Gratitude week 67

  1. I’m grateful for a best friend who brought me a bouquet of flowers on Easter.
  2. I’m grateful that I didn’t chicken out and was able to cross getting a tattoo off my bucket list. This is something I was really anxious about. I was tempted to cancel the appointment. The tattoo artist was running late which also increased my anxiety. But it wasn’t all that painful. Going to the dentist for a cleaning is a lot worse. Maybe it was the release of endorphins, but the rest of the day I felt peaceful and calm, almost euphoric. The process didn’t take as long as I expected. My arm isn’t a big painful oozing pus open wound. To me it looks like I put on one of those sticker tattoos. I am in relatively no pain at all. A cartilage piercing was a lot more painful. So, the whole process went a lot better than I could’ve ever expected.
  3. I’m grateful that my son’s band is getting back together again. Someday soon I will get to see him play again.
  4. My mom is moving in with us today. I’m grateful that she seems to be on the path of healing. I’m still uncertain what this process will look like. I am rather apprehensive about the whole thing. Everything happened so suddenly that my head is still spinning. But this can be a good thing.
  5. Just an hour or two after my mom asked to move in, Paul’s step-dad Darryl stopped by out of the blue. He brought his new girlfriend, or should I say fiancĂ© as they got engaged the day they stopped by. Although it was only the second time I saw her, I think they will be happy together.
  6. I saw my cranial sacral/massage therapist this past week to help me relax before the tattoo. I’m grateful for other people that help me along on my own personal healing journey.
  7. I’m grateful that the grass turned green again.
  8. I’m grateful for change even when I say I am not. Sometimes I get bored of the same old routines.
  9. I’m grateful to have had a wonderful grandma to remember. Today would’ve been her birthday.
  10. I’m grateful for the good things in my life when I’m going through hard times.

I did it!

He lined us up in the laundry room that day. He took off his belt and snapped it. He said we were all going to get a licking with the belt if no one confessed. My brothers and I looked at each other in bewilderment. I didn’t do it.

Terrified but trying not to show it. It’s strange, I remember the sting but I can’t remember ever getting hit. I bite my lower lip. The teeth marks permanently indent.

Luke is taken into the other room first while Mark and I fight back the the horror of what is to come. Luke screams and cries for what seems like a lifetime until he yells ‘I did it’ and everything ended like it had never begun.

I never want to be that frightened again. I never want fear to stop me from doing the things I want to do. I got my first tattoo today even though I was afraid.

I did it!

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 58

  1. While it was really wonderful to get away. I’m grateful to be back home again.
  2. I checked another 4 states off my bucket list. Only 14 states and 5 continents to visit before I kick the bucket.
  3. Talking about kicking the bucket, our dog is feeling 100% better so we didn’t have to put him down. I don’t know, maybe it was the fried eggs. LOL! I’m grateful for more time with him.
  4. My son is moving out this weekend with a couple of friends into our partially finished garage. My husband’s office is out in our detached garage now which will be moved into our son’s bedroom. The garage already has two finished bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a partial kitchen. We are going to use the money we charge for rent to finish remodeling the garage apartment. I’m getting excited about the remodeling project and also thinking of ways to update our house.
  5. We ended up getting a lot of snow a couple days ago and now it is bitterly cold, but it is absolutely beautiful outside. Even though I complain, I am grateful for very distinct seasons. When we were on vacation it was anywhere between 45 and 75 degrees. I don’t know if I would like a cool winter without snow. It was funny because a news station in New Orleans was talking about the cold Wisconsin weather while we were there. There is some pride in being a hardy people, plus our summers are absolutely perfect.
  6. Arabella is making a lot of progress on her online schooling which is wonderful. I was kind of worried about if she would be able to graduate on time.
  7. I’m always grateful for a warm house to live in on a brutally cold winter day.
  8. I’m grateful to be back in planning mode. I’m thinking about the next trip I want to take, getting ready for summer, and hopefully a graduation party as long as things wind down with COVID.
  9. I think the next couple months are going to bring a lot of changes. I felt very apprehensive about things because I really don’t like change. But sometimes change can be good. In the next couple months all my children will be adults and although I do worry a lot about my kids I feel like a lot of responsibility will be lifted. Technically I could go from 3 kids living at home to being an empty nester. Instead of viewing this as a negative thing I can view it as an opportunity to grow like I haven’t been able to before because I always had to be responsible for someone else besides me.
  10. I am grateful for my husband who has been putting a lot of hours in since we got home to keep things running around here.

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.

What if…tomorrow

My husband and I are still planning on going on our trip tomorrow. Worse comes to worse we only are a couple hours from home by plane and thanks to modern technology we can be reached by phone. The world won’t end without us (but it is a good idea to stock up on toilet paper and be prepared anyway).

I wrestled with myself about going. I have to fight the guilt I feel about going away. What if something goes wrong at home while I am gone? What if my daughter kills herself? What if someone gets in an accident on the icy roads? What if someone gets sick? The what if scenarios swirl around in my head so fast I can barely catch up with them.

What if????…………………………………

But the truth of the matter is that life goes on without me. I could die in a plane crash tomorrow. Okay, maybe that was a little too close to home. Do I have control over the virus, accidents, decisions of others, acts of God and fate itself? No. Sometimes I feel like I have to be responsible for things I can’t control anyway.

I have other things to consider. My husband’s parents both died in their mid-60’s. My husband is within 10 years of the death of his first parent. That is sobering as you all know how fast 10 years can fly. I can’t put time back in the hourglass once it is gone. My mom isn’t even within 10 years of her dad’s death if you don’t count her mother dying during childbirth. It could be realistic that my mom outlives my husband. I have been considering these things. You just don’t know how much time someone has so you had better make the most of the time you do have.

To make matters worse, since Paul didn’t know his dad we don’t even know how he died. I was tempted to order a death certificate just to know. If it was diabetes, I would cut back on the sweets in the house. Paul said it was worse to know because then I would be difficult to live with and he would be right. Sometimes I feel like knowledge is power just like those damn TV shows said when I was a kid. Who do I think I am? God??

All of our days are numbered and there is nothing I can do to change that. I try to be as healthy as I can but that doesn’t stop time. I still can’t stop doing unhealthy things like worrying all the time.

Some day life will go on without me. The clock is ticking and I want to make as many memories as I can. My husband is important and I shouldn’t let a bad case of the what ifs stop us from getting a much needed break. It’s time to start packing!

Certain uncertainty

If we traveled back in time to January 1st of this year, I would imagine quite a few of you had inspiring goals and new years resolutions for the new decade. It’s 2020, finally we would have a clear vision of the future we wanted for ourselves like never before. This year was going to be the best.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like change. Maybe it’s not even change that I don’t like. I mean, I’m always striving to be a better person and that involves change. What bothers me more than anything is uncertainty and not knowing what is happening.

If you asked me in January what I would be doing this weekend, I would have told you that I would be attending my daughter’s college graduation. At the time, nothing except death or being deathly ill would have kept me away from her special day. I found the perfect dress to wear. Maybe it was a little too dressy, but it was on sale. I should’ve been going in to have my nails done to match the dress and getting my hair done.

But that brings me here to today. I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Me, the person who has to have a plan. The person who schedules spontaneity 6 months in advance.

As most of you know, I just went through a 10 day bout of colitis. I went through expensive and uncomfortable tests to get some answers, some certainty, about my health. The morning of the procedure I brought along all of my paperwork from the wellness clinic. The doctor brushed me off with the comment that he does not approve of me seeking help at a wellness clinic and refused to look at the tests that were done.

I thought that the doctor’s bedside manner was horrible, but if he had the answers and could help me I didn’t care. When I called the doctor’s office on Monday expecting answers the nurse said that I had colitis but they have no idea why.

The doctor’s office told me something was wrong with me but they have no idea what. Is this going to happen again? What can I do to prevent this if I don’t even know what caused it? What the hell is going on? I was sick and all you can tell me is that I was sick?? Yesterday I fell into a deep despair. What is wrong with me? I wanted an expert to give me answers so I would know what is happening in my life. I want a plan that I can follow. I want to have a map to see where my life is going.

If I learned anything in 2020, it’s that everything is uncertain. It’s been a big lesson for me to learn. Everything I took for granted as certain has changed. It’s okay to grieve what has been lost. Then it’s time to continue on down the dimly lit path.

It’s time to throw away my security blankets of structure and routine. The only thing I can cling onto is that uncertainty is certain. That is now a big part of my life. I can’t be afraid. I have to think of this as an opportunity for growth. It’s time to strengthen the non-dominant hand I’ve been dealt. Maybe going with the flow won’t be all that bad. I DID say I wanted to be more easy going and laid back. Of course I wasn’t expecting to achieve that goal by having everything literally wiped off my calendar.

I’m being forced to change but maybe I will be a better person because of it. At least that is what I’ve been telling myself.