Walking is good for writing

In our never-ending quest for fitness, Saturday Joe and I went for a walk at Baumann Park, which is in Cherry Valley, Illinois. If you are a nature-y type person, if you lurrrrrve the great outdoors…you’d love this place and quite honestly, I cannot recommend it highly enough.IMG_20180707_132307

The Kishwaukee River runs alongside the park. Sometimes the water level is extremely low and the river sluggish. However, right now, due to the monsoonish rains we have experienced over the last month, the water is quite high and the current is very brisk. Over the years, it used to be a virtual hotbed for summertime tubing but since they don’t let you bring alcohol onto the river anymore, it doesn’t seem that people are planning exciting floating quests downstream anymore. It’s almost as if there’s a connection between summertime water activities and liquor.

I digress.

The weather has been so perfect lately in Rockford that we knew when we got out of bed on Saturday that it was going to be picture-perfect for a walk—80 and sunny. On the way there I downloaded a “pacer” app since my Fitbit Flex refuses to sync with my new phone. #getanewone

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There are paved walking paths that circle Baumann Lake. The lake is not all that big. The paths go all around the lake and one pass from start to finish is approximately a mile. The back half of the path winds through trees so just about the time the sun becomes too much for you, you have some shaded areas for a bit.

I had to take some pictures to share with everyone.IMG_20180707_132117

Families with picnic lunches and fishing poles dot the shores, and lots of picnic tables and benches. There are fishing limits there (not sure what they are) and you can only bring night crawlers for bait and the water is gorgeous to look at while you’re walking. Tons of people were fishing while we were there, and lots of people walk their dogs as well.IMG_20180707_131719

My husband and I have good chats on our walk, and sometimes just companionable silence which allows me time to spin crazy ideas for books, or noodle out plot holes. I know writers out there who agree with me that walking is one of the best things you can do for your writing. You can figure out so much as you stroll along.

Although the second lap around is a teensy bit harder than the first—the smallest incline is like climbing Mt. Everest—we finish and according to my new app, it’s about 2.8 miles and a little over 7500 steps, and takes us a smidge over an hour.

I wish finishing a book would only take an hour.

Alas.

 

 

 

 

We got some weather

I used to absolutely love thunderstorms. The heavy feel of the air pressing down on my body when I stood outside sniffing at the air, knowing a humdinger of a storm was on its way. The bruised color of the sky as the storm moved into our area and the smell of the pending rain all around me. The way it got darker and darker outside, as if it were nighttime, instead of 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon and the delicious sound of the far off thunder.

And then, there was the spectacular moment the heavens opened up, lightening cracking across the sky while I watched from inside the house, mesmerized at the heavy rain and hoping the electricity doesn’t go out. I mean, I lived for thunderstorms where I could doze on the couch, with that storm sound in the background, a lovely white noise.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Storms relaxed me, but not anymore.

I watch the weather forecasts now while biting my nails down to the quick and not even realizing it. If weather heads into our area, I find different websites that offer radar readings, and compare each one to where we are on the map. One says 1-2 inches possible. Another says it’s going to barely clip our area. Another says to take shelter immediately. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

I’m simultaneously swallowing coffee and Xanax*. I want to be relaxed enough to enjoy the lovely but severe weather but alert enough to be able to get down the basement stairs when and if the tornado alarm goes off.  Anxiety always wins and the coffee ends up aggravating it.

Back then, when I enjoyed the storms, it was all about lighting a few candles in case the power goes out. Now, it’s about making sure that not only are the candles lit…but that we have flashlights, our most important documents in a baggie (think passports and birth certificates and the new book I haven’t read) and enough dry towels to mop up the seepage that will start coming in from the walls and window wells soon enough. You see, we have been burned before: the first time while Joe was visiting me in Plainfield in 2006.

In 2006, Rockford was deluged with rain on Labor Day. It flowed like a raging river into the back of our house while he was sitting in my Plainfield living room, blissfully unaware. It broke out two basement windows and flooded the entire basement. Five feet of water in the basement and goodbye to the water heater, washer, dryer, and of course furnace.

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Photo by Genaro Servín on Pexels.com

Rinse and repeat that in 2007 although not as bad…The window wells flooded, the walls seeped, and we mopped up water for two days before our honeymoon and ended up sleeping away the entire first 24 hours of our trip to Mexico.

Repeat again in 2009, when sadly the train tracks were washed away in Cherry Valley and the train derailed. The storm sewer crossed with the drains somehow, we got six inches of rain dumped on us, and I don’t know what the hell happened but suddenly we had storm water surging up through every drain in our basement. We lost that fight as well as our water heater again. Two sump pumps later and it still took weeks to clean up from that mess. We were lucky compared to most…our basement is not finished so we’re working with cement that can be easily mopped.

We put in a real sump pump that year.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since we’ve been burned so badly, when the weather threatens and there’s a chance that we could get some bad storms now—meaning lots of rain—my gut churns and my heart jumps into my throat. Although I still enjoy a good thunderstorm, I also get that sinking feeling that something is going to happen to our basement; either windows will break out and we’ll have a huge disaster on our hands, or spend hours squeegeeing and sponging and drying up our basement for days on end.  Storms don’t hold the same appeal anymore.

However, since I’m from the Midwest, in Illinois, I of course will stand on the porch until the last second, until the twister is practically in our front yard before I’ll hightail it to the basement. I mean, dude. I did used to live in Tornado Alley.

As I get older now, I have to balance that “hold my beer” mentality against how fast I can make it down the stairs with a knee that sounds like Rice Krispies.

Having said that, lest you think I’m irresponsible, I would like to also point out that I am down in the basement long, long moments before my husband believes we’re in imminent enough danger that he deigns to come down the stairs. He normally just stands at the top of the stairs and laughs at me for being down there with the TV blaring warning sounds. Yuck it up, Huckleberry. We’ll see who’s laughing when you’re sucked up into the sky along with the basement door, a’la Twister.

Until then, I’ll cower downstairs, thanking God that we have a cozy basement to bunker down in, and wait for the all clear.

So I can mop up the water.

 

 

Saturday, I arted.

I had an incredible day Saturday with my family dying silk scarves. The only bad thing? One wasn’t enough. Heck, ten wouldn’t have been enough. It’s addicting!

Saturday morning, I gassed up my little Cruze (meep meep, 48 mpg highway) and picked up my girls for a little road trip into Plainfield, where we were going to meet two of my sisters and two of my nieces, as well as my mother. After the requisite McDonalds stop for a couple of breakfast sandwiches, we were on our way. It was going to be a fun day.

It wasn’t just a fun day, though.

It was a super fun day!

The eight of us gathered in the home of Jennifer Lagerwall, who with her husband has a cool set up in her basement where you can dye silk scarves. They run a business called Silk Avenue. You can bring a bunch of your friends (and snacks/drinks, if you so choose) and, working two at a time, create beautiful masterpieces that you can then take home and wear.IMG_20180623_130750

My sister and I went first, each choosing various shadesIMG_20180623_115231 of purple and pink for our colors. Then you drip paint carefully onto a big flat tray of water that has been thickened with a special ingredient, making it a little goopier. Think paper mache. You let drops of paint fall onto the water and they spread out, then you can pick different colors to accent your scarf. The best part is after your paint is all applied to the water, you can carefully guide a thin metal bar through it (or a piece of plywood with lots of bars) and the pattern swirls in delicious ways.IMG_20180623_122752_1

After we finished, we got to watch the others work on theirs. It was gratifying to observe them not only choose their colors, but show the vision they had for their own scarves.

We oohed. We aahed. Each was truly a work of art, and I could have done one scarf after another, seriously. It’s so addictive and none of them are the same.

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After our masterpieces were finished (it took us about two hours for eight of us) we all trooped to lunch where we were able to relax and chat.

I cannot recommend this type of afternoon highly enough. Our hosts were phenomenal and helpful, and it’s a really fun afternoon out for your book club, or girls from school, teacher friends, etc.

You get a really cool scarf out of it…not to mention, you get to hang out with your friends. It’s a win-win situation!

 

 

Whoa, ho, ho…it’s Magic

One week ago today, we were sitting in an airport, waiting for a flight back from Orlando marveling at  how quickly a vacation can come and go.

Was it a vacation, though? I believe it was, only in the strictest definition of the word. “Vacation” implies that one relaxed. Slept in. Lounged.

This was not that kind of vacation because we were at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and we had things to do, things to see, and ride attractions to experience…AND ONLY SIX DAYS TO DO THEM.

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I can feel the magic from here. It tickles.

Three years ago, I was introduced to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am not ashamed to tell you, dear reader, that when I stepped foot into Hogsmeade, I cried. It’s magical beyond anything you could imagine. The shops, the music, the staff that populate the stores…all of it is geared to letting you have the most enchanted time of your life.

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it really is this glorious. even better in person.

Example: When I bought my interactive wand. (Yes, even at almost 50, I bought an interactive wand.) I finished up my purchase on a Chase card so my husband wouldn’t know how much it was and still doesn’t. The cashier handed me the receipt and a pen, and asked me to “sign for the Ministry of Magic.” Charmed, after I had done so, he handed me back my card and said, “Here’s your Muggle plastic.” Talk about getting—and keeping—you in the magic. Same thing happened when I bought a Gryffindor student robe this year…but we won’t talk about that right now. I modeled my wizard robe to my daughters and they both snickered so hard they fell off the couch. #nerd #bignerd #biggergeek

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Girls, don’t make me get my little friend.

I stood in line to do spells with six year olds and I don’t regret a single minute of it because the spellcasting fed my soul. I was actually pretty good at it.

This year, the cast of characters going to Orlando changed a bit, meaning it was extra fun because we got to watch two people who had never been there become just as bewitched as we were upon first seeing it.8CRUDME7NcVACQDd7K9H69buheuZyktXJzsId9Dzgy0eJxFPc

We drank butterbeer almost every day, sometimes sharing one because you could buy the froo frootiest drink at Starbucks and it STILL wouldn’t be as much as a butterbeer. Five of us shared the giant feast at Three Broomsticks restaurant. I rode almost every single ride except for the Hulk and Rip Ride Rocket, which I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole because reasons. We saw some Transformers, got a little wet on the Jurassic Park ride, and met Blue the T-Rex, who doesn’t like eye contact so my sister promptly made eye contact. Silly Muggle.

We had volcano nachos at Margaritaville,

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delish.

toured the Hogwarts Castle, and watched that very castle light up at night with the four different house colors. We had sushi at Cowfish,

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double cheeseburgooshi.

rode the Hogwarts Express train, and risked our very lives to take a picture with Jaws.

Screenshot_20180618-150146We wandered around Diagon Alley, where we watched the fire-breathing dragon scare the stuffing out of newcomers. We had dinner at the Chocolate Emporium. We sweated our butts off, since the average daily temperature was only slightly cooler than hell. In a related story, the first day there, I got a blister from new shoes. Fine. So I wore my old ones the second and third days, and developed even bigger blisters. My sister and I wore SPF 50 every single day and barely have any tan to speak of, even after a week of being outside in sunny Florida for six days. Yet despite the regular and vigorous sunscreen application, I still developed sun poisoning on my inner shins. K7y4l1S_dBNEOuUv0_WtzLs_FBlhyUEuxT5A2lnD0GceJxFPcI know, right? Unfair. I also started referring to myself as Sister Chris of the Wailing Hip. (I didn’t tell anyone that, though.) I cannot emphasize to you how sore I was…we were up (well, Jenny was up) freakishly early so we could get to the parks early, then we’d be there for seven or eight hours during which we walked, strolled, or in my case, stomped and/or lumbered, take your pick.  My sister Jenny, going through thyroid treatment, RAN CIRCLES around me the entire time we were there. #letmesleepfortheloveofgod

We also were, by some miracle, upgraded to suites. These suites were bigger than my entire house and had a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room with a sectional, dining room, and FbgWeiN4bsTAbFFdKhINVT7XkSBQQ-WZGCtji6WdnwYeJxFPcconversation pit. The suite was so big we needed the GPS to find the bathroom. We also had good snacks delivered via Instacart. We rode the boat through the waterways to get to the parks each day. We had tropical drinks poolside, made memories and laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

It may not have been the lounging, relaxing vacation you think of when you think vacation, but I believe it might have been the most fun yet. As I kept saying to my sister, “I can sleep when I’m home.”

I cannot wait to do again. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go check–and clear–my Muggle calendar right now.

We Are All Winners

So, you guys know all about Grandma Sundays, right? We had one again yesterday–more meaningful than normal because I haven’t had them in a few weeks and I won’t have them this coming Sunday. I’ll be at Universal, standing in line with ten year olds to do the interactive spells with my interactive wand. Don’t @ me.

(I’m so excited, in fact, that I’m going to share a pedi picture because I refuse to go to Florida again with feet so dry they look like the back of an armadillo.)

Back to the story, though.

We painted nails. We did makeup.

We played outside. We had not one but (look away, Annie and Merry) TWO fruit snacks and later, some cinnamon applesauce. We ate a lunch (well, they did) consisting of corn dogs and macaroni and cheese. And yes, that was me hunched over the stove later having spoonfuls of cold Mac n cheese. We don’t waste food in this family.

Around three, Mike came over to visit and they were sort of excited. Sort of.

Another, even bigger thing we did was assist Sophia with her potty training. She’s getting really good at it with a few glaring exceptions, one of which I had to scrub off the bathroom floor. (No pic, sorry. Sickos))

Each time she goes, she gets a Hershey’s kiss. In fact, we all do because have you ever tried to give candy to just one child when there’s three standing there? It isn’t done. I get one because I’m the Grandma.

We ALL get the reward, my friend.

Alyssa, because she was polite all day.

Sophia, because she did so well potty training.

Shawn because he listened and took a good nap for me.

Me, because I got to love and cuddle my grandkids all day

We are all winners–
But me especially.

Not Quite Twilight

My husband has put up with it for years.  My sister and I have a pact about it.  If I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s not done, I’ll do it.

I believe with every fiber of my being that if I go to bed without pulling the covers up to my chin, vampires are going to somehow not only be alerted but also line up for a slurp of my A positive.  Perhaps brag to their friends to my piquant taste and vintage bouquet.  Sell raffle tickets in the Vampire Gazette for a tasty drink of my blood.

I have my good buddy Stephen King to thank for this, as one of the many times I was shoved out of the house and told to go find something to do during the summer, I went to the library and picked up the book ‘Salem’s Lot.  At the tender age of 14 or so, I think that my mother probably should have been monitoring my weekly library checkouts a little more carefully.  It’s one more blame to hang on the maternal mantle.

At this point, I don’t remember if we rented the movie ‘Salem’s Lot or it was on a special TV night, but in the end, does it matter?  What matters is I became familiar with the bloodsucker material along with my brother and sister, who are four and six years younger than I, putting them at 10 and six at the time of the viewing.

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“Come back later.” Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Fourteen, ten and six, people, and we’re watching ‘Salem’s Lot.  Floating vampires outside your window, using their squeaky talons to request access into the home.  Let me in, they’d say.  I’m so cold.

We probably should have flipped the channel to something more age appropriate; for instance, Little House on the Prairie?  Zoom?  Flip Wilson?  The Sonny and Cher Show or Donny and Marie?  No one flipped the channel, however, and there we all sat, glued to the TV.

After watching this movie, whichever of us kids drew the short straw to take the dog out would skreek our fingernails down the bay windows to make the exact noise of the flying Glick boys in the movie, giggling the entire time.  We said we were doing it to scare the others but I think it was more that we wanted a connection, no matter how tenuous, to the people inside while we were outside, with things unseen in the dark, and a big, stupid dog that would rather sniff 1100 things rather than pee.

It was only funny until bedtime.  At that point, lying in bed and frozen with fear, that shit got real.   Any sound, especially crickets, began to resemble the sound of those long, green, brittle, broken fingernails scraping the windows.  Looking for entrance.  Begging the children of the household to obey their trancelike urges and open the window or door to let them in.

For a quick snack, that’s all.

It was at that point, 32 years ago, that I began pulling the covers up as high as I could to cover every inch of neck that might be exposed.

I never forgot.  I never relaxed.

Fast forward to every single night after that.  When it’s time for bed, I brush my teeth; kick the 130 pound Labrador out of the way long enough to slide under the flannel sheets and…

This part is important.  Stay with me.

I AM 51 YEARS OLD. I still pull the covers right up to my chin.  Still.   And that’s where they remain, even when my icy-footed husband kicks the giant black creature fully out of our bed and climbs in.  Even when he gets into bed and I reluctantly allow him a meager portion of our covers.  Once he is settled I simply retuck the covers around my neck.  My husband is long used to this procedure.  Sometimes he even does it for me.  I think it’s husbandly concern but it’s more likely he’s just indulging me and my weirdness.

Yes, I’m afraid of vampires, folks. Not to the point where I can’t read about them or watch movies about them (hello, Lost Boys).  I’m fine during the day.  But nighttime?  Nighttime is a different story, ever since I saw that ‘Salem’s Lot movie and countless vampire movies since.  My vampire phobia strikes at night, when my mind is a little more open to those sorts of things.  When I’m a little more vulnerable.

I have a feeling–sometimes a certain resolute knowledge–that at night, a sly vampire is crouching in a corner of my room, waiting for the exact moment when I forget to pull the blankets up high enough, leaving a tiny, succulent strip of skin exposed.  The one watching me from the corner is the same one who has been assigned to watch me since I was 14.  He’s not cute.  There’s nothing sexy about him.  He’s not suave like George Hamilton was in “Love at First Bite.”  I imagine he’s got glittery eyes.   Yellow skin.  Long, sharp teeth.  Stringy hair.

He also has unholy patience, which is why I cannot let my guard down for even one minute.  He’s a vampire who means business.

My extreme vamp phobia even caused me to call my sister one time a few years ago, in a complete panic, just to make sure she knew that if I was ever in a coma, she needed to come in every night and pull my covers up to my chin so that the vampire wouldn’t be able to bite me in the middle of the night.

Without even batting an eye, she agreed and had a condition of her own; if she was ever in a coma I had to come and pluck any chin hairs.

It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Stuff it, Miss Muffet

It’s not that I’m afraid of spiders. I’m really not. As long as I can see and squish them.

Last night before getting into bed, Joe and I were changing the sheets. I was trying to get my pillow into a pillowcase by stuffing it in then hurling it over my head and down onto the ground again and again. I was having a hard time because putting my pillow into a pillowcase is like fitting ten pounds of flour into a five-pound bag…but WORTH IT.

Mid hurl, I noticed up on the ceiling a gigantic black spider. Big enough to have a driver’s license. Big enough to qualify for a zip code. More importantly, big enough that if that sucker landed on my side of the bed while I slept, I would have felt the mattress move. And don’t even get me started on the fangs.

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actual size.

Well, obviously this wouldn’t do. I would have to kill it. Meaning I’d have to have Joe kill it, once I got my stupid pillowcase on.

A couple more overhead hurls with the pillowcase and I looked back up to find that the spider was gone.

Gone.

I think the puffs of air from the vigorous pillowcase action had blown him down, because he was not skittering down the wall, not moved over on the ceiling a little bit, but gone as in could be anywhere, could be under the bed, could be hiding on my side of the mattress. Obviously we’d have to get the flamethrower out.

Joe indicated he’d rather hold off on the flamethrower and instead got down on all fours to look under the bed with a flashlight. There were lots of things under the bed. A slipper I thought I’d lost. About fifteen purple earplugs that had gone missing. An earring. And about two hundred pounds of dog hair…

But no spider.

“I’ll go get the flamethrower now,” I told Joe.

“Why don’t you just get the other flashlight and help me look,” he responded patiently.

“I’m not sleeping in this room unless we find the spider,” I said, as I peered under the bed with my light. “If you want to be gobbled up in the middle of the night, that’s your business. But I won’t be in here to save you.”

It’s then I see it cavorting under the bed. It’s the size of a ping-pong ball and hairy, and it’s in a hurry because it knows when there’s a flashlight shining his way, the sole of a shoe is about to follow. The drawback is that to pull him out and squish him, I have to lure him closer to me. Closer is not a word I like to associate with spiders.

I take the aforementioned slipper and a deep breath, then scoot Gigantor out into the open, where I use Joe’s good dress shoe to pound him into oblivion.

At least I’ll be able to sleep tonight, though, as long as there isn’t any spider family who’s going to come looking for retribution.

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“Looking for Chris Cacciatore. Have you seen her?”