June 2 – The Mother Road Planning Day 2

One of my favorite things to do in all the world is to plan a trip or a vacation – and there is a difference! Since it’s vacation time for families and teachers as the school year ends and summer break begins, I’m devoting my month of blog posts to the planning and the journey down half of Route 66, from Chicago to Aubuquerque. I kicked off the month introducing the Roadtrippers app as a great trip planning tool for trips that involve driving.

So if the first thing to do when planning any trip is downloading the Roadtrippers Plus app, the second thing is purchasing the Roadtrippers book featuring the chosen travel destination. I’ve purchased plenty of travel guides over the years, and my gold medal guides for international and large city travel are the Eyewitness Travel series of books published by Dorling-Kindersley because of the photography and organization of the layout. The Roadtrippers books, published by Roadtrippers LLC, have become my gold medal guides for driving destinations in the United States. For our trip, I like that the book and the app work together to provide a more technologically-enhanced global glimpse of the journey.

The Route 66 edition that I purchased came with a scratch-off code in the front cover of the book, activating a free month of the Roadtrippers Plus app. The organization of the book gives a simplified view of a long road trip, organized into six legs of the overall trip. One thing I particularly love is the playlists for each leg, featuring songs of those national regions. I have discovered, too, that there is a Pandora station entitled Route 66, which will make it fun to enjoy ahead of time and along the route.

And what song would be more fitting to begin a trip down Route 66 than Chuck Berry’s Route 66?

My May Goal Update

Any good goal system has to be periodically updated, which is why I revisit my goals at the end of each month. Sometimes I feel myself slipping, and sometimes I reach goals and then move away from them and have to re-establish them and strive to reach them again. Keeping them in my sight throughout the year is a dance – – whether two steps forward and one step back or one step forward and two steps back, I keep the momentum when I devote some time each month to thinking about making things happen. Because a goal without a plan, as they say, is just a dream.

Here’s what is happening this month:

CategoryGoalsMy Progress
LiteratureShift from Read Around the USA to reading with Sarah Donovan’s Ethicalela book group, which begins in August – My goal is to co-host April with Fran Haley and host next July alone, unless someone wants to join in and be a partner.

Continue to Blog Daily – I’m considering moving to a weekly blog, but I’m undecided as yet.
Signed up to host the book groups – Ada Limon’s The Hurting Kind poetry for April 2024and The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart for July 2024.

Ordered the first two books in the yearly reading series.

I have blogged daily this month.
CreativityImprove blog photos

Indulge in photo excursions
I’ve been reading tips on improving photography from websites like Audubon, and using the tips to apply to my photos.

I’ve been taking my camera on my outings, and I always keep it handy on the way up or down the driveway, since so much wildlife lives right there.
SpiritualityTune in to church
Keep OLW priority
We have tuned in to the First Baptist Church of YouTube through the month and listened to Dad as he has preached in different locations as pulpit supply.

I’ve prayed my way to work most days, and I’m keeping prayer as my priority – we have so many blessings that can never be thanked for enough.
ReflectionWrite family stories
Spend time tracking goals each month
I haven’t been writing as many family stories as I should be writing.
I have been tracking my goals, though.
Self-ImprovementReach top of weight range

Maintain Weight
I reached the top of my goal weight range and tried maintaining, but I failed to maintain. Now I’m back to needing to lose 10 pounds, and I’m going to try it with Weight Watchers instead of Optavia this time, since I find it more sustainable. Plus, I need a banana every day of my life for potassium – – not allowed on Optavia. Thankfully, a lot of weight has not been gained. I just need to reel it in.
Maintenance is the harder goal of losing and keeping it off.
GratitudeDevote blog days to counting blessingsI still devote blog days to counting my blessings. It helps to look ahead on the calendar and anticipate days like birthdays and other celebrations, like Marshall and Selena’s anniversary at the end of May and Beckham’s birthday at the beginning.
ExperienceEmbrace Slow Travel

Focus on the Outdoors

Add birding in at least three new counties for June – I currently have official counts for four Georgia counties.
We are indeed embracing slow travel as we take more camper trips. Instead of planning a cruise or a trip overseas this summer, we are opting to drive Route 66 (half of it) at an enjoyable pace, stopping to see the sights. We leave at the end of June for this with Briar’s brother and his wife, so we can share the driving and go at our own pace.

We’ve been spending more time outdoors at home and away – spiffing up the yard, savoring campsites. Spring is the ultimate time to get outdoors! I’m even trying a few new plants to see if I can keep them alive.

I have officially posted birding counts for Pike, Harris, Washington, and Cherokee counties in Georgia. My goal is to stop along the way home when we are at campsites and get at least three new counties by the end of June.

Slice of Life Challenge – March 28 – My Top Ten Favorite Books from Birth to Ten

I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading choices these past few weeks. I started the year with the goal of reading around the USA with The Book Girls, and I made it three and a half months before rethinking my commitment to reading books that I thought might be more about particular places. I’ve never had trouble abandoning a book, and I’ve never had trouble rereading one again and again and again.

Reading Around the USA seemed fun – like it was going to be an adventure – but in many cases, I found that the recommended books hardly mentioned place, and when I read to learn about a place, I thrive on rich descriptions that take me to settings that appeal to all five senses like I felt when I was walking the streets of Mitford Village with Jan Karon. What others find to be amazing bestsellers not to be missed, I often find blah at best, reading the obscure books on the shelf and finding that they outshine the popular books where my taste is concerned.

I’m looking forward to a book club coming this summer through Ethicalela.com, which will feature a variety of professional books, poetry, and fiction. My reading goal will shift toward reading books with the people I connect with and write with each month. We’ll gather by Zoom and discuss our reading. The hosts and monthly books will be announced in June.

I thought back this week over the books I enjoyed as a young child, and these were the top ten as I remember them, in no particular order beyond 1-4, but 1-4 are solidly in order of preference. These are the books that shaped me as I became a reader, the ones that had me wanting to write so much that I began writing the names of the color crayons in the covers of my books by looking at the letters on the crayon wrapper. Perhaps you also loved some of these.

10. Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

9. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

8. A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith

7. Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch

6. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

5. Happiness Is by Charles M. Schultz

4. Childcraft Volume 2: Stories and Fables

3. Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories

2. A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

  1. Childcraft Volume 1: Poems and Rhymes

Please share your favorite childhood books and a book you’d recommend that you’ve read recently in the comments. Currently, I’m reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart.

Happy Reading!

May 22 – 135 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in a Camper

Diamond Art, photo from https://img.staticdj.com/0853734d0ffc66143b35281000e6c478.jpg

I came across a fascinating Facebook post this week on one of my camping groups. A Girl Camper member stated she needed a rainy day hobby and invited others to share what they enjoyed doing. There are currently 687 responses, but for a rainy day wish, the feedback was phenomenal. I wanted to share the ideas that were posted as a list post today. I won’t name people, since the group is private, but these ideas are completely credited to the girl campers of the world, who are a creative and adventurous bunch!

  1. read
  2. crochet
  3. knit
  4. sew
  5. plan the next camping trip
  6. macro photography
  7. watercolours
  8. embroidery
  9. draw
  10. journal
  11. listen to the wind
  12. listen to music
  13. listen to audiobooks
  14. diamond painting
  15. nap
  16. make leather items
  17. play video games
  18. adult coloring books
  19. play the ukelele
  20. color with gel pens
  21. paint rocks to leave for the next camper
  22. scrapbooking
  23. sudoku
  24. crossword
  25. dot painting on rocks
  26. color by number
  27. paint by number
  28. quilting
  29. canning
  30. people watching
  31. jigsaw puzzles
  32. cross stitch
  33. make jewelry
  34. watch old movies
  35. plastic canvas stitching
  36. make knit hats to sell
  37. write your life story
  38. loom knit
  39. make wind/sun catchers
  40. sew towel golf cart seat covers
  41. Play Yahtzee, Uno, Scrabble Go
  42. Play guitar
  43. paint notecards
  44. needlepoint
  45. board games
  46. card games
  47. fish
  48. drink and collect wine corks
  49. word finds
  50. Chuzzle on my phone
  51. bedazzle my clothes
  52. paint scenes where we are camped
  53. Bead Christmas ornaments
  54. make car air fresheners
  55. make cups, tshirts, wooden signs
  56. singing
  57. study bird identification books
  58. study flower identification books
  59. study foreign language on Duolingo
  60. play solitaire
  61. plan menus
  62. reorganize the camper, clean cabinets
  63. make mosaics with old costume jewelry
  64. listen to podcasts
  65. work on Lego sets
  66. play cribbage
  67. watch a Netflix series
  68. make a camper or log cabin from wine corks
  69. shop at local thrift stores
  70. try new makeupn techniques
  71. plein air painting
  72. cook something new
  73. meditate
  74. yoga
  75. latch hook
  76. dance
  77. walk in the rain
  78. fire writing (pyrography)
  79. go out to eat
  80. make knee blankets to donate to the nursing home
  81. zentangling
  82. neurographic art to destress from andrea.nelson.art on TikTok
  83. play indoor bowling
  84. write letters to friends
  85. whittle/woodcarve
  86. organize digital photos
  87. spinning wheels (wool) with travel spinner
  88. train the dog
  89. macrame
  90. paper crafts (origami)
  91. make gel prints from leaves and flowers
  92. go to a local winery
  93. make cotton loop pot holders to give away to fellow campers
  94. catch up on work
  95. geocaching in the drizzle
  96. wire wrap stones
  97. make tinctures with essential oils
  98. Bible Study
  99. daydream
  100. pray
  101. song writing
  102. poetry writing
  103. surf the web
  104. work on Geneaolgy
  105. look for a dog to rescue
  106. English Paper Piecing
  107. Pedicure
  108. Manicure
  109. Facial
  110. stained glass
  111. make doll clothes
  112. make buntings
  113. bullet journaling
  114. rug matting
  115. clean a cupboard
  116. brush the cat or dog
  117. Tjhoko painting
  118. make tags with rubber stamps
  119. mandala painting on garden bricks
  120. update your blog
  121. visit a museum
  122. listen to the rain
  123. look at magazines
  124. crochet a temperature blanket
  125. make paper beads
  126. punch needle rugs
  127. put a wood model together
  128. brew a big pot of coffee and drink it
  129. weaving loom
  130. art abandonment – something for the next camper left behind
  131. make decals on the Silhouette machine
  132. press flowers
  133. make bookmarks
  134. call someone to talk
  135. text people to say you’re thinking of them

There’s simply no way to be bored when you’re camping in the rain!

It’s Beckham’s Birthday!

Today, the baby of the family, our grandson Beckham, turns 2. It’s the last birthday he’ll celebrate as “the baby of the family” before his newest sibling arrives in July. We celebrate our Beckham today, and all the joy he brings to us!

Beckham sharing his ice cream with his dad
Beckham Cash Meyer 

Baby Beckham,
Everyone's joy!
Carefree days
Kayaking with Dad
Huddling up with Poppy
Appreciating these fleeting
Moments, savoring all the love

Careening on bare feet
Always listening for a blender:
Smoothies!  (His favorite)
Here he comes to claim his own (or yours)!

Making his footprint on the world
Ever the sweet little boy, another
Year older and still, 
Every day, 
Reminding us how blessed we are to be family.
In a tender moment at Christmas, Beckham chose Poppy as his person to snuggle up to in peace and warmth. The magic of his eyes and twinkle-cheeked smiles before he settles in to get sleepy were moments etched in time!

May 8 – Duckgazer Window

We were camping at Dames Ferry in Georgia this weekend when our 3 Schnoodles became captivated with the ducks flitting about in the waters of Lake Juliette.  The stargazer window over the bed of our Little Guy Max never fails to hold wonder - whether stars or ducks, whether night or morning.  There is always an exciting world to behold outside that window!  

Move Over, Stargazers!

duckgazer window
curious schnoodles camping
flop-eared wonderment 

May 4 – Lonesome Bee Haven

Johnson Funny Farm bee haven, April 2023 – baby bees at top right corner and entering bottom left tube

Forget Lonesome Dove. This one’s all about the lonesome bees – and putting food on Earth’s tables. One of my 2023 goals is spending more time outdoors, taking more notes in nature observations, and learning more about the ecosystem and the creatures that do jobs I’ve taken for granted. A couple of summers ago, we bought a bee house to provide safe spots for solitary bees like mason bees and leaf cutter bees to nest. These pollinators help plants like fruits and vegetables thrive. We have enjoyed watching the little bees come and go – they’re so cute – and so helpful! In rural areas like ours where agriculture is the name of the game, bees matter! Help with pollination – NOT PESTICIDES! We are doing one small part to make a difference – and watching it happen thrills our souls!

Lonesome Bee Haven

lonesome bee haven
apiculture hideaway 
pollinator post

baby bees buzzing
busy building businesses~
hungry world feeders

May 3 – Our Bat Hollow ~ ~Free Housing for Chiroptera

Aidan enjoys helping us outdoors when he comes to visit the farm!

One of my 2023 goals is spending more time outdoor, taking more notes in nature observations, and learning more about the ecosystem and the creatures that do jobs I never fully appreciated. Both my mother and grandmother, avid gardeners, died of Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological disease that has been linked to pesticides. If my fish are not wild caught, I don’t buy them (my takeaway from Silent Spring). I’m doing all I can – one small part in a big world – to make a difference where I can.

I was driving along our rural highway last week and felt tears well up when I saw a sign advertising 52 acres for sale. I drove back around the loop, looking at all the trees – all the homes where right now, there are baby birds and deer and foxes and squirrels whose homes will be felled with the blade of an ax when the money changes hands. It hurts my heart for them.

We have been considering ways to control our mosquito population (quite possibly the only critter in the entire universe I would vote to eradicate), and one of our ideas is installing a bat village. So this past Saturday, I raised my husband and grandson up in the tractor bucket to install our first bat house. We’ve seen bats out by our driveway for the past several years, and we hope we can attract them to the bat houses from wherever they are living (we checked the barn and see no signs). We’ll add to the village over the next couple of weeks, even though the boxes should have been up by now since they are more likely to be inhabited over the summer when the bats emerge from hibernation in the spring, according to Google. I read somewhere that the occupancy likelihood is only 35%, but we’re going to give it a go since we know we have them nearby.

Plus, Halloween. It will just feel a little spookier and more seasonally festive when the pumpkins frost over and moon shines through the trees. We’ll enjoy batwatching almost as much as birdwatching!

~~Bat Hollow ~~

house installation
erecting a bat hollow
mosquito control 

spooky October 
Loblolly pine neighborhood 
for night flight critters

vampirish creatures
welcome wagons circled up
upside-down hangout! 
My husband takes direction on the exact placement of the box, which should be at least 12 feet off the ground.
Bat Box #1 being installed

May 2 – And Just Like That, A Miracle is Taking Place

The first of the three bluebird hatchlings; one did not hatch.

I’ve spent the months of March and April writing among friends, celebrating the Slice of LIfe Story Challenge and #VerseLove – – and spiffing up my bird and butterfly garden. Each year, we discard any cracked feeders and add a couple of new ones so that we maintain the work that began in spring 2009, shortly after we moved to the Johnson Funny Farm on New Year’s Eve 2008.

I caught butterfly garden fever from my mother. Throughout her years, she planted fennel as host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs. Every summer, her fennel plants would sag with the weight of the caterpillars, each happily munching away to becoming a chrysalis before emerging as a black swallowtail. She also threw out rotting fruit for them to feed on, and taught me to do the same. She had attended a butterfly gardening workshop with one of the leading butterfly garden experts in Georgia and learned that butterflies like to feast on urea. So if you ever see an upside-down garbage can lid with rotting oranges and a wet sponge in a garden, you can bet that someone knew to invite their little grandson to go tee-tee on the sponge to make the butterflies happy. Mom grew nectar plants nearby, such as butterfly bush, azaleas, lantana and coreopsis. Every once in a while I can keep a flower alive, but it takes a modern-day miracle to make it happen.

A miracle. That’s why a week ago Thursday for the Open Mic, I changed up my whole reading plan less than an hour before the long-awaited event started. I’d stepped outside to toss a lemon rind out and to fill the bird feeders and birdbaths and check the bluebird house (again) to see if the eggs had hatched. I could see a tiny notch in one egg, and I knew the hatchling’s head would emerge within the hour if all went well. I waited awhile, watching from the front porch, and when I could see that no parents were coming and going, I returned in time to capture the moment of wonder! Watch the video at the top, if you haven’t already.

I headed out to the poetry reading, leaving my own poems at home, selecting one by by Mary Oliver instead. I stepped onto the stage and read This Morning .

Reading poetry at the Open Mic, 1828 Coffee Company, April 2023

#VerseLove April 30

Sarah Donovan is our host for Day 30 of VerseLove and our host of this space each month for writers who crave togetherness each month as we come together to celebrate our words and thoughts ~to share the joy of writing. She helps meet a deep need in each of us. I adore the prompt today, and I ran for my journal from 2019 when I saw the topic. I thought back to the first year I participated in VerseLove and looked for that first prompt that changed the trajectory of my life from grief over my mother’s death to connection with others whose pain shone through their heart holes, too, who showed me how to use the sunspots to write and heal. To every writer who shares the journey, thank you for all of the inspiration you bring. This morning, my grandson writes along with me as I revise my first-ever VerseLove poem, Blackberry Winter.

Blackberry Winter, Revisited

It’s a Blackberry Winter I wrote in 2019
beginning a poem about all the good things

later this morning, my first grandson 
               will make elderberry jam toast
                         plus cheese omelettes 
                                   on the Lodge cast iron griddle
   wearing my apron 
         (he doesn’t know about the apron yet)

but first: raindrops on rooftop, fresh coffee,
wi-fi (stronger than coffee, finally), computer charged,
comfy chair, whisper-soft pajamas,

thoughts ready to materialize
three schnoodles tussling on grandson’s 
sleepover mattress as we write together
in the living room

words forming on pages: his pen, my keyboard
to the first #VerseLove prompt of 2019 from Sarah:

….the good things in our lives….

there are those who bring
more warmth than raindrops and coffee,
more comfort than chairs and pajamas,
more joy than words ~ 
   ancestors whose cast iron presence
      and apron strings linger in kitchens
       hugging us tight about the middle

and those we ancestor ~ grandchildren 
who write right next to us
about all the good things in our lives
on this elderberry toast and cheese omelette morning.

– Kim Haynes Johnson, April 2, 2019 and 4/30/2023