Not quite Ice Road Truckers

Breaking from our usual routine of doing yard work, we set out on a short adventure for the day.  The weekend was going to be rainy anyway so it was the perfect opportunity to take a road trip.  We packed up some Fudge Stripe cookies, Cheetos, a six-pack of Cokes in the bottle and a Boar’s Head ham sandwich.  We grabbed the bear spray, bug spray and rubber boots just in case we decided to venture off the trail.  We set off in the truck to explore.

As usual, we quickly got into our habit of discussing everything and anything.  We never tire of being together, talking about things that have been and things to come.  Before we knew it, about an 45 minutes into the trip, we came to the spot that we’d had to turn around at the previous year.  Chris has been pining away to do this trip since we got here about this time last year.  The fire was nowhere to be found but the smoke was so thick that it obscured the road.  The fire fighters encouraged us to turn around as so we did.  This day though, the air was clear.  The only white we saw were the low clouds.  The burned trees were shiny black and spindly.  We fell silent, taking it all in.  Looking at the deep scar on the earth.

Out of the dimness emerged the pipeline snaking up the side of a hill before it dropped back underground.  I pointed it out and reached for my phone to snap a grainy pic through the windshield.  It’s just a pipe but it never ceases to amaze me.  It reminds me that we’re in Alaska.  I think about the men and equipment that it took to erect it.  It’s truly a wonder of the world.

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It wasn’t long before we were on the actual Dalton Highway.  The same highway that the Ice Road Truckers use.  We were ecstatic just at the idea of being someplace we’d never been before.  Before we’d moved to Alaska, we’d watched the Ice Road Truckers series.  I asked why it was called that since we were clearly on pavement and Chris replied that there must be portions of it that go over ice in the winter.  We’d drive for long periods of time without seeing another vehicle.  We mostly passed semi-trucks who were going so fast that I feared they would tip over on the turns.  It was so shocking to see them coming roaring at us after not seeing anyone for such long periods.  I wondered if I should’ve called Mama before we set off to tell her what we were doing.  Being in Alaska, it was often advised to do so since there’s such remote areas that if something did happen, it could take weeks before they’d actually find you.

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Just as quickly as we reached the highway, it dropped off to dirt.  Well, on a dry day it would’ve been dirt but it was a sloppy mess.  Chris started laughing.  I joined in, wondering how our new truck was going to hold up and picturing us washing it.  It needed a good coat of wax before winter anyway.

The temperatures stayed in the 50’s all day.  Winter was coming.  We fell silent for a bit, the radio having long ago gone to static.  I tried scanning but got nothing.  Chris said to plug in her phone.  I did and began to remove all the songs of mine that she hates, taking a break from being on the lookout for critters.  She said that we’d turn around once we hit a half a tank of gas.  I leaned over and took a look.  We’d used just over a quarter of a tank.  There was nothingness all around us.  Spruce and birch, thick at times and then spots of open tundra.  I wanted to see a lazy bear or a munching moose but then again, I didn’t really for fear of them running out in front of us.  I always think of that as a “careful what you wish for” thing.

When the Yukon River came into sight, it was exciting.  We’d made it to the Yukon.  It just sounded fun.  Crossing it however proved to be anything but.  We clunked down this pretty steep bridge over the swollen river.  Chris asked what the bull horns were for that were mounted to it.  I wondered if it was single lane.  It was super narrow.  We hadn’t even checked if anything was coming but luckily nothing was.  Chris said that the bridge was wood.  I sat up on the edge of my seat, thinking that I could somehow help.  She said it was slippery with all of the mud on it.  It didn’t seem slippery to me so I chalked it up to her being nervous about driving the bridge.  At the end of the bridge, we squealed at the sight of the services sign.  We pulled in and sat in the truck staring at the dilapidated trailer that had a huge FOOD, LODGING, GAS sign.  There were two motorcycles parked out front and several big trucks.  We’d passed two other motorcyclists with Chris saying how sorry she felt for them and me admiring them and wanting to do the trip as well.  I spoke up and said that I wasn’t going in.  It was a place of nightmares.  Chris wanted to top off with gas.  I thought we should try and go further.  We had to pee.  We left but found that across the street was a park information hut an toilets.  We shot across the road and once we’d parked, I popped the door open.  It was suctioned closed with mud.  We laughed and were so proud of ourselves for making such a mess of the truck and being on such an awesome adventure.

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It wasn’t as fun going to the bathroom.  It had seen better days but served its purpose.  We hopped back in the truck and then discussed whether we should try the place across the street to get gas.  I was afraid to go in.  Chris was afraid of running out of gas.  It was a single pump with an above ground tank.  I told her we shouldn’t use it.  We started back on the road and I changed my mind.  She pulled over and then decided to go back.  We pulled up and hopped out again, tippy toeing into the trailer so as to not cover ourselves in mud.  When we entered, there was only two guys sitting at a table eating.  Not the crowd of rowdy men I’d pictured in my head.  A young girl with the sides of her head shaved but long in the middle hair, greeted us.  We asked about gas and handed her a twenty.  We had just under three quarters of a tank so it wouldn’t take much to fill it.  She took the money and wished us a nice day.  As we walked out, I felt stupid.  Chris said she was glad we stopped.  We pulled up to the pump, and I heard Chris say “Gross”.  We kept having to wipe our fingers off from the slop of mud when opening the door so I figured she was trying to get the gas door open.  I hear her explain “Oh my God”.  I lean over and see the $5.49 on the pump for the gas.  The $20 didn’t get us quite to a full tank, but it was ok, it would be enough to get us there but more importantly, to get us back.

We were quickly on the road again, with the pipeline at our side as it had been for quite awhile.  At the top of a hill, the landscape changed.  The trees disappeared and large formations of rock grew up out of the ground.  We found a pull off and decided to snap a few shots.  We walked up a short trail with signs of native Alaskans hunting caribou and describing the tundra.  We marched up to the top and took in the surroundings.  Then it started to rain.  We jogged back to the truck and hopped in, a skill we were acquiring as to not get mud on the back of our pants from the bottom of the door jam.

We fussed with our hair which was wild and crazy looking from the run and the rain.  I popped the visor mirror open and saw the curls forming.  My hair is getting long because I’ve been struggling with stylists in the area.  I saw Michael in the mirror as I always do when the curls appear.  I snapped the cover down to close the mirror and popped the visor back up.  We hopped back on the road and I saw a spot of tundra that was turning red.  It was too late, the camera was wet and we wanted to get back on the road.  The colors of fall in Alaska would show every so often and I would still wonder at the fact that it’s just August and fall is here.  I’ve not even harvested the garden yet, what little we can harvest since the summer was pretty wet this year.

Chris began to get worried that we’d somehow missed our ending point where we’d turn around and head back.  I told her I didn’t think we had.  And no sooner had we just about given up hope, our gas gauge reaching for the half-way point itself, that we saw the Arctic Circle sign.  We cheered as we pulled in “we made it”.

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We hopped out of the truck again, hiking up our pants.  I asked Chris what the arctic circle was.  She laughed and said it was some map thing.  I said it was the top of the world but didn’t really know what significance that meant.  We laughed and took pictures of the sign.  Chris said, “there we are!”  I didn’t get it.  She could tell and said, there’s Alaska.  I still couldn’t find it but finally found it and realized there was a star on it.  Duh.

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We checked out the signs that were similar to the signs we’d seen on our last stop.  Look for caribou, fox and waterfowl.  As we were getting into the truck, I heard another couple exclaim “we made it!” and I smiled.  We weren’t so unique but it was fun to think that there are others like us.  I climbed in and again proud of myself for not mucking up my pants.  My floor mat was quickly getting sloppy however.  Chris climbed in and looked at me.  I didn’t want the adventure to end.  I asked if we could go to Coldfoot, the next town up.  It was another hour or more away.  We turned on the GPS and tried to find it.  We’d not researched it.  The GPS couldn’t find it.  We questioned whether it was even in Alaska.  Maybe it was Canada.  We didn’t bring our passports.  How big was it?  Could we get gas there?  We decided we wouldn’t risk it and headed back.

We drove about 5 minutes and I asked Chris if she wanted me to drive.  I hadn’t driven all day.  I kind of wanted to be able to say I drove the ice road too.  So we pulled over and switched.  I was pretty slow at first because I wasn’t used to the four wheeling on the road. It was sloppy and slippery and rutty at times.  Then the trucks would roar by with very little room for mistakes.  The road went from slop to pavement every so often and like most of Alaska, there are no guard rails or any such thing.  I believe the mantra of Alaskans is “Good luck”.

We pulled out our sandwich and had lunch on the road back even though it was around 4:00.  We’d been snacking the whole way up.  It was great.  We  had to stop at the same place we’d gotten the gas from to pee again, before the wooden bridge to cross the Yukon River again.  I sat at the edge of the road, looking both ways for a minute and then gunned it.  I shot up the bridge, gripping the steering wheel for dear life, hoping that a giant semi-truck wouldn’t meet me at the top.  As I approached the end, I felt the rear start to weave.  I thought I was going to throw up.  Chris put her hand on my leg and said to slow down.  I eased off the gas and made it onto the road with a thud off the bridge.  Shew.

We continued to keep a watch out for wildlife but never saw a single animal.  That was the only disappointment.  When dusk started to settle in, we switched back.  I don’t see so great at night so Chris took over.  We talked about some hard subjects.  My cousin recently passed away and I cried for her.  For her mama.  I thought about us as kids, running around.  I don’t understand the selection process of why some people go and why some people stay.  I cried about Michael.  I usually go there.  I miss him.  I cried about my dad and the life he’s chosen to have since his stroke.  And all I could think on the trip and the trip back was that I want to write.  It’s been too long.  I miss it too.  I may not be great at it but I love it and want to write again.

We looked up Coldfoot.  It’s in Alaska and so is Deadhorse.  I’m not too keen on going to a place called Deadhorse but we’ll do it.  I want to go to Prudhoe bay.  Maybe next year.

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A Sucker for a Swing

I swung on a swing today. There was a dilemma with what to do with me while my partner had a quick business meeting. We’d thought about dropping me off at the local library or perhaps I’d wander around the downtown shops but as the time ran out of my day, I hurried to pick her up wearing my work uniform of over-sized jeans, Red Sox hat and matching t-shirt.  It was too rough of an ensemble to fit in with the upscale town that we pulled into, so I worried what we’d do. Then we drove past the park and I felt the kid in me straighten up in order to peer out the car window as we passed by the empty swings. My partner was worried about leaving me there alone but as we eased through the streets of the little downtown, she glanced over at me knowing that I’d be looked down upon because of my appearance. We returned to the park and saw several moms with kids running around playing so I hopped out of the car and made my way to the big kid swings.
I tried a couple. One was too squeaky so I moved to its neighbor. I was surprised to feel the tightening of the rubber seat around my hips as I eased my larger than big kid ass down into it. The full weight of my body squeezed together the long chains and cinched the seat even tighter.  I lifted my feet, grasped hold of the chain in each hand and started to rock my torso back and forth in time with outstretched and then bent legs.
What a feeling. The kid in me soared. I hadn’t felt her around for sometime and it was nice to feel her presence. The squiggly feeling in my belly reverberated through my body as I got higher and higher. When I’d turn my head or look down, anywhere other than straight ahead, it made it worse. But I liked it. For all I knew, I could’ve been on a roller coaster. It was a very similar feeling. I wondered how I went from wanting to flip over the top bar of the swing as a kid to getting butterflies just from the swinging motion. It must be an age thing I thought. And then I thought about jumping off as a kid when the bus would come. I wouldn’t even think about it. Just launch myself into the air and if I stuck the landing, it was awesome and if I didn’t, I’d brush off the dirt and keep right on going. I was certain I’d break my ankle or maybe my leg if I were to do it now. It made me worry. I looked at the frame of the swing set and heard the swish, swish of the metal post in the ground as I kept up my momentum. Maybe it wasn’t meant to hold big kids. Maybe it couldn’t handle the stress of the weight. I wondered if it would collapse or tumble over. I slowed my swing by making opposite movements of those that were propelling me. I got to where I was certain I could hop out of the seat and not bite it. I leapt into the mulch pieces being careful not to fill my Crocs with a billion bits of wood slivers. My ankles screamed at me for doing it but I knew it was a temporary pain. I held onto the chain, bringing the seat with me as I walked back to the small pit made from putting on the foot brakes. I wanted to do it again. I moved to a different seat. I had the whole set to myself. The kiddies were all over on the little tykes swings.
I glanced around. A grove of giant redwoods were in front of me. Signs here and there warning people not to feed the squirrels. Kids screaming off in the distance. An older man sitting at a picnic table not far from me. It looked like he had a radio. I wondered if he was listening to a baseball game. I seemed to remember hearing on the morning news that it was opening day for baseball.  Him sitting there with just a radio seemed so old school but appropriate. I thought about the Red Sox and how much I missed being in Massachusetts.  I loved that I was wearing my Red Sox hat and shirt even though it wasn’t on purpose.  I launched myself again, my hips getting used to the snugness of the seat. I wondered if it would help squish in my ever growing thighs. The new spanx I thought and started laughing as I propelled myself higher and higher.  I felt the swirl in my stomach again but pushed on until I could see the trees from over the top bar. I turned my head to get the fear wave to pulse through me again and saw the man with the radio watching me. Reverse motion, reverse motion to slow me down until I was in control again. He stopped watching. I thought I was being paranoid and felt silly.  I started the process again.  Lean back, legs out. Pull forward, drop chest, legs back. It was like I was a wind up toy. Weeee. Man I loved swinging as a kid. I looked down and felt the smile on my face as my stomach flip flopped. I wondered why there aren’t play grounds for adults. I saw a kid playing catch with his father. I loved playing catch. I looked over at the man with the radio. He was staring at me again. I didn’t care. I heard the sshh of the set bracing itself under my force. I watched as my momentum moved the other swings. I stopped making myself swing and let the motion slow on its own.
I wanted to go. I checked the time. Twelve minutes had passed. I wondered what other sets there were. I didn’t want to go check them out because I felt like I’d appear as a child molester or something. The man next to me stood up and faced me. I looked away.  I decided to look back, thinking that if I took too long, he’d be standing right next to me.  He was doing squats, then picked up his radio and walked off. I pulled out my phone and when I looked back up, he was gone.
Pull back, lean forward, feet back. Legs out, lean back. Weee.
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Author of ‘A Series of Events’
Available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/YnToPS
Twitter – @MichelleRStoner

Reading and Writing

I just finished reading the first of four books that I got for Christmas. I took the first book with me on a trip that ruined into a detour to my childhood home because my father, who still lives there, had had a stroke.  I didn’t end up cracking the book open until my flight back home a month later.  I looked forward to getting back to some normalcy, to writing again, marketing my book more.  But when I got back, I found that I had a hard time focusing on my “career”.  I sometimes wonder how I ever held down a full time office job when there’s always so much to do at home.  Rather than grabbing my computer first thing, I thought it was more important to address some issues with the house.  I donned my work clothes and spent day after day outside or on a ladder, doing home repairs.  The couple of days I told myself it would take to finish up a couple of tasks, turned into weeks.
When I couldn’t shut the voice up in my head that screams at me to write, I sat down with my computer and started the drilling and research for ways to market my book.  It took a few days but I was able to get my book requests out to several agencies.  I’d been given a direction to pursue by a friend who suggested I seek out psychological organizations to recommend my book for professionals or to have them review it for inclusion to their magazines.  I felt good after tracking them all down and submitting queries to them.  Feeling like I then had the justification to put my computer down, I did so and went back to work on the house.
A week later, I received an email from a local book store that they wanted to carry my book.  I was so excited that I put my work clothes aside and took a stack of books to the store to drop off.  When I grabbed my work clothes again the very next day, I questioned whether I was avoiding writing.  I looked back to when I stopped writing and thought about my dad in the hospital.  The entire time I was there with him, I wanted to write, to document it all, not just to have the event chronicled but because I was going through so many different feelings and reactions, that I wanted to vent.  With a small computer given to me on loan, I wrote a blog entry just to get myself going and once finished, I started on the events of my father’s stroke.  It was still sitting and waiting on me to finish.  There it was.  I didn’t want to finish it.  I didn’t want to go back to it and have to fill in the remaining few days that I was with him before returning home.  So, I did the next best thing.  I picked my book back up.  I’d gotten about half way through it on the plane ride back home so I didn’t have that far to go to finish it.
I’ve found that the more I write, the more I look at other people’s writing differently.  I notice things more.  There’s little things like font and layout and then bigger things like character introduction, grammar and punctuation, scenery descriptions and layout.  I find myself pausing at times and thinking about the author, which, I’ve actually always done but I tend to do it a bit more often now.  It becomes more of a relationship between author and reader as if they’re sharing something with me. I love that connection, imaginary as it may be.  I ended up finishing the first book in between doing house chores and repairs and decided it was time to get back to my writing.  I finished the story of my father’s stroke and opened up my latest book to continue it.
I found an old friend on Facebook, made a couple of random Tweets on twitter only because it’s required in order not to lose followers.  I checked my reviews – one new one.  I checked my sales channels.  I wrote some restaurant reviews.  I researched a few home improvement items I want.  I read a few articles about people that I went to school with.  So many young people dying.  We are still young.  I called it a day.  I didn’t want to write about my life, the life that was continuing on when so many don’t.  The following day, I wrote a few paragraphs, researched a few contests and wrote a bit more.  I think I’m getting back on track to writing.  And I’m excited about cracking open a new book.

Out of Sorts

Ever since I went out of town, back in December, I’ve had a hard time getting back to my writing.  All I wanted to do while I was away was write.  Then, I get back home, to my computer and there’s just too much catching up to do.  So, what do I do?  I take a day off.  My partner was attending a conference in Napa Valley and so I decided to tag along.  I had visions of sitting on the edge of a grapevine filled field with the hills in the background, the wind sweeping through my hair that is now twice as long as it should be and a strange grayish orange color because I missed my scheduled appointment, with my computer on my lap, using the inspiration to type the day away.  Of course that didn’t happen.  I didn’t even take my computer.  I did drive through many miles of countryside with every possible spot of dirt containing a grape trunk.  I find that California is most beautiful on the coast and in the country where every square inch of land has some sort of produce on it.  But it’s not the little mom and pop places that wow me.  It’s the miles and miles of acres that roll up and over hills, climb tiered steps up the sides of mountains and reach to the sea.  It’s beautiful.  Sometimes smelly (like brussel sprout season) but beautiful still.  The endless, perfectly straight rows of farmland are simply stunning.

I find it funny going to Napa.  It’s all about the grapes there which means it’s all about the wine.  Being a non-drinker, it’s not very conducive for me to be there but with this being my second time in the area, I decided to go as a treat to myself.  I found that where there is great wine, there is incredible food.  It’s not only a wine drinkers’ paradise but a foodies’ as well.  I started my day at the Oxbow Marketplace in downtown Napa.  It was the one place I could find that was open fairly early in the morning.  It was a small converted warehouse that had a few restaurants, a coffee bar and several specialty food markets.  I bought some freshly pressed olive oil infused with white truffles, some porcini fettucini from an Italian market and a jar of black truffles from another fresh market.  I failed to mention that there is an abundance of olive trees in Napa as well.  Not just Napa but all over California. But since Napa is that food paradise that I mentioned and the soil and sunshine is particularly good for the grapes, it is also equally good for olives.  There’s not a one for one bottles of olive oil to bottles of wine but it’s close.  With great olive oil goes great vinegars and the list goes on.

I drove through some countryside to get to the CIA – not the government type but the food type – the Culinary Institute of America.  It’s the Harvard or Yale for foodies.  I’d been to the CIA in New York and was excited to visit yet another campus.  It didn’t take me long to reach the school so I decided to pass it by and head into the little downtown area of St. Helena.  I perused a few stores, bought a couple greeting cards and found a local mom and pop hardware store.  For some reason, I love little hardware stores.  I always seem to find something neat in them so find it hard to pass them by.  I think it reminds me of going to Fredericksburg Hardware as a kid with my dad.  He’d be looking for something in particular which gave me time to wander around the store and check out aisles of things I had no idea what they were but it was all so interesting.  I still wander around them getting ideas of things I want to do to the house or yard.  Attached to this particular hardware store – Steve’s Hardware – there was an attached housewares store.  I picked up a few items and was happy to be out and about.

It was nearing lunchtime which was when I’d planned on making it to the CIA.  I wandered around the downtown area a bit more and found it getting too warm for the fleece I’d thrown on that morning.  I had a gitty up in my step.  It was such a nice day and the drive here and there had been so nice.  It was just a few minutes drive to the CIA.  When I pulled up, it reminded me of Hogwarts – a giant stone building with turning steps leading up to it.  It was grand just as the one in New York had been.  I felt starry eyed and envious of every student there.  I entered and saw the kitchen marketplace but wanted to have lunch first. There was an Illy cafe that the student run so I made a b-line for it, excited of what tasty bits awaited me.  I’d told myself that I wanted a nice salad or maybe a toasted or grilled sandwich but when I saw the first item on the menu to be a chicken pot pie, I simply skimmed the other offerings and made my way over to the counter to order.  I sat at a tiny table and was brought my Coke followed by the pot pie in a small cast iron pot.  It was placed in front of me and I could feel the heat coming off of it.  The puff pastry was brown and crisp and rested on top of a cheddar béchamel gravy that swam with roasted root vegetables that were still firm.  I ate until the little pot was practically clean.  And once I’d finished, I couldn’t wait to get into the store.  I took my time which hardly ever happens because no one likes to study each and every item like I do.  I can spend hours in a grocery store or a high end kitchen store so I’ve gotten to where I don’t even like to go into them if I’m with someone else.  It’s just not worth it.  But, I had the day to myself so I could spend as much time as I wanted.  I got a few items and was happy with my purchases when I walked out, back down the steps and on my way to the next stop.

I was so glad that the GPS was taking me a different way than just going back along the same roads.  I was all for seeing new things.  It’s crazy that there’s a vineyard every 500 feet or so.  “Free tastings” marked outside on the sign of each one.  I’d be shit-faced every day if I drank.  But maybe they don’t let the locals have free tastings.  Who knows.  I don’t know how visitors do it.  Just then, I see a giant bunny.  It was a sculpture at one of the vineyards.  I loved it and wished I’d pulled over to take a photo of it but then I saw a Dean and DeLuca.  I put my blinker on and got turned around.  I was on a mission.  I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to pull over and take a picture of the bunny or turn into the parking lot of the Dean and DeLuca.  I did a couple of questionable moves in the car and finally decided to pull into the parking lot before the tractor and trailer ran me over.  I parked and walked down the sidewalk a ways and got a snap of the bunny.  It was beautiful.  It was like he was hopping right out of the grapevines.

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I made my way back to the Dean and DeLuca.  There’s a certain smell in specialty grocery stores.  It’s bread and cheese and meat and pastry all mingled together.  It takes my breath away.  It’s similar to a Whole Foods but not as floral.  I love it.  And being Dean and DeLuca, it reminded me of Michael.  He’s been showing up in my life recently and it makes me feel so overwhelming grateful and whole and sad and hurtful all at the same time.  I miss him.  I realized I was standing just inside the door taking it all in and thinking.  I moved quickly to not look like a lunatic just standing there.  Once I had my arms full, I put it all on a display table and retrieved myself a basket to put it all in.  Again, I stayed in there probably way longer than a normal person would but I just loved it.  I hated that I didn’t think to bring a big ole cooler and ice packs with me.  I’m sure for a small fortune, I could purchase such items but I decided not to.

Back on the road, I decided to check out the outlet stores to see if there was anything interesting and found it to be less than a great shopping experience.  It wasn’t like the massive outlets that are normally advertised so I chose to skip them and headed back downtown to see what else I could find.  I was certain I was finished with food and kitchen item shopping when I came across another mom and pop kitchen shop – Shackelford’s Kitchen Shop.  It had quite the variety of everything.  I made a few purchases and then realized I’d missed an aisle and went back for more.

I still had some time but thought I’d head over to the conference center and check it out while I waited for Chris to be done for the evening.  Just as I was turning down the street to the hotel, she texted me that she was done.  We had dinner at a Thomas Keller restaurant (Bouchon) and then made the drive home.  It was a fun day and one that I needed.

Since my dad had his stroke, I’ve had countless dreams of him and think about the ordeal quite a bit.  I’ve had a hard time forcing myself to sit and write – this being the first time in a few weeks that I’ve actually written anything.  If feels good to hear the clacking of my keys again.  Now if I can just prioritize writing over every other chore that I have, I should be back on my way in no time.  I think I’ve just been out of sorts and need to get back into my routine of making writing first.  Oh, and marketing my book which I have spent several days on in the past few weeks.  But I have gotten a few leads that may work out.  We’ll see.

Taking in the Scenery

I’ve had the opportunity to spend the past week or so just a few feet away from the Potomac River. I grew up on the Potomac and have some vivid memories of it. The weather is cold in Virginia now so there’s no temptation like there is in the summer to run out and jump in, clothes and all. I often feel like a Labrador Retriever that can’t wait to hop in, running at full speed until I just fall forward into the warm water. But when that’s not possible, I’m forced to look through a window or from afar to soak in its beauty.

In the past week, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the sun shine on the water, sparkling with laughter and lapping at the shore teasing me. In the evening, it turned black and syrupy as the moon shone over it, washing it in a white light that glistened. The wind blew so hard one day that the white caps warned of the impending chop and danger of a journey that shouldn’t be taken on that day. Lastly, I saw waves reaching for the shore but suspended in time, frozen by the wind and cold.

Each morning, after getting ready to head to the hospital to partake in my daddy’s recovery, help him walk again, encourage him, support him in any way I can, I pass by the window that faces the river. The view grabs me. I stop as I glance up and I’m trapped by the beauty of the expansive water. It seems friendly and inviting. I stare and try to take it all in. I’m drawn to it, my feet unable to move. I forget what I was doing and realize that I have to snap out of it and get going. I wonder if I’ll be able to sit and stare at lovely scenery when I’m older, when I don’t have places to be or things to do. When I don’t have a schedule or an agenda. I picture snow capped mountains, lakes with loons, green prairies, streams with jumping fish, grazing moose where I can spend all the time I want to take it all in. Paint the scene on my brain so that I remember it forever but know full well that I don’t have to remember it because I
can go visit it again the next day.

As I grab my things and head to the door to leave, I wonder if people who are fortunate enough to have a view that is beautiful and inviting get tired of it. Does it become every day so it gets camouflaged with the surroundings, allowing them to rush by and no longer see it? Does the beauty wear off? Do they ever need a change of scenery? I dream of having my own beautiful spot to stare at someday in this world. I’ll share my view with those I love and cherish it each and every day.

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Should I Stay Or I Should I Go?

I’ve found over the past few days that it is practically engrained in us to refuse help. We don’t want to be a bother. Don’t want anyone to have to go out of their way. It’s sometimes hard to decipher what exactly to do. We lean towards wanting to be polite without regard to what we really desire or expect and it usually ends in resentment.

I was discussing this with a close friend today and she said that it’s all a bunch of game playing that we do with ourselves. We talk ourselves into thinking that it’s the other person’s fault for not expressing what they really want when in fact, the fault is our own. If you know what the right thing is to do, then don’t ask the question(s). “Do you want me to come”, “Do you want me to stay”, “Do you want me to go”, etc.

When I first found out my father had a stroke, I didn’t know if I should go be by his side. I wanted to be there. I should’ve said “I’ll be right there”. I didn’t. I asked “Should I come”? As soon as I said it, I thought back to just a few weeks earlier when I’d been on the phone with him, asking if he wanted me to come for the holidays. We went through the same process. He wanted me to come but didn’t want me to bother with it. He wanted me to wait because he wanted to come see me in the spring as if it were a multiple choice selection (he could only have me visit him OR him visit me). He finally suggested that I wait to visit with the caveat that I could come if I really wanted to.

With so much wishy washyness going on, I figured he really didn’t want me to come so I booked a trip elsewhere. While traveling for that trip, I got the call that he’d had a stroke. Before being told of what had happened, I was asked if I was in a place that I could talk. I looked around the airport terminal and didn’t know how to answer so I didn’t. I stood in the middle of the isle not knowing what to do. It was suggested I sit down, so I did. Imagining what was about to be told to me, I backed up to a wall and slid down until I was squatted down on the floor.

I asked if I should come. He told me I didn’t have to. I was confused. A stroke was bad news. I heard the word paralysis and tried to comprehend what was going on. How could I not go? I was told he was fine. Fine? I looked around and saw people in the seating area of the airport looking at me. I was confused. I said that I needed to get to my destination before I could make arrangements to get to him. I was afraid I would never see my luggage again if I detoured mid-trip, during my layover. But in the time I was trying to comprehend what the hell was going on and what I was supposed to do, my partner had retrieved our bags and rebooked our flight.

I relayed that we were on our way and asked if perhaps my dad didn’t want me to come. It was too much and I broke down. I sobbed at the thought that my dad didn’t want me there. Thankfully, that was not the case and before long, I was on my way. After a long day of travel, I arrived at my dad’s bedside that evening. The first thing he said was “Thank you for coming”.

I learned from my friend today that it’s not about what others want sometimes. I knew what the right thing was to do and rather than questioning it, I should’ve just done it. I am going to go. No more questions.

Now to try and get that through to my dad. He says he’d like a shower and when a nurse comes in, he says it’s ok, he doesn’t need one right that minute thinking that he’s being a bother, so they leave. He gets mad after 10 minutes when they’ve not returned to give him one. We ring the nurse to set up a time. She asks what time and he says it doesn’t matter. He prefers his showers in the evening so when they give him one in the morning, he complains that he doesn’t get them at night. We request them at night and he says anytime is fine.

Now I know where I get it from. There are a lot of people out there that do this same thing. It’s not limited to parents. It encompasses friends, relatives, people in the store. It’s personal, mental game playing that has started to drive me crazy. I want to make a late New Year’s resolution to stop the games.

Music Memories

I was running errands yesterday, doing a bit of Christmas shopping and preparing for the rain storm that is bringing us much needed rain.  I had the Christmas tunes on and something came on that I wasn’t too fond of so I switched over to my favorite local 80’s channel.  It was perfect timing.  I heard the beginning of a familiar song and within a few seconds, I launched into Rapper’s Delight.  I know every hip hop the hippie the hippie to the hip hop part of the song and I love it.  It’s such a fun song to sing and it put me right back on the bus, riding to school with my friends, the music blaring from my boom box that I took everywhere with me.  I go into full hand motions and acting out the song while in my car, not caring who’s looking, hoping that everyone can have as much fun as I can by myself, listening to the radio.

I thought about talking with my friend “Ron” from my book.  I just spoke with him last month.  It was good getting caught up with him.  He said that when he first stepped on that same school bus so many years ago, his life was changed forever.  We laughed.  He said he walked down the isle of the bus and saw me with my friend “Taylor”.  We were sunken down in the oversized bus bench seat, with our knees up on the back of the seat in front of us.  We both had sunglasses on and Taylor’s hair was blown out.  We laughed again because it was so right, our memories.  I could see us all.  When the two of us saw Ron, I flipped my sunglasses up and said “hi”.

Back in my car, I could see all of this in my head without missing a beat or a word of the song.  It was such a long time ago and the regrets pained my heart.  I introduced “Ron” to more than two crazy girls and rap music.

The song ended as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot.  Sheila E. came on.  I was transported from the bus to my living room, practicing dance moves with “Faith”, my best friend.  We were inseparable.  I sang about the Glamorous Life and pictured us, always clowning around, eating and forever dancing.  Best friends forever was really best friends for a little while or maybe best friends until things get tough or indifferent or complicated.

When I returned to the car, I was heading to the mall when Jam On It came on. Yeah, yeah, we know, we know.  I’m not the least bit embarrassed that I used to break dance.  I saw myself “popping” and wished I was still as good as I was then.  As each year passes in my life, I wonder what the oldest dancer has ever been to start a career, not considering endurance, flexibility, skill or any of the other important requirements that are needed to be a dancer.

There’s lots of things I want to be.  There’s lots of things I’ve been.  I’m going to go make dinner.

  • Want to hear more?  Check out my book ‘A Series of Events’ available in trade paperback and on kindle from Amazon at