Passion … Part 1

Passion.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Ok …yes, there’s THAT … but today I’m talking about a totally different type of feverish excitement about something.  Not surprisingly, Webster lists 5 different definitions for the word “passion”.  For the purposes of this particular article, however, I’m referring to “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept”.  Recently, in one of my many moments of introspection, I asked myself just exactly what things in this life of mine am I truly passionate about?  I wasn’t looking for things I like or have a passing interest in — that list would be a mile long.  My search was for something that catches more of my attention and evokes much more emotion than say, cherry cordial ice cream.  Oh don’t get me wrong, on the rare occasions I violate my “no-dairy” policy for that lucious sweet treat, I’m feeling pretty passionate and emotional …. although not half as much as I do an hour or so later!  No, what I came up with are things that go much deeper into my soul and live very close to my heart.  I will share these in a series, hence, “Part 1” in my title.  Today’s passion:  Music, specifically marching bands.

There is nothing on this planet that gets my blood pumping and all my senses on high alert quite like a good marching band. I take that back……finding a giant wolf spider in my pile of towels and a snake above me on my patio also did a pretty good job of that! But…I digress..  I am so NOT kidding when I tell you that it is often a “caffeine stunt double” for me.  Yep … you heard me.  I can no longer do coffee, sadly, so for those mornings when my tail is dragging slower than molasses in January, if I take my fantastically powerful bluetooth speaker into the bathroom and crank out some of my favorite marching band tunes while I’m in the shower, I am seriously just as jacked as I would be with two cups of Joe … minus the jitters!

My love affair with marching bands started when I was a child.  My parents put me in majorette lessons when I was in 4th or 5th grade. Of course, as you know, majorettes don’t just bebop down the street twirling their batons sans music. No, they are part of a band … a marching band.  Now back in my day, there was THE high school band and the 7th & 8th grade – junior high- band, when it came to bands that marched in local parades and such.  I did the ‘twirling’ gig with several other girls for a year or two but it really didn’t do a lot for me.  What DID set my pants on fire, though, was being up close and personal with the band … especially the percussion section.  The booming bass and the precision and ‘snap’ of those snare drums and the seemingly effortless “machismo” of the male drummers just made me feel alive like nothing else.  I can still remember vividly, marching a few rows behind Patty (Wendling) Shannon, her dark braids swaying, and thinking how very cool she looked playing her snare….and how cool it would be to do the same myself.  Also, unbeknownst to anyone on the planet up to this very moment, I had a secret schoolgirl crush on Danny Robinson because he too seemed to master that wonderful instrument with a self-assured cockiness that caught the eye of my shy, mild-mannered self.  At this point, they were in the high school band and I wasn’t even in the junior high band quite yet.  But the spark landed and lit and the flame has only grown brighter over the years.

Once kids get into high school, they often fall into a particular group or ‘clique’ … you know, the “hoods”, as we called them, the “jocks”, the “popular” kids; usually composed of the jocks and cheerleaders, the “academic or smart” kids, the band geeks, etc. etc.  I was a ‘combo’ kid … I ‘rode the fence’ between groups because I was very academic, placing 9th out of 135 in the GPA standings but I was not outgoing and did not possess the financial resources or wardrobe of the “popular kids”.  The group I did fit into, however, lock stock & barrel, was the “band geeks” and that is where I “lived” throughout high school.

I have so many fond memories of marching out onto a football field to the rhythm of our drum cadence in the crisp fall air and feeling such excitement and pride as the crowd cheered enthusiastically after each song we performed.  Similarly, there is nothing quite like being all ‘duded’ up in your uniform and marching in a parade. It’s exhilarating!

The very pinnacle of my “band life” came in 1978 when I was heading into my senior year.  I was honored to be chosen to be in the 300 member All-Ohio State Fair Band.  This was a rather elite band composed of high school students from all over the state of Ohio and directed by Mr. Omar Blackman from Cleveland, who kindly and masterfully directed this band for 28 years.  We lived in dorms on the fairgrounds for 18 days during the Ohio State Fair.  Having only been away from home to church camp once in my young life heretofore, this was quite the experience for me, especially being the introvert that I was back then.  We slept in bunk beds in a building without air-conditioning or fans … in August.  We practiced and practiced. We made new friends…and practiced some more.  But, oh was all that practicing SO worth it! We sounded magnificent by the time the fair started!  We were each issued 2 red, white & blue polyester knit jumpsuits plus a red scarf for around our sweaty necks.  Let me tell you, those #$!* jumpsuits were hotter than Hades out there marching around the fairgrounds under the August sun!  We performed all over the grounds, ‘schlepping’ our instrument in one hand and our chair in the other.  The crowds loved us .. and we loved THAT.  For me, personally, though, nothing prior to nor after — in my musical life that is — could begin to compare to our nightly performance in the coliseum.  Oh the crowds went wild! Just imagine the commanding sound of a 300 piece band in the enclosed coliseum as they perform a multitude of different pieces but always ending with our beautiful national anthem.  But, for me, the “top shelf” event of each and every day and for the entire duration of that experience was our march OUT of the coliseum as we made our way back to the dorms. We played the “National Emblem March” and to this very day, 40 years later, I can vividly picture in my mind how we sounded and how it felt to march out to such a mighty and powerful song.  I was fortunate to be just in front of our very impressive row of 22 tubas and remember precisely where I was each night when the magnificent tuba part arrived in that song.  People clapped and cheered as we marched by.  Oh … the exhilaration of that moment  repeats itself each and every time I hear that song to this very day!

As high school was drawing to a close, I had set my sights on the nursing program at Ohio State as well as on “The Best Dam Band In The Land” or TBDBITL, as they are affectionately known. Despite them being an all-brass band and me playing a very non-brass clarinet, I still had every hope of becoming a member. So much so that my parents even purchased a used trumpet so that I could somehow learn how to play it in order to fulfill my greatest desire at that point in my young life.  However, it was not meant to be. My studies and nursing clinicals turned out to be so completely time-consuming that there just wasn’t any ‘wiggle-room’ left for the time commitment required of the band members, not to mention somehow also squeezing in trumpet lessons.  Oh, the heartbreak of reality. The painful first of many.

And so I evolved into more of a ‘spectator of music rather than a participant and performer. Being a spectator, however, can have a lot of perks though too. Imagine my supreme pleasure at watching my one and only child, Rachel, become the Field Commander for the high school band. I got to ‘relive’ my band days as her dad and I became very active band parents and went to every single game for 4 years. We watched our petite little “dynamo”, dressed in her cute sequined outfit, with great pride as she led the band with more heart and spunk than we could have ever imagined. What a wonderful experience for all of us as a family.

I may not be in a band anymore but I still LOVE music in almost all its’ forms. I still love to play the piano now and then, for my own enjoyment, and have hopes of someday becoming ‘fluent’ in harmonica.  But nothing comes close to the thrill of being in a marching band or watching a good one in person.  About that singular pleasure, I am truly and extremely passionate.

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Starting Over …

How many times in your life have you had to completely start over with something? It’s not an easy or quick task is it.  Over a span of time, we often get ourselves into a ‘smooth groove’ that becomes our personal definition of ‘normal’ …our comfort zone.  When forces, big or small, known or unknown, come together in such a way as to pull us out of that ‘groove’ and plop us into foreign territory, it can be scary and painful.

I’ve been an RN for 34 years.  There’s a lot of diversity in this field which can take you into a multitude of varied practice areas.  Right out of the ‘chute’ in 1983, I worked on a very intense pediatric unit starting IV’s in thread-sized scalp and hand veins on itty bitty babies and toddlers.  From there I went to a multi-speciality clinic where I loved traveling every day between 4 different satellite offices in and around Columbus working with both a pediatrician and an orthopedic surgeon.  I had the unenviable job of poking the tender little heels of countless precious newborns, amidst much crying, by baby and mama, in order to acquire blood for required testing.  I also stood by and assisted my other boss while he performed many gruesome tasks such as removing toenails and setting broken bones — both extremely high on the Richter scale of pain.  He also taught me to remove casts with that terrifying electric cast saw, which, thankfully I mastered, leaving all my patient’s limbs intact.

I went on to work in nursing homes, doctor’s offices and for a while I was a chemotherapy nurse, mixing and administering IV chemotherapy to those doing battle with the big “C”.  This job in particular was one of the most rewarding and yet rather surreal and uniquely painful, as it brought back constant reminders of my own near-death experience with the big “C” several years prior .

For the last 11 years, I did public health nursing, working in several different capacities over the course of each week — senior citizen/community outreach, school nursing and STD investigations.  For the most part, I loved it…especially working with Seniors. It was my “smooth groove”, my comfort zone.  There are unfortunate times, however, when those who control your ‘work life’ really don’t care about you — what you love to do, what you excel at, what value you bring to the table.  Regardless of your well-honed experience and wisdom in your areas of expertise, there may come a time when a newcomer on the scene … a younger, fresher model indeed, but devoid of the priceless knowledge and wisdom gained from years in the trenches … is suddenly given preference and you may find yourself cast aside … without discussion or warning … to merely fill a spot for a body … any body.  Putting and/or keeping employees in positions they enjoy and excel at — matching their unique skill-set to the job — is a win-win situation…for the employee as well as the employer.  To most it just seems like common sense. But, as we all know, common sense is a flower that does NOT grow in everyone’s garden. Your years of loyalty, your desires, your uniquely developed skills are scraped off the plate and into the trash like last night’s leftovers.  What do you do?  If you think things may turn around at some point and change for the better, you may decide to stick it out and put all your money on ‘hope’.  If, instead, you’ve seen this pattern over and over and know in your heart the likelihood of things getting any better is dismal, at best … you may feel the need to climb up out of your comfy ‘smooth groove’, mentally kicking and screaming all the way, and move on … starting over somewhere else.

This is where I find myself … starting over … 34 years later … at 56.  Definitely NOT what I thought I’d be doing at this point in my life and career.  Starting over in not only a new job but a job that involves only a small percentage of “nursing” combined with a much larger percentage of “social work”.  In other words, basically a total career change.  Six weeks in and the ‘honeymoon’ period of training and orientation are fast morphing into the real “meat and potatoes” of the job.  A huge portion of my new gig involves COPIOUS amounts of time spent on the computer trying to learn new skills in the tedious documentation of everything I do when I’m working out ‘in the field’.  When I leave at the end of the day, my vision is so blurry I can’t make out faces of people I pass during a quick stop at the store on the way home.  I am by no means stupid, but I am truly finding it harder to learn new things at this point in my life than ever before.  I don’t like that feeling.  I don’t like being unsure about how to do things.  I don’t like having to bother other people in order to ask for help figuring out these new things.  I don’t like feeling overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and deadlines to meet.  Knowledge is power and I don’t like not yet totally knowing how to do my job  because it makes me feel powerless.  I don’t like green eggs and ham, said Sam-I-am!

I was reading the work of a fellow WordPress blogger this morning and stumbled upon a quote that pretty much describes — to a “T”– the way I’ve always tended to feel when I don’t have a good grasp of the task at hand.

” I was paralyzed by the journey of 1000 miles rather than animated by the

single step in front of me.”          – Andrea Badgley, “Butterfly Mind”

In my at-home, off-the-clock life, if I feel too overwhelmed by too many things calling for my attention, it tends to ‘paralyze’ rather than motivate me.  I just ‘fold’ and don’t do any of it.  I’ll lose myself in a good book instead or watch something funny and mindless on TV.  Obviously, though, I can’t do that at work.  No matter how overwhelming and stressful things are, you still have to keep going and find a way to get through it all.  This is where my faith is supposed to kick in … and it does … when I ALLOW it to and force myself to rely on Him to help me and to calm me instead of trying to shoulder all of my worries and responsibilities by myself.  My biggest problem is that I am an “Indian-giver”.  For you younger readers who might not be familiar with that phrase, an Indian-giver is someone who gives a gift but then takes it back.  I will pray and fervently ask the Lord to help me with specific tasks and issues and the associated anxieties about them and for a very short amount of time I am semi-successful at “releasing them” to His expert care, which then greatly reduces my mental burden.  I feel so much better and my world goes from black and white to technicolor as I suddenly see His loving fingerprints on everything in my life. But then little by little I take back those thoughts and worries that I had surrendered to Him.  Shame on me, for He alone is the Master handler of any and all problems … the Healer of all wounds.  I don’t have any tattoos and never will, but if I were to, I would put something of that nature right on the back of my hand to remind me every minute of every day that He wants me to give Him ALL the worry and anxiety of any and all problems that are weighing me down. To remind me that he was physically tortured on a cross for the sole purpose of relieving me of those types of unnecessary burdens. To LEAVE them with Him once I surrender them over.  We all have struggles in different areas — this is one of mine.

I tend to be a ‘bottom-line’ person. With certain issues or situations, I get lost in excessive instructions or directions and find myself mentally yelling, “Please just cut to the chase… give me the bottom line!”  So, here it is.  Starting over is HARD …. very hard.  But, I remind myself that it can be done. I did it 6 years ago after divorce and I can do it again with a career change now.  I WILL tough it out … I WILL soldier on through the rain and dark clouds to the other side where it is warm and sunny and I WILL see the beautiful little treasures that He has hidden along the rocky path, for me and me alone, to find.  But I must remember to let Him be my hiking buddy, as He is the ONLY one who knows which one of the many possible paths is the RIGHT one to get me through the storms safely.

 

The Sundance Kid Grew Up…

Have you been slapped in the face with your own mortality yet?  What kinds of things make you realize you’re not a ‘spring chicken’ anymore? Without ‘sugar-coating’ it, what makes you feel older than dirt?

In the last year or two, there have been a growing number of things that assure me that not only have I reached the summit of “the hill”, I’ve actually cleared it completely and am making pretty good time on the downward slope.  The inability to sleep more than 4 to 6 hours straight, not being able to do ‘diddly-squat’ without one of my many pairs of readers perched on my nose, and the now almost constant presence of my cruel and annoying friend ‘Arthur’ who,being the bully that he is, kidnapped my strong and dependable muscles and joints, are all part of the growing evidence of this southward trek.

However, even with all this combined, nothing hit home quite as vividly as seeing one of my childhood “heartthrobs” in a new Netflix movie today.  The movie was “Our Souls At Night”, starring 81 year old Robert Redford and 79 year old Jane Fonda.  I found it to be quite heartwarming, touching, easy to identify with and poignant all at the same time.  I had to dust off my math skills to do a little figuring as the final credits were rolling.  The first time I ever saw the infamous Mr. Redford in a film where I was aware of him “as a MAN” was in The Sting.  That came out in 1973. I was a mere 12 back then and he would have been 37…..a very young-looking 37. Mind you, I was an “early bloomer” and apparently had a bit of a “thing” for older men, as evidenced by my former spouse being 10 years my senior. And so it was that I distinctly remember thinking that Robert Redford was most certainly the best-looking man I had ever laid my young eyes on…up to that point. In retrospect, that was probably saying a lot, as I was never particularly as attracted to blondes as I was to dark-haired fellas. With 3 notable exceptions … Tommy Turner, a blonde blue-eyed surfer-type imported from California who made the daily smell of Clearasil seem like heavenly perfume to me…on whom I had a massive crush in 6th grade, Brad Pitt and the aforementioned Robert Redford.  After The Sting, I don’t remember seeing a whole lot of Robert in the movies.  Oh here and there but my youthful mind apparently preserved him much like one of Madame Tussaud’s wax figures, as he appeared in that iconic film.

So, fast forward 44 years to this afternoon’s matinee’.  I feel rather silly admitting how hard it hit me to see my blonde ‘adonis’ at his current age, instead of the one living in my old imagination .  Oh don’t get me wrong, he is still a good looking man, but, perhaps because I’ve worked with seniors for so long, I couldn’t help but notice some of the less obvious changes, like his less confident and more fragile, slightly hesitant gait, typical of an aging senior.  It was a painful hallmark of sorts and made me realize with bell-like clarity that I too am heading in that same direction whether I like it or not.  The Sundance Kid has finally grown up …. and so must I.

The Silent Epidemic …

You may not be aware of this but there’s an epidemic in this country.  No, I’m not talking about the flu or measles or even the dreaded Zika virus.  This is much more insidious, feeding on its’ victims little by little, day by day, month after month, year after year.  It initially attacks the heart and mind, but, as time goes on without any ‘intervention’, it begins to weaken the immune system and from there wreaks havoc throughout the physical body as well.  Recent studies have shown its’ victims have a shorter life span as a direct result.  This psychological ‘tapeworm’ preys on folks of all ages, races and from all socioeconomic layers of society. It does, however, seem to have a lip-smacking preference for those in the second half of their life.  So, what is this pariah, you may be asking.  In a word …loneliness.

Really?!  Yes … REALLY!  In fact, nothing could be more real to the millions of people who silently suffer within its’ clutches.  Oh, they’ll probably never come out and tell you because society has made that type of admission seem “needy” and negative, as though there is something wrong with you if you’re not constantly surrounded by people who love and adore you and who spend enough time with you to practically eliminate loneliness from your vocabulary.  Some are single, having never found that “significant other” with whom to share their life. Others may have lost a spouse to death or divorce. They may or may not have been blessed with children, but even so, those children and grandchildren may be spread far and wide, literally and figuratively.  We live in a fast-paced world — too fast.  Too much going on, too little time to squeeze it all in to.  Unfortunately most folks these days are focused on themselves and their immediate family ….those with whom they share a roof.  When time is short and cuts have to be made, there is often not much thought given to those friends and family who might be facing yet another evening or weekend alone with no one to share some time with.  In my work with senior citizens over the last 11+ years, I’ve seen it all too frequently.  So many people dying a slow and painful death …. silently.  For many different reasons, they may not be able to get out and socialize on their own. They may have financial, health or transportation issues that make it extremely difficult, if not impossible.  They may have reached such an advanced age that all their friends and family have already passed on.

Of course one need not be considered “elderly” to be a victim of chronic loneliness.  For any person of any age living alone, nothing seems more prevalent or exclusive than the ‘sea’ of couples and families we see wherever we go. I say ‘we’ because, I too am no stranger to this issue in my personal life as well as professional. Since I “re-entered” the ‘single world’ six years ago, I have a much deeper appreciation for the plight of my senior clients and fellow mid-life empty-nesters when it comes to this.  Unfortunately, I have no grand solution, other than to kindly urge you to remember your family and friends who live alone and to try to make some sort of contact with them on a regular basis to let them know that someone does still care about them.  They generally won’t initiate much contact for fear of intruding in your busy life; so, you can’t wait for or expect them to tell you they’re lonely or to ask for your help.  Be brave…step forward.  Better to err on the side of too much caring rather than not enough.

In today’s tech-filled world where we spend less and less time face to face with each other and more “face time” with our electronics, I foresee this issue only growing larger over time. So, listen up peeps!! Go call your mom or dad…if you’re lucky enough to still have them…better yet, go visit them….or someone else who lives alone.  Offer to help them in some small way or just say “Hi”.  Smiles are free, but they give a HUGE return on their “investment and distribution” …so dole them out like there’s no tomorrow! Because, folks, in all seriousness, there just might not be …a tomorrow.  We never know when we will see or talk to someone for the last time.  Life is so fragile.  There are no guarantees or promises given to any of us.  The past is gone forever, the future may never be …so all we really have is the present.  Make someone’s day today … look them in the eyes, flash those pearly whites and have a word or a conversation or, better yet, a great big hug …. let them know you care.  Let there be no doubt……your investment directly affects your “return”.

 

Winery Review: The Ugly Bunny

It’s called the “Ugly Bunny”, but I assure you, there is absolutely nothing ugly about it!  I am referring to the latest and greatest addition to the “Places You Must Visit” in the increasingly popular Loudonville, Ohio area.

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Planted among its’ own grape vines on a lush hillside just east of Loudonville on SR 39 is the Ugly Bunny Winery at the Marsh Vineyards.  My sister Lisa, her husband Dennis and I decided to explore this new hotspot.  We started at the beautiful and stately wine bar where we were greeted by the extremely friendly and welcoming staff who seemed totally dedicated to making sure our visit was nothing less than perfect.  At this point in time, they have 2 reds and 4 whites and we each chose what we wanted to try in our “flights” of 4.  As regular readers of my blog know, I am a sweet wine lover and therefore was thrilled to learn that at least 4 of their current offerings fit into this category. I started off with their Red Ryder which is described in their literature as a “cabernet with a unique, blackberry taste and a light finish”… it was fantastic!  I found it to, indeed, be quite unique and very light and fruity.  Next up in my flight was “Down The Rabbit Hole”, a “refreshing blend of Concord and Niagara”.  It was also delicious and perhaps more “familiar tasting” to me than the Ryder. From here I went to “Southern Belle”, a “crisp, green apple riesling” … very light and refreshing.  Last but definitely not least, I tried “Catawba” – light and fresh with a peach finish.  They were, quite honestly, all very good , but, at the end of our stay the two bottles that found their way into the car with me were the Red Ryder.

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I have to say how excited I am to have such a cool place like this right here in our beautiful little Mohican valley!  I can well imagine what a fun spot it will become, especially on days like tomorrow when they will be having live entertainment – an open mike night – and BBQ !!  The rich, wood decor, comfortable seating both inside and out and the killer view finish this off as a must-visit stop on your next trip to our quaint village.  I predict you will share my view that there is nothing ugly about the Ugly Bunny!

Restaurant Review: Muddy Waters Cafe

Today at lunch I had the great pleasure of trying a new restaurant……something I enjoy doing very much. Normally I would shoot a couple of photos to show you the actual food and the venue itself, but, I guess I was just too distracted by the handsome and ever-so-witty gentleman at our table that I completely forgot!  Oops!  Actually I’ll be surprised if I can remember enough to even come up with a couple paragraphs!  LoL……….it doesn’t take much to “derail” my train…

Muddy Waters Cafe at 116 E. Liberty St in downtown Wooster, Ohio is the former home of Art Bucher Cadillac…….a fact that is very obvious from the moment you enter this unique establishment. The extra large “garage door” is still intact and was open for easy access to the outdoor seating area at the front of the building. I could imagine that being a nice place to enjoy some adult beverages on a warm summer night, while watching the passersby right there on the main downtown “drag”. We sat inside where there is a nice mix of booths and tables. There is also a “stage” area for the live music they advertise.  The decor is very eclectic and provides lots of interesting things to look at. It reminded me a bit like the decor and vibe of “Melt” in Cleveland.

Three of us had the fish and chips and found it to be quite delicious. Three nice sized filets deep-fried to perfection along with a good portion of very tasty fries. Cole slaw was also served but, quite honestly, I did not try it this time around. My younger self would have jumped right in  but my “older self” has mysteriously developed a rather contentious relationship with certain foods…..cabbage being on that list. The brave lone male at our table decided to try frog legs for the first time. I say “brave” not because he tried the frog legs but because he dared to entertain 3 women by himself!  Of course he did so quite smoothly, much to the delight of his guests. He claimed he liked the unique dish and would probably try it again…….as long as the ornery tablemates did not refer to the amphibious gams in “human anatomy” terms.

All in all Muddy Waters strikes me as a fun place with a pretty “hip” vibe and good food. A definite “repeat” on my list.

Restaurant Review: The Alcove

When it comes to ‘leisure activities’, do you ever get a ‘hankering’ for something a little different?  Don’t get me wrong, I love the typical “dinner and a movie” and would be quite content to spend an evening every week with my interesting male companion , provided I had one, doing just that.  But sometimes it’s fun to try something a tad different.  Such was my experience last night at the “dinner theater” at The Alcove in Mount Vernon.

In the spirit of ‘full disclosure’, I must admit that when my sister first asked me to go with her family I was not overly enthusiastic about the ‘theater’ aspect.  Frankly, I envisioned something very small, where the actors were practically in your laps and very ‘hokey’ and amateurish.  Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong.

Now if you have ever eaten at The alcove, you know their reputation as a fine dining destination is well earned.  Last night was no exception.  As part of our dinner theater “package”, we could choose one of three entrees’:  vegetarian, chicken or prime rib.  Many years ago I did a 3 year stint as a vegetarian — 1 of those as a vegan, no less.  Yeah ….. got that out of my system.  Been there, done that, as they say. I love beef and, had it been any other cut than prime rib, I would have definitely chosen that.  But, alas, I do not care for it… I’ve tried to like it but to me it has very little flavor.  So, guess what … I had the chicken.  I rarely choose chicken when I go out, unless, of course, I’m at KFC.  I find it to be rather ‘blah’ and boring.  I’m a ‘dyed in the wool’ seafood/fish lover and that’s usually my number one choice.  So, my expectations were akin to watching a professional limbo dancer.  Once again, I was very happy to be wrong.  The roasted leg quarter was nicely seasoned and very moist.  The accompanying mashed potatoes and asparagus were also quite tasty, albeit in rather lilliputian amounts.  In my humble opinion, seeing as how we are not in France, I find 3 little stalks of asparagus to be more of a tease than a serving.  Now that I have vegetables on my mind, I almost forgot to mention that the entree’ was preceded by a tasty little salad dressed with a light sweet and sour type of vinaigrette.  Warm and delicious little rolls were served then as well.

IMG_1018After the 70 or so of us in the nicely appointed upstairs “theater room” were finished with our entrees’, the dishes were cleared by the very friendly and attentive wait staff and the show began.  I won’t go into much detail here, so as not to spoil it for those of you who might want to enjoy it for yourselves, but, the show was about bridesmaids and featured 4 female actors. The writing was quite good and the humorous lines were delivered with perfect timing which kept the audience in ‘stitches’.  The costume changes were fairly frequent which also added to the overall appeal and kept us interested.  At intermission, we were served our delicious dessert of pecan fudge ice cream balls.  Three at our table are lactose challenged and were served a blueberry pomegranate sorbet instead and heartily raved about it the rest of the evening.

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During the second half of the play, I had a funny little experience.  In the darkened room, I happened to notice a rather familiar-looking head of thick white hair on a man at the next big table beside us.  Now, not unlike many women in my particular age range, I have had a life-long crush on the oh-so-sexy Sam Elliott of “Lifeguard” fame.  As I nonchalantly kept glancing over, all I could see was his profile but the more I looked the more convinced I was that somehow that steamy Hollywood heartthrob with the deliciously deep voice had ended up at the next table in little old Mount Vernon, Ohio!  Alas, as I’m sure you guessed, when the lights came on and “Sam” stood up and turned, the thought bubble above my head, had there been one, would have said, “Uh…..guess not”.   Funny how a profile in a dark room can conjure up all manner of fantastical ideas.

So, the next time you’re looking for something fun and different to do, head on down to The Alcove in beautiful Mount Vernon for an evening of delicious food, unique entertainment and perhaps a celebrity sighting or two.

There’s No Place Like Home …

There’s nothing that solidifies my love for my slice of peaceful paradise here in the heart of the Mohican valley quite like three full days spent in the big city of Columbus. I was thrilled in anticipation of this extremely rare little mother/daughter get-away and had a great time…but am now also happy to be back in the land of fewer cars, people and a LOT less noise and over stimulation.  As the saying goes, “less is more”.

The first thing on our agenda was a much awaited visit to the new IKEA store. After driving clear to Pittsburgh for our first IKEA experience several years ago followed a couple years later to the only other one in Ohio — still a 2 1/2 hour drive south to West Chester —  we have been eagerly awaiting the opening of one so much closer.  In regards to a unique shopping experience, it did not disappoint. So many things you don’t normally see elsewhere presented in creative and unusual ways. In addition to the shopping, I had hoped we could also explore the cafe’ and it’s “Swedish fare”, as I love to try new foods. However, given our lengthy “to-do list”, we decided to forego that.  Maybe next time. The only “negative” for me would have to be the “sea of people”, as evidenced by the fact that we arrived in the parking lot a mere 20 minutes after they opened only to find it already filled to the point of us having to park clear out in the ‘back 40′!

After a relaxing lunch at Max & Erma’s in neighboring Westerville, we set out to do something we had talked about for years. Many, many times we have elected to drive home from Columbus via the old Route 3 instead of  I-71. Seeing as how Rt 3 comes right into Loudonville and I personally find it much more scenic and less hectic, it makes sense…..to me.  In doing so, we have often remarked, while going through downtown Westerville with it’s quaint charm, that “someday” we should just park the car, walk the streets and explore the cute shops. So, that is FINALLY what we did.  We explored a cool little ladies consignment boutique, a bakery, “Amish” furniture store and, my favorite….a store filled to its’ artsy brim with the products of Ohio artists only.  Overall an enjoyable little jaunt.

After checking into the Hilton at Polaris, which I can highly recommend, we set off on our quest to visit at least one area winery. After doing some research on what wineries were closest to our location, we decided on the Powell Village Winery.  Now in telling you about this particular area, I must digress for a minute. In the last few years when I have visited here, it just blows my mind to see all the changes that have taken place. This trip  even more so. About 30 years ago, I worked down the road in Worthington and, being rather homesick for the hills and green scenery of Loudonville, I used to drive to the TINY little village of Powell on my lunch hour. At that time, it was much like McKay (as you locals know, you dare not blink while passing or you will surely miss it!)….it’s only business was a general store and a bakery behind that. I would sometimes stop at the bakery for a cookie or two to enjoy while exploring the backroads that traversed all the green FIELDS that dominated that area. I especially enjoyed driving up the winding Olentangy River Road with all of it’s huge old trees and the occasional stately “mansion” sprinkled here and there along it’s path.  Fast forward to now. The old village store is a brew house, the bakery is no longer and there are no empty fields for miles around. The streets of Powell are lined with buildings upon buildings and finding a parking space is like looking for Waldo at an OSU game! The neighborhoods….and yes, now there are actually “neighborhoods”…. are jam-packed with million dollar homes and condos and all the people and ‘accoutrements’ that go along with all that. Oy vey!!  No more little “village”!  So, after wrapping my head around all that during the first few minutes in town, we found the winery and settled in for a “tasting”.  From here we moseyed over to Local Roots, a rather contemporary little spot with a menu featuring locally sourced food, for some supper.

Day two started off with some shopping at World Market — one of our favorites, followed by our first visit to Molly Woo’s for lunch. In my experience, most Asian restaurants are not famous for having a particularly noteworthy atmosphere….if any at all. We found this spot, however, to not only have a rather uniquely interesting atmosphere and fun decor, but the food was quite excellent as well. A definite repeat for future dining pleasure!  After the last fortune cookie was read, we headed back to the spa at our hotel where we indulged in pampering pedicures……another rare and lovely treat enjoyed immensely.  After having our tootsies massaged and polished, we slid on our oiled -up feet over to the Bonefish Grill for supper.  Without a doubt, this was my favorite and where I had the best meal of our trip. Like Molly Woo’s, this is a definite on the future repeat list. Day 2 ended with some old fashioned relaxing in our comfy room in front of the boob tube.

Day 3, our last, started off with a yummy breakfast at First Watch…..necessary to prepare for the rigors of shopping ahead!  Off to Charming Charlie’s ……a particularly dangerous place for Moi’….where the contents of my wallet and I seem to mysteriously part ways whenever I cross the threshold.  From here we finished our 3 day excursion by holding down the floors at the Mall for a few hours…….thus doing our part to keep the Columbus economy ‘flush’.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. My little 3 day mini-vacation/getaway. This one was particularly sweet as I got to spend it with my daughter — my best friend and the love of my life. In general, I find vacations a strange bird indeed. Number one, I only have them once or twice a year, so, they are like gold to a pirate, for me. As much as I anticipate them though , it also takes me a day or two to adjust once I’m off work. I get so excited just dreaming about all I will do but invariably I also start to notice the excess people and traffic and sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that… country bumpkin that I apparently am.   I guess Dorothy had it right ….there’s no place like home.

 

Nothing Is Quite What It Seems…

Well ….here I sit…camera in hand, all settings configured, after much consultation with a set of photography “cheat sheets” I purchased….all bird feeders stocked, bird baths full … whole peanuts placed strategically on my porch railing and elsewhere in hopes of insuring a good shot.  Me in my favorite porch chair with a glass of wine  and three different lenses…to attempt to cover any and all scenarios.  All systems go!  Only one minor glitch … the cacophony of “actors” that were in abundance just this morning — multiple squirrels, woodpeckers, jays and several other varieties of birds, have all but vanished!  So, what’s the deal?!  Do they all take an afternoon siesta?  Can they ‘smell’ me despite purposely forgoing any cologne today?  Or do they somehow still spot me here on the porch … a mere 15 or so feet away .. trying to be inconspicuous behind the flower boxes and clematis?  I don’t know but it’s frustrating when my time for such ”frivolity” is so limited.  Luckily, I’m pretty skilled at multitasking and a little obsessive about “time conservation”. So as you can ‘see’, I’ve also brought along one of the big yellow legal pads I like to write on as well as my Kindle which hosts the good book I’m currently reading.

All kidding aside, this new hobby I’m trying to learn — photography — is much more difficult than I thought.  It appears you must have the patience of Job … to WAIT for the shot, the flexibility of Gumby….. to get your body into sometimes uncomfortable positions to acquire said shot, and the intelligence about and experience with your camera and it’s capabilities to know what settings and which lens to use when.  It’s a pretty daunting, albeit enjoyable challenge.  Apparently, I was already out shoe shopping when the good Lord was handing out the gift of patience … because I definitely did not receive it.  I personally have a very hard time being in that weird land of ‘limbo’ where you are very much interested in something and desperately want to be a part of it but you really don’t have much of a clue YET as to HOW to do it.  I would much prefer a “Jetsons-style dome” we could stand under and merely push a button and instantly be fully equipped in any and all ways for whatever new hobby we cared to pursue.  Wouldn’t that be great!  Why, I wouldn’t get anything else done if you consider all my varied interests and hobbies … I’d be a concert pianist with a world-wide traveling gig, an archaeologist discovering ancient artifacts on the other side of the globe, a horticulturist with a world-class greenhouse, a musician and lead singer in a coffee house-type band, an  artisan quilter, a world class nature photographer and, last but definitely not least an author of countless books, articles and blogs!  Whew!  Guess there’s a reason why there is such a learning curve to all these things!  When I let a little air out of my ‘sails’ and come back down to earth, I am reminded of the need for “balance” …. in everything.

So, I guess I’ll just have to be patient with myself and my “subjects” as I learn this new skill of capturing God’s beautiful creations and life’s moments …. byte by byte.  Nothing good comes without effort ….and time.

Explanations & Anniversaries …

I haven’t been writing at all for several weeks now. Quite simply, the reason being that what is heavy on my heart to write about is not something people will want to read about nor give a rat’s rear end about. I am all too aware that everyone has their own issues and heartaches to deal with and don’t really want to feel stressed by reading about anyone elses’ problems.  I get it. But my feelings are real nonetheless.  What “they” say about grief being the worst during the first year after you lose someone dear is very true. My dad…..my hero….my rock died 8 months ago and in many ways it still seems like yesterday. In fact, some days I can hardly believe he’s really gone. Almost every day on my way home I pass a car just like his and for just a millisecond, I think it’s him.  With each new holiday or season or family event, I think of what it would mean to him and what role he usually played. When I go grocery shopping I see old couples and it reminds me of my mom and dad who loved to shop together. I see things…..special foods they liked but maybe rarely treated themselves to……and it makes my heart ache a little.  Every single day on my commute to and from work, if I don’t have music playing and it’s quiet in the car, my mind goes straight to him and how much I miss him. Tears and a great sense of loneliness almost always follow.  I ask myself repeatedly if this will ever end or at least become less painful and intrusive to my mind and heart on a daily basis. My parents lived next door to me and my family for the last 25 years. My dad was always out in the yard mowing or tinkering around with something and whenever I would go out we would talk and “banter” back and forth …teasing each other about long-standing issues. He was always there to help with anything and everything that ever went wrong and had an answer for everything. In my younger years, he lovingly & proudly referred to me as his “little Buckeye”, as I was the first person on his side of the family to graduate from college (OSU).  In later years his favorite thing to say in his cute joking way as we were parting company was, “Well…glad you got to see me……you can leave a quarter on your way out.”  In the last several months when he was very sick and depressed, I used to say that to him in an effort to make him laugh…..sometimes it worked….sometimes not so much.   Life now …for me…is so much different.  Just yesterday, for example, I went out to mow my very large yard. My mower had been in the shop and this was the first time I was using it since the repair place returned it.  Well, it started fine but I couldn’t get it to move in any direction. I won’t go into great detail here lest you think me a complete and total idiot, but I tried and tried for a half hour to get that booger to move. My dad would have been over in a flash and had the problem solved. My stress level was climbing as my list of chores was very long and I needed to get the mowing done before the forecasted rain arrived. I could not IMAGINE what on earth was wrong, as I was doing everything that I always did to start the mower. Finally after much frustration, I VERY reluctantly called the one person  I knew would know…….my ex.  We are on friendly terms now so I wasn’t really afraid of HIM being mad but he has fairly recently gotten back together with his first wife and I felt 100% certain that she would NOT appreciate me calling.  Well, long story short, his answer only solved half of the problem but a call from my daughter solved the other half. Ultimately I got it moving and much to my distress, so too were the tears. As my Deere devoured row after row of the tall grass, not only did my emotions get the best of me regarding my dad and how much I missed him but now, after hearing the voice of the man I was married to for 24 years, my heart was hurting over that whole situation again as well. I suppose there is a reasonable explanation for that. You see, today, May 29th is the anniversary of our divorce being final….5 years ago. It was final 5 years ago but he actually moved out 6 years ago……after deciding he no longer loved me nor wanted to be married. Yep…..I finally said it publicly. Ultimately he admitted remorse over his decision……but it was too late…..too much water under the bridge.  Anyways…..I digress.

So, there you have it. The reason the blank pages stare back at me every time I sit down to write. I’m a deep person and it seems that when I decide to write, it’s because something has really captured my heart and mind and I just have to expound on it. But if I feel that that “something” is too “dark” for general consumption, I really hesitate….lest I be labeled as a depressing old “Eeyore”and/or just flat out bore the socks off people!! Believe me when I tell you that I truly am a fun-loving, silly, easily amused kind of gal who loves nothing more than laughing till my belly hurts……..99% of the time.  It’s just that 1% that pokes through now and then.