School’s out! It’s exciting every year, The anticipation and build up of the last few weeks and then the final countdown. Did this really pass this quickly?! So I have decided after many changes and upheaval in my world, that I am going to spend most of the summer in Pennsylvania around family and old friends. My dogs are with me. Grayson is still in Milwaukee but I told him the summer will let me recharge and re-direct. My compass is reorienting and I’m gradually starting to find my way. I’ve been restless and bored and feel as if I have been going in too many directions. I have it within my super hero self to slow down and really look.
On the road to Pennsylvania I remembered, as I always do, how much I need my Vitamin T or travel. It’s a long trip but it was a bright sunny day and I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get anywhere. Windows down and wind in my hair, I didn’t even turn on my radio. It was enough for my soul to be moving. I even enjoyed Indiana where in the past I dreaded the long drive through the countless fields of corn, dairy farms, and crosses by the side of the road. Ohio is still pretty monotonous. (Sorry if you’re from Ohio)
My spirit always wakes up when I hit the PA border and mountains start to rise up out of nowhere! I’ve spent a great deal of time in other places. I’ve been happy, content and have felt at home a lot of places. It still always comes as a surprise how the turnpike feels so familiar and comfortable. By the time I get to the eastern part of the state I know I’m home. I know I’ve been in the midwest too long when I come upon curvy roads and have to slow down because I’ve forgotten how to drive on anything but flat, straight roads. The trip took much longer than usual this time but I finally made it to my sister’s home.
So I’m sitting here on the porch with a most excellent breeze blowing and my senses are finally awake again. I’m almost enjoying the smells of the Lancaster farms. Roadside produce stands are taunting me but I finally want to cook again! After the stroke I had no appetite and cooking was just too much of a chore either way. I’ve gotten better at one handed chopping and cutting and don’t worry about OSHA stepping in for safety violations.
I know I continue to improve when I offer to make dinners for my sister and family (since they still work over the summer).
I’m sure I’ll have a lot to wrote about over the summer, so keep reading. For those of you who are regulars here at the blog, thank you for your continued support and nice comments. I am glad that the posts are enjoyable. Who’d have thought I’d grow up to be a writer.
So, my friends and acquaintances from the last decade probably don’t know this about me, which is kind of funny because it was a huge part of my identity for so long. Are you on the edge of your seat yet? It’s not like I was a CIA secret operative…although that would be cool. Nope, the well kept secret is that I am a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, although I truthfully stopped playing after moving to Wisconsin. And now of course, I can’t play and my singing has been greatly compromised as well.Not that I was that talented to begin with. But it was always my outlet and my therapy. So now instead of songs, I write stories. Song were stories too I just added music.
There was a time when I started to play out on my own and a time when songs were pouring out of me like bourbon during happy hour. I was getting so much out and learning about myself through songs. Someone pointed out that a lot of my songs referenced walls. Tearing down walls, building up walls. Not like I was writing about a construction project at least not literally. But as time passes and I assess my life, and have small enlightenments every so often, I realize how symbolic they were and continue to be. LP
I heard an idea lately of making a soft front and a strong back . It’s based on Buddhist philosophy that suggests instead of building up a strong front to protect a weak spine, it makes more sense to strengthen what you stand for, develop a strong back, and then being ‘soft” or vulnerable allows us to see the world more compassionately and not live in fear of vulnerability.
My walls were my naive attempt to protect myself. I thought I was being so clever, protecting myself like that. Who knew that, in fact, I was dealing myself off from life. No I know better and if I were still writing songs, they would be about my soft front. Peace.
What are those bumps? Oh yeah, mountains! Black Hills.
Does this even need a caption?
Sherpa Jeep. I love you.
Louis enjoying the road trip
Prong horn butt
Home away from home
Water falls in Custer State Park
is that smoke or a spirit
Badlands at dusk
Badlands coming up
Rid um cowboy
Frequently since my stroke and for about the year before, after a very hard break up, I wake up and have to remind myself that waking up is a gift alone. And I try to look for the good in the day, the week, the month. Some days it is a struggle because so much has changed and it continues to change.
The trip to South Dakota was one thing I had planned and looked forward to for a long time. I don’t know how much time I have left to participate fully in life. None of us do. So I try to use the “now” to the fullest extent. From the moment we hit the road heading to Minnesota, the moments became the now and I was fully engaged. Excited to share the sights, sounds and smells of the trip with my son, mom, sister and niece, the moments were starting off sweet.
Due to an accumulation of factors, we made the first stop of our trip later in the day than planned. It was a beautiful evening and we were camping on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi.
Still, we struggled with the tent in the dark and the Minnesota mosquitoes were merciless. We were road-weary and bug bitten but I was ecstatic to be alive! I need these moments.
Finally the tent is up, the bug spray applied and we had a small campfire going. And I’m sure the Park Ranger was flirting with me during check in. The dogs were mostly content and I was in love with the world. I fell asleep hard in the screen porch of the tent with my boy snoring softly feet away.
Day 2: we were up and packed by 9 am. Wow. Good coffee in the new camp percolator and the woods were alive with a symphony of bird songs. It was almost deafening but an amazing way to begin the day. And so we set off across the flatlands of Minnesota, confronted with pure prairie and vastness. Seeing the results of time and geology amazes me. I think my mom and sister were also impressed. We were close to our destination with plenty of daylight left in this day. We got into a fight with Samantha of GPS. We won and found Palisades state park. I highly recommend this place for camping. Beautiful campsites, clean and spacious facilities, and after a stern lecture from my sister, the campground attendant should be more vigilant on keeping the lights out time enforced.
Electricity at the site allowed for better inflation of air mattresses and the potential for good sleeping. Except for the loud drunken neighbor campers. Still, it was a spectacular evening with a great fire and s’mores and chili. This day and night….another gift for sure.
Mom made a friend who was passing through just like us and had some real grown up time for a while. They shared coffee the next morning and this nice woman took my son and neice just down the path to rescue some feral kittens. We almost left with one. Paulie and Louis were in favor of another passenger. But all of the micro furballs left with our new friend to go to a rescue some where.
We got packed and were on the road again by noon. We were in South Dakota now and the landscape was magical. We made a number of stops along the way for stretching, eating and taking in the sights. Tried to imagine Louis and Clark seeing all of this for the first time. Instead it was Louis and Paulie peeing on prairie grass at rest stops.
We got to the Badlands after another argument with “turn left” Samantha and drove through time and wonder. We emerged amazed and for me impacted greatly and made our way to Custer State Park. The luggage on my jeep hitch rack apparently hid my license plate. Close to our destination, Deputy J pulled us over to determine if we were on the run. He gave us a warning which was more like an apology and sent us on our way. We arrived at the Game Lodge camping area soon after and found our reserved site occupied by a squatter. We tackled him and chased him off (or he just left when he realized it was our site, things started getting fuzzy on the third day.) We got the tent up, Kel my niece and Grayson, my son had become set up and tear down pros.
A quick rain storm and then a beautiful evening. Full moon and stars every where. No need for the rain fly tonight. Or so I thought! 2:00 am thunderstorm caught us asleep but the troops mobilized and got the fly on and got back to sleep with the music of thunder and fireworks of lightning providing the back drop.
The next morning we agreed to head to Mount Rushmore
and then come up with a plan from there. My sister needed to get back to Milwaukee for a flight back to PA. Instead of staying another night in Custer we needed to start the road trip back and get as far east as we could that evening and finish the trip the following day. We packed we prepared for it and we got ready to set off. We had just enough time to take a quick drive on the Wild Life Loop. We were rewarded with glimpses of pronghorns, white-tailed deer and buffalo! It was a great ending to the stay at the site. We went back to camp and picked up mom and my sister, the dogs and the gear and headed out.
By my recommendation we headed back on a different route which would take us back through the Badlands and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the stops we would miss because of our change in the itinerary.
Turns out the alternate route was a dirt road under construction. Sherpa Jeep don’t care about dirt roads and we were off.
As the sun began to drop and the road continued to stretch on, GPS Sam continued to tell us to turn left…into nowhere….into dessert…into rock walls or over cliffs. We rejected her advice and ultimately cut her power. Following the moon and the stars and our greatly irritable intuition, we made our way through the reservation, stopping only to let dogs pee and stretch our own limbs, oh and to avoid the runaway horses that were in the road.
We found a place to eat and a Super 8 to sleep and decompress. We needed it. In the midst of sleep, food deprivation, frustration and bitterness wake up all of the sleeping demons (I mean, why should THEY get to sleep?!) And so we vomited up our grudges in a dark parking lot of a Super 8. What great family road trip couldn’t use a good regurgitation?
I love my family, I do. But from a very early age I can remember having to make a daily choice to be happy. It’s not the way I was wired. I can easily see the hopelessness and the despair. I have spent most of my life and tried to use all of my life experiences to be a grateful and positive person. I have my family to thank for giving me such a solid foundation that has allowed me to seek and to understand my path, even when they do not. And I am still not wise enough or spiritually evolved enough to understand their paths.
We pulled into Milwaukee about 10:00 pm and brought the road trip to an end. Somehow I am confident that it hasn’t ended and will continue to poke at the demons who are trying their hardest to go back to sleep. That’s okay. Why should they get to sleep?
So I logged in to my blog on a new tablet thinking now I can write in bed. looking at my post and realized that I haven’t posted since April.I was certain that I posted since then but then I remembered that the last 3 months have been incredibly busy. between wrapping up the school year I’m starting my motorcycle year it’s been a whirlwind of crazy activity. I kinda like it that way. but I find it very hard to do all the things I used to do without getting incredibly tired. Still, my summer should prove to be quite interesting. So, here I am, back at my blog and happy to get my thoughts down in writing again. I am preparing for a big adventure starting this Friday. Since the stroke, I am less hesitant to put off things, or should I say, less rigid about seizing the dau.
I’ve become more conscious of the fact that there’s so much to see in this world and precious little time to get it all in and so with that thought I decided to pick up my vehicle load up the dogs and head west.not the whole way west just far enough to see South Dakota, the badlands, Mount Rushmore, and some more of the Great Plains. What makes it even more of an adventure is that my mother, sister, nice nice and son will be making the trip with me. we will be camping and I’m very excited to just be out in the middle of nowhere with family and dogs. So many times when I’ve been on trips as a result of my work experience, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to see so much of the world. My only regret was that my parents and family couldn’t see the things that I was seeing and so I’m happy that I’ll be able to share this experience with them.
My plan is to blog throughout the trip although I’m sure wifi will be limited and so posting might not be too easy. however, I will make sure that everything gets documented eventually. I will be posting regularly via instagram (@outfcontrol7) so be sre to follow me there. I plan on encouraging my mother to also blog her experiences and share with her Mountjoy writing group.
it is also my plan to take as many photos as possible and I’m excited since my son is got a new camera as well. he has a phenomenal eye for shots even as a young age and I’m excited to see how he interprets the different scenery I will post as it I’m ableable.
Story telling is a way to remain immortal. We can put into words the tales of our lives, the experience of our days. Material things are lost, stolen and cannot go with us. Stories of experiences can never be taken. And when we share them, a part of us lives on as well.
I had the great privilege to hear the life stories of some wonderful ladies and men in the Mount Joy writing group. Their stories were moving and told of sadness, triumph and humor. I am above honored to have been given access to their tales. I am part of their immortality now and do not carry this lightly.
I hope that this group will consider sharing some of their favorites as a collection in a book from the group. I am certain they would have many interested in reading them.
Thank you for letting me share your reading/writing time.
As I look back over my life, particularly the last two years, it is not lost on me that I have been incredibly blessed by the people in my life. There are those who have commented that I have drawn good people into my life because of my own goodness. I scoff but I am humbled none the less. To have acquired the caliper of people in my life and connect that to my own qualities seems far-fetched. I’m not trying to be modest; I just don’t see myself that way. Sure, I am generally happy, positive, adventurous, and I love people, all people. I love to hear peoples’ stories and find our common ground but I guess I believed that all people felt like this. I think I am a good person, a kind person and I want to see and experience good and kindness in the world and in people. It’s there. I’ve seen it.
No matter the reason, there is no denying that I have some of the coolest, best friends and family. They reached out to me when it was darkest. They’ve made it easy to be vulnerable. Some of them read this blog, but I write today for those who haven’t and really don’t know how deeply I have been changed because of their presence in my life.
Thank you. Thank you for your friendship, your love, your belief in me. For the time you spent with me allowing me to laugh and especially to cry. For the insight you’ve shared and the wisdom you’ve imparted. Thank you for being such beautiful, authentic human beings. For picking me up when I fall, literally. You have motivated me to spend the rest of my time doing good and living up to your expectations. I hope there is enough time.
Thanks for jumping into the hole with me because you’d been there before and knew the way out. Thanks for just sitting with me and letting me sit with me without explanation. Thank you for showing me what Big Love looks like. I love you Big right back!
Because my mother was a painter and a beauty when artists had patrons and a woman like that needed a man to take care of her, so she married a money man.
Because my mother’s mother was a beauty and her mother was, too, and that’s what people said: “She was a beautiful woman,” as if that was the only remarkable thing.
Because I was born in 1966, the year Betty Friedan and others started the National Organization of Women and challenged an industry which required flight attendants to quit if they got married, pregnant, or reached the age of 32.
Because when my mother had me, she stopped painting and started cleaning house and throwing dinner parties and smoking too many cigarettes and crying in the mirror.
Because my mother never told me that I looked pretty because she did not want me to grow…
Two weeks ago, MacLeans, Canada’s only national news magazine, published an article that caused quite the uproar. Written by a former diplomat, Scott Gilmore, and entitled, “Canada’s Racism Problem? It’s Even Worse Than America’s,” it’s not hard to see why this upset people. Even better was the sub-title, “For a country so self-satisfied with its image of progressive tolerance, how is this not a national crisis?” I wish I had written this article, it says what I’ve been saying for a long, long time.
Aboriginal peoples in Canada get screwed. Have been since the first Europeans arrived, and still do today. And that’s not going to change any time soon unless Canadians do something about it. But, in my experience, they don’t care. Last year, I wrote a post about a funny sweatshirt that an aboriginal man, Jeff Menard, in Winnipeg (which MacLeans also called out as Canada’s most…