Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SAGBRAW Day 3 Plymouth to Waupun.....

I have been going about the business of trying to make a new route to find the regular route all wrong. I've been getting on the computer, locating the route on a map, creating a new map to an intercepting point, then uploading the new map to my GPS.

All I have to do is turn on the GPS and tell it to navigate the REGULAR route, and it will tell me which way to go to find the "pink line." Duh. (Bicycle GPS units don't have spoken commands. At least mine doesn't.)

Now that we have THAT out of the way.

It was no problem to get to the route from our campground this morning. It was about a 3-mile ride on what could have been a busy highway, but it was early. Besides, most of the roads here have nice shoulders that are plenty wide for riding a bicycle.

The downside of this town is that the nearest campground (supposedly) was 11 miles BEYOND the school where the route ended. The next one was 18 miles. I wasn't looking forward to riding 64 miles and then tacking on an additional 11, but I was resigned to having to do it.

Then Hubby called me in the middle of my ride. He said the campground sucked, and even the proprietress suggested he might want to look somewhere else. (Her "campground" is mostly for "old folks" [her words] and fishermen.) Hubby showed her the map of where we were going to be and the list of suggested campgrounds provided by the ride organizers. He showed her the one that was 18 miles away, and she said, "Oh no, you don't want to stay THERE. It's worse than THIS one."

Then she looked at the map and said there was a campground just 2 miles from the school. I was a little dubious when Hubby told me, because SURELY the ride organizers would have included one that was a mere 2 miles from the school when they were creating a list of nearby campgrounds. Wouldn't they?


Hubby picked me up at the school (thank all that is holy for THAT), and we did indeed find the campground. It is indeed 2 miles from the school. And we were the only campers. (Some more have since moved in.) Better yet, there is a golf course right across the road. Hubby already has a tee time for 8:30 tomorrow morning with one of the club members. How cool is that? Because tomorrow is the loop ride, we will be camping here two nights. It is a very, very nice campground.

A rather silly shadow shot of me riding along. I wonder if people think I'm nuts when I take photos while I'm riding.

There was a photo op at the top of Parnell Tower, somewhere around 11 miles on today's route. A lot of us made the trek through the woods and then climbed the 96 steps (according to a girl who was already there) to the top. It was well worth the effort. I realize the sun is interfering, but that's Lake Michigan way off in the distance.

The views from the tower were breath-taking.

Or maybe THIS one is Lake Michigan. How soon we forget.

Breath-taking. Heart-stopping. Jaw-dropping.

When I left the tower, the route took us past this little farm. Sure enough, when I turned around to look, the tower was barely visible above the tops of the trees.

I know, I know, I've seen farms before. But I can't stop taking pictures of them.

I didn't really stop here. Just paused to take the picture.

I was almost past this one before I got the shot off. I was intrigued by the "Ice Age Visitor Center."

This one was worth getting off the bike for. It's hard to see clearly, but the walls of the church are covered in ivy. Just gorgeous.

We had a rest stop in a pavilion in the small town of Campbellsport. I love that name.

I wanted to see what the quarry looked like. Or maybe I just had to go up to the fence because there was a sign warning against trespassing.
I have discovered some things about myself regarding taking photographs on bike rides. I start off the week trying to document every pedal stroke, every scenic view, every cool thing I see. Then by the end of the week everything starts to look similar and the number of photos drops off considerably. I'm also more likely to take photos early in the day. (That's also the time when I'm more likely to pass another rider and say pleasantly, "Good morning!" Not so much later in the day when it's hot and I'm tired.)

Most of the pictures I take are snapped from my bicycle while I'm riding. It's always a crap shoot whether I will actually get what I meant to take a picture of. Some are worthy of stopping my bike to get a good shot. And some are worthy of turning around and going BACK to get the shot, like the ivy-covered church above.

I'm so glad I came on this ride. I may never get back to Wisconsin, and I'm enjoying every minute. Except for some of the steep uphills maybe.

Monday, July 30, 2012

SAGBRAW Day 2 Manitowoc to Plymouth.....

The first 15-20 miles of the ride were along the shore of Lake Michigan this morning. I was surprised there wasn't more development along the shore. There were occasional houses and little farms, so it doesn't appear that building there is banned. And the houses didn't look like you had to have a bajillion dollars to build there. Just something that made me go hmmmmm....

Today was a little hillier, a little hotter, and a little farther than yesterday's route, so I was a little slower. I had to ride the additional 6 miles this morning that I cut off yesterday, plus about 3 to get to tonight's campground. That made my total mileage for today 72 miles. I had a little moment of panic when I got to the last town and started trying to navigate to where Hubby was camped. I had put it in my bike GPS, but I should have started following it sooner. I could have cut off a couple of miles, but whatever. It will be a little worse tomorrow. I have to get back to the route, then tomorrow night's campground is 11 miles beyond the stopping point. So my ride tomorrow might be closer to 80 miles. Yikes. My friend Larry has a rule that if you ride 80 miles, you have to ride 100. Good thing Larry isn't here, and he's not the boss of me anyway.

This campground is marvelous, but dang if they don't have a bunch of rules. I made a joke on FB about breaking some of them, but I'm too tired. I'm a rule follower anyway. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. They had two typed pages of rules. Here's just a small sample:

  • Bikes are not to be ridden after dark. Bikes out after dark must be walked, even if they have lights.
  • Walking or biking through campsites is prohibited.
  • Rottweilers or Pit Bull's [sic] are not permitted in the park at any time. Proof of vaccinations must be provided upon request. No more than two dogs are allowed on a site. Excessive barking is prohibited.
  • All non-seasonal golf carts must be registered in the office and will incur a $20 or $50 (plus tax) registration fee. The office must have proof of $100,000 liability insurance naming the cart on your golf cart prior to check in. [Huh?] They also must be inspected and approved by the General Manager.
  • All vehicles in the park must have a valid pass at all times. Park speed limit is 10 MPH. Speeding is prohibited. Motorcycles may only be driven from the park office to your site. [How you get out of the park is your problem.]
  • Visitors must leave by 9 pm unless registered as an overnight guest. Visitors arriving after 7 pm must be registered as an overnight guest. Fees will be adjusted to a day fee if departure is before 9 pm. [Huh?] All visitors four years of age and older must purchase a guest pass. 
I'm not implying that any of their rules are unreasonable - even the ones I can't understand. I just think it's funny that there are so many of them. To go with their rules, however, they have a lake, a restaurant (open on weekends only - drat), three pools, an activity center, a dance hall, an amphitheater, paved roads, cable television, and holy moly a bunch of campsites. We are number 425, and we aren't even at the end.

My Internet is very wonky tonight. Slow as molasses, and I'm having trouble with captions for the photos. So you'll just have to use your imagination.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

SAGBRAW Day 1 Appleton to Manitowoc.....

I was surprised at how early it gets light here. I knew it would be slightly earlier than at home, but it was light enough to ride at 5:20. I was almost ready at that time, too. I drank a cup of coffee, had a light breakfast, checked in on Facebook, and waited for a group of cyclists to leave so I wouldn't be out there quite so all alone. I saw a few individuals leave, but I was looking for the safety net of a bigger group. I kept standing around and standing around, and finally I left alone. I suppose I'm so used to leaving super early on BRAG because we are attempting to escape the brutal heat. The heat here isn't such an issue, at least not early in the morning, so people apparently weren't in as big a hurry to leave.

It wasn't bad, though, even though I rode most of the day almost completely alone. It was also Sunday, so traffic was almost non-existent. I missed the first water stop, but the next stop was only 8 miles down the road and I still had a full bottle of water, so it didn't bother me. Except for feeling dumb because even with a cue sheet, a GPS on my bike with the route loaded, AND directional signs, I still missed the water stop.

They do things a bit differently here than we do on BRAG. There are "water stops" where you can only get water and/or Gatorade (although I did see some snacks at the last one of the day). Then there are "rest stops" where churches or civic organizations are trying to raise some money, and the goodies are for sale. I had a PBJ for $1.25 (on BRAG they are free at every rest stop), two chocolate chip cookies for $1.00 (should have had fruit, but what the heck), and a granola bar for $.75 (which I put in my jersey pocket and haven't eaten yet). I didn't mind spending cash for snacks, especially if it helps a church or other group. In fact, I started thinking maybe that's what the BRAG folks need to do. They could save some money, and I'm willing to bet there wouldn't be nearly so much food wasted.

The campground where we are staying is right on the shore of Lake Michigan. I took Gus down there, and he was perplexed at the waves. (He's never been allowed on a beach before. One more reason to love Wisconsin.) Dana and Joe came right after I got to camp. Joe and Hubby went to play golf (and consumed vast quantities of beer, but I suppose they are allowed), and Dana and I tried to catch up. We only see each other every few years, and there's never enough time to just sit and chat. Today was very nice, just to sit and talk (or walk on the beach and talk, as we also did). Then we all went out for pizza, and I was secretly very glad they didn't serve beer. The guys had had enough.

Why do I look terrified in this picture? I don't know; I'm not very photogenic. I was a little nervous, I guess, but mostly eager to ride.

Gus was excited because he thought he was going somewhere. He's sporting his new hairdo.

Hubby is trying to contain his excitement.

I tried to document every town I went through today. This is the water tower at the school where we started in Appleton.

In Rozmo's absence, I took lots of pictures of barns. There were many from which to choose.

I couldn't tell if this were an old house or a new house copied from an old design. I thought it looked cool, though.

Going through Brillion reminded me of my high school nickname, Brillo. Maybe I should have been paying more attention to the directional arrows and less to taking pictures, and I might not have missed the water stop in Brillion.

This cute little ... church? schoolhouse? ... sits on top of a (very small) hill.

About two tenths of a mile were on a gravel road. I was concentrating so hard on not falling that when I heard a very familiar voice say, "Aren't you going to say hello to me?" I didn't think he was talking to me. It was Miles, the photographer from BRAG. He's taken my picture for 21 years, and he has no idea what my name is.

Another Rozmo-worthy barn picture. I didn't get a very good shot of Mickey Mouse, and I was too stubborn to go back.

I loved that I could see for miles and miles. I never got tired of the scenery.

Long, long stretches of straight (and flat) roads. Roads in Georgia are never this straight, and I don't know why.

This pretty church deserves a better picture.

Another pass-through town, Reedsville. We have a Reidsville in Georgia, where we have a rather large prison.

I had to stop for a car (I know, right?) at this intersection, so I thought I'd take another picture to document my passage through Reedsville.

I saw three buggies of Amish folks, presumably headed to church. I felt awkward taking their picture, and I asked Dana if it were considered rude to do so. She said yes, but everybody does it. I was fascinated and waved at them. They smiled when they waved back, so maybe they forgave my faux pas.

More forever.

I texted this very same picture to Hubby saying, "Toto, we ain't in Georgia anymore." I'm pretty sure there are no signs warning of snowmobile crossing in Georgia.

My first view of Lake Michigan. I risked sand in my biking shoes to get this shot.

More Lake Michigan.

This is a "water stop" on SAGBRAW. That's the whole thing. Right there. All of it.

The view looking out of the RV with Lake Michigan in the background. I stuck my toes in, but it was too cold even for me to swim in. I can't stop looking at it, though.

I don't want to jinx myself, but today was a very easy, nice ride. I stopped about 6 miles from the school where the others are camping, so I have to tack those on to tomorrow morning's ride. Still, I got here at 11:00 AM local time today, so I shouldn't have a problem with a few extra miles.

See you tomorrow night!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

SAGBRAW Day Zero.....

Just a short blog post to let you know we made it. It's 916 miles from our driveway to Appleton, Wisconsin. That's a whole lot of driving. There are 380 registered riders on this ride, 11 of them from Georgia.

My cousin and her husband got here right after we did, and they took us to dinner. In a convertible, no less. Nothing like hanging around with the cool kids. Hubby and my cousin's husband (yes, he DOES happen to have a name, and it's Joe) are planning to play golf tomorrow.

Tonight we are in the school's parking lot. They said we couldn't run generators, but we parked around back away from everyone else. If a tent camper complains about the noise, it will be because he or she went LOOKING for it. Tomorrow night we have a spot reserved at a campground right on Lake Michigan. I may not want to leave.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Alliteration.....

Car crash Dumb ideas Water woes - weird Crisp crops Rough remote roads Sucky cell service

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's Finally Here.....

I don't remember when I signed up to do SAGBRAW, a bike ride in Wisconsin, but I know it was before the first price increase... Wait, I just found my confirmation printout. I registered for this ride last November. I've been looking forward to this ride for 8 months, and it's finally here.

Originally Rozmo and I were going to go, split the driving, and use the "indoor camping" option (sleeping on air mattresses in gyms). Then Hubby spoke up and volunteered to drive the RV (he really, really did volunteer, whether he remembers it that way or not), eliminating the need for two middle-aged women to sleep on gym floors. Score.

Then Rozmo had to cancel, and it never crossed my mind to do so. I've ridden before in rides where I didn't know anyone else there, and it doesn't bother me. Hubby still planned to go, and then we found out that unlike on BRAG, we can't run the generator at night because of the noise. Since the generator provides the electricity I need for my CPAP machine, and I've grown fond of breathing, I thought we were going to have to change our plans.

What we decided to do, though, is to camp at nearby campgrounds instead of staying at the schools with the other riders. While that will take me away from the camaraderie associated with cross-state bike rides of 1000 people or more, since I don't know any of them anyway, I won't let that bother me. The SAGBRAW folks are kind enough to publish GPS routes beforehand, so I've been able to upload them, edit them so that I end up at the chosen campground for the night instead of the school, and save them to my GPS. In some cases it means I shorten the day's route by a few miles, but then I have to tack it on to the next day's ride, so it all evens out. I think.

I have a sort of hare-brained idea of how to ride in as many new states as possible on the way TO Wisconsin, and Hubby is actually going along with it. I'll provide the details for that only if it comes to fruition. There's a chance I'll chicken out, but that's not really in my nature.

I'm a little nervous, having never done this ride before. Also, I've never combined the two entities of riding my bike for a week AND camping in the RV with Hubby and Gus. As a matter of fact, we've never been anywhere in the RV for a whole week. I keep saying to Hubby, "I don't cook when I'm on a bike ride." I envision a lot of sandwiches in our future for next week.

We're heading out very early in the morning, and I THINK everything is ready. I need to pack up the computer, though, so it's time to call it quits for tonight. Expect another week full of blog posts about cycling, and I hope they won't bore you to death.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unexpected (And Most Welcome) House Guest.....

We have an unexpected house guest tonight: my Sweet Girl!

That exclamation point (and as a rule I'm against exclamation points, but this one is certainly worthy) indicates a little cheer at having my girl home, and then I feel guilty for cheering, because it isn't a celebratory visit.

Sweet Girl's aunt on her father's side is gravely ill and may not live another 24 hours. Sweet Girl made the drive up from Florida this morning, spent the day at the hospital with her father, her half-sister, her cousin, and her uncle, and then she came "home" to spend the night. (We had a discussion this afternoon about where "home" really is now. It gets muddled.)

I liked my sister-in-law. (Although she was snarky with me on one particular occasion, but I forgave her for that a long time ago, even if she WAS taking up for her butthead brother.) Out of everyone in that family, she seemed to have the most sense. And she could boss everybody else around, including her mother and father, like nobody's business. I admired that about her. Except she bossed me around too.

By the way, this is NOT the ex who caused the blight on my credit report that caused me not to be able to buy the marsh house. If it were, I would have been up there at the hospital with Sweet Girl, making sure HE spent some time on his own little personal ventilator.

Sorry. I digress.

My sister-in-law had the first "miracle baby" I was personally acquainted with. She experienced preeclampsia in the seventh month of her pregnancy, and they had to deliver the baby by emergency Caesarean section. Jessica weighed 2 pounds at birth, which is not jaw-dropping by today's standards. But that miracle baby just turned 30 years old, and it was quite a medical feat at the time to save both the mother and the baby.

Martha and her husband Gene continued to consider me a part of the family long after her brother and I went our separate ways. One year BRAG went through their town, and they picked Katydid and me up at the school. (They picked us up in their daycare center's van, and one fellow rider REFUSED to believe it was not the shuttle bus to town. He continued to attempt to get in the van with us even after we tried to explain that it was only there for the two of us. Still one of my favorite BRAG memories.) They took us to dinner, did our laundry at their daycare center, and let us sleep in comfortable beds instead of tents for one night. They are good people.

Martha is only 61, and it seems impossible to believe that her time is up. Sweet Girl has to go back "home" tomorrow because she has a class presentation to make, and she has a flight to Texas on Friday. She feels conflicted about leaving, but I don't think anything is to be gained by her canceling her flight, losing the money she paid for the trip, and missing class.

For a while this afternoon it was just like her living at home again. We swam for a little while, then I cooked the same dinner I had planned for Hubby and me, but it was more enjoyable to have an additional person at the table. (Never mind that we had to go to special efforts to clean off the place at the table that we rarely use but have no problem piling up with junk mail and other stuff.) Now it's bedtime, and she'll head south again very early tomorrow morning in an attempt to beat the traffic.

An unpleasant reason for a visit, but a pleasure to have her here no matter how briefly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marsh House Not to Be.....

I realize I just wrote about this topic in last night's random thoughts.

I try to take the attitude that things happen for a reason. What's meant to be will be. Not completely - I don't think it's meant to be that babies die or crazies shoot up movie theaters.

I got an official email from my banker this morning that my loan for the marsh house cannot be approved with the foreclosure of my ex-husband's house on my credit report. I had been planning to ride my bike this morning, and after I got the email I was so bummed out I almost didn't go. Then I decided it would be good for me, and I rode a little over 26 miles.

The more I rode, the more relieved I felt. I guess that in itself is a sign that while I wanted the marsh house badly, my heart wasn't really in the idea of going into debt for something I wasn't even going to live in.

When I contacted the realtor to let her know, she said she didn't think I could back out at this point.

Excuse me?

What are they going to do, squeeze the money out of me? If I can't get financing, how do they propose to force the deal to go through? (I actually asked her those questions.)

She said I might have to forfeit the earnest money, and while that will suck, I guess  there's nothing I can do about it.

Really, I'm ignorant of this whole process. What CAN they do? Can they sue me for breach of contract? How likely is that to happen? Ugh...I wish I'd never started this process.

I hate feeling powerless, and this whole ordeal has made me feel powerless. When my ex and I built that house, we had to pay a whopping 10% interest rate. (That was a combination of youthful blights on my credit rating and the fact that he didn't have a real job.) After the divorce, when he remarried and had a good job and interest rates fell to about a third of what he was paying (or not paying, as the problem turned out to be), he refused to refinance the house. And it was out of spite. He knew that if he refinanced, it would release me from the burden of the mortgage, and it was his one last way of saying, "Screw you for divorcing me."


Further proof that we should be allowed to delete them when we're through with them, just like old computer files.

And now, having talked to the realtor, I'm grumpy. I was fine with this whole thing, mourning the loss of the house (that I never had) but feeling better about not having a mortgage. Feeling like I was being all grown-up and handling my disappointment with panache and maturity, and now I feel like someone has slapped me on the hand for misbehavior.

Hubby, while not really the world's perfect man that I portray him as being, always seems to know the right thing to say. When I texted him the news this morning, his first response was, "I'll help you if you really want to do it." (I'd already had the conversation with him about if the loan didn't go through, it was a sign it wasn't meant to be.) It was tempting, but I stuck by my word and told him no, let's just be done with it. Then he texted me a message that said, "Think of all the trips we can take." See why I call him the world's last perfect man?

Enough of my problems. It will work out the way it's supposed to work out, and I'll be wiser for having gone through it. I may also be broker, but perhaps not as much as I would have been had the deal gone through.


I hope.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Random Thoughts.....

  • I had a very good topic planned for tonight, but it involves some scanning of photos, and first I have to FIND the photos, so if it sounds like I'm coming up with excuses, please forgive me.
  • I'm working on my cathedral window quilt now, and I'm fastidious about keeping my hands clean while I work on it. I think I wash my hands more frequently than a surgeon these days.
  • I ordered two very different items online today: Zumba shoes (guess that means I'll have to start going back to Zumba class) and an action video camera to mount on the handlebars of my bike. Oh, the power of suggestion.
  •  I got a letter from the teachers' retirement folks Friday saying they were missing a final sick leave form. I thought it was from my last employer, because they are notorious for not completing things when they should. I was ready to call and complain loudly that I am being penalized (I actually retired with 29.556 years, and sick leave was to make up the rest) because of them when I realized the missing sick leave was from when I worked for UGA. In 1982. Seriously? They're going to need a dust buster to find those records. The good news is that when the sick leave IS finalized, they will give correct my pay retroactively.
  • My dream of owning the marsh house is in jeopardy...again. And no, I didn't annoy my mother to the point that she withdrew her offer of making the down payment. It seems that my ex lost his house to foreclosure, and I was still on the mortgage, so my loan cannot be approved. Yet. The loan officer is working on it diligently (he is really on my side), but I don't know what the odds are. I'm sure we could get a loan if Hubby put his name on it (I'm borrowing the money alone), but I don't want to start over. If the loan doesn't go through, I'm taking the attitude that it wasn't meant to be and the rewards weren't worth the risk. But it will still sting. Details as they develop.
  • I took mother-in-law to yet another new doctor today, this time a kidney specialist. Seems her elevated calcium levels may indicate a kidney issue IN ADDITION TO the tumor in the roof of her mouth for which they are going to do surgery. Of course this visit means an additional trip for more lab work in two weeks, then another visit after that to discuss the new lab results, and who knows what after that. I told the doctor today, "It would be nice if you guys could all just TALK TO EACH OTHER." He sort of chuckled and said something about medicine not working that way. It's frustrating.
  • We are leaving Friday for a little over a week, and I haven't started packing yet. Packing for Hubby is easy, since he can wear the same thing for several days in a row without it bothering him. For me, however, I have to pack cycling stuff for riding, in addition to off-the-bike clothes for evenings. And we're going to a part of the country where we've never been before, so I don't really know what to expect weather-wise. 
  • One of my mother-in-law's appointments occurs while we are gone. And I'm nervous about her own daughter taking her to the doctor. 
  • Gus had to get shots today, and they drew blood out of his front paw. He's limping around like he got caught in a bear trap or something, and he has this pitiful look on his face. Sort of like men when they get sick. Tomorrow he has to go to the groomer, so he may pout for days. Then when we transport him across state lines this weekend, he may be ready to report us to the Humane Society.
  • I posted this on FB, but it bears repeating here. I saw a recipe for chicken noodle soup on a box of crackers. The first ingredient: "2 cans chicken noodle soup."
  • I bought a new battery for my bathroom scale (insert joke here about me wearing it out, it's okay) at the grocery store last week. It's that flat kind, the kind that looks like a cross between a nickel and a quarter. When I got home, I couldn't find it, and I thought the bagger had overlooked it when sacking up my groceries. Then I found it...in the refrigerator. It had somehow stuck to the bottom of a package of ground beef. So I put it in a safe place. And I have no idea where that might be. I bought another one today.
  • I've been checking the website every day to purchase an RV parking pass for football season. If we don't get an RV pass, we're sort of screwed, because I didn't enter the lottery for game day parking. The website still says to keep checking, the information will be posted mid-July. Maybe their definition of "mid" is different from mine.
  • It's going to be a busy week, so my thoughts are likely to be scattered this way all week. I apologize in advance. I hope to make up for it by taking some (please please please please) nice photos from my bike next week.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another Dumb Thing I Probably Shouldn't Tell.....

This is another story from the way, way past, something I remembered for some reason when I was riding my bike today. (I have my most profound thoughts on my bike, too, in the very place where I'm least able to write them down.)

This one isn't profound, so don't be disappointed. You've been warned.

When Sweet Girl was a little bitty thing, I was trying to start a walking program in an attempt to lose some weight. Walking in the morning wasn't an option because I had to be at school at 7:30, and it was roughly 40 minutes away. Walking in the afternoon when I got home wasn't an option because I lived with an asshat. Sweet Girl was too young to walk with me and too big for a stroller. The only time I could find to walk was after Sweet Girl went to bed (she was always a pleasant child to put to bed, and I'm NOT being sarcastic). But after she went to bed it was also dark, and we lived on an unlit country road.

We lived on a sort-of farm (cows and chickens, but no crops or anything like that). There were three chicken houses at the end of the driveway, and I measured the driveway and the loop in front of the chicken houses. It was two tenths of a mile, so I figured if I walked 15 laps, I would have completed three miles. And I was much, MUCH more OCD about those things than I am even now, so it wasn't good enough to approximate. No such thing as walking for an hour and saying I had walked ABOUT three miles. It had to be 15 by-golly laps and nothing else.

The problem was that I often lost count of what lap I was on. That might not be a big deal, unless you happen to share some of those OCD tendencies, in which case you might understand (please, oh please say you understand) why it freaked me out if I wasn't sure which lap I was on.

So here was my solution:

I gathered 15 acorns and carried them in my hands. Not my pockets, my hands. I set a plastic cup on the front porch, and every time I passed the porch, I would drop an acorn in the cup. When the acorns were gone, my walk was finished and I could be (pretty) sure I had walked the requisite three miles.

This may be one of those posts that I look back on later and say, "Why the HELL did I write about THAT?"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.....

Image from articles.chicagotribune.com
This book was another summer reading selection recommended by The New Yorker. If I PAY to download a book, you better believe I'm going to read it. I'm just sayin'.

Maine is about several generations of a family, told from the viewpoint of four of its women, who own a beach house on the coast of ... you guessed it ... Maine.

Alice is the 83-year-old matriarch of the family; Maggie is her 32-year-old granddaughter; Kathleen is Maggie's mother and Alice's daughter; Ann Marie is Alice's daughter-in-law.

This is one of those books that changes narrator with each chapter, seeing a different woman's point of view in each chapter. I'm not a fan of that method, because it makes me feel a little foolish. Just when I've begun sympathizing and identifying with a character, the viewpoint switches and I see that character from a different woman's point of view. I suppose the author's intent is to allow the reader to see some good in each of the characters. Instead I wound up hating them all.

Not really, but I did want to reach into the book and slap some of them around.

This book didn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, but it was very real. It portrayed some family dynamics so well that it felt a little ... raw. Like she had read my diary or something. Or worse, my daughter's.

Definitely worth reading, though.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer......

Emphasis on lazy.

Because they canceled my mother-in-law's doctor's appointment today, that meant we did NOT have to go to/near Atlanta for the fourth day in a row. (To be fair, though, I didn't take her on Tuesday to her regular doctor. Her own daughter deigned to do that one.)

I felt like I had been given a gift. and I'm not complaining about having to take her to her appointments. She's unable to get around on her own, someone has to do it, and I'm the person who is least likely to make her nervous. (She may be saying the opposite to other members of the family, because that's what old people do, but whatever.) I also had a doctor's appointment for myself sandwiched in there.

I got up at 6:30 this morning, and we immediately started watching golf. I know a lot of people can't stand to watch golf on television, but I love it. I especially love the British Open, not only because it comes on at 4:30 AM, but because it involves links play, with those huge pot bunkers and usually horrible weather conditions that make you wonder why the golfers subject themselves to such torture.

When Hubby left to go play golf himself, I was sitting in my recliner, iPad in hand and remote control nearby. When he returned from playing golf, I was sitting in my recliner, iPad in hand and remote control nearby. I did make up the bed today, and I washed the few dishes that were in the sink, but other than those two tiny activities, I didn't do anything useful all day.

I justified it to myself, saying I had earned a day to myself.

It was overcast all day, and I could have gone for a bike ride at any time and not suffered, not just early this morning as usual in these hot days of summer. I didn't.

I could have done some limited housework, at least during commercial breaks from the golf tournament. i didn't.

I could have gone to the grocery store and marked that chore off my weekend to-do list. I didn't.

And I feel yucky. I feel as though I wasted a perfectly good day. I tell myself on one hand that I didn't NEGLECT anything that absolutely HAD to be done, and I deserve a day off every now and then. But because of my upbringing, I guess, I feel guilty about such a lazy day.

Sigh. I can't even take a day off and enjoy it.

There's no way I'll be bored in retirement. I'll beat myself up if I have even occasional days of inactivity, so there won't be time to be bored.

I guess I should be thankful for the guilt.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Old Fashioned......

This post is destined to tick some people off. But after careful consideration of the four people I'm SURE of who read my blog, maybe it won't be my regular audience.

The closest "real" newspaper to us is the same one in the college town where I used to live, work, and breathe football. On Sundays they publish the baby announcements for the previous week, and sometimes I scan them. I look for former students (even though some of them are probably old enough to be grandparents by now), and sometimes I look for unusual names. This usually leads to an extended session of head-shaking at the spelling of babies' names these days, and then I'm sorry I bothered.

What really bothers me, though, is the number of babies born to single moms these days. I am dismayed by the births that are proudly published in the paper with only a mama, no daddy in sight.

I know, I know, that's terribly old-fashioned (and perhaps narrow-minded) of me. And I shouldn't make judgments without knowing all the facts. There are situations in which I would find it acceptable for a single woman to have a baby.

Most of the ones I've been acquainted with, however, are teenagers. They aren't financially or emotionally equipped to handle a baby (or two), and many, many of them aren't even with the "baby daddy" long enough for him to be present at the birth. They are still more interested in partying than settling down, and they seem to resent the fact that the baby interferes with their social lives.

I feel sort of hypocritical for even saying this. I mean, I was a single mom too, but I WAS married when I had the baby. She was planned, right down to the number of sick days I would need for maternity leave, and I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing. I was college-educated, married, had a (sort of) good job with benefits, and having a baby was TOUGH on me. Having two babies was even tougher, so I had to divorce one of them.

We had a student last year who got pregnant, and like a lot of them she brought her ultrasound pictures to school and passed them around for everyone to see. Sigh. Then she had a "miscarriage" that she later admitted in a teacher conference was actually an abortion (she spilled all those details, we surely didn't ask). She graduated and had plans to continue her education, because heaven knows a high school diploma isn't good enough these days. Then I read on that time-sucking social media site that she is pregnant again and expecting in July and "super excited!!!!!" Double sigh.

And the grandparents. I wrote once about the mom who brought her daughter in to interview for a slot at our school because she was pregnant. She wanted her daughter to come to our school until she had the baby, then the mom wanted her to go back to the traditional school so she could have a "normal senior year," complete with cheerleading. What she really wanted was a chance for her daughter to avoid the inevitable gossip long enough to earn some credits, then go back when someone else was the topic. Triple sigh.

There are stories from the other end of the spectrum, too. One of our former students (who is actually the daughter of a former friend and classmate of mine) also came to us because she was pregnant. Her boyfriend was younger than she, and she made the (to me) adult decision to put her child up for adoption. She went through an agency, met the couple, bonded with them throughout her pregnancy, and helped them decide on the name "Max." When the baby was born (and believe me, she had the normal nine-month pregnancy, long enough for these things to have been ironed out), the boy's PARENTS didn't allow him to sign the papers to let the adoption go through. THEY wanted to raise the baby. What are these people thinking? The happy ending to this story is that she kept the baby, had/has tremendous family support, has graduated from UGA, and is pursuing graduate school. And by the looks of her FB postings, she is an incredible mom. I'm afraid, though, that she is the exception.

I truly wish I could do another dissertation (did I really just SAY that?) about the teen moms just in our county. I think it would make for fascinating reading. I know it happens everywhere, but there is something strange about the culture in our county that makes me go "huh?" Wait...did I just say "something strange"? As in singular? Oops... my bad.

Maybe I'll contact my former dissertation committee chair. We could do an article together or something. It wouldn't be the all-American novel, but it would be SOMETHING.

Jumping down off my high horse now,


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Making Light.....

First of all, I have to apologize. In this blog post I'm making light of something that shouldn't be funny at all. Good thing my mother-in-law is a good sport about it.

She and I have spent a great deal of quality time together in the car lately, shuttling from doctor's appointment to doctor's appointment. Each one apparently leads to yet another specialist, and after three trips each one refers us to a new one, getting progressively closer and closer to downtown Atlanta.

This morning's appointment was at 7:00 AM. In Atlanta. I got up at 4:30, and we almost made it on time. We were in the parking deck at 7:00 AM, so that should count.

She was having an MRI today (she has a growth/tumor in the roof of her mouth, for Pete's sake, rendering her unable to wear her dentures, and when they did a CT scan, they saw something "they didn't like"). I realize the first word in the acronym for MRI is "magnetic," and the reason they have to ask these questions is obvious.

They're still funny.

Most of them I simply checked off myself, but every now and then I stopped and asked my mother-in-law, pretending to be serious.

"Any type of prosthesis (eye, limb, PENILE, etc.)?" I'm not sure I even want to know what a penile prosthesis is. Or does. 

"Do you have a bone growth/bone fusion stimulator?" Huh?

"Eye injury involving a metallic object?" Wouldn't they NOTICE a spoon sticking out of her cornea?

"Injury involving a metallic object (bullet or shrapnel, etc.)?" Yeah, we were just on our way to get that taken care of, but we stopped off here for an MRI first.

"Eyelid spring or wire?" Seriously? People HAVE those? Like that strange illness Hubby's uncle had where he couldn't open his eyes? Maybe he needed an eyelid spring.

"Any metallic fragment or foreign body?" Is this a trick question to make sure she answered the bullet question correctly the first time?

"Tissue expander (e.g. breast)?" No, that's not a tissue expander, it's called gravity.

"Intrauterine Device (IUD) or diaphragm?" She's 83 freakin' years old, for crying out loud!

It's possible ... not likely, but possible ... that these were only funny to me because I was/am sleep-deprived.

It ain't gonna get any better tomorrow, when I fully expect to get up at the crack of dawn to watch The Open Championship (formerly known as The British Open and I can't get out of the habit but wanted to be precise here). That's golf, y'all. Coverage starts at 4:30. Well, maybe I won't get up THAT early.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje ......

Image from goodreads.com

I downloaded (and paid for) several books on my iPad simply because they were featured in a "Summer Reading" list in The New Yorker magazine. I love The New Yorker, but it doesn't take long for me to get behind on issues.

This book was among those mentioned, and the first of the group I've read.

I hope the rest of them can live up to this one.

The Cat's Table is about a sea voyage from Sri Lanka to England and the events that occur among the passengers on the ship. The story is told from the point of view of Michael, who was 11 years old when he made the journey to join his mother in England.

I think I would characterize this book as a calm thriller. (I just made that term up. Can I keep it?) There is enough action to keep you turning (swiping?) the page, but it's not the shoot-em-up variety.

The action isn't what makes the book for me, though. It's Ondaatje's command of the English language. There were several instances where I stopped just to let a sentence roll around in my head for a few minutes, sort of like you would savor a piece of chocolate instead of gobbling it down. (If one were capable of such a thing, that is.)

Here are a few examples. They are taken out of context, obviously, but I'm focusing on the language itself.

"Punishment, it turns out, never did train or humble some of us into complete honesty."

"...she breasted her cards about her motive for travelling with them." (I had never considered the word "breast" as a verb before.)

"I could not tell whether everything taking place was carefully legal or a frenzy of criminality."

"So we came to understand that small and important thing, that our lives could be large with interesting strangers who would pass us without any personal involvement."

"For he also had witnessed the people I saw that night, with whom we had felt so oddly aligned, whom we would never see again. Only there. In that night city of another world."

"We keep wanting to save those who are forlorn in this world. It's a male habit, some wish fulfilment."

"There is a story, always ahead of you. Barely existing. Only gradually do you attach yourself to it and feed it. You discover the carapace that will contain and test your character. You find in this way the path of your life."

"There were four or five cottages overlooking the sea, and she snuggled the car beside one." (One word - "snuggled" - made this a completely different sentence. It could just have easily said "parked," but I prefer the word he used.)

"She said the marriage had been a cautious one, and she had stepped out of it, recognizing it was 'too cold a building' to live in for the rest of her life."

"A twenty-minute ferry ride that felt like an echo, a small rhyme from the past, as my cousin Emily had been to me during this last day and night."

When I downloaded this book, I didn't realize it was by the same man who wrote The English Patient. I haven't read that one either (but I've since downloaded it), and I didn't see the movie. Perhaps I will also watch the movie, but only after I've read the book.

This is definitely worth the read. The characters, the plot, the mystical setting of the ship, everything about this book is top quality.

Usually when I read a book, I think to myself, "I could write that." Not this one. I found myself thinking over and over, "I could never come up with that melodic phrase." What a pleasure to read.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Read My Refrigerator...I Mean my Palm...

I came to the brilliant conclusion today while cleaning out the refrigerator that you can learn a great deal about a person by looking in his or (more likely) her refrigerator.

If that's the case, please take everything you learn about me from the pictures in this blog post and disregard it.

And while we're discussing refrigerators, I'd like to pose the question: Why do we have to clean them out? We don't go in them and walk around. Theoretically, we should just reach in, place an item on the shelf or remove it, then shut the door. I can't for the life of me figure out how the refrigerator gets so dirty. I mean, except for the obvious occasions when SOMEONE doesn't put the top back on something and some ELSE reaches in for it and spills it. That I can understand. Theoretically.

Can you guess how I spent part of my day?

I have decided I need to make a schedule, albeit an informal one, for housework. If I don't, then I will NEVER do it, always making the excuse that "tomorrow is another day" in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion. If I make some sort of plan, then I have that routine that has driven my life for umpteen years and I won't feel so out of sorts. Not that I typically have a problem sitting around doing nothing... wait, yes I do. I'm a woman of activity. But mostly fun activity, which gets us back to me needing a schedule.

(I don't know what's wrong with me today. I'm not over-caffeinated or anything...)

The items in the picture above were on the top shelf of my refrigerator, the one most convenient, the one that holds the most-used items on it. Hmmmmm. Pina colada (already mixed - how lazy is THAT?), bloody mary mix (two bottles), THREE different bottles of wine. Even the half-and-half and whipped cream are for making frozen buttery nipples. You might deduce from this picture that the people who live in this house are a bunch of drunks. Please do not make that deduction. One of the bottles of wine is left over from the gymnastics championships in April, one is all that remains of my retirement gift basket, and I can't remember about the other one. It only has about half a glass of wine in it, and I need to go finish if off RIGHT NOW so I can get that bottle out of the fridge.

This is the second shelf, and I guess it could be referred to as the health food shelf. Sugar-free pudding, Cool Whip Lite, fat-free Greek yogurt, low-fat pasta sauce, blueberries. Oh, and those cute little bottles of flavored tequila that Hubby and I brought back from a cruise in I DON'T REMEMBER WHAT YEAR but it was more than two years ago, and I can't bring myself to throw them away. I also can't bring myself to drink them, although if memory serves correctly, I remember saying that tequila was smooth enough to pour over pancakes. Never tried it, though.

For the most part I only photographed the items I kept, and this time it wasn't because they had forests growing on them. (Seriously, I didn't have any really spoiled items in the fridge, a major shock to me.) But after I took this picture, I tossed the bread and butter chip pickles. I'm more of a kosher dill pickle girl, and I bought the bread and butter chips for Hubby. There's a woman at the golf course who makes her own sweet pickles, and he was wondering if he could find some that tasted like hers (she doesn't make them often enough to keep up with him). I thought bread and butter pickles were similar, so I bought some for him to try. I wish I had a picture of his face when he ate one. He almost turned his whole face inside out. So those went in the trash along with the three DIFFERENT jars of nacho cheese that were opened at undetermined times. (I take that back on the no mold statement earlier - I didn't look into any of the jars of cheese dip, so I can't be certain about that after all.)

If you're keeping track, and I hope you aren't, you may notice that the picture above has the THIRD container of Parmesan cheese in my refrigerator. I think every time I make a pasta salad I buy a new jar. The Bud Light Lime belongs to Rozmo, left over from when we spent the night at my house on BRAG. I gave up beer almost two years ago, and Hubby wouldn't be caught dead drinking a Bud Light Lime. Not nearly manly enough. But I couldn't bring myself to pour it out either. Maybe some day I'll lose another 35 pounds and treat myself to the beer.

More healthy stuff, from the vegetable drawer. I don't know what that bottle of G2 was doing in that drawer. Maybe that's the only place I could find to put it at the time. Hubby prefers red seedless grapes, I prefer green ones.

This is all the stuff from the door. Sometimes I get the fridge all cleaned out and am patting myself on the back when I realize I didn't go through the items on the door. Then I tell myself, "Screw it" and shut the door because the new has worn off the activity. This time, though, I dutifully went through those bottles and jars too. We have two bottles of several things - ketchup, mustard, Heinz 57 - because every time we go somewhere in the RV, I buy a new "cute little" bottle for the trip instead of taking the one from the fridge. No, I don't know why either.

There is something magnificent and beautiful about a clean fridge. I must not have enough Monk-like characteristics, because it is perfectly fine with me that there are two Diet Pepsis on the second shelf and three more on the fifth. What was NOT perfectly fine was that after I took this photo, Hubby put three beers in the front of that fifth shelf. And two of them were upside down.

Like the door, sometimes I forget to clean out the freezer side. I threw away several containers of what I THINK was homemade chili, but since I can't remember when I made it, I tossed it. Please don't feel sorry for us because our freezer has very little food in it. It's better that way. And most of those plastic bowls (Cool Whip, cottage cheese) have ice in them. Hubby freezes it and puts it in Libby's water bowl outside. Isn't he thoughtful?

I apologize for taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your life to read about my cleaning out the refrigerator. You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives.