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 80

  1. I have been having a lot of computer issues as of late. Thankfully my future son-in-law Dan was able to fix my computer so I didn’t have to buy a new one. It is so incredibly fast now that I don’t even have to take a nap while it loads.
  2. Tonight we are going out to celebrate Dan and Angel’s engagement at a new restaurant I’ve never been to before. Dan’s parents will also be there.
  3. Summer! The weather has been perfect the last couple of days. Dry, breezy, and upper 70’s. It really doesn’t get a lot better than that!
  4. The weather was cool and rainy mid-week which delayed our sailing trip that we planned, but we were still able to go.
  5. I was able to spend the night on the boat at a beautiful marina I’ve never been to before. One night we anchored out with friends near an island I’ve also never been to. We were able to go to shore and tour a lighthouse. I live in such a beautiful area. I can’t wait to share the pictures.
  6. I went out to eat Indian food with my best friend one evening.
  7. Oh my gosh, my son has a new girlfriend. He has been single for over two years. I will be meeting her this week.
  8. My birthday week has officially started!!
  9. I got my hair cut and colored today. A little pampering is a good way to start the birthday week.
  10. I’m grateful I was able to write about some really difficult things and close the book on the last series.

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!!

A gasp of fresh air

The day Arabella left us to move in with Jordan’s family is the day I started planning a vacation. Not only did all my vacation plans for 2020 fall through but I lost my daughter as well. She started calling another woman her mom. It didn’t matter what I said or did, I felt like my daughter hated me. On rare occasion, I was the best mom in the world but it had nothing to do with any effort on my part. Again, what I did or didn’t do didn’t seem to make a difference in how she felt about me.

It was hard to handle and I felt very depressed. So I started planning a trip. At that point, I didn’t even care if I had to cancel it. It was the planning and thinking about it that was the most therapeutic at the time because it allowed me to focus on something other than my problems. I had something on the calendar to look forward to. Besides my daughter was gone and I wasn’t sure if she was going to be coming back.

But she did come back home and burnt the bridge with Jordan’s family. After her most recent diagnosis I battled with myself about whether or not to go. My mom wasn’t going to help by staying at our house because she was terrified of COVID. My oldest daughter didn’t really want the responsibility either although she was already living at home. I felt guilty for wanting to get away.

I also felt like I was suffocating. Taking care of a suicidal teen with serious mental health issues was burning me out. I thought if I didn’t get away I would be sitting in a padded room myself or worse. At times it was so painful and grueling that I really didn’t want to live anymore myself. I wasn’t taking care of myself. The stress was so high that it seemed like all my husband and I did was fight and blame ourselves and each other for the problems we were having with our daughter. I seriously thought if I didn’t get a break and take care of myself and our marriage that I would not be able to handle it anymore.

We offered to pay for our oldest daughter’s therapy if she would keep an eye on things. I wish I was kidding. Plus my best friend was willing to do whatever it took to help if needed. We were not flying out of the country and were accessible by phone 24/7. So we went. Thankfully Arabella managed to get herself up for outpatient, took her pills, and didn’t have any emergencies while we were gone. Oddly enough, it was my other two adult children (Angel and Alex) that fought. Their relationship has been strained ever since. Sometimes you just can’t win.

But it was wonderful to get away. It was a breath of fresh air before the drowning started yet again.

Gratitude week 73

  1. My daughter Arabella will be graduating this next weekend.
  2. I just booked a trip to Maine for a graduation gift. Arabella, Paul, my mom, and I will be visiting this fall.
  3. I just got my hair and nails done. I’m grateful to take some time out for myself.
  4. Arabella has another job interview today for a server/bartender position.
  5. We had an open house this past weekend for our seasonal business and it went really well.
  6. The weather was also perfect.
  7. We had the opportunity this past week to see some of our elderly friends that we haven’t been able to visit with for awhile.
  8. I’m grateful that my mom was able to take a trip with my brother and his family.
  9. I got my new crown put in this week. I’m really grateful that whole painful dental procedure is over.
  10. I’m grateful to be entering into my favorite season…summer!!!

Taking a break down instead

Maybe she just needed a break. That always makes me feel better.

We had a trip planned. Paul and I were renting a van to drive down to Florida. We were taking Arabella and our two foreign exchange students with us.

I imagined how perfect spring break was going to be. Sunshine and shorts after another long winter. Estelle and Arabella together on a long road trip becoming best friends once again. My daughter becoming a functional depressed person like I am. She said it was a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.

But our magical trip wasn’t meant to be. The week we were scheduled to leave Disney World closed. A new virus was sweeping through the nation. In my lifetime I’ve seen many viruses come and go, but this was different. People were panicking. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what to believe. It reminded me of when HIV first came out and people were afraid to use public bathrooms. With a world of information at our fingertips, we still didn’t know what we were dealing with.

We debated whether or not to take the trip after Disney closed. Since we were driving, would we be able to stop to have sit down meals after a long drive? Some states were closing. Would gas station bathrooms and rest stops even be open? Was that the America we wanted our foreign visitors to see? What happens if someone gets sick? Could we get trapped somewhere? What if our decisions caused sickness and/or death in the children who weren’t ours that we were responsible for? The beaches in Florida started to close. We decided to stay home.

The high school closed and schooling went to online. The spring play, going to state, track, and prom all were cancelled yet the school work remained. Everyone felt the loss of what was planned that could no longer be. The beautiful prom dresses hung in the closets unworn. Time lost that could never be recaptured. Our German foreign exchange student Clara went home a couple months early whereas Estelle stayed an extra month.

I thought that Arabella and Estelle would be forced to work out their differences because they would have to be together all the time without much outside contact. It didn’t work out that way. Arabella withdrew into herself and snarled at me to leave her alone when I reached out. She would take long walks or drive to the park to sit by herself for hours sometimes after dark or in the rain. Estelle grew very close to me. She would fight with Arabella if she felt like Arabella was being mean to me.

Florida was gone. Arabella’s opportunity to be a foreign exchange student was gone. It was all she ever talked about for over a year. She was already signed up and the paperwork completed. Thankfully I could say that she wasn’t going because of COVID versus a suicide attempt. We were going to tour Europe in the summer, but that was gone too.

With everything that was lost, I’m grateful that we didn’t lose Arabella too.

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.