60 days ahead. So, knowing that I wanted to surprise him for his birthday, I called 60 days in advance.
I have to admit I was a bit afraid when I heard ours was an inner cabin with bunk beds! We were delighted to find that the lower bunk was a double bed and we didn’t need the upper bunk at all. Although the cabin was small, it had everything you needed to be comfortable, a bathroom/shower room and television and phone for 24 hr. room service!
However, there is so much to see and do on the ship that you really don’t spend much time in the cabin, and so much food that room service was not something we used either.
We just had a 3 day/2night cruise that left West Palm harbor at 6pm., docked in Freeport, Bahamas at 8am and then left to return that night at 6pm.
In Freeport, we opted to pay for a guided excursion ($73 each) that provided all our needs; transportation, a ride on a glass bottom boat, lunch and swimming at the Grand Lacaya Resort, and time for shopping. It may have been less expensive to try to do those things ourselves, but with it being our first time, the peace of mind was well worth the extra $20 – $40 we may have saved.
We attended the shows on board the ship and participated in several of the game activities. The shows included a comedian, a singer, and an act by an amazing gymnast. We also met some very nice couples when we dined.  All in all, we were very pleased that we finally took a cruise.
As far as eating raw – well it’s possible if you want to and can resist the lavish buffets! They had plenty of fresh fruit available and salads. We didn’t confine ourselves to that – enough said – but it was all good!

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I love my food processor to make raw grated carrot salad.

When we lived in Moscow, Russia we used to buy a carrot salad that was sold in the marketplace. It came in a long tube shaped plastic bag and was like a Moroccan recipe, a little on the hot and spicy side.

In my effort to add more raw recipes to my life, I attempted to recreate this salad. It came out pretty good, so I thought I’d share here.

I ran about a pound (8-10) carrot through the food processor using the “grating” blade. It took less than a minute. I did peel them first and chop the ends off which may not be entirely necessary, but that’s what I did.

So, now you have a bowl of raw grated carrot. (Maybe you could even use the carrot pulp after juicing – but i have not tried this yet) You could use a hand grater, but the processor is obviously faster – and I really like fast and easy in the kitchen!

Then I added a 1/2 to one cup of raisins.

I stirred in 1/8 cup of olive oil.

I also added Bragg liquid aminos (maybe an eighth of a cup – I dribbled it over the salad in the bowl, so it’s according to taste. Add a little and try it, then add more if you want a stronger flavor.

I also added Mild curry seasoning – about 2 tsp.

Then I used 1tsp Garam Masala.

That was it! It made a great salad and we enjoyed it.  You could also throw in chopped walnuts or almonds, maybe sunflower seeds.

It worked great as an addition to the lunch box for work, too.

 

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