Like most everyone else, I’m a creature of habit, particularly in this world of retirement. Once I find something I enjoy, I prefer to stick with it. One such “something” is a Web site called Interesting Literature, which I’ve been reading for a couple of years.
The good folks at the site provide a Daily Digest of literary facts, that are, indeed, interesting and fun to read. And I look forward to reading their posts first thing each morning as I habitually open Mail with my first cup of coffee at hand.
The other morning, the post was “Five Fascinating Facts about William McGonagall,” a Scottish poet I’d never heard of previously. Thanks to their post, however, I’ll not soon forget the guy!
I learned that William McGonagall (1825-1902) is widely considered to be the worst poet in the English language, a rather dubious “honor” for one to have hung on him. And, of course, my curiosity was whetted and I had to know why this was so.
One of the reasons, according to the Digest, is that at one point McGonagall had a job doing poetry readings in a circus. That in itself is rather curious, but the real kicker is that he would earn fifteen shillings a night as long as he agreed that the crowd could throw eggs, stale food, and other assorted goodies at him. Like so many other people, it seems he was more than willing to allow this, all in the name of money.
This first fact was more than enough for me to begin to realize that this poet was probably a wonderful candidate for the title of “worst poet” that eventually was hung on him. Yet, the other four items about him are equally as intriguing and well worth the curious reader to look into. I won’t spoil the rest of the post, instead I will encourage interested readers to check out the complete post at http://interestingliterature.com/2015/09/21/five-fascinating-facts-about-william-mcgonagall/
One of the best things about working in this thing called the “blogosphere” is the ability to respond and comment on other’s posts. And I enjoy doing so frequently, as well as having others post their comments on my own offerings here at Down Many Roads.
Something strange, however, occurred a few weeks ago when I noticed that the comments I was leaving on those blogs I enjoy and follow were not showing up, even though all appeared to be working correctly. My first thought was that my comments were being blocked—for whatever reason—but that seemed strange since it was happening on ALL blogs.
After Googling to see if others were having the same issues, I realized that I wasn’t alone with this glitch. At first, I thought it might have been some setting that I had inadvertently triggered, causing comments not to go through. But I couldn’t find any such setting that would do that. I finally contacted support at something called Akismet, some part of Word Press. I had some timely responses and directions to try some things that might resolve the problem. I was impressed with the quickness and sincerity of their responses, even when the first several suggestions didn’t work.
With frustration mounting (I hate it when things don’t work and my not knowing why!), I sent another email indicating that I appreciated their efforts thus far, but that I was growing more and more concerned as to what the problem was—and if it could be fixed! I’m happy to say that within a day of that E-mail, I received a reply that I should once again try posting some comments as “it should all work now!”
I cynically mumbled, “Yeah, right,” but figured I had nothing to lose so tried it once again. To my amazement, he was right! Comments I wrote popped into view immediately, and they’ve been functioning correctly ever since. I’m not sure what the deal was, or why it occurred, but I’m happy that the good folks at Akismet got it right! Thanks.
So if any bloggers who have seen me offering my two-cents worth from time to time these last few years and perhaps wondered where I had been, it was one of those things over which I had no control. But, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back!”
I’m looking forward, eagerly, to catching up on reading those wonderful blog posts and sharing my thoughts once again.
It’s another glorious day here in beautiful northern Illinois, and I have to force myself to stay inside and work on this post. I did get my brisk twenty-minute walk in earlier and am ready to put forth the proper effort to post this today. However, I’m going to need a stretch of rainy days soon in order to get the necessary motivation to move along on the writing! Be that as it may, today is a special one.
It is the 10th birthday of our first grandson, Jackson, and we had the opportunity to have him here after school yesterday and to enjoy one of Grandma Carolyn’s famous meatloaf dinners. He and brother Matt did quite a number on the delicious morsel, so today’s lunch offerings for me will be rather slim.
I clearly recall the morning Jack was born ten Septembers ago. I was just getting my first period 6th graders started on a language arts lesson when the office buzzed me to tell me I had an important phone call. Sensing that something very important was about to be imparted to me, the students became unusually silent—waiting for me to convey the news we’d all been eagerly anticipating.
As soon as my son said, “Dad, you’re a grandpa of a little boy, named Jackson Joshua,” I stood up from my chair and my smile and excited expression were all the students needed to know that the waiting was over. They spontaneously burst into shouts and clapping, and didn’t even make fun of me for the tear or two (or more!) that trickled down my cheeks at this important moment in my life.
“Who does he look like?” I asked.
“Winston Churchill,” my good son replied.
I suppose that was a pretty good description, since most newborns tend to be wrinkled and squinty and like cigars!
From that moment on, these ten years have swiftly flown by, and they’re seemingly speeding up all the more. We have enjoyed so many wonderful moments with this kid, and anticipate making more memories as the days, weeks, months, and years continue to grind away at breakneck speed.
Jack arrived at the perfect time, too. That was the fall the White Sox won the World Series, and I was only a short span away from retirement. To this day, I call him my good luck charm, despite recent on-the-field ineptness by our favorite baseball team. As for the retirement part, it’s been all good and getting better every day.
Typing this now, I think of the fun Jack must be having at school right now. He’s all smiles and laughter and making sure everyone around him is having a good time. He’s basking in the glow of being 10 and milking everything he can from this special day. Go ahead, Jack, it’s YOUR day!
Grandson number two, Matthew, will celebrate eight years in January, so we can do it all over again. Grandma Carolyn will probably be “conned” into preparing another meatloaf dinner, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s easy when you truly love these little guys the way we do.
Regular and familiar routines are good, even though they’re good to leave behind every now and then. For example, our summers away at the cottage on the lake in Michigan allow us to get beyond the daily tasks and habits we fall into here at home during the rest of the year. Of course, during those few summer months away, we establish another set of routines, but they’re only for a short while.
Along about the end of August, after the last of the company has come and gone, and the sun’s shadows begin to take on different slants, and the summer heat has begun to change—ever-so-slightly—to autumn’s coolness, I begin to look forward to returning to those “home” habits once again.
By Labor Day Weekend, most of the cottage “stuff” is packed away and the boat is scheduled to be picked up by the marina folks very soon. Out will come the pier, to be stacked on the landing alongside the lake at the foot of the steps leading down from the cottage.
It is a real challenge to enjoy any kind of pleasure cruising on those final days, with the lake being thick with watercraft of all types, their drivers burning fuel before winter storage, pulling tubes full of screaming kids in the throes of last-gasps of summer fun. Wave runners and jet skis and kayaks and those stand-up paddle boarders also add to the “everyone-get-out-on-the-lake-at-the-same-time” adventure!
At this point, I’m definitely ready to bid adieu to summer’s routine and get the car loaded with anything that needs to go home (laundry!) and roll on out to the highway, back to the familiar routines that await.
Back home, the first few days are full of opening the various suitcases and duffel bags and trying to find room for the clothes therein. It’s also a time where the sound track of our lives is the washer and dryer running non-stop!
By mid-week, the bags are back in the basement, the laundry is up to date, and the various other lake “gadgets” are in their winter places. And at this point, my thoughts shift to the home routines which were so good to leave for a few months: lawn mowing, garbage/recycling, picking up the grandsons from school three days a week, and getting serious about writing regularly once more.
Now, I find it very good to be back to our little spot out here in the country, tucked in among the tall corn and thick bean fields that are nearing harvest very soon. It’s wonderful to work on this blog post from my comfortable and familiar writing desk, in my writing room, with wonderful Wi-Fi once again, and my bookcases full of “friends” all along one wall.
I even relished the day spent yesterday, of lawn mowing and weed whacking and edging. Laughing with neighbors and carrying on as neighbors do was all good as well. I have missed this!
Yep, there’s lots to be said about getting away from the everyday routines, but there’s even more, I believe, that can be said about coming home once again. It is a wonderful feeling knowing there’s a place in which to come home. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Life’s good!
Up early, the coffee is going, the morning is dawning, and the plan is to uncover the pontoon and start it up for the first time in over two weeks. The weather forecast is calling for warmer temperatures in the 70s—before next week’s string of HOT temperatures near 90!
I suppose I could devote the majority of this post to the weird weather patterns we’ve experienced around here lately, but suffice it to say that I credit the cooler, autumn-like weather these past few days and nights to a Canadian front that seems to have enjoyed hanging around. Would I rather have 90s? No, never! I’ll gladly don the sweatshirt and windbreaker during these lovely days and throw an extra blanket on the bed at night. So today, before the scheduled rain arrives overnight, I am going to be the captain of my own craft…play on the water!
After all, there won’t be too many more days to do so this summer, with our time here rapidly winding down. Although the official closing date is Sunday, September 13, the boat is scheduled to be picked up by the marina guys on the Thursday prior to that (two weeks from yesterday). And, aside from all of the relaxation that comes with plying the waters of this magical lake, there is the need to begin some basic cleaning and emptying of the boat of items that will not be needed any more—extra life jackets, tubing tow line, tools, etc.
And what happens after our boat is gone? Well, that’s when the real “fun” of closing up begins. There are four 7-foot steel auger poles with the mooring lines attached to each that must be taken out. The process seems awfully simple, yet they cannot just be pulled out. Instead, they must be screwed out of the lake bed, something that certainly provides one (me!) a good cardio and upper body workout for the time it takes to get the stubborn things removed. The mooring lines, after they’ve been removed, will hang in the cottage to dry completely over the winter. The poles will be stored under the pier parts that will be stacked on the landing beside the lake down below the cottage.
The dismantling of the pier will take place on Saturday, September 12, and it’s not a bad job at all, thanks to my son and his friend who will come up for the day to provide the critical labor, along with my crucial supervision and advisory position! After that is finished, we’ll spend the rest of the day watching college football and having a few “bracers” on the cottage porch. My small TV and its HD antenna will be accessible, despite the remainder of the cottage being pretty well closed up and ready for the winter.
By this time, the wife will be comfortably home and back to “civilian” life, and I’ll merely have to attend to the typical odds and ends that are a part of closing weekend. I never really look forward to closing the place, mainly, because to do it correctly, I need to get started a couple of weeks in advance. And who wants to get motivated to do that?
Well, that’s exactly what I did yesterday, pulling all of the outside solar lights, removing their batteries, cleaning them, and putting them in the boxes and bags where they’ll be easily located next spring. Not an arduous job, just time consuming. So today’s agenda calls for all things pontoon and time out on the lake.
Now, as I write these closing thoughts (pardon the pun!), the morning sun is lighting up our little corner of the lake, promising that fine day the weather folks have called for. At this glorious time of the year, let this Friday be a good one! See you on the water…
Back from the lake cottage for a few days this week, I’ve been busy catching up on various domestic duties and chores. The lawn was mowed two days ago, was fertilized yesterday, and my office/writing room desk and book shelves and cabinets have been thoroughly “weeded out” and dusted. I’ve even found some time to plan out my next steps of getting back into a serious daily writing routine in the weeks ahead, after “Lake Season” ends on September 14, that is.
On an early morning jaunt to the bank this morning, not far from the Northern Illinois University campus, I couldn’t help but notice the number of college-age students seemingly everywhere. And after I stopped by for a quick visit to Wal-Mart, my suspicions were confirmed: It’s time for students to move in to begin classes for another school year!
In most of the young people I observed this morning, there seemed to be a happy glide in their stride—pep in their step—as they scoured the shelves for various items needed to get their new digs set up and in working order. There’s always something about the beginning of a new year that makes one feel pretty good. Oh, that the same spirited feelings could last a whole school year long!
Witnessing this annual student ritual, I set the Wayback Machine (Thanks, Mr. Peabody!) and shot back to late-August of 1968 where I was entering the world of college for the first time at Kent State.
Mom and Dad had driven me from our home in Illinois and had pretty much gotten me all squared away in my dorm room, with two other roommates. And then it was off to the bookstore for the humbling experience of buying books at such exorbitant prices, a ritual that I never will forget.
I still can picture my dad, his pipe clenched between his teeth, helping me lug the large shopping bags laden with all of the required textbooks for freshmen classes. I still have the big, heavy dictionary—Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: College Edition—on the corner of my desk where I write this now. It’s rather startling to realize how many miles the thing has travelled along with me: All of my years at Kent (5); my classrooms all the years I taught (35); and years now in retirement (8).
As I recall, that move-in day so long ago was both exciting and scary. Yes, I was thrilled to finally be getting started on the next level of my life, pretty far from home though it was. To meet people who became friends was an important part of it, just as much as earning a degree eventually would be.
Experiences—good and not so good—would also factor into my life at KSU which were all beginning on that warm day in ’68. The day was scary in that my parents would be pulling away and driving home to Illinois, leaving me to trust myself to make good decisions and do the right thing when it mattered. I would basically be able to do whatever I—myself—chose to do, when I wanted to. I wasn’t sure I could operate under such a state of constant temptation, and that frightened me.
In retrospect, things turned out fine, but there were moments along the way where I was anything but trustworthy and doing the right thing. Call it all part of the growing up at that particular time of my life. I suppose there’s a blog post or two about some of those less-than-trustworthy moments at dear old KSU sometime down the road.
And today, watching these young folks going about their various tasks to begin their own quests to become the fine, mature, and productive citizens they’ll become later on, I couldn’t help but smile and be glad that it’s them—not me—going through all of this all over again. Once was enough!
Now, it was time to get back to those “catching-up” chores…
It’s getting late. Summer is fleeting. The slant of the sun—morning and late afternoon—seems to be at different angles now. Fewer and fewer residents are up here at the lake during the week, vacations having run out. Nights are cooler, calling for sweatshirts more often. The dark comes much sooner in the evening—and it’s dark, almost immediately!
But the real indicator that lake season is in its homestretch for another summer is our grandsons were here these last four days before they have to start school on the 14th. And the last two summers, they were barely up here to spend much time with us at all, their busy lives busier than ever with so much other stuff besides Grandma and Poppy.
Even so, what a wonderful four days it was, having them both without Mom and Dad! Whether it was splashing and rough-housing around in the lake for hours or challenging Grandma and Poppy to crucial games of Aggravation or Apples to Apples, or enjoying a summer evening visit to Frosty Boy for ice cream, it is what summer, with those we love, should always be.
There was even time chiseled out of our busy days for “down time”—reading or doing “nothing” quietly. And it’s amazing how they both seemed willing—almost eager—to open up to Grandma and Poppy about the upcoming school year: teachers, activities, friends. Often’s the case that getting any kind of information out of either one of them is as tough as extracting the Kremlin’s secrets.
Capping off our time together was a day spent at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village over in Dearborn, Michigan, a two-and-a-half hour journey from the cottage. It was something that Grandma and I had been planning for most of the summer, and it all came together on one very gorgeous summer’s day.
Originally, we’d planned to make the trip over on Monday, but watching the weather forecast call for storms for most of that day made our decision to move the trip to Tuesday mostly a no-brainer. As it turned out, the skies were the bluest blue, full of fluffy clouds, gliding along way up there on lovely, gentle breezes. Temperatures eased into the low-80s, without much humidity whatsoever. How could we not have the wonderful time we did!
I had visited Greenfield Village once before, back in 1968 when a senior in high school. I always remembered how impressed I had been at the time with the Thomas Edison workshops there, and I made sure I re-visited that part of the Village. I think I was able to convey my excitement about such exhibits to my two grandsons, even though they were more enthused with the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile on display in the Henry Ford Museum!
Throughout the course of the day, we rode in an authentic Model-T, and later climbed aboard the Greenfield Village train, pulled by steam engine fueled by good old coal.
We paid a visit to the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop, where they did most of the work on their famous Flyer, and also stopped by their house (with the neat porch that wraps around the front). This was even more special since I recently finished reading David McCullough’s book about the Wrights.
Before we realized it, the day had given way to late afternoon and approaching closing time. Weary from a day of walking, the boys and I were content to find a bench and wait for Grandma to finish her assault on the Village Gift Store.
Finally, once she re-joined us, two large shopping bags laden with who-knows-what, all of us were ready for the not-too-far trek to the parking lot to begin our drive back to the cottage, with a stop somewhere in between for dinner, of course.
Getting back just after 9:30, we found it quite easy to call it a day—a very fine day, indeed—and there was nary a problem for any of us to fall asleep. Turning off the cottage lights and closing up, I realized that Carolyn would be taking them home in the morning, and it would be just me—alone—here all over again.
As I write this now, I cannot help but keep returning to that wonderful day the four of us shared yesterday. No cares, no worries, no frowns! Just Grandma, Poppy, and two wonderful little boys who will one day be grown up and off on other things important in their lives besides spending time with us. Realizing this, I’m saddened at the thought. Am I getting old? Scary thoughts abound. At any rate, I suppose we’d better enjoy these moments while we can. And so it’s these times I cherish and will always hold dear. Thank you, Jack and Matt and Grandma…
Well, here we are. Once again, I’m going to break away from my summer hiatus and post this while I have a fairly decent Internet connection.
Mid-July is here, and the first really hot, sticky weather is scheduled to pay us a visit. Can’t complain, though, since I’ve been donning a sweatshirt most mornings and afternoons around here since Opening Weekend in late May. Plus, the nights have been those we consider “good sleeping” ones.
It rained all night, and there’s nothing as soothing as the steady rain on the cottage roof, knowing that all windows and porch blinds are secured and the futon is covered with Visqueen. The summer rain is another magical reason for spending time in this ancient structure. When there’s no driving wind coming across the lake from the southwest, the all-night rains are relaxing and comforting. Such was last night’s.
I have been very busy up here in my self-imposed “exile” doing much thinking about how I’m going to rescue my novel but haven’t made the strides I’d hoped to by this point. Perhaps it’s not meant to be, but I won’t give up on it. It stays on my mind, even when I sit down to attempt to write something else in the meantime. Must be a subliminal message in there trying to tell me something. We shall see.
Even if the writing isn’t moving swimmingly along, my summer reading is! Within the past weeks I’ve read Fierce Patriot, the story of the many-sided life of William Tecumseh Sherman; The Boys in the Boat, a wonderful true story of determination and victory against all odds; Dr. Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to his classic The Shining; David McCullough’s newest, The Wright Brothers. Next up in the reading department is a revisit to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I read a million years ago and forgot just how terrific it is. I’ll follow that with her “latest” offering, Go Set a Watchman.
It’s nice to know that when the writing–or the inspiration for writing–is lacking or going nowhere, I have those friends waiting on my shelf here in the cottage and I can lose myself within their pages.
By my next post, perhaps I’ll have some good things to say about my efforts to accomplish some writing and make some inroads into baling my novel out of the tarn in which it currently languishes! I’m thinking that the only way to do so will be to take the premise that is there and start over with a fresh re-write and finally put my mind at ease. Glad my income isn’t dependent upon producing a book on any sort of schedule!
Now, back to practical things around here. My son’s family arrives this evening for the weekend, so I need to do some basic cottage tidying-up and make the bed in the back bedroom upstairs. With the warm weather predicted, it’s sure to be a couple of days of playing in the lake.
I’ll go home Sunday afternoon for a dentist appointment on Monday morning, take care of yard work, and then make a two-day trip to Ohio to see my mom. By week’s end, I’ll be back up here in “exile,” back to the task of making my novel something decent.
Here’s hoping your weekend and days ahead are all good. Until next time…
I know I’ve said that I’m taking the summer months “off” from tending to my blog, but over the course of the past several weeks I have had a few “life moments” that I simply feel inclined to write about.
At the top of that list is I “officially” was inducted into the Medicare Club one week ago on my birthday, and as I write this from my self-imposed “exile” up here at our summer cottage in Michigan, I’m happy to report that they haven’t come to haul me out to the funny farm due to elderly ramblings or other strange carryings-on. (They could have done that so many times previously!) Instead, all of the company that was here over the weekend for our annual NASCAR Race Weekend had to leave and return to their own lives and niches in the world.
And though I enjoy spending time alone, where I can read and write unfettered by interruptions and other such distractions, I must admit that right now I’m feeling rather lonely and wish I had some of the folks who were here this past weekend to prop me up and make me feel as though it’s OK to be this age. Turning 65 sort of does that I’m finding out.
After all, my birthdays used to be spent playing baseball for most of the day, running and chasing fly balls and batting and running the bases and all that was good about being a young kid who had a birthday in June. I could no more run like that again, even in my dreams, and so I just smile at the memories of all those summers past when the future was out there waiting for me to figure out how to get there.
And, even though I can no longer race around the bases on sweaty, sun-drenched afternoons of pickup games on homemade fields in Indiana, or run down that long drive off the bat of a power hitter, I’d like to believe that I’m still the same person I was way back then.
And now that I’m a year older (and wiser?), I’m beginning to give some thought to that thing called mortality. How many years do I have left has never been a question I dwelled too much upon, because it always seemed so “out there” and something I’d never have to deal with for a long, long time—until now!
It’s the little things that really come into play, too. Walking the garbage down to the dumpster each day becomes an excursion of appreciation of all the beauty surrounding my life up here. Filling the bird feeder and watching the various avian species swoop and dive in for their feedings and then take off for places unknown is a daily delight. Chatting with the hummingbirds as they hum and buzz around the feeders I religiously keep cleaned and filled is another ritual of cottage life that I’ve truly grown to appreciate.
Perhaps I’m not quite ready for the pipe and slippers realm just yet, but I’m finding myself becoming more and more tuned in to those things I’d never paid attention to in the past. I suppose none of this is a bad thing. At least, I’d like to think not. Whatever, life in the Medicare Club can’t be all bad!
Well, for now, I’d best go check out those hummingbirds and make sure the lake’s still out there
As we begin to edge our way into late May, that means that things have cycled back around to another cottage “lake season” up in Michigan. Thus, I have spent the past two weeks completely ignoring any regular writing, blogging, or commenting on Facebook, instead, rounding up “stuff” to be hauled up to the cottage on Friday, May 22. (As I write this, that is just two days from now!)
Our intrepid crew put our pier in last Sunday, and the old structure looks as though it will make it through another summer. Our pontoon will be delivered on Saturday, and I can’t wait to get it moored in its spot alongside the pier and then take it out for its out-of-hibernation cruise around the lake. The weather is supposed to be “iffy” (which is usually par for the course) so we shall keep our fingers crossed for some decent “move-in” temperatures without any rain.
I have my folders and my writing box of notes, rough drafts, and other miscellaneous notes to take along for the summer, and the MacBook Pro will be packed up Thursday night.
Which brings me to my main point of this post. I have given much thought to what I hope to accomplish this summer in terms of a regular writing routine, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way I’m going to accomplish that is to step away from social media and my blogs, Down Many Roads and All Things White Sox.
I have become stale and less-than-enthusiastic on most days when trying to come up with blog topics and to write how I feel about things in general. Quite frankly, I really have nothing much to say these days—at least what anyone out there really is interested in reading.
As a result of this epiphany, I am going on a self-imposed hiatus, an exile of sorts, from my blog posting. I know that when I do resume sometime down the road, I will be refreshed, re-charged, and re-invigorated to write some things that are fun and interesting. When that might be, I have no idea. All that I know right now is that my focus will be on knocking the cobwebs from my long-overdue novel-in-progress and re-awakening my friend Scrivener in doing so!
Now, as the daunting task of packing everything for another lake season opening in just two days from now beckons me to get back to work, I leave you kind readers with these words: Blessed are they, who have nothing to say, and can’t be persuaded to say it!