Holly, you are a devoted mom and grandmother who is now retired and have the opportunity to live the life you've dreamed of. And you have one of the loveliest gardens I've ever seen. You seem to be very, very content with your life. I would love to have you share some of your happiness with our readers.
Thank you for asking me to do this. It has given me a chance to reminisce and chronicle my life.
The most important thing in my life is my family. I'm married with four children and three grandchildren. My husband Ric and I have been together for more than 30 years. I am an only child and lucky to have both my parents and all my children living close by.
I'm a retired Federal Worker. After a 32 year career, I retired about five years ago. For most of those 32 years my work was building mobile hospitals. Everything from a 1,000 bed field hospital (think MASH unit) to small first aid kits. A lot of medical supplies are hazardous for transportation and that was my specialty. I researched, packed and shipped the hazardous medical material, integrating it with the rest of the non-hazardous material to form complete units.
When I was younger, pretty much everything centered around my kids, kids' activities and animals. My first and most important goal in life was being a mother. There were Boy & Girl Scouts, Soccer, Gymnastics, PTO and 4-H. I did a lot of volunteer work at the school, was president of the PTO and a 4-H Leader. Oh did I mention that I was working full time. (LOL) Sometimes I wonder how we did it all. Even though my children are all adults with families of their own now, I am still very much present in their lives and the lives of their children.
Beyond the basic dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, frogs, ferrets and chinchillas, we had goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and horses. Ric had a veggie garden back then and we would have meals where everything on the table came from our small property. We don't have a lot of land, really. We only own an acre, but are very lucky to have been able to use the property behind us for pasture.
When I think back to my early 20's I realize that my interests have never really changed, just expanded over the years. My interests include crafting, nature, animals, gardening and a deep love for all things water related.
As a crafter, I would learn one craft and immerse myself in it for awhile, then move on to a different craft. I sew, do leather work, ceramics, macrame, X-stitch and have tried my hand at many other crafts. When the children were little I ran a small craft business, selling macrame and pots at craft fairs, teaching classes through the local Recreation Organization and selling leather belts at a few small stores.
I have lived here on this small piece of land for over 35 years. It was pretty much a blank slate with a mobile home to live in. I loved plants back then but didn't have much time or money to garden. The Pfitzer Juniper hedge that is a main feature of my gardens was the first big planting I did. Also, a few years later Ric and I put in a mixed evergreen group and the yew hedge. One of his first gifts to me was a Norway Spruce seedling that is now taller than the house. My home back then just like now was filled with Houseplants.
I love the area where I live. There was a lot of land that we had access to, farm fields and woodland with streams and creeks. I would walk out the back door and take the children hiking, horseback riding and exploring the nearby creek. Some of the plants in my garden came home with me from those walks in the woods. We live a few miles from the Susquehanna River and spent a lot of time down there boating, knee boarding , water skiing and just relaxing. There is also a small ski resort near by and although money was tight, we would try to get a couple of the kids up on the slopes each year for just one day. Years later my twins worked at that resort and free skiing was a perk of the job. Josh ended up going out to Vail, Colorado during the winter to work at the big resorts for a few years after he graduated.
As the children grew, so did the house and gardens. The old mobile home was slowly replaced by a home that we mostly built ourselves. We took down the old three sided shed and put up a nicer barn and planted more flower beds. After all these years neither the house nor the gardens are really complete.
Then there was a lifestyle change. The children were older, making their own lives. We had been slowly cutting back on the animals, focusing mostly on the horses. As a past 4-H Leader I had a lot of good connections and found wonderful homes for the last two horses and two ponies. After 18 years of looking out my kitchen window at a horse filled pasture, things had changed.
We'd always taken the children on yearly vacations. With a young family and limited budget, we visited Ric's Parents in Florida every other year, stopping along the southern east coast on the way, traveling in an old van with camping gear. We later a used motor home, visiting one beach after another. The in-between years we went to the closer Jersey Shore and Maryland beaches. Ric & I always tried to have one little overnight trip alone each year. Usually we would go to the Philadelphia Flower Show and stay the night, but we never had more than that by ourselves. Then with older children, and our time and money not invested in the horses, we could start traveling more and alone.
Our first vacation without children was a trip out west. I met Ric in Las Vegas after his conference was over and we rented a car for a week and drove around the Grand Canyon. There were a few trips to the Caribbean, then our biggest trip to Zell Am See and Saltzburg, Austria, with a day trip to Venice. I still look at those pictures and think I just can't believe we were actually there.
A trip to the Bahamas with friends made a big change in my life. We decided that we would invest in a Timeshare in the Bahamas and I was able to take up a new Hobby, one that I had always wanted to try. SCUBA Diving. I didn't get to dive much at first and still don't do a lot of it but when I get the chance I just love it. I would only get a few dives in each time we when to the Bahamas and they were just magical, but I really wanted more. So I met a group of divers from a local dive shop and started going on yearly dive trips with them.
I thought you might be interested in looking at this thread. I call it a Personal Journey Thread and it talks a lot about my love for all things water. (And her photos are awesome!)
Ric isn't a diver, and can't because of a medical condition. He is such a dear man. When I talked to him about doing a dive trip with people I had never met, and the possibility that I would go alone without him, he didn't bat an eye and said yes this is something you should do. Over the years I have gone to not only the Bahamas but also Turks and Caicos, Roatan, Cozumel, Utilia and Bonaire. Each year I ask Ric if he wants to come, but only once did he join me. That was the trip to Cozumel. It was really nice having him there, and he really enjoyed going along. Even though the trip pretty much centered around me and my diving schedule, he would have breakfast with me, see me off to the dive boat and help not only me with my gear, but my dive partners' gear. Then he'd head out to explore the Island on a rented scooter, coming back later in the afternoon for our lunch and a nap. Later he would take me on the back of the scooter to show me bits of what he had seen that day. I probably wouldn't have seen much of the topside of Cozumel if he wasn't there.
I had a wonderful opportunity to volunteer at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, about 2 ½ - 3 hours drive from my home. The Aquarium had been shut down for major renovations and a huge addition. When they re-opened they needed more divers for the huge Ocean Realm Tank and the new Shark Realm Tank with the 40ft walk thru tunnel. I was there for about three years going in for one day every other week. It has been one of the most wonderful experiences.
Working in both tanks, cleaning, interacting with the public, hand feeding the rays and helping the Aquarists, I was able to provide my sons Josh and Jamie with a once in a lifetime experience, snorkeling with the sharks.
The yard was looking better and better, and as our children grew and moved into their own lives, Ric's and my working time became much more demanding. We were having trouble doing much more than mowing the lawn and caring for the small flower beds tucked around the house. We would talk about what we wanted to do in the future, but at the time, not much progress was being made. Then came that golden time …. Retirement! Since then, we have been gardening to our hearts content, doing a little more traveling and enjoying our grandchildren. All those plans are coming to life with lots of ideas and plants from our gardening friends. Our gardens are getting more beautiful each year. Ric put in a new curved raised stone wall bed, expanded the front bed, added a stone walk way, built a Gazebo in the back yard, and added an arbor and greenhouse to the veggie garden area. There are new and expanded beds with wonderful plants, many received from friends. We are really enjoying this new phase of our lives.
I have been very blessed in my life with great parents, really nice children and a wonderfully supportive, loving husband. Like everyone else, there have also been many challenges through my life, things I think I could have done differently or handled better, but my positive attitude tends to make those things seem only a small part of my life.
It seems your positive attitude has rewarded you with an abundance of love and success in life. I wish you well, Holly, and many more happy days ahead. Thank you for being my guest.
As always, you may click on the images to enlarge them (they are worth viewing larger) and you're invited to leave a message for Holly in the threads following this interview.