Friday, January 22, 2010

Remedy for My Winter Blues!

I bought this journal in Florence to record my ten days as they unfolded. I wanted to be able to savour the memories. All the memories, large and small. To relive and marvel in the beauty and joy of my experience. This journal was my attempt to bottle and contain the excitement of these ten days. To relive them when I needed a reminder of how wonderful and exciting fulfilling a dream could be. Especially during the frigid, icy, dark days of winter. The days, the weeks that just suck the energy right out of you. Like this past week for example.

So I took up my journal and turning to the intro page, I began to read...

"I left my house in Abbeyside by taxi at 9:45AM on July 6th 2009. The beginning of my grand trip to Florence. After three years of talk, desire and fear, I was finally on my way. Last March I booked the flights with Ryan Air and an apartment through VRBO. Flights paid for and a 200euro deposit on the apartment I had backed myself up against a wall. Forcing myself to commit. There was no turning back. I was excited, nervous and fearful all at the same time.

During the planning and in my excitement I did not dwell on the obstacles. Husband did enough of that for me!! He was concerned and unable to fathom my determination to go solo. Making suggestions of possible travel companions. I tried to make him understand, that this was my dream. I did not want to compromise my dream by having to consider a fellow travellers dreams. I needed this trip..I needed this trip on my own. I wanted to saunter through the galleries at my own pace, not having to watch a clock for prearranged rendezvous for lunch, shopping, etc. I would eat when it suited me, take the time I needed with any painting or sculptor to soak in and try to hold the beauty. If I wanted to stay gazing at Michelangelo's David for three hours I could, and I did. Returning a second day for more gazing."

Having gotten only this far, I found myself smiling. Smiling even as my eyes sting with heaviness and my feet feel like lumps of lead. My journal has sustained me. It has worked it's magic. The day doesn't look quite as dark and I haven't even turned the page to day one yet!!!

My Bargain Bin Puppy....

After my last post a number of you requested photos of Louie. Let me introduce you all to Louie,

Louie before the traumatic grooming!

Louie after the traumatic grooming! Looking very bewildered at his hairless state.

Louie today!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009 High Fives!

Thank you Barbara at Seeking Serenity for mentioning and nominating my blog for this High Five. I have been slow to respond, because I was not quite sure what to do. After checking around I believe I understand it. Celebrating accomplishments! This appeals to me. So thank you again Barbara!

Five Highlights of 2009 in no particular order:

I did it! I finally went to Florence. I booked an apartment through VRBO. The Uffizi Apartment, a gem with a wonderful, generous landlady. I recommend it to anyone. I booked and flew with Ryan Air. Another first. I spent ten glorious days walking the streets (in the best possible way) of Florence. It took me two full days to meander through the Uffizi. I was mesmerized by Michelangelo's David . I stood gazing at him for over three hours, with tears of pure delight at the beauty. I was so taken, I went back to the Accademia for a second day of gazing. I was also lucky enough to attend an open air performance of Carmen. I ate gelato, drank cappuccino and Florentine Chianti. Discovered fried zucchini flowers, YUM! I could gush about Florence for hours, but I must move on…….

I returned to Eau Claire after a wonderful summer at home in Ireland to a childless house, feeling very lonely. Husband said, “Why don’t we call into the pet store and look at puppies?” I had been trying to talk him into a puppy for over a year. Imagine my surprise!!! Well we went to the shop and saw the cutest puppy. Not wanting to rush into anything we went away and thought about it for a few days. Three days later we returned to the shop, a young couple was playing with our chosen puppy. As we waited I noticed an apricot poodle puppy who had been reduced to sell. Husband referred to him as the “bargain bin puppy”. We asked to play with him while we waited. Well, he won our hearts and in a matter of hours was an irreplaceable member of our family. Once again I am experiencing total unconditional love. Such a gift.

Dilin’s Engagement:
The week before Christmas child number three and second son got engaged to his lovely girlfriend Katie! Such excitement! I am thrilled for them both. Katie is a lovely girl who has won all our hearts. Dilin went to her parents and formally asked permission to marry their daughter. Then he went to the jewelers and picked out the most beautiful ring. He took Katie to Irvine Park, known for its Christmas display and popped the question. I am so proud of him! Thankfully she said yes! They came back to the house and we popped a bottle of champagne. No wedding date set yet. But it looks like summer 2011.

Blogging etc.:
2009 saw the birth of my blog. Who would have thought I could have so much fun and meet so many lovely, supportive and kind people sitting at my desk!!! I ask myself on occasion “Why didn’t I do this sooner! “ The blogs I follow have not only entertained me but also given me the motivation to improve and keep writing. Whenever I feel I haven’t an idea in my head, I just have to go through my blog list, have a little read then !Voila! I'm ready to scribble words on a page. My blog and the wonderful supportive comments I have received have encouraged me to be brave and just take the chance! Nothing ventured, Nothing gained! Right.

Life in the Empty Nest:
In 2009 I realized my children flying the nest was not the end of the world. It was the end of a life I had known and loved for the past 28 years. But the family dynamic had changed. My children now have numerous commitments of their own. I can no longer expect them all home for birthdays, Christmas, Easter etc. This was a difficult transition for me. I have finally accepted the fact that they have work schedules, social commitments, in-laws and future in-laws requiring their attention. I am learning to bask in their happiness and discovered to my surprise that this too is good!

So with that I end my 2009 Highlights and pass the baton on to:

Write On
Dispatches from the Deise
Ten Lives and Second Chances
Crystal Jigsaw
Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Don't Open Till January!

I found an envelope addressed to myself tucked into the back cover of my Christmas journal/organizer. The following instructions written in bold letters: “Do not open until January 1, 2010.” I have no recollection of writing or sticking the envelope into the journal. I stared at the envelope, debating whether to open it or throw it in the fire. The fire option saving me the grief and disappointment of reading unfulfilled resolutions made twelve months earlier.

Bracing myself I opened the letter with some trepidation. I was taken aback. I had written two full pages. My first thought when I saw the length of the letter, oh no!!! Why do I do this to myself?

The first paragraph dealt with my morning writing. I indulged in a little air punching and skipping around, as I read my commitment to do my morning pages on a regular basis. I had accomplished this one. With a smile on my face and feeling euphoric, I moved onto paragraph two. No air punching here. I expressed a desire to write more letters. Not to rely on email or texting. I noted how much more exciting it was to receive letters in the mail. Letter writing, a dying art is one I actually enjoy. A favorite pen moving across beautiful stationary. Sealing waxes monograms etc. Score so far, one and one.

Next, going to Florence was a dream of many years. I express frustration at the fact it is still an unfulfilled dream. Now I smile with self satisfaction because last summer I spent ten glorious days in Florence. Keeping a daily journal to record all the wonders and delights of my dream trip, my heart’s desire. I went on my own! Rented a beautiful little apartment in the historical centre and walked my feet off for ten days. I was able to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, walking at my own pace through art galleries and museums, soaking up the beauty and wonder. It was truly an amazing trip. Every time I think of my ten days in Florence it fills me with joyfulness and a smile insists on appearing and spreading across my face!!

I fell short in a few aspects I had set down in the 2009 letter. I was a bit disappointed in myself to be honest. Then I thought of the things I had accomplished. Things that I never imagined at the time of writing this letter. Facebook for one. Last January I knew nothing about facebook. I tentatively began navigating the world of facebook last May. I stumbled and fumbled but finally got the hang of it. I even have a decent number of friends. My next step was a blog. Another major learning experience, I think, I have gotten the hang of this phenomenon. From here I moved onto Twitter. Twitter is still an enigma to me. But I am determined to conquer the world of twitter in 2010. Quoting Scarlett, “So help me God!”

The time has come to write a new letter. This year’s letter will no doubt contain the usual things, eat healthier, lose a few pounds, exercise more, world peace etc. My focus for 2010 is to concentrate on honing my writing skills. Taking classes and attending a workshop or two. Expand my blog following. Hitting the double digit would be awesome! More than awesome! Submit a piece or two to a contest or a magazine. Get something in print.

All going well, when I open the letter next January I will be jigging around with delight!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ground Watching

Monday morning, time to leave the house and head back to work. My Christmas break was now a thing of the past. I was about to turn off the radio, when the newscaster informed me that it was -15degrees outside!! That is minus 15 Fahrenheit which translates to minus 26 Celsius. The same newscaster stressed to cover all exposed skin, in an effort to avoid frostbite. With a shudder I turned off the radio and headed to the mudroom/utility room. For the next five minutes, literally 5 minutes, I proceeded to pile on layers of clothes. There was the scarf to go under the coat. Next the woolen socks and fur lined boots. Then came the extra sweater, the hat, another scarf over the hat, the down filled ankle length coat, the tinsulated gloves followed by fur lined mittens. By this time I was breathless and exhausted! Not mention twice the width!

I stood looking out the glass pane of my back door, pondering the pros and cons of actually venturing out to brave the elements. To be honest the cons outweighed the pros…I don’t think there is a job that pays enough to entice the likes of me, with my thin Irish blood to endure such arctic conditions. I firmly believe even polar bears would shiver in this piercing weather. But that annoying little voice in my head insisted, since it was my first day back after the Christmas holidays, it would be very bad form not make the extreme effort. According to the long term forecast the temperatures are going to deteriorate as the week progresses. How long could I justify staying home. Annoying that voice!!!

I only live two blocks from my campus office and so I walk to work. A beautiful walk that is too short on late spring and autumn days. This same walk becomes a tortuous endless slog against the harshness of the winter wind. Often bringing me to tears with the pain and sting of the cold. I made my way down the street, head down, not only for added protection to the face, but to watch my step. Fearing I would take another spill, which I have a tendency to do on a regular basis this time of year. Looking up only to avoid collision when passing another eejit walking about in this weather. This is when it occurred to me that maybe I was not the only one who spends January looking at the footpath. I made a mental note to watch and see if this was the norm. I was surprised to notice, every person braving the footpath was looking down at their feet. Watching as they gingerly attempted to avoid ice patches and landing on their backsides. I passed a young couple walking on campus, conversing but not looking at one another. They too were looking down. I surmised this must be the standard posture for Wisconsin winters. I made a mental note to pay attention and observe when people began to look up and at one another again while walking about. Winter lasts for approximately six months here. So I guess it will be awhile before looking ahead is the norm. Till then there’s a lot of ground watching going on!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Night of Terror

A story written for my Creative Writing Class. Let me know what you think!

The telephone rang; she dashed to answer it before the noise woke the baby.
“Hello” there was silence at the other end.
“Hello hello is anyone there?” silence, “Who is this, who’s there?” she asked, as her eyes darted around the room. She heard what sounded like heavy breathing at the other end of the telephone. “Oh grow up!” she said, as she slammed down the phone. More crank calls, she thought. She turned about to go upstairs and check on the baby. When the silence was shattered again with insistent loud thumping and banging on the back door. It was late she wasn’t expecting anyone. No one ever came to the back door. She froze in her tracks. Apprehensiveness gripped her stomach. This was not right. What should she do?
“I know you’re in there.” said an unfamiliar harsh voice on the other side of the door.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“Open this door!” he shouted.
“Go away, I am calling the police.”
She was afraid now. She was alone in the house with the baby upstairs. Should she go up and get him, should she leave him sleep, what should she do? She froze on the step not able to move in one direction or the other. The male voice on the other side of the door became louder and more menacing.
"I know you’re in there, I’ll get you."

The banging became more rapid and aggressive. Her heart was racing, tears started to roll down her cheeks. Her palms became clammy and started to sweat. Her legs were trembling. She sank down on the step to gather herself trying to figure out what to do. She took a breath and noticed the silence, the shouting had stopped. Had he gone away? Sitting there on the step, a sigh releasing some of the tension escaped her. Was it over, was he gone. Just as she started to get up she heard the eerie teeth watering sound of metal cutting against metal at the window.
The window was open. There was only a screen between her and the shadow with the chilling laugh. She reached her hand around the corner and grabbed the phone. She couldn’t reach the bit of paper the number of the restaurant was on without him seeing her, so she dialed 911.

“Can I help you?” said a woman’s voice at the other end of the phone.
“Yes please, there's a man cutting the screen window with a knife trying to get in. I am scared I don’t know what to do.”
“What is your name?” the lady asked,
“Lucy, Lucy Harris” she replied.
“What is your address?”
“309 Hadley Road.”
“The police have been contacted Lucy and will be there any minute. Stay on the phone with me Lucy, keep talking to me.”
“Please hurry,” she whispered desperately,” I can see the knife cutting through the screen.”
“Are the lights on Lucy”?
“No I turned them off when he started shouting and banging at the backdoor.”
“That’s good Lucy, are you alone in the house.”
“No, my little brother's upstairs asleep.”
“Where are your parents Lucy?”
“They went out for dinner.”
“Where Lucy?”
“OK Lucy we will call them. What’s happening now Lucy?”
“The cutting noise has stopped, I hear sirens.”
“Your parents are on their way Lucy. Don’t open the door until they get there. They should arrive any minute. You are a very brave girl Lucy.”
Lucy started to cry.

A key turned in the door. She crouched behind the wall, holding her breath waiting. She saw the familiar shapes of her parents. Lucy ran to her mother throwing herself into her waiting arms, clinging to her as she sobbed. Relieved she was safe at last.
“What happened here tonight Lucy? You better have a good explanation for all this fuss” her father demanded.
Before Lucy could make any reply, a policeman said,
“We have had a number of incidents similar to this, sir. If it is alright with you I would like to ask Lucy a few questions.”
Finally all the questions were answered. The house was quiet. It had been a long night and Lucy was exhausted. Lucy’s mother wrapped her arm around her teenage daughter and led her up the stairs to her bed.