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!

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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

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Yeah, I know, it’s been way too long since my last post, but, hey….I was in New Jersey, visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen in several years, and I couldn’t get the posting steps to work on my iPad, so I ditched you guys for a week. Get over it! And, just to PROVE that I was in the greater NYC area, here are some photos with captions so you can vacation vicariously through my adventure.

While in New Jersey/New York/Connecticut…

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…I made myself dizzy looking up at tall buildings, including my short exposure to Times Square (which put me into a sensory overload),

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and continued with my view of the “Freedom Tower” (One World Trade Center), built on the grounds of the original World Trade Center Towers that came down in the most horrific terrorist attack ever, on our country’s soil in 2001. That tower, along with the Memorial Pool, made my heart ache all over again. I walked along the edge of the large pool and ran my hands over the names etched into the marble stone, saying a prayer for them and their loved ones who still miss them, and carry the tragedy of that dark day with them always.

 

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…I swam in a sound for the first time in my life (at least, that I know of)! It was awesome. For a midwest girl, any hint of ocean water, or the mildest whiff of salt air, are like gifts straight from heaven. I walked out on the jetty, applauded an opera star wanna-be singing in the ocean (made his day, I’m quite certain, with my “Bravo, brravo!”), made several new friends, and sat on the lifeguard stand (possibly breaking a rule there…?). I gathered a few shells and rocks to bring home (because I’ve been a rock/shell collector since I was a wee little lassie, and I can’t stop now!). Plus, I re-learned about what a sound is (geographically speaking), and in particular, about the Long Island Sound and how it was formed. All that while enjoying a beautiful beach with ocean waves and wind rejuvenating my spirit. That was one, perfect day!

 

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…I rode on a ferry and cruised around Manhattan, meeting a tall lady in green, and lots and lots of bridges.

 

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But, most important, I spent six lovely days with one of the dearest friends of my life. I cannot even put into words how much this trip meant to me. I am feeling extremely grateful for forever friends, restorative vacations, surviving my airport adventures (I don’t mind flying at all, but airports send me into a tizzy), and being able to leave NYC and come home to my nice, manageable little city in Ohio! And, once I’m recovered, I’ll get workin’ on that next blog post – one of my usual, entertaining stories for your reading pleasure…I promise!

You Didn’t Know It, But I’m a Poet!

In my last post, Utensils Vs U-Turns, I used a quote from one of my all-time favorite poets, and suggested that I could, perhaps, have a bit of poetry in me. The truth is, I have always enjoyed, for as long as I can remember, writing poems and making up new, original verses for popular children’s songs. My poetry is the “Old Mother Hubbard, Went to the cupboard” brand of verse – I am drawn to reliable meter and perfect (or at least near perfect) rhyme. In an effort to share my gift of poetry with you (and, also, to get a quick blog post in before I head out of town for a week in the “greater” Big Apple area, visiting a dear, old friend), I have composed an “on-the-edge-of-epic” poem about my car, Louie. Get a glass of wine, light a cigar, and sit back and relax. You are about to be courted by some cultivated verse.

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Louie the Shark    

I bought an older Hyundai,

A sweet, reliable guy.

He’s the greatest transport buddy.

If I lost him I would cry.

 

There is one crazy thing, though,

he thinks he is a shark.

I know because he told me,

one night when it was dark.

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At first I thought him loony.

He’s just a common ride

who’d never seen the ocean,

and not once rode the tide.

 

But as I looked much closer,

I was surprised to find

a cute gray fin upon his back,

a baby sharkish kind.

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He had a battle scuffle

etched on his auto nose.

I’ve seen a real ocean shark

sporting one of those.

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And so, in part, for his sake,

I headed to the shore,

all the way to Virginia Beach.

six hundred miles and more.

 

My plan was for his welfare.

I hoped that he might find

a day spent near the ocean

would soothe his shark-like mind.

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He couldn’t hang out on the beach,

The lifeguards wouldn’t let him.

An access road with ocean views

Was the closest I could get him.

 

But, Oh, he was so happy,

his horn beeped Ode to Joy.

He didn’t want to pull away,

he shouted out, “Ahoy!”

 

I witnessed this with merry mirth,

my gray car’s alter ego.

And now I could believe him,

my auto shark amigo.

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I’m considering a vanity plate

(if they didn’t cost so much),

‘cause what I’d put upon it

would be the sovereign touch.

(“LUI SHRK”)

 

So someday you might see us,

driving in your town,

me and my harmless, land-locked shark,

sporting our sharky crown.

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I hope that you will greet us

and give my shark a wave,

’cause waves are what he longs for

my car shark, true and brave!

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Donning the Mimi Millinery

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My grandma status is suddenly skyrocketing into the higher ranks. A little over two weeks ago, my middle daughter and her husband welcomed a foster child into their home. They are recently certified foster parents, and this is their first placement. He is a precious little peanut, and “my” first baby boy.

(Well, not exactly my first, because eleven years ago, my husband and I were foster parents of two adorable siblings, Evan and Larissa. Evan was only six months old when he came to us, and he did become my boy for a while. He formed a very strong attachment to me [and, vice-versa!]. Larissa was almost two, and cute as a button. They blessed [and challenged] our lives for one year, and then went back to their mama, which was a very difficult transition for Evan and me. I remained in contact with the birth mom and the kids for a short time after that, but it was just so hard on the little guy, when I would come to visit and then leave him again, that I decided it was best to step away, for his sake. A year later, their grandma called me out of the blue, to see if we would be willing to take them back into our home again, and consider adopting them. By that time, I was deep in the throes of my chemotherapy side effects, and was in pretty bad shape. I didn’t even know if I would beat the cancer, let alone survive the chemo. The scars in my heart ached afresh, as I told her that there was no way we could do it. I felt absolutely terrible that we could not take these children back into our home, and I struggled for a long time to see the purpose in all of that heartbreak and sorrow. It was difficult not to look at our fostering experience as a stupid, useless mistake. However, I know that God’s ways are not always understood by someone like me [i.e, stubborn, prideful, shortsighted, etc.], and so I have clung to the hope that we did make a difference in their lives, and I still pray for those two children every day. And now, my daughter & son-in-law’s call to foster parenting leads me to believe that I am witnessing some of the fruitful harvest of that perplexing time of love and loss. I’m sure that our sacrifice led to more benefit than I will ever come to know in this life, but seeing just a bit of it is definitely a consoling reward.)

So, anyway, here I am now, ten years after our own fostering experience, finding myself blessed to be the foster Mimi of a beautiful boy. I fell in love with him instantly, and can think of no better pastime these days than holding him in my arms while he sleeps peacefully. (Good thing for him that it’s an hour drive to his house, or else he would be getting awfully tired of his Mimi hanging around constantly!) In the meantime, my oldest daughter and her husband, living in the northern realms of the U.S.A., are expecting my third granddaughter. (Plus, they have two little ones in heaven, who we never got to meet, and I do count them in my grandchild total, too!) That branch of our family tree, having recently purchased a used, pop-up camper, decided to squeeze in a last-minute trip to our neck of the woods to visit the new addition. It was a call to arms for this Mimi – “Man your battle stations, rearrange all the furniture, move the cats out of the spare room, drag out the inflatable mattresses, clear off the shelves of the local grocery, dig out all of the kid’s old toys, and buy some earplugs….the boughs of this family tree are temporarily swinging back towards the trunk!”

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I proudly added another stripe to my Mimi hat, publicly announcing my promotion. I looked pretty sharp, all dressed up in my foremother finery. I had all the plans laid out in my mind, all my kids and grandkids tucked snuggly into their nighttime positions, everyone I love, all under my roof when I go to bed each night…but then, a big “reality windstorm” hit and blew the Mimi hat right off of my head. As it turns out, Fourth of July in our neighborhood is truly an authentic reenactment of a revolutionary war battle. It is not a safe and quiet place for overnights, especially in a far-from-soundproof, flammable camper. Before the battle became too intense for us, our company’s Minnesota arm swung to the west, to our property in Indiana. The Dayton brigade was able to join us for a couple of nights, but then had to return home (there are strict rules about transporting foster children into “enemy territory,” and they only had a 2-day leave to be out of their county). At least I had them under my roof for a while, but that other company went awol, deciding to remain at our personal campground outpost. Now, I had to give up my comfy bed, and all the other comforts of home, to go and be with them. I kicked and screamed and put up a good, toddler-sized fuss, but they are too experienced with these things. They gave me a time-out and a good talking-to, and went on with their plans. SIGH……

The little ones have had a wonderful time, with Papa teaching the 3 year old to fish and shoot archery. Both of them got to take a rowboat ride with Papa and Daddy, and playing in the bountiful supply of fresh mole hills has been a pile of messy, home-spun fun. It’s nice and quiet out there, with no noisy, alarming fireworks to contend with (although we did notice a few on the horizon, once or twice).

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And (you may be wondering) what has Mimi been doing? I have been shopping, several times, for lots of groceries; I’ve slept several nights in an uncomfortable camper bed (with a home visit every third night, just to catch up on sleep and showering); and I have enjoyed immensely this precious time spent with my granddaughters (especially the 21 month old, whose vocabulary has taken off like a bottle rocket during her time here with us). And, when time permits, I have been working on my Mimi hat, trying to dust it off and get all the dents and wrinkles out of it, so it will be presentable the next time I have to wear it. But, then again…., maybe Mimi hats are better with a few dents and wrinkles, and lots of learning-to-go-with-the-flow. So maybe tomorrow, when the northern contingent pulls out, I will put the hat into millinery storage, count my blessings from this adventurous visit, and thank God for my beautiful family, all held safely under His far-reaching roof, each and every night.

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Cat Kidnapping Caper

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Over the past few months, a stray, black cat has been making fugitive appearances around my client’s house. We cleaned out the freezer a few weeks ago and found some pre-cooked bacon to put out for the wildlife. (My client and her dad live on a wooded lot, and they love feeding the wild critters, especially the raccoons, possums, and birds.) Minutes later, as I watched, the petite, black kitty snuck stealthily up onto the deck, snagged a piece of bacon from one of the bowls, and hightailed it off into the underbrush. Sometimes, a member of the local cat society will stop by for a check of the daily lunch special, and I guess the menu had finally appealed to this feline “critter.” However a few weeks passed without another sighting of the black mouser (or, should I say, “baconer”).

Seemingly out of the blue, she showed up again earlier this week, and, bold as you please, tried to waltz right into the house when we opened the door onto the deck. I finally got a chance to hold her and get a good look at her. She was sweet as could be, but the poor little thing was missing her left eye. It was an old injury, the wound healed and shrunken, but still, it broke my heart. She did not appear to be underfed, but there was no collar (which to me, always implies homelessness for a cat!), plus, she seemed more than ready to move in with my client. I concluded that she was probably an unwanted pet who had been dropped off in the woods. My cat-loving instincts, along with my cat-whispering skills, came bubbling to the surface. I called my personal, cat-rescue mentor, Regina, and asked her what I should do, in my efforts to save this cat. First thing to do, she advised, would be to get the cat to a local animal clinic, get her scanned, and see if she had a microchip. By the time I had received that message, the cat was gone. I went walking through the woods, calling and calling, to no avail. I put my cat-saving super hero cloak away for the day.

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Two days later, I was at work again, no sign of the cat. At 3:00 in the afternoon, my client decided she wanted to go to Ikea. Considering the time of day, the potential traffic, and my shift ending in three hours, I was a bit skeptical about this Ikea idea, but I rallied, as any good employee (and loving friend!) would, and we were on our way to the van, when, “MEOW, MEEOOWW, MEEEEOOOWWW!” broke into our thoughts. Where was that noise coming from?! I scrutinizingly scanned the landscape, as I grew closer and closer to the source of the caterwaul, until I seemed to be standing right under it. I looked up, and sure enough, there was that black cat, stuck in a tree, the nearest branch at least 15 feet up. (Photo below, actual tree, she was in that little crook, where limbs start branching out! Okay…..maybe it was only 12 feet, but it felt like 15, or more!) I did what any self-respecting lion tamer would do…I tried to sweet talk her into coming down. No dice. She continued to complain…loudly. Time to call out the heavy rescue team.

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I went back inside to rustle up the rest of the emergency brigade, my client’s 88 year old dad. Together, we managed to drag a huge, heavy, extendable ladder out of the garage, up the driveway, and painstakingly (not to mention rather three-stoogishly, with only two stooges) get the ladder leaning, somewhat securely, against the tree. I started climbing. After a few rungs, I came back down to see if we could get the top of the ladder settled a bit more snuggly against the tree. I started back up, still noticing that the ladder was slipping off the tree a bit on the right side, but knowing that the two of us were not going to do any better with a third attempt. Each rung of the ladder became a prayer. Slowly, nervously, I inched my way to the top. Once there, I grabbed the cat like a mama cat would, by the back of the neck. She was not happy about that, at all! She howled at the top of her lungs and grabbed onto the tree for dear life. I am wrestling with this cat at the top of this ladder, thinking to myself, “If I fall, and I don’t die, my husband will kill me for taking this risk for a cat!” Somehow (no doubt through my prayers, my client’s prayers, and the watchful eye and intercessory prayers of St. Francis), I got the little lynx into my arms (or, one arm, to be exact), curled her up close to me and said, over and over, “You gotta trust me babe, you gotta trust me!” Then, painstakingly, white-knuckling the ladder with one hand, I deliberately worked my way down, one careful step at a time, until we were back on solid ground. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking as I placed the sweet (and now, calm) little girl into a carrier, which we had waiting and ready.

Fast forward through, 1: getting her to the vet;  2: getting a reading from the chip (YAY!);  3: calls made to the pet recovery service;  4: attempted calls to the registered owner which went unanswered;  5: realizing that we were obliged to house this cat until the owner responded, and stuck with finding alternative housing if the owner had vanished;  6: providing my cell number in the hope that they would hear from the owner and he or she wanted to contact me about getting pussycat back.

After returning to my client’s home, we set up plush, temporary housing in a basement room, which would protect little missy from my client’s two cats, and vice-versa. I headed home, after hearing from Regina that our only option for kitty (if we failed to hear from the owner) was to take her to the local SPCA, where she had originally been adopted from. They promised she would not be euthanized, and a new home would be found for her.

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Finally at 9:30 pm, my phone rang. IT WAS THE CAT OWNER, very surprised to have received a message that his cat, Olivia, had “been found,” because he had no idea she was even lost! Turns out, he lives practically in my client’s back yard (albeit an acre’s worth of woods away)! He was thinking that she had stayed out a little later than usual, but wasn’t really worried. I related the entire adventure, from bacon to basement and (luckily) he laughed and laughed, and so did I! We ended our conversation in hopeful agreement that Olivia’s tree-climbing days were over. But I was left with a slightly guilty conscience, realizing that I had been gloating about my successful foray into cat rescuing, while all along, I had actually been carrying out a clandestine cat kidnapping! After sheepishly swallowing my disagreeable dose of humility, I texted Regina to tell her the news, and apologize for wasting her time. She promptly forgave me by signing me up as an official volunteer for her cat rescue non-profit. Wow….I am an official cat rescuer now! Regina….., can I have a cape?!

These Busy, Blazey, Way-too-crazy Days of Summer

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Whatever happened to the quintessential “summer break?’ If you’re over fifty, you’ve most likely heard (at least the first line of) the 1963 tune performed by the smooth, jazzy voice of Nat King Cole, ”Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” That line is all you really needed to hear, especially if you were a kid. It’s the ultimate theme for those hot summer months. Summer is hazy (in most of the U.S.A.), and you should spend a good portion of it being lazy, with any leftover time invested in doing something just a little wild and crazy.

These days, the summer months for youngsters can prove to be just as overly-scheduled, and as excessively controlled and monitored, as the school year. Parents fill out applications and send checks to numerous organizations, then drive to and fro (or…pay someone to drive to and fro), transporting their children to a myriad of planned activities, while kids spend their summers learning, studying, engaging in sports at expensive indoor and outdoor facilities, swimming like a populous school of fish with their summer camp leader & fellow “campers,” and/or playing games or “socializing” on their electronic devices in the comfort of some air-conditioned facility. There are, of course, a few holders-on to the old ways, with stay-at-home parents, or babysitters, sending their young charges out to play with the neighborhood kids (if there are any to be found, with an open time-slot in their schedule). I find myself really noticing these children in my locale, because it is so unusual to see little squirts running around or riding bikes outside (without several adults hovering nearby), and/or an I-phone in their hands. I have made it a point to mention to these members of the younger generation that their neighborhood game of tag, baseball, running through the sprinkler, lounging in a small backyard pool, or whatever it may be, warms my heart and brings a smile to my face. The kids usually seem to appreciate my comments. They grin and say thanks, then scamper off quickly, to avoid being captured by whoever is “it.” These encounters never fail to draw my thoughts back to memories of my own childhood summers.

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Do you remember, as a young child, standing on the edge of summer?! I can easily call to mind the last day of school, the last bell, and suddenly, my classmates and I were free, launching ourselves, with an emotion not unlike hysteria, into the land of summer, with no restraints! Well….maybe there was about a week of lying around, being bored, trying to figure out what to do with all that spare time on our hands, but once we got into the swing of things, there was no stopping us!

During my childhood summers, we sweated and swam our way through a full season of outdoor, spontaneous adventures. After a long day of outdoor activities of one sort or another, I often had a difficult time falling asleep in my un-air-conditioned room. I never once heard the terms “Global Warming ” or “Climate Change.” Maybe they were being discussed behind closed doors, in scientific circles, but it had absolutely no impact on my summer plans. June, July, & August (and often September) in Ohio have always been hot and muggy, so we just suffered through it, like everyone else, and were completely acclimated to the swelter by the Fourth of July.

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When I was old enough to venture off on my own for my daily allowance of activity and fun, I would spend entire days at the local pool and/or lake. Sometimes my cohorts and I would splash and play in the water for hours, doing somersaults and handstands in the cool, deep water, swimming out to the docks, going down the slides, coming out reluctantly only when the whistle blew for the scheduled lifeguard breaks. Other days, especially at the pool, we would dive and jump off the diving boards until we could barely walk anymore, in and out, in and out, mixing our attempts at graceful diving with silly, creative leaps, choreographed with precision comedy to bring giggles to our friends’ faces. Someone’s parents would show up to pick us up shortly before it was time for the park or pool to close.

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When we weren’t at the pool, we were busy trying to figure out how to build our own playhouse or fort (usually in someone else’s woods), or picking and eating fresh produce in a freind’s back yard orchard or garden, or gathering in the neighbor’s field for a game of tag, or kick-the-can, or Indian baseball. Our game was an interesting variation of the original version, and was endlessly entertaining, usually topped off by raiding someone’s freezer for a round of popsicle treats. There were campfires, cookouts, and campouts in backyards, family reunion picnics (with those distant relatives we only saw once a year), occasional trips to local amusement parks (no such thing as gold passes back then, but there were smaller, family friendly parks scattered all over the place), not to mention the carnival that set up every year in our small town’s shopping plaza parking lot. All of these adventures gave us the opportunity to live our “lazy, hazy, crazy” summers to the fullest, and the funny thing is, most of it cost us pennies on the dollar, compared to today’s standard summer fare. I grew older, of course, and transitioned into the summer-job phase of life, but I had learned to treasure the gift of summer break (done properly!), and I administered it in large doses to my children when they were young. I can witness this family “tradition” continuing now, with my oldest daughter and her children. I see the simple, inexpensive, spontaneous outdoor activities she offers my grandchildren, and I know…our growing family is doing summer right, and I hope we’re able to continue in this same vein, for generations to come. And, I challenge you to be on the lookout for opportunities to enjoy something luxuriously lazy and kind-of crazy in the hazy weeks ahead. Be careful, though…you might just find yourself craving a popsicle!