Spending my birthday with my (fake) dad

It was Paul’s fault really. I told him not to tell anyone that it was going to be my birthday, but he did anyway.

We needed to sail our boat back to her home port after some routine maintenance. We made plans to sail the boat back with Harv and Kate. It was meant to be a fun little trip until we heard about the high chance of severe weather. I was almost happy when Kate cancelled coming on the trip because of back problems. I probably mentioned this quite awhile back, but our good friends are in their upper 80’s. I was afraid if we hit stormy weather that Kate would get hurt as she is rather small and frail.

Harv asked if another buddy of his could go instead which was fine. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM on my birthday so we could try to make the trip before the storms hit. It was going to be an adventure everyone was up for. Harv and his buddy were probably sailing before I was born. Along with my husband, I thought there was no group of experienced sailors that I would rather risk a storm with. The weather was perfect that morning. It was warm with a brisk breeze. We caught the wind and were able to sail back with an hour and a half to spare before the storms hit.

We made it back to the marina at lunch time. Harv treated us to lunch. But that wasn’t all. He surprised me by making me a cake. Instead of frosting, he covered it with tapioca pudding. They sang happy birthday to me. Harv only put 8 candles on the cake so it was a little short. But they were trick candles. Every time I blew them out, they relit. After we enjoyed his cake, he pulled confetti poppers out of his bag. When you pulled on the string confetti would pop out. Harv and I had a confetti fight until there was confetti everywhere. We all laughed and had a good time.

Harv (and Paul) worked really hard to make my day special.

I felt happy that Harv took the time to think of me and make me a cake. But underneath it all was a whole mess of hurt and sadness. My own dad didn’t acknowledge my birthday in any way. He didn’t call or send a card. He never did. He never bought me a birthday gift much less bake me a box cake. In that one act of kindness, Harv was more of a dad towards me then my dad will ever be and that hurt.

I thanked Harv and gave him a hug. Harv’s friend joked and said that Kate would be jealous. I told him that I didn’t need another husband. I already have a wonderful husband. What I really needed was a dad. On that day, Harv was my fake dad and it really was a great birthday.

After Harv and his buddy left, the storms came rolling in. I always love a good (not damaging) storm. It’s the way my birthday is the majority of the time, stormy.

Distant shores

I promised I would share some of the pictures I took from our last sailing trip.

We ended up delaying our trip by a day due to storms. The following day the water was still choppy at first.

(Apparently I haven’t shared a lot of pictures lately because WP changed everything again so bear with me.)

A distant lighthouse located somewhere between Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

We visited a new to me marina. On the water life isn’t too busy. It’s nice to get away from all the noise.

Sometimes all we see is a distant sailboat on the endless water.

On the water I can experience peace mixed with adventure. The next evening we anchored out.

We made our way up to Chamber’s Island where we took our kayaks to land and explored a lighthouse.

We jumped into the ice cold waters to cool off on a warm enough day.

It’s really neat to see huge cargo ships on a voyage. I wonder if they think it is cool to see us too…

One of my biggest passions in life is photography and travelling to places I’ve never been to before. This was the first time I visited these places. I love being on the water. I’m not sure why it brings me calm and peace while in many others it would cause fear. Tomorrow, for my birthday, we are going to brave possible stormy weather and go on another adventure.

Gratitude week 77

  1. After a couple of nights away and not sleeping the best, it is nice to be home and sleep in my own bed.
  2. My son turned 21 this past week and we got to spend a lot of time with him for his birthday.
  3. My husband, son, and a friend of his went whitewater rafting. I wanted to go last year but never went. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out because it was a lot of fun. Plus it was a hot day which made it so much better.
  4. It’s the first day of summer! Woohoo! Funny thing is that it is quite chilly here. I turned off the A/C and put on a sweater.
  5. Paul and I worked most of the weekend for our business. It was nice because some friends of ours stopped by to chat that we haven’t seen since before COVID.
  6. I am grateful to have a wonderful husband that is a great father to our kids. For Father’s Day we took him out to eat and toured a maritime museum. He had a really nice day. I’m grateful for all the great dads out there that make a difference in their children’s lives or men who step up and provide that guidance.
  7. I’m grateful that life seems to be back on schedule again. Some friends of ours just invited us to their Halloween party this fall. It’s nice to have some events back on the calendar.
  8. I’m grateful that my daughter seems to like her new job.
  9. I’m grateful that the pool guys came out today to put in a new filter. It’s always nice when broken worn out things are fixed.
  10. I’m grateful that I haven’t had the chance to be bored this summer. So far it seems to be going a whole lot better than last year. I’m sure almost everyone can say an amen to that!!

I’m done!

And just like that, I am finished.

My baby turns 18 today. I am no longer a parent of children. I mean, I don’t think that fact is going to change much. But I am officially done with the active parenting years.

Yesterday we picked Arabella up from residential. All day I felt very anxious. It was a mixture of the negative emotion of fear and the positive of excitement. I found there really is a fine line between the two. This isn’t an emotion I frequently experience together (it’s usually only negative anxiety).

I felt the same way when I got my first tattoo. I was terrified and utterly exhilarated at the same time. Afterwards, the terror of getting a tattoo was replaced with this feeling of complete peace and calm which is also something I rarely experience. My body and mind for the most part fails to relax together.

Or maybe if you can’t relate to anything I am saying, it might be similar to waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. That is like the whole experience on steroids.

Everything went pretty good yesterday. But I still feel anxious today. Some of it has burned off. Yesterday before we picked up Arabella I just felt off. It was a weird anxiety. I felt like something was wrong like a loved one was going to die. I felt like I forgot something really important. I felt rather jumpy and hyper-vigilant. That is how my anxiety manifested itself. But in all reality, I feel a tremendous amount of fear. Placing Arabella in residential was our last ditch effort to saving her life. We used our trump card. Now the rest is really up to her and that is scary.

I feel excited to start this new chapter with Arabella. It is what it is. I am excited to have all of my children close to home. I am a little apprehensive about their ability to live in harmony. The peace I long for alludes me like a poor man’s chase of the dollar. I will keep working on it. But as for now, I am happy that at least I am in touch with how I feel about everything going on.

I am anxious, and mysteriously that can be both a positive and negative experience at the same time.

On Fish River in Alabama

We ended our journey spending two nights in a cabin on Fish River in Summerdale, AL. We didn’t have a plan as to what we were going to do there as it was out in the middle of nowhere. We had one full day to explore. The cabin had a boathouse on stilts over the water. There was a pontoon boat inside which we didn’t have access to. There were multiple lounge chairs and the upstairs area had a full bar with a big screen TV.

Here was our view from the long dock next to the boathouse.

The Airbnb had kayaks we could use so we just decided to spend the day there. It wasn’t terribly warm in the morning so I pulled out a lounge chair trying to find a piece of sun. I sat outside wrapped in a blanket reading a book. Paul went into town and bought a fishing pole which kept him pretty happy all day.

The high temp that day was in the mid-60’s with a really strong wind. Paul and I went kayaking in the afternoon. I’m not going to lie, we were a little cold since we got wet getting the kayaks in and out of the water. But I couldn’t complain too much because it was a lot colder at home with our rivers and lakes frozen. The brisk winds made it really hard to control where we were going at times and I wondered if we might tip.

There weren’t a lot of people out in boats and if they were, they were bundled up. I supposed we were an unusual sight because people asked if we were from around there. The locals were probably huddled inside with the heat on but to us it felt like late spring. They told us sometimes dolphins swim up the river in the evening but we didn’t see any. There was a lot of garbage and trees down from a hurricane that went through in September. The locals apologized for the mess (as if it was their fault!) because I’m sure it was pristine, beautiful, and well-kept before the storm. They obviously took great pride in their state and wanted it to look better for outsiders on their first trip to their state.

I did get close to shore by a wooded area on the way back. I heard a rumbling in the woods coming closer to me that made me nervous. Was it an alligator? Or a crocodile? Do they even have crocodiles there? What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Would I get eaten? I am ignorant of these things because I am a northerner exploring Alabama for the first time. All I can say is that the animal that emerged looked like a beaver. I wish I took my phone for pictures, but we left our phones behind in case we tipped the kayaks.

One thing that really stuck out to me in Alabama was that they were not strict about mask wearing. We went out to eat on a Friday night and could barely find a free table. After we were sitting down, I noticed that none of the tables were blocked off for social distancing. About half the employees and patrons wore a mask. This happened at several restaurants. In some ways it was nice because we had a hard time understanding people with thick southern accents with masks on. I just wanted to make note of that because everywhere else we visited and at home we have strict mask mandates. What pandemic? Things almost felt normal in Alabama.

We really liked our stay in Alabama. I think it would’ve been the perfect place to stay a few extra days if it was a little warmer. There really wasn’t a lot to see and do. But we could’ve kept ourselves busy swimming, fishing, kayaking, lounging in the boathouse, grilling, and having a campfire reminiscent of the best days of a Wisconsin summer. It was a relaxing getaway compared to the busyness of NOLA. I would recommend it if you are a country mouse like me if you like being on water.

NOLA

We drove across a bridge for a half an hour and entered a whole new world called New Orleans. We saw many different things we don’t see at home like houses on stilts, moss covered trees, and interesting looking boats. I remember feeling a certain kind of melancholy, a homesickness of sorts, that happens when I’ve reached a place far from home. It’s hard to believe that I never left my country.

The city of New Orleans itself was bustling, busy, and congested loop of bridges and old style European houses. To be honest, the city made me feel rather trapped. All the houses were so close together. Plus there were so many people. (Although everyone was saying how dead the city was because of COVID). We stayed at an AirBnB in the French Quarter. It was a good place for adventure. The place we stayed was over a hundred years old.

The entrance of our apartment.

We unlocked the gated door after parking in the fenced in driveway. I’m not used to gates for doors.

The yard also hosted a grapefruit tree which Paul and I went round and round upon. Was it an orange tree? Or a lemon? Paul finally asked the owners and they told him to help himself. He said it was the best grapefruit he ever ate.

The city was also very pet friendly. A lot of people walked with dogs and there were cats everywhere. Several people had signs to not feed the animals. One of those signs was at our AirBnB.

We even got a wake up call from a cat in the morning which was the only thing that reminded me of home.

When we arrived in the city, we had our hottest day of the trip which was 75 degrees. It was incredibly humid but felt different than our high humidity days at home which doesn’t even make sense. By the time we left the high temps were in the mid 50’s.

We spent a lot of time walking around the French Quarter. We checked out quite a few shops and bought souvenirs for the kids. We even checked out a shop that sold Mardi Gras type costumes. I would’ve loved to have bought one, but they were quite expensive and people would look at me as if I totally lost my mind if I dressed that way at home. I did buy some beads with rubber duckies on them which were super cute. People in New Orleans dressed with such flair.

We spent a good chunk of time walking on Bourbon St. Since we were one of the few tourists, we got targeted more often by beggars and scam artists. We had about 3 people ask us a day where we got our shoes. They bet if they guess right, you have to give them money and they get mad if you don’t. Then they tell you that you got your shoes on Bourbon St. Thankfully I heard about the scam online before we left.

I did have a guy put beads around my neck and ask for money. We did give him a couple bucks and I also gave him my leftover food which was appreciated.

Just keep walking…

Bourbon St. was creepy at night. But it was the most happening street with restaurants and live music outside. What really really bothered me is that we got approached at night by young kids asking for money. We were approached first by two pre-teen girls, then a little later by little boys alone. They had to be anywhere between 8 to 10 years old. I couldn’t imagine the life of those children or the things that probably do or could happen to them out in the streets. Personally I would not feel safe alone there at night.

Paul really loved the food in New Orleans. Almost every night he ate raw oysters. We tried different Cajun and Creole dishes and ate po’ boys and gumbo. I liked the fried alligator. It tasted like chicken.

One of the major problems of the city was that bathrooms were hard to come by. I saw several people unzip and pull up to the wall in broad daylight. The city has serious drug and alcohol problems which I guess probably isn’t unusual for a big city. We got offered edibles countless times. We saw a man having an angry conversation with himself. We saw another too drunk to stand although he was trying. We came across a scene where someone on a bike had a close call with a car. The lady was screaming expletives at the man holding up traffic. It was a great place to visit, but I would never want to live there.

We walked around Jackson Square and walked inside of the oldest continuous Catholic church in the USA. It was very beautiful and ornate as expected. One thing I wasn’t expecting was that there were fortune tellers right outside of the church. I didn’t understand it because in my mind they blatantly didn’t belong there. It was like accepting a one way ticket straight to hell and I’m not even Catholic.

We were hoping to take a paddle wheeler ride but the day we were hoping to go it was very windy with a high of 55. For some reason they cancelled the tours for that day so we went to the aquarium instead.

By far our favorite thing to do near New Orleans was to go on the Airboat Adventures tour in Lafitte. Thankfully we were able to see some alligators in the wild. Apparently the tour the day before did not have any alligator sightings.

Without wildlife it was absolutely stunning too.
The mossy trees which are homes for spiders and snakes plus can hide a few alligators.
I thought this bad boy was going to crawl up into the boat.

One of the other things we enjoyed was visiting the Oak Alley Plantation. This was a sugar cane plantation with hundreds of slaves. We saw the slave quarters. It’s really hard to think that people were forced to do such brutal work in the heat with inadequate food and housing. We got a tour of the plantation house which was rather awkward. The tour guide was a black man and three other black people were on the tour with Paul and I. I felt horrible sadness for the way black people were treated as slaves. There even was a job for a child slave to pull a rope for the fan over the massive table. I couldn’t imagine a child having to do that. Sometimes history isn’t pretty.

The trees in front of the plantation house are several hundred years old and were planted when they were adult trees to show off the wealth of the owners. The trees created good air flow in the summer for the huge house.

Oak Alley Plantation

One of the other things I really enjoyed doing in NOLA was taking a cemetery walk. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the cemetery was closed for renovations before I bought the tickets. I was hoping to spend all of our time in the cemetery on the tour because it was so fascinating. Instead we walked outside the closed gates and spent the rest of the tour looking at mansions of the rich and famous in the Garden District.

All of the cemeteries we saw in New Orleans and surrounding areas had raised tombs because of hurricanes and flooding. I wondered how it all worked because there seemed to be a lot more people that lived in the city than tombs. What I found out was that more than one person can be buried in the tomb. When someone dies they put the body in a casket in the tomb. After a year or two the bones are removed, placed in the back, and it is ready for the next person. Hopefully there is not a plague or pandemic where multiple people need to use the tomb at once. The tomb can be used for multiple generations of family or sometimes clubs get together and purchase a tomb for burial of its members.

Sometimes the tombs are abandoned or fall into disrepair. We purchased the tour through Save Our Cemeteries which uses most of the money from tours to upkeep tombs. They go through great lengths to try to find the owners of the tombs, but if it is found to be abandoned the tombs can be sold. From what I gather, a lot of people choose cremation.

I wasn’t planning on ending this post with death and despair, but here we are. New Orleans is a great city to visit, but again I wouldn’t want to live there.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

When we got off the plane in Little Rock, we didn’t feel like we were far from home. The airport was rather small much like our own. It was a dreary cool winter day. The trees were without leaves but there wasn’t snow on the ground. It took about an hour to drive from Little Rock to Hot Springs. One thing we noticed was there were a lot of semis on the highway we took the first half of our journey. There were signs stating that no semis should be in the left lane. There were some periods of construction and at times I felt we were rather close to hitting a semi in the rental car that Paul never drove before.

We arrived at our destination the 1890 Williams House Inn at suppertime. Joe, the owner, gave us a tour of the inn which was beautifully decorated in the time period of the house. He said that although the house was owned by a doctor, he never practiced there which pretty much meant that no patients died there and the house wasn’t haunted. The breakfasts were amazing and there was always homemade food to snack on like cake.

We decided to walk the first evening to dine at Steinhaus Keller, a fabulous German restaurant that looked like it was in a renovated stable. I have to say that this was my favorite restaurant on our trip. Hot Springs was also my favorite location along with the B&B.

I did find Hot Springs to be a rather interesting town. There were plenty of immaculately restored Victorian mansions a couple of blocks away from run down places with graffiti on the walls, broken glass, and a filthy mattress in a vacant lot. There was a great divide how neighbors lived sometimes a block away from each other which I found to be unusual.

The following day we shopped along the Main St. and finished the afternoon with a soak and spa treatment at the Quapaw Bathhouse. Paul and I had our own private jacuzzi spa in the healing waters. Afterward we had a cool down period where they brought us cool washcloths with peppermint oil. Then we had a massage which was excellent. The masseuse seemed to find all of my trouble spots. They seemed to blend a mixture of hot and cold both to the baths and massage which was different than anything I’ve experienced with a spa service. Later we walked through the public bath area. It was just like being at a public pool except the water was presumably hot.

The Quapaw Bathhouse building itself was almost 100 years old. That just added to the experience. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we couldn’t tour the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. We did watch a little online before we went and the history of bathhouses and health practices in the early 1900’s was downright fascinating.

While we were in Hot Springs, we checked out the gangster museum. It was well worth the $15 it cost to go inside. Back in the day, Hot Springs was a resort town for gangsters like the notorious Al Capone. There was gambling, prostitution, and liquor during the prohibition. The gangsters spent a lot of money there. Now I didn’t see any gangsters while I was there, but as we entered town we saw multiple police officers surround an apartment building. For as small of a town as it was, there seemed to be a large police presence there.

While we were there, the temps hovered between 45 and 55 degrees. On the coolest day, we hiked at Hot Springs National Park. It was rather hilly so it was a good workout. There weren’t really springs on the hiking trails that I saw. The town itself had water fountains but the water was cold. There was a place people could go to fill up water jugs from the springs. I’m not sure if that water was hot. There were a few steamy spots right around the park entrance area in town.

Hiking rest stop.
Hot Springs National Park in winter.

I would highly recommend visiting Hot Springs. Maybe not in January when it is rather cool. There were plenty of fun things to do. I really enjoyed the town. The people were laid back and really friendly. It seemed to be a very dog friendly town. It was also the childhood home of our previous president Bill Clinton.

Gratitude week 57

  1. I’m back!! Seriously, I’m grateful that Paul and I made it home without getting stuck somewhere on the day we were scheduled to be back home. Our original flight ended up being cancelled so instead of two flights we ended up with three flights with two less than an hour layovers. Oh, and one of the flights was to Chicago during a winter storm warning. Fun times! Despite emails suggesting cancelling my route to Chicago then home the airline told me my only way to my home airport was through Chicago.
  2. I’m grateful that despite the storms we flew over the flights home were really smooth.
  3. I checked Louisiana off my bucket list.
  4. I also checked Alabama off my bucket list.
  5. The kids and pets are still alive and the house is still standing. Unfortunately, however, it is not a good idea to have two adult children manage the house while we were gone as there is currently a war going on between them that is still waging.
  6. My husband has the goal to quit drinking for a year. He struggled with that goal while we visited Bourbon St. in New Orleans. It was always in his face. Sometimes we had to sit at the bar because there was no where else to sit. Even a wine truck parked in front of the place we were staying as we were enjoying some time on the porch. I know it wasn’t easy but I’m really grateful he was able to stick to his goal on vacation.
  7. I’m thankful that January is over. I find it to be the most difficult month to live through in our climate. It’s the letdown month after the excitement and joy of the holidays. We usually have the coldest temperatures of the year along with a lot of snow.
  8. I’m grateful to be able to travel and experience new things even though it was not what I originally planned before COVID.
  9. I’m grateful that my parents and brother Matt received the COVID vaccine without any issues.
  10. I feel really grateful for the gift of writing and being able to share my story. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I’ve had a break from blogging. I feel like writing is the creative masterpiece of my life. I’m not the most vocal person. I don’t create beautiful portraits. But I create with words and am happy to discover how important it is to me.

Gratitude week 56

1. I’m grateful that we were able to go on our vacation.

2. I’m grateful that so far things are going pretty good at home.

3. I checked visiting Arkansas off my bucket list.

4. I’m grateful I planned ahead and was able to get an appointment for a couples massage and healing soak at the Quapaw Bathhouse.

5. I just crossed Mississippi off my bucket list. We are driving through it now.

6. I’m grateful that I was able to find the Packers playoff game on the radio so I can go back home still married.

7. It’s awesome to be able to write a post on my phone during a long car ride.

8. Tomorrow my mom is getting her COVID shot. Maybe we’ll get to see more of her now. I’m hoping that this will ease her extreme anxiety.

9. I’m grateful to be heading towards warmer weather.

10. I’m grateful for a husband that not only loves to travel but is also athletic with me. We hiked all day yesterday at Hot Springs National Park. The high temp was 44, but it was still 40 degrees warmer there than at home.

Gratitude week 55

  1. Although this was something I was initially upset about, I’m grateful that I made a wasted trip to the psychiatrist with my daughter a week earlier due to a scheduling error. Arabella was not doing well the day of her rescheduled appointment which lead the psychiatrist take my concerns seriously. He thinks she has more serious mental health issues then he initially thought. Then he told us he was retiring and couldn’t help anymore. The appointment was devastating on many levels, but at least we are closer to getting answers.
  2. I got a hair cut and my nails done today. I feel like a new person.
  3. My husband and I are still planning on taking the vacation I planned several months back. We are flying out this week to Arkansas and spending a few days in Hot Springs then traveling on to New Orleans. From there we will be staying on the Alabama coast and flying out of Florida. I have been conflicted about this trip. I booked it before I knew how serious things were with my daughter. As of now we are going. We have been pretty burnt out and could really use a break.
  4. I’m grateful we have trustworthy and reliable people in place to take care of things at home while we are gone.
  5. I’m grateful I finished the series about my dad. It was one of the hardest things I had to write about. So much so that I considered not even doing it. But as it is a personal blog, I am hoping to write about the good and the bad things in my life. After we get back from our trip I am going to lighten things up a bit and write about our travels. Then I am going to dive into another deep topic, having a child develop severe mental health issues during a pandemic. I’m hoping to post one more time this week. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for awhile!
  6. I’m grateful that my best friend picked me up and took me out to brunch over the weekend.
  7. I’m grateful for a good conversation with my mom yesterday.
  8. I’m grateful to realize that I need to take care of myself once in awhile too.
  9. I’m grateful to be travelling with Paul and for the adventures we will have. We’ve had a lot of stress and so many plans fall through this past year.
  10. I’m grateful to have had some tests done today to continue on my path to seek health. I’m hoping with this trip it won’t feel so long before I get the results back.