New Life!

And so it happened!  The day finally came; my last day of work was Tuesday.  Today is my second day among the ranks of the (intentionally) unemployed!  I’m not quite there yet with the whole relaxation gig; I’m still not sleeping very well and am still worrying about work stuff.  That just how it goes for me… 

I tried my best to do what I could before my last day, but there are always things that are left undone.  It felt rushed from a work perspective, trying to hand things off, but I don’t think that could be helped.  I will say that I have rarely felt such love and appreciation from my colleagues when leaving a job.  I got so many hugs, and an appreciation lunch, and a few kind gifts, and so many kind words from those who were sorry to see me go, but understood and supported my decision.  That felt really good.  And they more than made up for the fact that my boss didn’t even say goodbye.  Not that I was surprised by that – it just reiterated why I made the decision to leave.

I am leaving for a camping trip, but got a little bit delayed because Jesus is looking out for me!  In late June I had an MRI for some weird symptoms (loss of speech) which are probably associated with migraines but who knows.  The MRI revealed three small most likely benign brain tumors, so I was scheduled for a neurology consult.  The appointment wasn’t until the end of October!  So I’ve been on a cancellation list, because I was hoping to get in before I lose my current insurance at the end of September.  I’ve gotten a few calls where I couldn’t take the call fast enough, or it was an appointment time I couldn’t take.  And I got the call again this morning, just before I left town; they can get me in today at 1:40! 

So fingers crossed that my family doctor is right, and it is just a weird and rare symptom of my migraines.  And I can head down to the coast and brave the traffic for a few days of agate hunting, relaxing, and letting the “stink blow off of me,” as the old saying goes…  I’ll keep you posted! 

May you all find blessings today.  Happy First Day of Fall!


Welcome 47!

Yesterday was my birthday!  It was memorable, but probably not in a way that you would expect.

I had a dentist appointment in the morning; a deep clean with numbing gel and novocaine.  Ouch…  AND!  I get to go back again!  Whee!!!

Then I headed into work for a whirlwind day.  Lunch with a friend – that was good!  

Then I finished out the day with a board meeting at 5 pm; that lasted FOUR hours…  The meeting ended just after 9 pm.  I had a few things left to do so I headed home at 9:30.  With stopping for a bite to eat and then stopping for gas, I finally arrived home after 11 pm.  To discover that I didn’t have my phone. 

I still can’t find it.  After looking around in the car, going through the garbage, heading back to the gas station to see if I left it… Nothing…  I really felt like I had it in my car, but I’m really hoping I’ll find it in my office tomorrow morning.  Fingers crossed…  I finally tumbled into bed at 12:30 am, and couldn’t sleep.  It was probably close to 1:30 am by the time I fell asleep.  What an awesome birthday, right?!?

But it does get better.  Because remember I said I had a few things to do after my board meeting ended? Well…  I quit my job!  Yep!  I submitted my resignation, and I’ll be done in a couple of weeks.  It’s exciting and scary and I’m sad for all the great people I’m leaving behind.  But I’m ready for new beginnings.

Onward to something new!

Book Review: The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

Elizabeth Hadley Richardson was the first wife of author Ernest Hemingway; they married in 1921, after meeting in Chicago.  This historical novel tells her story, the fictionalized account of Ernest and Hadley’s time in Paris during the 1920s.

The Paris Wife

I knew nothing about Hadley Hemingway, but was drawn into the narrative as told by Paula McLain.  Their marriage was tumultuous, with all the usual troubles of newlyweds, including money troubles and issues associated with finding your own way in the world.  Hemingway was a heavy drinker, and the two regularly drank and fought.  Hadley struggled to find her way in a marriage where she felt overshadowed by Hemingway’s larger than life personality. 

The novel details the period when Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises, arguably his most famous novel.  The couple traveled to Pamplona, Spain several times, while he is researching and writing the book.

The two genuinely loved each other, but this novel explores the very real problem of love not being enough. 

I appreciated McLain’s writing style, and the fact that while fiction, she adhered to what is known about Hadley and her marriage to Hemingway.  I was drawn into her life, the trials she faced, and her strength in adversity.

Note: A Moveable Feast, a memoir of Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920s, chronicles the period when he was married to Hadley Richardson, and she was included in the book.  It was published posthumously in 1964, by Hemingway’s fourth wife Mary.  I might have to dig up a copy!

5 stars.


Circus Trip 2018: Harry S Truman NHS

Day 75, Friday, September 28, 2018
Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Independence, Missouri

After camping in a small, family owned campground called Hanson Hills (they also do taxidermy!) somewhere between St. Louis and Independence, Missouri, I drove for a few hours across the state.  I was doing a bit of a quick reset through the Midwest so I could get to the West, where I wanted to spend more time.  It meant I had to make some sacrifices!

I ended up in Independence, Missouri at about 12:30 pm, and immediately headed to the Visitor Center at the Harry S Truman National Historic Site.  I signed up for the 1 pm tour of Truman’s Home.

The Truman home is a large, white Queen-Anne Victorian style home that was built by Bess Truman’s grandfather in 1867.  He ran a successful lumber business, so no expense was spared in making the home a showpiece.  It is pretty!

The Trumans were a close knit family, with their daughter Margaret continuing to travel with the Trumans on the campaign trail and spending time at the White House into adulthood.  They enjoyed music, with Harry Truman playing the piano, and Margaret accompanying as a classically trained soprano.

My tour was interesting.  After Harry Truman died in 1972, his wife Bess continued to live in the home until her death in 1982.  She donated the home to the National Park Service at that time, along with all the furnishings and personal items in the home.  The piano and music that Truman loved to play is there.  So is the calendar that Bess had hanging on the wall in the kitchen from the year she died.  The damaged linoleum floor is even original.

Sadly, the tour only includes the first floor of the home, as the second floor is unstable and unsafe for visitors.  You also can’t take photos inside the home…

The last car that Harry owned is in the garage; a 1972 Chrysler Newport.  He only had it for 6 months before he passed away, and then his wife used it until she died.  Even still, it only has 19,000 miles.  The license plate, 5745, was specially requested by Truman, as it commemorates VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe.  It was also a day before his birthday.  The license plate number has been permanently retired.

The historic site also includes other homes in the neighborhood that are open to the public on a self-guided tour, and I checked those out as well.  The Noland, Frank Wallace and George Wallace homes are there; the Nolands were Truman’s cousins and the Wallaces were his brother-in-laws.  It isn’t common anymore for the relatives to all live so close!  They are all much more simple than the Truman home but interesting to see.

I took a walk around the block and checked out some of the other homes in the neighborhood.  It seemed like a nice place to live!  I also saw a mule drawn wagon ride go by with some late season tourists having a good time.  I would also really love to visit the Jackson County Historical Society and their 1859 preserved County Jail.  It looked so cool!

I drove by the Harry Truman Library but decided not to stop, as the price was a bit steep for a quick stopover.  Truman and Bess are buried there, but their graves are inside the museum, so I’ll have to check that out on a return visit.  The ranger had recommended A Little BBQ Joint for good Kansas City style BBQ, so I stopped in there for a late lunch.  I had the combo sandwich with pulled pork and brisket, and it was so delicious!  They had three levels of kick in their sauce; I tried the Sweet Sister and the Mad Housewife.  I also got some ribs to go for the next day.

When I left, I decided to check out the Truman Farm.  Truman moved in with his family on this farm in 1906, giving up a hefty bank salary ($100 per month) to do it.  He lived with his parents, grandmother, sister, brother, and hired hands.  The farmhouse had no plumbing or electricity.  He spent eleven years doing heavy physical labor around the farm, until he left to join the military in 1917, to serve in World War I.  The day I visited, the farm wasn’t open, so I just spent a few minutes outside, taking photos and checking out the place.  I always find it so fascinating to stand where Presidents stood.

Although it was time to get back on the road, there was a lot to see in Independence and I would like to return!



Happy Birthday Dad

Today is the fourth birthday since we lost my Dad.  I miss him. 

Dad and me in Michigan

Today I’m having a quiet day after being rather social this week.  Thursday night I went to a Blues, Brews, BBQ with some friends.  I’m not sure why it was named that because the music, while good, was an 80s cover band and not blues music.  And while they served beer at the bar, there wasn’t anything particularly brewsy.  There was BBQ there though, and it was good!  It was more extroverting than I have done in a long while, running into a few people I’ve met and worked with over the years. 

Last night I went for happy hour and dinner with some girlfriends, which was fun!  In true me fashion, afterwards I went to the book store and spent the last of my gift card on a Presidential history book and was home by 7.  And falling asleep before 9:30.  What can I say.

Later today, I’m getting together with a friend to go rock hounding at a nearby state park.  Hopefully I find some good ones!

Work has been rough lately.  It is not bringing me joy and the things that could turn it around are out of my control.  I’m biding my time, because big changes are coming, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is draining…  I’m exhausted.  I wish I had Dad to talk to about this stuff, as he usually had pretty good advice.  

“Speak, even when your voice shakes.”  That moment is coming soon.

Book Review: Inferno

Inferno, by Dan Brown

You probably know author Dan Brown, and his main character Professor Robert Langdon from the well known book and movie, the DaVinci Code.  Langdon makes his return in this fast paced adventure novel, featuring more mystery and symbols to decode.

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

Langdon wakes up in the hospital, not understanding where he is or what has happened for the last 36 hours.  He soon learns that someone is trying to kill him, and flees, with the assistance of the doctor who has been treating him in the hospital.  

He discovers he is Italy, and he begins the slow, erratic process of piecing together the story of where he’s been and what he’s been up to.  That is, in between dodging a well-armed and mysterious militia, and a solitary hitman (albeit a woman).  He knows he can’t get caught before he puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but what is it that he’s looking for?  

Langdon uses his talents to read the symbols, and learn what threat is facing the entire world.  Similar to his other novels, Brown weaves history into the story, with a plenty of historic sites and their stories woven in.  And let me just say, after COVID, this story hit a bit close to home…

And with other Dan Brown novels, this thriller has many twists and turns.  You never quite know where you are heading next!  

4 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Ulysses S. Grant NHS

Day 74, Thursday, September 27, 2018
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, Missouri

Just outside St. Louis, Missouri is the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.  This site, with its home called White Haven has a long history associated with President Ulysses S. Grant.

The home was built in 1808 (other sources say between 1812 and 1816), and the property was purchased in 1821 by Frederick Dent, who eventually became Ulysses S. Grant’s father-in-law. Dent built White Haven up as a fairly large plantation; it had 850 acres and grew wheat, oats, corn, potatoes and hay.  They also had several varieties of orchard fruits, including peaches, apples, plums, apricots, nectarines and grapes.  There were still extensive forests too.

Grant met his wife Julia in 1843, when he visited White Haven to visit his friend and classmate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who happened to be Julia’s brother Fred.  At the time, Grant was stationed in the Army at Jefferson Barracks, only five miles south of White Haven.  The two fell in love and eventually married in 1848.  Although Grant struggled with the launch of his career and tried his hand at a number of failed ventures, the marriage was a happy one.  Grant spent long periods of time away from Julia in their early marriage, when he went out West for his Army career.  Julia stayed at White Haven with her family.

Grant suffered from a depressive episode and quit the Army and returned to White Haven from the West Coast in 1854.  Between 1854 and 1859, he lived with Julia and the Dent family at White Haven, while farming, serving as an engineer, and dabbling in real estate in St. Louis.  By all accounts, he was not a particularly successful man at this time.  He did build Hardscrabble, a log cabin on the property with a name that was intentionally chosen to poke fun at the difficulty of their life then.  In 1859, the Grants moved to St. Louis for a short period and then to Galena, Illinois for Grant to go into business with his brothers.

They never again lived at White Haven, but continued to own the property until shortly before Grant’s death.  White Haven served as the home for the Dent and Grant families until 1885 (some sources say 1881), when Grant used it to pay off a debt to William Henry Vanderbilt.

What a fabulous place!  This home was acquired by the National Park Service relatively late in the game; it became a National Historic Site in 1989.  Thankfully, it was saved from becoming an amusement park in the early 1900s.  Hardscrabble was acquired by the Busch family and became a part of the nearby Grant’s Farm theme park; I’ll have to go visit it sometime.

Today White Haven is in much the same condition as it was then; although an attached kitchen was added later by a caretaker of the property.  A summer kitchen remains, which may have also been slave quarters, along with an ice house, chicken house, and a barn that was built in the 1870s.  All are open to visit or peek into, and there are exhibits about Grant’s life and the Dent’s life on the plantation.

The exhibits don’t mince words; although historic accounts indicate that the Dents and Grant were most likely fairly kind slave owners overall, Julia seemingly was completely unaware of the hard work these men and women provided for the family.  She spoke about the slaves being able to partake in all food products grown by the farm, as well as several types of meat and fish, without any recognition of the fact that these enslaved people had no freedom to directly benefit from their labors.  Grant himself is known to have owned one slave during his time at White Haven and while working his Hardscrabble Farm.  It is not known whether he purchased William Jones or if he received Jones as a gift; the historical record does show that he freed Jones in 1859.

Oh, and surely you have noticed the bright green paint on the house.  Yes indeed, that paint color was selected by U.S. Grant and his wife Julia when they painted White Haven in 1874; it is called Paris Green.  Do you love it or hate it?!?

And in unrelated news, I happened to have taken one of my favorite selfies here!

I enjoyed wandering around on the farm and seeing the buildings and exhibits.  It was an informative visit!


Since I sold my house in June, my personal life has been more relaxed.  I’ve been resting in my free time, reading, going for walks with friends, checking out some art fairs and going to the beach to look for agates on occasion.

What I haven’t done is go on vacation, because work has been insanity.  And believe me, it’s a lot of work drama.  I’m pretty bummed, because it directly affects me and my staff, and I am in dire need of some time away.  So until that settles down, I’m just trying to enjoy my time off, and ride out the work drama.  This too shall pass at some point, one way or another.

It’s been 4 years since my big road trip, and the memories popping up on Facebook are really making me want to be back out on another trip.  It’s rough!  We are halfway through the summer, and I’m hoping that I can make a vacation happen before the rest of the summer slips away.

I’m thankful that my health has been stable, and I have not had any more symptoms.  I’m still hoping that I will have answers soon.

Today I took a walk with a friend, and we ended up getting lunch at the harbor, and then finding a new little taproom down near the waterfront.  Beer and Books!  It’s like they know me!  I should clarify that they also serve ciders and wines.  We chatted with the owner and so far the books are just a few titles related to beer, cider and wine.  He is going to see how it goes before expanding the books.  I’m hoping this catches on! 

It was such a beautiful day and my walk stretched out into walking a friend’s dog too, so I certainly got my steps in today!  Wish me luck for my Monday workday!


Circus Trip 2018: Gateway Arch NP

Day 74, Thursday, September 27, 2018
Gateway Arch National Park, St. Louis, Missouri

In my last post, I explained the history of Gateway Arch National Park, but I was so excited to visit again!  My first visit had been in 2006 with friends, but this would be my first visit by myself.

My first order of business was to purchase my ticket to go up to the top of the arch in their little pod unit.  There is always a bit of a wait for tickets, but going solo means they can fit you in more easily!

While I waited, I checked out the Westward Expansion museum in the basement of the arch.  It is a great museum dedicated to telling the story of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the West Coast, and the stories of the later pioneers.  It was definitely worth a return visit!

In short order, it was my turn to get into the pod.  I climbed in, and to be honest it is a little bit claustrophobia inducing.  It’s really tight in there, but it helps to look out the window in the pod to see the inside wall of the arch and the machinery that moves the pods up and down through the arch.

Soon I was at the top, and I got to see the incredible view!  The windows in the Arch are very small, but they give a great view of the buildings down below, and the river nearby.  I found the small windows to be good for not making my fear of heights flare up!  There are also some displays that give you some interesting facts about the arch.  Did you know that the Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall, and also 630 feet wide at the base?  You can stay up in the Arch for as long as you want, and then you just line up to catch the next pod going down.  

Afterwards, I headed over to the Old Courthouse, to check it out once again.  It was built between 1839 and 1864, and was the place where the Dred Scott trial first started.  So this courthouse was one of the pivotal places leading up to the Civil War.  The building has been renovated to stabilize it, but many of the historical features are still intact, and it is an incredible building.  I wandered around for a while, checking out the architecture of this amazing courthouse.

There was a lot to see and do here, even though it is a small park.  Soon enough though, it was time to get on the road; I had more I wanted to see nearby!


Book Review: Wild Fire

Wild Fire, by Nelson DeMille

On Columbus Day weekend, an agent for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force goes missing while on an assignment in upstate New York during a surveillance of the Custer Hill Club.  

Wild Fire

Once his boss learns about the missing agent, Detective John Corey and his wife, FBI Agent Kate Mayfield, are assigned to look into the disappearance.  Unfortunately, they are soon pulled off the case.  However, Corey and Mayfield are convinced that something fishy is going on and they aren’t willing to give up so easily in the search for their friend.

They embark on a mission to find out what happened to their friend, and to figure out what kind of secret plot is going on at the Custer Hill Club.  Will they puzzle it out in time to save lives, before their colleagues find them and pull them away from their investigation?

This was the first Nelson DeMille book that I have read, but I was intrigued by this thriller.  Set in the post-9/11 days, the plot built on the Islamic terrorism threat, but with some very fascinating twists.  

I listened to the audio book version, and it was narrated by one of my favorite readers, Scott Brick.  He captures John Corey’s dry humor perfectly, and really manages to play on the relationship between John and his wife Kate.  

4 stars.