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Laying Like a Vegetable, Netflix, and Victorian England

Sometimes life knocks us down. Then, like the fighter who has just won a match, it places a foot on our back and crosses its arms in a stance of triumph and assumes a smug “I dare you to try to get up” expression.

In the hurry-scurry that is life, I’ve occasionally longed for a few days of doing nothing. Vegetable days it seems they may have been called. Days when I could just lie around like a vegetable and do nothing. I’m not sure why vegetables came to be associated like this. After all, why should we assume there’s nothing going on when a vegetable is lying around? They often get riper, change color. begin to shrivel or mold. At the least it seems they start attracting those pesky gnats.

My Mom told me the other day that if you place a small bowl of cider vinegar on the counter near fruits and vegetables it will keep those gnats away. I can understand that. There’s a powerful olfactory sensation that rises from a bowl of cider vinegar. I don’t know if gnats have nostrils. Maybe they just see the fumes rising from the bowl and steer clear of the contaminated air space. I can imagine them gathered off to the side in tiny gnat gas masks studying the effects of acidic pollution on gnat wings.

It’s easy to let your mind wander and wonder about miniscule things like this when you’re down for the count from life and laying like a vegetable. The shrinking and molding is easy to relate to as well. Especially after devoting hours to exercising only an elbow, wrist and thumb on the treadmill that is the remote control.

I’ve just come off a long string of “vegetable” days. Unable to concentrate to read, I filled the need for excitement by dialing in old BBC historical series on Netflix. The first qualification for selection was at least 13 episodes. The second, by default, became the historical time period of Victorian England.

I became Lillie Langtry fighting for survival and position in a Victorian box with faux morals, defined roles and strict distinctions of class. “Indeed.” “Alas.” “Oh, my dear.” “Certainly, my Prince, you may build me a house in the countryside away from your wife.”

King Edward VII

I empathized with Prince Edward who was blamed by his Mother, Queen Victoria, for the death of his Father, Prince Albert, and who had to wait until he was 59 to fulfill his destiny. Even so, through the 13 episodes, my patience grew thin and his lavish lifestyle lost its luster as I watched him overeat, over travel, and over indulge in court beauties on his way to finally becoming King Edward VII.

Fearing my own demise from inactivity, I feverishly worked my forearm up and down using the remote as a kind of mini-barbell and indulged a bit less in chocolate covered cranberries.

Next came the Forsyte Saga and finally Upstairs Downstairs where the Bellamy household presided as a precursor to the Crawley’s of Downton Abbey. Then, as my mind cleared of the anesthesia and antibiotics, I could read instead of watch the life of the Poldarks.

Time travel is questionable. But I have done it with the magic of Netflix, a remote control containing two new AA batteries, the archives of my local library, and an on-your-back, knock-you-down summer. I’m a bit like a squishy vegetable that has lain too long on the counter. But in my mind I’m not just regaining my strength. No, I’m elegantly dressed and dancing with royalty as the smell of cider vinegar waifs through the air. Life is good! Indeed!

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Categories: Challenges, Commitment, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Storms and Life and Pottery

Have you noticed how life is what happens in the middle of the storms? Or maybe it is the other way around: storms are what happen in the middle of life. Either way, there’s a co-mingling, that if not omnipresent, happens enough to deserve notice.

Pop-up storms often come at inopportune moments, don’t they? We’re living life, going about our business, and here they come: pop-up storms raining down on our parades.

Like the car accident that my Dad had the day before my brother’s wedding, or my Mom’s false teeth breaking just a couple of days before I got married. There she was home by herself holding her broken teeth in her hands and no car to get her to the dentist. Like any resourceful woman planning a wedding, she wrapped them in a napkin and walked the 6 blocks to the dentist’s office to have them glued back together avoiding all conversation with neighbors along the way.

Sometimes storms do render us speechless like that. My first time to the Grand Canyon, I drove into Arizona from Nevada and then did a circular loop north through parts of Utah before turning back west toward Las Vegas. All in one day! That was a bit of a storm itself, you might say.

I was awestruck by the beauty of the canyon, the colors, and the grandeur. Then, it stormed. Not where I was, rather off in the distance. Like one of those Las Vegas shows with spectacular visual and audio effects. Except I couldn’t hear a thing, I could only see it. An artistic display of lightning and rain in a backdrop of sienna, reds, oranges, yellows, bronze. A silent movie that rendered me quiet, less I miss something. I remember the canyon. I cannot forget that storm.

The other day I was “living” part two of one of my 52 Dates with Myself: the pottery throwing date. I’m still pondering that one.

Sitting with my instructor at the wheel, she a young art student from the local college already appreciating the nuances of her art and grasping the art of teaching others. My lump of round clay successfully turned into a nearly round bowl under her tutelage.

I was glad of it, this end product. But really it was the process and the feeling of it that intrigued me most.

So many different things happening at once and all acting upon the clay. My foot pressing down on a pedal causing the stone wheel to turn. Clay plopped in the middle of the stone. Drizzling water over it. Thumbs working from the center of the ball. Turning, pressing, angling, feeling – the process of molding.

Like life that spins round with pressures and choices and emotions.

It was easy and fun to experiment with various choices at the pottery wheel. Spin faster and adjust the angle of my thumbs. Apply pressure from the inside, now the outside. Pull up. Pull out. Every adjustment had an impact on the shape, the feel, and the look of my clay.

I felt the power of it. I impacted its stability. I determined its usefulness and it’s functionality. I established its beauty.

I felt the responsibility of it, too. With one small movement I could change its course, do damage, give it purpose or leave it be.

At once, I felt the fragility and the possibility. Needy. Malleable. Useful. Willing.

Yes, so much like life.

Now, a couple of weeks later here I am ready for the next steps. What to do with the hardened bowl? I can leave it as it is, a rough, hardened clay form. Or, I can try my hand at decorating and glazing it. Definitely, I want to do that.

So, on a bright, sunny, hot summer day I make my way to the storefront studio, pick out my colors and paint brushes, and excitedly establish myself at a table where I begin to paint.

Unbeknownst to me, the storm is brewing. It quickly shrouds the day in a blackness filled with 80 mph winds, hail, and heavy rain. The glass storefront windows shudder and shake. Water begins pouring in from under the door and even between the seals of the windows. Leaves and small branches sail by. Cars stop in their places along the road, as their drivers can no longer see to make progress. With the young clerk, I look around for our best option of a protected area. But we don’t go. Instead, we watch and speak only in glances.

Very quickly, the storm moves through and is over. Sunshine reappears giving a momentary glistening effect just before it absorbs the moisture and reasserts itself as a humid summer day.

The mood in the pottery studio relaxes. I paint. The storm has come, and it has gone, inserting itself again into one of my life experiences. Co-mingling with me in the journey. No doubt, we’ll meet again.

Categories: Artistic Dates, Challenges, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Lessons from an Unexpected Date

I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better.  ~Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903

Often surprises create positive emotions within us. Maybe like surprise birthday parties, surprise proposals, or surprise gifts.

Other times surprises wreak a bit of havoc on our emotions. Perhaps like a large cell phone bill or an unexpected break-up of a relationship. Or even like my recent unexpected date with the operating room and the subsequent longer-than-expected and longer-than-desired recovery period.

But, hey, I just happen to have this ongoing project of 52 Dates with Myself.  And, as the project leader and manager, I have full authority to determine what constitutes a date. So, yes, a surprise date in the OR most definitely gets counted!

Besides, look at just a few of the things I’ve learned so far: 

  • Wheel chair drivers really should have to take a driving test.
  • IV – doesn’t mean I have to give the same nurse 4″ times to get the intravenous drip set.
  • Pain pills often have acetaminophen, so be sure you do the math before the brain fog from the narcotics kicks in.
  • When you’re near the top of the emergency triage list, you get to witness and experience the full professionalism of the medical staff.
  • My capacity for exhaustion is much larger than I ever imagined.
  • My tolerance for pain not so much.
  • Recognition and gratitude for caregivers can never be overdone.

In spite of all this, I still prefer the dates I get to choose and plan.

Ponder & Chat: What lessons have you learned from one of your life’s surprises?

Categories: Challenges, Reflections, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three things I’ve learned about finding courage on 52 Dates with Myself

Dating myself often requires that I boldly go beyond my normal comfort zone.

Courage seems to come much more naturally with companionship. Sort of like an unspoken, “I double-dog dare you” between friends out for a good time. This can be especially true when the companion is a gregarious extrovert with dangling coat strings we introverts can ride.

But when you’re flying solo – and doing it 52 times – courage has to be brought along in different ways. In fact, not only does it have to be brought along, but it has to be let go. Freed, if you will, to do its work.

Along the way these last four months there’s three things I’ve found that have helped to bolster my courage for 52 Dates with Myself:

  1. Connect. 52 Dates with Myself is not about isolation. It’s about connection. Connection with myself and connection with others whom I encounter in the process of my dates. I’m also connecting with my environment, with history, and with a wide variety of experiences. All of these are providing me with opportunities to learn more about myself and my world.
  2. Smile. Not only does it make people wonder what I’m up to, it brightens my face, makes it much easier to make eye contact, and often makes it easier to start a simple conversation. Conversations lead to connection.
  3. Share my first name and get theirs. Maybe it’s my waiter, the tour guide, or a bench dweller in the park. Yes, I need to be cautious and trust my instincts. But, I also know that courage is sometimes the better judge of people. And, caution can sometimes bring unfounded fear and create unnecessary isolation.

There you have them. Connect. Smile. Share your first name and get theirs. Now that you have some tips for finding your courage, get out there and have date with yourself.

Ponder & Chat: What other ideas do you have that might help you have the courage to date yourself or just try a solo experience?  How might you commit to finding your courage to go on a solo date?

Categories: Challenges, Commitment, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weekend Getaway: Get your weekend at Charley Creek Inn!

Lobby of the lovely Charley Creek Inn, Wabash, Indiana. It’s delightful small-town charm in the Midwest.

More to come on this lovely boutique hotel in charming Wabash, Indiana…but there’s a Charley Creek Inn Groupon deal right now you’ll not want to miss.

Check out Charley Creek Inn website here for photos that are true to the charm you’ll find.

Categories: Date Ideas, Solo traveling, Uncategorized, Weekend Getaways | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why have you made me like this?

“Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” ~ Romans 9:20b-21 (NKJV)

Wheel-throwing clay during my recent date at Bisque It Pottery in Fort Wayne. My teacher is Ashlyn Emberton. For more info on their classes visit their website: http://www.bisqueitpottery.com/Clay.html

Categories: Artistic Dates, Date Ideas, Date Night, Pure Fun, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“So I went down to the p…

“So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw [her] working at the wheel.”

Jeremiah 18:3 – NIV

Categories: Artistic Dates, Date Ideas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solo Traveling: Surprising Moments with Nature

The wharf at Mount Vernon with nesting osprey on the front piling.

Sometimes nature offers up the best surprises!

Like it did on my visit to Mount Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington. Among the pristine gardens, the stately riverfront home, the history, and the visitors, was a rough-hewn home and feathered family who captured my heart.

Osprey nest on piling at Mount Vernon wharf – home of President George Washington

Though they’re common place among east coast dwellers, to those of us living in “fly-over” states, the magnificent osprey are a rare treat, indeed.

So often in life, as the saying goes, things come in threes. That’s what happened with my osprey adventure.

  1. Early one morning I awoke and found myself enthralled with a PBS television nature show. More specifically, their piece about osprey, which described their nesting habits, their family patterns, and showed some wonderful demonstrations of their amazing deep-dive fishing abilities.
  2. Little did I realize that just a few short hours later, I would come face-to-face with a real-life osprey family living atop a piling along the banks of the Potomac River at the Mount Vernon wharf. According to an article on the osprey family, the pair have nested on the estate in prior years in the top of a sycamore tree. In the summer of 2010, their nest was destroyed when the top of the tree was lost during a storm. Undaunted, the pair returned this spring and built a new home on the top of the wharf piling – just inches from where the tour boat, Spirit of Mount Vernon, boards passengers six days a week.  That’s how I met them.

    My up-close and personal meeting with the osprey of Mount Vernon wharf – a bit blurry from my excitement:(

  3. A couple of days after my visit to Mount Vernon, some friends took me on a boat ride out into the Chesapeake Bay. To my delight every channel marker seemed to be the home of an osprey family. As little chicks poked their heads out of the nests, parents sat guard or flew off in search of the family’s next meal. My only disappointment was not seeing any of them deep-dive fishing. But nature watching does take patience, I suppose. Thanks to these great videos, however, we can all enjoy the amazing abilities of the osprey to “fish.”

You can watch a brief video I took of the osprey here, and see the parent take flight as the Spirit of Mount Vernon pulls closer. Mount Vernon Osprey nest

A live webcam of an osprey nest can be found here if you’re interested in watching them in action.

Ponder & Chat: Have a favorite nature story you can share with us? Where are you favorite spots for dates with nature?

Categories: Date Ideas, Nature, Reflections, Solo traveling, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solo Traveling: Would George Washington Own an iPad?

“No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this….” ~George Washington on his Mount Vernon home

George Washington’s Mount Vernon home as seen from the Potomac River

For nearly half a century George Washington preened and prospered his Mount Vernon estate to 8,000 acres along the beautiful banks of the Potomac River. An 18th century entrepreneurial farmer, he developed and utilized a number of innovative technologies. We’d probably label them “cutting-edge” today.

The 16-sided barn invented by George Washington to more efficiently thrash grain.

For example, he invented a 16-sided barn to more effectively thrash wheat and collect its berries. He purchased the third patent on a water-powered gristmill that allowed him to more efficiently grind his wheat, corn and other grains. Just a couple of years before his death, he built a whiskey distillery that ultimately supplied nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year to the Alexandria, Virginia, marketplace. Washington experimented with gardening and fertilization techniques and utilized the Potomac to develop a fish export business.

Of course, during this time he also led a Revolutionary Army, served as the first president of the United States, and offered his obvious talents in many other ways to his new nation. You know, simple things!

As I walked the beautiful gardens and sat on the front lawn overlooking the river, I couldn’t help but think George would have owned one of the first iPhones and iPads. He’d have had a website to sell products online. He’d have blogged to promote ideas and  conversation, and his KindleFire would be loaded with books and ideas.

Ponder & Chat: Which of the Founding Fathers have inspired you and why?

Categories: Date Ideas, Reflections, Solo traveling, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solo traveling: How to spend a Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

“Exploring things on my own means I get to set a pace that works for me.”

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Setting my own pace. That’s just what I did yesterday as I set out from my hotel in Washington, D.C. for the three-mile walk to the National Cathedral. The uphill climb in the near 90 degree weather was made a bit easier by observing the many beautiful foreign embassies along Massachusetts Avenue. Entering “embassy row” near Dupont Circle and walking north reminded me a bit of a day at Disney’s world showcase at its Epcot theme park. Ok, it’s not like “being there,” but one can see and taste small pieces of various cultures in a short time and you don’t have to go through customs.

Mexican Embassy on Mass. Ave. in Washington, D.C.

With wonderment and curiosity, I strolled. Past various countries – Luxembourg, Sudan, Ireland, Madagascar, Malawi, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and the United Kingdom to name a few. Past the brightly colored Mexican Embassy. Past Winston Churchill standing with one foot in the UK and one in the US.

Winston Churchill with one foot standing on US soil and one on British Embassy grounds, symbolizing his Anglo-American descent, and the alliance he worked to forge in war and peace

Does anybody really know what time it is?

To highlight the marking of time, I passed the Naval Observatory master clock and snapped this photo just as it was changing time, making it look as if it isn’t working properly. Time is like that sometimes, don’t you think?

First glimpse of Washington National Cathedral approaching from Massachusetts Avenue

A half mile or so from my destination, towering spires began coming into view. I reached the National Catheral in time to share in the last third of the morning worship service, glorying in the anthems, the readings and partaking in communion with worshippers from all walks of life and faith backgrounds. Afterwards, I quietly explored the Cathedral’s many chapels, praying, meditating and lighting candles along my way.

Returning to the sunshine of the day, it was time to venture another long walk. This time I would take a path down Wisconsin Avenue.

Embassy Row had seemed quiet and a little austere. In contrast Wisconsin Avenue, even on a Sunday afternoon, was bustling and inviting. Shops from chic to punk, conservative to bohemian, enticed me in.

The final pièce de résistance – Thomas Sweet bittersweet chocolate and lemon custard ice creams. Come now, a gal doesn’t walk 6 miles for no reward!

Thomas Sweet – Now that’s a reward! I’m just sayin’

Categories: Solo traveling, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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