Jellyfish, Snow Cones, and Tattoos

I walked away on Thursday, but it wasn’t until Saturday that I remembered what I’d been missing.

Driving out to the shores of Florida, I watched in awe and in envy as kite surfers harnessed the wind to help them glide across the Gulf of Mexico on their boards. Immediately, kite surfing was added to my endless list of activities I must try.

Walking along the compacted white sand, I mourned the beautiful white jellyfish whose bodies lay across the shoreline.

As the day progressed, it all started coming back to me in tiny pieces. There is more to the world than what happens behind the walls of a corporation. How could I have forgotten?

Standing on a pier, I celebrated with women and men who were lucky enough to reel in a fish for their dinner.

I watched as a sea turtle surfaced for air.

I bought a sweet snow cone from a food truck to combat the warmth of the afternoon as I delicately danced around the topic of my daughter getting a tattoo.

As miserable as I’ve been, I guess I needed this. It has helped confirm that I got it right the first time around. Once upon a time, the corporate life may have been right for me, but it isn’t anymore. I’m now content when I’m left to my own devices and allowed to focus on my writing.

Daily Prompt

Life is Too Short

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Life is too short…

It is an ancient adage, but true nonetheless. Life is short. Before you know it days, months, and years are gone. In the blink of an eye, it all slips by. One moment you are a child playing outside and the next you are a teenager trying to navigate your way through the angst of high school. All too quickly, you’re a sleep deprived parent, walking the floor at three in the morning with your crying baby. Suddenly, that child is grown and heading off to college as you try to hold back your tears. Time moves quickly. Now, you’re passed the point of middle age quickly advancing towards retirement. Before you know it, life as you know it is over. Done. Finalized.

Life is too short…

Unceremoniously, I was slapped with this message today. It was a harsh reminder.

I don’t know how I could have forgotten. I guess I’ve been so busy toiling away, I didn’t realize I’d slipped back into my old destructive pattern of behavior. Once again, I allowed work to consume me. I became so wrapped up in work that I forgot the promise I made to myself a couple years ago – to do what I love, and to love what I do.

In a rush to get out the door every morning by 6:30, I almost forgot what it was like to slowly savor my morning cup of coffee. I’ve been so busy working at a job I don’t love, I almost forgot what it was like to step outside and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I’ve been so tired at the end of my fifteen hour work days, that I almost forgot how much I love to blog.

Life is too short…

Enjoy it while you can. It seems easy enough, but sometimes it really isn’t easy at all. Is it? Life has a habit of speeding along at a neck breaking rate. Responsibilities and worries compound, and if we aren’t careful they will consume the best of who we are.

Life is too short…

I’m back, and I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

 

Daily Prompt: Ancient

 

 

 

Lost

imageI’ve taken a wrong turn. This is nothing new. I get lost quite often. Scowling at the GPS navigator, I blame the machine for my mistake. I have to turn around. Flipping on my blinker, I signal to the drivers around me. Warning! Be cautious, here I come.

I almost always know where I want to go,  but I’m never quite sure how to get there. Sadly, I’m a traveler who can’t find my way out of a paper bag. I rely heavily on my GPS. I don’t know what I would do without it. However, that doesn’t stop me from cursing at it frequently when it leads me astray or when I go the wrong way because I didn’t follow its directions correctly.

Navigating along the city streets, I keep a close eye on the GPS. Thankfully, I’m back on the right path. Breathing out a sigh of relief, I see the on ramp for the highway ahead. It will be smooth sailing from here. Just 200 more miles, and I’ll have reached my destination.

Daily Post Prompt

Living Off The Grid

This summer, I went off the grid. Living off the grid has always fascinated me. For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to give up all the creature comforts we all take for granted, and live a simpler life.

In the rugged mountains of Washington, I made a soft attempt to go off the grid. No electricity. No running water. No bathrooms. I deem my adventure a ‘soft attempt’ because the expanse of a month was all I committed to trying out this lifestyle. This was simply a test to see if my endurance and fortitude could withstand what it took to live such an amazing way of life.

Having designated only a month, I didn’t have the time to fully immerse myself in a complete lifestyle change. Thus, I kept a few luxurious conveniences.

  1. I continued to buy my groceries from local stores versus growing my own veggies, foraging for berries, and fishing or hunting for meat. After all, I do love to eat, and a growling hungry stomach would definitely taint my experience.
  2. Never knowing when an emergency may occur, I also kept my iPhone handy – charging it in my car when the battery signal would glow red.

Setting up camp in the mountains of Washington near the banks of the Snoqualmie River, I was pleased to have such a beautiful and ideal location for our little adventure. Organizing camp took no time at all. Having tented across the United States to get here, we were now old pros and setting up and tearing down camp.

The serenity of our location was a cool salve to our frayed nerves. We’d gotten caught in some crazy wet weather along the way, and were happy to finally have a chance to dry out our gear.

Having none of the conveniences we’d all come to rely on was an adjustment. With no electricity, no running water, and no bathrooms – we quickly learned to make due and to appreciate what we no longer had.

While living off the grid may be a peaceful life, it isn’t an easy life. It wasn’t long before I learned why very few choose to live off the grid.

Bathing:

The simple act of bathing was a time consuming chore. No longer did we have the option to simply step inside our shower, adjust the faucet to find a warm soothing spray, and soap up. Instead, we had two options:

  1. Brave the frigid temps of the Snoqualmie River, and hope we didn’t become ill.
  2. Trek down to the river where we’d fill our water jugs before carefully trekking back up the hill to camp, heating jug after jug of water in a large pot over our campfire, and then using that water to fill a large blue tote that we’d designated for our baths.

When Nature Calls:

Maintaining dignity when nature calls can be difficult in the woods. Admittedly, the girls struggled with this more than the boys. Fortunately, we found an outhouse conveniently located three miles from our camp that we used now and again.

Laundry:

On any given day, my extended family of five can accumulate quite an impressive amount of laundry. Staying caught up is essential if you don’t want it to become an overwhelming chore. Two of us normally head to the laundry mat twice a week when we’re living in our Beast.

Living in the great outdoors 24/7, our clothes seemed to naturally accumulate dirt and soil. Thankfully, we had the river close by, so there was no need for us to wonder how we were going to keep our family clean. Hauling our laundry down to the river, we scrubbed and washed our laundry the way families used to before the invention of washers, dryers, and laundry mats. Clean wet clothes make for a heavy haul when you are carrying them up a steep hill on a river bank. Hanging our clothes on a rope strung among the trees, we let the sun dry them.

Sinking down into my camp chair, I’ve never been more grateful to be done with laundry. Laundry has never been my favorite chore. It isn’t particularly hard – just time consuming. I never realized just how hard it could be. Doing laundry is back breaking work without the convenience of a washing machine or running water and a sink.

Potable Water:

Having enough potable water on hand was a worry I had before we knew where we’d be camping. In preparation of our adventure, we bought six gallon jugs of water from the store in addition to several cases of bottled water. Our plan was to use the gallon jugs for cooking and save the bottled water for everyone to drink. We greatly underestimated how much water we use on a daily basis. Our six gallon jugs were empty by the end of our first day. Shocked, we briefly wondered how safe it would be to use the water from the river, but fear of jeopardizing our family’s health kept us from trying it. Thankfully, three miles away at the campground where we’d found the outhouse there was a water pump that offered potable water. We could use the old water pump to fill our water jugs, and our water would be safe for us to cook with.

Like everything else, filling our water jugs from the old water pump proved to be no easy feat. It took several minutes of us steadily pumping on the old heavy metal arm before the old pump would be primed enough to shoot out water. Replenishing our daily supply of cooking water was a two person job. One person would pump and the other would hold the jug steady under the tap as the water shot out full blast – then they’d switch positions. Pumping enough water to fill six gallon jugs was too much for one person.

It wasn’t what I expected, but things seldom are. Living off the grid is hard work. I never fully realized just what it would take.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the peaceful mornings around the campfire. I loved having everyone take a step back from their electronic devices to talk, laugh, and be with one another. I liked seeing everyone pitch in to complete the daily chores.

Sometimes, reality is a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is – living off the grid isn’t for me.

I prefer the creature comforts of my Beast where I can enjoy a hot shower and a soft bed.

Daily Post: Jeopardize

Struggling to Understand

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I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Is my voice…

A little too loud | A little too soft | A little too twangy | A little too brash

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Is my hair…

A little too straight | A little too curly | A little too red | A little too black

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Are my eyes…

A little too black | A little too blue | A little too brown | A little too green

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Are my clothes…

A little too fancy | A little too dirty | A little too worn | A little too tight

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Do I…

Have the wrong job | Believe in the wrong God | Go to the wrong school | Come from the wrong side of town

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What is my crime?

Am I…

Too black | Too white | Too skinny | Too fat

I weep for my country, struggling to understand.

What crime did I commit that caused you to hate me?

 

 

 

Camping Adventure: Tenting across the USA

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Day 1:

Here we go. Finally, we are setting off on our tenting adventure. I’m so excited, I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. We pulled out a little after 9:30 a.m. Being a family of five, it takes awhile to get us all bathed and out the door. We also did two loads of laundry and cleaned the Beast, so our RV home is nice and tidy when we get back to it.

Along the way, we stopped at Carroll’s Sausage and Country Store in Ashburn, Georgia. An old fashioned gem, it sells everything from jars of pickled peaches to pecan rolls to thick slabs of peppered bacon. Happy to get out of the car and stretch our legs, we meandered through the store checking out its various offerings. Splurging, we couldn’t resist picking up a pound of their thick peppered bacon and some seven pepper snack sticks. Storing the bacon in our ice chest, we broke into the savory pepper sticks as we got back on the road.

The first night, we stayed at McKinney Campground along Lake Allatoona in Acworth, Georgia. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful camp for our first night.

Pulling in as the sun was setting, we rushed to get camp set up. Trying to figure out our brand new tent was a calamity of errors – we couldn’t find the directions, we find the directions, we didn’t have enough poles, we find the missing poles, and finally success. Our tent is standing. We have a place to sleep for the night. Thankfully, the rest of our camp set up went off without a hitch.

Exhausted after a long day’s drive, we were soon ready for bed. Wanting to watch the fireworks light up the night sky while fighting the suffocating heat of the Georgia summer, we decided to leave the rain roof off our tent. A foolish and reckless decision resulting in a wet soggy morning. Early the next morning, the sky opened up releasing the rains. Scrambling, we packed as fast as we could and headed to the showers. Fortunately, the rains let up, so before heading out I could grabbed some pictures of the breath taking lake.

Day 2 and Day 3:

Getting back to nature is tough. It takes a lot of work to live this way. I don’t think I fully realized how much work this trip would be. I have been a bit spoiled in my Beast.

Shaking off the sogginess of our morning misadventure, we are soon crooning along to my daughter’s eclectic musical tastes. A little Bowie, a little Reba, a little Def Leppard.

Driving through Tennessee and Kentucky, we are awed by their sheer beauty. Tennessee’s trees and mountains and Kentucky’s corn fields are a sight to behold. We’ve spent some time in Tennessee, but have only ever driven through Kentucky. Making plans to come back and explore both in greater depth, we keep moving.

Pulling into Johnston City, Illinois, we are once again shaking hands with the clock. The sun set long ago forcing us to set up camp in the dark. Thankfully, we remembered how to set up the tent, this time we included the rain roof.

Tired and still needing to dry out our gear, we decide to stay in Johnston City for two days instead of one. This would give us a chance to do laundry, reorganize our gear, and just relax a little. Little did we know, what lay ahead.

Checking the weather on Tuesday night, we were supposed to have mainly clear skies with only a 30% chance of rain fall. Not too bad. We could see the clouds begin moving in Wednesday morning as we ate our delicious peppered bacon and some eggs for our breakfast. Smarter this time around, we had everything tucked away inside the car or the tent. The rain wasn’t supposed to stick around, so we weren’t too worried about it. Ducking into the tent as the rain began to fall, I checked the weather again to see when it was supposed to stop. The weather channel had since upgraded the occasional afternoon rain to a full day of severe thunderstorms. Hunkered down in our tent, we were once again at the mercy of the weather.

Thankfully, our tent held up with only a few minor leaks. The storms broke long enough for us to do laundry and for us to cook some dinner. We won’t be able to dry out, like we’d hoped – maybe at our next stop, we’ll find sunny skies….image

 

 

 

Onward, We Go…

imageIt’s still early. I have time. Careful not to wake my sleeping family, I quietly make my morning cup of coffee, grab my laptop, and head outside. I cherish these moments – quiet moments before the people I love most in the world are up and about. It’s the perfect time to sit, think, and write.

We leave tomorrow. I can hardly wait. I’m so excited. I’m almost giddy. We’ve been stationary for a few months now, and it’s making me restless. The road has been calling to me, beckoning.

This time will be a bit different. We are leaving our home behind. The Beast will be secured in storage while we tent for the next month. Taking advantage of the summer months, we are going to get out doors and get back to basics.

We’ve been preparing all week, and we’re almost ready. There are just a few odds and ends that remain. It’s been a long haul, deciding between necessities and frivolities. Yes, I could make do with just a sleeping bag laid out on the ground, but am I prepared for the havoc that will wreak on my back? I don’t think that I am. An air mattress may be considered a frivolity by some,  but I deem it a necessity.  I’m not as young as I once was. None of us are. Traveling with our Beast is a luxury I’ve become accustomed to. It is so much easier just being able to just tighten down the hatches before hitting the road. It may be a little harder this way, but it’ll be fun.

Onward, we go….

Books: My Not So Secret Love

books and carMy not so secret love affair began when I was just a girl.

Short stories, diaries, articles, quotes, novels, poems, journals, monologues, plays, blogs, letters – Style and form are irrelevant. I love them all.

Dick and Jane | See Addison learn how to read.

I didn’t always have this deep abiding love.

Times are different now than they were then. Now a days, attending preschool is normal and often expected, but it wasn’t when I was a child. A child’s education didn’t begin until kindergarten, but education was important to my parents. They wanted to give me and my sister every advantage. Enrolling me in preschool, they hoped to start my education off on the right foot. And it did. Preschool taught me everything a kindergartner needed to know.

My school didn’t quite know what to make of me and my advanced knowledge. Worried that I’d languish about and be bored in kindergarten, the teachers recommended I skip kindergarten and start the first grade. Hesitantly, my parents agreed.

Sadly, this leap seemed to halt any progress I’d made. Struggling through the first grade, I quickly fell behind the other students. Seeing my frustration, Mom took matters into her own hands. Every day after school, she’d sit me down at our Formica kitchen table, and we’d read out of her old Dick and Jane books.

I hated every agonizing moment. It was my own torturous hell. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of school was more work. No, I wanted to be set free to run and play and eat cherry flavored Popsicles. Instead, I was forced to sit side by side with Mom reading about Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot.

Delving into the pages of a story, I live a thousand lives.dr seuss

Attending a tea party with queens and kings, I sip on tea and sample sweet cakes. Crouched down in a corn field, I silently pray that I’m not discovered. Slicing through the warm waters of the Caribbean, I swim among the fishes. Heartbroken, I’m wracked with gut-wrenching sobs at the sudden death of my mom. Journeying to the farthest lands, I camp out under the stars and desert moon. Tying on an apron, I learn how to make candy from snow. Hanging upside down from a tree branch, I hold court with my friends, discussing the true meaning of friendship.

If only I’d known the wonderful world reading would open for me, maybe I wouldn’t have put up such a fuss to learn.

Isn’t a library supposed to be available for everyone?library

I’m at the high school with my two of my best friends. We are in middle school now, but we’ll be starting high school next year. We thought it would be fun to sneak into the school to see what it is like before we start attending here. Walking along the hall, we come to the library. It is twice the size of our school library. I’m in awe. There are so many books. Books run from floor to ceiling along all the walls and the seats are plush. Selecting a book from the stacks, I sink into a plush chair and begin to read. My friends aren’t as impressed. Quietly talking and giggling, they soon attract the attention of the librarian. We are asked to leave. Sadly, I put my book away, promising to come back another day.

Fun in the sundandelion

Summer stretches out before me. Holed up in my room, I’m surrounded by piles of books. Now that it is summer, I’m free to spend every waking moment with my nose buried in a book. Long after I’m supposed to be asleep, I use a flashlight and read late into the night.

My Mom helped me replenish my stockpile of books by regularly taking me to used book stores, second hand stores, and the library.

Spending so much time inside, I began to grow pale. Watching this go on day after day, my dad implores me to go outside and get some sunshine. Not a reader himself, he has a hard time understanding my fascination with books. One day, he finally had enough. Picking me up, he deposited me outside. Locking me out of the house, he told me I could come back after I’d spent the afternoon getting some sun.

Pounding on the front door, I beg for him to let me in. He stands firm. I need the Vitamin D. Finally, I give up, and ask him to at least let me have the book, I was reading. A few minutes go by…before he opens a window tossing my book out to me. Happy again, I snatch it up before he can change his mind. Heading off, I find a soft grassy area in our backyard before loosing myself back in my book.

My not so secret love affair began when I was just a girl.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleaning Days

mom-funny-quoteSaturdays often remind me of my childhood. This beautiful Saturday morning is no different. Growing up, Saturdays were cleaning days.

Like most families, it took both my parents working to make ends meet. Dad would work day shift and mom would work nights. They alternated their work shifts, so we wouldn’t have to be with a sitter for an extended period of time. My Mom would drop us off at the babysitter’s house before heading on to work. About an hour later, Dad would pick us up before taking us home again. My parents always put me and my sister first.

On this beautiful Saturday, I’m reminded of these earlier days. I had a wonderful childhood.

What I hated – what I could have done without was our Saturday cleaning days.

On cleaning days, our loving home became a war zone. Dirt and mess and chaos were the enemy. It was my Mom’s personal mission to eliminate and destroy any filth that may have built up during the week. Nothing was safe from inspection and her Saturday cleaning regime – she cleaned under furniture, scoured the fridge, washed curtains, scrubbed walls, shampooed rugs, organized closets, and went through every bedroom.

These Saturdays were a day of trouble for me and my sister. It never failed, our bedrooms were never up to par. Truth be told, we were sloppy. It’s almost as if we delighted in creating chaos.Thinking back, I remember a few of our worst infractions – a raw egg cracked open and left to dry on my sister’s plastic kitchen stove, every toy and book we owned torn out littering the floor of our bedroom leaving anyone entering or exiting our room the distinct pleasure of taking their life in their own hands, walls decorated with drawings in bright colors of crayon, a broken closet bar rod that we used to swing on.

It wasn’t until I became older that I began to learn. Cleaning my room while Mom was busy systematically scouring the rest of the house cooled her wrath. It kept me out of my Mom’s hair and saved me a scolding or a restriction. Being a kid, my room was never quite up to her standards, but my efforts helped.

I tried sharing this trick with my little sister. Although, she never quite learned. Her and Mom would continue to war over the sheer disaster that was her room.

Saturday cleaning days were the bane of my existence. However, I must admit there was no better feeling than the one I would get after we’d weathered the storm of a cleaning day. After the day was done and the house was sparkling clean, I’d be filled with a sense of calm relief. I’d lay in my fresh laundered bed listening to the sounds of my quiet house, happy to be done with another cleaning day. As I would slowly drift off to sleep, I’d think about what Sunday would hold. Sundays were our family’s fun day.

House, work, kids, and marriage – my Mom juggled it all. Dad was always there too, but Mom ran our ship. To this day, I don’t know how she managed it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlimited Possibilities

 

 

imageWe have nothing to do, nowhere to go. The empty afternoon offers unlimited possibilities. The day beckons to us, inviting us to explore. Hopping in the car, we set off to find an adventure.

A slight breeze offers relief against the powerful Florida sun, making the afternoon pleasantly comfortable. Munching on our packed lunch beneath a picnic shelter, we’ve decided to spend today at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida. The park promises to fill our empty afternoon with beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife.

Taking advantage of the complimentary boat ride, we glide along Pepper Creek in a pontoon boat. Listening to the Park Ranger’s informative introduction, I take in the beauty of the park. It is breathtaking.

Purchased in 1940, this fifty acre park has actually been a popular attraction since the early 1900s, when trains would stop allowing passengers to enjoy the view of Homosassa Spring. Over the years this beautiful natural park was used to house trained exotic animals that were used on television shows and in movies.  However, animal education, understanding, and compassion have since changed how the park manages captive wildlife. A participant in Manatee rescue and rehabilitation, the park has helped rescue and rehabilitate more than forty injured manatees in the span of thirty years.

Exploring the park, we saw manatees swimming, stunning wildlife at the zoo, met an artist, rode a pontoon boat, and learned little something about animal rescue and rehabilitation.

What started out as an empty afternoon ended in a beautiful adventure.

 

Daily Prompt