Feelin’ good…

Suddenly they came. Suddenly they left.

Is there any reason the days, weeks, and months are zooming right along—faster than ever—other than I’ve reached that stage where I was always told (by my wise, old grandparents) that life and time will really speed up as we reach those golden years. Well, I really can’t hide the fact that mine are about to get even “golder” in early June. I tell myself it’s only a number, and it is, but I’ve found myself paying more attention to this thing called aging. Of course, I’m just turning 30—in my mind, that is! 

No, I’m not yet a doddering, mumbling, archaic remnant, and I’m still “young at heart” (whatever that really means!) However, I have grown to appreciate a whole lot more each day as it dawns, and I’m up and out of bed at a very early hour, enjoying that first cup of hot coffee before the day gets going and taking advantage of the stillness to read one of the several books I have “in progress.”

Actually, I’m in better shape at this age than I was just three years ago. For the most part, I felt as though I was physically in trouble: heart valve issue, blood pressure way too high, lack of motivation to really exercise on a regular basis. In short, most days were a challenge to find a whole lot to feel good about.

What changed?

The biggie for me was having open-heart aortic valve replacement in August of 2020. Everything afterwards improved—because it had to! Following the surgery and the appropriate recovery time frame of a few weeks, I entered Cardiac Rehab, and that set me straight and off on a path of regular discipline and awareness of my health. I learned how to attach a heart monitor to myself at the beginning of each session and to re-learn how to workout and make good use of the various exercise machines (treadmill, recumbent bikes, etc.) More importantly, I began to overcome fear of “not feeling good” and no longer ignoring the need to press on and work the body in a positive way. It was during these weeks where I began to again see a real need for a regular disciplined regimen that I could follow and set my life’s plan and schedule by.

And so, after several weeks in that wonderful hospital program, conducted by wonderful hospital people, my next step was to decide if I was going to actually make a major lifestyle change. On one hand, I could simply slide back into my previous lazy lifestyle; on the other hand, I could continue the “disciplined regimen” and really do something good for myself. In my mind I knew that I would never really follow up with a regular program of exercise and good nutrition, etc., if I were left to do it on my own. 

I didn’t have to worry, though, as part of the cardiac rehab program, “graduates” are offered a free three-session trial in the Jump Start Your Heart program at the hospital’s Health & Wellness Center. Because this seemed like a great way to continue what I began, and it was all in the same hospital affiliate, I readily took advantage of the trial offer. What I found was a program that seemed to be exactly what I needed: Flexible class hours, excellent leadership by a knowledgeable trainer, affordable membership, terrific facility, others in the “same boat” as me! 

Why not? During those three sessions, I discovered that I really was happy to keep building myself back into a person who felt physically well and mentally happier. I also enjoyed the friendly welcomes I received from the other “veterans” of the class—all fun folks and ready with a quip or a joke. And the leader couldn’t have been any better to set my mind straight on just how serious I was going to be about doing all this. In short, I was sold and haven’t had a shadow of a doubt ever since! The only drawback was the distance from our home—16 miles—but I actually make that a positive, enjoying the half-hour drive to the Wellness Center three mornings a week. It’s a great way to gather my thoughts and think about “things” before I meet up with those cardiac “friends” at such an ungodly hour of the morning. 

And now that I’m about to reach another “golden” year of my life on June 11, I’m happy and heatlthier and enjoying the days of which I’m so blessed.

It’s good feelin’ good!

Until next time…

Hey, how about a Motor Tour?

Hello out there…

It’s only been a few days since I posted about our February trip to Texas and Florida, but it felt so good to actually be writing again, and trying my best to figure out the “new” version of WordPress, that I am compelled to jump right back in the saddle here and try it again.

On this warm and sunny (yeah!) Tuesday here in Aurora, Illinois, I’ve enjoyed spending some time reading other blogs and posting some comments. I’ve also been at work on writing another article for The 66 News, the newsletter for members of the Route 66 Association of Illinois. I’m proud to be associated with this wonderful group and serving as a board member. Anyone who has any kind of interest in The Mother Road, should look into joining one of the associations. 

For those eager to get out on the road again, the annual Route 66 Association of Illinois Motor Tour is just around the corner, June 9, 10 & 11. As always, there will be plenty of fun over the course of that weekend. This year, the Tour’s theme is “Remember When…” and it all begins Friday, June 9 in Edwardsville, Illinois, at 5:00 p.m. CDT at the Comfort Inn.

Saturday morning is when the drive begins from south to north with many nostalgic stops along the way. That evening, rounding out the day’s drive, there is the Hall of Fame Banquet in Lincoln, Illinois.

Anyone who is looking for a way to get involved and explore the Illinois portion of “America’s Main Street,” this is a terrific opportunity to join us for the ride!

For all of the details and cost and basic itinerary, visit the Route 66 Association of Illinois’ web site: il66assoc.org 

Now, I have to get back to writing that article for the newsletter. Deadline is fast approaching. See you on the road!

Until next time…

Back at it and many changes…

Hello out there!

It definitely has been way too long since my last post—Delayed in Muskogee—posted on February 1, and so it is time that I updated things just a bit. Much has happened in my life since that post on our snow-filled start to our month-long trip to Texas and to Florida.

Texas State Capitol Bldg.

First of all, the entire month of February we had a wonderful time. After leaving Muskogee and the fine folks who took care of us at the Comfort Inn and Suites for a couple of extra, unexpected days there, we enjoyed a few days with Carolyn’s nephew and his wife at their home in Bastrop, not too far from Austin. Seeing the capital and the university and enjoying authentic Texas BBQ was worth the many miles traveled to get there! We plan a return visit next year.

After leaving Bastrop, we pointed the Chevy Equinox eastward on I-10 and made our way through Houston and the eastern part of the state, arriving in Slidell, Louisiana, for a quick overnight stay, before continuing on to Destin, Florida, and a visit with my two sisters for the night. It’s a lovely area with great Gulf beaches and terrific restaurants.

Carolyn on the boat ride

Our next port of call was The Villages and a day and night with good friends. We were treated to a long boat cruise out on three lakes that are connected, and we had a nice lunch in Mount Dora before our return trip back across the lakes to their marina. The weather was outstanding, and we had many laughs and good conversation during our time with them.

Ft. Myers Beach aftermath

And then it was onward and southward to Cape Coral for a few days with our daughter, her significant other, and their two young cats. We were shocked when we drove out to Fort Myers Beach and witnessed the aftermath of the terrible hurricane that struck last fall. My first thought was that it resembled nothing less than a war zone as seen on the news. There was some restoration in progress, but not very much at that time. In time, things will be back to some sense of normalcy, but at the time of our visit in February, the piles of pleasure boats and other watercraft that were strewn about from the storm’s fury was the most sobering thing of all.

The delightful pool at Longboat Key!

Leaving that area, we next moved up to Longboat Key, between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, where we spent several days at a perfect condominium resort. It had everything we needed for the four of us (Carolyn’s brother and her niece joined us there) and the weather couldn’t have been any more terrific! We spent lots of time at the pool, and there was plenty of walking space—out to the beach, along the road, around the resort—and we spent each day sampling another restaurant for dinner. Long story short: We will be returning there next February!

Daytona Beach

After Skip and Kim left us, Carolyn and I continued to our next stop—The Daytona Beach Regency, where we stayed for the last week of our vacation. Again, it was very nice, and the ocean front pool and large patio area with lots of chairs and tables and umbrellas made it all excellent. We ate at a few of our favorite restaurants again and spent some time with wonderful friends who live nearby. It was all a great way to prepare for our journey homeward.

Enjoying lunch in New Smyrna Beach

Back home, I didn’t realize that things would really change for me. My ninety-four year-old mother passed away on April 8. In recent months she had been going down hill quite a bit, and things were becoming very difficult for her. So now she’s at peace after a good and long life. I will miss her humor, her smile, her special meals and desserts that only she could put together, and her care and love. As I write now, I thank her for her encouragement in all things and for giving me the love of music, books, and so many other good things.

Until next time…

Delayed in Muskogee…

I’m writing this from the Country Inn & Suites in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where we’re spending a second day and night, an unplanned situation made possible by the nasty winter storms currently sweeping up through eastern Texas and into parts of Oklahoma. And we have found how spoiled we are as residents of Illinois, where the streets and roads are plowed and salted as needed during storms. Not so in this part of the nation! I do not wish this to be a complaint-filled post, so I’ll leave it at that.

Why am I way out here in Oklahoma, you may ask? We started our annual February vacation early yesterday morning, pulling out of our driveway in Aurora, Illinois, right at 7 a.m. Central Time. Our planned ten-hour drive was to this spot in Muskogee, with the intention of continuing our westward drive to the Austin, Texas, area to spend a few days there with my wife’s nephew, who works for the University of Texas. 

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the brunt of the storm comes and goes today and things clear up enough at some point tomorrow so that we can get back on the road. We’re content to stay in today, and the good folks here at the motel are providing a comfortable stay. The hot breakfast was delicious, and there’s plenty of coffee to enjoy throughout the day.

After the weekend, our plan is to continue the next leg of our vacation, driving to Florida. With the current change in our plans now, things are pretty much up in the air, with everything dependent upon the weather situation.

Right now, my wife is working on her genealogy research across the lobby here from where I’m writing this, and we have the whole area to ourselves. One unfortunate thing, however, is that the desk manager came over and changed the TV from The Weather Channel to Judge Judy! Oh, well, I guess we can’t expect our luck to be flawless all the time. And I have my ear buds in, listening to a radio show from Champaign, Illinois, so I don’t really hear what “wisdom” is emanating from the TV!

Now, I think it’s time for another cup of the hot coffee and to get this posted and hope that this weather situation decides to cooperate with us and blow itself out in the next twenty-four hours, so we can get on with this vacation! Plus, it would be more encouraging if they would plow and clean the streets and road. Ugh!

Plan B, anyone?

Now that the predicted snowfall has arrived, postponing my early-morning drive to my Jump Start Your Heart exercise class at the Good Sam Health & Wellness Center, I’m forced to move into Plan B. Of course, if the snow finishes up at some point later today, I can still get to the gym and work on closing all the rings on my watch!

Back to Plan B. (I really don’t have a “Plan B,” but it sounds cooler to say that I do!) 

Since we’re pulling out of our driveway no later than 7 a.m. next Tuesday to begin our month-long winter vacation, there is much to do right here at home: getting clothes pulled out and ready to pack, etc. Not to mention getting the house in order and making arrangements for someone to take in the  mail and check on the place a few times a week.

Our first stop will be in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on Tuesday evening, culminating a 10-hour drive. The next morning we’ll continue on to Bastrop, Texas, to visit some relatives for a few days and explore the area and make a trip to see the Alamo in San Antonio at some point. This portion of the trip will be my first visit to all of these places. Looking forward to it. 

After our Texas stay, we’ll load up once more and point our way eastward to Florida. We’re not sure just how far along we’ll get after leaving Texas that first night out, but we’ll have an enjoyable journey as we go. Our daughter lives in Cape Coral, and we’ll spend time there before swinging back up to Longboat Key near Sarasota for a week. As we did last year, we’ll follow that by traveling over to the other coast and spend another week in Daytona Beach. 

Pondering “Plan B” from my writing desk

As it always tends to do, time will fly by way too quickly, and we’ll be making the long drive back home the first week of March. But that’s way off in my mind at the moment, as I write this at my desk and glance out at the white that has suddenly shrouded everything. I’m thinking that part of my “missed” exercise will now come in the form of shoveling the driveway! So it goes…Anyway, on with Plan B!

2023: Another chance?

It’s another year, and another chance to do things better—or at least do them in the first place!

I have been attempting to prod myself into getting back to writing—finishing a complete draft that has been simmering in a Scrivener project for too many months—or merely having enough interest and discipline to carve out at least an hour each day to WRITE SOMETHING! It seems as though there’s always something more important to attend to, which usually isn’t true at all. Is it a mental “thing?” Without a doubt!

Lately, I always seem to get the feeling that there’s not enough time in a day to get things done, and, consequently, I procrastinate and really fail to accomplish anything. At night, when I’m lying in bed, ideas and topics cascade through my mind, and I think how wonderful they would be to write about when I’m next perched at my desk and laptop rarin’ to go. Of course, the next day dawns, and the verve of those nocturnal “gems” has flown off to wherever thoughts such as those fly off to. Ever try re-capturing bits and pieces of “night thoughts” the morning after? Next to impossible. Like dreams, which are so real and alive while they’re occurring, they leave little, if any, traces of their existence later on.

In self defense—or maybe it’s just rationalization on my part—these past couple of years have left me a bit overwhelmed with so many medical issues and strange happenings in my family. Unexpected deaths and critical diagnoses have so often taken the bloom off the carefree feeling of everyday life. Most days, my thoughts have spread themselves out in concerns for everything but my own happy pastime of writing. In other words, maybe it’s hard to truly be motivated to do things when my heart and mind just aren’t in it!

Perhaps now, having written this, I’ve unexpectedly answered my own question as to why I have not been an eager beaver to finish that piece of fiction when real life’s plot and characters are right there in front of me. For better or worse, I’m certain that everything will work out for all of us. (said warily…)

The joy of upgrading my wardrobe

’Tis the Season…

Yep. The hectic pace of trying to get things finished and all ready for the Christmas holiday is no different from years past—although we keep telling ourselves that this year we’re going to simplify and not stress over minute details. Of course, it never seems to happen that way as “The Big Day” looms and edges ever closer, and we realize that we’re still behind schedule!

Nope. There’s still the last-minute crunch of making sure everyone is accounted for in the gift cavalcade and the timing of placing online orders so there will be no delays or lost items. We have found, however, that this ordering stuff via the Internet is a pretty reliable and painless method to do things. 

I’ll do anything to avoid having to go into a store of any kind—especially in these waning days prior to “The Big Day.” Even in the good old days when stores and other businesses had an abundance of workers, I never relished Christmas shopping live and in person. And now, the experience can only be far worse. 

My wife coerced me recently to go with her to a popular department store that had great sales going on, as she wanted me to upgrade my wardrobe, etc. (Believe me, it needs massive upgrading!) I agreed—kicking and screaming—but I did end up with some nice “sale” shirts, fleeces, and a sweater. 

All was moving along swimmingly until we approached the check-out line. As my luck would have it, the line stretched back and back and wound hither and yon, and there were just two check-out people, who appeared in no real rush to move things along. You know the type. They have to converse with all folks and take their sweet time completing the transaction, not to mention the invariable need for them to phone the manager or some department head about some problem or question encountered.

To add to that, there was the inevitable shopper, already at the check-out counter, quibbling over the price and the discount that was owed her. Indeed, she spent several torturous moments fumbling and rummaging about in her purse, satchel, haversack, or whatever it was, in search of her store card and the coupons showing proof of her additional 20% discount. The bag that served as her purse looked like something that might have traveled on a stagecoach back in the day! 

Eventually, (yawn!) things were resolved, and we moved along a bit more speedily, and purchased my updated wardrobe things and scurried out and to the parking lot. 

Damn, the cold air was a deliciously refreshing relief after the steam bath inside. I think I even said to my wife that this was the last time I’d go into a store during the lead up to Christmas. 

Yep. That’s what I said.

Nope. She just laughed.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The winds of November…

I’m writing this on a gray and chilly November morning, and yet the landscape/yard crew is mowing one last time and rounding up any stray leaves. It’s definitely a sign that our glorious fall has finally given up and turned things over to winter’s grand entrance! We were “blessed” with our first actual snow accumulation yesterday, but the ground and streets are still too warm for any serious trouble to occur.

With Thanksgiving exactly one week away, it seems entirely natural that the colors have given way to to drabness and other hues of gray and faded brown. And it’s time now to get those books I’ve been meaning to read from their spots on the shelves and settle in for early, dark wintry evenings.

It’s a good time of the year! It makes us appreciate the spring that waits just a few months off. The days of shorts, t-shirts, and light, comfortable shoes have given way to flannel, fleece, and hoodies! But the best thing about the seasons is they always return in their duly designated time frame.

Whether or not this is our favorite time of the year, we have no choice (unless we change locations!) so we might as well enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving, all!

October is…

October is one of my very favorite months of the year, mainly because it’s the month where the “dog days” of summer are well over with, and the dark chill of winter’s reign is still a ways off, and once in a while we’re treated to those special Indian Summer days—periods of unusually warm and pleasant weather in late autumn.

It’s the month when the furnace gets its first re-awakening as the first frosts and freezes re-appear, letting us know that the cycle has wound its way around again.

It’s a time for sweatshirts and long pants and bundling up for the grandsons’ Friday night football games and splendid Saturday afternoons in Memorial Stadium in Champaign for Fighting Illini football!

October is, without a doubt, a month of resplendent colors. Gold, yellow, red, and rust adorn the maples, oaks, and various other trees and bushes throughout the great Midwest, providing a living bonus for those of us who are fortunate to call this part of the country home. At the same time of this explosion of brilliant colors of OctoberIMG_8626IMG_8628, those same leaves begin to leave their branches and fall—slowly in the beginning, but ever increasing as the month grows late and the winds of autumn increase.

By October, all of the outdoor furniture and decorative accoutrements and plant vases and pots have been cleaned and stored safely away until their resurrection next spring. 

October is a month when we are content to be inside much sooner, as the afternoon sun fades away much more quickly and the outdoor lights are set to come on earlier than before. There’s a contented quiet now as darkness settles over the neighborhood.

The feelings of Halloween begin to whirl and swirl around in the imaginations of both young and old, and the days grow shorter. I find time to enjoy all over again, the tales of Irving and Poe.

Thumbs up for October!

Where have all the bloggers gone?

I know I don’t post as much as I’d like—despite promising myself so many times that I would—but I’ve noticed an odd thiIMG_6437ng in recent months: The blog community to which I have been a member for several years, has fallen on quiet times! Maybe it’s just me—it probably is—but the amount of notifications that blogs I’ve chosen to follow, have all but dwindled down to the occasional one…all from the same couple. Of course, I’m happy to hear from them, but I’m curious as to what has become of all of the others. 

My first inclination is that they have abandoned their blogs, or they have changed over to another site or format. Whatever, I do miss reading the thoughts and ponderings from them.

And then I think maybe it’s something on my end that has clouded them out—for whatever reason—and I’m just not “hooked up” with them anymore. I know that WordPress has changed from when I started this whole thing and began to get comfortable with writing and posting on its site. As such, I haven’t really kept up with much of the “new” formats and blogging protocols since the many changes came about, and, perhaps, that could have a lot to do with the lack of “traffic” that comes across on my blog site.

Regardless, I find creating posts a wonderful and challenging exercise in stringing together my thoughts when the spirit moves me, even if I do miss so many of those previous readers, followers, and commenters.

If any of you are still out there, give me a shout! Many thanks…