Monday, December 17, 2012

It's been a long time comin'

Wow, has it really been this long since I have posted?  I have been busy but still full of so much to say.  I really don't know why I haven't posted on here.  It has been a long couple of months doing things like running to my parents over an hour away to help them, sick with asthmatic bronchitis for several weeks, planning Christmas with very little money (that challenge has been more fun that you can imagine). And of course, looking for a job.

It's amazing how resourceful and creative you can be when you have no income.  Thank God my husband still has his job. But right now I am in a "forced retirement" without social security coming in. It is giving me a glimpse into the future and a chance to practice.  At least I know how comfortable I can be with very little. Just give me my grandchild, good health, my computer and internet, and some books and I am a happy camper!

The only thing that would make it better is living in a very small, quiet town or out in the country (even better). I long for peace and quiet as I age.

I crave being in the country right now. I write better then. Especially if I am by the water. Maybe because I can think more clearly.  I don't know how many pictures I have shared on Facebook lately of my ideal living environment.  Here is just one of many you would find on my Facebook page.

"My" writing cabin
So it is time to return to my writing.  Once the holidays are over I know it will naturally happen again. Look for more adventures of Grandma's Sabbatical in the coming months.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Starting this week off differently - cha-ching!

Yep - I decided this week will be better than the last two weeks. First of all, my son has moved everything back home since he travels for work and is never home anyway, why pay rent on a house when he can pay us to store everything here. Cha-ching!

I updated my Avon blog and started to manage my Avon business more consistently and guess what?  I have grown my customer base.  It is amazing how actually putting time into selling will increase the sales.

By the way, in case you haven't checked out my site yet, we are starting to gear up for the holidays and have really great sales right now.  Check out my site!

I am also calmer again because one son seems to be on his way out of his latest funk and the other one is on his way to the next leg of his treatment journey. My middle son announced he was going to be the father of a little boy and the story I had published in the November/December issue of Victoria, based on a gift he gave me, was in my mailbox a couple of days ago.

I published another article on - click
here for a link to that - so life seems to be going back to the new normal. I have even started to earn a little extra money from that.  A LITTLE, but it still qualifies for a  CHA-CHING!

More importantly however, is that my writing is getting published, which will lead to more opportunities. But in the meantime, I haven't given up on my search for the perfect job with benefits and travel.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New baby

Last night, after a long emotionally draining week, I learned that our new little grand baby is a boy. What joyful news.  It snapped me out of my funk immediately.  What is it about babies that makes people happy?  Is it because they represent innocence and hope?  Is it the knowledge that babies smell so good and love you and trust you as long as you feed them, hold them, and change their diapers? Or just that they are so cute and cuddly? I have so much love for my little granddaughter, my heart is swollen and is only going to get bigger.

My husband is happy because it means that another generation of Berndts from his family is guaranteed.  I am happy because as much as I love little girls, I think my son will be a good Daddy to a little boy too.  Actually, I am just praying that he is healthy and happy.

Avery called it a long time ago.  I don't remember what she said exactly, but the implication was that she expected a brother. I am not sure she really knows the difference between what a brother is as opposed to a sister, but she is pretty smart. When I asked Avery the other day if she wanted a brother, she said, "yes".  When I asked her if she wanted a boy she said "yes". Just to be funny, I asked her if she wanted a girl - a sister - she looked at me funny and said "yes".  So I think that means that Avery didn't really care what it was as long as she had a baby. We were changing her babies diaper at the time and talking about the correct position of the baby when we change diapers. She was more concerned with where the "yukkies" were in the "biper".

She will be a huge help to Gaga that is for sure.

I love the idea that if I never have any more grandchildren (lets hope not!) after this next little guy, I will have one of each. For some reason it seems more balanced that way.

I am still worried though, how I will share my time and attention between two.  My heart is certainly big enough but, how will I continue to dance while tossing footballs? Avery will figure it out.....she is a coordinator and leader. I can't wait to see how she figures this out.

I can't wait to meet him. And yes, I am going to buy a football and truck today. Boys can never have too many footballs or trucks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday thoughts

This has been a difficult week.  For many reasons and I will not go into detail. I decided to take this morning to catch up on my recorded TV shows and relax before I clean my house.

I just watched the recording of "Katie" from yesterday. First, let me say, I have a new appreciation for Will.I.Am. He is so smart and his story is very inspirational, coming from the projects, riding a school bus for 90 minutes a day to a charter school, and being inspired to use his talents to work hard and become successful. It says a lot about the importance of having good teachers who believe in their students, and having a place that celebrates and values differences and unique personalities.

Second, I love Taylor Swift. She is funny and full of heart. I like most of her music even though they are geared more towards the teens who are just learning about love and heartbreak. But her song "Ronan" that I first heard on "Stand Up 2 Cancer" still makes me cry when I hear it.

I could tell she was truly moved while she was singing it and it prompted me to find out if this was perhaps about a little brother or someone from her family.  I am curious that way, so I "Googled" her story and learned about Ronan Thompson from Phoenix, a 4 year old who had died from cancer, and his remarkable Mom who writes about him on her blog, Rock Star Ronan. Taylor read about his story and wrote the song in his memory, using words she read on his Mom's blog. in addition, she has donated the proceeds to the Ronan Thompson Foundation to help raise money for childhood cancer.  This story has touched my heart, as it has many, many others.

It got me thinking again however, about the millions of people who have diseases that are not visible to others, except through their behaviors, which are not always good.  If fact, most of the time the behaviors are bad.  I am talking about mental illness.  Not just the well known versions like schizophrenia either. Depression, from mild to clinical affects so many more people every day and carries other more visible by-products with it.  Like addiction. Addictions is so very complicated.

I have said so many times that I am leaving the mental health field because I am so burned out.  I am not sure if I have compassion fatigue or just plain tired of the same discussions and facing the same hurdles over and over and over. But then something happens that kicks my ass and says, "If YOU don't talk about this and advocate for those affected, who will?"

Well - many people are talking about it, but for some reason it is so much easier to fund something like cancer than mental illness. Yes, cancer is ugly and sucks.  My Dad is struggling with cancer now; I have had many friends and relatives die from this horrible disease.  But I know many more people struggle daily with mental illness and addiction; some of them ALSO have cancer.  While funding is increasing for cancer research (that is wonderful), funding for mental health and addiction is decreasing at alarming rates. Which is a crime.

The mental health "helping system" is broken and I believe that is one reason why funding is decreasing. Who wants to continue to pour money into a system that is not having the desired results? We shouldn't! But, what is it going to take to fix it? When will we figure out what really helps those with mind diseases, without causing worse side affects? We will never know until our budgets reflect the value of the health of the human mind. We will never figure out the right balance while the same people who control the money are in charge of where it goes.

We need more people like Taylor Swift for mental health advocacy. People who understand, but are not so tired from the daily challenges of living with people who have this disease. We need to fund more research of the brain and how it functions. We need more charter schools and teachers who embrace challenging students all through the educational process, and don't punish them for their differences, fostering self doubt in the minds of those already feeling like failures. We need a balance of unconditional love and logical consequences from the beginning. We need employers who will give people opportunities to work when they have served a sentence for drug related crimes - most of the time a manifestation of a mental illness. We need less prisons and more appropriate stress centers.

Families need a variety of support, not just more talking about the same stuff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Three Sons

I know, if you are old enough to remember the show "My Three Sons" you probably have the theme song running through your head right now, perhaps with the image of Fred MacMurrey's foot tapping.  If you are not that old, like my sons, you really don't know what you missed.  They really do need to offer reruns of that show on TV land or somewhere.

My sons are grown men now.  They all have lives separate from each other, yet they are still connected by the love of family.  Each one is unique, with quirks of their own, but so similar in some respects that you know they are brothers cut from the same cloth, even if at times they don't like to acknowledge that.

I know I have mentioned addiction and mental illness in these posts before.  With dual conflicts wrecking havoc on someones health, life can take some pretty serious twists and turns. During the beautiful fall season, when the weather starts to get colder, the days shorter, and the supply of sunlight diminishing, life can be down right chaotic in my family.  My oldest son suffers from seasonal affective disorder, SAD, and if you have ever experienced it yourself, or know someone who does, you know that depression rears its ugly head more often during this time. SAD alone is bad enough but add to that alcohol or drugs, and you have the makings for quite a bumpy ride.

The past few days have been filled with rants, crying jags, lots of beer, no sleep, moving, and many, many phone calls, some in the middle of the night. Fall is here.

A mother never stops worrying about her children.  Never. I am no exception. It might get easier to accept the cards that have been dealt, but I still constantly worry about when the next shoe will drop. Each of my sons goes through their own kind of worry for the others. This "worry" has become part of the culture of my family. When Nik is feeling like this, I dread the phone ringing and the news that could come from the person on the other end. I can't concentrate as easily on work because I am worried that this will be the time he makes good on some of his threats, his feeling that he doesn't add value to any one's life - which he does - and we have told him that, and given examples of how, over and over. During the spring and summer, he believes us and feels better about his life.  He has more energy and lives life hard and fast. But come the end of September, the depression slowly slithers in and by November, it is here........most years until March.

I know there is medicine he can take, but Nik has never been what the mental health world terms "medicine compliant", meaning he doesn't take it consistently - if at all. He works outside as much as he can, to absorb all the sunlight possible, and that helps. But now and then, life just becomes too hard for him to manage on his own. So he has learned to reach out for help. After living with this disease for 30 years, that is a good thing.

When I worked in the mental health field, my job was to help other parents feel supported, letting them know about resources available to their family, helping them understand they were not alone.  It was my job to share my story with them so they knew I understood where they were coming from. That was easy to do most of the time, but usually by January or February, it became harder, because I was smack in the middle of my own pain as a Mom again by that time. There were times when I was a keynote or workshop speaker at conferences, and had to get up in front of several hundred people to talk, while my son had just been arrested, or overdosed the night before.

Depression is hard on the family.  It wears you down. It is hard to watch your loved one go through this pain, feeling alone, unloved, and unappreciated. You try your hardest to help them feel loved and connected but they are the ones who need to feel it, words cannot impact their feelings when they are in this depressed state.  But you can't give up on them.

I write about this today because I know so many others are out there suffering silently, not knowing where to go.  Even though I don't work in the field any more, I still receive calls, some of the parents are referred to me by my sons who know I will give them the time to process their anger and hurt. With funding cuts to mental health and addiction services, options for help are getting farther away. It's important for the caregivers and loved ones to support each other because the few dollars that are available will need to go to the "one with the problem" - even though depression affects everyone in that persons life.

BUT - it is essential to find appropriate support.  I can't tell you how much "well meaning" advice I received over the years from people who really didn't understand my situation, or who were bitter and angry and just wanted to pull others into their world of anger and hurt. In a situation like that, go with your gut.  It's hard to find good support but it IS out there. Reach out. Find someone who is willing to listen and if necessary, offer different options for you to choose from.

Like me, you are not alone. While I know those words are of little comfort when you are in the thick of things, having that knowledge sometimes helps you feel less isolated and alone in your grief.

And know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

Each day I stop for a few minutes and reflect about something good.  Sometimes it happens when I least expect to me grateful ~ like right after a negative experience that has me questioning the lesson I am supposed to learn. Or while I am appreciating someone special or thankful for a memory I have just had. Today I am thankful for my screened "porch".  It is WONDERFUL!

My husband asked me last weekend if it was time to take it down and store it for the winter.

WHAAAAAT??????  Take it DOWN?????

"I still sit out there every day!"  I told him, rather disgustedly.

It is still up, but I realize that my days in my backyard screened room "porch" are numbered. Northern Illinois gets awfully cold and snowy and I know I can't leave it up very much longer.  That makes me sad.

I sit out there and write. As a matter of fact, I am out there right now as I write this. Two squirrels are playfully chasing each other and another one is diligently working to find nuts and seeds and store them for winter. A few minutes ago "Chip and Dale" skittered by and of course I couldn't grab my camera fast enough. It's even raining but that's OK ~ I am protected.

Yes, I enjoy sitting in the fresh air, it helps me think clearly. It's peaceful and the thoughts flow easier as a result.

I am glad I purchased the screened "porch".  At some point I will put it away, but until that day comes, I will continue to enjoy the back yard "office" I have created.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Today is Avery's 3rd birthday. She is growing so fast, yet when I think of what I was doing 3 years ago, it seems like a lifetime ago.

The day she was born, I was at work taking care of last minute details for a Board Retreat we were having.  It was an expectation that all board members and the Executive Director (me) attend this retreat because we were discussing the goals and strategic plan for the new organizations future. 

When my son called to tell me that he was taking Jessie to the hospital, suddenly I went into "ALMOST Grandma" mode.  I paced, gave orders, paced, tried to do paperwork, paced, looked at my phone, paced, called other family members to see if perhaps I had just missed the call, paced, and finally decided to go wait at the hospital.  One of my Board members called me and said, "Don't even think about coming to the retreat, you are where you should be today".  

I was lucky to work for an all women run, non-profit, family organization that promoted family values, and led by example.  We walked the walk as well as talked the talk.

The hospital let the grandparents and aunts sit in a waiting room that was next to the nursery so that when they brought the babies in, you could see them right away.  

At that time, even though I was anxious to meet my new granddaughter, I was also trying to remain in contact with work. I was still Beth, the Executive Director, texting and checking email on my Blackberry.  And then, I saw her.........

She was the most beautiful little girl I had ever laid my eyes on.  I cannot describe the emotion I felt at that moment. And when I saw her middle finger sticking up - I knew immediately that she was a Berndt.  Suddenly, I didn't care about anything else, I was a Grandma.  I felt this overwhelming surge of intense joy - just by looking at her! I couldn't take my eyes off of her!

My son's first child, my other sons first niece, my parents first Great-Grandchild, and my Grandmothers first Great-Great- Grandchild.  She was a special little girl right from the start.

Jessie's Mom looked at me and offered congratulations on my first grandchild. She had just experienced the same thing three weeks earlier, when Jessie's sister had her first child, also a girl.  Avery was going to have a cousin so close to her age that they would seem like twins.

When we got to Jessie's room, we found Mommy, Daddy, and baby Avery basking in the glory of birth. The new little family was tired but overwhelmed with joy.  Nate was on cloud 9.

So was I.

Suddenly the room was full of relatives and at that moment I realized just how blessed this little girl was going to be to have such a large community of family watching over her, guiding her, and loving her unconditionally.

Avery is such an inquisitive child.  Full of energy and life.  And caring. Who knew a child of three could understand and feel so kind towards others? She is always willing to share what she has with others.  Her Mommy and Daddy are doing a wonderful job raising her.

I spend at least once a week with Avery.  We are pals. I love and cherish my special time with my little princess, lover of dogs, kitties, cars, spiders, bugs, babies, flowers, stars, pumpkins, dancing and singing. We recently took a train ride together and I was able to capture her expression as she snuggled up next to me and just enjoyed the ride.

On Thursday, my husband and I went to dinner with Avery and her Daddy - her Mommy had to work - so we could celebrate her birthday with her.  Everyone wore princess crowns and she celebrated with a large hot fudge sundae, while the waitstaff sang Happy Birthday to her. She enjoyed and popped three balloons and opened her many gifts from "Gaga and Poppy".  It was a fun event.

She sang Happy Birthday and "Bear Down Chicago Bears" (Yeah I really did enjoy her singing that song even if we are Packer fans)

 Today she painted pumpkins. She loves to paint and be creative. 

 After Mommy and Daddy took her for her special Birthday dinner, she came home to cake!

As we enter another year, she will enjoy many new experiences, including the birth of a new brother or sister.  She is such a loving child, I can't wait to see how she helps me take care of the newest member of our family.  

People used to say that they loved being a parent, and loved their children, but once they became a grandparent, they experienced a deeper, different kind of love they were not expecting to feel. 

I thought it was just words.  But now..........

Or in my case......"Gaga"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Avon calling!!

So on Tuesday I mentioned that my unemployment checks had stopped, that I felt I had become complacent, and all that. I spent some serious time feeling sorry for myself on Tuesday. And maybe a little time on Wednesday too.

So, I looked at the opportunities in front of me, that I could expand on right away.  Today I am starting with Avon. I never thought of myself as a make-up sales person, and really only started selling Avon because I was familiar with the product, and could get really great prices as a representative.  Then I started getting regular clients and boom - business started to move in a good direction!

I had started a blog on my Avon website last winter. That was before I really new what a blog was or what to do with it.  So that was my first step. Update my Avon blog.

Next, I found my list of customers, old and new, and sent out literature to them with a flyer that if they found a new customer for me that purchased $20.00 or more, they would receive $10 in free products during Campaign 23 as an appreciation for the referral.  In addition to that, if the new customer continued to order for the next 3 campaigns, they would receive another $20.00 in free product to use before February 14.

I am also going to start promoting my Avon website regularly.  If people go to and register, they will have access to great deals and can order from me and have it shipped directly to their house, no matter where they live.  Not that I know people all over the world, but if I did, I could still sell Avon products to them and receive credit for their purchases. It is a greener way to conduct business too, since it cuts down on my gas to deliver everyone's Avon.

Today I am feeling much more hopeful. Life is good.  The sabbatical continues, but in the meantime, let's enjoy "Zack the Singing Beaver" as we get ready for the holidays!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

In keeping with the theme of all things WONDERFUL today I bring you a story about a hero that I recently heard about while watching the "Marie" show.

Mackensie Bearup is a young woman with a big heart and desire to help others learn to escape a world of pain by reading.  Mackensie was diagnosed with Complex Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy at the age of 13. CRSD is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling, and extreme sensitivity to touch. She read books to keep from dwelling on the pain she would feel whenever anyone or anything touched her leg. Hearing about a residential treatment center that was building a library, Mackensie decided to donate all of the books she had read.  Energized by the feeling she was helping, she didn't stop there and went around her town to collect other books that people were no longer reading.  This prompted an idea to start a non-profit called Sheltering Books, Inc. In the past few years, Mackensie has collected and donated more than 149,000 books.VERY COOL!

Sheltering Books, Inc donates to hundreds of homeless shelters across the United States.  As an avid book reader myself, I am now going to donate future books to Sheltering Books myself.  For more information or to learn how you can donate your used books, go to the website by clicking on the following link at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Back to basics

I am going to conduct an experiment over the next few weeks.  Out of necessity really.

I received my last unemployment check on Friday. That means there is no more money coming in.

I have been here before and looking back, it wasn't THAT bad.  OK maybe it was at times because I had three little boys.  But now, it is like a new beginning.  Not having unemployment is going to free up some time because:
  1. I no longer have to remember to certify every two weeks
  2. I will not have to monitor my checking account balance because - well - there will be no money coming in
  3. I don't have to track all the job applications I have sent out.
Now, I will live life even more simpler that I have.  I started this blog several months ago with the idea of chronicling my life as an unemployed grandma - on sabbatical.  Why is that so important?  Because it is difficult enough for young people to find good employment right now, but add to that the fact that I am within 10 years of retirement age, (even though there is no way I will retire that early), and I become one of those hard to find a good job older workers.

So while this part is not so glamorous, it is a reality that many others are facing too.

I am not ready to be the "Walmart Greeter." There is nothing wrong with that and it is a job, but I just got my degree 4 years ago.  I have college loans to pay off. That part is the scary part. I now have the degree and the knowledge to do more than say "Welcome to Walmart" or "Would you like fries with that?" I do not mean to sound condescending.  Not at all.  I guess I just believed while I was working so hard for that college degree, that I would be able to use it longer that 2.5 years.

God works in mysterious ways.  There is a reason for this experience and I have yet to understand what it is, but I am keeping my mind and my options open.  I will approach this with the same positive attitude I have had all along (even with a few bad days thrown in for excitement).

I will ask myself, how have others survived?  What can I cut out of our budget now?  What else can we live without? Where can more changes be made? What other burdens can I free myself of now that I have no consistent income? (I do have some, so maybe that is why I am taking this in stride)

Having thought about this a little more, maybe this means it is time to take more risks and move ahead with my plan to write. Knowing I had unemployment to help me through the rough part made me a little complacent I think.  I knew that at least I had that money.  NOW, I need to find more opportunities. So below is my new motto...........

Monday, October 8, 2012

I'm baaaaaack......

Yes, I have not blogged on here for several days.  I took some time to organize my craft supplies, finish a couple of projects and apply for a few jobs that I found interesting.  I spent the week cleaning and spent some time with my Mom and Dad and Avery.  Nothing too terribly exciting, but time consuming.

A few posts ago I told you I would be taking my resume off of the major job boards and "taking myself off the market" so to speak. I did that, created the marketing materials for my freelance writing business, and last week began sending them to people.  I asked several people to write recommendations for my work, and was thrilled to get a few. So I am on my way, but realistic that this will take time. Everything worthwhile takes time.

I found out that an old friend moved.  She didn't tell me she was moving, so that is bothering me.  When you leave a job you expect to lose touch with people, but there are a few I really hoped to remain connected to.  I have tried to stay in touch with most, but as time goes on, I hear from them less and less.  But I never expected to learn that someone had moved without even sharing they were planning to. That makes me a little sad.

My Dad went back to the doctor at Northwestern and they confirmed that the new treatment for his cancer is working in the area of the liver they are treating.  The good news is that his liver is still functioning ~ which is surprising given that statistically speaking, once you have been diagnosed with advanced stage liver cancer your liver usually stops functioning, especially as time goes by. The bad news is that in the untreated area of his liver, there were more tumors.  This means the cancer is spreading and they are not sure what is causing that.

My husband has been very ill.  He is not a happy patient, or one that can be considered very compliant. That is putting it mildly, and I think I will leave it at that.

Overall, it was a challenging week. I was even locked out of the apartment by Avery.  Not even three yet and she is letting me know she is in control when I take the dog outside to pee. Thank goodness her Daddy showed up right then so I was really only locked out for a minute.

I must admit, I am feeling a little blue these days. I think I need to get out with people again. I might go hang out at Starbucks (and other places) and hand out my business cards.

I will be writing regularly again.  I have a few ideas for new posts and hope to gain a few more readers as a result.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Busy week

It has been busy around here the past few days.  I love Autumn!  Fall brings cooler weather again, and even though I enjoy summer, I am not a fan of humidity. And while the cooler temperature causes my arthritis to flair up again, the rest of the pleasures make up for it. I have learned to manage the pain better, and go through the day accordingly.

It is also the time of year for Pumpkins.  Avery LOVES pumpkins and we play with them, read about them, watch videos of talking pumpkins, and color pictures of them throughout the year. Yesterday I took Avery to the local Pumpkin Farm.  When we took our boys there many years ago, it was your standard farm market with a few attractions and lots of Pumpkins.  Not now!  Goebberts Pumpkin Patch has taken the Pumpkin Farm to a new level and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours Avery and I spent there.

There are two locations, one in Barrington, IL, and the one we went to in Hampshire, IL. Avery and I had taken my husband there last weekend to buy a pumpkin.  That's it.  Maybe to get a picture taken beside a big wooden cutout of an apple or something but mainly to buy her a pumpkin. 

One hour, three pumpkins, two apples, 12 Apple Cider Donuts and one gourd later, we walked out of there exhausted, with a very happy little girl. Since she enjoyed it so much, and we kind of rushed her through the experience, I decided to take her back when I could just watch her enjoy all those pumpkins!

Avery and her Pumpkin Patch

She played on this pile of pumpkins for at least 30 minutes while I snapped pictures and took video.  Her imagination amazes me!
Watching the dinosaur wake up

I had been warned by my daughter-in-law, who had just taken her over the weekend, that Avery would not leave the area of the Dinosaur. 

That's an understatement.
Tickling the dinosaur
The dinosaur played with the kids, burped after eating his pumpkins and then said excuse me, and would come over to the kids on the side to engage them in "discussions".  

This was by far her favorite time of the day.
The face of a happy little girl riding the train

We even took a train ride.  I had forgotten to purchase the train ticket when we came in the main gate.  She didn't care.  She ran and jumped on the train and the engineer walked over to her.  She said "HI!" and I asked if we needed a ticket or could I get one from him.  He said there was no way I was going to get her off that train so I could just pay him.

The people there are amazing and have found a way to entertain their guests in a variety or ways.  Avery and  I still didn't make it over to the big tent with the giraffes and all the other animals, but we did get to play with the baby pigs.  She got to feel their noses and giggled because they tickled.

This is definitely a day experience and I really could have stayed longer but I didn't know how long she would last and she was starting to get tired.  OK - I will admit, after walking around, jumping up and down from straw, hay wagons, firetrucks, and everything else, Gaga was the one who was tired.

I can't wait to take her back.  Thank goodness I have her every Thursday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oh what to do?

It's Monday and I am already feeling rushed. I thought by now, not working for so long, I would be bored. The truth is, I'm too busy to be bored. My problem is that while I am unemployed still on sabbatical, on the road to successfully trying to find a new career and purpose, I am dabbling in many things, trying new ideas, trying to find my niche.

It is a process.

It's all about the journey.

My son had suggested finding a career that gave me time for my granddaughter and that certainly is the goal, but I also need to be practical and find a way to earn real money.  Since I am going through this process in my mid 50's, the criteria also needs to include something that I can do in retirement the 2nd retirement for the rest of my life.

I love writing so my new career will include writing.

I enjoy working from home and I have the self discipline to make that work for me. I have a home office, even though I now share that space with Avery, and I am in the process of reorganizing and painting the room so that after 15 years in the same color, the room will look fresher.

I have had time to de-clutter and I have written about that in the past, but I always wondered what to do with special treasures that meant so much to us, that no longer fit in our home.  I am going through that with my Mom now.  She holds on to more than I do,  and what is worse is that she sends some of it home with me. I am implementing a process with her, that I will write about this week. It is hard to part with things that hold so many memories, even if they do sit in a box in the basement.  I have many things - Christmas items - that once belonged to my Grandma that I just couldn't get rid of.  Vintage ornaments that I really don't like, but she loved them, and they were hers, so I held on to them. It's time to take a picture, keep one, and send the others along. That is what I am helping my Mom of do now.

Perhaps I can add that to my list of new career criteria.  I am good at helping others part with their things. 

I enjoy "downsizing" so much now that I look at things through a new lens. I am always wondering if I really need it or if I just find it pretty.  Will it serve a purpose, or if I already own it, does it serve a purpose other than taking up space in a drawer, closet, cabinet or box?

Eliminating extra clutter has it's drawbacks though.  The other day I was looking for a bowl I had for years, only to realize it is now probably in someone elses kitchen because for so long I didn't use it - so I sent it with all the other things that had collected dust for years. Apparently, in a motivated moment I got a little carried away.  I will not replace it though.  It will probably get used a few times and then just end up sitting there again for another several years.

Regardless of where this journey takes me, I must say I am enjoying the ride.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One step forward, two steps back

Sometimes I feel like I take one step forward and two steps back. For example:


I was doing so well with my walking routine over the spring/summer.  Even during the extreme heat I was able to maintain distance and sweat the toxins out of my body. I had lost weight and was feeling really good. I completed a 5K in July and I was seriously considering trying to walk a half-marathon.  In Hawaii.

Then the allergy season set in.  With that came headaches, wheezing, and fatigue. In addition, once the weather started to cool down, my chronic back problem reared it's ugly head - so - for the past few weeks I have walked, but very slowly, and not every day.  I can feel the impact of that decision now because I feel sluggish. I got sick.  I feel irritable and stressed. That is how I felt before I started walking regularly.

This week I decided to get back on the horse (or in this case, treadmill) and get back to my routine again. I know I can count on my training buddy Avery to keep me motivated while I am with her, but I need to find a way to keep myself motivated at home.  Enter Pinterest..........


I mentioned my Pinterest addiction a couple of posts ago. I decided to use that as a motivating factor as well as a way to find "nutritious" recipes and Christmas craft ideas. So I found these pictures......

Pacific Islands
Cook Islands



Princess of the Pacific Islands Barbie
I am going to hang them in front of the treadmill and on the fridge.  If I can't afford to go to Hawaii, I will go to another Island in the Pacific.  This will be my motivation to achieve my weight loss and health goal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

TODAY is WONDERFUL because I am sick (well that part isn't so wonderful) and I have just laid around most of the day in my WONDERFUL bed or WONDERFUL screened (Sleeping) room and didn't get dressed all day. 

It is also WONDERFUL because I work from home - for so few hours - that I didn't have to notify anyone that I was taking a sick day.

I am glad for the WONDERFUL beautiful weather that I was able to experience while sitting in my screened sleeping room.

Today is also my third day back into my walking routine - and even though I was sick, and not feeling very energetic, I was able to walk on my treadmill thanks to my WONDERFUL sons!

I am thankful for this WONDERFUL Wednesday also because that means that tomorrow is "Take-care-of-Avery Thursday!"

And there is nothing more WONDERFUL to think about than her.

Avery with her WONDERFUL friends - the Rapunzel's

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Pinterest Addiction

Yes, it is true.  I can officially say, it has become an addiction.

Last night I was watching the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears (yay Clay Matthews!) and enjoying the game but as soon as half time started, I was at the computer again looking through Pinterest.  It occurred to me that I spend a lot of time on that site but what will I do with everything?

Today I am cooking.  I decided to go through my "Recipes I'd like to Try" folder.  I realized I have a lot of desserts in there but since I am trying to watch my sugar intake I would stick to something healthy. 

I decided to make Krista's Teriyaki Chicken and Rice first, that you can find on her blog "While He was Napping", then maybe I will try the Apple Pie dip and Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips listed on "The Peach Kitchen" blog.

I also chose Zucchini brownies for one of the recipes to try tomorrow with Avery. Yeah, I know, of the three, there are two desserts - but healthy ones.  Monica from the Yummy Life makes her Zucchini brownies with dark chocolate, whole wheat flour (or you can substitute with gluten free flour), and, well, zucchini! So that is a much healthier version of brownies than I normally make. And it will use up some of this zucchini.

As far as the addiction goes, if good things come from it, what is the harm right? If I use the ideas, it is worth the hours I spend on the computer. If I can figure out how to make money from some of those ideas, then that is even better!

But it would be nice to go to "Pinterest Rehab" - a cottage that is in the woods, along a lake, with a fireplace, a soaking tub (preferably near the fireplace and a window that opens), and totally disconnected from phones and cyberspace.

Now that is an idea!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

This weeks "Wonderful Wednesday" post is about how I found out that I would have an article about my favorite Christmas gift published in VICTORIA magazine!!

I have read that magazine since 1991 when the mother of one of my son's friends showed me her copy and I fell in love. Every month when I get my magazine, I will take it with my coffee outside to my porch and browse slowly through the pages, savoring every moment. I said to my husband one day many years ago, that now I know what men feel like when they get a new issue of Sports Illustrated, or Playboy.

One morning a few weeks ago, I saw a blurb at the bottom of the page that asked if the readers had a favorite Christmas gift.  Of COURSE I did.  I have several but one always comes to mind quickly. So I went to the computer and typed out the story of my "Christmas Necklace" a homemade gift that my son bought one year at Santa's workshop at school.  I will not tell it here, but as soon as I can, I will link my blog to the page in the online version of Victoria Magazine.  Plus I will post pictures of my WONDERFUL necklace AND a picture of the page from the magazine.

No - I am not excited at ALL!!!

It was weird - I thought of all the resumes I have sent out over the past several months and I have been glued to the email waiting for someone to decide they are interested in my talents enough to call me in for an interview.  But with this letter to Victoria, I sent it off, didn't keep a copy, and forgot about it. 

But then.....

Last night I opened my email and there it email from Anne!!!

Here is what it said:

Hi Elizabeth,

I just wanted to let you know that we have selected your letter about your favorite Christmas gift to appear in our upcoming Nov/Dec12 issue of Victoria. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story with us. If you would e-mail me your mailing address, I will be happy to send you a couple of comp copies once the issue comes out. Take care, and thank you for reading Victoria!

Managing Editor
Hoffman Media

Isn't that WONDERFUL????

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How I came up with the name of my blog

I came up with the name “Grandma’s Sabbatical” as a description for unemployment after my position was eliminated at the non-profit I worked at.  Instead of looking at the experience from a negative perspective, I decided to use the time to my advantage, called it a sabbatical, and embarked on a new journey to self discovery and reinvention

Since I now had the freedom to create my own path, and the time to dedicate to making it happen, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of being a writer. People around me had always encouraged me to write a book but I didn't know where to start. It seemed easier to start with a blog, and since I was unemployed, blogging about life as an “older” person trying to find a job, while trying to remain positive, made sense.

Also, as this was happening, my son’s hours at work were becoming more unpredictable so having more time, I was able to be a more involved Grandma. Since I absolutely love spending time with my granddaughter, and was wearing out my welcome with friends and family who were getting tired of hearing about my adventures with Avery, it seemed fitting to include some of those stories in my blogging.

My sabbatical has evolved over time and has included many different activities, such as deep cleaning my house, undergoing knee replacement surgery, gardening, cooking, crafting, weight loss challenges, entering a 5K for the first time, and learning about marketing. I had neglected many things over the past several years because I was so busy working and going to school part time, and living a stressful life. I decided to include them in my sabbatical plan because everything I did now included a purpose.  

De-cluttering and simplifying, created a peaceful and harmonious environment in which to live without "clutter" that wrecked havoc on my ability to think clearly. Gardening provided a way to sustain our healthy eating habits and provided a connection to nature.  Sitting in my yard with my camera filming squirrels and hummingbirds calmed me in ways I would never have expected. I was cooking again, even baking without burning anything! I made Christmas gifts, started to take better care of my financial health as well as my mental and physical health, and learned to appreciate the simple moments in my day so much more. And viewing life through the eyes of a two year old was absolutely amazing!

The result of taking this time to reflect and renew allowed me to find my inner voice again and gave me topics to write about.

I have been blogging for almost 6 months and have learned so much from others.  I started with one blog so I could learn about the process, have an outlet for my creative energy, and a place to hold the words. The farther I get into this new “project” however, the more excited I become. I am now blogging for others and even getting paid! 

I guess that means I am on my way to being an author!

Friday, September 7, 2012

11 Years

Today is the 11th anniversary of my "baby" brothers death. I woke up feeling out of sorts and immediately thought it must be from eating so much sugar with yesterday's sugary, gooey, goodness called Paula Deen's Zucchini bread. But after reflecting over coffee in my back yard screened "room" it dawned on me - it is September 7.

The day Patrick died. 

Patrick was my youngest brother who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction his whole life.  He was a very intelligent and big-hearted guy, who spent the majority of his adult life in and out of jail, prison, and drug rehab. His childhood was filled with one happy hyperactive moment after another but he found his way into my parents wine decanters at a very early age.  I thought I had learned everything there was to learn about living with addictive behaviors from him. For example:
  1. Do not leave wine decanters out and around for small children to help themselves to.
  2. Never encourage bad behavior by photographing them engaging in it (we have a great shot of him with a big smile on his face, about to drink out of my dad's beer can)
  3. Never let young children drink from your glass filled with an alcoholic beverage.
  4. "Help" for addictions is expensive, hard to find, and never works the first (or second or third) time.
  5. "Help" is never long enough.
  6. "Help" is extremely expensive.
  7. You need to be healthy and strong yourself to "help" the person with addiction.
  8. Prison is full of addicts who support each other.
  9. Talk to your children about drugs and alcohol and help them learn to "Just say no".
  10. Help your children find something they enjoy doing and encourage good, positive activities to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Yes, I thought I learned everything I needed to know from Patrick.  Until my own sons started down the same road.  Where had I gone wrong?  I did everything the "experts" suggested.  I set limits, I fed them healthy foods, encouraged them to do their homework, was involved at school and sports, and I promoted healthy physical activities to provide outlets for all that extra energy.

I read at least 101 books to them every night (and morning and during the day) so they would love learning, graduate from high school, and stay away from drugs and alcohol!! But it didn't help.  They still found themselves attracted to like minded individuals, finished school in the non-traditional way (via GED tests - my youngest took his while in prison), and have physical and mental health concerns I never expected my kids to have to deal with.

So what did I really learn?

  1. "Just say no" is bulls*** It works while the kids are in the DARE program but never lasts.
  2. There really is such a thing as peer pressure and parents need to be vigilant to help keep their kids strong enough to fight it.
  3. There will never be enough help, money, placements, treatments to help the addict until that addict wants that help and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay clean and sober.
  4. Follow through - follow through - follow through with consequences even if you are tired, feel beaten down, and exhausted beyond belief.
  5. Yelling doesn't work.  It makes kids shut down and ignore you. There is a way of stating your case, calmly, and giving the consequence without the need to yell.  It does work, unfortunately I never used this practice enough as I didn't learn about it until the kids were much older.
  7. Learn the serenity prayer and listen to yourself say the words - and find peace in what it means.
  8. Find humor in everyday things.  There were times when my guys and I would joke about something that some people would find inappropriate given our circumstances but you know what?  You have to laugh at yourself and your circumstances sometimes.  It doesn't mean you condone the behavior, but that you have accepted the cards you have been dealt and are moving forward with life. If I didn't laugh - I would have gone way crazy long before now. (some think I already did - but that is a topic for another day)
  9. I really didn't understand what my Mom was going though with my brother, because I was experiencing it from a siblings perspective.  It is very different than going through it as a parent.
  10. I would give my right arm to protect my grandchildren from addiction.
I learned many other lessons along the way too.  I became a much stronger woman than I ever thought possible.  I talked back to judges and police officers and many other authority figures who really didn't understand what our family was experiencing. The world of addiction comes with so many opinions and philosophies and unless you have experienced it you can't even begin to understand what another person is going through. Over the past 20 years we have had a lot of bad days but we have had just as many good days.  I learned that from Patrick too.

Appreciate the good days and accept the fact that with addiction, there will be bad days from time to time. He died 4 days before 9-11. We held his wake on 9-11 and one of my sisters could not get here for the wake and funeral because she lived in Florida and they routed her plane back and wouldn't let them leave. My sister who lived in Tennessee at the time barely made it; she drove.

It was a very difficult time on many levels.

Well this post is longer than I thought it would be. I tend to ramble sometimes when I am feeling like this. Thank goodness I don't feel like this very often.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Zucchini bread

Sorry, I am not a food photographer
I just made zucchini bread. 
I used Paula Deen's recipe and I must have done something wrong. It actually tastes too good! Oooey and gooey and OH SO GOOD!
If I might say so myself. 
It doesn't taste like any Zucchini bread that I have eaten before. In fact - next time I will use MUCH less sugar and a little more zucchini and maybe apples and carrots. 
The bread has a crunchy outer layer and very moist on the inside. Unfortunately, I have diabetes so this will not be added to my recipe book because it just can't go in there.  It tastes too good! 
I was going to use my Grandmothers recipe but changed my mind at the last minute. I have had this one for awhile now but someone else always made us bread so I never had a chance to use it. I am including the recipe for you so you can try it too.  Let me know what you think!!


  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.