Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

First we say goodbye to the year just past.  Here is a slideshow of highlights:

The pictures show a full, amazing, beautiful year. What you can't see is the cloud that shadowed me all year ... my Mom's diagnosis with Alzheimers. She has lived alone for over 20 years, and I was so nervous leaving her alone as we traveled our summer tour. If you follow closely, you'll see we didn't leave her for any longer than we had to. She traveled with us in the RV for the first few weeks from Florida to Kentucky, then I flew her home before our first big rally in Louisville - in July. I had caregivers visit her and I called her every day as we made our circuit of Rallies from Kentucky, to Oregon, to Indiana. Immediately after our last rally, we rushed back to Florida to gather Mom, and Jim's Dad, and take a family cruise to Alaska the end of September. Mom and I made some beautiful memories this year, well, for me anyway :-) I'm afraid, even with pictures, Mom doesn't remember visiting Mammoth Caves, or Lake Tahoe, or Alaska.
I made it my job this season to move her into an Assisted Living facility. We had checked out several last year, and chosen Willow Wood - it's in our same neighborhood, and I have a friend who works there and loves it. 
This was one of the few challenges in my life that I didn’t think I could handle.  I mean, how do you tell your mother, who has always told you what to do, that she needs to move out of the place she loves?  When you can’t handle it … you get help.  I had so much help this year!  Jim, who held me together every time I fell apart and, along with Devon, did all the heavy lifting for the move; Jo Ellen who was instrumental in transforming the new apartment into a thing of beauty; Mary May who started me on the path of understanding Alzheimers; Melinda in Nevada, and Debbie D in the Florida keys, who opened their homes to Mom and me; the caregivers – especially Debbie C.  who has become a surrogate sister; Mom’s brother, John, and USA Dive club members, who visited Mom so often while I was on the road; North Broward Medical Center Memory Care unit and their support groups; the folks on the forum at Alz.org; and all the many people who have shared their stories with me.  I am not alone.  I’ve spent hours on the phone with old friends and new friends alike who have already gone thru this same experience.  Thank you to everyone!
So, it seemed so appropriate to spend New Year’s Eve with Mom at Willow Wood.  The activity director there, Adam, puts on a show.  He sings and he dances.  He gives away prizes.  He sets the clock to 11 when it’s really 8, and after an hour we count down to midnight.  At the stroke of 9pm, we shout Happy New Year! 
It’s still sad to see her such a shell of her former self, but I am thrilled that she is in a nice place, with entertainment, good food, and watchful eyes.  She still doesn’t think she belongs there, but she forgets about that!  She is healthy and able to enjoy the moment, walks in the woods or on the beach are still joyful events for her.  As long as knowledge of past or future is not required, she is quite happy.  The ultimate ‘be in the now’ Taoist!  And I can sleep nights again.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Morning Sunrise

We’ve done this for several years now – our USA Dive Club meets for Sunrise at the beach on Christmas morning.  I almost didn’t take my camera because I have so many past photos of this event.  I’m so glad I did.  The sun and the clouds cooperated in such a spectacular way.







Monday, December 20, 2010

Gypsies and Geeks

Such a treat!  Nick and Terry Russell, of Gypsy Journal, came to Fort Lauderdale for the week and stayed at our ‘home’ RV park – Paradise Island.  Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against us for going on a water taxi ride, or snorkeling in the ocean.  The weather was cold (50s) when they first arrived, and rainy at the end of the week.  There were a couple of gorgeous, sunny, warm days in between – but those were work days.  I had website work, Nick needed to work on his latest issue of the Gypsy Journal newspaper, and Jim was working in the park’s office.

Nick is better about blogging that I am.  He writes *every* day.  Here’s some posts he wrote while here: Geeks bearing Gifts, Last Day in Fort Lauderdale, It’s warming up and Get that Penguin off my Patio!

But, it wasn’t all nose-to-the-grindstone.  I got Terry out one day and showed her the world famous Swap Shop.  Billed as the :Second Largest Tourist Attraction in Florida”, it is a Drive-In Movie theatre, Flea Market, Car Museum, and vendor shops with food court.  You can get great deals on wallets, watches, tshirts, tools and everything in betweek, but I go there for the farmers market.  Here’s Terry surveying the produce:

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The farmer’s market goes on and on and on …

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I was particularly impressed with the florist’s display:

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We also managed a few meals together.  A couple restaurants and one stay-at-home meal with lobster from Jim’s diving efforts.

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What a treat to be able to spend some quiet, social time with Nick and Terry!  We usually see them at RV rallies, or just in passing somewhere in the country.  This time we got to hang out for a while in their comfortable Winnebago.  We talked about what its like to live and work on the road … they’ve been doing it for longer than we have … we talked about computers and websites, and we played with gadgets. 

I enjoyed playing with Nick’s iPad – but, since it doesn’t play Flash (something the Geeks on Tour Show-Me Videos requires) I figure it’s worthless!  Nick researched and found an article about how Skypad for iPad will soon remedy that.  I hope so! 

Nick perked up when Jim showed him how to turn the Droid phone into toy guns!

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See ya down the road guys!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beautiful Day in South Florida

In the morning, Jim went for a kayak dive.  Check out the video to see why Fort Lauderdale can be such a great place to be.

Then, Mom and I went to her Society of Women Geographers meeting at Sandy and Georgia’s home in Coral Gables (South Miami.)  We’ve been there before and we always know we’re in for a treat with the gorgeous garden.  Georgia Tasker was the garden writer for the Miami Herald for nearly 40 years and now works for Fairchild Gardens.  And Sandy grows award-winning orchids.  There were too many pictures to post individually, so here’s a slide show: (if you click on the slide show it will take you to my Picasa Web Album where you can see the pictures full screen)

I’m sure glad we enjoyed Sunday’s weather because it’s cold today and getting even colder tomorrow.  They say it may be freezing.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Las Vegas–Wishlist Member

I love conferences – fun, business, learning, playing, meeting cool people!  I used to go to industry conferences all the time back when I owned a stick and brick computer training center.  At one point, I was even president of the International Computer Training Association – I *had* to go to the conferences!
We are now trying to take our new business seriously.  Our new business is our membership website.  It’s actually been in operation since July 2008, but we have recently converted it to a new system called Wishlist Member.  So, when Wishlist Member announced a conference – we signed up.
It was in Las Vegas.  Here’s the view from our hotel window

Will add some more pictures or video later ...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Morikami Gardens

Mom and I went to Morikami gardens – a park in Delray Beach, Florida.  It is just the best place to go to find some peace amidst beauty.  Mom introduced me to this place many years ago, and we have been there several times since.  This time she said, “Have I been here before?”
She loved it.  So did I.  I made a little video with all the pictures I took:
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving at Mom’s

‘Thanksgiving at Mom’s’ sounds pretty normal doesn’t it?  But not for me.
Mom has never cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  When she was married, my Dad was quite the cook, and we had many a turkey stuffed with chestnut dressing, but they split up in 1988.  She has lived alone ever since and heating something up in the microwave was the extent of her ‘cooking.’ 
Lately I’ve noticed that she doesn’t seem to know how to operate the microwave.  That’s what Alzheimer’s does to you. 
My job this month was to get her moved into Willow Wood.  This was planned last year … discussed even the year before … but it’s not something she wanted to do.  I’ve always been a very good daughter, doing whatever she told me to do.  The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is to tell her what to do!  I’ve been a bit of an emotional basket case lately … you may have noticed my lack of posts.
She is living in her new apartment now.  And, thanks to Jim and Jo Ellen, her furniture is there (moved while I took Mom to the Keys) and decorations look marvelous!  Really, it is a beautiful, comfortable, apartment.  And, she gets 3 meals/day in the dining room.  So, Jim, Jim’s Dad, and I went to Mom’s place for a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner.
Will wonders never cease!  Thanksgiving at Mom’s.  And nobody had to clean up!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Florida Keys

When Jim and I stayed at Thousand Trails Peace River for the 2006-7 season, we became friends with the manager there – Debbie.  She later moved to the Florida Keys and is living on her boat – Betelgeuse.  We’ve been meaning to visit her ever since, and I finally did!  Jim had work to do, but Mom and I had a great visit. 
Debbie works at the Marathon Marina and there’s a restaurant on the property – here’s a picture of Debbie, Mom and me at the Lazy Days.
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We stayed on her boat
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The sunsets were a sight to behold
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Debbie even took us out snorkeling at Sombrero light.  I was a bit apprehensive – they told us the water was COLD, and Mom hadn’t been snorkeling since she hung up her scuba gear 3 years ago.  But … the sun came out and it was beautiful.
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Mom looked as natural as a fish underwater!

For dinner we had Stone Crab claws harvested by Debbie and Todd that same day!

The next day we did a little sightseeing around Marathon.  They have a nice little beach.

Then we went to Key West and took the Conch Train around to see the sights.
 



Thanks Debbie for a wonderful time! You’re the best!


 


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Build your own Computer -by Jim

When I first met Chris, I worked for a company that built and sold PC clones to small businesses.  We would buy the cases and motherboards and memory and drives and fabricate a custom computer for the needs of our clients.

Back then, a finished computer cost a lot of money.

Computer Savvy, Chris’ training center, needed a lot of computers. 

It has been quite a while since I built my last computer, opting instead for preconfigured laptops.

My son, Devon wanted a computer for his birthday.  We could have scrounged a workable system from old parts and such, but decided to build new from a kit instead.  A good opportunity for father/son bonding.

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The kit was purchased at CompUSA/Tiger Direct.  They have a retail store here in Fort Lauderdale.

I got a bit of an attitude from the sales kid at the store.  He suggested that they could put it together better.  “You want it to work, don’t you?” 

We had to install everything into the case. Power supply, motherboard, memory, display adapter, hard drive, DVD drive and connect all the wires and cables.

It was very rewarding when we got it all together and it worked!  No sizzle or smoke when we plugged it in and turned it on.  It came right up to the message “Operating System not Installed.” 

These kits don’t normally include the Operating System.  We installed Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit.  Then we installed the drivers for the components.  I like a desktop for home.  It still has plenty of room for expansion.

 

It kind of reminded me of having to build my first car way back when.  Well, I didn’t really build the whole thing.  I just had to replace the engine and electrical system on the ‘62 Triumph Spitfire.  Luckily, my dad had a Texaco service station with all the tools needed.

 

Did we save money by doing it this way?  Some, maybe.  I believe Devon has more pride in the accomplishment than if it was just something he received.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thousand Trails, Peace River

I just love taking pictures here at Thousand Trails, Peace River.  If you follow the link to the park’s website, you’ll be able to watch a video that Jim made back in 2007 when we stayed here for a whole winter season.  It was one of our very first Photo Story videos – I still like it.
Today is my birthday and I just can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be.

Here's our site, by the pickleball courts, and the hot tub!


And, here's my favorite part ... the nature trail by the river.
I made Odie pose by the 'Gnome King Tree'

Here's the tree:

And here's Mom posing in her favorite tree:

And, of course paddling the river.  Yesterday was a beautiful day and we took advantage.

Here's a little video to give you a better idea:


Do we have to leave today?!
Yep.
More pictures on our Picasa Web Album for this month.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rally Park at Lazydays

Lazydays is one of the largest RV dealers in the country – I believe THE largest – and they have a great RV park attached.  It’s called Rally park.  Our very first rally we ever attended was here … in October of 2003 – the Datastorm rally.  And, we’ve been to a few others since.  We’re excited to be here to do our seminars as part of a Lazydays Friends and Family rally.  It’s a very nice park.

We taught our Google Earth seminar yesterday, and Picasa today.  We had a nice crowd.

Here’s Raquel – our contact at Lazydays for this rally:

Lazydays also has a page on Facebook, and they posted a video that includes us.  Check it out: Video of Lazydays Friends and Family rally.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A stay at Orlando Thousand Trails

We always try to stop here on our way coming and going – we feel at home.

Even though we were only there one day, two nights – we took advantage of the amenities.  Jim and I even played a game of Pickleball!  Oohh I wish we had a Pickleball court everywhere we went.  It’s so much fun – and good exercise.  If you don’t know Pickleball, see this past post with a video.  We also soaked in the hot tub … aaaahhhhh

And, of course took walks down to the lake.

 

Now it’s on to Tampa … Seffner actually, for the Friends and Family rally at Lazy Days.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Gabbing with the Geeks

I finally got around to editing the video we shot up in Goshen, Indiana of our friends Phil and Tracey May from TechnoRV.  I had a real problem getting any of my video editing software to work with the files taken by our Kodak Zi8 video camera.  I don't know why ... I've done it before.  It seems as if the latest upgrade to Windows Live MovieMaker removed the ability to work with the .mov files that the Kodak camera takes.

I had to use the Kodak software to convert the files to .mp4 first - then I used Camtasia to do the editing.  What a chore!  The results are below - I hope you like meeting Phil and Tracey, we sure did.  This video is part of our series we call 'Gabbing with the Geeks.'  You can see all 9 'Gabbing' videos on our GeeksOnTour.TV website.



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Monday, October 25, 2010

Shiny Fingernails

I obviously don’t have much to write about these days.  Sad smile
We’re parked in Fort Lauderdale.  I see my Mom nearly every day.  Jim is working in the office.  We both spend hours answering emails and managing our family of websites every day.

But, here’s the thing … I keep staring at my shiny fingernails!  And feeling how smooth they are.

I took my Mom to the mall the other day, she bought a new pair of shoes and we had a nice lunch at Seasons 52 – yum!  While we walked the mall one of the vendors in a kiosk approached me and said, “let me see your fingernails”  Oh NO … my fingernails are disgusting – I don’t show them, I hide them.  If you looked at my fingernails, you would figure I must work as a gardener – they’re dirty and broken.  Once a year (approximately) I file them down a bit whether they need it or not!  The last time I got my nails ‘done’ was for my wedding 13 years ago!

He wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer … very annoying!  But I relented.  He grabbed my hand and started rubbing a fingernail with a special little block.  One side of the block had a blue material – he said ‘Buff your nail with this side for 15 seconds.’  Then he turned the block to the red side and buffed for another 15 seconds.  The third side was white, he said it was silk.  After 15 seconds buffing with this side, my fingernail came out smooth – ridge-free and SHINY.  I mean really shiny … like I had just polished them with clear nail polish!  He went on to demonstrate the cuticle cream etc.  The kit was $20.

I bought 2. I spent less than  10 minutes using each side of the block to buff all 10 fingernails.  It’s magic!  I’m simply fascinated with my smooth, shiny fingernails.

The second one should make a good Christmas present

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Settling in for the Winter

We are in our ‘Home’ park of Paradise Island RV Park in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  It was only a few blocks from here where we used to live in a house.  We sold that in 2003.  We’ve spent a few winters in Arizona / Texas / S California, but we always come back to South Florida sometime during the year.  Jim work-camps here in the office on Wed/Thu/Fri, handling phone calls and RV-site reservations on the RV Trip Setter software … a great job for him!  And, it gives me the RV to myself :-) … or the car to go visit my Mom.

Since we know we’re going to be here for several months (till March), we contracted with AT&T to activate a DSL line to our site for $20/mo.  OH BOY!! Real Internet.  Fast.  Unlimited. We are going to be so spoiled by the time we leave for next summer.  In addition to enjoying the dependable speed when working on our websites, we are now watching Netflix movies using the Internet connection thru the Wii – so it’s all hooked up to display on our big screen and play the sound thru our Bose surround sound. 

I went to my Women’s Executive Club luncheon today and we went to our Kayuba dive club meeting last night.  Pretty soon it will start getting wintry/windy here so we are taking advantage of the still summer-like days to go Kayak Diving.

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We have a lot of work to do on our websites, and I need to get busy and record some more tutorial videos.  During the summer, when we’re spending so much time presenting at rallies and traveling, we don’t post many new videos on our website for our members.  Now that the summer tour is over (and we  have a lot of new members) it’s time to buckle down and produce some more videos.  After all, a lot has happened in the Picasa / Blogger / Windows 7 / Facebook / Streets and Trips world.  Not to mention Internet connections and Droids!  We started using new Membership site software (Wishlist Member) in August as well and we have a lot to learn about setting it up so that it is easy for us to create new content, and easy for members to watch the videos and use the Forum.  The hardest part has been the transition from the old to the new.  There are some things I really preferred about our old system – but the new one has a lot more options that we want to use.  Jim and I have signed up to attend a conference in Las Vegas December 3-5, where we hope to learn a lot about using Wishlist Member.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s all good exciting stuff.  And, what a great way to make a living – doing what you love (teaching computers) from wherever you love to be!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thoughts on Cruising

You *know* we prefer RVing!  And, I hate the lines on cruise ships.  But, cruising has its advantages.  The main one is, of course, that the big cruise ships make it convenient to visit wonderful places for a reasonable price. 

Cruising is a great way to share travel with your extended family.  It’s comfortable, and nobody has to cook or clean!  There’s plenty do do for the active people, as well as for the inactive.  Find a cozy corner or a deck chair and just read, or take shore excursions that include hiking or biking.  It’s totally up to the individual. 

It’s a great venue for conferences.  This cruise was sponsored by the Parkinsons Research Foundation.  We went because Jim’s Dad has Parkinsons.  I think the group was about 40 or 50 people.  They had seminar rooms with topics scheduled on 4 of the 7 days of the cruise.  Some of our group attended several of the seminars, some attended none.  We all enjoyed the experience of visiting Alaska and seeing the awesome views.  We all enjoyed the food and other amenities of shipboard life. 

Jim and I kept thinking, “This would be a great way to host a Geeks on Tour Picasa conference!”  Everywhere you look people were snapping photos.  We showed several people how to find settings on their cameras like ‘video’ or ‘backlight.’  Wouldn’t those people love to attend a seminar each evening of the cruise to learn more about managing their digital pictures with Picasa?  My sister-in-law took advantage of being with us on the cruise and we scheduled a one-on-one session with her, her camera, and our computer with Picasa.  We showed her how to tag her photos with the name of each excursion, explained how Picasa folders and windows folders are one and the same, and demonstrated how to make pictures look better and why you don’t need to save those changes.  

Whaddaya think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alaska Cruise part 2: Skagway and Prince Rupert

The one excursion we had planned from the beginning was to take the narrow-gauge railway up the White Pass … the route used by gold prospectors in the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush.  We were the last cruise for the season, and the weather wasn’t that great, but the White Pass Yukon Route railroad trip was still well-worth it.  The train picks you up right at the cruise ship:

You go by the metropolis of Skagway with 800 residents, and you see the cemetery.

The fall colors were starting to come out pretty nice.



Here's a video of going thru a tunnel:
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The train was quite comfortable, with big picture windows. If you go, take a cloth to wipe the fog from the windows.








But the best vantage point was outside, standing on the platform.





When the ride was over, we had an opportunity to speak with the young woman who was the tour guide.  Since we were the last cruise of the season, this was her last day of work.  Born and raised in Skagway, she was headed out the next day for university life in Seattle.  She said she was going to medical school.  Since we heard that Skagway had *no* doctor, we asked if she was planning to return and change that.  "No," she said, she was going to learn to be a plastic surgeon and specialize in bear attacks!  yikes  She, and many of her friends, were leaving Skagway for good.  I mentioned that her family must be very sad about that, and asked how many family she had here in Skagway.  She said that she was related to just about everyone in town - except her fiance - and they'd gone to great lengths to be sure of that! 

We learned several other tidbits of local lore from her.  Like the quaint tradition of mooning the last ship of the season!   And, in regards to the fact that there are 10 men to each woman, she taught us a new line.  In addition to the advice to women that "the odds may be good, but the goods may be odd" she said that "men don't lose their girlfriend, they lose their turn"

So, we had a great time in Skagway, then it was back to sea for a whole day.  As I mentioned, we were on this cruise because it was sponsored by the Parkinson's Research Foundation.  They had several seminars and workshops during the week.  One was about how the Wii is a very useful machine for allowing Parkinsons patients to enjoy something like bowling, even while sitting down.  Here's Jim's dad bowling - he did pretty good!


The last stop of the trip was Prince Rupert, and we had brilliantly gorgeous weather. 


And, a beautiful last-night sunset.



Here's a slideshow of all the good pictures from the trip.  You can click on this and go to the Picasa Web album for larger pictures.