Summer Reading Lists

I saw a news article recently where former President Obama published his summer reading list, which he’s been doing for years. This got me thinking about my own reading list. Of course, I don’t just limit it to summer as I read about 2 or 3 books a week year round.

And just now, I’ve got two “books in real life” partially read through on my bedside table and am halfway through another one on my Kindle app. I read the Obama article and although his taste runs more to the international stories of real people, there were a few I want to check out. One of which is a science fiction, Andy Weir’s “Project Hail Mary.” I haven’t read his other books but I own the movie, The Martian, which was adapted from one of his books and it’s one of my favorites.

Last week the New Mexico State Library rural bookmobile stopped at our mobile home park. I had seen the truck a time or two before but hadn’t ever stopped in. This time I happened to be in the Ranchhouse visiting without my dog so I popped over to the bookmobile. I chatted with the two employees, got a library card (I haven’t had one for many years), and got signed up for online resources. There are a lot of books you can read online or listen to for free if you have a library card.

This got me thinking and I went online to check out the local “sticks and bricks” library in my nearest town, about 20 miles away. They also have a lot of free online books and all I have to do is go in and get a library card. I plan to do that very thing this week. I’ve been paying for Amazon Kindle Unlimited for about 4 years but if I can start reading quality and entertaining books for free online, take me there!

So what’s on my summer reading list?

“Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal” — a memoir by Jeanette Winterson. I’m almost finished with this book and really enjoyed it. She’s an insightful writer with a lot of classic literature knowledge.

Hope Callaghan’s Cruise Ship Cozy Mysteries — I’m in the middle of the last one, 21 books in total. These are free if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. Engaging but not taxing on the brain. Good for reading before falling asleep.

“F Is For Fugitive” — one of the alphabet series detective mysteries by Sue Grafton, who published 25 in the series before passing away. I have the paperbacks and decided to dig them out and re-read the series again after a number of years.

Books that are waiting for me for the rest of the summer:

“H Is For Hawk” — a memoir by Helen McDonald

“The Year of Magical Thinking” — by Joan Didion

“The Art of Memoir” — Mary Karr

Plus anything exciting I come across as I explore more that the public libraries have to offer. I think the reading journey has just begun.

One Day on the Acid Watchers Diet

Food preparation has become my zen, not by choice. It’s labor intensive, definitely on the opposite spectrum of fast food. How many people can resist the urge to go the easy way out with their meals?

I’ve waffled over the years from a staunch healthy diet to relishing the gustatory pleasures of local restaurants. I’ve never had to actually change the way I eat by doctor’s orders, it was always because I either wanted to lose weight, get more healthy, or was feeling fine and really let go with the baking and the fried, fatty foods.

Now, my pain has become so severe and I want to heal naturally, not be stuck on evil prescriptions that come with more side effects than benefits. I was recently diagnosed with several things, all related to digestion, that explain the pain. I have a hiatal hernia, moderate to severe antral gastritis, distal esophagitis, and mild colitis. So, I had to make an immediate and strict lifestyle change and choice.

I’m a little over one week into the process and I thought I would document a typical day and what it involves. Thank goodness I’m retired but if you have to follow this same routine, it’s not too hard to prepare things in advance on the weekends and have your meals ready to go during the week.

I purchased the book titled The Acid Watchers Diet, not specifically for those with a hiatal hernia but often quoted by someone with HH as being most beneficial. I typed up the list of ingredients in chapter 9, The Healing Phase, and took it with me to the grocery store. I don’t specifically use the recipes in the book but I read through them to get ideas. There is one grocery store about 25 miles from me that carries a lot of fresh and organic ingredients, thank goodness. I hadn’t been grocery shopping in over a year because I was doing curbside pickup from Walmart due to the convenience. That practice has ended.

Today is Saturday, July 3

With this diet, you are supposed to eat 5 small meals a day. Hence all the constant preparing and clean up all day long.

7:30 Breakfast

I made a smoothie in my Vita-mix with the following ingredients (note: I never measure anything when I cook so these are all guesstimates).

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, peaches, mango), partially defrosted
  • 1/2 cup non-fat milk, reconstituted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 T maple syrup (the good kind)

10:30 mini-meal

I made a “dip” and sliced some organic carrots, celery, and cucumber

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise diluted with coconut oil (I shake it up in the mayo bottle before measuring out)
  • 1/4 tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning

Mash together with a fork and stir well.

12:30 Lunch

I took some leftovers that were made with:

  • diced baking potato
  • red pepper
  • celery
  • baby Bella mushroom

Cooked in water and coconut oil a few days ago.

I added the following to the Vita mix:

  • leftover potato mixture (about 1 to 1 1/3 cup)
  • 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup chicken bullion (I use Better Than Bullion)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat milk, reconstituted

I took this soup and microwaved for one minute.

3:00 Afternoon mini-meal

1 no added sugar fruit cup (cherry, peaches, pineapple, pear) with Simply Granola on top

5:00 dinner

The day before, I had prepared two tilapia fillets and saved one for today.

Set oven to 350 and grease a glass baking dish with coconut oil. Dip defrosted tilapia fillets one at a time into first a mixture of beaten egg and water and then a plate with cornstarch and nutritional yeast. Place fillets in the baking dish. Turn over once after 10-15 minutes. When fish is flaky and not pink, remove from oven (about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness).

For dinner tonight, I combined the following:

  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 4 small baby Bella mushrooms chopped
  • 1 tilapia fillet, pre-cooked, and shredded
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 T Bragg’s aminos (tastes like soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger

(Note: celery is nice too but I ran out). Cook in a nonstick pan with a small amount of water. Add more water as necessary until everything is cooked through and hot. This usually makes two meals for me.

Here’s to health. Enjoy!

Unburdening Yourself

I wasn’t going to write this week because it’s not a good week. I am dealing with some medical issues and some personal family issues. But somewhere along the way, with the meditating and contemplation I’ve been trying to do to sever myself from guilt and anxiety causing stress, I realized that unburdening myself of material things might be just the ticket.

I did have a sense of freedom when I sold my house and went on the road with my motor home and pets in 2018. But recently, I acquired more material “things” and I think I started to feel the pressure of upkeep and expense. In addition to my little motor home and tow-behind car, I leased an rv lot to live on year-round, purchased a new travel trailer, and then purchased a new crossover SUV.

Do I really need 2 RVs and 2 vehicles? It gets expensive and two of them sit in the storage lot much of the year. A lot of the people that live here take off for three or four months or more during the summer. And I could certainly do that. But why spend more money for an rv site somewhere else when I’m already paying for one here? And what would happen to my nice new car that’s just sitting parked and not being used?

I made the hard decision to sell the motor home and tow-behind car. They’ve served me well and I have good memories but once I made the decision to cut ties, I physically felt a burden lifting off me. I’ve got an acquaintance coming out Friday to look. Their offer is less than I was hoping for but it’s a cash offer and they will take both as is. With my anxiety, not having to deal with countless strangers, ads, emails, phone calls, this will definitely be worth it to me to just be done.

Have you had to make a tough decision and let go? It’s certainly not easy but is can be very freeing.

No Names But Lots of Smiles — 5 days on the road

Most of my people interactions are very superficial. The southwest state I moved to recently is new to me. My son and his family are 3,700 miles away. I don’t have any close friends since I retired and left my home state. So when I meet people, we chat about things we might have in common — our dogs or our RV lifestyle or retirement or the weather — but then we move on and I rarely come across the same people again.

But that’s not to discount the meaningful lives of the people I meet or their importance in the grand scheme of things. Our encounters might be just in the moment but I like to think that they are going on to brighten other people’s lives day after day. With that in mind, I’d like to reflect back on some of the chats with new acquaintances I had this past week. I will not identify any of these people by name or distinguishing details to protect their privacy but I will remember kindnesses and connections in the five days I was on the road.

My dog, cat, and I set out on a short jaunt around the state in the motor home on Monday Morning, June 7. There were a few places I had been wanting to spend time visiting and taking photos, rather than just driving past, and this was the perfect opportunity. First stop was Pistachio Land, a tourist stop in Alamogordo with an extra large pistachio monument featured in the selfies of anyone who has visited. I knew right away that I wouldn’t be able to take a photo of myself and get the whole pistachio in the picture. There was a group of three ladies taking pictures right when I walked up and one of them offered to take my picture. She got it perfect the first time but took two to be sure. I thanked her and then they were gone. It sure was a good picture.

Check in at Alamagordo KOA was a pleasure and I actually went back to their little store and souvenir shop twice. Although the conversation in these circumstances is usually very casual, it’s nice to be able to have a conversation with someone if you’re like me and live alone most of the time. I do remember kindnesses for sure.

Staff, paid employees, and volunteers at National Parks meet tons of new people on a daily basis and get asked the same annoying questions day after day but the ones I interacted with in three different places this week were all nothing but polite and conversational and made me feel like I was the first one they’d ever helped or answered questions for.

First was White Sands National Park, although not new in location, newly designated as a National Park as of December 20, 2019. Pleasant interactions started with the ranger counting heads as we went into the store to the cashier who helped me with purchases to the ranger who checked my America The Beautiful Pass as I entered the car tour on Dune Drive, answering questions that I had and smiling the whole time.

Then, I ran into the same couple on two different mini-hikes. We smiled and said hello and they laughed both times because I was carrying my little dog in his carry-on sling and they thought that was pretty cute. I came across a younger couple wanting to take a photo among the dunes and as I walked by, I asked if I could take the photo for them. I used several different compositions on their phone app and I hope they found one or two they like.

I drove in to the state park I’d booked for two nights and parked the motor home by the campground host, knocked on the door and waited. The first thing the gentleman that came out asked was, “Are you Tina?” Well, yes I am. I guess I was the only guest checking in that day. He was congenial, answered my questions, and left me to go get set up. As I was driving to my spot, I passed a small camper van, a few empty spaces, two older class A motorhomes, a few more empty spaces then my spot.

I had barely gotten my electricity hooked up and the AC on when the person in the van came running over, anxious to talk to me. This person was new to living full time in state parks and had a lot of questions. Of course, I was only too eager to tell my story and answer the questions I was able to answer. As we talked we discovered that there are advantages and disadvantages to both the van life and the class C life but this camper was eager to find out if upgrading to something like mine was the way to go.

Back on the road two days later and I took the opportunity to drive through a National Wildlife Refuge that I had only driven by in the past. Driving a 24′ motor home for 12 miles through a non-paved refuge may not have been the smartest thing I’ve ever done but visiting the little gift shop at the end of the tour was certainly worthwhile. The young volunteer tried to answer my questions and got really animated when we started talking about some of the larger animals he’s spotted at the refuge, including cougars, coyotes, and elk. I bought a small birding book that I didn’t even need but I like to support these kind of nonprofits.

I was returning to a small RV Park for the night that I’d stayed at two years previously. They are well-known to birders and photographers being so close to the refuge. The elderly caretaker was chatty and full of information, and had grown up just down the road. We sat out in the evening watching the hummingbirds and I got to hear some interesting tales. One of the guests who I also met this same evening is a bird photographer (his card says he has a PhD but I didn’t ask in what) and we talked for a few minutes about cameras and birds and fun places to explore.

Finally, on our way home the next day, I stopped at Valley of Fires National Recreation Area and found a suitable place to park the motor home. At 11:00 in the morning, it was already getting quite hot but I wasn’t sure when or if I’d ever be back and was determined to take at least a few photos. And again, I met a volunteer at a park facility gift shop with another new story. This gentleman graciously answered all my questions and we talked for a few minutes as I browsed the books and merchandise. He and his wife had two homes, one in the Santa Cruz area of California and one in New Mexico. He said they’d recently sold the California home and now live full time in New Mexico and love it. I said, me too!

I probably won’t recognize any of these people if I run into them again in the future in a different setting. I didn’t get names from most of them and they didn’t get mine. But as I was driving the last 100 miles before returning home, I reflected that I’d not only met my goal of taking photos at more than five places I’d been wanting to visit but I’d been able to smile and chat with a handful of strangers along the way every single day on my trip.