Archive | August 2014

Long Gaps in Between

Dear Blog,

Remember me?  I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging.  As you can see, I posted three times recently.  So proud!

Taking a break wasn’t a good plan.  Writing about life and sharing what’s up with you was a good habit to develop.  Having a goal to write a blog post makes me more aware of little events that can turn into some sort of whimsy on my blog.  This break reminded me of my relationship with my childhood diary.  Except now my creations can be found in the tiny recesses of the Internet instead of being hidden under a mattress under lock and key!

Dear Diary

My “Dear Diary” used to get notes like this too.  “Dear Diary, Sorry I haven’t written to you for so long.  I’ve been so busy with such and such.”  Of course, Dear Diary never got angry about some of my long absences.  It was me who got upset when there were long gaps in between that missed some important parts of life.

My break with you started when I took a writing workshop in March.  The classes were on Saturday afternoons, and there were only a few of us who attended.  The teacher motivated us by helping us set goals.  She told us that a novel needs to have at least 60,000 words.  Who knew that a novel needs to have so many words?   So far, my manuscript has 90 pages, or 31,358 words.  The pages have been printed off, and I started editing them.  In the workshop we also learned that some writers write a book from start to finish, but other writers, like me, fill in places as they go along.

While filling in places on the manuscript, I discovered “Call the Midwife,” and I bought the DVDs.  After seeing the first episode of the TV series, I got sucked into watching all three seasons.  Times that were usually set aside for writing were spent watching TV.  The show is based on a memoir written by Jennifer Worth.  Ms. Worth was a midwife in the 1950s and worked in the very poor neighborhoods of east London.  My book is a memoir written from the point of view of my dog.  What makes a story real and enjoyable is when the reader falls “in love” with one or more of the characters.  If a connection isn’t made, the audience gets bored.  The characters in the show told the real life story of Jenny Lee during her work as a midwife.  Watching her and her comrades’ struggles and achievements kept the show interesting.  Making those sorts of connections in a book would be helpful, and a writer would benefit by learning how to do that.  Unfortunately, after finishing the series, I fell into the habit of watching not-so-educational TV shows when I should have been writing.

Spring came and melted away soggy and mushy winter days that we used to share blogging together.  Sunday afternoons got busy spending time having coffee and chatting away the day with my daughters.  Before we know it, one will be back at college and the other one will be married.  It’s nice to spend time with the ones we love when they are nearby.

Then Minnesota was blessed with beautiful summer weather that has to be enjoyed while it lasts.  Time was spent walking Lila the Dog around our woodsy park.  Three mile walks ended up taking up more time, and even the book got pushed to the back shelf.

Putting blogging aside prevented me from visiting posts from the other bloggers I follow.  Most of them are still writing away and sharing life.  Everyone’s life keeps chugging along whether it’s written about or not.  My hope is to keep blogging, even if it is about a “bug on a rug” or a “goat on a boat” because it’s fun to make up stuff too!  Between you and me, I hope there will not be any more long gaps in between.

Sincerely,
Mary Ann

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.
But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.  –Mother Teresa

 

Dog Fish

Taking Lila to a nearby lake to go for a swim was something we’ve been talking about off and on ever since we got her. The only reason we didn’t take her earlier was because Lila has a habit of running away from us when we let her off her leash. Yesterday my husband and I decided to take her to a nearby lake. We had to drive a few miles. If she was going to run away, it would be a long way for her to find her way back home.

As the three of us rode along in our mini-van, Lila sat patiently behind us on the floor with her nose pointing straight ahead. Usually she sits on one of the open seats so she can get a better view. I think she knew something different was happening.  After we parked, got out and walked down the hill to the lake, Lila showed how happy she was by quickly pulling Dad along the path. We walked by a boy fishing off a dock and a couple of men who were with a yellow lab at another dock. The yellow lab had a life jacket hooked up around its waist and was practicing retrieving a bumper from the dock.

“It’s going to be hard for that boy to catch any fish with the dog jumping in and out of the lake!” I said. As we headed a little bit further down the path, we found the perfect spot to let Lila off her leash. Dad threw the tennis ball into the lake, and Lila went after it just like we hoped. She retrieved the ball, turned around and headed back towards us. We cheered her on and told her what a great swimmer she is. As soon as she got out of the water, she shook some of it off on us just to let us know how it felt.  We threw the tennis ball in a couple more times, and Lila did a great job of retrieving it.

Lila has a habit of getting a little wild look in her eyes right before she runs away from us. Having the idea that she might take off, we were always sure to keep a close watch and grabbed onto her collar every time she got out of the water. Now that we know she trained us properly on how to watch out for her, we will try taking her for a swim again someday soon.

As we started to leave the lake, we met a family with two young children carrying fishing poles.

“What’s that?” one of the children asked while pointing at Lila.

“It’s a Dog Fish,” said my husband.

“What’s a Dog Fish?” the little boy asked.  His head was cocked to the side as he looked at our beautiful black lab that was dripping water from her soaking fur.

“Nah, I’m just kidding.  This is our dog.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?” the little girl asked.

“She’s a girl.  Her name is Lila,” said Dad.

They asked their mom if they could pet Lila, and she said yes.  Lila patiently waited until the kids were done.  What our dog really wanted was to explore more of the park.

As the family walked away, I smiled at each of them even though the Mom gave me a little bit of a bewildered look through her sweet smile!  I think she might have appreciated the joke about the Dog Fish, but I don’t know for sure because no one laughed.

It looked like Lila enjoyed her swim because after she ate her dinner, she was mellow for the rest of the night.  She was one worn out Dog Fish!

A person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life. ~Bob Barker

Stay Butterfly

20140809_155605

Bumble bees bounced from one flower to the next as we walked along the path where native flowers grow. Brightly colored birds dove amongst the flowers too. They moved too fast to pose for a picture. Orange, brown and black monarch butterflies flew about keeping their wings extended longer than seemed possible. A yellow butterfly stayed attached to a flower tasting its sweet nectar. Each photo brought me closer to the butterfly. “Stay butterfly,” I said inside my head over and over again.

 

Quite happy to meet you beautiful butterfly.  🙂

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth
are never alone or weary of life. ~Rachel Carson

It’s Fun to be Loud

“My stroke changed my life,” said the man with the lime-colored t-shirt. “My other health issues didn’t change it, but my stroke did.” He held onto the lens of his camera with his finger and thumb as if he was going to focus in on something, except the camera laid against his chest. “It made me slow down and really stop and look at things. That’s when I started getting into photography.”

The group kept talking as I sat in the red Adirondack chair. Before they had gathered around my chair, I snapped this photo:

20140801_155645Hoinville Lake, Trego, Wisconsin

My husband and I had recently arrived at the Heartwood Conference & Retreat Center.  After we found our room, we ventured down to the lake to meet the other guests.  On the way to the chair, I admired the sculptures pictured below.  At first they looked like they were carved from an existing tree.  As I got closer, I realized that each piece of artwork was sitting on top of old tree stumps:

Just because they were not made from the tree that originally grew there, didn’t mean I liked them any less.

“There are several photographers here this weekend,” I heard someone say.  I thought about how I liked capturing picturesque scenes as three photographers shared information about different types of cameras.  First they talked about the old and familiar 35mm camera.  Then their conversation drifted towards up-to-date high technological lingo that went right over my head. I held onto my cell phone and admired how photos could be easily accessed.   When the group shared information about cameras that focus in on a single object and make other parts blurry, I thought that would be something I’d like to try one day.  Even though learning this process would be more creative, it wouldn’t be as easy as carrying around my cell phone.

As they chatted, I excused myself and walked over to join my husband who was playing a friendly bean bag toss game.  I never played before, so I asked if I could practice.  My tosses almost made it to the board, and I felt my old bowling strategies coming through.  When the bean bag stayed on the board or fell through the hole, I heard people cheer right along with me.  Having that much fun didn’t make me nervous about my quirky athletic skills.  We lost the first game, but as the next couple of games continued our skills improved and we were winners, not just losers.  It helped that I tried to imitate my very skilled competitor – a lady who had obviously played the game before.

The moment our kids arrived, we were relaxing and cheering on others.  Laura and her fiancé, Michael, and Katie found us and their grandparents.  We were all greeted with hugs and ready to celebrate our uncle’s birthday.  We found the “man of the hour” inside chatting with friends.  When Uncle saw the kids, his eyes got misty.  He apologized and talked about how when you get to be his age and different friends from your life gather around, it brings back memories about the different parts of your life.  The kids all gave him a hug and wished him a happy birthday.  They smiled at his comment and thought it was nice to be remembered as being an important part of his life.

We munched on popcorn and Chex mix then washed it down with beer or cocktails and, oh yeah, water.  We recognized familiar faces outside and talked about how handshakes are more germy than high fives, the latest study broadcasted by the media.  As the chef worked at the large grill, smoke traveled to us on the patio.  Our stomachs growled.  As soon as dinner was ready, we patiently stood in line at the buffet table ready to enjoy the summer type of meal that we long for in the winter:  grilled burgers or large chunky bits of chicken.  Either could be topped with dollops of barbecue sauce or any kind of condiment.  Hefty chunks of potatoes, baked beans and potato chips made the meal complete.  Dessert was cherry cobbler, if you had room.  After dinner, some guests stayed inside while others sat on the deck to gaze over a lake that could have been mistaken for a gigantic shiny piece of glass.  I sat and wondered why only parts of the trees reflected in the mirror of the lake.  Some reflected parts were hidden for a while and then appeared.

We ended the evening by deciding when we would meet for breakfast.  The comfy rooms helped us to fall asleep quickly.  The next day we ate a healthy breakfast of eggs, sausage and fried potatoes.  After a little digestion time, my husband and I decided to walk along one of the many trails around the center.  We chose the Julia path, a two-mile walk around the lakes.  We couldn’t always see the lake along the trail, but we knew if it was on the left, we were going in the right direction.  Our pace could have been quicker, but I stopped every now and then to take pictures.  I was reminded about the conversation I overheard the night before about how having a camera in your hand makes a person slow down and take a look at things.  So true.

The lake was as calm as it had been the night before.  The trees hardly rustled and there was barely a ripple in the water.  No motorized boats are allowed on the lakes.  No birds sang a greeting to us as we scuffled along the dirt road.  Sometimes I spotted one dashing from tree to tree not making a sound.  Was the forest quiet and welcoming us to slow down and take a breath?  A horse fly circled around my head with its buzzing noise fading in and out over and over again.  I swatted at it, but we never connected.  All was quiet again after the fly buzzed away.  Was that bug also there to remind us to enjoy the quiet because it usually doesn’t last very long?

Later in the day, we were lucky to enjoy a leisurely tube ride down the protected Namekagon River.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to take any pictures because I didn’t want my phone to get wet, but we were still able to relax.

We celebrated the evening away wearing fancy clothes while enjoying a delicious dinner of pork, salmon or chicken, rice or potatoes and green beans.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and waited for the birthday cake that never arrived.  We had sherbet instead.  Fran the Piano Man, a one man band, entertained us with his versatile musical skills.  If he wasn’t playing the piano and singing, he was playing the saxophone or harmonica.

Whether we were quiet or not, our party was the loudest thing to be heard on the lake that weekend.  It’s nice to be quiet sometimes, but more times it’s fun to be loud!

Birthdays are good for you.  Statistics show that the people who
have the most live the longest.
  ~ Larry Lorenzoni