Attitude of Gratitude

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We all have our own mental lists to remind us of the wonder of our lives. Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US, and for those of us lucky enough to have our families to celebrate with and enjoy a ridiculously large feast, it is one of those days that we are either awash with feelings or comatose from turkey and napping by mid-afternoon.

So many words to express our thoughts for this holiday season:

Thankful.

Grateful.

Gratitude.

Blessed.

Lucky.

Wonderment.

Humbled.

In less than a week, I turn 49, and then in three hundred sixty-six more days I will be 50. I’m not particularly looking forward to it, although I suppose it’s better than not turning fifty. This might be the impetus to a year long project of not counting down the days, but appreciating the days and the weeks as they pass until that milestone. This might be the baseline to reflect on, but time will tell.

These are the ten things I am most grateful for:

1. Finances – we are still living paycheck to paycheck, as are most middle-class-used-to-be’s, but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel; or at least an even-ing out of our debt.

2. Related to Finances – I’m grateful to our mechanic who let us put our recent car repairs on account so we are able to continue to drive our only car without having the cash on hand.

3. Family – my kids are healthy and doing well in school.

4. I am relatively healthy despite my chronic issues. My knees have even been feeling almost normal most of the time. It’s a welcome change.

5. Writing – I’m managing to write more often and keeping up my  quality, I think anyway. Without my regular writing workshop, which was cancelled, I’ve been lucky to give myself one day a week to work in the library for some of my forgotten projects.

6. I am really enjoying my ongoing re4lationship with Jesus Christ. There was definitely something missing from my life despite my belief in G-d and my spirituality, and I have found it with Christ and in His Church.

7. I have so much gratitude that I live near enough to a shrine and a Dominican retreat center where I can go and meditate and pray. Both places offer different things, but both places are also contemplative and recharge me.

8. Friends – My recent reconnection with some friends through Facebook – one I hadn’t talked to in decades, but thought of often. I also connected with my cousins’ family, both in person and on Facebook.

9. Fandom – another layer of friendship that is unexplainable unless you are in a fandom of your own. Kind, friendly, supportive and constructive – fandom is a beautiful thing, filled with beautiful people.

10. You, dear readers. I hold such gratitude for all of you, all of you who read, comment, like, and visit. Thank you.

I really am so blessed.

Roadside America

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When I was a kid I was lucky enough that my parents took my siblings and I on many family vacations. I learned history on many of these trips. We visited family in Toronto, Canada, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We also went to Niagara Falls, the Ontario Science Center, and Disneyworld. We were really lucky. A few of the other places we traveled to on our East Coast adventures were what you might call kitschy or roadside attractions. We never saw a great ball of twine or see Area 51 or even the Corn Palace, but we went to Amish Country, the Fountain of Youth, South of the Border and Zinn’s Diner (now closed). I remember the last two vividly. South of the Border was like entering into a fantasyland filled with neon lights and fireworks stands. The giant man in the sombrero was even more gigantic to small children, aged 4-8.

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Photo Credit: Leonard J. DeFrancisci, July 2008

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Photo Credit: Matthew Logan

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Zinn's Diner Postcard

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Public Domain

The Disney/Pixar movie Cars reminded us of those things found on the road trip of following Route 66, seeing things that couldn’t be seen anywhere else, and I thought about my childhood of road trips both north and south. Everyone should see at least one ridiculous roadside attraction in their lives, and if they’re lucky, they should see many more.

Here are a few suggestions and resources:

Budget Travel’s 25 Wackiest Roadside Attractions (Slideshow)

Budget Travel’s Ultimate Road Trip App

Things You Will See on a Road Trip Across America

South of the Border

Amos the Amish Man Giant Statue

Amos’ Current Location

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park

Corn Palace

Great Ball of Twine

Route 66

Niagara Falls – not so much roadside attraction, but a can’t be missed world wonder

Visit Area 51

Area 51 Sightseeing

Don’t Panic: Visiting Area 51

America’s Car Museum

Saratoga Automobile Museum

Tech for Travel

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From Left to Right: Flashlight, Car Adaptor, Wall Adaptor, USB charger cord, earbuds, flash drive, and MP3 player

It used to be that my list of travel tech was one line long – cell phone. Then it became two lines – cell phone and GPS. Now it’s a bit more. We usually travel to my mother-in-law’s, and her house is less than tech savvy. Not to mention that my husband always asks for the car charger or the house charger because he forgot his.

Tech needs vary individually. This is my indispensable list plus a few odds and ends that come in handy by one or more members of my family.

Mini Surge Protector – this has three outlets and two USB ports

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Mini Surge Protector by Belkin

USB Car Charger Adaptor

USB extra long charger cord for reading in bed

Cell phone and charger. (Check your data plan before you travel. My mother-in-law doesn’t have wifi, and her brick house just eats our data like crazy.)

Kindle Fire and charger. (If you ‘re in a place without wifi, turn it off. If it’s on, it will continue to search for a wifi signal, and drain your battery.)

Kindle Keyboard and charger (the chargers are interchangeable so I may or may not bring all of them – two is the minimum in case my husband or kids need them)

Camera and charger

MP3 Player and charger

Earbuds or Headphones

Headphone splitter (this allows two headsets to be plugged into one device)

Flashlight (in my case it’s a Sonic Screwdriver flashlight)

Portable DVD player, electric cord, a variety of DVDs (our family rule of thumb is two per person)

Flash drive

Two Prong/Three Prong Adaptor

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Plug Adaptor

In the comments, add your own must-haves for tech to travel with.

Food for Travel

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Our family travels by car 99% of the time. With three kids, they either want to stop to eat or stop to use the bathroom. Anyone who has ever stopped on a highway area rest area will know that their prices are at least one third higher than the nearest exit. Unfortunately, the nearest exit is usually about five miles from the place with the food and/or the bathroom. When our kids were very young, we brought everything with us. It was certainly cheaper to bring a full box of Cheerios and a box of Pop-Tarts, buying a gallon of milk and a pound of cheese from the local supermarket. I also packed goodies for Mommy & Daddy like a 12 pack of soda so we don’t have to spend our money in the overpriced hotel vending machines.
In a hotel, we always ask for a room with a refrigerator. Many come with microwaves. Almost all have coffee makers, which is also perfect for boiling water for tea.

Most of our choices worked for both a weekend or week long vacation out of town as well as a visit out of town to Grandma’s.

Some of our favorites:
Non-Perishable:

Cheerios
Raisins/Dried Cranberries
Granola
Granola bars
Pretzels
Water
Juice boxes

Perishable items to Buy Locally:

Milk
Cheese
Cottage Cheese
Yogurt

Other Items to Think About:

Tea bags (the only place I didn’t bring my own tea was my trip to the UK)
Single serve instant Coffee

I try to avoid chocolate unless you’re going to eat it within the first couple of hours. No matter the season, the car gets very hot, and chocolate will melt, ruining whatever you’ve put it into.

Ziploc or other zipper plastic bags – they have dozens of uses.
Despite all of these snack choices, remember to have some money for a midnight snack and to avoid extra ATM fees.

Add you own must have snacks and/or travel food in the comments.

Tomorrow: Travel Tech

Saints of Travel

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Even to those who are not religious it is common to pray for safe travel. Whether praying to a deity or the one true G-d or goddesses or anything in between, we all wish and hope for safe travels. We ask for good weather and no mechanical mishaps and no crying children or snoring neighbors leaning in our shoulders in each of our own ways. We beg the Almighty for an empty middle seat and no turbulence.

Here are a few of the Catholic patrons of traveling or travelers including my own patron, St. Elen.

I’ve read that St. Christopher is no longer a patron of travel. I know many thousands of people who would disagree so I’ve included him in this list.

St. Anthony of Padua
St. Christopher
St. Elen
St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
St. Nicholas

Please add your own travel companions in the comments.