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Now Choose Life

Choose to Live Your Life in Abundance in the after--- after the spouse dies, after the marriage ends, after the kids leave. Join me on my journey of CHOOSING LIFE in my after. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live- Deut 30:19

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June 27, 2018

Peak of the Week

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It's Wednesday, The Peak Of The Week!!! Here are some things that piqued my interest in the past week. 

This past week has been a weird week. There have been several times where I just had to take a step back and question what in the world is going on. People never cease to amaze me!! Besides just some weird things that people in my personal life have done, people in the public eye have been insane.

For me, this was definitely the most perplexing, confusing, something that makes you go "What?" of the week. Our first lady was traveling to South Texas to visit children who had been taken away from their parents. She chose to wear this jacket that says "I really don't care, do U?"  to get on the plane. Why?

My thoughts: She needs to fire those close to her who allowed her to wear this. It is evident that she has people working for her who are afraid to tell the emperor that there are no clothes. I have to admit that being from South Texas and still owning a home there- I was so happy she was going to see first hand what was happening. All of that excitement went out the window when I saw this. There is just no way to defend it.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award-  I have so many thoughts on this. I have a post started on all of them!! But again, I just don't understand. I do get it that times have changed- and changed for the better on so many issues, but to remove an author's name simply because her work reflects how things were at the time period in which she lived is just beyond me.

But there were also some really good things this week. Here are a couple of them.

Carpool Karaoke- I love watching James Corden with Paul McCartney. I love the story he tells of writing "Let It Be." I love The Beatles!!

Political Ad- This is a great ad by a woman in Texas running for office. I love it!!!

Happy Peak of the Week. It's all downhill from here!!

June 25, 2018

Viking River Cruise- Paris and the Heart of Normandy Day 3

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At 6:00 p.m. on day 2 or our cruise, our ship set sail down the Seine for the city of Vernon. We arrived sometime in the night and woke up in a beautiful, quaint, small town.

After a delicious breakfast, we left for our first excursion of the day to the French village of Giverny where the artist Claude Monet lived and had his beautiful gardens. 

First stop, Monet home and gardens:
I don't know very much about "art." However, I have always loved Monet's work. The brush strokes and the colors he chose make me feel like I can fall into one of his paintings. To be able to literally walk around in a Monet painting was a great thrill. 

Lilly pond

I wore my brightest outfit in honor of Monet!!

No words to describe the beauty. 

Dr. T and my son. They were good sports. I think they enjoyed it!!
The painting

Walking inside the painting.


The painting

Walking inside the painting.

Inside Monet's home

Perfect French village

Field of poppies outside the Monet museum

Me and my beautiful daughter!!
We made it back to the ship for lunch and were back out for a short walking tour of Vernon by 2:30. There was an optional painting class on board as well as a lecture on "Painters Along The Seine" while we went on our walking tour. 

The coziest little town of Vernon.

Cobblestone streets

Amazing to still see shrapnel marks from WWII on this church. 

Although they had a supermarket, there was still a butcher shop, fromage shop, liquor store, and a chocolate store.
Very European!!! I loved it.

One of the oldest buildings in town.

Great story behind this woman. Our guide told us to watch for her and while we waited for her to appear, she told us this story. This woman always appears waving an American flag for tourists. One day, our guide asked her age. She only knows that she is in her 90's. Our guide also reminded her that the USA didn't liberate Vernon during WWII. The woman told her that she knows that. However, the USA did liberate the town she and her family lived in during WWII. Her family even rescued a US serviceman and kept him for two weeks until help could get him. She waves our flag proudly to let all Americans know that she has never forgotten what the USA did for her!! We were all wiping tears at the end of this great story!!

Beautiful flowers everywhere we looked. It made me want to go home and get to gardening!!

We loved the town of Vernon. It was here that we started seeing plaques around depicting WWII battles and explaining what happened on that spot!!

To give you an idea of the attention to detail that goes on with a Viking Cruise. I will share what happened while in Vernon. After our walking tour, Dr. T and I went to the supermarket. I bought two bottles of Bordeaux wine.  I didn't put them in our refrigerator. I left them on the counter in our room. When we got back to our room that night, we had our usual turndown service, and right in front of my bottles of wine sat two wine glasses. Viking knows how to spoil!!

June 18, 2018

Viking River Cruise- Paris & The Heart of Normandy Day 1 and 2

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After spending a few great days in Amsterdam, we took a train to the Paris Gare du Nord Station. We easily got a taxi to Le Pecq, a small town north of Paris where our boat was docked. One thing to remember about Paris cabs is that they prefer cash. It is so easy to use a card, but don't forget to get plenty of Euros when traveling to Europe. You will need them.

A few weeks before our trip, Viking sent us a welcome packet. It contained a booklet about our trip as well as luggage tags for our luggage.
Welcome Packet!!

Inside the front page of the booklet so we know exactly where we are going. Each page after has detail information about your trip.
When you book a trip with Viking, you gain access to a website about your trip. The website is where you provide them with personal information as well as book your excursions. They added more excursions the closer we got to our trip. Some excursions are included in the price of the cruise, but some are an additional charge.

When you arrive, your luggage is taken and you are invited to eat a light lunch in the dining room. When it is time to go to your room, your luggage is there waiting for you. There must be something in that red Viking luggage tag that tells them where your luggage goes. M hadn't put hers on yet and had to go find her luggage- which was very easy to do.

After lunch, a tour was scheduled for the nearby town of St. Germain en Laye. It is a beautiful suburb of Paris. 

Piano in a field of wildflowers!!

Castle with a German bunker to the left- hard to see in this picture.

The bunker up close. Dr. T had to get an up-close look at everything WWII related.
Our view back at Paris from this "shee shee" suburb!! That is the Eiffel Tower on the left side of the small hill.
By the end of the day, everyone has arrived on the ship, and we got to see all the people with whom we would be spending the next week. 

The next day we were up early for breakfast. The cruise offers a choice of eating a light breakfast off of the lounge or eating a big breakfast, complete with an omelet bar, in the dining room. Everyone usually did their own thing for breakfast. Before you leave the ship or an excursion, you have to remember to take your "listening device" which I liked to call our "hearing aids." You need it to hear your guide on your excursions. 

After breakfast, we set off for a day in Paris. Dr. T and I opted for the official tour while the kids opted to be dropped off to spend the day doing what they wanted.

I learned a lot on our tour so I'm really glad we did it. Did you know that when Texas was a country, it had an embassy in Paris? 

Beautiful Arc de Triomphe. I learned that the tomb of the unknown soldier is at the base. 

A little surreal to look out the window of your tour bus and see your kids walking the streets of Paris!!

Seine River

Notre Dame

When I was here before, we didn't go inside. This tour was fascinating!

My daughter and I made several trips here back in 2012. Glad I got to see it again.

We really weren't' hungry, but you can't go to Paris and NOT eat a crepe. 

The Lourve 
Let me just say something about going to the Louvre. It really is one of those things, like the Eiffel Tower, that needs to be seen in Paris. How can you go to Paris and not see the Mona Lisa? It is extremely crowded and extremely big. When I was here in 2012 with my kids, we went in and were so overwhelmed. We did see the Mona Lisa then as well as some other famous works of art. We didn't even attempt to go in because there just wasn't time. I made a vow that the next time I'm there, I will hire a private tour guide and spend at least a day in The Louvre. We met the perfect tour guide while on our trip. I have contact information for him and will talk about him in a later post.

Of course, we got our kissing selfie- We always do!!

I included this terrible picture because I've always wondered where Princess Diana died. This flame sits atop the tunnel where the car wreck that killed her occurred. 
Life After Loss- The only other time I have ever been to Paris was in the summer of 2012 a few months after R passed away. My son and I met my daughter in Europe at the end of her study abroad. The only other time Dr. T had ever been to Paris was a few months after his first wife passed away. We had only seen Paris with very heavy hearts. We discussed this prior to going. We both wanted to be prepared. Triggers are everywhere in grief. We shared stories with each other and had a good day. The choice to do such a fast-paced and strict on time tour was good for us! Days like this and the emotions that come with them are just the reality of living with grief. It's always there. I don't try to escape it anymore like I did at times, but I do try to prepare myself for times when I know it might be hard. Our day in Paris was a good day!!

We chose the Full- Day Panoramic Paris tour for our day. The kids chose to be dropped off for a full day on their own. Other choices were: Highlights of Paris and the Louvre or Scenic Paris & Hills of Montmartre. As you can see, Viking offers many options for you to choose from.

I really liked a blog post I recently read about visiting Paris for the first time. I agree with so much of what is said.  Getting Paris Right The First Time  
June 13, 2018

Peak Of The Week- A list of things that piqued my interest this week 6-13-18

There is a video embedded in this post. Please go here to the original post to be able to see it.

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It's The Peak OF The Week!! 
Here are some things that piqued my interest- June 13, 2018
I live in an extremely beautiful area of the country! The main street in my hometown always goes all out with the seasons. Beautiful flowerpots are all over downtown right now!!

Unvarnished Truths About Retirement- This list really made me think. I guess I really am getting old when articles like this get my attention. My top three from this list of 21 Truths are:

15- Comfort is overrated- live outside your comfort zone. I guess this spoke to me because I have chosen to write this blog. Sharing my life and thoughts has been rewarding, but it is also very scary. I have had to step outside my comfort zone to do it.

Reminds me of two of my favorite quotes
" There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there is no growth in the comfort zone."
"What people think of you is none of your business."

9- Stop Complaining- No One cares- well, yes, people care to a certain extent. Then you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and start moving forward. My daughter and I have talked about this since losing her dad. We realized that although people were wonderful to us, and cared- when it came down to it, people really didn't care after a while. It is just human nature!!

3- Negativity Wastes Life- We all watch how people handle things. I hope and pray that I handle the trials of life with a positive attitude. I have been around way too many people who are negative and it definitely drains the life out of everyone.

Dementia Caregiver's Help
Dr. Mike has quickly become one of my favorite humans. He is a dementia specialist- I believe he is a physical therapist. He puts a short, inspirational video out almost every day on Facebook. I highly recommend following his Facebook page whether or not you have someone close to you with dementia.

His Website 

His Facebook page.

I'm leaving you with something that I hope makes you laugh as much as it did me!!

Praying Over Food--I have wonderful friends who have never had a meal without a prayer. I have a high respect for them. I admit, praying before an everyday meal is just not something that we did in our home. I guess the kids were always so busy. And, to be really honest, I just never really got the "why" of it all.  I guess that's why I found this video to be so funny!!! For me, the bottom line is- pray with your kids and let them know that you pray for them. I don't care when it is!!!

Happy Peak of the Week!!! It's all downhill from here!
June 11, 2018

European Trip- 2 days in Amsterdam

 We recently spent 2 days in Amsterdam and then took a train to Paris to board a Viking River Cruise.

Let me explain our decision for this particular trip. Dr. T and I both love learning about World War II. We were lucky enough last summer to visit London where we went through the Churchill War Rooms. We also were in Hawaii and were able to go to Pearl Harbor. We have travel goals of going to Europe and seeing several areas important in WWII history

I first started checking on doing a Rhine River cruise and ending up in Amsterdam but wanted to be able to visit at least one concentration camp, which would not happen on the cruise. Dr. T  and my son, C, really wanted to visit the Normandy area. Since we were going to be so close, I wanted to visit Amsterdam so we could go to the Anne Frank House.

After a bit of research, we decided to do the Paris To Normandy Viking River Cruise with a side trip to Amsterdam. Planning started about a year before we took the trip. I booked our cruise in October to be sure to get rooms that we wanted. My travel agent suggested a separate trip to Krakow, Poland sometime to see that beautiful city. We could then tour Auschwitz and also visit the Schindler Factory Museum. That will have to be planned another time.

Because I used a travel agent to book our trip, and she did some wacky flights for us, I told everyone that we needed to only take carry-ons for our luggage- not a super easy task, but I've done it before (see post here) so I knew it could be done. Luckily, both my kids and Dr. T were fine with doing that.
The key to traveling with just carry-ons is to have a really good suitcase.
I'll talk about my new suitcase in a later post!

So off we went; our first stop- Amsterdam. We met up with daughter, M,  in Chicago, then all flew together to Amsterdam.

I read a small amount before we went, and we had several people tell us some things they enjoyed in Amsterdam!! Like the senior citizen friend who told me we had to go to the Red Light District!!

Day 1
We arrived around noon and took a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the Bilderberg Hotel. I can't recommend this hotel enough. It was perfect for us. Its location was great as we were able to walk anywhere we wanted to go. It is situated in the museum district and is very close to the Iamsterdam sign!! It is also one block from the street with all the high-end shops in case you want to buy anything designer while you are there.
Great view from our room.

Hotel bar and garden area.
Garden area.

Reception room. Great place to wait for others!
A beautiful hotel on a quiet street!!

Fresh flowers- such a nice touch!

We spent the rest of the day walking around exploring the city recouping from our flight.

Little restaurant overlooking a canal.

Not big on doing super touristy things, but you have to see the Iamsterdam sign!!

This is a beautiful city. I loved all the canals!!

Dr. T always humors me with my picture taking! My kids- not so much!!
Dr. T loves Dr. Pepper. He was excited to find one written in Dutch.

So many bicycles everywhere we looked. This city has great bike paths too!!

Day 2
After a great hotel breakfast, we walked over to the Anne Frank House. We got there early because I wanted to make sure we knew exactly how to get there. We went to a nearby coffeehouse until our time to enter. I also learned that a coffeehouse is for coffee. A coffeeshop is for cannabis.

You can start buying tickets two months before you plan on going. You pick the time that you wish to enter the building. When I first read "The Diary Of Anne Frank" in the 8th grade, I didn't dream of being able to one day stand where she stood. I had the honor of teaching the play when I taught 8th grade many years later. It was at that time, that I starting having the dream to one day go to Amsterdam and visit the place where she hid with her family.

A word about the museum. It was extremely moving for me to walk through that bookcase into the secret annex. My take away is that the museum is so well done. The Nazis took all the furnishings after they found the hiding place and sent the occupants to concentration camps. I feel like in America, things are so commercialized. Europe is not commercialized and neither is the Anne Frank House. Each room is stark except for pictures of how the room looked at the time she lived there. In her room, her movie star pictures are still on the wall- protected by glass. No photography is allowed in the building. For a virtual tour, click here.
My travel buddy and me at the entrance to the Anne Frank House.

Street View of Anne's dad's office building where the family hid. 

Doors that are no longer used for the entrance. Notice the small sign stating what this building is.
No commercialization at all. So nice. It is a very respectful place.
Bell  Tower that Anne always heard from a nearby church.

View of the building from across a canal.

In my opinion, you can't go to Amsterdam without a visit to the Anne Frank House.

Later in the day, we went to the Red Light District. It was about what I expected- a much bigger Bourbon Street. Pretty gross to see men entering the rooms!!! It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and women were already dancing in the windows. I read that no photos are allowed in this area and it is strictly enforced so no pictures- not that I would have wanted to take any. I'm glad I went and saw it. I'm glad it was the afternoon and not at night!!! Our canal tour guide told us that many people go to the Red Light district and become "Amsterdamaged." I can see that easily happening in that area.

The kids went to do their own thing while Dr. T and I went to find a place to eat. On the way, we stopped at a street market and a bulb market.

This entire market was selling books.

I love looking at old books.

I really expected to see more tulips. I guess we weren't in the right areas.

I wasn't sure if I could bring any back so I didn't buy any.

Day 3
After another great breakfast at the hotel, we set out for a bit of culture. Unfortunately, we waited too late to get tickets to the Van Gogh museum. The MOCO museum was having a Banksy exhibit. M loves Banksy. I walked all over Brighton, England last year just to find an original Banksy to take a picture of for her!! I enjoy Banksy's work as well.

My favorite.

Ha ha.

Exhibit Banksy.

Original street art that I walked all over Brighton, England to find. 

That afternoon, we went on a canal tour. M found a highly reviewed canal tour before we left so we already had our tickets. If we had waited until we got there, I think these tours would have been sold out! We picked Those Dam Boat Guys. Our tour was fun and informative!! The only negative was that the information I got stressed bringing food and drinks for the cruise. We didn't eat lunch and stopped by a supermarket for cheese, crackers, wine and Dr. Peppers!! We had several bags!! No one else brought food so it was kind of a bummer! We enjoyed it very much though!!!

Day 4
The hotel arranged for a car service to pick us up and take us to Central Station to catch our train to Paris. Central Station is not a large train station. We arrived way early so we had time for coffees etc. We then took the 8:17 to Paris. (Glad to not be on the 15:17 to Paris :) )

Amsterdam was a lovely city. We learned a new word while there - "gezellig." It is the Dutch way of life. Cozy is a somewhat accurate translation. We found Amsterdam to be Gezellig!! I loved all the people on bicycles. I loved the sidewalk cafes. I loved hearing the bicycle bells at every turn in the city. It makes me want to orchestrate more gezellig into my daily life.

We loved Amsterdam!!