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Sunday, November 29, 2015

You Want To Change What?!

Retirement is all about change. It's much like changing jobs, except the new job isn't really work at all.  Many people struggle with change. Change is uncomfortable.  My husband, for example, hates change.  If I rearrange a room or even a drawer, he grumbles around complaining...things were fine just the way they were.  I have to smile because these changes will soon become the familiar and all the newness and strangeness will dissipate. I enjoy change, and I guess I have my mom to thank for that.  When we were growing up, we moved thirteen times.  One year, I changed school three times!  It was a tough year, as I was learning the times tables and every school was in a different place.  But, I quickly learned you either go with the flow or be miserable.  So, I grew to embrace change.

Change touches every aspect of our lives, not just as we enter retirement.  As the holiday season has begun, I again am faced with opportunities to embrace change.  My small 4-person family has now morphed to include two wonderful sons-in-law.  Our family traditions at holiday gatherings needed to be adjusted. At Thanksgiving, my youngest daughter and her new husband would not be able to share the main meal with us.  So, in order to include them in part of the Thanksgiving dinner I started a new tradition I called The Blessings Jar.

 Instead of going around the table and sharing what we were thankful for, I gave everyone little slips of paper to write down their blessings and then they were to fold them and place them in the mason jar that was the centerpiece on the table. We wouldn't tell what we wrote, at least not yet.  When my daughter and her husband arrived for dessert, they were able to jot down their blessings and add them to the jar.  I think we will read the blessings on New Year's Day or whenever we are all together at the start of the year and exchange our blessings for New Year Resolutions!  Thus a new tradition has begun.  See...change can be fun.

Right on the heels of Thanksgiving is Christmas Tree time.  When my girls were little we always had a great time picking out the tree.  Sometimes we would go out into the fields of a tree farm and cut our perfect tree down ourselves, and sometimes we found freshly cut ones at the local tree farm up the road. It was always a fun family time. But now that my girls were picking out their own trees, it was time to reinvent the tree ritual...well kind of.  We've decided that the weekend of Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get our trees and the perfect way to get them is TOGETHER.  My newest son-in-law brings the truck and all six of us meet at the tree farm to choose our trees.

Of course we give advice freely:)  Once the trees are in the back of the truck we start the drop offs.  It's nice to see the trees going in the stands and centered and watered. Of course we give advice freely again :)

I'm thinking next year we need to expand the tradition a bit more.  We all didn't get to go to everyone's house because as the trees were dropped off we left that couple behind to start their trimming.  Wouldn't it be fun to have a progressive dinner?!!! GENIUS! The first drop off point could be appetizers, the second the main course and finish the drop offs with dessert at the third home.  Meanwhile, trees would be in their stands, lights would be on their trees, and fun would be had  by all.  I love change don't you? I can feel my family's eyes rolling right now.  They don't embrace change as happily as I do.

As the year rushes to its end, it's a good time to think about change and how we greet it when it finds us.  I've found it not such a scary prospect if you try to find ways to welcome the changes around you, even if you liked the way things used to be.

Have a blessed and joyous holiday season as you go about your family traditions.  What are your thoughts on change?  I'd love to hear other perspectives on the subject.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Autumn

I'm pretty certain that there are cold and snowy days right around the corner.
Thanksgiving is next week.  November is flying. Christmas is coming up fast.  So this past Monday when the weatherman predicted warm and sunny, Bob and I hitched the bikes to the back of the Jeep one last time before we dismantled the bike rack and tucked the bikes into the garage until spring.

We wanted to try a new venue and settled on Duke Farms, (as in Duke University and Doris Duke).  Her estate covers 2,700 acres, and is populated by lush landscapes  and nine man-made lakes such as this one we stopped to view along our way:

JB Duke, Doris's father, made his millions in tobacco as head of the American Tobacco Company.  But JB Duke also had a love of nature and a special soft spot for creating dramatic landscapes and using hydro electric power.  He had the nine lakes dredged on his vast property and even installed huge waterfalls. As we tooled along the narrow roads that wound through the park-like farm, we spied quite a few of these lakes and even one waterfall.  The farm is no longer a private residence but has been opened to the public and is run by a foundation for preserving the pristine land.

 During the Dukes' lifetimes the farm was run by dozens of workers both inside and outside of the mansion.  The staff actually had their own residences on the farm.  Bob and I passed many of these cottages on our tour.  In fact, Bob use to work with a guy who lived in one of them when his friend was a security guard for the Duke property. I sure wanted to get a peak inside one of these sweet looking cottages.  Some are still occupied by workers, so I settled for a quick picture from the front lawn.  Looks like something out of a fairy tale!

Some structures have suffered the ravages of time, like the Hay Barn.  Only the stone walls were left after a devastating fire, but Doris turned it into a sculpture garden.  She loved the arts and we got to reap the benefits of the lovely views she created.

The most stunning surprise on our adventure was the orchid conservatory.  Doris Duke was quite an eccentric lady.  Later in her life she became a horticulturist.  She was devoted to growing hothouse orchids. Luckily, the greenhouse is open to  the public and it put on a spectacular show.

Inside, the variety of orchids was amazing.  Take a look!

Spanish moss dripped from the branches that housed the potted flowers, and the fragrance was so sweet and intoxicating, I didn't want to leave.

What a lovely way to end our biking excursions for the season.  Bob and I can't wait to return to Duke Farms again in the spring when everything will be blooming and coming to life.  I know it will be spectacular and almost an entirely different experience.

Now the question is....what do we do in the winter?  Any suggestions?  What do you do for some extra fun when the snow starts? (PS.  we don't ski, skate, or snowboard!)  We old folks!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Walk with History

One of the nice things about being retired is that you can change your plans and it doesn't really affect anyone.  After 39 years of living by schedules and bells in the classroom, I found myself really uptight about breaking routine, but the other day I found the courage to just go with the whim of the moment.  It was a great decision and lead to a fun-filled and fascinating day.

Bob and I had gotten into the habit of biking along the dozens of miles of bike paths along the Delaware.  Don't get me wrong, that activity is amazing, but the
other morning, I just felt like I wanted to do something different.  Have you ever felt like that? Of course you have.

And, even though we had planned to go biking again, I made the very daring proposition to do something altogether different.  My Bob is a creature of habit and it is quite wrenching for him to change mid-steam, but using my feminine wiles (he's also a real softie) I convinced him it would be fun to take a history walk.

I had just finished reading a book set in the Civil War era and the setting evolved around the safe houses of the Underground Railroad.  I thought it might be cool to see if there were any such houses in New Jersey.  With a brief bit of research I discovered there were a few, but it would be a drive to see most of them.  The day was going to be gorgeous and I really wanted to be out of doors, so I switched plans again.  Revolutionary war sites were plentiful and close and I love that time period, so I thought, why not start there.  I decided to restrict our tour to our own county - Hunterdon. One should know about the place where they live, don't you agree? To my surprise there were so many sites we couldn't fit them all in on one day.

We started our tour in our town of Flemington, five minutes from home at the site of a skirmish where colonial minutemen overpowered a troop of British dragoons led by Cornet Geary who confiscated food and arms from a local warehouse.  His real mission was to see if there would be any resistance from the locals.  He got his answer and during the battle, Geary was killed.  A stone monument marks the spot of the skirmish.

A brief drive down the road led us to the spot where Geary's ancestors commemorated his death.  It is a lovely half-mile walkway called Cornet Geary Trail that ends at his memorial, approximately the spot where he was buried after the battle.  The odd thing about the spot is that the lovely path is in the middle of a modern McMansion development and winds in between two or three private properties.

It felt very strange to see a British memorial but, of course all soldiers who die for their country deserve to be honored. I think of all those WWI and WWII American soldiers who were buried in places like Normandy across the pond. It's comforting to know their grave sites are marked and kept by locals. I'm sure Geary's family was proud of his service.  So here we were, two hundred plus years later remembering Cornet Geary, saying a brief silent prayer, and thinking on the events of his demise.

As we made our way back from the memorial site, I couldn't help but gather up some of the beautiful acorns and oak leaves scattered along the path.  I pressed the leaves in waxed paper, just like when I was a child (so silly) but now I can use them for decoration on my Thanksgiving table, and I will have a story to tell my kids as we eat!

After that lovely walk, Bob and I drove another five minutes to the next town on our list, Ringos.  Both historical sites in Ringos were private homes, so we couldn't get up close and personal.  Below is the Landis House, built in 1750. Marquis de Lafayette stayed here while he was a patient of Dr. Gershom Craven.

A few blocks down the road, we found Ringo's Tavern.  The tavern was owned by the Ringos family from 1738 -1779.  The Sons of Liberty met here in 1776.  It became a local political center during the revolution.  I'd love to get a peak inside that home! A bit of irony...can you see the political poster on the front lawn?

Next, on to Lambertville which was called Coryell's Ferry back in revolutionary times, as it was a colonial river crossing village.  During the revolution the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and camped here under the command of George Washington enroute to the Battle of Monmouth NJ, the longest continuous battle of the war.

Above is Holcombe House, where Washington made his headquarters while waiting for word of the movement of the British fleet.  Below is a small cemetery attached to The First Presbyterian Church.

First Presbyterian Church Cemetery contains the gravesite of George Coryell, a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and pallbearer of George Washington.  Also buried in the cemetery Elijah Holcombe and Sam Holcombe, one of George Washington's spies.  So cool!!!

Last stop of the day was Rosemont and the Rosemont Cemetery.

Here we found the grave site of Captain Daniel Bray.  Capt. Bray led a party of men along the river to gather enough boats for General Washington, in order to make the famous crossing of the Delaware on December 25th 1776.  I could almost feel the men slinking along the river's edge and feel their sense of urgency and exhiliration...not to mention hear the chattering of their teeth in the freezing cold!

Rosemont Cemetery was our last stop of the day. I couldn't help but reflect on the awesome debt of gratitude we owe our forefathers who imagined and acted on a glorious idea that became our nation.

There are still 22 more historical revolutionary sites just in Hunterdon county that we didn't check out.  I think we will have lots to keep us occupied whenever the whim hits me again!

What's the history of your area?  Have you checked out any of the local sites?  I'd love to hear about them, leave me a comment.