Storm crazy

Well it’s a wild Wednesday here in the Midwest. I started my day by nearly having my little car become airborne on the interstate. Yes it was a windy day.

Since taking this job I have become a weather watcher, I start my day checking the weather so I know when to grab my umbrella and when I will need a coat or when I might blow off the road or at a minimum need to use both hands to keep it on the road.

Tonight as I drove home I could feel the storm following me. I managed to stay ahead of it and with great anticipation looked forward to it . Oh how I love a storm! I am crazy for a good storm, the crack of the thunder, the strike of the lightning illuminating the sky and the pounding of the raindrops on the pavement or the rooftop if you can get a metal one. Tonight was a good one, you know the kind meteorologists live for, they can get out all their special effects and use them all.  The  storm rolls in slowly, the sky darkens and you feel the energy, the trees begin to blow and bend  in preparation for the storm to come. And then the raindrops begin to fall, gently at first, then building in intensity until it pours with no direction, left, straight, right. sometimes all three at once. And then the rhythmic thunder rolls begin.. It is natures symphony. Exquisite, glorious, powerful and unpredictable.

Now my dog is storm crazy too, but in a whole different way. He hates storms, he becomes a frantic, anxiety ridden beast. He cannot sit still,  the storms cause the turmoil and urgency that can only be described as crazy fear. It nearly paralyzes him, it shakes him to his core. His heart races and his breathing is labored, he gasps for air and his bloodshot eyes dart around the house, as if to say ” surely you hear this, we must take cover!” And as his fear and loathing reach a fever pitch, there is no slowing him down, he cannot be calmed, or soothed or petted. He runs around the house, up and down the stairs as if he is warning us all of dangers we cannot fathom. What would we do without our dog? He sits at the top of the stairs guarding my door, since I refuse to take cover or heed his warnings. He is a good dog and storm crazy is just one of his personas.  I have tried medication, bio feedback, thundershirts, putting him in the garage, everything and anything. Nothing works, well one thing works, the backseat of a car.  An older model Honda Civic.  He can be nearly ballistic and you walk him to the garage and open the door of his chariot and he hops in, like the rock star he is.. in the back seat. His water and food are there and he calms within minutes and as he does he lies down to sleep finally. The door is left ajar, but he never exits unless the door is opened for him. you know like royalty.  Yes he is storm crazy, or maybe just crazy.

As my head hits the pillow and the storm keeps rolling, I think I have never heard anything more peaceful. So embrace the power and majesty of the storm and respect it.

Until Next Time,

LJ

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Performance Art

The location was a Catholic School on Cleaver Street in Chicago. As we pulled up to the roundabout in front there was a simple folding chair with a balloon indicating the direction inside. The building itself had Polish writing etched in stone above the entrance. The building had half blue windows as was the norm back in the day. The building numbers were slightly askew and in need of a little TLC. We parked the car and stepped onto an uneven cement sidewalk. It was a beautiful evening , and was about to become unforgettable.

We walked in the doors and entered the building. The box office was to the left, and a big staircase with a band at the top of  stairs on the landing. The music was good and reverberating off of the high ceiling and cement walls. The were an eclectic group, called Gravy Train I think.

As we stood at the bottom of the stairs, I spied a tall thin woman with dark hair gingerly coming down the steps, to greet my guy, an old friend from years gone by. It was lovely to witness such enduring friendship.

After we got our tickets we waited in a smallish area for seating to begin for the ” Passion of the Matchstick Girl”, the performance we had driven 3 hours to see. At promptly 750 we were let into the performance room, we were shown to our seats and instantly I began to absorb the scene.

This was my first time at a performance like this, I was beyond excited. As the production begun, they transformed the cement floors into the forest, artfully pulling us into the performance, it was all around us.  The actors were powerful in their intensity, laser focused on each individual object. I could not take my eyes off the “chestnut girl’ or ” the blue lipped woman with the pout”. This was the overture to the production.

The performance that followed was unique, beautiful, soulful, bewitching and enthralling. Trying to follow was an exercise of love. There were so many unusual nuances to this performance and overflowing creativity. Voices that sounded as if they were directly from Heaven or some other non earthly plane. The diligent butcher, the raucous New Years Eve Party (that we only get a fleeting glimpse of ), the clear terrifying masks of the angelic yet intense characters and the continual darkness and light of the human plight.

The only symbolism I could garner from the performance ( as I was too entwined in it to analyze or search for meaning) was that for me the butcher and the subsequent meat could symbolize the rawness of death and loss while the cooking of the meat and serving it to the guests could be a demonstration that even from something as sad as death comes goodness and nourishment.

Thank you to Shawna Franks and Dado for bringing this to life, Thank you for allowing us to share in your magic.

For those of you who didn’t get to see, you missed out. For those of us who did, we were honored.

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

 

100% cotton & IKEA

I was in Minneapolis the other day, more specifically Eagan. I was told there was a mall there, I was also told there was an IKEA, this was not a dilemma. IKEA every time.

It’s the therapy of wandering aimlessly ( usually not following the arrows on the floor in the right direction) and just perusing. I will usually buy a few things, my favorite areas are usually anything kitchen or bedroom.

This weeks therapy began with lunch first. There is something almost military about the tray service, but it’s the design. The efficient, functional design that sucks me in every time. I always look at the menu, priced effective and higher grade cafeteria food. I am partial to the Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam. Its simply delish. My dessert was cream cake with raspberry and marzipan. I only allowed myself a few bites, but it was divine. I then proceeded onto the showroom floor.

It’s basically a maze and you wander through preset rooms to give you ideas, then move on to the actual purchasing of the items to create your dream room.  All very cost-effective and oddly inspiring at the same time.

I always admire the bedding, specifically the comforters, weird I know. But they have many kinds, cool, warm, warmer, extra warm… something for everyone. And duvet covers, something for everyone. If you are a purest you may just enjoy the natural colored comforter, but if you want to spice it up, they have choices.  This trip I was alone no company, so I could really investigate these comforters, that I always tell myself I am going to buy one day.  Today was the day. I picked my down comforter from the bin, it was neatly rolled up and packaged in plastic. I know enticing right? I couldn’t wait to get home and crawl into bed with my new comforter.

There is an exquisite pleasure in the first opening a new comforter. The crunchy sound it makes when you open it and fluff it.The sound of real 100% cotton. Yes, it has a sound. So today I ceremoniously unrolled the comforter and shook it out and watched the feathers begin to plump. The tag says it takes 3-4 days to reach it’s full potential. Okay, maybe it didn’t say potential but you know what I mean maximum plumpness.. I think of it like a turbo version of those towels we buy as kids to watch them grow. My comforter is growing before my eyes.

I truly love my bed, it’s an old beat up thing, but its a haven to me. My respite from the world, and you can’t sink into the bed without the right comforter. Down is it for me. Fluffy and comfy and aaahh.

I truly love the simple pleasures in life, a cozy home, a comfy bed, people I love, a good book, coffee, music and theatre.

Sometimes all in one room.

Until Next Time,

LJ

April Snow

Today I headed out for a business meeting, final destination Eagan, MN. Current location Decorah, IA.

I still have  2.5 hours to go. I will tackle it early in the morning. But today’s journey.. Treacherous to say the least.

I left my home with the grand scheme of arriving with a bit of time to spare, maybe check out the mall I have heard so much about. (Yes, I am an optimist) Either Mother Nature has peeked in my wallet or she just knows better. Either way she intervened in a big way.

First I should say I picked the route that was shorter and was predicted to be on the outer edge of the storm front. Apparently it turned, unbeknownst to me. So I should say this route is also the scenic route. I’m sure it is when it isn’t a blizzard. It started as a light spring rain, I continued on the drive. I can do this, no problem. About 20 minutes later somewhere around the Trappist Monastery, it turned to sleet and began freezing and things got worse. I stopped for supplies in the event I should get stuck, I laughingly told the clerk at the Casey’s. Back on the road I went.

Now, I was blindly following my GPS and it was taking me all over the place. Two lane roads that haven’t seen a plow in years. So finally I arrived on a road with a number, and when the GPS tried to direct me to yet another snow packed road, I said “No!” And decided no matter what I was sticking with the paved and semi plowed road. It had now turned to snow, big thick heavy, wet snow on an already iced roadway.  I went 20-30 miles per hour for 2.5 hours.

As I drove on through the silence, I will say one thing I was alert. I couldn’t see the edge of the road or the line down the middle. I drove with my flashers on and my lights on high and was hyper aware of the others on the road, all the while being strangely comforted when a random vehicle passed. I wasn’t alone. But yet at other moments it felt like I was in a bad winter movie. I pressed on.

Eventually , I saw a sign of life, I was looking for a gas station, any gas station. And then it appeared like a beacon in the blizzard “McDonald’s 4 miles ahead” Civilization ahead! Surely, they have a Casey’s! They did.

I stopped at the Casey’s and filled up, chatted with the clerk’s about the prognosis for up the road, they suggested I get a room and hunker down. It was snowing so hard at that point, I made the decision to stop for the day at 230. I found a room and checked in. Of course it slowed down as soon as I paid, and I can see the cars zooming along the highway just fine from my room, but I am safe and warm.

After an hour or so, I decided to venture out and find something to eat. I drove the short distance into “town” and everything had these handwritten signs indicating “closed due to weather”. I was disappointed as I wanted some comfort food. I returned up the road and there it was .. the beacon, the red “M” signaling me.. We are open.. of course you are… I pulled into the drive through lane ( that i had just listened to Jim Gaffigan comment on..) and ordered my meal for the evening.

And I was grateful, I was starving. I returned to the hotel and pondered swimming, but instead I drank tea, ate fruit loops and watched a Lifetime movie…or two.

And now I rest and prepare for tomorrow’s journey, with sunny skies and high temps of 48 wonderful warm degrees ( it is Iowa in April).

Melt away.

Until Next Time,

LJ

 

Laundryland

I loathe the laundry mat. However, it provides a useful function when the washer won’t spin.

I put my clothes in an overpriced, foul-smelling clothes container. I have a super sniffy nose ( as my grandson always tells me) and I can smell mildew a mile away.

First you load up all your “stuff”, channeling George Carlin now.. and put it in the car. Load up the supplies, it’s an outing after all. Book, tablet, phone. I can’t get bored. Then I drive to the local 24 hour one, but first I google to see if I have other options, I don’t. It’s not the best but there are definitely worst ones.

It’s in a little college neighborhood dotted with bars and restaurants. It was gloomy day today so, I scored a mostly empty laundry mat..Always a plus..

Just me and one young kid about 12 or so and the tall lanky boy man who as taking a picture of the washer that ripped him off when I arrived.  He asked me if I knew the number for the laundry mat, he wanted his money back. Got to the last quarter and it wouldn’t take his money or return what he had fed it.

The scourge of the laundry. Move your “stuff” after it’s all settled in. So he is scattered all over the laundry mat, wherever he could find a machine big enough, the more he could pack in the better.

Tall guy, shadow of a beard, knitted beanie on his head.. green all cotton coat dressed down look, but expensive phone and car.  College student perhaps?

A TV is on and you can barely hear it over the hum, whirl and spin of the washers.  But you can look at if you wish. I prefer to use the free internet here at the “neighborhood Laundry”. It’s your usual laundryland appearance, numerous “do not use” signs taped to dryers and washers, the vending machine of supplies which I adore because they are so 1950, a candy/chips machine and a soda machine.

The decor is early yard sale, or restaurant closing, take your pick. Two blue tables, each with three threadbare chairs. A couple of tables to fold or sit on, depending who you are and two chairs that no one sits on, because the stains ar far too many and unidentifiable. A unisex bathroom that was…remarkably clean.

This laundry actually has an attendant during the day, so that’s a plus. And there is the mandatory bulletin board covered with business cards , mostly from small business owners looking for work or people who want to save your soul.

So after the skinny laundry dude took a picture of the washer to send off to the owner ( I would like to know how that photo proves he lost money) but he seemed confident. He actually got someone on the phone who assured him they would return his money. I hope so, he went to a lot of effort to make contact with them. When his clothes are done he packs them in two oversized black garbage bags and loads up his car.

Its drying time.  8 minutes for a quarter, fastest 8 minutes ever. I continue to feed my four dryers and dine on my dinner of orange crush and sun chips. Garden salsa so it’s like almost veggies.

Some patrons actually bring hangers, there is a gentleman hanging every T-shirt on a hanger. Me, I am a folder, with military precision. Yes, there is a cadence.. and things that need hangers, get folded and placed on the top of the basket.

As I begin my folding, a man about 80 years old wearing a green carhart jacket and a stocking cap topped off by a skull scarf around his neck begins a conversation, asking if I think he should use hot water because the warm doesn’t really feel warm. I assure him he should use hot, because even hot isn’t very hot.  It is followed by a detailed description of why he needs it to get something real clean. Seems he walks his landlady’s  dog because she can’t, and he got into something really messy and stinky. As he stands there chatting away about the Hawkeye jacket the dog wears, argyle he says. Real nice, oh he’s in the car, I will go get him so you can meet him, and off he goes.  He comes back with this bundle of fluff wearing a bears jacket this time, because his Hawkeye one is dirty. He is a sweetie, and the man is so proud to show him off. And he is taking really good care of him.

I pack up my laundry and load the car and he wishes me good luck with my doggie, who is waiting in the car.

Another day in Laundryland.

Until Next Time,

LJ

Blue eye shadow

Yesterday i stopped to fill My gas tank and get a beverage for the drive home. Sitting at a table in the luncheonette area of this Midwestern College town gas and eat sits and elderly woman Best guess is she is in her late 70’s but not really sure as time can play tricks on us. I notice her at first because she was holding a handheld mirror up to her face and all I could think is Snow White, Mirror-Mirror.

She is very tiny, and dressed in fairly trendy youthful clothes, she is wearing pants that are like cargo pants with the strings at the bottom. Weathered face and a short gray pixie. On the table in front of her lies her purse. It is on its side with a few of the belongings falling out onto the table. Her keys are on the table and next to them her makeup bag.

It was the mirror that first caught my eye, it was turquoise and hand-held, smallish in nature and she was staring intently into it, applying with ease her vibrant blue eyeshadow.

As she gently swipes the metallic blue powder across her well weathered eyelid, it clings to every groove and lights up her pale aged face. She applies with the deftness of a lifetime, she could do this with her eyes closed. Her hands shake a bit but she is an expert. She continues to apply her makeup, she grabs the mirror and holds it very close to her eyes and begins to painstakingly apply mascara to each eye. Her hands are shaking and she is attempting to apply lash by lash. Until each eye is fully coated. She finishes with red lipstick of course, what aging screen siren wouldn’t? As she carefully applies two coats of bright red lipstick and puckering to provide even coverage for each lip. She fluffs her hair and is pleased with the final look, seemingly winking at her reflection.

She was engraved in my brain as I drove home, still taking that care with her appearance, putting on her face, enhancing the outward beauty that remains. But it reconfirmed to me that while outward beauty is often the first thing we see, it is that inward beauty that really shines in life.

Our outward beauty, the glowing mask of youth has a limited lifespan, so develop your inner beauty and you will remain radiant all of your life.

Until Next time,

LJ

 

Hockey Fan

I am an ECHL Hockey Fan and the Mallards are my team. Tonight I watched the last Quad City Mallards game and was filled with emotion. They have given us so much, and its not all about winning.

The franchise owner has decided to dissolve the team for financial reasons. Whatever the reason its a punch in the gut.

The Mallards are so much more than a hockey team. They made us look forward to Winter weekends. They filled us with hope. Every game. They make us yell and cheer and just plain have a blast.

I love hockey. I went to my first game about 5 years ago… one period and I was hooked. Forever. The energy, the passion, the talent and yes the fights. Filled with with excitement every weekend.

This team has been part of our landscape for over 20 years, I am sad to see them go.  Did we have standing room only crowds? Nope, But we did have family Fridays, $2 beer and hot dogs. We have hot dog races on the ice, we have bubble battles, we have dance offs ,we have kiss cams and couples of the game, and we have fun. Big fun. in the entertainment genre the Mallards never disappoint. No we don’t always win, but when we do….woo wee!

But isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Love them good or bad.. All in.

Tonight was the perfect send off for our current team, the names float in an out of the jerseys some we keep longer than others, some mean more to our hearts than others. We marvel as they take hit after hit and sometimes crawl off the ice only to appear in the next game seemingly unscathed. I have seen pucks to the neck and fights that I wish went on longer. I have rejoiced when they send an opposing player to the penalty box or better yet out of the game. I have yelled and screamed at unfair calls and loved every win.

Hockey is an acquired taste, my first game I was an observer, the third game I had a cowbell, tonight a jersey. I have progressed into a full blown hockey fan. I share the games with my family and one by one we have come into the fold. Tonight, my youngest granddaughter was ringing the cowbell and enjoying the goals, my grandsons were yelling along with their sister who is usually very reserved. She screamed her heart out. And me, vocal as usual.  No holding back, our entire family.

This is what hockey does, it unleashes us, it allows us to believe, it allow us to release. With a beer and hot dog on a Friday/Saturday night. It’s the best.

So proud. Thank you for the fun, thank you for the memories. You are the best. Win or lose.

Until Next Time,

LJ

Easter

Happy Easter! Whether you believe in Resurrection or fertility Gods named Ishtar, or Easter bunnies and Peeps use this day to rejoice.

Put aside differences and rejoice in our beautiful world, Spring is coming, new green plants are pushing through cold winter soil, which to me is always a miracle and a joy to behold, it makes me believe in the future and the consistency of life.

Share some time with your family, get dressed up, have an Easter Egg Hunt, watch Alice Cooper son of a pastor in Jesus Christ Superstar, whatever make your own tradition. And Rejoice in it.

I remember being a kid and on Easter we got dressed up, went to church, and then we went to Bishop’s that was Dad’s big thing, we went out to eat. My favorite Easter was sometime in the early 70’s my Easter dress was seafoam green and white, it had belled sleeves with a small bow at the elbow, a pleated skirt and some kind of overlay on the sleeves with flowers. That was the year mom let me pick out my own shoes and I got to wear pantyhose for the first time.  I chose black patent leather track shoes. They were the coolest, not so much with the dress, but I love my patent leather shoes, still do. My hair was trying to grow out for the first time from a pixie and I had these bobby-pins holding back my bangs.  The beginnings of my love of clothes and shoes coupled with trying to work towards independence.

Our Easter meal was at Bishop’s no questions.  It was this glorified buffet place, super trendy at the time. I loved Bishop’s it was this magical place, we ate out about once a year. So Bishop’s was kinda of magical. The trays that whizzed along the serving line, the myriad of food choices and pie. That chocolate Ambrosia pie (still available at Hyvee) was the highlight of the meal. That and the table lights for service. Those were cool and discreet, just flip on your table light and the staff would see to your needs, so of course we played with the lights when we often needed nothing.

On your way out, you would pickup a balloon with little cardboard feet attached which my brother and I would often use as weapons of sibling play. We would usually end our day by rehiding any plastic eggs we had received and searching for them endlessly. This is what my youngest grandson asked for today, an egg hunt. He must be an old soul.

That was our tradition, get out there and make yours! Happy Easter however you celebrate!

Until Next Time,

LJ

The Bench

A few years ago I began a relationship with a man from Hampton, Illinois. For those of you who don’t know it’s a small village located along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi steeped with history and heritage.

Prior to meeting him, I spent lots of time riding my bike on the bike path and cruising through Hampton was one of my favorite routes. Beautiful old houses a pretty little riverfront, even a bench chained to a tree. The bench is what gave me the most wonderment. Who did it belong to? Why was it chained? These were the burning questions running through my brain.

Sometimes life comes around and you get answers, the house I loved so much? His Grandma’s she lived to be 103. The bench, simply stated “Uncle Jack’s bench” Now when I first asked  I had no idea who this “Uncle Jack” was but he had a bench.

And everyone knew that was his bench.

I finally met Jack one warm summer day, about 5 years ago. He was an older gentleman, commanding, generous, witty, simply charming and he made me laugh. We had dinner with his family and friends. It was a lively gathering and it was obvious what a close family they were and Jack the patriarch. He was seated at the head of the table leading us all through the meal and the conversations. He was beloved. After dinner we moved to the front porch, and chatted. The entire family was there and they drifted in and out of the conversations taking place on the porch. The porch has white rocking chairs and a few benches and you can catch a breeze from the river sitting there in the late afternoon. Just part of what makes Hampton quaint. And Jack was part of that history and quaintness.

I saw Jack many times walking with his cane down to his beloved bench watching the river flow by, or out watering his flowers he always seemed to have a mission and he never stopped moving, even if very slowly.

I never knew young Jack, I met him this past Thursday as we gathered to celebrate his life. The video presentation and the photos at the celebration were a different Jack. A young, strong soldier, a new husband with his dainty bride, a robust father, a grandpa and a great grandpa. I met an Uncle, a Brother-in-law, a pillar of the village, a keeper of the history, a lover of the spot in the river where Hampton sits, an educator of many and a friend to all.

Jack to me was a lot like that bench, an anchor in a beautiful place, strong, resilient and welcoming. Like sunrise and sunset, Jack is a constant, his silhouette will be forever etched along the banks of the Mississippi.

It was good to know you.

Until Next Time,

LJ

Pet Friendly

Hello Readers! No I didn’t vanish just have been consumed with the arduous painful task of decision-making. I have made a conscious decision to  move. Yes, because it is a great way to clear out unneeded stuff and fun. Okay maybe not the second half. Moving is never fun.

This will be the 3rd move since 2015. All personal choice. As I inch closer to retirement eligible ( doesn’t mean I will) I need to live more simply. I am starting with housing, the rest will follow.

So I began the search. I am not looking for perfection but I do have some requirements. The biggest hurdle I have is pet friendly. I have a twelve year-old Border Collie, he goes where I go, no exceptions. To say it is difficult to find a decent rental that is pet friendly and doesn’t charge a prohibitive pet fee is difficult to say the least. I find the area where I live to be very unaccomodating in that arena.

It is amazing to me the number of properties that sit empty either due to a no pet rule or elevated rent. None the less I press on with my search. I have been actively looking for about 3 months and the challenges I have encountered are pet friendly, but that is actually topped by non responsive companies or owners. To those that do reach out, I say thank you. To those that do not, you are passing by a great tenant.  I have rented my entire adult life, I care for my home as if I did own it. I fix things, paint things and return my domicile back to the owner, in move in shape. Pride in renting.

I have done drive by’s of addresses that from the images look amazing only to find out, photos are crafted by an artist of illusion who turns mediocre into fabulous through the magic of lighting and angle. Or it is such a hovel that mice wont live there.  I have visited some that are affordable and unique, but not pet friendly. I have called even when it says not pet friendly, just to be sure. I have been disappointed by pet friendly cats only. I have been informed my dog is too large, if only he weighed 35 lbs or less, leaving me to wonder if they have weight limits on people too. I have been lured by a great place only to have the excessive fees revealed in passing at the end of the visit in a casual way as if it was simply a mention.

And still I persist ( I am a diehard ) I never give up. I have viewed no character complexes, crazy old houses with uniqueness overflowing, houses with tenants still in them who didn’t get the memo and picked up nothing, I literally walked through a home kicking my way through the clothes and underwear on the floor. Nice showing.  Lucky I have vision for what could be!

Another obstacle is flexibility in showing times. I work an hour from where I live and don’t get home till after 6. Most owners are not flexible and definitely do not show on weekends. I am as flexible as I can be with my schedule and they need to be flexible too, after all you want to rent it right?

I am a believer, I will find the right place at the right time, I just hope it’s soon, my lease is ending soon. Plus, anyone who loves toting boxes send me an PM.

Until next time,

LJ