Down Many Roads…

The endless journey of life's adventures


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Tales of the Coffee Mugs…

English: Since somebody objected to the image ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who knows me or has read any of my posts here, understands that one of my most favorite things each morning is that first mug of good hot coffee. My day doesn’t really come alive until I can enjoy that first sip of the stuff—almost too hot to actually drink—with a splash of half-and-half, and then, and only then, the day is permitted to begin and all things are possible.

And over the course of the years, our coffee mug collection at home has grown to the point of being ridiculous, almost to the point of qualifying for some Discovery Channel series, I’m thinking. We’ve almost run out of space in our kitchen cabinets that are reserved for the things. Be that as it may, I have two or three favorites I go to regularly, and, conversely, there are those I never use.

My criteria for my favorites consists of the following: size, shape, design or logo or other witty saying on the mug, and memories it conjures up. For example, one of my “regulars” is from the

2328-2448-homeHockey Hall of Fame, a place we visited in Toronto last summer about this time. Another one I enjoy came from the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield. It’s a perfect size and fits my hand ideally each morning (the mug, not the museum!)

A few that I don’t care for are usually those my wife has “collected” from various places she or I have visited. For instance, there’s a squatty, round thing that would barely hold enough coffee to sustain a gnat, but it has some design from Cherokee, North Carolina, that she liked, so it takes up space in the cabinet.

For obvious reasons, we don’t have the same number of mugs at our summer cottage. My two

10810494000D--ronjon_i_dont_do_mornings_mugfavorites were the wonderful mug from Ron-Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It’s a perfect size and has the typical Ron-Jon art work with the shark telling everyone: “I Don’t Do Mornings!”

My other “cottage” mug was the perfect mug, in that it was solid, had the name of the restaurant from whence it was “borrowed” years ago, and made me smile every time I thought of the person who did the “borrowing” and the laughs we always shared.

I write about that mug now in the past tense because while I was washing the dishes one morning last week, it slipped from my hand and met its end in the porcelain kitchen sink. I briefly gave some thought to trying to put it back together, but that would have been a fruitless venture, so it found its way into the trash instead.

I don’t think I’ll ever have another exactly like that one. The restaurant is out of business and our dear friend passed away in late March. I really don’t need some coffee mug to help me remember all of the good times with our friend, but it was a constant, silly symbol of friendship through the years that couldn’t be broken—unlike the mug itself.

I’m sure our collection of mugs will continue to grow, and there will be those I’ll love, and those that will sit and take up space in the cabinet. Either way, they will be little reminders of the good times we share together traveling and seeing new places….CortlandWriter


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Re-discovering John Updike & a short visit home…

(Writing from home in northern Illinois)

Following the wonderful 4th of July weekend that was filled with kids and grandkids and plenty of

4th of July or Fourth of July

4th of July or Fourth of July (Photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton)

fun in the lake and in and around the cottage, I decided it was time to  venture back home for a few days to attend to those persistent “calls of  necessity.” Those, of course, include taking the recycling containers to the drop-off place at the nearby landfill, shopping to re-supply the essentials for the cottage, doing the laundry, and mowing, trimming, and edging the yard that is healthier than it’s ever been!

Regardless, it was time to come home. I was last home in early June, and today I feel kind of like a stranger in my own house. My routines in the kitchen, which are pretty automatic in the morning making coffee, taking care of clean dishes in the dishwasher, etc., aren’t so automatic at the moment. I find myself pausing to remember exactly where things go and the gentle order of operation when I’m here on a regular basis.

So, today I did the various shopping “runs” to Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart for those items I will take back to the cottage two days from now. I also put back on my bookshelves those books I finished reading during the past few weeks up at the cottage.

Cover of "Pigeon Feathers and Other Stori...

Cover of Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories

One of them, Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories by John Updike, re-affirmed my desire to get back to writing those short stories I keep meaning to finish. It was very good to read those stories I’d first discovered in my American Lit courses at Kent State, back about 1970 or thereabouts, and I saw things this time through that I failed to do then. Could it be that I’m older and wiser now? (Well, older anyway!)

I had two very good–uninterrupted–weeks of working on my novel, Sandbar’s Secret, but I had to shut things down with company and the festive weekend that was the 4th of July celebration.

And I didn’t mind shutting the old MacBook down one bit. Dragging the grandsons around the lake on a tube, dodging the insane “Weekend Warriors” on our lake, was fun, to say the least. The old 90-horse Yamaha outboard ran as smooth as ever, propelling our Tahoe pontoon around and through the waters without a hitch.

Now, with today’s “chores” finished, I can settle in and finish catching up on other e-mail and reading posts from my blog friends and offer a comment where appropriate. Tomorrow’s plan is to do the yard work early in the morning and take care of any other household duties which I haven’t gotten to as yet.

Before I know it, Thursday morning will roll around, and I will be packing the Chevy Equinox once again to return to the cottage on the lake. It’s good to know that there’s still plenty of summer left for writing and reading, and I am most anxious to get back into my novel WIP, Sandbar’s Secret, and find time to read the new biography, Updike, by Adam Begley. We have no company coming this weekend, so that is a good thing!  I love friends and family when they come spend a few days and nights with us, but I also savor those weekends when there are no such visitors!

And so, here’s hoping things are well in your world. I send you good wishes from a beautiful day here in northern Illinois, where today’s list has been checked off, and I prepare for tomorrow’s…CortlandWriter


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Update from the hinterlands…

jollyYetHello, friends and fellow writers! Just a quick post this morning from my self-imposed exile here in the southwest Michigan hinterlands. It’s a very unique morning, in that the sun is shining, the lake down below is calm and inviting, and the overhead skies are not one massive gray ceiling, promising rain.

Most days and nights during this past week (since my last post) have been chock full of rain, punctuated with thunder and lightning. Thankfully, there has been little wind to contend with.storm However, yesterday’s early morning “monsoon” not only created little ponds and lakes out on the back lane behind the cottages, it also caused some damage to one of our neighboring cottages just down the way a bit.

Situated under these old and tired oaks and maples and ashes, the cottages–and everything else–is in constant peril when storms decide to do their thing. And it’s those  stately ancient trees that get the brunt of the storm’s fury. It’s truly amazing how fortunate these 101-year-old cottages are to have withstood the ravages of nature.

I have been busily at work on my next book–Sandbar’s Secret–and I have taken advantage of the stormy weather to make wonderful progress, particularly since it’s the perfect kind of “indoor” weather for doing so.

I hope that your week is moving along well and there are no storms with which to contend….CortlandWriter


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Back to a summer writing routine…

Settling in for the summer once again…

Sunset at Sister Lakes, Michigan

Sunset at Sister Lakes, Michigan (Photo credit: Fox Valley Voice)

It’s wonderfully peaceful and a bit on the dreary side this morning here on the banks of beautiful Magician Lake in southwest Michigan. And it’s good to be able to enjoy it all without having to travel anywhere, no company to “entertain,” and no major tasks that need doing. It’s simply time to get writing. To knock the dust off my Scrivener projects, in other words!

I have been reading more than writing so far this summer, and this past weekend the place was “headquarters” for our annual NASCAR “Race Weekend.” And as much as I look forward to it each year and all of the fun we have from beginning to end, I’m relieved that it’s over with.

What now? For the next week, I will be here all by myself and will have no excuses not to attack my writing projects: a couple of short stories (sort of sequels to the other two I published last year—“Hobo Willie” and “Pinewood Farm.” And, of course, there is the next novel that has been hibernating and “cooling off” as it awaits my attention.

Image 6In short, there’s plenty of work to be done, and I suppose I’m finally in the proper frame of mind to re-establish my daily writing routine: up early each morning and at the MacBook by 7:00 to pound out the words and then wrap things up by 9:00. Of course, those times aren’t chiseled in stone by any means, but the earlier in the day I write, the more productive I seem to be. That way, I have the remainder of the day to take care of anything that needs tending to around here and/or to spend some quality time out on the water on the pontoon.

I plan my weekly visits to the laundromat and the grocery store either for Wednesday or Thursday mornings. On those mornings, I have to re-adjust my writing time—often in the evening—but I’m very flexible once I re-discover the discipline it takes to immerse myself into the writing routine. Of course, when it’s a rainy or otherwise crappy “lake day,” employing the writing discipline and tuning out all of the surrounding distractions is not an issue.

Even now as I type this post, rumblings of thunder sound off to the west, and I know that I’ll manage to accomplish much on this first day of getting back to writing. And there’ll also be time to catch up on reading other blog post from my many blogger friends.

And so it is. Time to get the mellow jazz on iTunes Internet Radio for my background inspiration, and get to gettin’!….CortlandWriter


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Summer reading & “Race Weekend” on the horizon…

So far in the two weeks that I’ve been up here at my summer place of exile, in the land of southwest Michigan, I’ve read a number of fun and interesting pieces of writing. And though I should be devoting more time at this point to doing my own writing and working on my next project, I have found the reading life much more beneficial at this point. I know, as in summers past, I’ll get the writing juices flowing about this time next week. And there’s a good reason for this. But first, my thoughts about what I’ve managed to read up here on the shores of Magician Lake.

Philip Caputo

Philip Caputo (Photo credit: Airstream Life)

I began my summer reading with Philip Caputo’s delightful book The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It’s an easy and pleasurable read, mainly because I love stories of folks who have “hit the road,” and it is one that makes one wish to pack up and join up with Caputo and his wife and their two English setters as they roll along, mile after mile, in their pickup truck with a vintage Airstream in tow.

Of course there is much more than a simple reporting of the various places they pass through. More important, there are the people whose lives, for one reason or another, are forged in the towns—dying or thriving—where they live in today’s America. It’s this very thing that is the force behind Caputo’s purpose of making the long trip in the first place. As he travels along, the question, what holds us all together, surfaces at every turn, in a light and humorous voice every mile of the trip. It’s a wonderful read!

My other is A Study in Sherlock, a collection of short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes Canon, and I found each story therein to be well written and equally as fun to read as Caputo’s book.

Being a longtime Holmes fan, I enjoyed the offerings of featured writers such as Lee Child, Jerry

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margolin, S.J. Rozan, and Dana Stabenow, to name a few whose work makes up the contents of the book. I was familiar with Lee Child from his Jack Reacher books, but most of the others were new to me. I must say, that their stories in this collection have whetted my appetite to read more by each of them. I suppose that’s how we increase our reading wealth.

Now, as for my own writing efforts to finally get kickstarted next week is simple: Our cottage is busy with our two grandkids for a few days, followed by our annual NASCAR “Race Weekend”  beginning this coming Thursday.

For many years, several relatives and friends gather here for a multi-day party leading up to our trek over to Michigan International Speedway very early Sunday morning for the race. We’ll return that night and everyone will filter out for their homes in Illinois, Ohio, and various other points on the map on Monday. After a brief recovery period, I’ll be ready to get my writing routine in full gear when it will be just me during the weekdays.

And so this will probably be the last post until that time. I’m sure I’ll have some cogent points to make about “Race Weekend,” so come on back next week. It’s sure to be worth the effort. Until then…CortlandWriter

The grandstands for Michigan International Spe...

The grandstands for Michigan International Speedway in Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Busy on the home front…

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Cortland, Illinois
(Back home for a few days)

With the cottage all settled, and the pontoon moored snuggly and ready for a wonderful summer

Map of Illinois highlighting DeKalb County

Map of Illinois highlighting DeKalb County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ahead, I closed up and headed back to Illinois yesterday for a few days here at home.

No, I’m not homesick or bored with cottage/lake life already (far from it)! It’s primarily because domestic duties on the home front required my presence here at this particular point in time, the main one being our younger grandson’s kindergarten “graduation” program in a short time from now.

And, of course, there are the other tasks which need attention: mowing, trimming, and edging the lawn; cleaning out the garage and getting it into some semblance of sane order; taking the wife’s car in for an oil change, and various other errands to run and other ticky-tacky duties to handle. (e.g.-stocking up on beer and other beverages to avoid paying the exorbitant Michigan prices on such items!)

I also paid a visit to the post office here in town this morning to mail a copy of The Good Luck Highway to a long ago friend from high school. He saw my quick post the other day on Facebook asking if anyone needed a “good summer read,” and he wrote back saying that he’d really like to read it and would love a signed copy. “No problem,” I wrote back, “send me an address, and I’ll be glad to ship a signed copy.” Gave me  a good feeling to hear from someone from so long ago interested in having my book!

With that done now, and the garage all spiffy from Tuesday afternoon’s efforts, today (Wednesday) is rainy and very good for doing the odds and ends inside, the oil change, and the store stuff. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice and sunny, so the yard work will commence in the morning, followed by re-packing the clean laundry  and loading the Equinox for a return jaunt back to the cottage in Michigan late at night.

I must say, it’s good to get home for a short time and to take care of some much-needed tasks. We even were able to watch our two grandsons’ baseball game yesterday evening, and they played well and had lots of fun in doing so. They’re supposed to play another game tonight, weather permitting, and we’re going back to their house where they’re going to have cake and ice cream in celebration of my upcoming birthday next week. I don’t think there’ll be enough room for all the candles necessary, so we’ll allow for that part of it to be left out!

Now, though, it’s time to scurry off to watch little Matthew be promoted from kindergarten. Yea! It’s all down hill from here, kiddo! Until next time from the lake…CortlandWriter

Beating the heat last Monday with grandsons, Jack & Matt

Grandma and Poppy with grandsons, Jack & Matt

 

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Our “Move-in” Weekend & Season’s First Storm…

Magician Lake
Sister Lakes, Michigan

Image 6Up at 6 a.m., having my first cup of morning coffee (not out on the porch, however, ‘cause it’s damp and chilly out there), and knocking the cobwebs from my dear, old MacBook. And it’s the first morning that I don’t have anything that needs doing at any certain time today.

Yep. “Move-in weekend” has come and gone, and it couldn’t have been better, either. To say that the weather was outstanding would be understating things immensely! Plenty of sunshine filled each day, beginning with our arrival here early Friday right on through Memorial Day on Monday.

There was not the slightest hint of a storm until late Monday evening. By that time, everything was in its place, Carolyn’s annual planting complete, and the pontoon all covered and moored in its usual spot down the slope below our 101-year-old cottage.

When the season’s first storm did roll in late Monday night, it had its normal share of wind as well as a drenching rain. It was no big thing to roll down the porch blinds that keeps things somewhat dry, and I remembered the visqueen, that polyethylene sheeting, that we always use to cover the futon when a storm is near.

So when I crawled into bed, tired, achy, and worn out from all of the weekend’s tasks and physical challenges, I felt pretty good about having everything buttoned up and secure against the thunderstorm that was now hitting us with pretty good force. Let it rain!

I’m not sure exactly when it was—around 3 a.m., perhaps—that I remembered that I had done nothing to secure our pier furniture, consisting of a few plastic chairs, a couple of footstools, and a small table. I’d forgotten all about them as they sat right where I’d placed them the day before after a much-needed bath in the lake.

Whenever there’s wind of any sort, the chairs and table are not going to win out. Instead, they’ll be blown off the pier and end up along the shore, which—thankfully—is close and in very shallow water. As I lay there remembering my failure to bungee cord the pier furniture, I knew I’d be getting in the water for an early morning “search and rescue” mission in a few hours. With that it mind, I rolled over and went back to sleep and listened to the rain on the roof.

A few hours later, as the dawn of a new day arrived and the storm from the night gone, I came down and got the morning coffee going and put on my water shoes. In the early light of the morning, I could see that a couple of chairs that had been stacked together had remained in place, as well as the two low footstools, but the three other chairs and the little round table were gone.

And so I went down to see what I could see. Sure enough, the three chairs were resting against the shoreline not far from where I was standing on our pier, and I could see that the little table had traveled farther, to the end of the pier two cottages down. No problem at all. I stepped off into the shallow water and retrieved our chairs and table and returned them to the pier and tied them down with a cord I’d brought along.

A few minutes later, I was back in the cottage and having a wonderful cup of hot coffee. The day ahead promised to be a good one for getting some reading done and to get things going for my writing routine for the summer. This post is the first effort along those lines.

There are a few little tweaks and adjustments needed to finish the move-in process, and I’ll be attending to them today. In the meantime, another cup of coffee is in order….CortlandWriter

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