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    At Home  --  Inspire

    My System for Organizing Digital Photos

    This is my system for organizing digital photos. It might not work for everyone but it works for me. I use an iPhone and a MacBook so if you are not using Apple products your system will need to be different. For those of you who are not Mac users, I have included in this blog information about Google Drive photos (see below). So at the request of some of my friends, I have put together this blog that lays out my system for organizing digital photos. I hope it can be helpful to you.

    Photo Library
    Me with my first iphone

    What Kind Are You?

    I read an interesting article once that placed digital photo people into three different categories; casual, moderate or enthusiastic. My photo library has 59,000 photos and nearly 400 videos. I’m pretty sure I fall into the “enthusiastic” category. Or crazy. I think my husband would label my photo taking as crazy.

    I was a Mac user before I was an iPhone user and the day I realized my two devices were going to be talking to each other was the day my life changed. I mean really. It didn’t take me long to give up my SLR camera altogether and use my iPhone as my sole camera. I currently have an iPhone 11x and it takes beautiful images. Even though I have a few complaints about the iPhone 11, photos are not one of them. So I take lots of photos every day and I need a good system for organizing my digital photos.

    Photography
    Photo I took in 1980 on my first film SLR when I was learning photography in college. That’s my husband…before he was my husband.

    Editing

    Before I get into storage let me talk briefly about editing. On the iPhone you can adjust the light level before you take a photo by tapping lightly on the screen and adjusting the up and down toggle for brightness. But often I don’t have time to do that if I need to capture a fleeting moment. And so I do it in edit mode after. The iPhone editor has a wide variety of options for lightening, brightening and adding color to your images. Sometimes I will turn a color photo into a black and white photo for dramatic effect. You can warm up a photo or cool it down. It’s all very user friendly.

    Photo drama
    I added color and drama to this image taken from a moving car.

    Sometimes I use the bounce or loop feature on the iPhone and I really enjoy the long exposure feature. When traveling I find I love it for any water image, storms or even traffic.

    Iguazu Falls before editing
    Long exposure photography
    Iguazu Falls in Brazil, long exposure image

    Another cool feature with the iPhone is the live camera. I keep live on all the time. If I capture an image where the subject may have moved unexpectedly or a car moved into the frame, often you can go back to the live edit and skip back a frame or two to easily make your photo perfect. Super easy without needing to be a techno whiz.

    Old Route 66 gas station before editing
    Filters on photos
    Using Snapseed I made this old Route 66 gas station look very vintage

    The only other edit program I use is a very rudimentary app called Snapseed. In Snapseed I can add lots of dramatic color to a stormy photo. Or I can make an old vintage truck look even more old and vintage. I can make my photos look like they were taken on a Polaroid camera 40 years ago – or a number of other very simple edit options. I use Snapseed often and don’t find I need any other complicated editing software for the purposes I use my photos for.

    Before editing too dark
    Lightening a photo
    In this image I was in the shadow with bright light behind. I used Snapseed to lighten up the forefront of the image. This image also is in portrait mode, one of the features on the iPhone 11

    Types of Storage Options

    Not so long ago all my photos were printed and put into photos albums. I still have all those photo albums and one long term project goal is to eventually transfer those to digital.

    Photo Albums
    All my old photos albums from 1970-2006

    Not so long ago I was storing photos on CDRom and thumb drive. I hated this system because I didn’t seem to be able to keep these organized or find them easily, needing to pop the CD or thumb drive in and out of the computer.

    Then came the wonderful cloud.

    Today there are a variety of photo storage options available and everyone has their favorites. My photos are in iCloud, while other people prefer options like DropBox, Shutterfly, or Picasso. Amazon Prime has a photo storage program, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who uses it. From my experience the two most popular are Apple iCloud and Google Drive. Since I don’t use Google Drive I asked a fellow blogger, Slavka, to share a little about Google Drive:

    Do you have a Gmail email address? If you do, Google offers other convenient services that you can access via your Gmail email account. Google Drive is one of them and it’s great cloud storage for your photos and other files.

    Google Drive Photo Storage
    Google Drive Photo Storage is popular and reliable

    So how to use it? First of all, you need to have or open a new Gmail email account. With this email account, you have 15 GB of free space. You can use this free space for any of the connected services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, or Google Sheets. You can access these by clicking on the 9 dots icon that appears in the top right corner next to your login icon. Click on the triangle icon of Google Drive. This is a space where you can store photos, videos, audio files, documents files, etc. You can group then into separate files and share them with others via a sharable link.

    Google Drive storage is convenient for the temporary storage of recent photos or the ones you want to share. Older images and files should be downloaded to an external storage drive for archiving. Or, if you want to keep them available online, you might need to pay for additional cloud storage after you run out of free space. Currently, Google charges approx. $28 per year for 100GB of cloud space.

    Link to my blog:  https://on2continents.com

    Thanks Slavka. Be sure to check out Slavka’s wonderful travel blog on the link above.

    So, the iCloud photo storage works basically the same way. It’s free for the first 5G and then you pay monthly for additional storage. For a long time I paid $4 a month for 200GB but now I pay $10 a month for 500GB. My photos are automatically uploaded regularly to the cloud.

    iCloud photo storage
    Using iCloud photo storage works for me and millions of other people.

    No matter which storage system you chose, keeping your photos organized is the challenge. For me it’s a big committment given the number of photos I have and my constant need to access them. Here is how I do it.

    Organizing my Images

    When you open the iCloud photo library, you can go to File in the top left hand corner. Click on File and you will get an option to create an album. In my photo library I have dozens of albums. I have albums for family, friends, house and garden, genealogy, cycling, hiking and camping, and of course cats. (LOL). Then I have an album for every country we have visited. Sometimes I will combine a couple of countries to save a little space. Additionally I have separate albums where I store art work for my blog, birthday funny memes, or things I might want for holidays on social media. I have one whole albums for Seahawks and Cougar football memes.

    digital photos
    My photo library

    Creating the albums is the easy part. The hard part is continually moving your new images into the files. Here is how I do that:

    Every few weeks I sit down and delete images. Ideally you should be doing this daily or minute to minute on your phone, but that doesn’t seem to happen for me. So I go through and delete duplicate images, poor quality images or other images I don’t want in one go.

    Photo organization
    Albums for all the things I love and want to keep organized

    I check the date I last moved images to albums and after deleting I start with that date and begin moving the images (click and drag) into the albums. Sometimes an image might end up in multiple albums (for example family album and hiking album). This way I can find it easily for future use.

    Photo storage
    Working on deleting hundreds of images

    The Big Delete

    Since I’ve had A LOT of free time on my hands these past few covid months, I began a new delete project. Going to the overarching file called Photos, where all images are from all albums, I started with the oldest images and slowly am going through and deleting. I have found there are photos I don’t even remember taking or where I took them. Some photos that seemed important at the time, no longer have meaning for me (the first time I saw a wild baboon it seemed impressive…now so many thousands of baboons later who cares). And so I delete. This is very time consuming but will eventually help my overall storage issue. I am committing a few hours a week to accomplish this task by the end of the summer – it’s about ten years worth of photos, but an important goal for organizing digital photos.

    So What About External Hard Drives?

    For a couple of years before I went all Mac I used to have an external hard drive I would plug in to my PC and back up my photos regularly. But I haven’t done that since I went to 500 GB in the cloud, as I feel confident in the system I am using. However, I recently purchased a new external hard drive called Photo Stick that stores 128GB of data. I haven’t started using it yet, but I decided it was worth it to have it since it is very small (like a thumb drive), has a huge amount of storage, works continually and will help me clean up duplicates. It also will offer me even more peace of mind. Hopefully it actually does all those things. I paid $79 for it.

    So What is Best for You?

    Remember in the beginning when I asked what kind of photo person you are? Determining the answer to that question is your first step in getting your images organized and safe. As an “enthusiastic” photographer, as well as a blogger, travel writer and very active social media user, my photos are incredibly important to me in my day-to-day life. I consider myself a good photographer, after years of practice and a small amount of training, and photography is an important hobby in my life. So I spend both time and money making sure my images are protected, accessible, and good quality.

    No matter what kind of photographer you are, you can start organizing your digital photos with a little knowledge and commitment. Good luck!

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    At Home

    Covid Cocktails for a Summer Lockdown 2020

    Delicious and Fun Cocktails

    Covid Cocktails for Summer Lockdown 2020

    Lockdown is easing, but we still will be finding summer 2020 a bit of a lonely place; no summer concerts, parades, fairs and events. Many weddings postponed, graduations and parties done virtually. How will Fourth of July look? And our favorite restaurants and bars? They just won’t be the same for a while.

    Summer 2020 is gonna need some creative energy to pull us through and that is exactly what I have for you here today! I’ve been “researching” (ah-hem drinking daily) for this blog for two weeks and I think I am ready to share my Covid Cocktails for Summer Lockdown 2020. You can thank me later.

    The Social Distance

    Covid Cocktails The Social Distance
    The Social Distance

    (AKA Tequila Sunrise) Our version of this delicious and inspiring summer cocktail comes together easily but with rum instead of tequila. Combine 12 oz of orange juice and 3 oz of dark or light rum. Pour a third into one ice filled glass and a third into the second glass and set a third aside. Add two tablespoons of grenadine to the third you set aside and slowly pour over the top of the two glasses. Garnish with lime.

    The Quarantini

    Covid Cocktails The Quarantini
    The Quarantini

    (AKA Dilly Dirty Martini) I’m a sucker for a gin dirty martini, but this version tastes like summer using dilly beans and the juice from the dilly beans instead of olive juice. Add 6 oz gin to a martini shaker, 1 oz dilly juice, shake and pour. Garnish with dilly beans and olives.

    Covid Cocktails The Covid Colada
    The Covid Colada

    Covid Colada

    (AKA Pina Colada) This blended summer treat takes you away to a tropical island, with frozen chunks of pineapple and nutty coconut/almond milk. In a blender combine 4 oz of rum, a cup of frozen pineapple, 4 oz of coconut almond milk and a splash of pineapple juice. Add a cup of ice to the blender. Pour into two glasses and top with a tropical paper umbrella and forget your Covid troubles.

    The Fauci Fizz

    Covid Cocktails the Fauci Fizz
    The Fauci Fizz

    (AKA Gin Fizz) Make this one really taste like summer using your favorite herb such as rosemary, basil or mint. Make the simpe syrup on the stove top with half a cup water and half a cup sugar and herb of choice. Let cool then strain. In a martini shaker pour 2 oz of gin, juice of one fresh squeezed lemon, 4 oz of seltzer, one egg white and the strained simple syrup. Shake the hell out of it and get your Covid frustrations out. Pour into a pretty glass and garnish with herbs of choice and lemon wedge.

    The Orange Trump Crush

    Covid Cocktails The Orange Trump Crush
    The Orange Trump Crusgh

    (AKA Mimosa) More than a mimosa this is an Orange Trump Crush Mimosa!! Mix 1/4 cup of sugar and zest of one orange on a small plate. Use juice of the orange to wet the rim of your glasses then rim the glasses with the orange zest sugar mixture. Fill half the glass with orange flavored seltzer water, add champagne to about an inch from the top and finish with orange juice. Save the rest of the champagne for the next drink.

    The Pandemic Penguin

    Covid Cocktails The Pandemic Penguin
    The Pandemic Penguin

    (AKA Orange and Lemon Granita) Use the other half a bottle of champagne from The Orange Trump Crush. Pour into a shallow dish. Make a simple syrup of 1 cup water, the zest of one orange and one cup sugar. Let the syrup cool. Add the juice of one orange and the juice of half a lemon to the champagne then mix in the cooled simple syrup. Freeze for three hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop into pretty glasses and enjoy your Pandemic Penguin!

    What The Hell Day Is It?

    Covid Cocktails The What The Hell Day Is It?
    The What The Hell Day Is It?

    (AKA a Dark and Stormy) Ginger is healthy right? Boosts your immunity too! All good things during this virus summer! Get a good quality ginger beer 12 oz. In a blender add the ginger beer, one tablespoon of fresh ground ginger (must be fresh), juice of one lime and about 2 cups of ice. Blend. Pour into glasses and then pour a dark rum (about 2 oz per glass) over the top.

    The Working From Home

    Covid Cocktails The Working From Home
    The Working From Home

    (AKA Coffee with a kick) Use a French Press to brew a very dark rich coffee. Add 1 oz of good whiskey and 2 oz of almond milk. It will make those zoom meeting way more fun.

    The Lemon Lockdown

    Covid Cocktails The Lemon Lockdown
    The Lemons Lockdown

    (AKA Blueberry Lemon Margarita) Squeeze one and half lemons or enough for one cup of fresh lemon juice. Add half a cup of water and two tablespoons of sugar. Set aside. On the stove top make a simple syrup of 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, zest of one lime and 1/2 a cup of blueberries. Let cool and then strain. Use two chilled glasses and rub a fresh lemon on the rim. Dip the rim into a mixture of salt and sugar on a plate. Add ice cubes to about half way up the glass. Pour in 2 oz of tequila into each glass and 1 oz of triple sec into each glass. Add half the fresh lemon juice mixture to each glass and then top with the cooled blueberry simple syrup. Garnish with blueberries and a lemon wedge. Lockdown never tested so good.

    Bra? What Bra?

    Covid Cocktails The Bra? What Bra?
    The Bra? What Bra?

    (AKA Spicy Bloody Mary) Super simple. Super delicious. Buy premixed Bloody Mary mix. Mix with Vodka. Garnish with Celery stalk, dilly bean, olives…whatever you want. Remove bra before consuming. Unless you haven’t had a bra on for two months.

    The Mask-a-rita

    Covid Cocktails Mask-a-rita
    The Mask-a-rita

    (AKA Pineapple Margarita) Chill two glasses and then rub a quarter of lime around the rim, then dip in salt. To each glass add 2 oz of tequila, 1 oz triple sec, 4 oz of pineapple juice and a squeeze of fresh lime. You can shake it in your martini shaker if you like it a bit frothy. Garnish with a pineapple wedge or lime wedge. You’re gonna need to remove your mask before you can drink it!

    Virus Breakfast of Champions

    Virus Breakfast of Champions

    (AKA Gin & Tonic) Duh. The best summer drink ever so you know I had to add it here. Choose your favorite gin (we usually use less expensive gin like Gordons for this and save the good stuff for the martinis), your favorite tonic (we like Schweppes), lime is mandatory. Over ice pour 2 oz gin, fill glass with tonic, squeeze of lime, garnish with lime. Drink!

    My Corona

    My Corona

    (AKA Beer) Chill. Drink.

    So there you have it. My Covid Cocktails for Summer Lockdown 2020. Enjoy a few of these in the months ahead, for some fun and sane entertainment as we navigate our way through Pandemic 2020.

    Be well everyone. Love you all.

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    At Home

    Running on Empty – Hal Higdon’s Training Program

    Hal Higdon's training program

    This week I started training for a half marathon, using Hal Higdon’s training program. Ouch. I feel like I’m running on empty, as I still am settling back into my new chapter here in the Pacific Northwest.

    Even though I run regularly, it’s been about six years, maybe more, since I ran a half-marathon. Back then I was running one or two half-marathons a year, and finding it a great way to stay fit and healthy, and clear my mind.

    Hal Higdon's Half Marathon training program
    Finish of the Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon

    But when traveling, finding time to run long distances, or even to run at all, has been difficult. But now here we are back home, waiting to see when and if we can travel again, so there are no more excuses. Time to train and get back in shape.

    My husband used Hal Higdon’s training program when he was running marathons. He has run 7 or 8 marathons, so when I was ready to try a half, he set me up with the program.

    Higdon, a life-long runner, accomplished marathoner and Olympic Trial alum currently is a contributing editor to Runners World Magazine. He developed his training programs to help both novice and experienced runners reach their training peak at the optimal time to be successful in a distance run.

    Hal Higdon's Training Program
    Finish of the Gig Harbor Race for a Soldier

    I’ve used this training program multiple times and have always felt prepared when the big day finally arrived. The training is a 12-week plan, and starts with a 3 mile run.

    I know you think you could never run a half-marathon – I thought that too. But with the right training, just about anyone can do it. In all the races I have run since I started running about 12 years ago, I have always crossed the finish line. And the finish line is my only goal. I don’t agonize over my time, I don’t chastise myself if I need to stop, stretch or walk for awhile. I set my sights on finishing the race. And that is what Hal Higdon’s training program has done for me.

    So for the next eleven and a half weeks, I’ll be running with Hal. Want to join me? Here is how you too can get started. Let’s spend our lockdown summer running and getting in shape! You will be amazed what it does for both your body and your mind and we all need that right now don’t we?

    I’d love to hear from you if you want encouragement or to run virtually with me this summer.

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    Hal Higdon's Half Marathon training program
    Hal Higdon's Half Marathon training program
    At Home  --  Inspire

    What Can We Do? Be Kind.

    Location: At Home

    Day Four of our latest lockdown. Combining all our lock down days we are now at Day 55.  What can we do? Be kind.

    Shit is getting real here. Thankful I have my husband and kids. 

    I just watched a video that I can’t share because it’s just too heartbreaking about a young teen who committed suicide because he couldn’t take it anymore. What can we do?

    People are frustrated. Sad. Hopeless. People are angry towards Federal, State and local government. Why?  This is their job to protect you. It’s not Governor Inslee’s fault anymore than it’s mine. Or the fault of that lovely young man who is gone.  Dead. 

    What can we do?  

    Kindness
    #BeKind

    Anger is a powerful emotion. But so is compassion. For me, I’m trying hard to channel my anger and despair to something positive. I don’t show that angry part of me on social media – but I have it just like you. And I work hard to show another side of me, my compassionate side. Because no matter how this turns out, no matter how much you want to point a finger and place blame, there is no one to blame. The only blame will be how you respond. How you treat others who are just as vulnerable as you; mentally, economically, physically, emotionally. 

    Some people will respond to this post with anger. Because that’s what anger does – it drives you to action. But to what point?  Other than to hurt someone in an effort to soothe your own emotions and sensibilities. Can it be channeled differently? Can it be put to good use? Can you lighten someone’s load who might be silently on the brink by moving your energy to compassion? 

    What can we do?  Each person can do this one thing – find your compassionate energy.  It might be buried but it’s there – well in most people it’s there.


    Set aside the politics real or imagined and turn your anger to compassion. Message me if I can help you or call you and chat. Love you all.
    Laureen

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255

    https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org


    Be Kind
    #BeKind

    At Home

    Home and Other Adventures

    Flying During Covid-19 Pandemic

    What a ride it’s been. But here we are. Home. That word feels so good in my mouth. Sweet and full. But with it comes a bitter taste – it’s not what was supposed to happen. Home and other adventures is a story of acceptance of our fate. Despite all our planning; despite all our hopes; despite all our efforts – our travel life has come to an abrupt stop.

    Heathrow Airport
    Eeriely quiet London Heathreow

    Home and other adventures took me several weeks to wrap my head around. As each day passed, each week passed I kept adjusting my thinking. Believing we could pick up our itinerary at some point and continue. Eventually we came to the realization it wasn’t going to happen and if we are going to be sitting somewhere we might as well be sitting at home. At least it’s free and we could be working on projects and helping our family. And so we took the first flight that came available out of Cyprus.

    Cyprus Airport
    Empty Cyprus airport

    Getting here was nothing less than grueling. It took about 50 hours from bed to bed. Three flights, one hotel, lots of cold sandwiches. Airports have few services. Planes have few services. I brought food with us, as best I could. It wasn’t good but it was something.

    Aegean Airlines
    Onboard Aegean Air to London

    Leaving Cyprus

    Departing Cyprus we drove on a bus to the plane – seriously about 15 minutes. To an entirely different airport where the planes seem to be staging. I think it was the old airport. I have no idea why. Upon boarding the flight crew was dressed like they were assisting in surgery…disposable gowns, face masks, rubber gloves and eye protection. We were given rubber gloves and told we had to wear them the entire flight. Everyone on board was wearing a mask. We were given a bottle of water and nothing else on the five hour flight. All middle seats were empty. Even couples who wanted to sit side by side were told they could not. Without flight attendants going up and down the aisle the plane was so quiet. With everyone wearing masks no one was chatting and the plane was absolutely silent. Ghostly.

    London Tube
    Heathrow baggage claim

    We arrived in London to a eerily quiet Heathrow. No temperature checks -we breezed right through, got our bags, walked to our hotel in the adjoining terminal. Crashed on the bed in the itty bitty room.

    Heathrow Train
    Empty train in London

    Leaving London

    Early Wednesday off we went again. Empty tube ride to the terminal. Almost empty terminal. Signs everywhere to distance. But staff not wearing masks or any protection. We asked why and were told it’s not allowed. It’s astonishing to me how inconsistent the rules are between countries.

    Heathrow Airport
    Having Heathrow all to ourselves…weird.

    Security checks at Heathrow were normal and well carried out. There was no health screening on departure. It was strange the wide variety of preparedness in the handful of travelers. Some did not have anything. Most had masks, a few had gloves as well. And then some dressed head to toe in complete “contagion” outfits. It reminded me of Willy Wonka in the Wonkavison room.

    Willy Wonka
    Wonka Vision
    Heathrow Airport
    Heathrow social distancing

    I was pulled aside for additional security screening at the gate…that was just random, not due to Covid. Mostly swabbing for chemicals and explosives. On board the British Airways 787 there were 13 people and nine crew. Wow. Nine people in economy (including us), no one in Business and four in First Class. We were able to spread out and get comfortable. In fact, we were required to each have a full row and to sit next to the window in an effort to “distance” It actually was a nice flight…I love British Airways. We had a half a sandwich served early with some chocolates and later a pizza like thing. That with the food we brought was plenty. No alcohol available.

    One striking thing about all three of our flights was how when we pulled away from the gate, the plane headed to the runway and just took off! No waiting for the plane in front of you.

    British Airways
    Lots of legroom

    Hello USA

    Arriving in the USA was interesting. First we were met on the gangway by health screeners. No temperature taking, but they asked us questions dressed in full contagion gear. The LAX airport has way more activity than in London. Several shops open and kiosks with cold food and even Starbucks open. There was none of that in London. There seems to be more staff around as well. Most are wearing masks. We breezed through both passport control and border patrol. I wanted someone to say welcome home…geeze I’ve been gone for seven months. But they hardly batted an eye. Sigh….

    Los Angeles International Airport
    Waiting for our third and final flight

    Our flight to Seattle left late but other than that was uneventful. Arriving in Seattle we got our bags and changed into clean clothes before meeting our boys – just an effort to try to not spread anything we may have picked up. SeaTac was quiet with very few people. Most staff wearing masks. Starbucks was open but I didn’t see any restaurants open, but we were only in one terminal so possibly in departures there was more. I’m not sure.

    Home and Other Adventures

    Waking up in my bed, opening my eyes and knowing where I was. Nice but surreal. I can’t tell you how many times over the past four years I’ve had to let my brain take a moment to know where I was upon waking…so many hotels, Airbnb’s and beds. But waking up here, I knew. I am so grateful we made the decision to buy this house…it was a leap of faith to buy something sight unseen. But life in a pandemic without a home to come to would have been pretty rotten. But here we are.

    The Lund Family

    I’ll be in self-quarantine here now for two weeks. Only seeing my boys, who met us at the airport. It’s good. Our youngest has been working from our house and will continue to do so until his office reopens, which may be awhile.

    So what’s next? We don’t know… we will figure it out just like everyone else. We still have flights for the wedding in France in June…it’s unlikely to happen but we haven’t completely given up on it. We have a trip to Hawaii planned in October. We have a trip to Boston and New York planned in December. Will that happen? I don’t know. I do know eventually we will get out there again…just how long it will take remains to be seen.

    Home and Other Adventures. Unexpected but satisfying. Be safe. Be well. Stay tuned. The adventure continues just with a sharp right turn and a few bumps in the road… Home, sweet home.

    At Home

    Finding Family Unexpectedly

    How DNA Brought Me A Brother From Another Mother

    Location: Port Orchard Washington

    Where do I begin? Well perhaps at the beginning – except the details are sparse. Most everyone who knows the facts has died. And my Dad, well, his health is poor and memory is gone.

    So where do I begin? Well here are the details as I know them. I have another brother – unknown to us throughout my life – now here he is.

    Me with my cousin, and siblings old and new

    Dennis has been looking for his family his entire life. Wondering who his father was. Never knowing. Having a poor excuse of a step-father, and after the death of his mother when he was only seven years old, he struggled to make sense of all the loss in his life. Spending his childhood bouncing from family to foster care. Determined not to become the juvenile delinquent everyone in the “system” assumed was his fate.

    Until at age 63, DNA came knocking. Dennis has been on Ancestry for several years. I have been on Ancestry for several years, but I had never taken the DNA test. I bought a test for my Dad years ago, but he never took it, and the test was misplaced when we moved my Dad out of his big house.

    Me and Dennis

    But Dennis took the test, and my cousin took the test and BAM! First cousins found each other…meaning Dennis was much closer to finding his father…meaning it could only be my uncle (who has passed) or my own father.

    Wow. This information all came together last spring and my cousin, brother, sister and I welcomed Dennis, whether he was cousin or brother, and met him for dinner one evening in June.

    And he looked just like my Dad. Mind blown.

    After our meeting, I felt a huge obligation to Dennis to get the answer, and so I did a DNA test and I got my Dad to do one. Three weeks later, the results showed 100% Dennis is my half sibling, my father’s child.

    Dennis is happy to know. He was emotional and excited and relieved. Our family is happy for him. Happy to welcome him. Wishing my Dad wasn’t so far gone into Alzeheimers that we could get more answers. But we are all, including Dennis, in agreement my Dad should not be told who Dennis is due to Dad’s precarious health. For now anyway.

    But Dennis has now met my Dad (our Dad). And we will make it possible for Dennis to meet him again, and again. And we will welcome Dennis into our crazy wired family, and probably scare him off with all the craziness we seem to produce – Dennis hasn’t had a family like this. Between my sister, brother and I there are a total of 9 children with 5 spouses and 10 grand children.

    Our belief right now is that my Dad never knew Dennis was out there. We firmly believe he would never have shirked that responsibility – it’s not the kind of man he was. My father would have been 22 years old when Dennis was conceived in 1955…he married my mother in 1957 and my sister was born in 1958…I came along two years later, my brother a year after that.

    And so here we are. So many questions that may never be resolved, but the biggest question of all for Dennis has been answered. I am glad.

    The development of DNA is an amazing thing, providing forensics and families an opportunity to learn things that generations in the past could not even have dreamed of. It must be used responsibly, and not all DNA results and findings turn out positive for families…some people are hurt , embarrassed, angry and unable to cope with information DNA might bring to light. Our family however, views it as a fascinating development and we all are pleased with the unexpected news.

    You may have read my book review Inheritance, a book I read shortly before this all happened to my family. In the book a women learns her biological father was a sperm donor – not the man she grew up believing was her Dad. Her search for the sperm donor created lots of questions; what are his rights as an anonymous donor; what are her rights to know who her biological father is; what about genetic diseases; what about unknown siblings and the potential of inter-genetic marriages; should there be more control over DNA and results?

    Life was different in the 1950’s and women who got pregnant so often were shamed and hidden. But in the 1950’s and long before, men often carried no responsibility and or knowledge of pregnancies they may have had a hand in – creating many little humans who never knew the truth.

    But today, with the continuing advancement of DNA, there are no longer any secrets…lots of men may be wondering…lots of families may be affected. It’s only going to grow.

    For me, and this situation in my own family I just feel we must embrace it and move forward. What more can we do? We can’t deny or walk away and why would we? We have found a buried treasure, something we didn’t know was lost. My siblings who I have known all my life and my new sibling who we just met, will now go forward and tread lightly and see what happens next. I’m just sorry it took so long.

    Note I am aware of at least ten people I know who have had similar developments in their families. If you are so inclined, and have a story of your own, feel free to share in the comments below.

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    At Home

    A Summer Remodel

    Eight Weeks and Done

    Location: Port Orchard Washington USA

    We hit the ground running (as usual) when we arrived in Washington State on May 9th. Back in the USA for a four month visit with our family and friends before heading off again for another year of travel.

    Living room when we arrived on May 9th (see cover photo for living room now)

    In addition to spending time with our aging parents and our adult children, we set out to tackle a remodel of the “villa” (condo) we bought last fall sight unseen. Four months seemed like it would be a lot of time to enjoy all the things we wanted to do and get the remodel done. Not so much. Wow, time moves faster than it used to.

    Fireplace before

    Our goal was to get the remodel done by July 1st. We worked tirelessly for weeks, eating dust and sleeping on the floor as we tore into the dated condo to make it more modern and to fit our personal style.

    Fireplace after

    We just missed the mark of July 1st. We officially wrapped up the project on July 2nd…with a tiny hand full of tweaks left to do here and there over the next two months.

    Laundry room
    Guest bedroom

    Here is what we did in just under an 8-week period;

    • Removed a wall and moved the wiring
    • Painted the kitchen cabinets, utility cabinets and guest bath cabinets
    • Removed wallpaper from guest bath
    • Added cabinet hardware
    • Painted the entire interior
    • New washer, dryer, refrigerator, range, microwave and dishwasher
    • Brought gas into the kitchen
    • New luxury vinyl wood look floors throughout the house
    • New floor trim
    • Painted all the trim and doors
    • Replaced all the interior and exterior door hardware
    • Updated the fireplace with new surround and hearth
    • New kitchen counters
    • New kitchen backsplash
    • Replaced five light fixtures inside and three outside
    • Unpacked dozens of boxes
    • Got new-to-us and brand-new furniture
    • Painted new-to-us furniture
    • New curtains
    • Decorated
    • Organized the garage and attic
    • Removed outdoor dead plants and replaced with new
    • Kicked back and had a gin and tonic
    Bedroom when we arrived in May

    We left one project for next summer – a full master bathroom remodel. That will be a big undertaking for when we return to the USA again next June.

    Bedroom now

    We were assisted in this project by Gordy Lund, my brother-in-law, who always does such nice work, Valona Painting, Precision Countertops, and Affordable Interiors and Flooring.

    Kitchen before – note wall on right that we removed
    Kitchen after – note the colored tiles we bought in Portugal and incorporated randomly in the backsplash

    We were so happy to get it done. And it looks absolutely beautiful. I love the layout of this one-level villa. I love the neighborhood. I love the landscaping. Most of all I love how peaceful it is. We have beautiful wooded trails; flat, safe running and cycling; and a golf course to boot. Guess I’m gonna have to take up golf next summer!

    Reading Room

    So from July 3rd through the rest of the summer we will be entertaining family and friends and just enjoying our new home. I am particularly enjoying having all my things around me again, after these being in storage for more than three years. It feels good.

    Office and Sewing Room
    Welcome to our new home Villa de Verano (Summer House)

    But we still plan to continue to travel. We have a house-sitter in place to care for our home between September and June as we continue on our Grand Adventure. We look forward to coming “home” again next June and staying through Christmas.

    I call this the museum – a place for all our special travel mementoes

    I feel really blessed to have the best of both worlds; a beautiful place to call home, and a life of full-time travel. Lucky, fabulous me.

    New floors going in

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