Going Up Nort’

Well, the self-imposed lockdown has been lifted here in Wisconsin, giving 5.822 million of us here in the state a chance to run around free.

You will find two camps here — one who has to make money and wants their economic freedom back; the other still wearing masks and fearful of every passing shopping cart pushed by someone without one.

I am not getting into any discussion of either side. Both have valid points; both are sure they’re doing the right thing. After my brother-in-law’s brush with C19, plus knowing that 459 families are missing someone here in the state because of it, I tend to stay on the conservative side.

That doesn’t mean I’m not taking advantage along with precaution these days.

I don’t hang out at bars or restaurants, I still wear a mask when shopping, I take my temperature every day — all those precautions many of the “older generation” tend to take to squeeze every extra day out of life we can.

I also am going away on vacation for a week. Away from TV, most social media, broadcasters and newscasters and boring B movies I’ve been finding on my Internet service.

Is spending a week four hours north from here any different than spending a week here at home base?

I would like to think so.

The cabin we share with my kids was originally my father-in-law’s home. He has gone to the great hunting grounds in the sky, although you can’t tell me he doesn’t stop by the place now and then to check in on us.

Anyway, “the cabin” (as we and our grandkids call it) is a half block from the Chain of Lakes, gateway to boating and fishing wonders still waiting to be explored.

I myself always have a different reason to go up nort’.

It’s easy to avoid TV news and propoganda and politics and gossip when you have no TV. And we intend to keep it that way. We have video games out the gazoo, a radio that picks up a few local stations, and the internet connection is so bad we have to drive to McDonald’s if we want a real signal.

But it’s quiet. It’s cozy. It’s fresh air and a little portable fireplace in the middle of the front yard and swimming for the dogs (and people if it’s warm enough). It’s family sitting around and talking. Sharing tales of the old days. Of new things coming up. It’s catching up with what’s going on in school and at work and, if we’re lucky, someone’s love life.

It’s playing card games on the kitchen table at night or on a rainy day. It’s taking naps any time you want, as long as you wake up in time for dinner (especially if you are cooking).

It’s finally reading the books you never seem to get around to reading at home. It’s coloring mandalas in a coloring book with colored markers or typing a short story or knitting a sweater.

It’s peace and quiet.

No one to tell you what to do; no politicians on Twitter or mass shootings in everyday places or animals being tortured or people dying of the Coronavirus.

Not that it stops reality from continuing. We are all aware of what’s going on outside our sanctuary. But for a few days we can pretend that we’re just outside of heaven and the world and life is all about US.

Not a bad way to spend time, I’d say…..

Decisions … Decisions

This weekend is my annual pilgrimage to Irishfest, a four-day festival of Irish music, American beer, and Irish hearts.

I love to say that my mother was Irish — which she was — although she was of the Heinz 57 variety. I so identify with their culture, their music, and their cosmic presence that it’s really a part of me, no matter what percentage my mother was.

Irish music is either incredibly happy or incredibly sad. The song “Wild Mountain Thyme” makes me cry every time I hear it, making me think of my mother whom I lost 40 years ago. And my favorite Gaelic band Gaelic Storm makes me clap and sing and dance around the place (hence, I don’t play their music at work).

My husband and I have gotten into semi-discussions lately, though, on why would I want to spend my money going to Paris for a week when I’ve talked about going to Ireland half of my life?

Good question.

Us folks in the states don’t get a chance to go across the sea very often, so when we do, we like to make it a “key destination.” And what better place to spend my hard-earned money than the home of my ancestors?

Yet when I think of going to Paris for a week, I get a different emotion running through me. Instead of looking off the Cliffs of Moher and connecting to my heritage and soul, I think about sitting in the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, sipping wine, eating a croissant, and writing about my journey.

Two totally different worlds.

Two totally different emotions.

Or are they?

I’ve had this tugging in my heart to go on my own adventure for a long time, now. Bringing someone to France with me who isn’t into what I want to do would be more of a burden than an escape, as I’d be worrying if they were bored or hungry or brooding.

Touring Ireland is something I’d do with my partner. We’d explore and tour and have a beer together at a local pub. I doubt if he would want to sit in the plaza of the Louvre for three hours while I nosh and write my book.

And who would want to spend time walking across a historic bridge inspecting every gargoyle and plaque or sitting in an old library or sitting at a cafe during the late evening? How boring to those who don’t walk the same path as you do.

At this point I’m not sure if I’ll ever go across the sea to see anything new and historical and exciting.  Technically there should be enough history and excitement right here where I live. If I need the music, I’ll go to Irishfest. If I need a croissant, I’ll go to the bakery.

But still….

Where would you like to visit if you could?

You’re Never Too Old To Get Going

Biltmore-EstateI have finally done it.

Big talker, little dooer, did it!

I booked a flight to North Carolina for the beginning of August to meet my bestest buddy for a girl’s weekend.

I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal to a lot of you. But I’m 63, and it’s the first time I’ve actually disappeared with anyone other than my hubby and family except for an overnighter.

I have friends and family who travel all the time. Some is for business, some to visit family. I myself have travelled through my life too: Disneyworld, Cancun, San Francisco. But it’s always been with someone or a lot of someones. There’s always been a husband or kids or in-laws in tow. Which was/is wonderful and the way to see the world.

But there’s also the dilemma of “me”.

There always have been reasons to stay close to home. Jobs. No jobs. Kids. Illness. Family plans. Friends. Like everyone else, my life has had its share of ups and downs, and not one of the ups included running away except maybe to Kohl’s. Timings change, too — when I have time and/or money, they don’t have time and/or money. I don’t have vacation when they do. And so on.

My best friends have changed through the years, too. I love all the people who have filled my life. Each stage has been a support group for me as we all weathered the same storms. But you move, they move, people change jobs, get new husbands/wives, and the distance creeps in between  you.

One of my best friends just made the big move to the East Coast almost a year ago. We text and talk, but it’s just not the same. So one day she said we should meet half way for the weekend. The stars aligned. And I thought — if not now, when?

So I made the plane reservations last night.

Why is this such a big deal?

Only because it’s the first thing in a long time that I’ve done for me. And only me.

I don’t have to do what everybody else wants. I don’t have to babysit the dogs, sit in a boat all day (and not a pontoon either), eat Chuck e Cheese, ride the rides only the kids want to ride, watch football, or any other thing that others tell me to do. Sometimes my friends and I, my family and I, are like chocolate and onions. Both great, but not on the same plate.

I get to go to North Carolina and do the sort of things my husband rolls his eyes at. I plan on strolling the Art Galleries, hitting up a big art fair, and spending a day touring the Biltmore Estate. I get to drink wine, eat little bits of whatever inspires me, and sleep in a bed that someone else has to make.

Plus I get to do girl stuff. Giggle, cry, plan, lament. I get to play with my future dreams, cry at the ones that never really made it, googaw over my grandkids, talk excitedly about redecorating my house, share secrets from my youth, poopoo my job — along with paint my toenails and go sit in a hot tub somewhere.

These are the things that you can only share with someone who gets you. Husbands do their best, but they just don’t have the girly touch.

You’ll never have enough money, time, or vacation. Big deal. Don’t be on your deathbed, lamenting that you should have gone to the Mall of America with your besties 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.  Take your bff. Your cousin. Your daughter-in-law…just go and do it YOUR way!

Wait till I hit Vegas next year…

 

 

Writing On The Tube

thTonight I’m packing to go on our annual ski weekend up north. We have been going on this retreat for years. Each time is a blast, each time is good food, good sleep, good laze.

I’m not a skiier, but I’m really into laze. You know — have breakfast, let the cleaners clean, lay around, nap, talk, drink, eat, lay around, nap, go to the ski hill, watch the skiers, come back, lay around, eat, sleep.

Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

Of course, I will be taking my computer with me. I also need a good book to read. I’ve been slogging through the last “Game of Thrones” book…love it, but I need something new and spicy and faster reading to accompany me on the king-sized sofa. A lot of my books are temporarily packed away. So I started picking through the leftovers.

I can’t reach half the books because they are either stacked two deep or too high up or bags are stacked in the way. Lots of DragonLance books. Dozens of Tom Clancy’s. Who bought all these books? Lots of SciFi. Some philosophy books — I enjoy those, but hot chocolate and amaretto isn’t a good partner with esoteric ideas. Shogun. Angels and Demons. Gone With the Wind. Big books. I don’t think I can concentrate that long. I know I have some Stephen King around here — probably packed out of reach somewhere. Those are big books, too.

After digging and thinking and wondering what I should read, I start to think — man, I’ve got a lotta great books here!

They say in order to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. I so agree with that. I’ve read a lot through the years…maybe not what everyone else was reading, but I kept busy.

Then I started to write.

I don’t know about all you writers out there, but I barely have enough time to write, less time to read. Before I fall asleep — okay. In the car — maybe. But every other free time I find I’m pulling out the computer. A blog here, a synopsis there, tightening up this story, writing an outline for a new novel, final touches on a query letter — when do I make time time for James Clavell and Margaret Mitchell?

All of this cha-cha-cha in my head makes getting away for four days stressful instead of relaxful. What I really should do is leave all the books and computers at home, and concentrate on walking around in the snow and playing games with friends and cooking and napping.

Yet I am a writer. A writer with a little attention deficit. A writer who can’t stay still for long, who starts one thing and moves to the next and to the next and sooner or later comes back to the first thing. I can’t imagine this person sitting still, gazing out the window, chatting softly with friends and family, sipping wine, gnoshing a bit of cheese, and lounging for 4 days. My restless leg would be bouncing so hard I’d knock myself out.

So I do need to bring my computer. I do need to write — or at least pretend to write. After all, isn’t vacation supposed to be doing what you want (and what you don’t want) when you want?

I just wonder if I can type while I’m swirling out of control down the snow hill in a tube…

Staying On Task

erI could live like this.

Forever.

Up at the cabin: wake up at 5:30 when hubby goes fishing; turn over and go back to sleep; wake up at 7, let the dog out, go out to the livingroom, open doors and windows and let cool air whip through the house, fall back asleep on the sofa till 9; take shower; read; grab a donut; go to library and do research for an hour; come back, have lunch; take a nap; write; go for a walk to lake; eat dinner; write; watch movies; sleep. Repeat. And Repeat.

Then the discombobulation starts. Go to bed. Try to sleep. Since I napped off and on all day, writing plots and ideas now come to the forefront. Get up. Write blog. Write Foreward to new book. Go to sleep at 1 a.m., something I’m trying desperately to change back home.

I came up to escape — to get away, to rest, to write. I’m under constant pressure back in homeyland to learn more, move faster, drive more carefully, clean more thoroughly — all that wonderful stuff that all of us do. So when we travel four hours to my father-in-law-now-my-son-and-our cabin, I do my best to unwind. To unplug.

Somehow, though, unplugging turns into disconnect in a heartbeat.

In my defense I could say my body sees an opportunity to catch up on its sleep/rest, and will be damned if anything gets in the way. That’s why half the time I’m pleasantly lethargic up here. The boys always go fishing; good for them. I hit the second hand stores; good for me. But all my plans for writing often get sidetracked by reading (I’m on the 4th Game of Thrones book now), baking, napping, and listening to the windchimes on the front deck.

Is this the world of the writer? Those who pound out best seller after best seller? Good, hard work followed by a nap in the breeze? If so, I’m pretty much a lackey in that department, too. Cool summer/autumn breezes and birds singing and no traffic and a lake in the distance aren’t always the inspiration for a murder mystery or a science fiction invasion.

I feel like a loser. 16 good hours of writing in 2 days boiled down to 2 hours of research, one hour of writing, one hour working on a friend’s website, and 12 hours of screwing around. The peace and quiet is so overwhelming it overtakes my good intentions.

I think it’s more I’m not as diciplined as I used to be. At home I squeeze writing inbetween playing with my grandson, watching TV, doing laundry and dishes, and yelling at the dogs. And it seems like I get more done.

I’ve screwed off enough for two days. I will go up and delete the word “forever” and replace it with “after retirement.” Until then I need to keep the mind sharp, the words flowing, and the blog pics amazing.

I’ll do that right after my nap.

Reflections of Disney World Through Middle-Aged Eyes

0956dc8c1d8c51f1fab033809ce7a99fMy feet  are aching, my wallet is empty, and I have Wished Upon a Star. I’ve had an exhausting, sweaty, mostly wonderful time in the Big D; I’ve learned a lot and observed more. So here, for better or worse, are reflections about Disney and its mystique.

*   The Disney World transport system is a force come into its own. It’s slick, by golly. I hardly had to wait for a bus to go anywhere.

*  On top of that,  I have to stand up and cheer for the way the Disney System takes care of those with disabilities.  The buses are amazing; the entire fleet has wheelchairs down to a science. The drivers are patient and helpful; the rides in all the parks have special entrances and spots just for those who have to use a wheelchair to get around. Disability is just another word around there.

* The Fast Pass is the way to go. I can’t tell you the devilish delight I had passing those who stood in line for an hour and a half for a 1-1/2 minute ride. At 90 degrees, this quick fix beat melting into a puddle.

*  The biggest terrorist threat at the parks are people pushing strollers. Now, I understand that they, too, have little hot potatoes squiggling and crying and being totally unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean they have to run you down in order to get to the next ride/air conditioned show/home. I had my ankles nipped once and nearly pushed off the boat by parents who then look at me like I’m the alien. Steer clear if at all possible.

*  There is a total lack of modesty at the Magic Kingdom when it comes to Mickey Mouse Ears. I saw so many ears in so many colors and styles it made my head spin. Bride ears, groom ears, pink-and-white polka-dot Minnie ears, Minnie ears with Malificent horns, red velvet ears, sparkly silver ears, disco-flashing ears — the variety was endless. And that was mostly on adult heads.

*  It was great that there were 6 adults to one four-year-old. No one individual had the energy to keep up with the little guy. So, if possible, bring reinforcements.

*  I am the first to admit that I don’t get it. There were lots of people there with children under 3. I understand if the older siblings want to go on rides and meet Goofy, but it seems pretty goofy to me to take a 1-year-old on a spinning tea cup or a flying elephant. The kid doesn’t get it, won’t remember it, and will have sunstroke before noon. Plus — just the hassle of bringing your entire changing table everywhere you go. I don’t get it.

*  Every meal was $10+. No matter if it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Every small bottle of NesQuik was $2.79 and every ice cream bar $4.  I know a lot of people bring a lot of their own food, but practicality dictates it’s not worth it. Ask for ice water at any stand (it’s free), split meals, bring snacks. Share, share, share. It doesn’t take the entire bite out of the budget, but the sting becomes more like a sweat bee than a hornet.

*  I used to think I was a people person. Working in downtown Chicago didn’t bother me a bit. Alas, that was 30 years ago. My patience has, shall we say, waned a bit through the years, and my tolerance for stupid people has waned along with it. Sticking to the person sitting next to you on the bus ride back to the hotel just didn’t do it for me. I realize that, in an environment such as that, we all have our limits. I definitely am not a people person. And am glad for it.

*  I also noticed that obesity is rampant in America. I admit I add to that pool; being 20 pounds overweight didn’t help my sweat-energy factor. But there were a lot of BIG people out there — especially kids. I read a note online somewhere to not attack obesity when salads are $7 and burgers are $1, but come on. $1 burgers did not do the damage. Bad eating habits and lack of exercise did. Hopefully walking around the park for days was a start of a new exercise regime. It is for me, for sure.

*  Sun and chlorine are wonderful aging elements. I don’t think I looked this old when I started vacation. But a week in the pool didn’t do much to make me look younger.  Maybe all I need is some Wisconsin weather. And Wisconsin cheese. And Wisconsin beer.

*  And, lastly, bobbing around in the pool or waiting for the kids to get off the ride gave me a lot of time for thinking. For recalculating who I am and what I want from life. Most of what I wanted was right there. But there was something lacking.

When you’re traveling in a group, your say is only one fraction of the whole. In this case, my opinion was only 1/7th of the whole. And somewhere in that percentage I lost myself. Not on purpose — it was just the way of the percentages.

I found that I wanted to be seen and heard and felt in a whole new way. That sharing is all well and good, but I wanted to do something that stood up above and beyond my 1/7th. I’m working on that readjustment this Memorial Day Weekend. I’m working on the reality that I can be 1/7th of an opinion and be 100% of one, too.

You can too. Just find a way to be yourself.

Maybe that’s what the point of all those Mickey Mouse ears was!

Blank Brained

face-coloring-page-03I feel like I haven’t been here forever. Between escaping for Labor Day Weekend, football drafts, and visiting children, the world has curiously slipped around me.  My fellow bloggers Ittymac (http://ittymac.wordpress.com) and Hugmamma (http://hugmamma.com)  and Coochie Mama (http://andrawatkins.com) and the Philosopher (http://moviewriternyu.wordpress.com)  have fortunately carried on the ways of the world, but I feel I have a lot to catching up to do.

I often talk about my Muse. She’s a feisty Irish lass that pops onto my shoulder at the most inopportune times with ideas and opinions and story lines. So where was she when I was in Wisconsin’s Door County for four days?  DId she go on vacation too? Why is it that often when I find myself with a big chunk of time, all I want to do is sit and listen to the wind blow through the treetops or zone out on TV?

Sitting at a campground. The hubby and family went off to the beach. I stayed behind to watch the dogs. They were tied up, quiet. I was full from a slice of sub, it was peace and quiet. There were even sporadic clouds to break the summer sunlight. I was ready. OK — so there wasn’t a lot of phone signal near the Lake Michigan campground. No problem. And my laptop’s keys were sticking and the computer was slow. And the spiral notebook I put in my bag was a little damp from a bottle that leaked water. Minor setbacks to a woman who has a list of engaging, entertaining, mind blowing things to write.

Yet there I sat. Blank brained. Blank faced. The dogs lazily spread out sleeping, and the sound of distant campers tinking in their tent stakes filled the stillness.  Before I knew it I was either dozing, staring into the woods, or doodling on the page that was supposed to hold my future writing.

Does this happen to you?

Do you get all snuggly and cozy and ready to read a great book and wind up staring at the blurred pages? Do you pull out all your jewelry making stuff and arrange it all and get ready to create something extraordinary and just stare at your beads?  Do you have an idea for a blog, short story, or poem, and when you get to the blank page your mind is blank as well?

Do you have an explanation for this — other than old age?

Tell me your stories. Tell me your solutions.

Now….what was I writing about?