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!
Here it is, the last day of 2016. New Year’s Eve morning has slipped right in on us once again. It always seems to do that while we’re still “recovering” from the busy times of Christmas a week ago.
Suddenly, it’s here! We begin to reflect on all that has taken place—good and bad—for the past twelve months and to make resolutions and determinations that we’re certain we’ll take seriously this time, prompting thoughts such as will this, in fact, be the year that we actually stick to our low-carb diet, get more daily exercise, publish the next book, or establish world peace? Well…
I’ve never been too much of a New Years resolution-kind-of-guy, mainly because I know me too well! And I’m not one to make a big deal about what I resolve to do or accomplish in the new year. But as the old year is ending and the new one is waiting in the wings, I always have a few things I tell myself I need to do a better job with or how I can be better in so many ways. As such, there will never be any fanfare on what I would like to improve upon for the next 365 days. So any resolutions I’m planning will not be published here or anywhere else until after the fact!
Today is also special for another reason. Our daughter’s birthday is today. Born in 1980 (it really can’t be that long ago!) she came into this world on a bitterly cold New Years Day, and life has been an adventure for her ever since. Though we won’t be able to celebrate today with her, we will be going to Florida in February for a week’s stay with her.
New Years Eve plans?
My morning will consist of coffee, early morning reading, and finishing this blog post. Afterwards, it will be time to head outside for my twenty-minute walk and enjoy the 34° morning air and bright sunshine. Most of our snow has diminished during this past week, so the streets and sidewalks are bare and dry.
Next, I will send birthday wishes to daughter Laura and plan to call her later in the day when I know she’ll be available. Then, I’ll drive down to our son’s to watch some hockey and football for a while and, of course, see what the two grandsons are up to. Before I know it, it will be time to head back up home and get ready to go in for our annual New Years Eve gathering with friends at their home. It’s pretty low-key but a good time all the same. Good snacks, laughs, and discussion of various topics will be the order of the evening.
And then we’ll drive back out to our little town here in northern Illinois and watch the last few minutes of 2016 dissolve into 2017. There are so many good things in this world that have happened, and we shouldn’t forget them, even though much tragedy and sadness seemed to be everywhere in the year to which we’re bidding farewell.
I sincerely hope that the new year will bring good things to family and friends, wherever they may be. On this final day of 2016, I will celebrate all that I have and make a few resolutions (that I’ll keep to myself!) and remember all of the good that has come my way.
This time of year has always been special for me. The hardest part of winter is behind us—usually—and thoughts begin to turn to spring and all of the good times that will follow.
Suddenly, I’m struck by the urge to “drive south,” as I did annually for countless years as a rite of spring. Older and wiser (?) now, I still get that restless feeling, as though Florida’s spell once again persists in tugging me to her.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
And so, unable to resist the siren call again, this coming Friday morning, we’ll be setting off early for points south, our ultimate destination being Dallas, Texas–via Florida.
Unlike the “young and foolish” days, when we’d drive straight through to Florida for spring break, we’ll be breaking this year’s sojourn into smaller segments.
We’ll spend Friday and Saturday night in Nashville, a place we’ve visited a few times before and passed through enroute to Florida numerous times.
Since we have the extra time there on Saturday, we plan to make the short drive to Carnton Plantation and the historic site where the Battle of Franklin was waged during the Civil War.
After that, we’ll visit the Grand Ole Opry and see the show that evening. We attended several years ago and had a great time and are looking forward to the fun of attending this year.
It will be an early wakeup on Sunday morning as we’ll hit the road to Saint Augustine, Florida. There will be good, long walks and leisurely browsing and nosing about through the historic sites on Monday. Without a doubt, we’ll be making a concerted effort to lose the lily-white winter complexions, too!
Tuesday’s drive will be much shorter, since we’re only going down as far as Titusville, near the Space Center. We’ll hook up with good friends, Richard and Sandy, who live there, and enjoy dinner out and spending the night at their home.
It will be good to return to our old neighborhood with them for a brief time and reminisce about the year I taught at Astronaut High School before moving back to Illinois following the Challenger disaster.
After what will no doubt be a quick evening, we’ll bid our good friends farewell on Wednesday morning and set sail once more to Naples, over on the other side of the state. There, we’ll meet up with another couple who have recently moved from Illinois and have graciously invited us to spend the night at their new place.
Naples is a place neither of us has been before, so this part of the adventure will be new and exciting. We told our friends we’re not expecting to be “entertained,” only a quick orientation of the area, with a nice walk followed by plenty of poolside sitting!
Our next port of call on Thursday will be a short jaunt to Fort Meyers where we’ll spend the weekend with our daughter Laura. It’s a long and involved story as to the “how” and “why” she lives in Fort Meyers, so I won’t get in to any of that. But we’re eager to see her and to learn the lay of the land of another place we’ve not been previously.
Our plans are to stay at her apartment through Sunday before pointing the Chevy Equinox northwest for a very long day’s drive to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
On this next leg of our grand tour, we’ll eventually meet up with our son’s family who will be flying in to Dallas on Thursday.
Here’s the scoop. For the past few years our son and his wife and our two grandsons have gone to see our favorite hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks, play at an out-of-town venue.
This year they chose Dallas. Thus, this past Christmas, Santa left game tickets for us all for the Friday, March 11 game there in “Big D.”
Carolyn and I had the crazy idea that we could tie a Florida trip in with the Dallas one, and so our winter travel plans were formed!
After Carolyn and I depart Baton Rouge, we’ll arrive in Dallas a few days ahead of the rest of the folks, and we plan to tour the Kennedy assassination sites and maybe meet some other friends from the Dallas area for lunch.
There will be plenty of time to spend with the grandsons on Saturday before they have to fly home to Illinois, and we have to pack the car again for our drive home as well. It will be fun beyond belief, I’m certain.
On paper this all looks like a piece of cake. Of course, the reality of the many miles between here and there is something else altogether. Nevertheless, I’m eagerly looking forward to getting the whole thing started this Friday morning and clicking off those abundant miles. It’s a good thing I enjoy driving.
Like Hemingway, I always remind anyone traveling with me, that half the fun is getting there.
For the last two years, we’ve taken February vacations to places neither of us has been before. Last February, we journeyed to Stone Mountain, Atlanta, and A.H. Stephens State Park in Georgia. We then visited Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. We had a wonderful time in each place, despite the unusually cold and stormy weather.
Now, writing this from my home office following this year’s sojourn, I’m giving serious thought to re-thinking our future trips at this time of the year. We are once again back home in white, bright, and cold northern Illinois after a week in Panama City Beach, Florida. We have seen more sun here at home within the past twenty-four hours than we did for most of our time in Florida’s Panhandle location! The wife and I have had some serious discussions regarding maybe taking our little February trips a bit later in the month—or even into March. We shall see.
Regardless, we enjoyed our week down there after driving through some seriously nasty weather south of Nashville.
Our friends, Bill and Barb, belong to a Time Share organization, and they were able to secure a week’s stay for the four of us at Marriott’s Legends Edge. They flew, we drove, and we timed our arrival there so that we could pick them up at the airport.
Arriving by mid-afternoon on Saturday, Carolyn and I located the place, checked in, and had time for a nice lunch of fish tacos at the golf club restaurant before heading to the airport. Our friends’ flight was right on time so we were off for them to check in and then explore the various parts of Panama City Beach.
Although it was cool and overcast, I still persisted in wearing shorts. Such a rebel am I! Monday was perhaps the most “Florida-like” of the week, with sun darting in and out of a gray cloud cover. The temperature was good enough for us to spend several hours poolside, soaking some sunshine into our winterized bodies.
Unfortunately, that was the only day we were able to feel good about any kind of poolside lounging. Of course, there were a couple of days of downright cold temperatures, where the long pants were in order, so I stowed my rebellious ways for the sake of being warm and comfortable.
And my grandiose plans to work on my writing fell by the wayside, as I booted up my MacBook Pro only once during the week. Neither was I in the proper frame of mind to write fiction, nor was there a good place to get away and write in peace and solitude as I prefer. So I made lots of mental notes and reminders of what I had to get going on as soon as I got back home.
On the other hand, I managed to get lots of reading done—The Billionaire’s Vinegar—a story about the world’s most expensive bottle of wine and the mystery surrounding it. Not much of a wine fanatic or devotee, I wasn’t all that enthralled with the book. But it’s for a book club discussion in the near future, so I plodded through it and finished it during those cold days in Florida.
Whatever else we weren’t able to do during the week, we made up for with our nightly dinners. Seafood was the order of our stay there, and we had some delicious grouper, seafood platters, and scallops, to name a few of our favorites.
In Panama City Beach, there are numerous fine places to get good seafood: Dirty Dicks, Sharkey’s, Harpoon Harry’s, The Front Porch, and The Whale’s Tail over on the beach in Destin. Nothing goes together like a cold bottle of Bud and a blackened grouper sandwich!
Our last night there, we had a wonderful dinner at Captain Anderson’s, a Panama City Beach tradition since 1967. It is one of those classic old-time restaurants, with lots of room and plenty of tables (all filled!) to accommodate hundreds. Our meals were well worth the cost, and it was a wonderful way to wrap up a fun—though chilly—week with friends.
The next morning, we packed up, checked out, and dropped Bill and Barb off at the airport and continued up the road for home, where we hoped to arrive right around midnight. But that is a story for my next post.
It hasn’t taken very long for my life to get extremely busy once again! Not complaining, mind you, just mentioning that everything seems to begin to happen all at the same time, and it’s not always easy to get going again, to get “back in the flow.”
Not so long ago, I was writing about how things had slowed down to a crawl, especially with my regular writing routine. But these past couple of days, that aspect of my life has gotten a good jump-start, for a couple of reasons: First, I went computer shopping at the Apple Store in Naperville yesterday and bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro with an AirPort Time Capsule (which I’m anxious to figure out). I was going to go with the 13-inch screen, but the kind wife that I have insisted that I should have the larger screen (old eyes, you know!) and that the money would be there for it. Hard to argue with that line of thinking!
Second, Gwen Hernandez’s Scrivener for Mac-Intermediate class began this morning, and I’m mentally “back” into all things Scrivener after completing lesson 1. I can tell just from the first lesson, that it’s going to be another worthwhile and valuable class for the next few weeks.
But there were a few obstacles I had to work around in order to be ready for the onset of this morning’s first lesson. The major concern was my being without my ancient MacBook (late 2007), having left it at the Apple Store yesterday to have all of the data, Apps, programs, files, etc., transferred to my new MacBook Pro. This presented a problem at first, since I would be without my laptop at least until Thursday and would put me behind in Gwen’s
Then it hit me! I could use my wife’s MacBook to access the class forum site and be able to download the lessons without missing anything. Of course, my wife doesn’t have or use Scrivener at the moment, so that was another concern. But one of the beauties of Literature and Latte’s Scrivener is that they offer a 30-day free trial.
With that in mind, I downloaded it to the wife’s computer and am able to move ahead with Gwen’s class and resume work on my novel–waking it from hibernation–without missing any time. And as it will probably turn out when things are back to “normal” around here and I’m back on my own laptop with my own registered Scrivener, the trial version will expire. But the wife just might be interested in using it for her genealogy and ancestry stuff and will probably purchase it as well.
And so my week has begun with a flurry of activity in things computer and Scrivener related. Then there was the “gathering” on Sunday we had to prepare for last week. As it turned out, we had a wonderful dinner party here on Sunday with nearly thirty folks from the wife’s place of business in attendance. It was a wonderful time, great food, and many laughs and bits of conversation, but there’s that thing called “clean up” and getting chairs, tables, coolers, dishes, etc., back in their proper places. Though we’ve made a pretty good dent in getting that all taken care of, there’s still more awaiting–as soon as I can find the “spirit” to pull away from my writing!
Now, I am eager to hear from the good folks at the Apple Store that my new computer is all set up and ready for me to pick it up on Thursday morning when I’m taking one of their One-to-One “lessons” to go over the new operating system and other things on how the MacBook Pro works. In the meantime, I’d best see what I can do to move my novel along, further out of hibernation!…CortlandWriter
It was the first really nice, warm spring day we’ve had so far, and our two-hour drive out to spend the afternoon with good friends at their rural lake house in western Illinois was very enjoyable. Having spent time with both of our kids’ families this past week, we would be alone for Easter Sunday. Instead, we were invited to join Barb and Bill and their son and his wife and two boys for dinner and an enjoyable day of doing nothing!
Following the early Easter church service and delicious breakfast, we came home, changed clothes, and set off for a leisurely drive through the rich northern Illinois farm land. And after the long, hard winter months, everything about the fields and yards we passed seemed to cry out in relief, as if to say: “Finally, we’re ready. Let’s start the growing cycle all over again.”
As we rolled along the old highway, my window partially down to let the good fresh air in, we saw how green things were actually becoming, a sure sign that new life and growth was definitely taking place. No polar vortex was going to interfere with any of that! It was a good feeling to realize that very thing.
Shortly after we arrived at Bill and Barb’s, we sat down to a tasty Easter dinner. Thick pork chops
off the grill—cooked perfectly!—Michigan asparagus we’d brought along, sweet potatoes, various salads and chilled jello with fruit made for a sumptuous and delectable meal. Carolyn’s traditional Easter angel food cake, decorated with jelly beans and those yellow Peeps, was the perfect ending.
The remainder of the afternoon, we spent outside on their deck in comfortable chairs, enjoying the wonderful sunshine and terrific refreshing breezes. Our conversation turned to dreams and wishes we still might wish to have actually come true—sort of a “bucket list” type of discussion, even though I don’t care much for that term!
I hadn’t really given any of that much thought lately, but it didn’t take me too long to answer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to drive the entire length of the famed Mother Road, Route 66. I always said that upon retirement that would be one of the first things we would do. Of course, I’ve been retired since 2007 and have yet to take that journey, but yesterday’s brief chat session kind of rekindled—got the juices flowing once again—the idea and desire to set off from downtown Chicago and hit the road that is
such an iconic piece of American legend and lore.
I’ve traveled much of the Illinois portion of the Mother Road, but I long to cross the big river and explore ever westward. I think Carolyn and I will have to seriously consider working that in to our plans before too many more years fly off the calendar! At any rate, it made for a pleasant and whimsical conversation on a beautiful, sunny, warm Easter afternoon with a couple of very good friends….CortlandWriter
Writing today from the mountains of western North Carolina at Carolyn’s brother’s place in Waynesville and am enjoying a day without driving, getting in-and-out of the car, and subsisting on McDonald’s coffee (large, one cream). With our wonderful time in Florida behind us, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the reality of the “northern” climate once more. Our time with Bob and Georgia in North Port was truly magnificent, and our across-the-state journey to Stuart to spend an overnight on Tuesday with Nick and Jane was a great way to wrap up our sunshine-filled vacation. The evening was highlighted by a delicious meal of jumbo sea scallops, prepared by Nick, and several bottles of Yuengling Lager. Such are the good things in life!
Bidding them adieu on Wednesday, Carolyn and I enjoyed a leisurely cruise up to Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach where we spent lots of time (and dollars!) before setting out on I-95 for a “mile-eating” remainder of the day. Our plan was to end up somewhere in South Carolina by 8:30 so the next day’s drive to her brother’s in North Carolina wouldn’t be too arduous. And so it was that we found a nice room at the Rice Planters Inn, just off I-95 near Walterboro, South Carolina, where we settled in for the night. It didn’t take long, either, for the hum of the motel air conditioner to lull me to sleep.
When we’re in this part of the country, we always pay a visit to nearby Cherokee, which we did right away yesterday, and Carolyn was very disappointed in what she found (or didn’t find) this time. Of course, many of the shops are closed for the season, or those that were opened simply didn’t offer much in the kinds of things she was hoping to find. I’m sure we’ll try once again on our next trek through these parts, and I’m always prepared with a book to enjoy while she roams the various shops of Cherokee.
It’s always nice to spend time here at Carolyn’s brother’s place for a few days whenever we’re heading in either direction. Today is an “R and R” day–rest and recover–before we head back out on the big road and begin the last leg of our journey homeward on Monday. Aside from updating my blogs and doing some quiet reading (it is very quiet here!), we have nothing really planned. And that’s very much OK with me. I had expressed some interest in paying a visit to O. Henry’s grave over in Asheville, but I’ve reconsidered that idea, realizing that I saw a very nice photo of his grave stone on the Internet, and what more could I possibly glean from a physical visit to the cemetery, other than that I could say, “I was there.” Quite frankly, I have no desire to go anywhere near our car today. So O. Henry will have to remain resting in peace without my physical visit. Love your stories, Mr. William Sydney Porter, but I see no need to venture on over to your final resting place today!
Now, it’s time to post this and then check up on some other blogs I subscribe to. It’s rainy and mostly gray outside, so what better way to enjoy this day of “R and R”? …CortlandWriter
Well, we made it! I type this from the cool and shady lanai (a fancy name for screened porch) and am thoroughly enjoying donning shorts and t-shirt, sans footwear.
Leaving Illinois last Saturday, a cold and typically-February afternoon, we drove the short distance to West Lafayette, Indiana, and spent the night with a nephew and family. Up and out early on Sunday, we put on the miles, ending up in Tallahassee, Florida, where we had a Super 8 Motel room waiting! And it was only just shy of 10 p.m., so we had time for a good night’s sleep to get ready for our drive on down to Clearwater Beach and another overnight with friends in their waterside condo. Out for a delicious seafood dinner at a nearby restaurant and then back for some late-night chit-chat before hitting the sack once again.
The next morning found us out and on the road once more. This time, our destination was North Port, Florida, where we will be until next Tuesday. At that time, we’ll cross over to the other side of Florida and hook up with good friends there in Stuart for a day and night and then continue working our way back north. We’re looking forward to a few days in the mountains of western North Carolina. A visit to Asheville to see the grave of one of my favorite writers, O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) and, without fail, a stop in Cherokee.
By then, it will almost be time for the long journey back home to northern Illinois. Lots of miles, but that’s all part of our adventure! Needless to say, the trip hasn’t grown any shorter, yet we both have enjoyed the journey. And now it’s time to refresh my icy drink as the gentle breezes cool the 80° day…CortlandWriter
On this gray day, I received word that an old friend with whom I had officiated hockey had passed away last month–quite suddenly it seems. He was 75 and had experienced some health issues off and on during recent years. Although I hadn’t seen or talked to him for a long, long time, the many memories of our hockey refereeing together came flooding back through the fog of time.
I had played hockey for a couple of years in the early 70s at Kent State following the tragic events of May 4, 1970. Once I graduated from KSU in 1973, I put my skates and other hockey paraphernalia in dry dock as I had other things to occupy my mind: a.) finding a teaching job; b.) finding a place to live; c.) buying a car; d.) all of the above. And the sport and my love of skating faded away. So my life took on a whole new meaning and direction as I ended up about 50 miles from St. Louis, a long, long way from home in suburban Chicago!
Fast forward from there almost seven years to 1980. The U.S. Olympic Hockey Team was creating its “Miracle on Ice” moment-in-time, and my interest in the sport was suddenly re-kindled. And I read an ad in a local paper stating that referees were needed for the youth hockey program at a nearby rink. I figured I knew enough about the game and had the ability to qualify for just such a position. Besides, most games would pay me something like $10.
I showed up at the rink and that’s where I met referee-in-chief, Stew. An insurance agent in “real life,” he became my mentor, tutor, and friend that day as we refereed several little kids’ games. I realized that I had lots to learn about the finer points of working games, even at that minor level of competition. Stew straightened me out in a very personable and kind way, and we worked many a game together over the next several years.
We especially became regulars working Men’s League games on Sunday nights–usually beginning at 10:30! By the time the game was over, usually close to midnight, we’d drive a mile or so to his office and refresh ourselves into the “wee” hours with cold beer and chips or popcorn. I still feel like hell when I recall trying to get up to go teach school on Monday mornings following our late-night games and post-game “refreshments” and crawling into bed around 3 A.M. But, then again, I was in my early 30s and I could do lots of crazy things and survive.
At some point, we got involved with officiating roller hockey on other Sundays, and that was a lot of work because we worked the games in gym shoes, not on skates. It was a lot of running, but I was in pretty good shape because of it. Regardless, the after-game refreshments continued. We were becoming well known around the league and worked lots of games through the winter months as well as some summer leagues.
Sadly, the “dynamic duo” had to hang it up as I was moving to Florida (1985). I thought I had worked my last hockey games with Stew at that point, but strange things happen. To make a long story short, my teaching career in Florida was short circuited with the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, since the economy of that part of Florida was tied very closely to NASA and the space program. In the meantime, my old job in Illinois came open again, and I was asked by my superintendent if I would consider coming back. I did, and, eventually, hooked back up with hockey and my friend the insurance agent, Stew!
It wasn’t quite the same since we were older and had other things going on in our lives, but we shared many more laughs and reminisced about those glorious days of “yesteryear” when we began skating and working games together and running up and down that roller rink every Sunday night. It was a road full of many fun times, many laughs, and many late-night memories.
I will often think of those times and, perhaps, someday dig my skates out of hibernation and lace ’em up once more for old time’s sake. And when I do, Stew will be yelling at me to position myself better along the boards, or pay attention to other parts of the game and not just the puck carrier, or dig into the cooler for just one more brew…
Traveling along the road with Stew was good. I thank him for his friendship and late-night adventures…MLA