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Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 in Review aka Christmas Letter from the Brooks Household

Yes, here it is, the  Christmas letter… blog form! Just when you thought you were safe from such a thing, boom! here it is.  Of course, I'm limited in adding photos just from the blog and  iPhone, and my memory impairments, which seem to be escalating since my 59th birthday this year.

 This photo shows the pretty blue paint that was starting to look a bit faded on the south side of our house (don't try to look, I didn't take a photo of that side).  We hired a painter in the fall of 2012 to paint that side.  As of December 2013, the painter moved to Georgia without painting more than 2 days in 2013.  If you know of a good painter, from anywhere, let us know. Oops, I forgot that Christmas letters don't tell you things like that! Sorry.

Marilyn Monroe came to our household as a complete surprise. There are some parents that say the same thing about a few of their children and now we get that!  In early January, Marilyn, a 12 year old seeing eye dog, faced sudden retirement after her owner  had a stroke and could no longer care for her. Our vet gave us a call to see if we would consider adding her to our pack. It has been a match made in heaven and as of this very moment, she is peacefully sleeping in a stuffed chair. This is big news because she hasn't attempted to do more than sit beside a chair!

In early May, I traveled to California to visit family and Ron stayed behind to pet sit our pack. The photo  is of  my niece, Kelsey*, who turns 12 in a few weeks. I  enjoyed spending time her, and with my nephew, Kacey (age 17), my brother, David, my sister-in-law, Karrie, my mom, Beverly, and my great aunt*Alberta (who turned 103 in October). **You can only give ages of the very young and very old before being considered impolite! Bob and Paulette traveled with me and went on to visit Bob's sister nearby. Mom and I stayed several days in Laguna Beach, visiting familiar haunts from the years my parents lived there.

A quick trip to Washington D.C. took place in late May when a delegation from Ohio libraries met  to discuss finding a sponsor for a bill that forces publishers to sell eBooks to libraries under the fair use doctrine. (Some of the major publishers refuse to sell them to public libraries.  This fall I celebrated my 37th year working for Sandusky Library!

In June, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We discussed going to one of our favorite places, either Key West or Kennebunkport, but, instead, decided to try something completely new and rented an RV and camped near Asheville, North Carolina for a week. We spent a wonderful afternoon riding through a bit of the Blue Ridge Mountains and spent the rest of the time by the campfire, not even leaving to tour Biltmore!

This view, from our campsite, convinced both of us that further RV adventures would become a major part of our retirement years. And so, planning ahead, we…...

purchased one in late June and parked it at a beautiful campground in Bellevue, Ohio, Gotta Getaway,  for the summer! This has been a great place to learn the art and science of camping. We can fill and (empty) various tanks, drive without white knuckles, use the furnace, cook using foil over a fire, talk RV with neighboring "rigs" about their "coaches" and how to incorporate our pups into this lifestyle. We are seriously hooked.

 In late June, I attended the annual American Library Convention (ALA) in Chicago with a delegation of eight other librarians from my library. There, among 25,000 of librarians,  it doesn't seem unusual to visit a library furniture showroom with books hanging from the ceiling.

Paulette, Joel, our C.F.O., and I took drove from Sandusky to Michigan City, Indiana and then took the commuter train in to Chicago from there, just in time to arrive in the midst of a huge parade. Something about a basketball championship. We had to hire a rickshaw to haul our luggage down Michigan Avenue, weaving among the throngs of celebrants. On the drive home, we stopped at the RV Hall of Fame, as, by this time, Paulette has been bitten by the RV bug as well. You should put this on your bucket lists!

Meanwhile, our  garden looked the best ever.  I took tons of photos in case this was an aberration that will never be repeated again! Ron and I are not gardeners. At All. And the dogs do what they can to destroy any grass, flowers, birds, etc, on a regular basis, so, I can only admit that our garden looked great because of Jim, owner of the Gardenport. We wanted everything to look extra nice for Mom's visit for the month of July, and so it did!

We tried to convince her to buy this small bungalow around the corner from our house. She pointed out that it gets cold in Ohio, and that her grandchildren lived in California! All true.

In October, Ron and I ventured for our second camping trip. This time to Nashville….Indiana. It was here that we discovered that not all campgrounds are alike. And that it is easy to back up and bash in the back of an RV, even when the co-pilot is yelling at you to STOP BACKING UP!!!!

Moving on to a more aesthetic campground, we explored the countryside, falling in love with barns, covered bridges, and Nashville artists. We also discovered that bringing 3 dogs is a lot of work!  We let them out, let them in, walked them, and wiped off 12 dirty paws when it rained!

Then, it was off to Seattle, Washington with BFF, Paulette. Wow! What a great trip we had, heading to Whideby Island to pick up Paulie's handmade spinning wheel.

It was a short trip, with more laughter tucked into 4 days than a Saturday Night Live show with Jim Belushi. We were the only two that were thrilled with our plane departure delay as it gave us more time to knit, laugh, and knit some more.

In mid October, the Ohio Library Council's annual meeting was held in Sandusky-the first time since 1901! We hosted an all conference reception for 300 of our colleagues one evening and the entire staff spent 2 months spiffing up the Library for the event. Above, left to right, Lindsey Levinsohn, Associate Director, Children's Services, center, Samantha Chada, Director, Technology & Communication, and right, Terri Estel, Chief Operating Officer, part of the great team at Sandusky Library.

Ron, had a great work year, too. He went on two Honor Flights to D.C. with his hospice veteran patients this year ( not the day the WW II memorial was closed, however). He often is asked to  speak to service clubs and veteran groups about the hospice movement to recognize and thank veterans for their service.  This is his twelfth  year as a hospice nurse, and he now has seniority among nurses at Stein! (The average tenure is just 3 years).  Ron turns 67 in December….we've both begun talking about retirement on a regular basis!

In November, Paulie and Bob purchased an RV similar to ours.  No, that is not them above! That is Marilyn and Jack, getting ready to camp with us for 4 straight weekends! Bob and Paulie have 3 large dogs, so, it was a good thing that we were the only ones in the entire state park. Camping with 6 dogs takes some fortitude.

We ignored all housework, yard work and any other work, for the last weekend of October and the first three weekends of November. We even ate outside in the middle of a hailstorm one evening!

Last week, we brought the rigs home and have them parked in a heated storage place near our houses!

Ok, if you've read this far, you know that it has been a really fun year for us and that makes me a bit nervous, to tell you the truth. We're heading to California for the holidays, leaving the snow and pets behind with our house/petsitter. As we're not yet ready to drive the RV that distance, we'll save that for a future adventure!

Merry Christmas to all of you, from, AlleyCat,

                    Marilyn                                                                                  Jack

 and Kate

 We hope you have a happy and healthy new year!

Love, Julie and Ron

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving….and winter camping…in Ohio?

Yes, it's true. We've found a heated indoor storage warehouse near our houses in which to park Nina and Annie for the winter!  There are 4 other RV campers here with us and we're installing a astroturf lawn, hot tub, and indoor fountains for ambiance. The gas grill is installed outside.

The property is the abandoned American Crayon Company headquarters at the corner of Rockwell and Hayes Avenue. This section is being torn down, but, there are huge modern warehouses on the property as well and that is where huge boats, campers, classic cars and more are parked in heated storage. I'm going to store my 1984 Mazda RX7 there and Paulie is going to to park her 1985 Porsche there, too!

Rushing the Christmas season a bit, we strung lights across our adjoining rigs this afternoon! Trees to be put up soon as well. What fun!

Kate, as you can see, is ready to head over there for some camping fun. (Her recent haircut was a bit on the short side, so she's wearing her polar fleece coat full time in our house for a few weeks).

 We're going to enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner with Bob, Paulette, her brother, Tim this evening. The pies are done, the turkey and stuffing are in the oven, and potatoes are underway. Bob is bringing the vegan versions of all of the above for the rest of us. The only common dish will be green beans!

Friends-They are kind to each other's hopes.
They cherish each others dreams.

To all of my friends and family-- have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful to have all of you in my life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ring of Fire

Try to imagine Ron, Bob, Paulette, and me, singing along to the iTunes on Paulette's phone around our own ring of the top of our lungs…Paulie dancing around the flames.  …I fell into a burning ring of fire, down, down, down, the flames went higher.
Our forth weekend of camping at East Harbor State Park began early Friday afternoon. While leaves needed raking at home, we knew we could once agin escape household duties at the campsite.

 We set up like pros and then, bam, Ron and I discovered that our water pump wasn't pumping any water. Hmmmm. Get out the manual and read about possible causes. Water tank full. check. Filter clogged? Filter? Wonder where the filter is. In fact, wonder where the water tank might be. With flashlight in hand, we looked around and discovered……a tank, under the stove. Must be it, even though it didn't remotely look like the one in the manual. Time to call for help. 

Yep, Bob and Paulie know an RV man that makes house calls…in the dark….an hour from his office..  at 7pm on a Friday night…wife in the truck….Turns out it was the filter, but, since we were staring at the water heater, inside the rig, we weren't going to find it by ourselves. Duh. Ryan mentioned that he, alone, services the rigs of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and others. Wow. This was going to be an expensive house call.

Brand spankin' new Carharts, Ron explained he was wearing 4 layers…skivvies, long johns, lined jeans, and Carhart bibs. Said it was disconcerting to head to the john and fight through all of that. Ha. Try undies, Spanks, pantyhose, and slacks, buster! But, I digress from the camping and must get back to that.

We weren't in any hurry to fix dinner, so we sat around, admiring our campfire making skills, and gazed up at the moon. We had the entire park to ourselves and the sound of the earth, wind, and fire was fantastic. (Younger readers: 60's reference…look it up on google) Hence, the Johnny Cash rendition, that, being younger, I  had never heard before, but, Bob, Paulie, and Ron sang, or rather, shouted along with Johnny Cash. This then led to a discussion about June Carter and Johnny, and how he died of a broken heart a few months after June's death. When was that? Paulie whips out the phone and googles the answer. 1983. Good thing we get cell phone reception out here.

We were celebrating Bob and Paulie's 26th wedding anniversary, and, our gift was more lights for Annie. Bob supplied the necessary duck tape and then Annie was all decked out for a party.

Paulie has been shopping on Amazon for camping accessories like a mad woman. She loves to keep the guys occupied installing her purchases.

This is a screen door bar/handle that is much better than the annoying handle that comes on the door. Paulie got one for Nina, too!  Bob resists using a level, relying on instinct. (See red level on the bottom right of the photo, unused).

Lest you think we do nothing all day, we do entertain visitors! Above are two of Paulie's grandchildren,  Anna and Julia, visiting from Dayton. They thought a trip to Disney World during Spring break in April would be a good idea. They noted there was plenty of room for friends to come along, too.

While knitting is a tad more difficult when you are wrapped up in four layers, the cup holder on the chair does work pretty well as yarn ball holder. 

And spinning can be relaxing, out in the brisk, fresh air! We're planning to host our knit group for fiber weekend next spring, but, I don't think this is the sales pitch photo for it.

Maybe this would do. Paulie and I took a long walk along the shores of Lake Erie and it was warm enough to enjoy the breeze. This later became a gale force wind, and, after a night of pounding rain and wind, we left camp in a hurry during a brief interlude of 60 degree sunshine on Sunday morning. The wind and rain returned Sunday evening, but, we had Nina and Annie safely parked and we were all warm and snug in our homes.  Kate, Jack, Marilyn, and AllyCat were all thrilled to have us home again and admonished not to leave without them next time.

Is there one more camping adventure yet this year? We're thinking about it.  Thanksgiving Day, tofurky for us, and the real deal for Ron. Thanks for following our camping adventures this first season. For those of you still trying to match Julie the Hyatt girl to Julie the camper, I enthusiastically say, camping is the way to go….anywhere!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two Rvs, 6 dogs, and 4 happy campers

 Bob and Paulette finally decided to join us in the RV lifestyle1 They purchased a similar Class C motor home last week and we headed for a nearby state park to celebrate their purchase. Above, Ron and I explain the finer points of RV living… the "black" water tanks!
 We brought Marilyn (on the left) and Jack (in the driver's seat) along with Kate, too.
 Not to be left out, Riley enjoyed the outing, along with standard poodles, Sam and Prince.
 Paulie has obviously been a camper in years past. She embraced the adventure with smiles, and "Big Red" her massive parka.

 East Harbor State Park, located on the Marblehead Pennisula (Ohio) is only 20 minutes from home. First a farm of the Lockwoods, the property was purchased by the State of Ohio when the farm failed during the Great Depression. The Lockwoods first resided on the property in the 1830. In fact, Mr. Lockwood and family discovered gypsum in the area and started the industry of mining gypsum, ultimately residing in the town of Gypsum, Ohio, where Ron grew up. His dad worked for U.S. Gypsum for more than 30 years and Ron remembers a Lockwood mansion located in the area.
 "Annie" and "Nina" got to know each other on two consecutive weekends. On our first night, we ate outside and it was so cold that hail was included on our dinner plates…as a condiment.

 The rather brisk weather made campfires more than just festive. We were cozy with dogs and electric heaters inside the campers, however, so, all was well.
 Bob thoughtfully brought wind chimes for the 50 mph wind gusts so that we could enjoy the impromptu concert.
Located on Lake Erie, we discovered deer, skunks, swans, and geese as our only companions.

Having started our camping adventure at the end of May, I will have to say that November camping is by far the best! We have the campgrounds to ourselves, the scenery is awesome, and we've already decided to spend Thanksgiving Day "boon docking" at whatever state park is still open in Ohio.