Happy birthday to me…

I’ve been away from this blog for far too long, and what better time to jump back into posting some poignant and cogent thoughts than on my birthday? Yep, I’ve reached another milestone in this life, and it’s a terrific day outside to add to the occasion. At this writing, a few minutes past 10:00 A.M. Central Time, it’s sunny, clear, and 73° with a most delightful breeze. To say the least, it was perfect for my early-morning coffee on the deck, one of the few times I’ve been able to do so this “spring” with all of the chilly and rainy weather that’s been the rule rather than the exception here in northern Illinois.

The farmers have been desperate to find a “window” to be able to get their fields prepared and planted in time for a fall harvest. Usually by this time each year, corn and soy beans are sprouting up from the good, rich soil. It is doubtful if the field directly behind us will even be planted this year. It has become pretty much an overgrown wasteland. With the warmer dry weather lately, I look out each day to see if any tractors are getting going to break it up and get it planted. Alas, nothing yet!

Weather issues aside, we have spent several weekends “out and about,” mostly for family events: High school graduations in Omaha and West Lafayette; a three-day visit to see my mother in Ohio. 

In early May, I set out one Saturday and took part in the Illinois Route 66 Association’s Red Carpet Corridor event between Joliet and the central Illinois town of Towanda. The gorgeous day provided a wonderful backdrop for driving from town to town along the famous old Mother Road. The day brought back many memories of 2017 when we drove the whole route—Chicago to Santa Monica Pier in California.

And, of course, there have been the grandsons’ baseball games to attend, and the annual NASCAR weekend over in Brooklyn, Michigan. Again, it was a fun time, with the exception of having the big race rained out on Sunday. As always, that’s the chance one takes. Seems as though we’re hitting more rain issues every year. Mother Nature enjoys playing spoiler with us.

With summer about to bloom again, it’s time for me to get a move on and finish my writing projects that have lain dormant for too long. It’s time to continue my water exercise program I began in May at the YMCA three days a week. It’s time to go for walks and find those smiles once again. It’s time to bring this blog back to its original intent when I launched it a few years ago. It’s time to make this birthday one of re-emphasizing that life is good.

Happy birthday to me!

Back home and the song of the open road…

I’m writing this and looking out into a foggy world, punctuated by a heavy drizzle that seems to be trying to do its best to get rid of the existing snow that is leftover from the last two weeks’ storms. And it’s a bit depressing at the moment since we spent the last three weeks in warm and sunny climes such as Florida, New Orleans, and Memphis.

I know it’s only late February, and this weather is typical for northern Illinois this time of the year, but I was beginning to get awfully comfy and content with those temperatures that hovered in the 80s down there in Dixie!

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Siesta Key Beach
(24 hours later…)

Up early today to take our Malibu in to have the right-rear tire checked to see why it has been losing air. Since the tires aren’t that old, there probably is some slow leak or nail causing the problem.

Driving through thick fog for the second straight day made for a slow trip to Firestone, about 20 miles away from home. As it turned out, the good Firestone folks couldn’t find anything significantly wrong with the tire, so they cleaned and sealed (whatever that entails!) and aired everything up and told me to “keep an eye on it.”

OK. Not a problem. So I’m hoping that this is the extent of any further issues regarding the Malibu’s right rear tire. We shall see.

Now, at this writing, it’s 55 degrees, and the fog has  finally cleared. I can actually see way out past the water tower and on across the sodden and barren fields which lie there rather ugly with all of the snow gone.

About an hour ago, I strolled out back and filled the bird feeders. Afterwards, I had even thought about grabbing a chair and sitting out on the driveway for a while. Just then, the wind kicked up and a steady blast of rain started to beat down, squelching any further thoughts of having a “sit” outside in the mild temperatures. Perhaps tomorrow.

Things are slowly returning to normal after three weeks away from the norm. We’ve spent the past couple of days sorting through mail and taking care of those domestic chores that we were free from thinking about over the past few weeks. Even with accomplishing much these past two days, there’s still plenty to do in the days ahead.

And soon I’ll be doing my civic duty once more, serving as an election judge for the upcoming election in March. I’ll also be working a few days at the early-voting polling place beginning next week. That part of the experience will be something new, so another adventure lies ahead.

Our travels are finished for the time being, but I will be making a trip out to Ohio sometime in March to visit my mother. By that time, I’ll be ready to once more listen to the song of the open road!

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Sunset at Punta Gorda Pier-Harpoon Harry’s

That morning I’ve been awaiting…

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The “lane” through the cherry orchard to the cottage

It rained sometime in the pre-dawn hours. I heard its pleasant patter on the roof above my head upstairs as I was about to get up to put the coffee on. I pulled the covers back over me and lay there and enjoyed the sound.

Now, a couple of hours later, it’s gray, a slight breeze ruffles the wind chimes out here on the screened porch, and all is quiet on the lake and surrounding land. No wave runners or zealous ski boats are churning things up this morning as the “reality” of mid-week settles in.

Coffee cup filled now, it’s time for me to get to “work.” My trusty MacBook has waited patiently these past few days for me to be inspired enough to fire it up and catch up on my writing. Instead, my mornings have been given over to reading rather than the creation of my own words, and all of the noise and excitement of the 4th of July weekend wasn’t too conducive for getting any kind of writing going, either.

This morning is different, though. My current “read”–The Aviators–rests inside and will stay inside until I’m finished with this post and some work on the novel.  Later, we’re heading away from the lake for lunch and a visit to an Outlet Mall in Michigan City. With the change in the weather, I suppose it’s a good day for that, too.

With some company arriving this coming weekend, I guess getting this sort of weather out of the way now is a good thing, and, besides, it is that inspiration for me to start up the MacBook and get back to writing! Let’s hope so…

In my next post, I will share my thoughts about all of those books I’ve read rather than spend time writing. Which causes me to wonder: When did/do all of the good and famous authors find time to read and get their writing done?

Have a good week, everyone. 🙂IMG_0866.jpg

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Starting my day with a cardinal’s song…

What a difference a week makes!

Last weekend, I made a quick trip out to Ohio where we were “treated” to five inches of snow late Friday night, creating a winter wonderland. Ordinarily, that’s something I enjoy—just not on April 8th!

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Last Saturday morning in Marblehead, Ohio

And although we didn’t have any snow here at home in northern Illinois, it was annoyingly cold to begin this week. However, a gradual warming trend has crept in, and it’s actually beginning to show promise that things might be good for the foreseeable future.

It is even rumored that it might warm up to the high 60s (F) on Saturday. I say “rumored” because I don’t often put much credence in some of the weather folks’ predictions. As always, we shall see.

Because of this weather turnaround the past couple of days, I’ve been able to continue with my “de-winterizing” of things outside:  Removing the protective screening from around most of our bushes and hauling all of the deck furniture and tables and plant stands up from the basement yesterday. (Love those stairs!)

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The deck open for business!

I still need to get the hose and reel and patio furniture out from beneath the deck where they’ve hibernated since last fall. Those duties are on my “To Do” list for today, which is an even more delightful day than yesterday was. (I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to judge those weather people!)

Another sign that maybe the winter blahs have fled is how much lighter it is in the morning when I get up—usually between 5:30 and 6:00. Nothing like watching the sunrise while I brew that morning coffee and read whatever it is I’m reading at the moment. (American Gospel by Jon Meacham)

I’ve even resumed my morning walking regimen, striking out the past few days in brilliant sunshine for my twenty minutes of brisk enjoyment of the neighborhoods around here.

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The green, green grass out back!

This morning as I set out, I was greeted by a very happy and loud cardinal, singing and calling out to one and all from his perch atop our neighbor’s tree that he, too, was glad that things have turned around to the more pleasant side of life.

When I returned feeling wonderful and ready for the day, I took my coffee out to the deck and savored the sights and sounds and smells all about.

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First coffee on the deck this spring

 

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Home for another robin’s nest?

 

The grass I mowed yesterday is even greener this morning!

There’s a robin snooping about and investigating the big evergreen for a nest, I’m sure.

The morning air is still cool, and a fleece jacket or sweatshirt is in order, but there’s just something now that seems to be pointing to the warm days not too far off.

As the morning turns to afternoon, there is no need for the jacket, and I’m even “inspired” to complete those remaining “de-winterizing” jobs out there. I’ll even find time to sit in the sun, on the deck, and listen to that cardinal’s happy song. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say tomorrow morning as well.IMG_1705.JPG

 

Catching up: Busy days and friendship through the years….

 

It’s been a few weeks—nearly a month—since my last post, and I must confess that I really have no good reason to have avoided writing something in that span of time. Suffice it to say, however, that it has been a busy month with appointments, grandsons’ basketball games, getting the Thanksgiving together and the Christmas lights up and working. (Still can’t figure out those light timers!)

A splendid sunrise over the first snowstorm in late November
A splendid sunrise over the first snowstorm in late November

On top of that, we’ve had weather to contend with. About a week ago, we were hit by one of those early snowfalls that dumped nearly a half a foot of snow in most of northern Illinois.

Of course it would come in at the exact moment that my son and I were setting out for a five-hour drive to southern Illinois for our annual pheasant hunt with my good friend and his son.

Driving was slow-going for the first few hours, but the farther south we got, the snow dwindled, replaced by rain. By the time we got to my friend’s house, it was just cold, damp, and clear of any snow. We had a great couple of days there (we always do!) and the return trip home wasn’t bad at all.

About that friend…

Steve and I became long-lasting friends a long time ago, in late-summer 1973, when we both happened to be walking in the door of a small, rural school in south central Illinois at the same time, to begin our first days of teaching careers. Although we had never met before, there seemed to be a sort of instant bonding, since we were both in the same boat and were strangers in new and unfamiliar territory.

Steve was from way down in southern Illinois, a product of Southern Illinois University; I was from the western suburbs of Chicago and a recent graduate of Kent State out in Ohio. To say that it was good to meet someone in the same situation as I right off the bat, would be an understatement. And from that first “walking-in-the-door” meet up, we both tended to do things together, as we wound our way through those first hours, days, weeks, and months as teachers and coaches.

I soon discovered that Steve was an avid hunter and fisherman, two things I had never really done much of, other than a few forays out into the woods with my dad when I was too young to tote a gun. But I was soon invited to join Steve and a few other teachers for opening day of dove season.

That experience is one of those that gets etched in one’s memory! The recently harvested corn fields were drenched in golden sunshine, and the friendly chat among our little group did something that erased all the doubt I’d had about taking a job so far from familiar things. Perhaps for the first time, I really felt included (although I wasn’t a very good shot!), and the day turned out to be much, much more than killing birds. To this day, I cherish that late-afternoon we tramped through those shorn fields, waiting for the doves to come in, getting to know those other guys, and sharing things about my life with them.

My friend Steve
My friend Steve

Being single, Steve and I were pretty free to march to our own drummers. He and I would hunt and fish many times in the years that followed, and summers would find us playing fast pitch softball for a country tavern out in the boonies.

When I finally got married a couple of years later, things obviously changed–except for the friendship! That has remained. When an opportunity to move north came about a couple of years after I married, Carolyn and I took a chance on it, especially since she was from there. Although I spent most of my career there as a result, I really never forgot my beginnings down there in the small town or that very first dove hunt.

Since then, every November’s been a regular routine to travel on down for a day of pheasant hunting with my good friend Steve. We sometimes kid each other about what would have happened had we not been nervously walking into the school, at the same time, all those years ago. I suppose it was just one of those timely strokes of good fortune that we did.

A snowy homeward adventure…

English: A view of Panama City Beach, Florida ...
English: A view of Panama City Beach, Florida from St. Andrews State Recreation Area (in the United States). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my last post, I wrote about our trip to Florida and what a good time we had with two good friends, despite the non-Florida-like weather.

We had planned to head over to New Orleans for a few days, after dropping Bill and Barb off at the Panama City Beach airport, but the weather forecast sort of took our enthusiasm out of the equation, and we decided, instead, to get on the road and drive straight home to northern Illinois.

Our driving conditions were ideal all the way up through Alabama, Tennessee, and most of southern Kentucky. However, as soon as we got back into our dear home state of Illinois about 7 p.m., the heavy snow had begun, and, of course, we were several hours from home. We kept thinking that the farther north we drove, the less the storm would be—based on the weather maps and radar we were intent on watching!

I was forced to creep along behind semis at a top speed of 19 mph, and the storm continued to intensify. Many vehicles had spun out and into the median, stuck for a long night, and others had exited into the deep ditches and woods on the other side of the highway. What state trucks were out plowing or salting, were finding it difficult to keep up with the heavy snow, and it was pretty obvious that we needed to get off the highway!

salem_ilThe long stretch of interstate between Carbondale and Effingham, Illinois, is dark and sparsely populated. What towns there are, north of Mount Vernon, are small and offer few options for accommodations. We exited at Salem, Illinois, a town of about 7,500 people. We filled up with gas, and the woman working at the station was very helpful and called a couple of the motels there.

The first had no vacancies, but we lucked out on the second one. The Guest House International was only a block away, and we slowly slogged our way there, where we found several others waiting there with the same idea as us.

But, as promised, the woman clerk had held one of the few remaining rooms and we were thankful. It was good—and safe—to be off the road and out of the storm for the night!

We were up and out by 8:00 the next morning and found the interstate to be passable but not really ideal for travel. But at least it was daylight and it wasn’t snowing as it had been the night before. I took it easy, and we worked our way up north where the weather had been much better and very little in the way of snow. By the time we made it home in the late afternoon, we were both tired and glad to be off the road.

Last week the frigid temperatures broke and the past several days have been very pleasant, and new life seems to be rapping at our door. People are out and about and enjoying the 40s and 50s that are gracing us with their presence this week. Little by little, all of the accumulated snow is disappearing and larger patches of grass in our yards are unmasking with every passing hour.

Our snow time ordeal seems like a long way off at this point. Now, it’s time to think about first applications of spring fertilizer, a new lawnmower, and sitting out on the deck for morning coffee! Have we truly worked ourselves out of the throes of winter’s relentless grip? I certainly hope so….

Panama City Beach, Florida.
Panama City Beach, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another February Adventure…

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.

English: This is a clear west facing view of P...
English: This is a clear west facing view of Panama City Beach in the state of Florida, USA. It was taken from the viewpoint of St. Andrews pier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Dinner at Harpoon Harry's-Surf and white sands in the background!
Dinner at Harpoon Harry’s

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.

If it’s February, it must be time to travel…

January
January (Photo credit: Deadly Tedly)

The end is near…

…Yes, the end of January, that is, and this means that the wife and I are about to embark on our annual February vacation/road trip.

This year, the weather being what it has been, the two of us are most definitely in the mood to load the car and set out for points south.

That is exactly what we plan to do late next Tuesday evening, when we’ll leave our tiny hamlet here in northern Illinois and set sail for Stone Mountain, Georgia, our first stopping point on this year’s adventure. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the recent snow, icy roads, and howling winds will not rear their ugly heads again on the night we want to get out and on the road.

We’ll spend a couple of days in and around the Atlanta area, with plans to visit Margaret Mitchell’s home and The World of Coca-Cola before heading east to the A H. Stephens State Park, named after Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.

Why this park, you ask? It seems as though Carolyn, my wife, recently discovered, in her many extensive and exhaustive ancestry/genealogical researches, that A.H. Stephens was a second-cousin, twice removed.

That being the case, it will be way more meaningful and fun when we tour the

English: I took this picture at Liberty Hall i...
Liberty Hall in Crawfordville, Georgia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Confederate museum and Liberty Hall, Stephens’s home. We also have reservations for a two-night’s stay in one of the cottages located in the park, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

Then it will be on to Savannah, Georgia, a place we stopped at briefly one time years ago on our way to our home at the time in Titusville, Florida. I recall it being a beautiful, historic spot, and I will enjoy the two days we plan to spend there learning more about the place. And if the weather is as typically moderate and pleasant as I’ve heard, that can’t be all bad, either.

On the road again to Charleston, South Carolina, for a few days and to find out, first-hand, what everyone has forever told us about Charleston being one of their very favorite places to visit and spend time. The historic stuff alone will be well worth the time and money we’re investing in this February’s trip. I’m eagerly awaiting that part of the journey.

And it can’t be a February get-away without spending some time in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina at Carolyn’s brother’s house in Waynesville. We’ll make the relatively short drive there when finished immersing ourselves in all things Charleston. Our weekend with her brother and his wife will be fun and relaxing before we make the drive from there back to northern Illinois.

At each of these wonderful places along the way, I plan to get plenty of writing done in the evenings: updating this blog, working on the current WIP, and sending e-mail. Last year’s February genealogy “field trip” to Athens County, Ohio, Coalwood, West Virginia, and Waynesville, coincided with the start of Gwen Hernandez’s online Scrivener for Mac class. During the course of that trip, I completed several of the first lessons that Gwen would post each day. I found it to be lots of fun working through the lessons in a different location each morning.

Now that February is creeping in (and not a moment too soon!), it’s time to dig the Eddie Bauer bag out of the closet, get the clothes laid out and packed, and begin to get serious about hitting the road. Leaving northern Illinois for a couple of weeks will be just what the two of us need–if the weather “gods” see fit to smile on us!

I’m looking forward to writing about all of this as the miles and days unfold beginning next week. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter

Cortland, IL
Cortland, IL (Photo credit: moominsean)
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It’s such a good feeling…

I took this picture early one morning on my wa...
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It never ceases to amaze me how true the old adage is that time flies when you’re having fun. July has come and gone in a flash, and perhaps it seems that way because this was possibly the best July—weatherwise—I can remember. I don’t know if that qualifies as fun, but we’ve certainly had our share of it because we’ve been allowed to.

With moderate temperatures allowing us to be outside without grousing and growling about the (dis)comfort level, those July days and nights rolled right on by and on into August. And since August showed up, the pleasant weather conditions have continued. Suddenly, it’s already the 3rd of the month! See what I mean about time flying?

Perhaps the law of averages has caught up and figured they owed us all a summer without heavy drought and heat and prolonged humidity. Anything would be better than what we faced last year, and this summer has been a wonderful surprise.

I love having this sweatshirt on as I type these profound and prodigious (courtesy of Homer Hickam) observations. I love looking out to the lake as the morning sun has burned through the shroud of fog and the water sparkles and the pontoon awaits and the day beckons.

It’s a good morning leading into a good day overall! It’s such a good feeling…(courtesy of Mr. Rogers). And may your day be one as well…CortlandWriter