November chills, cemetery duties & gas station discomfort…

The chill of a late-November day came calling today, catching us somewhat off guard as we set about doing a task that required us to be outside in an old—very old—cemetery where most of my wife’s mother’s relatives are buried, and that’s when we experienced the not-so-gentle touch of the cold blast carried our way on a pretty strong wind. Of course, I was without gloves and a heavier jacket, but I did have the foresight to bring my stocking cap along. And my good wife had even offered to drive her car so I could sit back, relax, and enjoy the panorama of whatever we passed by. 

 To say that it felt very good to return to the warmth of the car after completing our mission, would be a gross understatement. Even the abundance of sunshine for most of the morning and afternoon didn’t seem to do much for our comfort level. And the fact that we were in the midst of a rather spooky cemetery, didn’t warm us much either. After we were finished in the graveyard, we worked our way back toward home, about a forty-five minute drive.

On the way, the wife needed to stop for gas, and I was “requested” to do the honors of getting out, standing in the cold and gusty winds, and filling her tank! And since the tank was nearly empty, it wouldn’t be a quick fill, either, especially since it seemed to take an exorbitant amount of time due to the slowness of the gas pump. To say the least, it was an uncomfortable chore, and made even worse by the fact that, because of my extra cup of coffee earlier and the fury of the frigid wind, I very much needed to get to a restroom! After what seemed to be an endless stretch of agony, I managed to finally get the car filled up, and then scurried inside to where the station’s men’s room waited.

After that, it was a more comfortable and pleasant ride home where, of all things, I remembered that I, too, needed to take my own car to a nearby gas station to repeat the fill-up duty all over again–this time, though, without holding my breath and dancing about and begging and pleading with the gas pump to hurry up and get it over with! 

“But…it’s now HOME!”

It has happened! No, I haven’t disappeared from the face of the earth or been swallowed up by the dreaded Coronavirus. My absence from the blog world can be explained simply as I have really not had a whole lot of inspiration—or a regular place where I can write frequently. Good excuse or not, that’s what I’m going with. Anyway, we have finally moved into our new residence after a whirlwind few months since I last posted back in November about the very real possibility of just such a move.

It’s a rather convoluted and involved tale of how we sold our house out in a small town in northern Illinois near DeKalb (about forty-five minutes from where I write this in our new location). The sale seemed to occur in the blink of an eye, and we had only a mere few weeks to be out of the place. Since we didn’t want to lose out on this cash purchase, without realtors involved, we jumped at the opportunity and began weeding out, sorting, groaning, mumbling, packing, more moaning, hauling, and somehow clearing out in time for the set closing date of December 9.

It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal had we had a place already picked out to which we would move, but we had absolutely no plan or idea for any of that! We ordered one of those sixteen-foot Portable On Demand storage containers (PODs) and filled it to the rim and brim with a million boxes of my books, ten million containers full of the wife’s Christmas “stuff,” and our mattresses, and various other pieces of furniture and whatever else we could get in there. (OK, I’m exaggerating just a bit about the numbers of boxes and containers—but not much!)

But the POD wasn’t enough. Thus, to handle all of the other things, we rented two 10’ x 10’ storage units at one of those modern, climate controlled, indoor facilities. That was a lifesaver, and it was conveniently located to where we were staying (our son’s house) and to our eventual new home about eight miles away. So all of our possessions were at least safely stored away. 

We lived out of suitcases for the most part, although we did have a few of those plastic drawer units that served as places to store various clothes, etc., in the small guest bedroom with twin beds at our son’s house. That was December, and it was fun to share life (and a bathroom!) up close with our two teenage grandsons!

Once January and the new year appeared on the scene, we moved in to a house in Naperville, where we spent the month “house sitting” for good friends of ours who spent the month wintering in Naples, Florida. Although we still were living from suitcase and shaving kit, we were secure and still close by to where we wanted to end up.

It was during this period that we got the itch to consider looking around to see what sorts of homes/townhomes might be on the market in the locale we hoped to eventually settle, all the while still insisting that we were “only looking and getting ideas.” After all, it had always been our plan not to do anything too elaborate until we returned from our Hawaii cruise in April, and then we’d begin the serious search for a new place to live.

Of course that didn’t happen. The first—and only—time we went with a realtor friend of ours to look at some properties, we found the house in which I’m now typing this. I’ll not elaborate on the details and the process as to how we finally landed the place, but suffice it to say that we were (and are) thrilled and excited to have been able to make things work.

It’s ten years old, one-story, no stairs, no basement, and, alas, not enough storage. As of last Thursday, February 27, we closed without a glitch of any kind on the place and have everything moved in from the two storage units. The POD is still hibernating in a storage warehouse somewhere and will be delivered after we get back from the cruise in early April. (More on the cruise situation later. Keeping our fingers crossed that this “scare” will diminish before we begin.)

 Meanwhile, when the house sitting stint ended as February rolled around, we moved back to our son’s house for a few days before heading off to Florida ourselves, with stops in Ohio and the mountains of North Carolina along the way.

By the time we made it back north to Illinois, February was well along and our closing date on our new house was soon approaching. We vacated our little spot at our son’s and returned full access of the bathroom to the grandsons and took up “permanent” residence here in Aurora. There’s much to do and some repairs which have already begun, but it’s now HOME! There’s furniture to purchase, but it’s now HOME! There’s weeding out to do, but it’s now HOME!  And, there’s writing to get back to, and NOW… THAT IS HOME!

“There was”…and “What’s ahead”

It’s already the middle of May, and this is the first piece of writing I will have posted since way back in February. No excuses! No rationalizing! No nothing! I’ve just been totally and completely uninspired to sit myself down in front of my Macbook on a regular basis to crank out words and thoughts. It’s not as though I haven’t had plenty to write about. Quite the opposite.

Since that last post, there was…

…my serving as an election judge here in our county.

…the usual list of mundane duties to attend to right around the old estate.

…a large number of books to read for the two book clubs I’m in.

…a visit to our good friend, the travel agent/coordinator, to book a cruise on Holland America Lines to the Panama Canal next January.

…a White Sox opening week game to attend with my son, as we so often did when he was young and I was younger, too.

…a long weekend trip to Nashville with another couple who had never been there before, and one they thoroughly enjoyed!

…a regular schedule of trips to Ohio to see my mother as she deals with being 89 and the “joys” of health issues surrounding that realm. Now that it’s Mothers Day tomorrow, she is particularly in my thoughts—now, more than ever.

… a celebration of birthdays for family members, and memorials for some friends who have passed. 

What’s ahead for summer?

There are plans for upcoming auto trips to quaint and remote places for Carolyn’s genealogy research and an annual NASCAR “race weekend” over in Michigan in June, the weekend, a day after which I’ll celebrate being another year on this earth!

There is the week in July when Carolyn and I will take the grandsons out to Casper, Wyoming, for a three-day covered wagon adventure on the Oregon Trail. Stay tuned for reports afterwards. There will surely be much to share here on this blog!

So there’s still much ahead, and my desire to once more write and blog and offer up thoughts, perhaps, is slowly re-kindling. I’m hoping it will. In the meantime, to all Moms out there, I hope you have the very best day ever tomorrow—wherever you might be. None of us would be anywhere without you!

Until next time….

The frozen, waning days of 2017…

 

When last I posted, I had every intention of continuing on a regular course of discipline to bring my Route 66 adventures to a suitable conclusion. Well, that didn’t happen, and there are but a few remaining days of 2017 in which to do so. For better or worse, here goes!

On September 15, the third day on the road, our plan was to make Oklahoma City to spend a couple of days. Thus, we enjoyed a continuous array of roadside remnants and classic old neon signage from days gone by.

Here is a sampling of the day’s sights:

 

Oh, the places I have been…

I really can’t recall how the topic of being on, or near, the scene of some major

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newsworthy event came up the other night at a party we were hosting, but it made for some interesting conversation for a time with a friend over cold drinks. And long after the party had ended, and I was in the midst of my usual cleanup duties, many more thoughts on the topic flitted around in my head.

I’m pretty sure it was my friend who brought the whole thing up with his telling about his being in attendance at a Super Bowl and a Stanley Cup Championship game seven. True, they were important events, but in the large scope of things they really don’t seem as “crucial” as those events in which I found myself involved–purely by accident.

For instance, I couldn’t help but recall being literally “caught up” in the turmoil and fury that was the violence perpetrated by those wonderful, “clean-cut” protestors in downtown Chicago during the 1968 Democrat National Convention.

A high school friend from Ohio had just flown in for a visit, since my family had recently moved to the Chicago area that summer, and we all had enjoyed a wonderful dinner at one of the cool restaurants on Michigan Avenue early that evening.

ac8248ca6f7f8f6e27265332b976fdea.jpgAfterwards, as we began a leisurely stroll along the avenue, things erupted all around us. Suddenly, the police were swarming and moving people from the area. It didn’t take long to realize that they were pretty serious about their efforts! I recall being sort of trapped near one of the famous lions in front of the Art Institute when I was instructed to get moving, which I gladly did. Staring down the barrel of a riot gun is a bit unsettling.

About the same time, another hord of the “clean cuts” decided to battle back and began one of its signature clashes with the Chicago police. My friend and I somehow avoided the confrontation and hurried back across the avenue to find my parents and sister, which wasn’t easy since that area seemed just as wild and manic as the one we’d just vacated.

Fortunately, we managed to hook up with them and make our way the few blocks to the lot where the car was parked. Without further hesitation, we got out of the boiling city as quickly as possible.

Yep, that was the evening that has become infamous over the years—for both cops and the protestors—and one that will always evoke not-so-pleasant feelings whenever I see a picture of those Art Institute lions!

I had just turned eighteen that summer, and I my idealism was still rather lofty. I had plans to take it all with me when I started at Kent State in a few weeks. And, of course, it was at Kent that I would once again witness turmoil and violence during the next few years up close and personal all too often. And my earlier idealism would take off in a much different direction during that time. I’ll write of that period in the next few posts.

 

 

All done “up there”…

I’ve been away, but I’m back now, all finished at the cottage on the lake in Michigan.

Yep, I’ve managed to “power through” all of the business at hand over the past several weeks and  am settling in once again here at home in northern Illinois.

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Back home on the deck, under the stormy skies over northern Illinois farmland.

One week ago, our pontoon was hauled out of the water by some friends who are purchasing her and trailored a couple hundred miles back to a lake here in the western part of Illinois—not too far from our home, by the way. The old girl will be missed, but knowing she’s going to a good place, with good folks to enjoy her, eases the oft-muddled mind of this writer!

We spent the next day finishing up closing out the cottage and filling both of our cars with final loads. There are so many memories we gathered in that place “up there” that it was very hard to pinpoint which one stood out as the greatest or favorite over the several summers we called the place home.

Yes, we have decided to get out of the summer cottage/lake rental game and to pursue other endeavors. An Alaska cruise next August awaits, as does a trip to New Orleans and Florida in late February. And being right here at home more frequently is mighty appealing, too!

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Home!

this morning, when I finally decided that I’d been away from this blog (and other writing tasks) far too long, I took a deep breath and relished the feeling once more of plopping myself into my comfy desk chair, in front of my MacBook, and knocking the cobwebs off of Scrivener and gleefully letting the fingers do their thing, wandering over the keys to make the words to send along to any reader who’s still along with me. (Now that’s a sentence!)

So a chapter of my life closes and I’m eagerly anticipating what the next one will be about. I’ll look back—from time to time—and recall so many of those wonderful moments and memories made “up there,” and I’ll probably be hit with a touch of melancholy, but I will have moved along into that next chapter that is beginning right now.

Bring it on!
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At rest for one last day and night on Magician Lake.

 

Morning thoughts from JollyYet…

Oh, what a beautiful morning…

100_4645.jpgWriting this from the cottage (JollyYet) porch this morning, I’m visited by my friends the hummingbirds, who can’t decide which of the two feeders to patronize, and so keep zooming back and forth betwixt the two. IMG_1812.jpg

Off to my right, about thirty feet away, are the two “regular” bird feeders (which are going to need refilling today), where a hungry rose-breasted grosbeak picks and pecks away at the remaining grains and seeds. A couple of hopeful chipmunks are on point below, awaiting the sloppy habits of the birds above, knowing that they’ll be IMG_1797.jpgrewarded soon.

The lake, for a mid-week Wednesday morning, is unusually noisy and busy. Already a fast ski boat has passed by below, a talented skier in tow shouting instructions over the din of the motor. Another large and loud one slowly made its way into my atmosphere a short while ago, blasting some equally loud and annoying hip-hop/rap “tune” through its massive speakers mounted on the overhead tow bar. Please…

But, nothing is forever. Like the boats and skiers and noise that show up but eventually go away, so is our summer life at this wonderful, old resort tucked away under the giant oaks and maples and dogwoods.

On such a morning as this (and there have been quite a few this summer), I realize how much this place has meant to me the seventeen summers we’ve been coming up here. And I’m finally realizing that there are but a few weeks remaining in our role as summer “lakers.”

As I wrote in an earlier post, this is to be our last summer taking a cottage. We began discussing this about a year ago and agreed that we’d do it one more summer, especially since Carolyn would be retired from a long career in the hair dressing business and could spend more time here during the summer weeks. And now those weeks are winding down to when we have to close up and be out of here: September 17. Our reasons for giving it up are many, and I will share those in a future post very soon.

We’re having some company over the Labor Day weekend, which is always a very busy time here, and it should be lots of fun, although we’ll be pulling the pier out then (for the last time!) and we’ll be seriously getting things packed up and taken home or into the dumpster. We’re hoping that whoever will be occupying this place after us would like to have the various futons and other items we are happy to leave here for them. We shall see.

IMG_1201.jpgAnd so, the morning edges along with wonderful breezes and pleasant temperatures. I am here until early Saturday morning, when I’m heading home for a few days to attend our grandson’s first football game and, of course, take care of mowing, etc.

Carolyn left for home yesterday, allowing me to be here by myself to work on my writing for the remainder of the week. And that’s how I’ll be spending the rest of my morning here on the porch of JollyYet, my fine, feathered friends close by, and the waters calm and quiet out in front once more.

Lucky me!

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Miles to go…

Been home from the lake for a week.

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Mornings on our deck–coffee & reading

Doctor appointment, grandsons’ ballgames, yard work, and friends’ 50th wedding anniversary party necessitated our vacating the cottage last Wednesday. Within the last two weeks, we’ve logged many a mile traveling to the NASCAR race, and then the following day motoring on to Fairborn, Ohio, to attend Carolyn’s uncle’s funeral services. He was almost 93 and had lived a good life and everyone celebrated that fact.

After the meal that followed at the church, we made the four-hour drive back to the cottage in Michigan and quickly made ready for the drive home to Illinois the next day.

And now, all of the duties, etc., completed, it’s time to reverse the process and gather up the clean laundry, pack the suitcase and my MacBook, a cooler with “stuff” we bought at the store, and get it all in the back of my Equinox for the trip back to the lake sometime tomorrow. I say “sometime” because I’m expecting a visit from a technician for Frontier Communications (our Internet service provider) to check out why our Internet has been dropping out way too frequently lately. I would like to be here when he/she arrives, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an early arrival. But, it will be what it will be…

But wait, there’s more!

cms1209.pngOnce back at the cottage, we wont be there for long. It will be a quick turnaround, just long enough to unload and spend the night before taking off for Ohio for the weekend. My mom’s high school 70th reunion luncheon is Saturday afternoon in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, and a few weeks ago she strongly hinted that she’d love to attend but had no way to get there.

It didn’t take me long to see where she was going with this, and I figured I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get her there! With nothing definite on our calendar for this coming weekend, I told her we’d enjoy driving her up there (about three hours or so) from Port Clinton. Obviously, there aren’t that many classmates remaining, but a couple of her best friends are, and she deserves to be there with them.

Anyway, I always enjoy going back there—my birthplace—so it will be a nice occasion. We’ll get her to the gathering and go explore the area as I remember all of my summer visits there as a kid. We’ll go out to the old farm that was my grandparents, and the place that inspired my short story “Pinewood Farm.”

A few hours will pass, and it will be time to pick Mom up and drive on back to Ohio, spend the night, and zip on back to Michigan on Sunday. We’ll be tired and ready to plop on the porch or the pier for a couple of days and realize all of the miles we’ve accumulated. At the same time, I’ll smile and know just how good each of those miles was.images-1.jpeg

Hey, thanks for everything!

One Good Thing…
It’s time for the weekly  post of a feature I’ve chosen to title “One Good Thing.” Each weekend, I’ll post something about what has been good to—or for—me during the week.
This week…

I didn’t post last weekend due to being away from the old “writing machine” for IMG_1118.jpglonger than I had expected. It has been a stretch of days where the weather has been such that the duties outside took precedence. Besides, when it’s finally in the 70s and absolutely gorgeous out there, I find it very difficult to be inside at my desk trying to concentrate on writing!

At any rate, there are many good things of which to write, and they all rank very high on my personal scale: Weather; grandkids; Carolyn’s job.

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Late-afternoon fire on the patio
As I’ve written recently, the weather has finally come around to provide us the opportunity to get outside, to breathe the good air, to soak up the warmth of the sun, and to watch the grass, plants, and trees come alive.

The farmers have begun getting their fields ready for planting (corn or soybeans) and it’s always a good feeling to know that soon new life will be sprouting all over this part of northern Illinois.

The writing front…

Having been a bit lax and negligent of seriously getting work done on my current work in progress, a novel titled Birchwood’s Secret, I chiseled out time this past week to actually make some progress with it. It was a good time to look with a fresh vision at what had been sitting for a while. I was glad to be back among my characters at the resort where I left them. I think I’m ready to move the whole thing along to a conclusion. Stay tuned!

Soccer & retirement…

Saturday morning—a perfect one it was—found us at our grandson’s first soccer game of the season. The event was even more special for my wife, Carolyn, since it was the first time she’d had an opportunity to see the boys play soccer–or anything else, really–on a Saturday because she’s always been at work during those times.

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After 46 years, a celebratory beverage is in order!
After 46 years of working as a hair dresser, she’s finally calling it quits on May 25th. Recently she began the process by “phasing out” the Saturdays and is now down to just two days a week. She’s excited, yet will miss her many clients and co-workers.

The road ahead…

We will be able to plan more things to do together and enjoy both of our retirements more fully. Her retirement will also mean that this summer will be the first one she will actually be able to spend more time at the lake cottage.

Plans for a trip to Alaska in 2017 are in the planning stages as well as fall and winter road trips and little excursions to see things in our own backyard.

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn’t entirely certain which direction it would take. But after a couple of minutes, I realized that I didn’t have to sweat it at all. It’s quite clear that I have so much for which to be thankful, and that’s always easy to write  about.

Until next time, that’s one good thing…IMG_1226.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Ten minutes for my thoughts…

Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

OK, to get this new week off and running, I’m going to kick-start my writing by following the prompt above. It’s something I haven’t done in quite some time, and I feel the need to try it on this gray and still-wintry April morning.

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Monday sunrise  from our deck, kicking off another busy week ahead.

The weekend, as usual, flew right on by, but it was still one that kept me busy. Following Friday’s visit to the doctor for a follow-up after my recent echo test, I relaxed and proceeded to get on with feeling OK about things—at least for now.

I find it very hard to focus or accomplish much writing when I have “stuff” on my mind—“stuff” such as doctor appointments! But, in the end, those kinds of worries never seem to turn out as bad as my mind led me to believe they would. Perhaps I need a shrink instead of a cardiologist!

Saturday morning was our men’s book club. We discussed a very interesting one titled How We Got to Now by Stephen Johnson. It was a rather easy one to read, as I managed to do so all within three days.

I particularly enjoyed the overall premise that when something is invented or devised, other things—totally unrelated—spring forth. For example, the Gutenberg Bible/printing press creating a need for glass and, eventually, reading glasses. It’s something the author described as “The Hummingbird Effect.”

Sunday was church and then a trip back to our former town for another book club, this time our friends’ couples group. The book there was H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, and though we all read it, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it.

What’s in store for this week?
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Not looking very springlike off our back deck!

Plans for the next phases of yard work—removing the chicken wire and stakes from around the bushes, mowing, bringing up the deck furniture from the basement, edging and trimming, etc., are all on “hold” for the time being.

That is, at least until the weather warms up enough for us to be outside without heavy coats and mukluks. (Just kidding about the mukluks!)

This Thursday is our grandsons’ school Open House for Grandparents, so I’ll make my annal visit to their school and enjoy seeing their classrooms and meeting their teachers. It’s always fun to see them in another setting other than familiar hearth and home.

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Our 4th grade grandson

Friday morning will find me leaving very early for Ohio for a quick visit to my mom’s and  my sister and her husband’s. I’ll be back sometime Sunday afternoon.

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Our 2nd grade grandson

As the week wears on, I won’t have much time to keep up with my many blogging friends nor reply to their wonderful posts.

But I’ll do as much as time will permit, since I’ve decided that my writing time needs to be devoted to Sandbar’s Secret.

Right now, my ten minutes are up. This little exercise was good, and it’s amazing what one can write in ten minutes.

Have a good week, all!