Ahhh….Paris

I just came back from an Evening in Paris. Walked the back streets until I came upon this little bistro. I sat outside at a little wrought iron table under an umbrella, for it was raining. The lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkled through the misty rain, a constant vigil in the Paris skyline. Down the street a door opened and the sweet strains of La Vie En Rose poured out, completing the night.

Actually, I was downloading some images for a future Eiffel Tower Gallery and kept coming across pictures of Paris at night.

I wasn’t always a dreamer of French bistros and cathedrals. My desires have always been towards the green hills of Ireland and the rolling towns of England. But the last few years have drawn me to the romantic notions of Pariee…the museums, the small restaurants, French wine, croissants, fashion,  café au lait, parks, romantic side streets…I mean, I could stay for a month.

Perhaps I’ve watched “Midnight in Paris” too many times. Or “An American in Paris.” Movies always make places seem more magical than they really are.

But I don’t think it’s the same with Paris. I think there’s always been magic there. From the time of Louis XIV and Versailles to the rolling wine country of Bordeaux and Champagne, there is always something about another world that is full of mystery and atmosphere.

I don’t think I’ll ever travel to Paris — with grandkids and mortgages and who knows what else, I don’t think this is on my husband’s top 10 places to visit before he dies. And anyway, I doubt anyone would want to do the kind of wandering I’d be inclined to do (the pretzel kind).

One thing that has danced on the outside of my thoughts is to write a story about Paris. I haven’t been in the mood to finish my third novel (or anything else lately), but the thought of a middle-aged woman finding intrigue and freedom in a strange and beautiful city…

Ah, but how can I write about a place I’ve never been?

Well, I’ve never been to 1885 Claremont, Wisconsin or Veii, Etruria either. And I survived those uncharted worlds just fine.

If you want to write about something you know nothing about, write. Take a chance. Let your mind wander past the 25-mile circle you call home. You never know…

Maybe we will meet at  Le Recruitement Cafe one evening. 36 boulevard la Tour Maubourg, 75007 Paris. I will have to astral travel, but hey…I’ll be there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring in February

163921-beautiful-spring-dayI don’t know about you, but a flash of great weather gives me a flash of positive energy.

It’s February here in the Midwest, the land of snow and slush. Yet this past week has teased temperatures hovering around 60. Us Midwesterners know this is only a tease — a mere peek at the lace trim of a very lacy slip.

But we fall for it as much as if the slip fell off the manikin.

I saw a post on Facebook that showed 40 degrees in California (hats, gloves, muffs), vs 40 degrees in Wisconsin (shorts, open windows, bbqs). I thought that was really silly until I found myself driving home from work with the window wide open.

What is it about weather change that brightens the dullest spirit?

When it’s warm I tend to walk outside a little more…get away from the madness of the office or the madness of cleaning house and just breathe. It’s such an inspiring image, isn’t it? Walking the wooded paths, wandering along the deserted shoreline, gazing at the arrangements in a Zen garden…

Of course, that plateau lasts all of one day.

Work, kids, house and car repairs, all need to be dealt with, rain or shine, warm weather or blizzards. Life has a lot of nerve interrupting our serene moments with things like “dinner” or “soccer practice.”  How will we ever reach nirvana? How will we ever become one with the Earth and the Moon and the galaxy above when we have to work on the computer or wash the dishes or fix the lawn mower?

That is what days like today are for. The dream that someday we will be able to wander along in the sunshine, not too hot, not too cold, contemplating and meditating and finding our place in this world. The hope that our food will be fresh from the garden, our houses sparkling clean and full of fresh air, and our dreams will become our reality.

I am more to thinking that this burst of fresh air and 60 degrees just makes me high…

Reflections on the Beach

SandPail_2Perspective. It’s what makes all the difference in life, doesn’t it?

Looking up through the trees at the sky looks different than looking across the trees at the sky. Glasses half empty or half full. All that falderal.

Like life at the beach.

This afternoon I was sitting at a picnic table at a small beach at a small lake in a small town. I’d finished my part of the water ballet, letting my grandson and his grandpa finish the ballet water-splash style.

The world went on as it always has…it’s just that this time I was sitting on the other side of the table. Watching the world as an observer instead of a participant.

It’s pretty busy for a small beach. Little kids manage to hit the excited scream level a lot of the time – whether it was laughing, fighting with siblings, or crying. I wonder if the sound bounces off the water a lot harder these days.

Women chat while their kids jump off the pier. Cathy was still going out with the louse from the next town, Handy’s had the best fish fry this side of the Mississippi. Jim was always working overtime and spending his spare hours at the golf course, and Neighbor Grocery’s produce had gone down in quality the last few years. I myself have always loved the ebb and flow of people talking when they don’t think others are listening. Voices always float through the air, bits and pieces getting caught in the sack chair or wrapped around the picnic bench so that all you catch is a sentence’s jagged inference. Maybe the louse from the next town is a dentist, maybe he’s a mechanic. All that could be grasped was the audacity of the woman sharing her thoughts.

Love games still abound at the beach, too. The cute little high schooler, long legs, short shorts, long dark hair wrapping around her shoulders; and the tall, lanky guy, not really a jock but not bad looking. She sways back and forth, hands behind her back, playing the coy card. He leans forward, saying something a little risque, and they both laugh, she turning slightly away. He threatens to throw her in the water; she squeals “no no!” in her loveliest girly voice. He grabs her towel (or hat or sunscreen), hides it behind his back, and she giggles, trying to get it back from him.

A lovely Lolita-ish girl walks down the pier, her tanned body barely covered by her flowered bikini. A young thing, maybe late high school, maybe a tad older, walking down to the end of the pier, blonde hair blazing in the sun, where she stops, and I imagine, sighs dramatically. There’s no sunset to dream upon yet; no cat calls from the audience, no college scholarship with her name on it. But there’s something sexy and dramatic about the sad, curvy side of youth.

Kids are always kids. One skinny 5-year-old desperately tries to gain the attention of two older 8-year-old girls, his arms flaying in the air, his swim goggles making him look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. My insecurities make me uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel anything of the kind. He drifts off to look for fish in the shallow water, the girls never knowing he was there.

Three boys, all but four years old, compete with each other as Superman jumping off the deck into the shallow water. Bigger boys come by and laugh, some jump in and splash the little ones aside, making waves, being even cooler than the little kids. The little kids are too young to care; the middle schoolers get an ego boost by bullying those half their age.

It’s a cornucopia at this little beach on this little lake in this little town. I fancy nothing has changed in all the years moms have been bringing their kids to swim and high schoolers have come to make out and flirt and make plans for Saturday night. Not even me.

I still think of the time I never spent at the beach, never flirting with the kinda cute guy on the pier, never  dreaming dreams only cute girls can dream.

 

 

 

 

A Friend’s Trip Through Alternate Reality

 

in-our-dreams-dreams-1600x1200Reflections of altered states, altered lives, is what writing — and life — is all about. It’s how I feel when I read, how I feel when I write. And there are times when I wish I could stay in those altered states a bit longer…

Enjoy this post from fellow blogger Tom Rains..

 

We long for altered states in life. Is this a bad thing? Is sobriety, the unaltered state, more virtuous? Is it more rational? Is it more real? Or should we aim to exist in altered states as much as possible? It seems like everything we love in life is similar to a drug-induced experience. Sometimes, […]

via Magic in Mundanity — A Blog for Humans

Dream A Little Dream

GODZILLA - 2014 FILM STILL - Photo Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

In my late night cannot-sleep mental meanderings, I often think how cool it would be if the afterlife were nothing more than eternal dreaming. Long after the neurons stop flashing, I’d still love to exist on a dreamplane someplace. Meeting people, doing weird things, drifting here and there, trying to make sense of nonsense.

Although the way I dream, I’d still have to have a “cosmic” wake up now and then.

They say we all dream. It’s just that some of us linger in the twilight longer than others. Hence, not enough deep sleep equals insomnia, dark circles under the eyes, and weird dreams.

Do you remember your dreams?

I would love to remember more of mine, although the more tendrils I pull out of the dream base, the more nonsense I find.

I do a lot of walking from building to building, making my way through warehouses, offices with eternal hallways, crossing city streets, and back through theaters and more underground buildings. I do a lot of “boss” dreaming, too, past and present, in offices I’ve never seen in my life. Strange people show up in my dreams, often TV or movie types, people I’ve often never given second thought to. I also still dream of my mom, although she’s been on the other side for 30 years.

Of course, weirdness is relative. I’ve seen godzillas in the distance but never a unicorn. I’ve flown and jumped off buildings and been able to take giant bounces down the street but have never gone to another planet. I write a lot of time travel stories, but I have yet to dream about going back in time.

In other words, I don’t encounter my daytime daydreams in my nighttime ones.

Maybe on some level that’s a good thing. Not being able to distinguish dreams from daydreams might be the first step to insanity. And I’m already a deal off-kilter.

But then, that would lead to quite an interesting writing career. Wasn’t Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft a bit on the “eccentric” side? (see http://brainz.org/10-writers-who-were-mentally-disturbed/ for a little eye opener).

I wonder what Stephen King or Dean Koontz dream about?

Maybe I don’t want to see where those tendrils go…

Share Your Island

x3_palm1 (1)Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.  J. Abdul Kalam

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.   John Donne

You can make it, but it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.    Betty Ford

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.   Helen Keller

 

A lot of us have creative dreams that we dream alone. We dream of being a better painter, ceramics-er, quilter, speaker, writer. But we sit alone, dreaming these pipe dreams, afraid to bring our full potential to the forefront.

Yet when we bring out work outside the silence of our own world, amazing things happen.

Bells ring, adrenalin bubbles, and ideas explode. When we share our oh-so-private dreams with others who also have oh-so-private dreams, we find incentive, hope, and support with another living, breathing, being.

And it’s great.

I know some of the greatest writers seclude themselves, isolate themselves, and write torturous and incredible passages; painters hide in dark rooms and airy studios and create gorgeous imitations of life. But sooner or later these masterpieces need a second opinion. An idea of where to go from here. A conversation of how to get their message out there. Feedback on their thoughts and ideas.

Tonight I had hot chocolate with my bff, an incredibly talented and outgoing muse. We talked about speaking engagements and radio shows and blogs and writing contests and it was exciting. Last week I met with two other wonderfully creative and innovative muses whose creative talents lie in the worlds of animals and graphic arts. Over the weekend, a couple of fantastic scrapbookers. Everyone’s fields are different; everyone is engaged in different parts of their lives. But all of us have the desire to do more, be more, to have fun and discover what’s waiting for us right around the corner.

Some of my best friends are people I met when I was a part of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. Friends that are writers, poets, screenwriters. I miss the camaraderie conferences brought to my life. The natural support that comes from wanting the same things everyone at the table wants. I miss the support of those who are lost in their innovational sphere like I am.

When I get together with other creative spirits, something magical happens. It’s the opposite of what you first envision. Your thoughts clarify. You are free to boast about your accomplishments without feeling self conscious. You share thoughts on how to get your message across. What works, what doesn’t. What’s reasonable and what’s ridiculous.

Blogs are wonderful tools for communication, too. There are thousands of writers out there — thousands of abstract artists and thousands of jewelry makers and thousands of animal whisperers. Sometimes when you see the sheer numbers of those wanting what you want, it can be overwhelming, making you want to throw in the towel.

Don’t.

The numbers don’t matter. All that matters is that somewhere in the Internet world are others who are going through just what you are going through. You can’t be friends with them all. But you can connect with a talented few who are willing to take you along on their ride, and who want to ride along with you. People who laugh and encourage and feel just like you.

Don’t be afraid to dream and to encourage others to dream too. There is always so much room to grow. And nothing is more fun than growing along with others.

Make room on your island!

 

 

What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

Any Extra Time, Dali?


Okay. Here is one for you to think about and answer. I’ve been running helter-skelter around Wisconsin and Illinois lately: work, birthday parties, funerals, kid’s house, grocery store. I constantly daydream about having a couple of hours TO MYSELF.

So here is your scenario. You have two hours free any time during the day. My pretends fairs better, say, after work. Yours can be whenever. Loved ones: gone. House: clean. No soccer games, hospital visits, or fests to get in your way. 

How would you spend those two hours?

The Hand of Guilt

Raise your hand if you carry around a bunch of guilt with you every day. I don’t mean the extreme, over-the-top stuff — I mean a good, healthy fistful of remorse for things you should have or should not have done. Now, keep your hands up if you would like to get rid of that guilt. Keep them up if you have tried to rationalize and theorize why you shouldn’t carry said-guilt around with you everywhere you go. Now, keep your hand raised if you have failed in shaking off the afore-mentioned guilt that’s still perched on your shoulder. Is your arm getting tired yet?

            Somewhere in a woman’s ancient psyche development a seed was planted that all females should have responsibilities and goals that prove their worth as human beings. Back in cave dwelling days, I can see the logic of some of that reasoning. If Urg goes out hunting buffalo or mastodon and is gone a month or so, someone has to keep the cave clean and make sure a saber tooth tiger doesn’t grab junior and eat him for breakfast. But responsibilities have evolved since Urg brought home a trophy yak for dinner. Men and women have turned the responsibility umbrella upside down, and responsibility is more a nebulous outline than a fact carved in stone.

 Most would say that guilt is wasteful and stupid. I would raise my hand to that. When chances are such that you could succumb to pneumonia or be involved in a car crash at any time, dirty dishes in the sink should be the least of your problems. Then why do we feel it? Why is it an effort to tune out the self-reprimands that come with things we didn’t do?

            I admit that I feel less guilty about things as I get older. Things that upset me in my 20s are nothing like what upsets me in my 50s. I don’t worry about getting married or getting pregnant or what shoes go with what purse. I used to think that that was some accomplishment. But when I came home from work sick the other day and worried about how much housecleaning I could squeeze in between diarrhea and dinner, I realized I hadn’t accomplished much at all.

            I have never really had a day all to myself — for myself — without wiping something, washing something, or fixing something. Even those days when I am home alone, basking in the morning sunshine, reading a great book, listening to enchanting music, there is always something in the back of my mind whispering, “Why not throw a load of laundry in while you sit here? It can be washing itself…and you can keep reading,” or “Why don’t you call and make an appointment for your son’s haircut before you sit down? It will only take a minute…”

            When did vacuumed floors and folded laundry take the place of listening to the wind chimes outside my window? When did eating the last piece of cake become such a terrible thing? This isn’t about men vs. women or kids vs. moms — this is about that snickering devil who tries to measure my self worth by how many soccer games I attend and how many sodas I leave in the frig for others. This is about looking around and seeing the beauty of the world without caring if my toenails need polish or if there’s toothpaste in the bathroom sink.

            Yet, however easy it sounds, getting rid of guilt dust bunnies is a full time effort. I don’t want to feel too dismissive; after all, there are health and safety issues in dirty sink water and science experiments in the frig. I don’t want to be too carefree and punch in late or miss my dentist appointment. Time is a constraint no matter where you are and what you are doing. Perhaps that is where the guilt monster hides — inside the clock.

             I feel guilty if I sleep the morning away instead of cleaning or going for a walk. I feel guilty if I pet the dog and not the cat. I feel bad if I promise chicken parmesan and produce hotdogs and beans. Why do I sabotage myself? Why do I let my emotions get so sidetracked? I mean, it would be one thing if I shredded the electric bill along with credit card applications. But what I’m really talking about are guilt trips about everyday things that don’t really matter in the long run. I treat each decision as if it will change my life forever. As if someone is going to care if I stop at the gas station for cappuccino instead of gas or if I keep an extra dollar from the grocery budget for myself.  

            These days I have a little sign that says “slow down” right on my computer stand in front of me at work. Although this typed message was meant more for multitasking on the job, it should be plastered all over my house. I need to slow down and listen to the birds outside of my window. I need to and stop and watch a favorite movie instead of mow the lawn. I need to sing along with my favorite songs at the top of my lungs, and take a nap on the sunny porch when no one’s around, and throw a candy bar in the shopping cart even though I’m trying to lose weight.

            Yet in writing this confession, I see there is another sign I should make to remind me that life doesn’t need to be clean and orderly to be enjoyed. I need to remember that long after I am gone there will still be stacks of laundry and empty soda boxes and overgrown gardens in the world to deal with, and all my guilt about not taking care of them meant diddle in the end. I need a sign that lets me know that the cosmos will evolve the way it will: that dogs will always beget puppies, women will always cry at sappy movie endings, and the sun will always rise another day. I need a sign that says:

            Lighten Up.

To Dream or Not to Dream…That Is the Question

       33 To Dream or Not to Dream     One of the yin-yangs of hormone fluctuation is sleep, or lack of it.  Between hot flashes and finding a comfortable position, my REM’s make rare visits,  leaving my consciousness floating in the bubbles of semi-sleep through the world of dreams.  Now, many people say they don’t dream; others leave a notepad on their nightstand so they can record the ching chang jumble that comes out in the middle of the night.  I believe we all dream, but length, depth and retaining capacity is what makes everyone’s claim different.

         Scientists and talk show hosts tell us our lives are influenced by anything and everything, and our dreams are one way of dealing with all of it. Dreams, and  their alter ego, nightmares, can result from everything from eating pizza before bed to an argument earlier in the day. Dreams can be triggered by stress, anticipation, having too much time on your hands or, more likely, not enough.  Scary movies, sappy movies, long distance phone calls — everything can leave a chip in your mind that can explode into a myriad of dreamy scenarios.

            The great thing about this flight through those shadowed clouds, though, is the variety of experiences it presents.  I doubt my conscious mind could make up half the things my subconscious does. And if it could, would it be as fun?  In my dreams I interact with bosses from 20 years ago and talk to family members who are no longer with me.  I wander the halls of my grade school, look out on Lake Michigan from a high-rise balcony, and walk through castles of long ago.  I have driven off cliffs and been chased by  unseen dragony/monster things. I have stood in a shadowy alley talking to Edward Norton and had coffee with Kiefer Sutherland.  I have run from building to building to building, either looking for something or trying to get somewhere, and have jumped and bounced and flown my way across the landscape.

            Where in Jove’s name do we get these ideas from? 

           Being a writer, I often bring some of the unearthliness of my subconscious and put it into forms that entertain me and others. Without analyzing every laugh and tear, I try to bring these esoteric beings into my writing. The more nonsensical, the better. Other people transform their dreams into paintings, gardens, photography, and card making. 

            Of course, the down side of dreams is that they don’t always give you a direct answer to your cosmic questions.  It is fairly obvious that when I dream of my son as a toddler rather than a college kid, I am searching for the olden days connection we had when I was omnipotent and he was subservient.  When I am wandering through corridors and cross loading docks and down long hallways filled with shops and warehouses and theaters I am lost in more ways than I care to admit. But instead of interpreting these dreams as portents of bad things to come, I would rather see them as insights to the possibilities that lie ahead. We have the ability to choose which meanings we take to heart and which  we toss out.  We can choose to see rain in the clouds or we can just see clouds.  We can choose to see dragons shapes or bouncy cotton balls in those clouds or we can just see clouds. 

            The best course is always to take a little of both. Don’t ignore the clouds that are really thunderheads, and don’t get the idea of stepping out of a plane to bounce on their springy tops.  But also let those clouds be dragons or snakes or baby diapers. Nod at the thread of reality that runs through the middle, then make what you will of the rest.   Don’t worry what others think your dreams mean, or if you can’t remember their endings.  The old adage that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, is just as true in your onscious state of mind as in your conscious one.  Don’t read more into your dreams than what is there.  And create whatever you want from them.

            As for me, I’m looking forward to tonight.  I told Kiefer I’d meet him at the coffee shop sometime around eleven.  Maybe I’ll even ride my dragon there.

Dinner With the Queen

In the mundane throng of your very predictable life, don’t you now and then want to just break out of the box and do something different? Now that you have the experience of all those years behind you, don’t you want to make that experience mean something? Don’t you ever want to be bigger than life? Just for a day?

Oh, you say, I am happy being just who I am. Of course you are. We all try and walk that fence between selfish and selfless; between modesty and bravado. But admit it. There are many times in our very predictable life that we’d like to do something unpredictable. Of course, unpredictable varies from person to person. Bungee jumping is one way, as is impulse buying a Hummer. More low key, there are times when we want to guffaw aloud instead of snickering quietly. We want to dance naked in the living room and wear chuggy boots with a sundress. But most times we settle for eating Thai as a means of excitement. While that sounds fairly adventurous, I assure you, the dreams of the experienced are filled with possibilities never imagined by the inexperienced. In other words, the older we get, the looser the parameters of our dreams become.

There was a time in my life that I worried about what others thought of me and my opinions. A time when I tried to fit in, vaporously reflecting their ideas on religion, child rearing, and employment. It was important that I pulled my own weight, never rocked the boat, nor raise the hackles on someone’s neck. I was (and still am) respectful of others.

But eventually I got to a point in life where I wanted the river to flow where I wanted it to flow. I wanted my own boat, my own crew, and my own destination. I found that the further I wander down the road, the less I’m concerned about what I have done and more about what I can do. The thought of being no more than a passing blush in the cosmos makes my selfishness bubble to the surface. So I find myself wanting to be bigger than life: a heroine to all, someone who makes a mark and leaves it for others to decipher. That doesn’t mean I want to be an assassin or a movie star or a nuclear physicist. But a motivational speaker, a middle-aged trend setter, a famous author — what’s wrong with that?

Maybe that’s not really “out of the box,” but for me, it’s peeking out from under the lid. I’ve been a loving mother, a great wife, a dedicated friend, and all-around good person. I have dotted all of my i’s, crossed my t’s, and given to the United Way.

But now and then I feel this little quiver in my reality that makes me wonder what it would be like to leave the cookie baking and office typing to someone else and find something different to do with my time. How cool it would be to become a fashion maven or a world traveler. To stand before a crowd and sing like an angel. To be the next Food Network Star. To be asked to be on the next “Tour of Homes” because my house and garden are so incredibly fantastic that the world ― or at least the citizens of Whitewater ― have to experience them. To nosh with Stephen King at lunch and have dinner with Queen Elizabeth. To design a line of clothes that would knock the socks off Calvin Klein or raise enough donations to build a new wing on the local hospital.

All right — maybe not the “Queen Elizabeth” part or the “wing on the hospital” part ― but to create something new, something eye-catching, something memorable, would be a trip I would never forget.

We love and appreciate the little things in our life. Our friends, our family, all are a part of who we are. We work hard and, if we are lucky, play hard. Being famous would take us away from all that we worked so hard to create. And, after all, celebrity does have its price, privacy and anonymity being the first two privileges to go.

But while those platitudes make perfect sense, every now and then my daydreams take a cosmic swing to worlds just past my fingertips. Writing a best seller that becomes a movie lover’s dream, people paying $200 a ticket just to have lunch with me, opening a boutique that splashed between the covers of famous magazines ― what a thrill that would be! Who wouldn’t like to be a travel reporter visiting small European towns or American homesteads and talk about their cuisines and cultures? Who wouldn’t want to have their art on display at at the Art Institute or the Milwaukee Art Museum? Who wouldn’t want to be the one person the President could come to for advice?

Aspirations breed inspiration. Not being afraid to follow the muse within your heart brings freedom to your soul. Feeling positive about who you are enables the world to mold itself around you. Most ― if not all of us ― will never get a chance to live out those kinds of dreams. Not on that grand of a scale. But that doesn’t mean our inspirations can’t be grand. That our forward movement can’t be grand. Understand that grand is all in one’s point of view. Don’t worry what any other point of view is but yours. Dress up for any or all occasions. Paint a mural on a wall. Start blogging your most outrageous ― and delicious ― recipes. Grow an exotic garden, take pictures of it and enter them into photography contests. Design jewelry. Show horses or dogs. Enter your prized whatevers at the State Fair.

Don’t be afraid to break out now and then and have a good time. What others think of you is not nearly as important as what you think about yourself.

Besides ― I’m sure the queen made other dinner plans anyway.

Chocolat Under the Tuscan Sun

Life is a kaleidoscope of feelings: it is pain and death, birth and life. Because the cosmic implications of these things are way above my head, I would rather contemplate my own daydreams.

When I was young I always daydreamed of living in a big house. Living at home with three brothers, then in a little apartment of my own, I fantasized about living in a house rich in history, complete with sculptured gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. The where of the house never quite crystallized; it always existed in that nebulous place half way down some winding, deserted road, picket fences guiding the way, stone lions at the gate — all that.

Time slipped along, and, seeing as I didn’t become an actress or a rock star, there was no easy way to obtain said  mansion with sculpted gardens, fountains and shaded verandas. It didn’t seem to matter, though, once I got married. Children came into my life; changing diapers and trips to the park were more important than parlors with fireplaces and crystal chandeliers. Practicality seeped into my daydreams. Suddenly having a house with a washer and dryer on the same floor or a fenced-in back yard made much more sense than twenty bedrooms to clean.

Eventually my little children turned into teenagers, and my daydreams evolved into finding ways to keep one step ahead of them. I couldn’t let my personal plans take me too far away — after all, how could I play the slots in Vegas when my kid would be throwing some video game/poker game/who-knows-what-we-can-get-away-with game I’m sure he’d throw given half a chance?

Now that one son is married and the other in college, I have finally let my daydreams take on a more surrealistic tint. Escapism is now more enjoyable than ever before. None of this taking off to the Dells or locally-based casinos — now my fantasies are more like Under the Tuscan Sun or Chocolat.

            Take my first daydream: Tuscany. I want to take a bus trip down Italy’s back roads and just hop off at some wonderfully enchanting town and find a charming place to live and settle down. I want to work from home (writing or editing or something that makes a lot of money from my own living room). I would like to be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Italian and ride off in a Ferrari to his vineyard in the country.

            Or how about a different daydream? I could always be whisked off to some quaint little town in France. I would blow into a town on the spring breeze and make a living doing something creative — say, making chocolate. Or, since that idea has already been used, perhaps I could open a shop that sells oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d wander through this quiet gem off the beaten path, taste the local cuisine and throw simple gourmet parties with skill and grace. I would be thin as a rail and meet some exotic Irish pirate and ride off to his pirate cove off the ocean.

            Both of these video women slipped into their new world carrying only one suitcase. They looked absolutely divine in whatever they wore, laughed and bonded with the locals, and made a difference in their little town. They had no husbands or pets, no costumes to sew or dog poop to scoop. If children were part of their scenario, they were precocious and well mannered and never experimented with drugs or peanut butter on the roof of the dog’s mouth. They had an invisible source of income (enough to either buy a dilapidated house or a run-down building) and turn it into something beautiful and homey, and most likely never had a second mortgage piled atop the first one. These beauties didn’t have to punch a time clock or find clean underwear for everyone or make room in their basement for more hunting and fishing gear.

I know, I know — they also had to make it alone through their world. They didn’t have that magical bond that ripens through the years, nor the love of family, nor friends who knew and cared about them for years.  Their new roots would never have enough time to dig in very far, and they’d never get a chance to go back to ‘the old neighborhood’. Their choices were made from circumstances I will never know, and their futures would be fruit born on the branches of a totally different tree.

The great thing now, though, is that I don’t really have to leave home to escape. Dreams, like movies, can be created at a moment’s notice. I can include family and friends in my escapades, or keep them separate through my writing. There’s no reason why I can’t create Tuscan or Athens or even the Great North Woods right here on my little patch of land. Food, music, good times, all can be a part of any reality I choose. All I have to do is play. I can play Italian music and put a bottle of Lambrusco on the table, or hang Japanese lanterns and put a movie like Ran or Shogun on in the background and use chopsticks for my homemade stir-fry.  I can have everyone dress in togas or play polkas to go with my polish sausage and sauerkraut. I don’t need an occasion — I don’t need an invitation.   

Happily ever after doesn’t only exist in the movies. The possibility exists every time we wake up, every time we turn around.

Don’t let your hang-ups of what others have or do or where they go stop you from planning your own escape, even if it’s for an hour or an evening. My glass from Goodwill can be fine Italian crystal and my basket from last year’s Easter can hold the most fragrant of delights. No one will know, and, if you are creative enough, no one will care. They will play right along side of you.

I’ll tell you, though … I wouldn’t mind going for a ride in that Ferrari now and then …