Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Turn of the Wheel

My children are spending 40 days away from home and from me, traveling out west with my parents via motor-home to see Yellowstone National Park; Devil’s Tower (that odd natural structure featured in the closing sequence of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”); the city of Cody, Wyoming; and the Teton mountain range. My mom’s been wanting to take them out west for years, just as she took us out west on a mega, 3 month, summer-spanning, road-trip-of-a-lifetime when we were kids, and this summer, the timing was just right. So we dropped them off at my parents’ motor-home on July 6th and will not see them again until August 15th.

Those of you keeping score might remember that it was but two short summers ago that John was gone in Africa for 45 days – days I thought I would handle like a champ but which instead gave me a weird, unpleasant, and hopefully never-repeated glimpse into spouse-less life, followed a few months later by a bout of full-blown depression. Needless to say, although I wanted the girls to have this travel experience, I was not so sure how I would handle it.

Tomorrow marks the half-way point of the girls’ trip out west, so it is with relief and amazement that I can report that – I don’t miss them! I know that sounds horrible so let me explain before social services comes knocking on my door. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE both my girls and treasure these fleeting years of their childhood. I’ve talked to them every few days over the phone, I will be super glad to see them in person when they get home, and I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything in the world. But parenting is a job where you rarely get a day’s vacation, let alone more than a month’s worth. I am well aware that this is a huge treat that many never experience – and I’m enjoying it!

The first few days without them were just…weird. Three days in, I was still talking to ghosts.

“Look – here’s the border to Maine!”

“Does anyone need to stop at this rest area to pee?”

“Do NOT run down that path – you’ll fall and get hurt!”

“No, you may NOT fill your pockets with rocks.”

(Apparently, it takes a while for the mental mompatter to subside.)

As sentimental as I am, I have never been one to mourn days gone by. I never pined for my grade school years though I had fun at my 20th high school reunion. I enjoyed college but I doubt I’d have the patience to run the educational gauntlet again. Being single was NEVER all it was cracked up to be – especially when you marry your best friend.  I loved having babies, and I enjoyed every stage of their early childhood, but I was always ready to move on to new challenges. That “baby lust” others talk about? Never felt it. I was and am GLAD to be done with diapers and bulky strollers.

But this extended time without kids is like a complete throwback to our early married days, like we’ve stepped into some malfunctioning time machine that threw us into the past with one foot still in the present.  Our 11 day road-trip trip to Canada without kids was soooo incredibly relaxing. We saw whatever was wanted to see, ate what and where-ever we wanted to without worrying about what was on the kid menu or how late someone would be kept up. We sat on a beach and watched the waves roll up until we felt like leaving. We snacked on the bed and watched TV just because we could!

Twice we were around kids that were not our own. We ignored tantrums, played games, and indulged in silliness without a thought of the consequences. We watched other people being parents and thought, “yep…that’s how it goes. How NICE that we don’t have to do that right now!” It was glorious – a glimpse, perhaps, into potential future grandparent-hood.

Now we are home and here are a few things I never even realized I missed about that former life when we were a childless couple:

1. Eating in the family room on the couch without worrying about spills.

2. Staying up late and sleeping in late to compensate.

3. The quiet.

4. Going out together without worrying about a babysitter.

5. Making a trip to the grocery store that lasted us a week & didn’t involve a list.

6. The quiet.

7. Buying small quantities of food instead of the “family pack” sizes.

8. Doing a week and a half’s worth of laundry in a single day.

9. The quiet.

10. The house only gets messy if I mess it up.

Life seems to have a way of turning back upon itself though. John goes back to work tomorrow and soon the girls will return home.  School will start with its routines, commitments, and busy schedules, and these carefree throwback days will be a distant memory. But this period seems like a tantalizing taste of our “empty nest” future, of what retirement might be like. I think we’re gonna like it!

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

I did not grow up in an athletic family.  I successfully resisted my father’s attempts to get me to put down the books and pick up the badminton racquet.  I tried out for field hockey one year, ran track one year, LOVED the diving team but wasn’t good enough to keep my place on it, then decided sports just weren’t for me – and this was BEFORE kids started their sport of choice at age 3 as they do nowadays.  But for some reason, my dad decided skiing something we COULD do as a family, so he became an instructor at Brandywine in the Cuyahoga Valley when I was 8 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I skiied with my family every Saturday in winter for 9 years (until I went to college).  When I got my first job, they sent me to Utah on a business trip for 4 days and told me to spend an extra weekend out there so I could ski. The mountain grandeur and knee-deep powder blew my East coast ice-sheet skiing mind and I was forever spoiled.  I effectively gave up skiing after that for about 14 years until I found out about the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio ski club and Emily, who inherited my athletic dismissiveness, expressed interest.  As soon as Megan was old enough to join, too, skiing officially became a girl sport in our family. [John, who had braces on his legs as a child, claims a genetic inability to point his knees inward, and has thus proclaimed himself incapable of skiing. We let him slide, so to speak.]

So, despite it being a near-record 28th day of skiing already in Cleveland, Ohio with 60 inch base in some places, tonight was MY first night of the season out on the slopes – and I was excited!

It wouldn’t be warm, but I was fully equipped to brave the elements: new silk LL Bean long underwear for Christmas courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law to replace the 20 year old set that used to be my dad’s & new goggles from Santa to replace the 30 year old pair that used to be my mom’s and on which the foam had finally completely disintegrated.

Emily and Megan were ready, too, with their own sets of new long johns, new goggles, new ski hats, and snazzy new ski pants, too (no more bib style pants, making potty breaks much easier – yea!).  We needed all the protection we could get, too.  As the sun dropped, so did the temperature – bottoming out by 9:45 pm at 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although everyone was gung-ho, the first hour was touch and go.  My children apparently mis-took me for a pack mule, claiming inability to carry their own equipment and clothing.  I channeled my father, told them they couldn’t ski if they couldn’t carry their own stuff, and kept walking.  When we hit the slopes, the 9 year old claimed to have forgotten EVERYTHING she learned last year – including how to make a wedge to stop or turn – while the 11 year old grumbled that “the baby hill isn’t steep enough for me to practice my parallel turns.” I told the 9 year old to stop whining and have some patience or I’d leave her in the middle of the hill (it only took one abandonment for her to figure out I meant it) and told the 11 year old to point her skis straight down the hill for speed until we all got our ski legs under us.  Someone told me this week that parenting is only easy if you’re doing it wrong, so I figured I was doing fine.

I finally, with relief, dropped both kids off in the capable hands of the Boston Mills ski instructors and zipped off to find some peace and quiet among the black diamond slopes.  The name was apt tonight.  The sky was like soft black velvet and the lazy snow sauntered down like it hadn’t a care or rush in the world.  A perfect crescent moon rose over the slopes and despite the fierce cold, there was peace in the snow-globed world.

This early in the season – and that late in the evening – there aren’t many confident advanced skiers, so I had about 5 runs in a row where I was alone on the hill, skied right onto the lift, and had a 3-seater chair all to myself.  Next week, I’m bringing my ear-buds so I can rock out like all the ‘cool’ kids, but for tonight, my own thoughts made good company.  By the time I rejoined the kids after their lesson, I was much more centered and they were much more confident and excited.

Since we’d been out for about two hours at that point, we took a 45 minute break to warm up and grab a quick dinner before heading back out for another lesson (where I joined them to observe their progress) and another 75 minutes of practice runs.  When we piled into the car at 10 pm, everyone was cold, thirsty, and tired – but also invigorated, confident, and ready for another great season of winter sport in Cleveland.

BMG – OMG!

A few weeks ago, I was selected to be a member of Playhouse Square’s REVIEW CREW – 8 regular folks who have the oh-so-hard job of watching every show in the 2010-2011 KeyBank Broadway Series on opening night and sharing our opinions on video!  Oh, and did I mention that we all got tee-shirts & goody bags and that the tickets for our seats and one guest are FREE?!  I will be blogging about all the shows from now until June.  Tonight was the kick-off to the season with Blue Man Group – and what a spectacular and high-energy kick-off it was!

I’d done my homework by reviewing the trailers on the Playhouse Square website, checking out Wikipedia, and talking to friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk who have seen one of the BMG shows over the last 25 years.  But I was still unprepared for the absolutely seamless blend of technology and humanity, the simple but profound social commentary, and the exuberance and silly fun of the show!

It is impossible, really, to adequately describe the sensory EXPERIENCE of the Blue Man Group show. It absolutely must be witnessed LIVE in the same way that performance art must be experienced.  It definitely evokes facets of Cirque de Soleil in its theatricality, diverse use of lighting, and bold, wild colors.  Its use of technology is striking and as non-traditional and game changing as The Lion King’s use of puppets.  Traditional theatrical techniques and props such as scrims, screens, and creative lighting folded into more contemporary ones such as gigantic SmartPhones, interactive video, performance art, neon, and audience participation!

The show started simply, with a huge projected slide stating how different cultures can meet and grow to understand each other by creating art together, sharing experiences together.  That message was subtly but profoundly woven throughout the entire performance.  It was not at all hard to suspend disbelief and become mesmerized by the child-like innocence, curiosity, and wonder evoked by the silent gestures and movements of all the Blue Men.  Their facial reactions, hairless blue heads, stoic expressions, and carefully choreographed body movements all created – without any words at all – an impression of non-threatening foreignness and unpredictability that had the entire audience on the edge of its seat wondering just what was going to happen next.

The show is an hour and 40 minutes long with no intermission.  However, the time flies and you won’t notice the lack (unless you have a small bladder).  Honestly, the only part of the show I disliked was the interminable string of colloquialisms for one’s “posterior.”   The vast array of works and phrases – and I do mean vast! – was shown on the screen and read aloud when the audience was encouraged to get off said body part and “shake it” to simulate the world’s largest dance party.  It was completely funny the FIRST time the words spewed forth, but got less amusing as it went on and on ad nauseum.

But in general, the air of joie de vivre and downright goofiness that permeates the entire show leaves you feeling energized and cleansed.  I strongly suggest arriving early, for example, because if you arrive late, the entire show STOPS and a spotlight is turned on you as you walk down the aisle to your seat!  (And confess it now, don’t you sometimes want to do that yourself to people who are very late for a performance?!).  But nothing tops the sheer ebullience of the grand finale. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there are 4 or 5 things happening at once and like a child who is overwhelmed by the glory of it, you barely know where to look and you sure don’t want it to end.

Blue Man Group performances run until October 17, 2010 at the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.  Call the Playhouse Square Box Office at 216-241-6000 or order online to get your tickets NOW before this spectacular sensory adventure leaves town!

The next show in the series is “Billy Elliot, The Musical” which opens on Sunday, November 21, 2010.

I’ve Been Here Before

I’m in the throes of a mid-life crisis. At least, that’s what I’m calling this limbo in which I am suspended, hanging above the ground with one hand on the line of my past and one on the line of my future, looking down, seeing both, connected to both, yet disconnected from everything.

It’s the fall of 1989 and I’ve just finished the phone call which opened a portal of understanding I didn’t want to acknowledge or walk through. But I gathered my courage and I did walk through – to a life of uncertainly where there was once understanding and though I didn’t know it at the time, a life of profound joy where there would have only been disappointment. But at the time, I mourned deeply, intensely, for what was lost, both immediate past and perceived future.

Another portal has opened now, similarly earth-shaking and grief-ridden, but strangely comforting in its familiarity. This time I walk through with more confidence in the unknown, but still sad for a lost past and a lost vision of the future. And for pain I’ve caused. Though I’ve been pained equally as well, mine feels the lesser somehow for the knowing, the having been here before.

Back again in time, to 1990. I see an ethereal Easter morning, I smell the flowers, hear the birds, feel the caress of the sun through the bite of the breeze and know I am wrapped in a cocoon of love I have never felt before. And I know it’s real – and that I almost missed it for illusion masquerading as reality. Very quickly, the plot of my life takes a turn toward profound fulfillment, and I know it, but am afraid to embrace it. I can flip rapidly through the pages of the book of my past, seeing more clearly that part of the story that was once a dim reflection in a mirror. Has it really been twenty years, this blink of an eye?

It could have been over, the road bending in a different direction, a chance lost. But I was given a second chance. Or maybe the road bent and bent again – that’s what he has always believed. But in the last moments of 1992, a portal of joy blinked open for a brief moment, and I jumped through with whole heart dragging reluctant head along for the ride. And what a ride it’s been, more lush a life than my wildest fantasies could ever have conjured. And to think, it all started with an email. Twenty years ago.

Fast forward another decade, another snapshot in my life, another moment of upheaval planned for yet so completely unanticipated despite all possible, futile preparation. A push, a letting go, a tug, a cry, a joy and a love so instantaneous and enveloping it cannot be understood except by those who have experienced it. Again just a blink of my eye and the new creation is becoming again a newer creation apart from me, from us, yet so much a part of us it steals my breath.

So here I am poised at the brink of … something unknown. And it’s not as terrifying now, this suspension, this not knowing. This time, I feel change stirring, but I can wait for it with quiet confidence. I see the past, the journey, the way forward into fog. But somewhere beyond there is sunshine burning brightly and I will be in it soon. And I can wait.

Duck, Duck Loose

Strange Maps is one of the 33 blogs I follow (it’s not as hard or time consuming as it sounds with Google Reader on my protopage!). This post there a few days ago really caught my attention and imagination!

In January of 2002 29,000 plastic bath toys washed overboard en route from China to the US. Their journey has revealed duckloads of information about ocean currents to scientists, largely because they are made of durable plastic, watertight, and much more likely to be reported when seen.

It’s taken 15 years, but the ducks are now predicted to reach the shores of Britain this summer. Now stop and think about that for a minute. Ducks lost in the PACIFIC OCEAN are about to reach Britain, in the ATLANTIC OCEAN! Their journey has included a five year freeze in arctic ice, moving a mile a year through the Bering Strait before thawing and resuming their watery trek toward Britain. There’s another article here about their predicted landing.

Sometimes truth IS stranger than fiction!

Keelgahan Quest – Part 2

So…a quick recap of our story thus far (or just read Part 1 here):

* Fall, 1999: We hear the James Keelaghan song “Rebecca’s Lament” live in concert with its accompanying story about Rebecca Galloway and native leader Tecumsah where we hear the Rebecca’s family’s cabin still stands.

* December, 1999: We go looking in Chillicothe, Ohio for Rebecca’s cabin, said to still exist, then realize it was supposedly in Xenia, Ohio, NOT Chillicothe.

And now, the rest of the story…

After the trip to Chillicothe, the quest languished for 5 and a half years. We saw James Keelaghan in concert several times in those 5 years and thought about the unfinished quest, but we were never near Xenia and the timing just wasn’t right.

Then in April 2005, John surprised me with a weekend trip to our alma mater, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. On the way home in John’s GPS-equipped Acura, we realized that Xenia wasn’t too far off our track home, so the quest sprang to life again.

The only info we had was that the cabin was behind a K-mart in Xenia. Luckily, John’s GPS quickly located the only K-mart in town. When we discovered this intersection of Main and GALLOWAY streets just in front of a giant K-mart, we KNEW we were close!

our-quest-1.jpg

We kept driving, trying to get behind the K-mart, which was apparently built right in the middle of Galloway street. Rounding the final corner, we found the cabin!

our-quest-2.jpg

It felt SO GOOD to have completed our quest. We didn’t even care that it was raining!

our-quest-3.jpg

We walked around, learned that you can actually enter the cabin, though not on Sundays. We took a picture of the Ohio Historical Marker, and after 15 minutes, proclaimed this leg of the quest completed. I hope someday we’ll be able to return and tour the inside of the cabin!

our-quest.jpgWe next saw Mr. Keelaghan in Lemont, PA on June 11, 2005. We presented him with photos of Rebecca Galloway’s cabin and a summary of the quest his song had inspired. The whole quest was a memorable and fun experience we will never forget!

Keelaghan Quest – Part 1

On James Keelaghan‘s 1990 recording Small Rebellions,” he includes a song called “Rebecca’s Lament” about the relationship between Rebecca Galloway and the native leader Tecumsah. The song is riveting; James plays it nearly every time he visits Ohio and makes an apology for mispronouncing the city of Chillicothe. In Ohio, it’s pronounced “CHILL-uh-KOTH-ey,” but James didn’t know that when he wrote the song and pronounced the name “CHILL-uh-coat.”

At a show in the fall of 1999 at the now defunct Brick Alley Theatre in Cleveland, James introduced the song and told the story of the cabin where the last part of the story took place. Apparently, the Galloway cabin still stands behind the K-Mart in Xenia, Ohio. We remembered all of this except the Xenia part.

On December 30, 1999, we were returning to Ohio by car from a trip to North Carolina listening to “Small Rebellions.” Remembering the story of the cabin (or, at least, some of the story), we took a slight detour to Chillicothe in search of the cabin. We roamed around the town until we found a state park. The ranger didn’t know anything about Rebecca Galloway and Tecumsah in the Chillicothe area.

We drove around a bit more and enjoyed the sights in Chillicothe, but considered our pilgrimage to be a failure. After a bite to eat, we decided to head home. It was getting late, and we still had several more hours to drive before we got home.

On the way out of town, we passed a K-Mart. We drove around it, looking for a cabin. This is what we saw:

As you can see, there was no cabin in sight.

On the drive home, John suddenly remembered that it was Xenia, not Chillicothe, where Rebecca’s cabin was supposedly located! We resolved to continue our quest another time.

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