Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.

GGJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just write the book.

Last year I attended my first writers workshop. I went to the Writers Police Academy in Green Bay, WI. I went for a number of reasons.  Initially, I signed up because I wanted to see Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series) in person and listen to his keynote speech.  Then I decided to attend the entire three day conference and signed up for classes in Death Scene Investigation, Blood Spatter, Arson etc… it really lit a fire under me! Hahaha! I met a lot of interesting and friendly writers who are obsessed with telling stories about people dying in very unpleasant circumstances. It was right up my alley.  I participated in a hands on long gun class- which means I shot an assault rifle. It was informative, engaging and a great way to get my creative energy flowing.

The last evening of the banquet I sat at a table of about ten writers. We introduced ourselves and discussed what we were writing and if/how we were planning to publish the book.  I admitted that I did not have a book, but that I had wanted to write a book for as long as I could remember. The writers all encouraged me- regardless of whether it would be self-published, published independently, or if I got an agent and publisher. They told me it didn’t matter. Just write a book.  So, I did.

It’s a “cozy” which means it is a lighthearted romance with a murder/mystery thrown in. I started writing November 1, 2017 as a first time participant in NaNoWriMo and published it on Amazon today.  I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that writing this book was fun.

I signed up for the Writers Police Academy again this year.  Jeffrey Deaver is the speaker this year. It should be interesting… It’s the ten year anniversary for WPA so they are going all out. The classes and speakers look great.  I signed up for a bunch more hands on classes and look forward to learning new ways to portray my characters and get them in and out of hairy situations.

Mostly, I can’t wait to see my new friends and tell them that I did exactly as they recommended. I wrote a book. I just might write another one. My main character, Jac Sanders is a lot like me. I have to figure out what happens to her. I will keep you posted.

Wabi-Sabi Christmas

It’s that time again. Christmas.

I have always had a hard time at Christmas. When I was a kid I would always think that this would be the year where we would all get along and there would be a pile of Christmas gifts from Santa waiting for me under the tree. In my fantasy, my Dad would not drink too much and become a morose person lecturing us on how “We did not know what it was like” to grow up poor. My Mom and Sisters were okay and we all tried to make it through with no damage done. Thankfully, we are all bookworms so a few new books in each of our hands and we would retreat to our neutral corners. Nancy Drew saved the day.

 
I would open a few gifts, maybe a game or two along with some socks and batteries in my stocking. I laugh now thinking about getting batteries, but you know… that is kind of crucial to the whole new toy thing working out. I have memories of driving around our little town looking for a place that would be open so that we could get batteries to fire up the new Merlin game. Thank you, Holiday gas station.

 
Later in the day I would call my best friend, Elaine, and I would ask her, “What did you get?” and she would say, “Nothing…. What did you get?” I would then reply, “Nothing.” We would then agree to bundle up in our snow pants and meet half way between our houses and go freeze our asses off skating or building snow forts. We did that for many years. One year, Elaine got a diamond necklace for Christmas. It was very pretty. I was jealous. I was also happy for her because she deserved a diamond necklace for Christmas.

 
This year has been a year for changes. My Mom has had a series of health issues and decided to go live in assisted living. It is for the best and I think it increases her chance of surviving to see another Christmas. Earlier this year, I had thought she might not make it to this one. There have been some bumps along the way. These types of changes in life are tough on everybody.

 

 

For my Mom, I am sure it has been difficult. She has been incredibly fortunate to be athletic her entire life. For 88 years she was a rock star. She has always walked many miles, been a great golfer, and just a year or two ago was lifting weights at the gym. That is all gone now. Her heart is broken. Literally. The valves are leaking, and the rhythm has gone haywire. The frustrating thing is that her will is not broken, but the physical parts are not cooperating. She told me a month or two ago that “Getting old sucks.” It is true. Thankfully for her it did not hit until age 89. Still….

 
What happens when the head honcho/matriarch isn’t physically/mentally/emotionally able to boss everybody around? The shit hits the fan. That’s what happens.

 
My Mom has always been a huge influence on me. I am the youngest of three daughters. My Mom has been my Mom/best friend/head shrinker/drill sergeant…. My whole life. I have made most of my biggest decisions in life based on her advice and my desire to please her.

 
When her health began to decline it affected the three daughters in different ways. We failed to communicate and our differences in opinion regarding her health and her care resulted in a major falling out between myself, the Sisters, and Mom. My feelings were hurt, and I was offended to the core of my being. Words were said that can never be forgotten. I felt that no one could hear me or see me. Nothing I said had any value and nothing that I did was appreciated. I was drowning in my despair.

 
I am pretty sure that the Sisters and Mom would argue that I was the asshole and was the one causing the problems… I have thought about it for many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months and I have finally found some peace with the whole thing. I did what I thought was best. I offered up what I could and would have been able to do. Done. It did not work out, but I did the best I could. That has to be enough. It is enough.

 
I know, I know! Merry Christmas, right? Wait, it gets better.

 
So, what happens when you are 48.5 years old and you get pushed out of the nest?

 

You fly. You fly.

 

I have learned a few things these past few months. I have been making some choices. Choices that are all mine. When things get ugly, when times get tough… how are you going to respond? I responded by taking care of myself. I increased my yoga sessions, increased my water intake, cooked some good, healthy meals for myself and tried to go to bed early. I reached out to some old friends. I opened myself up to making some new friends. I made myself available to accept the invitations I had been declining because I was always going back to my home town and my Mom every weekend. I grew up. I got a life.

 
I set some boundaries. Boundaries for myself and for others. I have forgiven myself for screwing up. I have forgiven others for harsh words and actions. I am entertaining the possibility of mending broken relationships. For me, I cannot and will not pretend that nothing has occurred. That is the easy way out…but not the way out for me. I am wondering if something that has broken in many pieces can ever be repaired? Can it be functional? Can it be better than the original?

 

There is a term in Japanese culture called wabi-sabi.

 

I have a Pinterest board on it. Basically, it is the art of finding beauty in things that are broken. Picture an old tea cup with a crack in it. The crack has been filled in with gold. The tea cup was not thrown away. It was painstakingly repaired, and it is now more than a tea cup- it is a work of art.

 
I was broken. I am being repaired. I am being repaired by the love and kindness of old friends, new friends, and strangers. Is the new GGJ going to be better than the original? I hope so.

 
Last night, I went to Christmas Eve mass with some old friends at their Church. It was a beautiful old Church filled with dark wood, Tiffany stained glass and a massive organ. The service was filled with music. There was a beginning part where the huge organ was playing a funky mix of Christmas carols but with a steam-punk kind of attitude. I pictured a mad person wearing a leather duster and goggles running the huge organ while smoking a cigar. Later, it turned out that the organ player was a sweet little old lady who came out to read the story about Mary having Jesus in a manger. Who knew? She rocked that organ!

 
We were sitting in the pew waiting for the service to start when a young friend came in with his parents. He saw me and said, “There’s Jill” and he sat next to me. His parents ended up sitting one pew up and over. I think perhaps that he thought that they would join us in our pew. I give him credit, he stayed by me. I did not know some of the hymns, but there were a few of the classic Christmas carols. I was singing what I knew… and then I heard his voice join me. The sweetest, clearest 13 year-old voice in my ear.

 
The finale was the best when they turned off the lights. We were holding candles and one by one they were lit. My young friend lit my candle. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night. It was beautiful.

 

Merry Christmas,
GGJ

 

 

 

Flying Too Close To The Sun

I had a farm in Africa…

No, not really but lately I have been receiving some cosmic mojo from Isak Dinesen’s book Out of Africa.

You know, the one that was made into a fab movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. She played Karen Blixen, a gutsy Scandinavian who married a Barron to get away from her family. He was a very likeable sort, and they really were good friends. That being said- he had numerous affairs and gave her syphilis. She survived by having terrible treatments (this was before penicillin, bummer) leaving her unable to have children. Denys Finch Hatton, played by Robert Redford, was the gorgeous ex-soldier turned game hunter who loved freedom more than anything or anyone else. He was an addicting combination of extremely capable (no lion is going to eat you on his watch) and well-read and a bit romantic. In the movie he washes her hair by the river while reciting poetry to her. That will do it. Sign me up.

But wait, hold on! There is more to the story and I just found out about it this week.

If you recall in the movie there is a character of a young tomboy named Felicity. She and Karen were fond of each other and became friends. She is sent to school and comes back gorgeous and well mannered. Karen later does not like it that Denys is taking Felicity flying with him. Remember that? Oh yes, my kitties. There is more to the story than that.

Here it is.

That character was based on a real person. That person was Beryl Markham. Beryl grew up kind of wild. Her father was a horse breeder and trainer. His wife took his son and returned to Europe leaving him alone to raise Beryl. From all accounts she was tall, gorgeous, extremely talented with horses and most certainly a woman before her time. She was married three times, had a few open affairs….one with a Prince but that was shut down by the royal family.

She was friends with Karen Blixen. She also had an affair with Denys Finch Hatton and may or may not have been impregnated by him and had an abortion. Wow!

It is reported that on the day Denys Finch Hatton was killed in a plane crash… he had first asked Karen to join him and she said “No.” He then asked Beryl to join him and she was asked not to go by a flying friend who had a bad feeling about flying that day. She said, “No.” She felt there would be other days to fly.

Denys’s plane went down that day.

Karen went back to Europe and became a writer. She had been writing stories all along and published her first story at age 22. Her marriage and the coffee farm in Africa were but one part of her life. It was that life that she recorded in Out of Africa which was first published in 1937. She also wrote Babette’s Feast which was also made into an Academy award winning film. It won the 1987 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The name is familiar to me but I have not seen the film. I hope to do so this weekend. It is reported to also be a favorite of Pope Francis.

This is also interesting to me because I am getting some religious vibes. More on that later.

As for Karen, after she left Africa she continued to have some ups and downs. It seems to me that her success as a writer did allow her some fun. She became a bit of a character herself and was regarded as being eccentric and a bit of an outsider. I could find no more mentions of lovers or relationships after Denys. She was plagued by health problems and it is widely believed that she was anorexic. It is thought she died in 1962 of malnutrition.

Beryl Markham broke the rules. She grew up wild, got married and divorced a bunch of times, and had a few affairs with men who seem to have been very interesting. Go Girl!

She was the first woman to become a licensed racehorse trainer in Kenya. She later was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She wrote a memoir, West with the Night, that I am dying to read. Her book did not receive very much attention when it was first published.

Later, in 1982 in a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s letters it was found that Hemingway himself praised the book saying, “But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers….it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

That spurred some interest in the book and it was republished in 1983. The proceeds allowed a now broke Beryl to live the rest of her life in modest comfort.

If you want to read more about these people/characters in a fictionalized setting check out Paula McLain’s book Circling the Sun. I just read it and that is why this story is being written. Oh Paula, what road have you gotten me going down?

As for me…

Many of you know that I am single and have never been married. No kids. There have been a few romances along the way… good ones…bad ones…. They were all worth it. Am I like Karen and Beryl? Am I destined to be alone at the end of my days with nothing but a few good stories to tell? Would that be okay? Maybe, I think to myself. Maybe.

Something has shifted. I think maybe it is stemming from the yoga I have been doing this past year. Last night I went to a sound immersion- a combination of restorative yoga and then resting while a sound therapist plays gongs and chimes. I did not think anything was happening to me. Suddenly, I was fully awake, right before the crescendo. I was energized and knew that I could handle it. I was AWAKE. I wanted to jump up and run out of that room and get GOING.

Where are you going and what are you going to do, you ask?

Well, for starters I am going to STOP WORRYING.

I signed a contract to purchase a historic building. I plan to gut it and design a new optometry office. I had to give my notice this week to my current land lord- so I am officially past the point of no return. I was stressing out about the building stuff- rules, rules, rules! Who knew that renovating a building could be such a hassle. But I have found the right architect and he is going to steer me through the mine fields of historic building renovation and City codes… I have faith. He is good at what he does and I am going to let him do his thing.

I am going to RELINQUISH CONTROL.

I think this is the underlying basis for pretty much everything that is happening in my life.

I overthink everything.

Thinking can be good. There is nothing wrong with attention to detail and striving for excellence. Perfection on the other hand… is a nasty word that needs to be destroyed. What is perfection? Can perfection endure the test of time and forces of nature? I have tried to be perfect. The perfect daughter, sister, friend, and lover… I can state with certainty that perfection is at a minimum fleeting and most likely nonexistent.

What is it then? What am I craving? What am I needing?

I think what I need is to be able TO BE MYSELF.

I want to try. I don’t always care if I succeed. I want to try to write a novel. Who cares if it is bad? I want to travel to places I haven’t been. Who cares if I don’t like it? I want to cook and bake and eat and drink. Who cares if I am not as skinny as I was in 1987, or 1996, or 2005? I want to be me and I want to eat some bread, dammit! My face and my boobs are certainly showing the effects of gravity. Who cares? I might not look as good- but I do have some good stories to tell. I want to have lots more of those stories to tell before I end up too old to remember or dead. I want to do those things with people who like being with me and don’t expect me to be perfect. I want to be able to disagree at times and have messy hair without fear of abandonment. I want to be able to wear my flannel pj’s with holes in them and still feel desired. Is that possible? I may have gone too far.

As for being alone, I have seen with my own eyes that most of us do end up alone. It is probably a good thing to be comfortable with that from the get go.

What are the rules? I do not know….rules, rules, rules! I am not a big fan. What is good for me, might not be good for you. Who is to say?

Yesterday I was speaking with a lady who is helping me find new health insurance. My current plan is being axed from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. I buy my own health insurance and have for many years. The whole thing is a mess. Anyway, she told me I have a few options. One is to buy traditional insurance. The other way is to join a group of individuals who are Christians who “help” one another with medical expenses in a Christian way. She asked me if I was a Christian? I said, “Yes” because I grew up going to St. Mary Magdalene every Sunday and CCD every Wednesday of my young life until I turned 19 and started tending bar. That was the end of that. However, I still pray to St. Rita and I have faith. I am not sure if that qualifies as a resounding yes, but I think that got me over the first hurdle. Ok, now on to the second question. Am I interested in helping others? That one was easy. Sure! I am a definite “Yes” for helping others. The last question…Am I living my life in a way that upholds Christian beliefs? Uh oh. What does that mean exactly? Well, for this model of medical sharing (they don’t call it insurance) it means that if you engage in behavior that is not considered acceptable… you will not be covered if you hurt yourself or get diseases. No smoking, no drinking and driving and getting into accidents. No sexual relationships outside of marriage. Birth control isn’t covered. You get the drift.

For the most part- I do live a Christian life. I am not 100%. You had probably figured that out by now. I thought a lot about that. I am a sinner. I sent a text to a good friend and told him I could save $2300 bucks a year. He replied it might be worth $2300 bucks a year to have fun. Lol.

So, I am going to pay extra and get traditional health insurance. I just don’t want to have to LIE about anything or pretend I am someone I am not to save money.  I will stick with St. Rita (patron saint of lost cases) and try to live a good life.

Maybe I am like Karen and Beryl. In some ways I think that would be great. Maybe if all goes well I will have a better ending. I will work on that. Before you can have an ending though there must be a beginning.

I bought a historic building in Oshkosh…

101 High.JPG

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo

There comes a time when being an avid reader and wanting to write a novel doesn’t quite add up.  Year after year… wanting to be a writer and having a desk full of messy starts and stops to the great story you have written in your head serving as a reminder that you did not do it.  You could not do it.

Is this the year you will actually do what you said you would do?

Join me.  I need some back-up.

GGJ

 

 

Beef Stew

The forecast was for rain all weekend.  I did not really mind.  It has been a busy summer and I needed a good excuse to be a bum. I have been eating out a lot and been on the go. All I wanted for the weekend was to go to yoga, read my book and eat something delicious. This is what happened. Saturday morning I woke up bright and early and actually went to 7:30 am hot yoga.  Yay for me.  I was then ready for the rest of my day… which was going to be a whole lot of nothing.

 

I knew I wanted to make something hearty and comforting….. So I went to Piggly Wiggly. The girls in the bakery almost had me talked into the white frosted long john with green and gold sprinkles… but I got this stuff instead.

I bought:
1.5 lbs of beef stew meat
2 packages of frozen stew vegetables
1 package of pearl onions
1 big box of beef stock
1 package of bacon - on sale- I thought would be good for breakfast
1 container of baby Bella mushrooms

 

I already had a fresh bulb of garlic, a can of tomato paste and a couple of bottles of decent red wine.  I also already had salt, pepper and butter. I later found a can of diced potatoes. (I would never usually have a can of potatoes in my pantry but I have a friend who does not cook who keeps sliced potatoes in her pantry and fries them up in garlic and butter and her kids think she is a rock star. Who knew? I though I had bought some sliced potatoes, but apparently I got diced potatoes instead.)

 

Oven temp:  275 degrees F with rack on lowest part of oven.

Green pot

I have an old green heavy enamel pot and I made the stew in that. First, I let the meat hang out for a bit on the counter and I salt and peppered it.  I chopped up a few pieces of the bacon and started frying it in my big pot.  It seemed dry and might be burning so I added a glug of olive oil to get things started.  I browned the meat in two batches, adding a spoonful of flour to each batch.  I must of added too much flour to the second batch because things stopped browning and started to get gluey.  I only freaked out for a second, and then I opened the wine (Beringer Merlot 2009 that had been in my booze cabinet forever. ) I added a cup of wine and mixed it all up… soon it was a lot better, but kept drying up…at that point I decided the meat was as brown as it was going to get and took all of the meat out of the pot.  I added about 1/2 the bottle of wine and the whole box of beef stock.  It was starting to smell good! I put the meat back in, added a few whole pieces of garlic, about 3/4 small can of tomato paste and stirred it all together. I put the cover on and put it in the oven at 275 degrees and cooked it for about 2 hours while I took a nap. At that point, I added both packages of the frozen stewed veggies.  I covered it back up and put it in the oven for another hour. I tasted the whole thing after hour 3. It was pretty good- meat still needed a bit more cooking.  The sauce was to die for.  I was a little disappointed that there were only two potatoes in the whole thing.  I dug around in my pantry and found a can of diced potatoes.  I opened the can, rinsed the potatoes and put about 3/4 of the can into the pot.  I then added about 1/2 the package of pearl onions. I also chopped up the baby Bella’s, salt and peppered them and sauteed them in a hunk of butter.  When the were looking kind of brown and yummy I dumped that in the pot too.  Back into the over for another hour.

 

The final product was super yummy.  I kept eating one little bowl, then another little bowl, and then another little bowl.  Then I was full.  I was going to make ho-made bread to go with it- but the recipe I found would take about a billion years…. So I made do with the bread I had leftover for sandwiches.  I smeared a gob of butter on it and ripped it up and sopped up all of the juices.  It was fucking fantastic.

beef stew

This picture does not do it justice… I failed to take one last night.  This is a picture of it cold. Sorry about that. It looks kind of like dog food… but I assure you it is really good!

There is a ton left over and I am going to give some to the people I love.

Closer To Fine

How the hell did my life get to this?  I asked myself while lying in bed (alone) last night.

It’s been over three months since I have written any kind of story and I have been working like a dog. This has led me to that nasty place where I start to play the movie of my life in my head over and over and over again and try to figure out where I went wrong.

Could I try to rewind the film and find THE MOMENT where I “chose” the life I am living????

Let’s see……

I am having my 20th class year Optometry reunion this year. I don’t have any regrets about living four years in the beautiful state of Oregon and meeting the people who are still my best friends. We had a blast and the physical landscape of that state remains a part of me. So, that is not the moment. The being an optometrist part has had its ups and downs but I figure that must be the way it is for all occupations. (Please say, “Yes, GGJ that is the way it is for all occupations.”)

After graduation I had to figure out where to live next. That was a real bitch to figure out.   In hindsight, I didn’t really want to leave my friends and the greater Portland area- but almost all of us were leaving- and I was like a little bird who was getting kicked out of the nest.

Optometry at that time was a little backwards and you graduated and then took your last board exams and then you waited all summer to get a license to practice. You then had to go to the individual state you wanted to practice in and take their own test and wait for their results to get a license. What??? This basically means that you have no way to make a living and your student loan payments start coming in… and there were a lot of stressed out optometry graduates.  Medical doctors have long ago figured it out and they basically have one test and if you pass you are in…. you pay the fees and get your license the next day. But, no. Optometrists do it the hard way.

My Mom was a super Mom and helped me drive a U-Haul truck that was leaking oil from Portland to Wisconsin.  Then we went on a road trip to Austin, TX and I took and passed that test. But, I wasn’t sure about TX. I liked Austin a lot. But, it’s really hot there and I am a fair skinned, blue-eyed part Irish gal that would burn to a crisp.  Can you say melanoma?

One of my best friends was living in Winston-Salem, NC and I went out there and took that test. That test was well known for being impossible to pass. They don’t let in a lot of doctors to the great state of NC.  Luckily, I had to bring a “patient” to the test and my girlfriend agreed to be the guinea pig. She just happens to be gorgeous and was wearing a lovely little sundress. The exam building was freezing and she was clearly uncomfortable. The head examination guy took off his crisp, blue blazer and hung it around her shoulders. She wrapped herself up in that jacket and we went from station to station and I examined her eyes….

I was convinced I had failed because the test atmosphere was not exactly warm and fuzzy. I cried a lot and we went to the beach for a few days.  I was a complete train wreck and not an easy person to be with- I owe my friend a vacation (and possibly my NC license- thanks for wearing that dress)!

I drove back to Wisconsin in complete despair, certain that I had failed. I hadn’t failed any tests up to that point so I was freaking out. I waited another six weeks and the letter came….. I opened the letter…. and….. I freakin passed! Yay!  In the coming weeks I got a whole bunch of letters from doctors looking for associate doctors. It was manna from heaven.

I ended up accepting a position in Charlotte, NC.  Is this the moment you ask? No, not this one. But, this one was a test.  You see, I was stupid.  I picked the wrong city in what possibly could have been the right state. I went for the money. I should have either picked the city where I actually had a friend, or the city where I would have like to have lived. Had I chosen Asheville, NC – my life may have been completely different.

North Carolina is a tough state to move to when you have just spent four years in the Pacific Northwest.  North Carolina, and specifically Charlotte, was a banking empire- conservative in all areas of thought/politics/living and was definitely an alien place for this Yankee.

It has its perks though.  Any state that has both mountains and coast is one to be considered as a desirable place to live. I still love Asheville.  I keep my NC license active (just in case) and go to a conference there every once in a while. It’s at the Grove Park Inn which is a place that deserves a drop by if you are ever in the area. The Biltmore is also a fun place to see. It’s like Downton Abbey only in America.

North Carolina was a close call- but not the moment that could have changed my life forever.

I have to go back further.

While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin I was a pretty good student.  I could have been a lot better of a student if I actually went to class or studied.  I think we are getting warmer…..

I was such a putz though. No one tells you that when you are 18 years old and have just left your friends and family for the first time that you are on THE PATH for the rest of your life. I really wish someone had told me that and that I would have actually listened.

I lucked out a little bit. Freshmen year I was hanging out with some hippie types. There was a lot of listening to the Grateful Dead -American Beauty CD.  I just happened to be stumbling through a calculus problem not understanding one bit of it when one of my hippie friends sat down and explained the whole thing to me. I learned that one problem.  Lucky for me- that was the problem to solve on the test… and I got a really high score! Yay for me.  Everyone was stunned, including myself.

I was in a jam trying to figure out what my major should be. I always thought I would be a writer. But, then I took a whole bunch of science classes and got good grades. My Mom and Dad really, really, really wanted me to become “something.”  I finally settled on being a History of Science major.  My Dad said, “What do you do with a History of Science major?” and I laughed and said, “Oh Daddy, nothing!”

Not to poo-poo history or science. They are both interesting subjects to learn and to possibly learn from… you know that whole thing about history repeating itself?? We are certainly in an interesting historical/scientific period right this very moment.

Living in Oshkosh is working out in that department. We have a couple of really nice museums here in town. For artsy fartsy stuff the Paine is excellent and the Oshkosh Public Museum has a lot of good traveling exhibits. My favorite is probably the EAA museum. It doesn’t get much cooler than to see the how the invention of flight has changed the world. History of Science, baby.

Many years ago I went to a D-Day talk at the EAA museum. It was a dress up kind of thing where we were supposed to wear period attire.  Looking back at it now, I was border line inappropriate. I went with my now ex-boyfriend/still friend and his Mom. They put together some outfits from his Dad’s gear from WWII and I rented a little blue air force jacket from the crazy lady down the road who does Halloween costumes. I wore the jacket with a blue mini-skirt….definitely NOT up to code. But, my legs were good so it didn’t matter too much. I don’t think I wore anything under the jacket…. Oh my!

As we were leaving a bunch of young active duty soldiers asked me if I would dance “half a dance” with their superior officer (who had a really good outfit).  I said, “Ok.”  We danced half a dance and then he sent me on my way. The ex-boyfriend/still friend and his Mom took it in stride and danced half a dance too.  When a soldier asks you to dance, you dance.

I had a chance to be brilliant while being a student at Madison.  I had applied for a position to help a professor with research to cure (I can’t remember what we were trying to cure) something. I accepted the position. When I returned to our rental house on Pinckney Street I was super excited and told the news to my housemates.  They asked me what it was all about and I told them. Then I got to the part where I would have to inject dogs with stuff and then take blood samples.  Silence. Then came, “There is no way you will ever be able to inject dogs with anything.  You have to call that professor and quit.” I came to my senses and called the professor. Sorry, gang. Maybe we could have cured something like diabetes- but I just don’t have it in me. I would have let all of the animals loose and gone to jail.  Dodged a bullet on that one.

The moment that changed my life forever was Thursday April 23, 1988.  That was the first day I was a bartender at Clearwater Harbor in Waupaca, WI.  I was barely 19 years old and did not have a clue.

Opening day is always crazy and that first day (or actually night) was a lesson for the record books. I got my ass handed to me- both figuratively and literally. At that time it was still a beer bar (the liquor license would come sometime in July of that year) and we were a bunch of newbies playing full contact bartending – shoving and pushing to get our cold beer into our thirsty patrons sweaty hands.  I happened to be standing in front of one of the bottle openers that are screwed on the front of the beer coolers. An old timer stuck his hand between my legs and opened a bottle of beer to serve to his customer.  Should I have been horrified? Or, was it okay that I liked it?  There goes the nice, sweet GGJ and here comes the fun….

I learned a lot of important life lessons tending bar. I had to toughen up or get run over like a freight train. I learned some common sense.  I learned a lot about relationships – both good and bad. I learned a lot about friendships- all of it good. I learned how to handle cash, drunks and myself.

My first day, I sucked. Year after year, I got better. I learned a skill.  I figured out when you should talk and when you should stay silent.  (Talk when someone is low and needs a laugh. Shut the hell up when a big shot walks in the door with a girl who is not his wife…)

The best lesson I learned is to look up.  Yes, look up.  A lot of new bartenders have their heads down- because that is where the booze is, where the glasses are, where you store stuff…. But you have to look up in order to see who needs you.  You have to look up to see if someone is low on their drink and needs a refill. Don’t make them ask. Go to them and ask if they are ready for another one. Look around, see who has been waiting first.  Go to that person, not the big loud mouth who just muscled his way in and thinks just because he knows you from that one weekend last summer that you are going to wait on him first. Take care of your patrons, and they will take care of you.

Life is like that too. Look up. I have seen a bunch of bald eagles and other neat birds.  Some people say that they have never seen one.  Well, if you live around here you should have.  But, you won’t find them if you don’t look up.

I used to bartend Sunday mornings with Bender.  He was and still is a great food and beverage person.  We would be getting the bar stocked and cleaned and would listen to this Indigo Girls song….

I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ ’bout my life. Maybe give me insight between black and white. And the best thing you’ve ever done for me Is to help me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all.

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. I wrap my fear around me like a blanket. I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it. I’m crawling on your shores.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine. The closer I am to fine.

 I went to see the Doctor of Philosophy With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee. He never did marry or see a B-Grade movie. He graded my performance, he said he could see through me. I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, Got my paper and I was free.

 I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source for some definitive, The closer I am to fine. The closer I am to fine.

 I stopped by the bar at three A.M. To seek solace in a bottle, or possibly a friend. I woke up with a headache like my head against a board, Twice as cloudy as I’d been the night before. And I went in seeking clarity.

I go to the doctor, we go to the mountains. We look to the children, we drink from the fountain. We go to the Bible, we go through the work out. We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout. There’s more than one answer to these questions Pointing me in a crooked line. And the less I seek my source, the closer I am to fine.

 Songwriters: AMY ELIZABETH RAY, EMILY ANN SALIERS

They say (who is they anyway?) everything happens for a reason. You cannot see it at the time… but things have a way of working out for the best.

Is it just a coincidence that I woke up with this story in my head and today also just happens to be the opening day for Clearwater Harbor in Waupaca, WI?  I think not. Everything happens for a reason.

I won’t be there today. I might be there this weekend.  If you get a chance, stop by for a cold one. The sunsets are spectacular. Look around to see which bartenders are looking down. Tip them a little extra. It’s their first day. Who knows? They might end up being your eye doctor someday.

I learned how to laugh at myself and not take everything too seriously. I listened to some great bands. I made some life-long friends. We worked hard and we played hard.

My life hasn’t always gone according to plan or worked out the way I thought it would. That’s okay- I’ll just head over to the Harbor and see what happens next.  Change a thing… not a chance.

GGJ

Harbor 1990-1991 (2)

 

 

 

 

Old Boots And A New Attitude

Another New Year’s Eve and another New Year’s Day is in the books. How did it work out for you?

This is my take on it.

New Year’s Eve: Otherwise known as amateur night. Enough said.

New Year’s Day: Ground zero for the rest of the year. The burden of last year is shed, the hopes and dreams of the New Year begins. Since I gave up going out drinking (on New Year’s Eve) a few years back, I no longer start the year with a massive hangover. Nice. This year my 87 year old Mom and I went to the Casino. We lost but had fun. We also watched the movie Unbranded on Netflix which was pretty good. It reminded me that I need to head West again. The landscapes are unbelievable. My travels have been in other directions lately- time to turn it around.

I find resolutions to be oddly fascinating. On one hand, it has been proven that people who make short, medium and long term goals are more successful. On the other hand, I think it is kind of un-Zen to want your life to be vastly different from the life you are actually living. What’s a girl to do?

I did make two resolutions and so far I am doing okay.

Resolution 1:     Travel more. I didn’t go anywhere exotic or new… but I did go to Hartman’s State Park twice to snowshoe and hike around the woods. The weather was perfect Saturday. Sunny with a high temp around 30 degrees. We saw a lot of people and everybody was friendly and good natured. I think people who voluntarily go out in the woods are generally good. Sunday’s weather was a little on the gloomy side but still fun. The fresh air does wonder for my disposition and allows me to sleep much better. My hiking boots are worn out from the inside out. It’s time for a new pair of boots.boot.JPG

I am going to work on my list for real trips tonight. I think at least one trip must be to somewhere I have never been before.

Resolution 2: No more working on Sundays. I have vowed to keep Sunday a day for zero work. I struggled with this a bit today as I am needing to get some end of the year book-keeping done. The last few weekends I have been painting the office. It’s always something. Starting now, I am going to try to use Sundays for exercise, reading, going to movies, listening to bands, spending time with people I love…. I haven’t been doing much of that and I think it is starting to show.

Because of Resolution 2, I had some time on my hands today. That can be a dangerous thing. I started to obsess about common resolutions and wonder if I should be joining the club. It got me into a twisted state of mind. I needed a word that would be socially acceptable but still convey a negative connotation- hence the use of the word “bag”. We all know dirt bags, wind bags…I have a few more bags to add to the list. This is what happens when common resolutions go bad. A person is in danger of becoming one of these. I know, because I either have been or may still be several of these things.

Love-Bag: This is a person who makes a New Year’s Resolution that this is the year they will find true love and finally engage in a healthy relationship. The tricky bit is that is actually takes a lot of energy to seek out and get to know a new person. Hence, it is tempting to try to recycle old relationships in the hope that one or both partners have changed their wicked ways and things will be wonderful. Trust me on this one. People don’t change, myself included. It’s just that meeting a new person is so exhausting. It takes years to get to a place where you can wear your flannel jammies, hair in a ponytail and eat cold pizza on the couch while watching Game of Thrones. Sigh. If there is someone out there that I already know and you aren’t too messed up from previous relationships and you are okay with the above scenario…. Give me a buzz.

Money-Bag:       This is a person who resolves to max out the 401K’s, Roth IRA’s, HSA’s and not have any credit card debt. Except that in mid-January the credit card for Christmas comes and January in general is an expensive month. Insurance policies, professional dues …. Lots of bills to pay in January. Plus, I am a Total Rewards credit card member and if I get enough points they treat me nicer in Vegas where I can budge to the head of the line at buffets and get talked into upgrades I don’t need.

I need to look up whoever invented compound interest. Brilliant and devious at the same time. Good when it is in your favor and a real bitch when it is against you. It had to be invented by the Romans or the Greeks… I will check it out and get back to you.

Carbo-Bag: This is person who resolves to never eat anything “white” again. No bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, or sugar. I had today off so I tried this. I even made a new Pinterest topic for healthy recipes. Until I decided that I don’t want to pretend blended up garlic and cauliflower is mashed potatoes. Trying to pick a diet plan can be exhausting.

I was talking to my sister while walking in the woods. I am going to try to keep track of how much water I drink (not booze or soda) and try to eat 6 servings of vegetables a day. That’s it. The rest can stay. I figure if I eat 6 servings of vegetables per day and drink a lot of water, there may not be room for a lot of other stuff. Plus, the idea of not eating pizza once in a while makes me feel bitchy. Real bitchy.

After much thought I think resolutions are okay. The whole point is to keep trying to improve…..Our health, wealth and relationships. If we didn’t take one day a year to evaluate and reset ourselves all hell could break loose.

I really like the idea of putting a positive spin on things and make it about all of the things we will do instead of all of the things we can’t do. Restrictions don’t sit well with me. Whatever you are dreaming of or hoping for – I wish you well.

Now that I think about it, resolutions are totally Zen. Your mind has to get there first before the rest of you can catch up. It’s kind of like my boots. From the outside they look perfectly fine. When you look inside you can see all of the miles I put in to get to this point. You can’t get very far if you don’t take the first step.

I say go for it!

GGJ

 

 

Solar Powered Christmas Lights and the Quest To Find The True Meaning of Christmas

It’s that time again…. Christmas. Last year I wrote about my trip to Best Buy. It was there that I encountered a heart-broken man and found the true meaning of Christmas. What is that, you ask??

The true meaning of Christmas is…kindness.

Some years I get really into the Holiday season and my house is bedecked (is that a word?) and the oven is going and the music is playing and I even have a new outfit. Some years, I just can’t get it going. I blame it on seasonal affective disorder and/or the state of my bank account.

This year I am somewhere in the middle.

I moved this year so I am in a new place. My new rental house is very small- too small for my enormous tree with 25 years accumulation of ornaments, pictures and stuff. I was to the point where I was going to have to get a second tree. This year- no tree. But I do have some evergreens hanging in several places so I am not a total Scrooge.

My new neighborhood is very old. Many of the houses are 75+ years old and from a time where people didn’t own cars. (Think small or non-existent garages.) It an interesting mix of very old, middle-aged and young people. One thing they have in common is the love of Holiday ornaments and house decorations. I had to get with it so that my place wasn’t the only lame house on the block.

I tried the solar lights… good in theory but sucky in real life. They only burn for a few hours and since it is dark at 4pm they were done by 7pm. Plus, every time a car goes by they think it is daylight and the lights go off. It was driving me crazy.  One night last week I strung some real lights on top of the solar lights and it is much better.

So now that the outside of my house is up to par…. It’s time to get the inside of myself up to par.

I wanted to do something at the office that would be good. Good for the community, good for my staff and good for me. Last year we decided to try “The 1st annual 21 days of giving event.” For every pair of glasses we sold we donated $10.00 to the Oshkosh Area Humane Society. That turned out to be one of the happiest times at the office. We are currently engaged in “The 2nd annual 21 days of giving event” and our goal is to beat last year. (It’s for the puppies and kitties!)

We have a little tree and when we sell a pair of glasses the customer/patient signs a gift tag and hangs it on the tree. It is so fun to look at those tags and see the different handwriting and names. Thank you Carol and Karlin, Darryl, Ivy…many wonderful people.

Yesterday something special happened.

I met an interesting person who needed to get in for an exam ASAP because he had to report to some Fort on Jan. 3 to get deployed to the Middle East.

The exam went great and we had a few laughs. I was doing the test for glaucoma where I use an instrument to touch his eye and I told him “You are a soldier, you can handle it!” We both laughed and he kept his eyes open and the test was over in the blink of an eye. Ha-ha. As we were checking out at the front desk, I noticed that he was self-paying for the exam. (No insurance)

I turned to him and shook his hand and said, “Thank you for your service, I really appreciate what you do. There will be no charge for you today. Thank you for keeping me safe.” He was shocked. The front desk person got all teary eyed and so did I.

I was worrying about making enough Christmas cookies and here was a person getting ready to leave his family. It was a great moment… a perspective changing moment.

Here’s the thing…. It wasn’t about the free exam. It was about making a connection. It was about doing something manageable. I was only giving away my time. After he left, I felt many emotions…. happy, sad, thankful… the list goes on.

I am sure that I got more out of it than he did. The act of being kind has an equal or greater impact on the person being kind as to the act of kindness itself. That is a complicated sentence. But it is true. I know, because it happened to me.

It is easier to be kind to strangers. It is a much more difficult task to be kind to the people who are the closest to us. This Holiday season falls at the end of the week so it is an extended Holiday. Four days of togetherness. That is a lot of time to be around blood kin. Have you ever heard the saying, “fish and family both stink after three days?” Amen, brother.

My family is pretty easy. I am the youngest, so I just do what I am told to do. It’s a pretty good survival technique. Try it. If we go out to dinner or go to a movie and someone asks me where I want to go or what I want to see…. I just say “I don’t care” and I mean it. I really don’t care. Normally I despise it when someone says, “I don’t care” but in this instance it is meant as a gesture of goodwill and going with the flow-ness.xma 71 jilly, mb, kk happy christmas 001 (2)

We all have strong personalities. When it comes to the Holidays you can have too many Colonels and not enough grunts. I am a grunt. Now that I think about it… I am the only grunt… what the heck??? Anyway, it works out fine.

One great thing about being the youngest is that you never are in charge of anything important. For instance, for Christmas Day I am in charge of a “veggie” tray and mashed potatoes. No problemo. It will be the best veggie tray on the planet. And not to brag or anything – but I do make the best mashed potatoes.

I still use my 25 cent hand masher bought at St. Vinny’s 20 years ago and put “a little elbow grease” into it like my Mom taught me. Too much mashing is bad (glue), too little mashing is bad (lumps).

A dear friend of mine has a saying which I have used many times. “Too thinky is bad and no thinky is bad.” This is certainly true around the Holidays. Look, you probably don’t have a “Norman Rockwell” family. It took me a long time to figure that one out. It is okay. Stop trying to make it something it’s not. Breathe in, breathe out….

When someone drives you nuts this weekend, ask yourself “What would GGJ do?” Then smile and say, “I don’t care!” When you lower your expectations to zero- there can only be an upside surprise.

I feel compelled to give you an example of when not to care.

For instance, once every few Christmas’s I run into someone I knew when I was young and never see anymore who probably drinks too much and is not a very nice person. This person will say something like, “Did you ever get someone to marry you?” and I will think to myself, “No, but I found a lot of guys who are great in the sack and don’t drive me nuts, asshole.” Or I think, “At least I don’t have a wife who is praying for a heart attack, asshole.” Stuff like that.

Stuff like that is bad.

Instead, I Iaugh and say, “Not yet, but tis the season for miracles!” And then I order another VO Whiskey Old Fashioned.

I have to stop giving examples as it is destroying my kindness story. I also have to stop using the word asshole. Sorry about that, I lost it for a minute.

Here’s the dealio. Basically, it is a mind-set. It can be easy to go to the Dark Side but try not to. It is super un-Christmasy and a drag. Instead, go to your warm, fuzzy place (my queen size bed with soft flannel sheets and a good book for example) and go with the flow.

Sometime around Saturday afternoon you might want to go visit someone you aren’t related to or go for a nice long walk with the dog. My dog Macy is a great companion. She is always happy to see me whether I have been gone 5 minutes or 5 hours or 5 days and she likes to nap. She likes Christmas because she gets good stuff (bones and squeaky toys)  and the Sisters sneak her people food.snowshoeing 2013

Merry Christmas and I hope you survive! Cheers!

GGJ

 

Bumble Bee Boots and The End of Days

I just returned from a long weekend in Asheville, NC. I went to an optometric conference and spent most of the time in a windowless room.

Traveling is so weird. Especially when you are alone. It really brings out the best and/or worst in a person. Myself included.

Here’s how it went.

My flight to Asheville had a stop in Atlanta. No prob. Except the pilot must have been a rookie because he stopped too short and while everyone got up and started to line up to depart- we got an announcement that we all had to sit down again so we could move forward about 5 feet. I was still sitting so I didn’t care. I had a lady next to me who was seriously frantic about getting out of the plane. We were waiting and waiting and she was flipping out. Finally, I said to her, “Do you want me to let you out ahead of me? It’s not like there is anywhere to go.” She settled down after that. We all got out of the plane and I high tailed it to the airport train and got to my next flight. It was tight but I got there. I figure the brisk walk and effort to hump it to the gate counted as exercise so I felt pretty good.

On the second flight I sat next to a very nice lady who was traveling from Anchorage, AK to see her friend in Asheville. It was her 4th flight of the day. Yikes. Shortly after we sat down, a really tall older guy wearing bright yellow hiking boots with a bumble bee on one boot and a hive on the other (I cannot make this stuff up) who was wearing a bright blue fedora and had his neck pillow already around his neck plopped down in the seat ahead of my nice Alaskan lady and put his seat all the way back. We just looked at each other. The flight hadn’t left yet. Everybody knows that is against the rules.

We both were annoyed. I was mostly annoyed on my new friend’s behalf. I whispered to her, “I think we can take him!” and then I made a fist and punched my other hand. She just looked at me. It was her 4th flight after all. After a few moments she said, “Thanks, I think.” We laughed and things were better. A flight attendant went by and we both silently pointed and made a lot of gestures and she made bumble bee boots man move his ass.

He was problematic on the exit of the plane as well, as of course he stored his massive carry on many rows in back of his seat, so it created a mess. Alaska lady and I capitalized on the confusion and slipped by him during the chaos. We walked down the jet-way and wished each other a fun weekend. She met her friend and they were jumping up and down and laughing and hugging. Nice. I got the last cab in the line and we were starting to head out of the line when…… NO!  Bumble bee boots man tried to flag down the cab. I was freaking out! Luckily, the cab driver rolled down the window and told him another cab would be coming soon. Sigh of relief.

GPI 6I stayed at the Grove Park Inn which should be on everybody’s To Do list. It is a massive, historic inn that has housed many interesting people over the years. I stayed in the old part of the hotel. The first night I woke up – feeling like I wasn’t alone- and I felt like there was a man in the room. Finally, I turned on the light. No man. Hmmm…..I’m not sure about that one.  He didn’t come back again during my stay so I cannot say for sure if I had a visit from a spirit/ghost or not. It wasn’t super scary, more like there is a guy standing in the corner thing.  He for sure was not wearing yellow boots.GPI room fixture

The conference was like all conferences. Everyone kind of picks where they like to sit and that’s where you hang out for three days. I am a back row or second to back row kind of person.GPI elevator

I kind of feel sorry for the speakers of today, because it must be dis-heartening to see everyone looking down at their crotches while you are talking.

One of the speakers was really, really good and called us out on the phone stuff. We all started to participate in the discussion and I learned a lot. It was about neuro-optometry. Like how to tell if it is an eye problem – or if your patient has a brain tumor kind of talk. Good stuff.

When you are alone and traveling you have to figure out how you are going to feed yourself.  The GPI has a bunch of different dining options… and I tried them all. I had breakfast included as part of my stay and it was a gigantic buffet. I had the same server (Juan) every day. We got to know each other. He is originally from Spain and is married to another lady who is a teacher and works at the GPI as well. She was nice too. She is originally from Minnesota so we were all cheering for the Green Bay Packers when they played the Panthers on Sunday. We lost. On Monday he whispered to me, “Sorry, for your loss!” and we laughed.

So, while I was alone the whole time. I wasn’t lonely the whole time. There is a big difference.

The last day of the conference was a half day of class. After that I was at loose ends. I spent part of the time hanging out in the bar watching football and then I high tailed it to the spa. It was very nice. Possibly the best massage of my life and the facilities are amazing.GPI spa

I was just out of the sauna and cooling off when a nice lady asked me if I was there with my husband.  “I don’t have a husband”, I said. She looked at me. I didn’t explain like I sometimes do. Sometimes I say, “I am too mean to be married.” That is always a winner. Anyway, the nice lady was in town for a religious conference by Billy Graham’s daughter.  The nice lady proceeded to tell me that she thinks it really is “the end of days” and that (I cannot recall the proper religious term) God is going to destroy the world to punish us, and that she isn’t sure that there will be a Rapture, but that she really, really hopes so……

Ok, I am such the wrong person for this conversation. Plus, I was still all goo goo gaga from my massage so I wasn’t able to process anything much less the demise of……everything. I just smiled and said, “Well, let’s try to turn this thing around one person at a time!”  She left soon thereafter.

I wasn’t upset about the encounter. I just don’t get it. I ran into a few more religious ladies on the flight home and I must say that they were all impeccably well-groomed and wore gigantic diamond wedding rings.  Like I said, I don’t get it. I spied on a lady in front of me on the plane home and she was reading a pamphlet about Hades and something about a Gold Throne. I might Google it. I love the Games of Thrones, but it is clearly not that kind of Throne. Don’t hate me, I just don’t remember any of this stuff from the 16 years of CCD I had every Wednesday growing up.

We had a rough landing into Atlanta and when we finally screeched to a stop, I did a little quiet clapping, laughed and said, “Landing is always good.” My seatmate said, “A-men!”

Monday was kind of a rough travel day. I don’t know if it is because everyone is hung over, depressed about football, or just mad in general. It had been raining for three days so that did not help.

The lady at the TSA desk where you prove who you are was a real piece of work. Picture an older woman with long, stringy gray hair. There was an older gentleman in front of me who clearly does not travel often. She yelled at him about everything. He finally got cleared and she turned her attention to me. I had used the airport kiosk to print out my boarding passes and baggage claim ticket and had tucked everything in my passport and handed it to her. She proceeded to hand me back the pieces paper one by one and tell me why she didn’t need it….sigh…and more sighs.  I had my baggage claim ticket in there and I made a little joke, “I hope I don’t need this one!” Haha! Nope. She then proceeded to yell at me that of course I needed it and that it was my responsibility to prove that luggage was mine. And so it went. Finally, I just said, “Are we done here?” She was a misery. I ran into the older gentleman and told him that she had yelled at me too. He said, “She needs to go back to bed and start all over!” We laughed.

This is when you are probably thinking, “Oh GGJ, give her a break, you don’t know what she has going on her life and who are you to judge?” True dat. All I know is that the waiting area for the flight to Atlanta slowly filled up with a lot of angry, grumpy people.

She made me think of a potential plot for an episode of Criminal Minds. She would play the Mom of a serial killer/sexual predator and knows what is going on but makes him cookies anyway. Then they get rid of the bodies in the hog pen.

Remember when I said traveling brings out the worst in people…. me too! Mean, mean, mean!

May I make a suggestion? Let’s get rid of the cheap tickets. Can someone please just charge me a fair rate, treat all passengers equally and figure out how to handle carry-on baggage?

The miracle of flight still amazes me. I was able to get to my destination in 5 hours when it would have taken me 18 hours to drive. That is amazing!

When did we start to expect to fly somewhere (anywhere) for a cost less than what it would take to purchase gas and drive? I fully expect to pay for convenience and time. For the love of God, please start charging more! Throw in one bag. Charge me, I don’t care. Charge more for good seats, I don’t care. Have the overhead compartments labeled according to the seats…. Don’t let the business travelers hog all of the space.  Try loading the plane from the back to the front so that we don’t have to jostle the fancy folks while we go to the back.

Let’s bring back the adventure of air travel.

Like I said earlier, traveling brings out the best and the worst in people.

That is the beauty. We find ourselves, we learn about others and we learn to appreciate everything we take for granted in our daily lives. When I haven’t traveled for a while I get antsy and wonder what I am missing. Then I go somewhere and after some time passes…. I can’t wait to go home. That is a beautiful thing.

A few years ago I went on vacation with one of the Sisters. At the end of our vacation she was ready to go home.  I wanted to just keep going. That was not good. I figured out a few things and made some changes…

I still love to leave, but I now I love to come home too.  Forward progress.

Is it the end of days? I don’t know. I hope not. Just in case, it doesn’t hurt to make sure  to say the things we need to say, do the things we need to do, and live like there may not be too many tomorrows…. But only if we use our powers for good. I still think we can turn this thing around- one person at a time.GPI 7 rocking chairs

GGJ