Off To See the Wizard (of Biltmore)

6d3fa623e931a5471085ff1a8f7651afSagittarius personality traits

Sagittarius is a fun and exciting sign. The explorer and philosopher of the zodiac, they are typically interested in new experiences, new knowledge and new places.

As it is written, so it shall be.

This weekend I am taking an adventure I’ve not taken before. I am meeting my creative, crazy fun friend in the artsy city of Asheville, North Carolina — home of the Biltmore Estate.

No husband. No kids. No grandkids. No dogs. No cats. Just temporarily, you know.

Already I’m happy.

It has taken me 63 years to be able to go off and take a trip through the creative world with my bestie by my side. I can finally submerge myself in art of all kinds — painting, sculpture, jewelry, textiles. Something my hubby could not (in truthful conscience) enjoy.

It has taken me 63 years to get to this wide-eyed amazement point in my life. 40 years ago I was working downtown Chicago, too busy trying to make my way in the business world. 30 years ago I was busy being a newlywed and first-time mom, losing my downtown job and looking for a part-time one so I could be home with my son. 20 years ago I was busing being a full-time mom, trying to my hand at running a B&B while being a full-time soccer mom and baseball mom.  10 years ago I was busy working full-time again, trying to run from bankruptcy and dealing with one son’s college years and the other son’s high school years.

There wasn’t time for unique art galleries or writing blogs or going to live concerts. Guess I was just busy living.

But now the kids are working and raising their own kids and bankruptcy is nothing more than a bad dream as is the B&B experiment. Now is the time for me to reconnect to who I’ve always been. I’ve always been a painter, a writer, a stenciller. I have always had a love affair with the creative side of the world. From faeries to role-playing, from making my own jewelery to writing poetry. I’ve stuffed it into pockets of time and under the leaves on the wooded paths I’ve walked and in the drawers of dressing tables.

Now it’s my turn to play.

Now I get to discover and explore and dream and live the Bohemian life of an artist with someone who is as Bohemian as I am.

If only for 4 days.

I get to meet all kinds of people, people who heard the calling of the Art Muse and did something about it. I don’t need to live the dream to be a part of it.

If only for 4 days.

Make a point to take a side trip out of your reality too, now and then. It’s good for the soul. It’s good for the heart. It’s good for manifesting your creative future.

And it’s damn good for your friendship, too.

 

 

 

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.

Going One Way Or Another

tumblr_n768syHP341tp9r4eo1_500

According to my online personality profile, Sagittarius is the traveler of the zodiac and considers every day an opportunity for another adventure. This a cheerful, spontaneous, and idealistic individual with an exceptional sense of humor.

Well, I don’t have the money to be a big traveller, but I do try and get away now and then. This coming up weekend is one of those times. Boys are going fishing for 4 days (coming home by dinnertime); a chance to make my days totally up to me. So I have turned the have-to-go-up-north trip for 4 days into a writer’s retreat.

And I can’t wait.

And I know that somehow or another it will get screwed up.

I have made a list of things I’d “like” to get done — “like” the key word, as to leave room for walking and sitting on the deck and nodding off and going to town to hit the homemade chocolate shop.

But Fate and me have a rocky relationship. I imagine it’s going to be more like me setting out my laptop, my notes, opening the window to let the breeze blow through, glass of soda and a few treats at hands-length, and me spending half my time in the bathroom.

My husband says he can’t take me anywhere. And this is not a new thing: I’ve gotten upset stomachs or headaches or whatever almost every time we’ve gone out — for the last 35 years.

I don’t know if it’s my psyche that goes up and over the top, imagining such a good time that it gets sick ahead of time; or my stomach cramping in anticipation; or something innocent I ate the day before decides to do the polka in my intestines. But every time I get ready to have a GOOD time, I spend half my time aching in the bathroom or on the bed.

This time it’s a freakin’ 4-day weekend! No movie stars or famous writers stopping by, no fancy dinner, no wine or alcohol of any kind. I don’t want to mess up, because I have this big novel idea that I want to dig into for a few hours every day. Why is it that every time I go up north I get horrible sinus headaches or crappy stomach problems?

I know — it’s probably psychosomatic. I suggest, therefore I am. I don’t think about it and I still am. These burbles have caused many headaches through my married life; I’m surprised my husband doesn’t have a first aid kit filled with Imodium, aspirin, sinus pills, doggie bags, and crackers. He’s had enough experience in this genre.

So with a Sagittarian outlook, I’m going to be a cheerful, spontaneous, and idealistic individual, and pack my laptop, notebooks, soda, snacks, Imodium, aspirin, and sinus pills, and hope for the best. You can’t keep a good writer down — not when they’ve got the calling.

And, after all, I have written notes in the bathroom before…

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!

Point Me Towards the Kingdom

wavinggifThere is an eerie sense of calm around the Goddess’s home realm these last few days leading up to my vacation at the world’s most expensive playground: Disneyworld. It’s that ethereal world one slips into right before something BIG is about to happen: a wedding, Christmas, or, in my case, vacation.

It’s like I have all the time in the world to do laundry, shop for food for my house sitter, change the kitty litter — you know what I mean. Seeing as I have a mere 35 hours, 42 minutes, and 56 seconds (minus 8 hours for work and 45 minutes travel time) before I’m up in the air heading to sun and sweat  and overpriced everything, I’d better get back into my reality pronto.

Since I won’t be able to hang with you all for a week or so, I thought I’d leave you all with some funny stories about — food.

Who doesn’t like food?

So this week, when you’re bored or hungry (or both), come and check out the following oldies but goodies:

Bread and Butter Badlands  http://wp.me/p1pIBL-CK   bread

A decadent descent into pushing away or towards the table, depending on your end goal.

 

Incredible Edibles  http://wp.me/p1pIBL-MKdog-cooking

What better business to start than opening a Culinary School of Leftovers?

 

When Is A Cherry Not A Cherry  http://wp.me/p1pIBL-AT  cherry

Not so much about food as it is about my sophomoric sense of humor with words.

 

Until then, just keep in mind — I’ll be singing “It’s a Small World After All” for the next three months after this trip…

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?