Mimi On-the-Mend, From Her Minnesota Meanderings

Where did the month of November go?! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks – consider this blog my excusal letter! I flew out of Cincinnati on November 1st, for a two-week stay with my daughter in … Continue reading

Frozen in the Northern Realm

I headed north to meet my new grandchild. When I walked out of the airport, looking for my s-i-l’s car, a winter wind hit me like a cold smack in the face. I almost turned around and walked back into the airport, to hop on a Sun Country flight. Sun Country Airlines is headquartered in Minneapolis, and based on the premise that people will obviously want to get the heck out of here and head south…..often. Sounds like an excellent business plan to me. You should look at a map of their routes. They do all head south (except for a few dumb exceptions not worth mentioning) to places like California, the Gulf Coast, Central/South America, and the Caribbean. After getting hit with that icy blast, I was all-in with that idea, but my daughter was waiting for me, and looking forward to my help with the granddaughters (the 2 already here, and the one we are still awaiting). I could have quite easily marched right back in and booked a flight to Aruba. I have since discovered though, that Sun Country Airlines is struggling financially. Apparently, these crazy Minnesotans are pleased as punch with their piercingly cold temperatures and their piled-high precipitation, and are not in any hurry to leave. By the time they get a little sick of the winter weather, it warms up for a few months so that Minnesotans can enjoy their lakes, work on a mild sunburn, get covered with mosquito bites, and dodge road work cones EVERYWHERE they go. By the time that’s over, they are actually looking forward to winter. And all this time, Sun Country Airlines is slowly wasting away. At any rate, sun country was not an option for me. I was stuck here, for at least two weeks. So, I pulled on my hood and my mittens, and plowed into the wind, not unlike Yukon Cornelius.

And, here I sit, four days later, be-decked with long-johns, warm robe, and fuzzy slippers, sipping on some hot tea, sucking on throat lozenges, and STILL waiting for granddaughter number three to join us. Is it any wonder she’s not here yet? She’s probably peeped out once or twice and felt that same icy blast that I experienced, and said, “Never mind!” Someone should check the airport, specifically the Sun Country counter, because I think that’s where she might be right now. If you happen to be at the MSP airport right now and you see a newborn there, in line at their counter, let me know. Mimi is going to join her!

So, anyway, this is just a short update to keep you all informed and connected, and if you are reading this, it means that the WordPress site FINALLY cooperated with me while I’m using my iPad! 👍🏼 (I’m not even gonna try adding photos. You’ll have to tune back in when I’m back home to see those!)

Sing, Sing a Song…

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Does anyone else besides me think in old songs? Like that one by the Carpenters, that I used for the title of this blog? (“…sing out loud, sing out strong.”) Seriously, just about any thought/idea/dream/inspiration that comes into my head, my memory can match a song to it. It’s not always a perfect fit…sometimes my creative mind has to change the lyrics just a little…or maybe a lot, but still, there’s the same melody from the original song. One little prompt, and a tune gets pulled from the vast music collection in my brain (just like an old juke box pulls out a 45 and flips it onto the turntable), and puts it to work helping me process whatever it is that I am going through. (Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were – “Memories, like the corners of my mind”).

Fifty-plus years of tunes (wait, did I say fifty yearsDon’t Blink, by Kenny Chesney), from kid’s songs, to camp songs, to popular hits, mixed right in with Sunday hymns, dance tunes, advertising jingles, TV show theme songs, and verses from musical productions – they’re all right there, in neat little stacks in my gray matter storage unit, and the central nervous system expertly selects them as needed, to insert into my wandering thoughts. I’m in the kitchen, and I catch a whiff of my husband’s coffee, and suddenly, my mind is performing it’s own rendition of, “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup.” Or I’m hanging out with some of my zany friends and their families (you know who you are, guys!), and the juke box in my head starts playing, “They’re creepy and they’re cooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky the (fill in the blank) family. Du, du, du, dut, (snap, snap), du, du, du dut (snap, snap), du, du, du, dut; du, du, du, dut; du, du, du, dut (snap, snap)!” Sometimes, I do keep these little serenades all to myself, if I don’t want to seem too crazy, or if I think the sharing might offend…LOL

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There are often times when things don’t work out the way I had hoped, and I am struggling with the disappointment, and, then….before I know it, I’m transported back to my childhood home, with Christmas drawing near, watching the animated TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, listening to Clarice as she sings her words of encouragement to Rudolph, “There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Believe in your dreams come what may. There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Tomorrow is not far away.”

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Or how about those times when I am hating this city living, wishing for trees and open sky and fresh air, and planning my whole life around how many traffic lights I have to go through to get somewhere (the fewer the better, of course, because Norton, Ohio, where I grew up, had only two, full-fledged traffic light intersections when I was very young, and the words “traffic jam” were used to describe more than 10 cars. The freedom of such a simple, uncluttered life has hung with me, even after years of being citified). In my grown-up years, my choices for grocery stores, doctor’s offices, preschools, veterinarian’s clinics, drug stores…you name it, they were all chosen primarily based on how many traffic lights I would encounter on my way there. These days, when I drive to our property in Indiana (which I blogged about recently in A Walk in the Woods), and I’m reluctantly heading home after a beautiful day of bug-swatting, berry gathering, and drinking from the well, I find myself humming an old Salem cigarette ad in my head (with the word “Salem changed to my name)…”You can take Charlene out of the country, BUT…you can’t take the country out of Charlene!” Or, other times, I might break into a rousing rendition of, “Green Acres is the place for me!”

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For my grandchildren, I have taken to making up my own words for popular tunes and singing to them. When little ones are fussy, I hold them in my arms while doing the bunny hop. The bouncing, along with my wacky singing, almost never fails to calm a crying child – “You’re my little baby, yes you are, sweetest little baby in the whole, wide world. (Keep repeating, implementing a key change after every two “verses,” and just keep singing and dancing, until baby is calmed or grandma passes out on the couch). Singing to little ones is one of my most precious joys, and I’m sure I will still be singing lullabies years from now, when I am residing blissfully in a home for the memory impaired.

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I could go on for days about all the music in my head. (“This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue singing it forever just because, this is the song that never ends……”) Some of those childhood songs I try to keep in deep storage, because who wants to try to fall asleep at night with Found a Peanut or 100 Bottles of Beer stuck in their head?! But at this point, it’s getting late, we’re all tired, and I’m off early in the morning, for a twelve hour drive to the northern grandkids, so I can get to work teaching them all of those obnoxious (and otherwise) songs residing in my brain. You probably won’t hear from me again until I return late next week, so I’ll leave you with this modified Willie Nelson hit – “On the road again, I just can’t wait to be heading north again. Some folks I love are way up in those northern lands, so I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

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Fried Zucchini Summer

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The summer I graduated from high school, and my horse and pony had been sold in anticipation of me going off to photography school, my dad used part of our former pasture area for his first vegetable garden. He tilled and planted a whopper of a plot, considering our family size. By mid-August, we were drowning in egg plant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. My dad lugged piles of produce off to work each morning, to share with his co-workers at Goodyear, and there was still plenty left over for us. My absolute favorite was the zucchini…breaded and fried zucchini, to be exact. My dad and I could polish off two large zucs between the two of us, because they were so incredibly yummy. It was a special thing we shared between us, that hankerin’ for fried zucchini. Now that I’m much older, and my dad is long gone, I can transport myself back to that bittersweet, transitional summer, with overgrown zucchini from my own garden. I slice them up, just like I did for my dad and I, then I dip them in egg and flour (actually, gluten-free flour, or sometimes almond meal), fry those babies up, close my eyes and take a big bite…and suddenly, I’m back in our old kitchen, with my father, living that zucchini summer all over again.

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It’s an inexpensive and safe method of time-travel, these sensory memory triggers. I travel the taste bud route quite often, with certain foods that take me back to times shared with my dad (because when little tag-along me joined the family, my mom went to work full-time, my Grandma Casey moved in with us, and my dad pitched in by taking over most of the meal preparation for our family). There were other food favorites that we had in common, like soup beans and ham with cornbread, and pot roast with potatoes and carrots. One bite of any of those, and the gustation process can carry me back in a second, if I close my eyes, sit quietly, and savor the flavor, along with the memories.

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The olfactory passage to the past is closely related to the taste route, so it often takes me to the same places, but is has the power to transport me to a myriad of other memories. All I have to do is walk into a horse barn, catch one wonderful whiff, and I am at the county fair, hanging out with my 4-H buddies, cleaning the stall, showing Paco (my quarter horse) in the ring, rubbing my hand down his soft, sweaty neck, or sometimes lunching on corndogs and lemon shake-ups, or inhaling the helium from a balloon to talk like Donald Duck. I am young and carefree, my parents are there with me at our campsite, and we are sitting around the fire with friends. Or, how about the passage power of holding a baby, and smelling his/her sweet head (what is it with the smell of baby’s heads?!). These days, when a baby is in my arms, I fly back to the early days of parenting, holding my own little ones, nursing them, rocking them in my arms while singing lullabies – it’s all there, in full color and complete, sensual detail. The quality of transport and the clear view of those days-gone-by is really quite amazing.

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Other times, I travel back by way of an old song that slides from my ears right down to my heart, and I find myself with an old friend, hanging out in their basement, or at one of our favorite haunts. Or I might end up at a high school prom, dancing in the arms of a high school heart throb. Sometimes it’s the sound of laughter that reminds me of my mom, and takes me back “home” again. She was the kind who would occasionally get unexplainably tickled by some silly episode, then laugh for 15 minutes, until she was crying and could hardly breathe, while the rest of us were all laughing at her (even though we were often clueless regarding the original trigger for her laughter, and she would be laughing way to hard to fill us in!). There are other times when a sound can transport me to completely unexpected places: I hear a train whistle, and suddenly, I am sitting at the tracks, in the car with my mom, counting the railway cars to make the time pass more pleasantly, and trying to be the first one to spot the caboose. A rumble of thunder, of the boom of fireworks can also occasionally work their magic on me. The hearing path to yesterday is probably the most surprising and mysterious for me, because I just never know when or where it will strike, and where I might end up.

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Of course, we can’t leave out the sight triggers for time travel – there are so many opportunities. We live in the age of photography, so all we have to do is pull out an old photo album, and BAM…we’re there again, with ease. Or how about digging through those storage boxes of sentimental items? Those have serious transference power, too. But there are also more subtle ways that sneak up on us, like coming upon a field of sunflowers, or finding a beautiful shell on the beach, or witnessing a breath-taking sunset. Our mind can latch onto anything our eyes take in, and, in a millisecond, carry us back to some almost forgotten place.

And then there’s that last sense….touch. In my opinion, touch kind of tags along with the other senses, and enhances the time-travel journey. When I’m eating fried zucchini, just the feel of it in my mouth adds to the full effect. And those 4-H fair memories….if I get a chance to run my hands down a horse’s neck or side, or touch his soft nose…that just makes all the above-mentioned images come more clearly into focus. Same concept with the touch of my lips on a baby’s head, or feeling the warmth of a wee one against my body, or their soft breath upon my neck as I rock them – the memories they trigger are like a 3D movie, with all senses fully functioning.

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If you have days of old that you would like to revisit, step away from the rush of life this week, and enjoy a cruise down memory lane. Your very own time travel voyage is just a taste (or a smell, or a vision, or a sound, or a touch) away, but you have to be open to the excursion and willing to put some effort into quiet reflection. I hope you have pleasant travel, and don’t forget to send me a postcard!

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To Totality and Beyond

Sub-title – “From Pacific to Atlantic, Gee the Traffic Was Gigantic”

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Monday, August 21st was a day of wild and crazy events in the heavens and on the roads, but we lived to tell about it. We started out at 8:15 am, headed to Auburn, KY, a small town well within the total eclipse zone. The drive time prediction was 3 hours, 45 minutes. We got snagged up for a while on the Bluegrass Pkwy, which added an agonizing half hour or so to our trip, with us not knowing what was going on, and having no access to any exits. The sun entered into partial eclipse status while we were on that stretch of highway. Finally, we were able to merge onto the main interstate, and after that convergence fanned itself out, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. We arrived at our destination in plenty of time to catch the main event.

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I had originally resigned myself to the idea of missing the party, even though I really wanted to go. My husband’s thinking on the subject was that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. But, then…he started researching total eclipses, and suddenly, we were in the planning mode. Articles he read were saying that a partial eclipse is NOTHING compared to a total eclipse, and he decided to believe them (thank you, people, whoever you are, for your influence in this regard!!). He did a remarkable job with his planning, getting us to a perfect location – a huge park in a podunk town. There were maybe 100 to 200 people there, all spread out over this massive piece of property. My husband, youngest daughter, Benny (our dog), and I had the entire football field to ourselves!

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We used our special, eclipse glasses as the moon traveled further into the path of the sun, and noticed as the air got considerably cooler, and the sky grew eerily dark (except for the horizon all around, which looked like a 360º sunset). The buzzing of the noisy cicadas ceased suddenly, a few birds swooped down over us, and our view through the glasses went completely dark – time to whip off those glasses and be awed by the heavens like we’ve never been before. Cheers and whistles went off in all directions from the crowd, someone even brought a few firecrackers to set off precisely at that defining moment of reaching totality. One planet and one star came into view in the shadowed sky, and the lights came on in the distant parking lots. But the incredible dance of the sun and moon quickly blocked out everything else – I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was beautiful, amazing, inspiring, incredible, and absolutely way beyond anything that I could have imagined. I’m sharing the photo my daughter took on her I-phone, but it doesn’t do it justice, of course. Nothing can ever do it justice, except living through it, and seeing it for yourself.

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A few seconds after totality slipped away, people starting jumping in their cars and hightailing it out of there. We took our time driving through our new favorite small town, taking a few photos, and filling up the gas tank, and then we, too, hit the side roads. We avoided the major highways until we were almost to Louisville, and then decided, “It can’t be all that bad,” so we jumped on I-65. That was the longest 45 minutes of our trip home. We bailed out again as soon as we could figure things out (without data on our phones or a GPS unit), found more back roads, crossed the river at Madison, IN, drove on up to Rt 50, and turned towards Lawrenceburg and a short hop home from there. Eight hours after leaving the park in Auburn, we were home. Some of our best adventures of the day happened on those side roads!

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Here are some more photos from our day, for you to enjoy, along with a link to a simple pano shot my husband did of us. If you missed this celestial event, maybe you can join us for the next total eclipse in 2024, in Indiana, just a stone’s throw from us (and, possibly, our Indiana property might fall in the totality zone…wouldn’t that be perfect for our next prodigious penumbra?!). Don’t miss the next one, peeps. It is God’s handiwork at its finest!

https://theta360.com/s/ssyqDdfR93sajXTuW1J5hfD16

IMG_2893.JPGall thumbs up after the big event

IMG_2860.JPGmaking friends with fellow adventurers

IMG_1090.JPGMe, in a chair, after the eclipse (“Honey, I shrunk myself!”)

FullSizeRender-2.jpgthe country’s smallest post office…?

IMG_2885.JPGthe scariest bridge we crossed