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

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

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….

The Required Life

Too young to retire, too old to keep going on this way. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

It used to be, a man knew what was right and what was wrong. Not now. Now, the world he’d always known seems to be lost. The world today is a scary place. Families can’t afford to feed themselves. Students are shot inside their classrooms. Police officers are constantly under attack. Children are kidnapped from their bedrooms. Masked men wield knives killing hundreds of innocents. How did any of this happen? It isn’t right.

Slamming his hands down on the arms of his recliner, Griffin could feel his anger burn through him as he flipped off the news. Anger was his constant companion these days. And who could blame him? He’d done what he was supposed to. He’d done what was expected. He’d been dedicated to his job. Faithful to his wife. He’d raised good girls. He’d done what was required. Hadn’t he? His whole life he’d given everything to everyone. And what good had it done? Where had it gotten him?

Fired. Downsized after thirty-six years with the company. His boss had talked and talked trying to explain. None of it had registered. He’d been in a state of shock. Only one thing made it through, he’d been fired. He was no longer wanted. No longer needed. Just like that. Griffin was put out to pasture at fifty-nine years old.

Remembering, Griffin felt his chest tighten. The humiliation. The embarrassment. He’d thought the hardest thing he’d ever have to do was to tell his wife. He’d been so ashamed. Griffin hated disappointing his Annie. He should have known better. Annie hadn’t blinked an eye. She didn’t ask him what happened. Didn’t ask him what he’d done wrong. She didn’t ask how they were going to survive. Annie had wrapped her arms around him offering him the quiet comfort she knew he desperately needed. Annie was a rock. Buoyed by his wife’s love and strength, Griffin set out determined to bounce back. After all, he had the knowledge, the experience and he enjoyed hard work. He would land on his feet. Everything would turn out for the best.

He’d been wrong – so wrong. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into a year. Being out of work for more than a year with no prospects in sight, Griffin was losing hope. He had done everything he could think of. He’d taken everyone’s advice. He’d sent out resumes, reached out to all of his contacts, applied for positions outside his field. He had no pride. Griffin just wanted to work.

Early on, his oldest girl told him getting the interview was half the battle. Not for him. Oh, he’d been on plenty of interviews. Getting the interview was easy. Landing the job was another story. The man he was on paper didn’t quite compute with the man he was in person. Griffin’s work history and reputation made for a strong resume. The man on paper with the stellar work history and glowing references was a treasure, a mechanical genius everyone wanted and needed. The man on paper was their ticket to driving a company to the next level on efficiency and productivity. The frail-looking old man standing before them didn’t compute. The man standing before them didn’t look like he could competently drive a car let alone build a processing plant from the ground up. He could see the doubt in their eyes and hear it in their voices. How was a man his age going to have enough strength and energy to do the job they needed him to do.

They didn’t realize how capable he was. He was getting older, but he still had a strong mind with the same knowledge and understanding on how to troubleshoot any mechanical system. Problem was no one wanted to take a chance to see what he was able to do. They all wanted someone young, strong, and experienced. Griffin could have told them it doesn’t work that way skill, knowledge, and experience is earned. It’s built over time. Not that they would’ve listened to him. Interview after interview brought rejection after rejection. Griffin got to where he couldn’t take it anymore. Every time he got an interview, his hope would surge only to be squashed when they chose someone else. One of the managers interviewing him went so far as to ask him how he was going to manage getting up and down on his knees to work on their machines. Rude. Cocky. Arrogant. Griffin had to bite the inside of his cheek until he tasted his own blood while assuring the young man he was in great shape, and nothing ever held him back.

Truth be told, Griffin actually liked working. As a kid, he’d spent every free moment at the wrecking yard down the road from his house learning from an early age everything there was to know about cars. Griffin quickly learned how to tear down an engine and build it back up again. By the time he was sixteen he was a well-respected mechanic working at Walt’s Automotive. Over the years, he had graduated from car mechanics to plant mechanics and operations. He could build or rebuild almost anything he had a mind to. Using his knowledge and his skills, he’d went to work for a major company in the agricultural industry. The company took advantage of Griffin’s knowledge and skills sending him all over to help build new plants from the ground up and to troubleshoot plants with poor productivity. Griffin knew his knowledge and skills were unparalleled, and he’d been proud to of his work.

Gripping the arms of his old recliner, Griffin felt the pressure building. His chest tightening. This burning rage was consuming him. What was he expected to do? Was he really expected to spend the rest of his days sitting in his old recliner waiting to wither and die? Griffin was sick of sitting around with nothing to do but stare at the television. He’d worked so hard his whole life. Now this is what he was reduced to. Sitting in his living room all day with nothing to do but stare at the television, stare at his wife, stare at the four walls of his living room. It used to be he loved coming home after a long day at work kicking back and relaxing in his recliner. Annie had wanted to throw it away many a time over the years, but Griffin had always put up a fight. Now he hated the thing. Griffin felt the tightness spreading across his chest as he realized he’d been sentenced to a life of imprisonment in the chair he’d loved, and there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe this was his punishment for not letting his wife throw the chair out years ago.

A bang at the front door brought him back from his dark consuming thoughts. Weighed down with grocery bags, his wife struggling under her load. Scurrying to help, Griffin took the bags from Annie glad to have his wife home. Smiling her thanks, Annie shut the door with her foot following Griffin. into the kitchen. Moving with an easy grace that comes from years of living with someone, they began putting away the groceries. Griffin felt the pressure and the tension ease as he worked side by side with his wife. He didn’t know how he’d gotten so lucky. Her and the girls kept him going.

“How was your day?” Annie asked as she tucked the milk into the fridge.

“Same as yesterday and same as the day before and same as the day before that. Sitting around here all day with nothing to do. How was yours?” Griffin gruffly asked his wife.

Nervously, Annie bit her lip. She’d really been hoping today would be a good day for her husband. Good days for Griffin were harder and harder to come by these days. She’d needed today to be a good day, so tonight would go easier. No such luck. Annie promised herself she would wait until they sat down to dinner before broaching the subject she’d been mulling over for the last couple of months. Annie had stacked the cards in her favor with tonight’s dinner. Griffin loved a good steak. She was hoping a good meal would help him relax making him more receptive to hear what she had to say.

“It was good. Real good. I bought a couple of steaks. Picked up some veggies from the farmer’s market. I thought you could grill for us and I will make us a nice salad.”

Taking the steaks, Griffin slammed the kitchen door shut behind him heading out to the patio to fire up the grill. Wincing at the slamming of the kitchen door, Annie watched her husband work through the window as she prepared the salad. She thought about the last year. Griffin was such a good man – a good husband and a good father. They had built a good life together. Loosing his job had been such a blow. So much of who Griffin was had been wrapped up in his career. The last year hadn’t helped. Interview after interview after interview sent him spiraling further and further inward. Now, more often than not he was sullen, distant, and angry.

She had tried to help, but nothing she did seemed to bring him any comfort. Hopefully, this time will be different. The shock had been immediate when he’d came home and told her. She couldn’t quite believe it. Fired. All these years, Griffin had always been his company’s go-to-guy. The man every one relied on to troubleshoot and fix anything from mechanical malfunctions to productivity issues. Griffin had been so devoted to the company. Being let go so suddenly after all those years had been a devastating blow. Annie knew Griffin didn’t need her adding to the pain and the pressure of his loss with her worries and fears, so she’d done everything she could to offer only comfort and support.

When Griffin lost his job, Annie had no doubt that he’d find work. It was just a temporary setback. Griffin would be fine. They’d be fine. He was a hard worker. He had knowledge, skills, and experience. Ultimately, none of that had mattered. No one wanted to hire a man his age. It was all so ridiculous. Her husband was so willing and so capable of working, but no one would risk hiring an old man. It’d been a little over a year. A year of watching the man she loved turn into this bitter angry creature. A year of living with false hope. A year spent walking on egg shells. Annie could feel Griffin’s anger and resentment like it was a living breathing thing that had taken up residency in their home and in their marriage. She couldn’t take it anymore. After a year of living this way, she was done. She just had to tell Griffin. Steeling her resolve, Annie began to move about her kitchen with renewed focus.

Warm and inviting, Annie’s kitchen was designed for someone who loves to cook and made for large families who come together to eat. While Griffin favored the living room and his recliner, Annie was at home in her kitchen. They stopped using the dinning room after the girls grew up and moved out preferring to take their meals sitting side by side at the island or at the small kitchen table. Smoothing a wrinkle from the cream colored table cloth, Annie decided they would eat at the table tonight.

Sitting across the table from the man she’d spent the last thirty-two years with, Annie took a deep breath before taking the plunge. “Griffin?”

“Hmm?” Focused on the steak in front of him, Griffin didn’t glance up from his plate.

“I’m retiring at the end of this month.” Immediately, she had his full attention. His dinner forgotten.

“What happened?” Griffin demanded anger and worry prominent in his voice.

“Nothing happened. I’m fine. Everything is fine. It’s just time, that’s all.” Annie quickly reassured him.

“What do you mean its time? You’re only fifty-four. People don’t retire at fifty-four. You’re too young. People don’t just decide to retire out of the blue. Something had to have happened. What happened today?”

Taking another deep breath, Annie forged ahead. “Nothing happened. You know I love my work. I’m just ready to slow down. We’ve always talked about taking the motor home out of storage and traveling across the United States when we got older. Well, I think now is the perfect time. I’m ready to go. I want us to go and do this while we still can.”

“What are you talking about? We can’t just go gallivanting off on whim. We have responsibilities. I’m not retired. I have been killing myself looking for a job. What has gotten into you ?”

“First of all, this isn’t a whim. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. It is the perfect time to go. Second of all, why kill yourself when you don’t have to? You’ve worked hard your whole life, so why not enjoy yourself now? Not a lot of people have an opportunity like this. We have the money, we’re both relatively healthy, and we have the time. Now, is the perfect time for us to do this.”

Annie held her breath waiting. Griffin remained unnervingly quiet. Unable to bear the pain of Griffin’s silence, Annie softly sighed. “I love you. I want to do this with you. I need you to do this with me, but if you don’t want to. If you can’t do this with me then I’ll try to understand, but I’m still going to go. I know this last year has been incredibly hard, but it shouldn’t define who we are or the life we’ve built together. I want us to take advantage of the opportunity life has handed us. I want us to play late into the night and sleep in until noon. I want to read all the books I’ve never gotten to read because work, kids, and responsibilities always had to come first. I want to dip my toes in the ocean while we walk hand in hand along the beach. I want to explore and travel the world with you. I want to enjoy having you all to myself.”

Griffin didn’t trust himself to talk. Playing it all over in his mind, he felt the tightness squeeze his chest into a vice. She was going to go, with or without him. He’d lost his job. Now he was loosing his Annie.

Standing up, Annie moved to stand behind her husband sliding her arms around his shoulders. Leaning down, she kissed the top of his head. “Hon, I love you. I want you with me. I need you with me. We can do this. We should do this. Just think about it. Take some time and think about it.”

Griffin sat at the kitchen table long after Annie went up to bed. Playing it all over in his mind, he rubbed absently at his chest trying to ease the burning pain. Too young to retire, too old to keep going on this way. Hadn’t he been thinking that very thing this afternoon? Could he give up the hunt and just retire? No more resumes. No more interviews. No more waiting for a job offer that never comes.

He’d lost his job. He didn’t want to loose his Annie. She was going with or without him. Griffin had lived with his wife long enough to know when she’s serious.

So ridiculous. Annie couldn’t find her way out of a paper sack. How was she going to navigate her way around the highways when she was in a panic because she didn’t know where she was at? Her vision wasn’t what it used to be and she had a hard time seeing at night. She would be limited to driving only during the daylight hours. She really did need him. Smiling, Griffin felt the burning in his chest ease as he headed upstairs to find his wife.

Daily Prompt: Burn

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