NOT THE BUCKET LIST – Rich Paschall

Things To Do, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have a “bucket list.” You know, things you must do before you “kick the bucket.” That is to say before you die. Such lists seem to be popular with middle-aged and older people. Younger people may not give this much thought, as they are more likely to believe there is plenty of time left to do things.

Domed stadium, natural grass, Miller Park

If you have a list, what do you have on it?  Do you want to visit all the MLB stadiums? NFL stadiums? NBA arenas? Do you want to climb mountains? Perhaps Mount Everest holds an allure. Perhaps you want to skydive or water ski.

Maybe you want to swim with the dolphins, or watch the humpbacked whales come out of the ocean? Perhaps you wish to travel. London? Paris? Rome? Far East? The Middle East? Do you want to go to the islands of the Caribbean or the South Pacific?

In London with a friend

It may not be too late to learn a language, take a wine tasing course or learn to paint (pictures, not houses).  Maybe you want to run a marathon. You could try for every state. Maybe you want to run with the bulls. I hope you are fast. Maybe you want to visit famous places close to home. You could travel to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls or the monuments of Washington, DC.

I guess if we thought about it enough, we could put down hundreds of ideas.  If you made a list, how would you prioritize them? Would you do the easiest to complete first, or start with the hardest? Time, health and financial resources could play into all of your decisions.

Grand Canyon

I don’t have a bucket list, nor do I feel the need to make one. I don’t wish to have a list of things I must accomplish. What if I didn’t finish them all? Was life a failure? What if I did finish them? Do I just wait around after that for the grim reaper?

Of course, there are things I would like to do. They are not bucket list items, just things I would like to accomplish if time and resources allow. I have eliminated the ambitious running around the country or around the world ideas. Anything that is too arduous is out.

Selestat, France

If you have any kind of chronic pain, you immediately cross items off the list as not worth the time and aggravation. If you have a plate and 8 screws in your spine, roller coasters and bungee jumping are not things you will consider if you still have your sanity. There are limitations to what the human body will put up with at certain stages of life.

This year I decided on something I should do that had crossed my mind before. There just was no more putting it off. The opportunity to get away was at hand and all I needed was the go-ahead from my destination hosts. When the arrangements were complete I was off to the destination that had moved to the top of my list of places to go. Uxbridge, MA!

Downtown Uxbridge

If you have been following SERENDIPITY for very long, then you have seen plenty of photos of Uxbridge from Marilyn and Garry Armstrong. Marilyn is our editor, photographer, publisher, sage and idea guru. I dropped in on SERENDIPITY in 2013 with a short story, and Marilyn has let me hang around ever since. I am here on Sundays and I sneak in an extra article from time to time on another day.

The interesting thing about the internet is you can contribute articles from anywhere. While Marilyn and Garry are outside the Boston area, I am in Chicago. You may be surprised to learn that prior to this year, we had never met. So Uxbridge became my destination of choice.

My hosts: Garry, Duke, Marilyn

We were going to tour the area and visit many of the spots I had seen before on the blog. The weather held other ideas for us. We were in the pattern of daily ran and spent much of the time indoors. As it turns out, that was just fine. We never ran out of things to talk about. After five and a half years of articles, comments and emails there were plenty of topics to discuss. It was just a couple of days before my trip in early June that I heard Marilyn’s voice for the first time. We were coordinating our arrangements by phone. In the days ahead, we had a lot of time to talk.

With a very small window of opportunity, we headed out to grab a few pictures. The rain held off for a few moments allowing us our touristy pictures. Then it was back inside to our regular greeters, the three dogs.

Cameras at the ready

Nighttime gave us the opportunity to view Westerns we had discussed back and forth in comments and emails. This included one of the Armstrongs’ favorites, Rustlers’ Rhapsody. It is an homage to the great B-movies of a bygone era. It’s a good cast and wacky entertainment. I will get the opportunity to see this send-up again and again as I was sent home with a copy.

It was the opportune moment to meet friends at the other side of the internet universe. I don’t know if I will ever make it back to Uxbridge, but it was on this year’s To Do List and it got done.

I make a careful distinction between things I want to do and a “bucket list.” I have no crazy ideas or personal challenges, just a desire to visit friends when I can. It does not matter where they are in the world. If I can make the trip, then it becomes the next adventure.

Check out this adventure’s photo gallery at Sunday Night Blog: A Visit To Uxbridge

ADVENTURES DU JOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Adventure

Life is a pure adventure. How can it not be?

First awakened by barking dogs (they think we’ve slept more than enough and we should get up and play with them or at the least, give them something to eat!) … and then the doctor’s office (recorded) called to remind Garry (me, because Garry doesn’t “do” phones) he has an appointment — next Friday by which time I’ll have completely forgotten the call.

Snow

And just when I had one leg in my pants, a call from the oil company that they’d be at the house in less than 5 minutes so I should get the dogs in the house. I hopped down the hall and told Garry (who hates being interrupted while peeing) that we have to get the dogs inside because the oil truck is on the way.

Final December Friday – the landing Chickadee

A call from my son who wants to know if I have any small potatoes, good for soup (will real but microwaveable potatoes do? I have them).

Wondering if I can make a lamb curry without raisins. Writing letters to old photographers to see if anyone has a second-hand (but sturdy, with a ball head) tripod that will hold a medium heavy camera with a long, 2-pound lens because I think all my pain and agony is related to trying to support that camera and lens for hours every day.

Yes, life is an adventure.

It starts with murderous thoughts of barking dogs, even more murderous thoughts of early morning recorded messages which are a week too early to be useful while wondering how I’m going to pay for the oil. I think maybe they do know something I don’t know. They like to deliver before snows. Driveways in the snow get slippery. Sliding oil trucks are huge and heavy and make a godawful mess of what we humorously call “the backyard.”

Oil prices have been dropping. Maybe it won’t be so bad. I have not looked at the bill. I’m afraid.

A quick read of today’s “news” of what our Great Leader is doing. Oh yuck.

The birds have been hitting the feeder like a plague of locusts. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean they know something I don’t know, like the big rainstorm on its way won’t be rain but something much whiter.  I hope at least snow remains white even though it’s racist. Medium tan or brown snow would be icky and the photographs wouldn’t look as classy.

So that’s it. Adventures du jour. Shortly, we are off to see The Kid.  I have to remember to bring the potatoes.

REPELLING THE BRIDGE – Marilyn Armstrong

SURVIVING JONES INLET IN A VERY SMALL SAILBOAT

Gwaihir, my 16-foot Soling was a doughty sloop. Built of fiberglass, aluminum and a bit of teak for deck, rails, and hatch, she lived in my basement through the off-season. I lovingly painted her hull and lavished layers of varnish on her brightwork.

I co-owned the little boat with a moody guy who lived on a shallow canal on the south shore. A Soling is easily launched from a trailer, but it was convenient to keep her in the water. If the tide was with us we could sail. Sometimes, even with the centerboard up, with a draft of just 16 inches, there wasn’t enough water at low tide to go anywhere without getting stuck. So we waited for the tide to turn.

My husband had grown up on the water, had his own sailboat from childhood. He was completely unafraid of the ocean. Bad weather, good weather, it didn’t matter. He loved sailing.

A drawbridge spanned Sloop Channel under which you had to sail to get to the Atlantic Ocean. Our little boat was just a bit too tall to go under the bridge if it were closed, but to get the bridge opened, you had to make an appointment and you had better be on time. If you were in a sailboat and hadn’t lowered your mast, you could not sail under the bridge. You had to lower your mainsail and use your outboard motor. Our little boat’s mast was just 27 feet, but it was a foot and a half too high.

There are strong tides in Sloop Channel. It can be hard to navigate, especially under sail. Moreover, a 16-foot centerboard sailboat is not ocean-worthy. Maybe if the ocean is flat, it might be “doable,” but it would never be a good idea. Each time my husband insisted we sail out to the ocean, I spent the voyage with my heart pounding hoping we didn’t become a statistic, a cautionary tale of poor judgment on the sea.

Did I mention that my son,  a toddler, was with us? Did that deter my husband, his father? It did not. His father had sailed the family boat through the eye of Hurricane Carol with him and his sister aboard. He was not about to be deterred. By anything.

This day, we planned to drop the main and use the outboard to power us under the drawbridge. We hadn’t made an appointment, so the bridge wasn’t going up. Too bad. That was my favorite moment when they stopped traffic in two directions so our little sailboat could pass beneath.

This day was beautiful with a brisk following breeze. The tide with us. We skimmed smartly over the water towards the bridge.

“Uh, Jeff? Shouldn’t we drop the mainsail? The bridge is coming up awfully fast … really … look … it’s right there.”

By the time the words were out of my mouth, Jeffrey bellowed the immortal words every sailor wants to hear: “PREPARE TO REPEL BRIDGE!”

The bridge was on us. I was at the front fending off the bridge with a fiberglass boat hook, while our captain tried to start the outboard and simultaneously drop the mast before it snapped.

Sunrise Rockport

Fortunately, he dropped the main first and started the engine next. We got a little banged up, hitting the cement pylons as we bounced under the bridge. No problem. We still had a mast.

Eventually, the engine came to life and we had power, sort of.

I had successfully repelled the bridge. On this day, the ocean held no terror. I had fended off a bridge. I had no more adrenaline with which to be afraid. It was just another sunny day on the Atlantic Ocean.

FUN AND EASY WEEKEND TRIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I just heard about a fun and easy new way to take a 3-day weekend trip. I don’t travel very often for one simple reason – I hate the planning process. Too many choices! So much research! Too many logistics and details!

A company called “Pack Up & Go”  (https://www.phillymagicgardens.org) has solved this problem for everyone. Not only do they do all the planning for you, but they add an exciting element of surprise to the enterprise.

My son, David, and his fiancé, Katie, recently used this service and had a wonderful experience. Here’s how this service works. You give the basic parameters for the trip, like budget and how far you are willing to travel. Also where you have been recently so they don’t send you there again. Then you decide if you primarily want action, relaxation or culture on your weekend.

The main part of the Pack Up & Go questionnaire narrows down your interests and preferences, for food, entertainment and activities. For example, do you prefer fine dining or hole in the wall restaurants? Vineyards or breweries, or neither? Do you like to go to museums and galleries, historical sites, parks and nature, all of the above? Do you like to shop? Flea market or thrift shop?

You also have to list your favorite forms of entertainment, like live music, dancing and clubs, theater, movies, comedy clubs, etc.

David and Katie decided to embrace the surprise element of the service, so they didn’t open their package of trip information until the day of the trip. In case you choose to be surprised on the day of your trip, the service gives you packing tips in advance to prepare you for the weather where you’re going and for any activities that need clothing or equipment, like swimming, hiking or tennis.

David and Katie live in northern Connecticut. When they finally opened their travel package they discovered that they were being sent on a four-hour drive to Philadelphia. The hotel they were sent to was fabulous and they loved the surrounding area. They were also pleased to find that their package didn’t just include suggestions about things to do or places to eat, which was what they expected. It turns out that all the decisions are made for you so you just have to relax and follow your itinerary. The package contained dinner reservations and tickets for one show each night!

The first night they were sent to a theater production of “Noises Off”, a slapstick comedy which they loved. David said it was laugh out loud funny. The next night they went to a comedy club with top-notch performers. And David is an aficionado of Comedy Central, so he knows good comedy. These were too excellent choices for David and Katie.

The restaurant choices were just as spot on. One of the restaurants they were sent to is owned by an Iron Chef from the Food Network, Jose Garce. Iron Chef is one of David and Katie’s favorite shows, so they knew about Garce and were thrilled to be going to his restaurant. It was a fantastic meal and they might never have found the restaurant on their own.

For the afternoons, the package included suggestions for lunches and for activities in the area. David and Katie ended up going to an amazing, unusual and unique ‘museum’. It is an indoor and outdoor space encompassing several rooms and courtyards. They are all covered, from ceiling to floor, in mosaic art, sculptures and other design elements, like bicycle wheels and colored bottles. As you walk through the spaces, you are literally surrounded by the art.

This magical place is called “Philadelphia’s Magic Garden”.  https://www.phillymagicgardens.org.  It took the artist fourteen years to complete it! I wish I had seen it in person, but David’s photos are phenomenal (so are the ones on the website). The You Tube videos on the website are also worth watching. They allow you to immerse yourself in the rooms and get the experience of what it feels like to be there in person.

We were all amazed at how appropriate and high quality the Pack Up & Go picks were. The package was really tailored to David and Katie and to their interests. I was very impressed.

I’ve never written a blog singing the praises of a particular product or company. But this seems like something that many readers could use and enjoy. So check out the website and treat yourself to a work free, stress free weekend away from home! Go for it!

MEANDERING THROUGH LIFE

I love posts about whether to take the traveled or less traveled path.

As if we get that choice. All paths are untraveled until we walk them.

Choices? When I was 18, I had a choice to go to Cape May and spend the summer with my previous boyfriend (good sex, bad everything else) or marry my first husband (meh sex, but great conversation and social life) including a real opportunity to never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.

1990 in Ireland

I went with the husband. It was what they now call “a jail-break marriage” and it worked surprisingly well. I wasn’t the only one who needed the jail break. He needed to break out of his prison too. We urgently needed to make a life. We might not have been the most passionate of lovers, but we were very fond of each other. We had tons of shared interests and many mutual friends. We liked the same books and loved history, cats, and dogs. We even had the same taste in furniture and houses. We got along well and what we lacked in fervor, we made  up for in affection and caring.

Somewhere in Ireland

We meandered along for 13 years and if he had not been an alcoholic and so terribly depressed all the time, we might still be together — and he might still be alive. I don’t know if the alcohol and the depression were linked, but probably were. Back then, these connections had not been made.They hadn’t invented Prozac and going into rehab wasn’t a “thing.” So we meandered along, had a son and a life. Garry was his best friend which is how Garry became Owen’s godfather and eventually, his stepfather. It isn’t as complicated as it sounds if you realize that we were all really good friends.

Most of my life has been one or another kind of meandering. Over the years, maybe a handful of distinct choices got made and I am happy with how they worked out, though are often times when I wonder how the other option might have gone.

In some other world, I made other choices. I’d love to chat with the other me and find out how it went. But — never was there an option to choose the “less traveled” or “more traveled” path. That’s a poem, not reality. When we need to choose, all paths are equally untraveled.

For most of us, there also comes a time when we get to say: “Okay world, I’m up for something different” and we have an adventure. Every life deserves adventures. I hope you are having yours  now — or delighted with the memories of those you had.

SKIING MISADVENTURES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Skiing with my ex husband, Larry, was not all fun and games. We had some hairy experiences on the slopes with him. And when I say ‘we’, I mean me and my two young children, David and Sarah. Larry tended to want to go out in questionable weather and take chances on advanced slopes. He often persuaded us all to go along with him.

There were three skiing ‘adventures’ that stick out in my mind. The first was in Park City, Utah. Our kids were about seven and twelve. Larry convinced us to do one more run as the weather was turning ugly. We were three-quarters of the way up the mountain on the open ski lift when the whiteout started.

A whiteout is snow that blows so hard and thick, that there’s almost no visibility. The ski lift stopped. Fortunately for us, it started again and got us to the chalet on the mountaintop. Others were not as lucky. The lifts stopped again and stranded people for hours out in the cold and the snow, dangling high above the slopes.

We, along with many others, were also stranded. But we were stranded inside the ski lodge with heat and hot cocoa. We were there for about two hours, until they could get a ski instructor up to rescue us. He would lead us all down the mountain to safety.

We had to line up and follow the instructor, single file, very slowly, down the mountain. You could barely see the person in front of you. We put our daughter in the middle of our group because she was wearing a shocking pink snowsuit that was like a beacon in the dark! She thought this was great fun! We made it down and lived to tell the tale.

Another time, the four of us were skiing in Italy. They are less safety-conscious on the slopes over there. There are no lights and no one sweeps the runs after closing to round-up strays, like they do in America. So we were skiing without a safety net there. Larry had taken us over to a second mountain, a distance away from the one where our car was parked. It started to get dark. We had to make it back to our mountain get to our car before dark. We had to cross-country ski, as quickly as possible, across one icy mountain to get to the other. It was like trying to ice skate on skis. We were exhausted and terrified. But we all kept our cool. Except Larry, who totally freaked out.

By the time we got to our mountain, the gondolas were already closed for the day. We had to ski down in the falling dusk. It was very, very close. We made it to our car just as night fell. This was the kind of situation where you know it’ll make a great story if you can just survive it!

The third story takes us to the top of a Black Diamond/Most Difficult ski run. With both kids. Larry insisted we could all handle it even though Sarah was just learning to ski. She was good, but she was still a beginner. Larry didn’t know that the slope had not been ‘groomed’, which took it to the Double Black/Super Difficult level.

Once we started down, we realized our mistake but were committed. There was no way back up, only down. The run consisted of numerous large moguls, which are big man-made bumps. They were mostly chopped up ice, which made them harder to maneuver over. David made it down with no trouble. He ended up anxiously waiting for us at the bottom for the next hour.

Larry, Sarah and I were struggling, to say the least. There were a handful of other hapless skiers struggling down with us. We were all falling constantly. But when Sarah fell, she would lose her skis and poles, which would slide farther down the mountain. A few good Samaritans helped us nurse Sarah through this ordeal. I stayed with Sarah while Larry and some others retrieved her equipment. They then had to walk back UP the mountain to Sarah to give it to her. I had to get her back in her skis and then rinse and repeat. It was a laborious process.

The post script to these stories is that neither of my children want to ski ever again. I have skied with my second husband, Tom. He is cautious and non adventurous like me. But we can’t convince the kids to come with us. No wonder!

THE BIZARRE TRIP TO EUROPE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I was in high school, my parents didn’t travel. A good friend, nick named ‘Cookie’, was going to Europe for three weeks over the summer with her family. She invited me to join them. I was 15 and thrilled.

The first week we were going to stay on our own in Surrey, England, outside of London, with friends of Cookie’s family. Then we would travel with parents to London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Vienna.

Me and the family in Surrey, England

As soon as we arrived in Surrey, Cookie pulled the rug out from under me. She told me she was jealous of me and hated me. She said she planned to make the trip as miserable for me as possible. This was like a kick in the gut to me. Where did this come from? And what was I supposed to do now, alone in a foreign country with a declared ‘enemy’?

Cookie tried to ingratiate herself with the family and exclude me. It didn’t work. The two kids, a son around 18 and a daughter around 21, liked me better and complained to me about Cookie. But I still felt the hostility and the tension. It was very uncomfortable and scary.

When we were traveling alone with her parents, Cookie tried to turn them against me. She tried to sabotage me at every turn. Again, it didn’t work. Her parents just got annoyed with her. She kept on trying though.

Me on the trip in Paris

I couldn’t even write home about my situation because I always shared a room with Cookie and she hovered over me. My letters home are all chatty and upbeat except for a few hurriedly sneaked sentences at the end of each letter. The postscripts were short cries of anguish and pleas for help.

I had never been exposed to this degree of negativity, competitiveness, and outright hostility. It was an unpleasant and weird and particularly difficult for a 15-year old. I must have been more mature than I realized to have survived but even enjoyed some of the trip. We saw beautiful places and did  cool things. I just tried to ignore Cookie as much as possible.

To add insult to injury, we came home on the ocean liner, Queen Mary. There were no activities for kids and it was mind-numbingly boring. On top of that, and having to deal with Cookie 24/7, the food was became inedible. They ruined eggs for breakfast! We lived off candy from the vending machines.

Photo I took in Geneva, Switzerland

I’m grateful this trip didn’t turn me against traveling. In fact, it whetted my appetite. If I enjoyed traveling under these circumstances, imagine what it would be like with a friend as my traveling companion!

MY FAVORITE FAMILY ADVENTURE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Whenever the topic of traveling comes up, I will invariably go on and on about my all time favorite type of vacation – a drive through the canals of England. Not many people know that there is an extensive canal system that winds through the English countryside. The boats used on them are called Narrow Boats. They are large, steel houseboats, about seven feet wide (which is very narrow) and from 45-65 feet long. You drive the boats yourself and they can only go up to five miles per hour. It is a leisurely and relaxing vacation – or it can be.

In 1987, my family of four took a week-long canal trip with our close friends, the Millers, an English family of four. The kids were ages two (my daughter), six (their daughter), seven (my son) and eight (their son).

Our summary page for the trip

Our boat was 65 feet long, slept eight easily and had two dedicated bedrooms, a living area, eating area, kitchen and bathroom. It was surprisingly comfortable, even for eight people. The boat was driven, with a single tiller, from a small outside deck at the back of the very long-boat.

Our trip started inauspiciously. Our seven-year old son fell into the water just trying to get on the boat for the first time! Things improved for a while and we all enjoyed the beautiful scenery for the rest of the first day.

On the third day, our two-year old daughter ran in to where the rest of us were having breakfast and asked, “Why is it raining in the bedroom?” That set off alarms! Sure enough, water was pouring into the back bedroom, right where both families had stored their fabric suitcases. We had to make room wherever we could to dry out all the clothes that were soaked by this major leak.

We called the boat rental company and reported the problem. We had to pull over, in the middle of a field of cows, and wait for the repairman to come, by car, and fix the boat.

It was actually a lovely morning in a picturesque setting. Some of us took the bikes we had brought and rode along the path beside the canal. We also got up close and personal with some of the local cows. The kids were thrilled. The boys also played soccer in the cow’s field.

When we got underway again, we were heading to Birmingham, a city on our route. We were warned that the canal part of the city was not a safe or savory place to spend the night. We had to get through the large city and out the other side before dark.

We realized that we had reached the city when we started to see garbage and dead animals, including cats, floating in the water. It was getting dark. We began freaking out. We had to push on and hope to reach the city limits before we had to pull over (no lights, no night driving). We made it, with maybe a few minutes to spare. We were incredibly lucky and equally relieved.

Our next incident occurred when we stopped at a charming canal side pub for lunch. My ex husband, Larry, a lawyer, decided to call his office in New York City to check in. Big mistake. There had been a major crisis at work and Larry had to return to New York ASAP. We had to figure out how to get Larry from the middle of nowhere, back to London and onto a plane. That turned out to involve a taxi ride to a train, the train to a subway and the subway to Heathrow airport.

The rest of us had a wonderful afternoon exploring the ruins of an ancient Abbey in a beautiful woods.

Soccer in the ruins of the old abbey

One other aspect of this trip deserves mention. The locks. English locks have to be operated manually and take lots of time and effort. Everybody pitched in to master the 119 locks that we had to pass through over the course of the week. We had the kids ‘help’ and made it into a fun exercise. But 119 is a shitload of locks! We also had two ‘flights of locks’, which are numerous locks one right after the other with no space in between. We did as many as 43 locks in one day!

Near the end of the week the remaining Dad took the two boys on another bike ride. The four girls were left on the boat, tied, as usual, to a stake at the edge of the canal. I was washing dishes and looked out the window. I saw that the shore was farther away than it should have been. The rope tying us down had come loose and we were drifting into the canal.

The other mom waded into the water, got to shore and grabbed the rope. She tried to pull us back to shore. Instead, the boat pulled her into the water. The two little girls thought this was hysterical. We all ended up laughing as I also had to wade into the water to help my friend tie the boat down again.

Beautiful canal views

Most canal trips are far less eventful. I’ve spent three weeks on the canals since then, and had next to no problems. But despite our challenges, we all loved the 1987 vacation. We still remember it fondly and talk about it often, thirty years later. It was even brought up in a toast at the Miller daughter’s wedding! It is definitely a fun trip – also interesting, different, exciting, sometimes relaxing and, above all else, memorable!

NO CHICKENS IN THIS COOP

When my granddaughter was nine, Garry and I and her parents took her to Coney Island. Garry and I grew up in New York, so we loved it. Yes, we knew Coney Island was falling apart. It has since been significantly improved, especially the big wooden Cyclone which is now being preserved for future generations.

As a kid, though, watching parts of the  coaster fall while riding was part of the experience. Kids are fearless.

It’s about a four and a half hour drive to get there. We left early so we’d have a whole day before heading home. I expected Kaity to be awed by the entire experience. She was, after all, raised in Uxbridge, not exactly action central of the eastern. Thus we suggested some of the tamer “kiddie” rides, which Kaity eyed with one eyebrow up in the air. She gave a couple a quick tries and look bored.

Then, she stood next to the huge, white, wooden Cyclone. She looked at it. Walked around it. Looked at me and said: “I want THAT one.”

I said “Don’t you want to maybe work your up to that ride? It’s a really big ride.”

“Nope,” she said “THAT one! And YOU are going with me.”

Not that I objected to the Cyclone. I was her age, maybe a year younger, when I first rode it with my little neighborhood friends. Once, we rode it all afternoon and we all had whiplash for the week. But that was me, after all … and this was my granddaughter.

We rode the cyclone six times that day. Four times in the morning, then twice more in the middle of the afternoon. By then, my legs were wobbly and I just couldn’t do it again.

Kaitlin laughed the entire time. She had the biggest grin on her face. She giggled the entire way. Did I mention she also had a broken arm — in plaster — and I had to hang on to her so she wouldn’t fly out of the car?

I am grateful that her driving is less enthusiastic than her hysterical, laughing roller-coaster experience!

CATAPULTING TO ADVENTURE

Leaping, catapulting to adventure! What a concept!

It conjures visions of mountains to climb, rivers to ford. Diving to see the ocean bottom. Jumping from airplanes or diving into canyons tethered by elastic bands. I was never physically adventurous. This had less to do with fear but spoke more to my understanding of what I can actually do … and what I can’t.

72-MAR-Superstition-Peaks-New-011316_376

Clumsiness stands out head and shoulders from the crowd of reasons why I never became a rock climber, diver, or bungee jumper. I knew, in my soul, I would fall off the mountain, the bungee cord would pop and a fatal plunge awaited me. On horseback, I was daring, though looking back, I think stupid probably better applies. I fell off regularly and got broken. Eventually I learned to ride well enough to be less stupid and avoid additional breakage. By then, the damage was done and would never go away.

72-MAR-Superstition-011316_277

Fear, trembling, and an already damaged spine notwithstanding, I climbed down the cliffs at Land’s End in Cornwall on a dare. Which is always the stupidest reason to do anything. But I did it anyway. I am not proud of it because it didn’t prove anything about me or the cliffs. I didn’t fall and break the rest of me and I get to say I did it, but wasn’t as if no one had dared do it before.

What’s the point of an adventure if you aren’t accomplishing anything new or noteworthy … or going somewhere you couldn’t go via some other safer, easier means? Why climb 1000 stairs if there’s an elevator?

Photo by Ben Taylor

Other adventures meant more to me. I moved across the ocean to live in a foreign country that became home. I wanted to experience another culture and see the world from a new perspective. For my own reasons. It was an adventure requiring mental rather than physical agility. Much more me.

Today,  a lovely hotel with comfortable beds is a grand adventure. Otherwise, I’ve passed my tests, thank you. I don’t feel any pressure to prove myself, not to me or anyone. But those of you who still have mountains to climb? Have at it. When you get up there, plant a flag and think (briefly) of me rooting for your success. Have fun out there. And … as they say … be careful. You only get one body and it has to (hopefully) last a long time.

VENTURING TO ADVENTURE

Adventure. What a word!

It conjures visions of mountains to climb, rivers to ford. Diving to see the ocean bottom. Jumping from airplanes or diving into canyons tethered by elastic bands.

I was never physically adventurous. This had less to do with fear — though there was always plenty of that — but spoke more to my understanding of me and my physical limitations.

72-MAR-Superstition-Peaks-New-011316_376

Clumsiness stands out head and shoulders from the crowd of reasons why I never became a rock climber, diver, or bungee jumper. I knew, in my soul, I would fall off the mountain, the bungee would pop and a fatal plunge awaited me on that steep, winding trail along edge of the cliff.

On horseback, I was daring, though looking back, I think stupid probably better applies. I fell off regularly and got broken. Eventually I learned to ride well enough to be less stupid and avoid additional breakage. By then, the damage was done and would never go away.

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Fear, trembling, and an already damaged spine notwithstanding, I climbed down the cliffs at Land’s End in Cornwall on a dare. Which is always the wrong reason to do something. But I did it. I am not proud of it because it didn’t prove anything about me or the cliffs. That I didn’t fall and break the rest of me is not something to brag about. It wasn’t like no one had dared to do it before.

What’s the point of an adventure if you aren’t accomplishing anything new or noteworthy … or going somewhere you couldn’t go via some other safer, easier means? Why climb 1000 stairs if there’s an elevator?

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

Other adventures meant more to me. I moved across the ocean to live in a foreign country that became home. I wanted to experience another culture and see the world from a new perspective. For my own reasons. It was an adventure requiring mental rather than physical agility. Much more me.

Today,  a lovely hotel with comfortable beds is a grand adventure. Otherwise, I’ve passed my tests, thank you. I don’t feel any pressure to prove myself, not to me or anyone. But those of you who still have mountains to climb? Have at it.

When you get up there, plant a flag and think (briefly) of me rooting for your success. Have fun out there. And … as they say … be careful. You only get one body and it has to (hopefully) last a long time.

ADVENTURE | THE DAILY POST DISCOVER CHALLENGE

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 – 21: NO PLACE LIKE HOME

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 – 21
2 September 2015: NO PLACE LIKE HOME

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again and suddenly, it’s September.

We’re off on vacation for the next three weeks. Therefore, this prompt will be missing for the next three Wednesdays — September 9, 16, and 23. I’m sure I’ll post something, pictures for sure, but I’m taking a long-delayed and much-needed vacation from daily blogging.

portrait marilyn by cherrie

My right shoulder has been sending shooting pains to remind me I’ve been huddled too many hours with the computer. Since we’ll be away, it’s a perfect opportunity to give my neck, shoulder, and wrists a rest.

This is my 21st prompt. Twenty-first? Yup, you got it. That means my prompt is old enough to drink. I’m going to send Serendipity to a bar tonight. Give it a vacation. Let it relax for a while. I might join it for a night-cap.


I’ve taken this week’s cue from my friend The Ladybug. She started her own prompt in which I have not participated because I’m brain-dead right now. It’s not just my muscles that need a break. All of me needs R&R.

Her prompt gave me pause for thought.

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TOO OLD TO GO ADVENTURING

I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t want to.

Narnia is too … well … Christian. For me. Aslan is a great lion and a hero, but Narnia’s no place for a nice Jewish girl from Queens.

Neverland is charming I’m sure, but it’s for children. Or maybe grownups who want to be children — not me. Even with flying and pixie dust, I get tired thinking about all the zooming energy. Too many lost boys!

Hogwarts is a school. I’m done with schools, even magic school. I know I would not fit in with the hormonal, pubescent population of the school. I’d be a terrible wet blanket.

Wonderland is the only place which makes it to my vacation column. I’d like to visit there for a while, if only for the chance to finally meet the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and that big White Rabbit — all favorite characters.

Camelot, Middle Earth, Westeros … aah me.

There was a time when I’d have hot-footed it to Camelot or Middle Earth without a second’s thought. These days, I want comfort. Hot and cold running water in-house. Good showers. Flush toilets. My adjustable bed and reclining love seat. Big, bright television and good sound. I want my husband next to me, our dogs around me.

I need a world that fits. Me. I would not fit into any of those beautiful, magical locales nor would they  be happy with me. In a world full of adventure and magic, I would not be an asset.

Truth is, I am no longer seeking adventure. I’m avoiding it.

Sorry to miss such glorious photo opportunities, though. I hope whoever amongst you ventures forth to other dimensions of delight will return with pictures and stories to tell.

I’ll be waiting for your reports!


As usual, should you accept the challenge, you may use any picture — and this week, you have plenty of choices — or any of your own pictures and write something about the picture. This has got to be the easiest prompt in the world since basically, that’s what we all do as bloggers anyway.

I will be back in October, hopefully well rested and without that ugly pain in the neck and shoulder. And with lot of photographs taken in upstate New York and Vermont. Have a great September my good friends.

GETTING CUT

It was more than two years since I had ventured fearfully into the little shop. It was a dangerous place. Every single person in it was armed with sharp, cutting tools.

I had prevailed, leaving the premises long hours later … but with a lot less hair than I’d had when I had entered. Worse, I’d paid too much for the privilege.

Marilyn photographer

It was a good haircut, mind you. Flattering, relatively easy to care for. But short, or at least a lot shorter than I wanted.

I was older this time. Wilier. With firm resolve to never let anyone steal my hair from me again.

Never say never. More than two years had passed. My hair had grown down past my shoulders. I knew it was time to brave the foe. I needed a haircut.

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My hair is in great shape these days, thanks to Wen products and care to not wash it more often than need be. I don’t dye it or fry it in sunshine and salt water. Nor do I swim in chlorinated pools. It had finally come back to looking healthy.

But shaggy. When I tried to braid it at night, one piece was always noticeably shorter than the others. My self-cut tendrils around my face were too many different lengths.

Garry dropped me off at the shop of terror. I wended my nervous way to the counter.

“Can I help you?” she said, cheerfully. They are all cheerful before the massacre. I knew I had to stay alert!

I did my spiel. “I want the ends trimmed. Just the ends. I want to lose as little hair as possible. No layers, nothing fancy. No styling. Just a neat line. Anyone who tries to lop off my hair dies!”

I scowled threateningly, but inside, I was quaking with fear.

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Undaunted, she sat me in a chair, wet my clean hair (I’d cleansed it that morning) and began to carefully snip the ends. Bit by bit. When she was finished, I was astounded. It looked just like it had when I came in, but so much neater. Amazing.

I had survived! I knew I’d have to brave the scissors again, maybe as soon as the autumn, but for now, I had successfully gotten a haircut and no one had been murdered.

Enough adventure for one day! We headed off to take a few pictures. Life is full of dangers, but we wily old ones know how to handle them.

PREPARE TO REPEL BRIDGE

SURVIVAL IN A VERY SMALL SAILBOAT

Gwaihir, my 16-foot Soling was a doughty sloop. Built of fiberglass, aluminum and a bit of teak for deck, rails  and hatch, she lived in my basement through the off-season. I lovingly painted her hull and lavished layers of varnish on her bright work.

96-ocean-Sunrise

I co-owned the little boat with a moody guy who lived on a shallow canal on the south shore. A Soling is easily launched from a trailer, but it was convenient to keep her in the water. If the tide was with us we could sail. Sometimes, even with the centerboard up, with a draft of just 16 inches, there wasn’t enough water at low tide to go anywhere without getting stuck. So we waited for the tide to turn.

My husband had grown up on the water, had his own sailboat from childhood. He was completely unafraid of the ocean. Bad weather, good weather, it didn’t matter. He loved sailing.

A drawbridge spanned Sloop Channel under which you had to sail to get to the Atlantic Ocean. Our little boat was just a bit too tall to go under the bridge if it were closed, but to get the bridge opened, you had to make an appointment and you had better be on time. If you were in a sailboat and hadn’t lowered your mast, you could not sail under the bridge. You had to lower your main sail and use your outboard motor. Our little boat’s mast was just 27 feet, but it was a foot and a half too high.

There are strong tides in Sloop Channel. It can be hard to navigate, especially under sail. Moreover, a 16-foot centerboard sailboat is not ocean-worthy. Maybe if the ocean is flat, it might be “doable,” but it would never be a good idea. Each time my husband insisted we sail out to the ocean, I spent the voyage with my heart pounding hoping we didn’t become a statistic, a cautionary tale of poor judgment on the sea.

Did I mention that my son,  a toddler, was with us? Did that deter my husband, his father? It did not. His father had sailed the family boat through the eye of Hurricane Carol with he and his sister aboard. He was not about to be deterred. By anything.

This day, we planned to drop the main and use the outboard to power us under the drawbridge. We hadn’t made an appointment, so the bridge wasn’t going up. Too bad. That was my favorite moment, when they stopped traffic in two directions so our little sailboat could pass beneath.

This day was beautiful with a brisk following breeze. The tide with us. We skimmed smartly over the water towards the bridge.

“Uh, Jeff? Shouldn’t we drop the main sail? The bridge is coming up awfully fast … really … look … it’s right there.”

By the time the words were out of my mouth, Jeffrey bellowed the immortal words every sailor wants to hear: “PREPARE TO REPEL BRIDGE!”

The bridge was on us. I was at the front fending off the bridge with a fiberglass boat hook, while our captain tried to start the outboard and simultaneously drop the mast before it snapped.

Sunrise Rockport

Fortunately, he dropped the main first and started the engine next. We got a little banged up, hitting the cement pylons as we bounced under the bridge. No problem. We still had a mast.

Eventually, the engine came to life and we had power, sort of.

I had successfully repelled the bridge. On this day, the ocean held no terror. I had fended off a bridge. I had no more adrenaline with which to be afraid. It was just another sunny day on the Atlantic Ocean.

GRETCHEN ARCHER – DOUBLE STRIKE – DAVIS WAY CAPER #3

It took me almost a week to read Double Strike. I could easily have read it in one marathon night, but I was enjoying it so much, I intentionally slowed down to make it last longer. I didn’t want to eat it in one bite, as it were.

double strike gretchen archer

I didn’t think it was possible, but Gretchen Archer and her cast of characters have gotten even better — and they were already wonderful. Ms. Archer’s writing is crisp, sure-footed, smart. You can clearly hear the author’s voice, something that was a bit muffled in earlier books.

I have it on good authority the editors — this time — let her “have at it.” There are sections in Double Strike, descriptive, opinionated, and hilarious. So good I stopped and read them aloud to my husband. I don’t usually do that, but I was having a “wow” reading moment and had to share.

Davis Way and her associates are becoming more 3-dimensional. No more cartoons. Everyone is a person with motivation, a back story, and a unique personality. Even the “bad guys” are complicated. The interpersonal relationships are also filling out and filling up. Bradley Cole works with Davis, at the same casino. Ms. Archer could easily create an entire other series — the same events from Bradley’s point of view.

I loved the book. The complexity and depth of old and new characters. The intricacies of a plot which the author handles perfectly, never dropping a stitch. I have read a lot of mysteries over the years. Thousands of mysteries — and I have never seen a plot of this complexity handled better or more elegantly.  Gretchen Archer is a champ and a pro. Each book is better than the last.

Bradley’s growth as a character is particularly satisfying. He always had potential, but he was never around enough to become real. Now he’s in the middle of the action. All of the “regulars” get flushed out in this third book. Fantasy, No-Hair … even Bianca Sanders are growing new layers, developing depth.

Ms. Archer’s descriptions of southern culture are mind-blowing. I doubt they will make her popular in Alabama, but it’s some of the best, snarky, sharp, intelligent descriptive writing of a place and its culture I’ve ever read. Astute, witty. Highly quotable.

Double Strike Gretchen Archer

I am so impressed with Double Strike.  I hate to gush, but it was a privilege and a pleasure to read this, especially because I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Archer since Double Whammy. And I was sure  — knew for sure — that this author has “it,” the special something which separates an author from the herd, makes her unique, memorable. And I’m betting “best seller.”

I didn’t want Double Strike to end, but when I got to the final few chapters, I knew I could not put it down until I finished it. It was 2:30 in the morning when I finished the book … and I read the last chapter three times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. A fantastic, climactic finish to this story! Our intrepid Davis Way has plenty of bread crumbs to follow into her next adventure. A satisfying conclusion for readers with enough dangly bits to make us come back and read the next installment.

Author, author!!

From the publisher:

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three problems: She’s desperate to change her marital status, she has a new boss who speaks in hashtags, and Bianca Sanders has confiscated her clothes. All of which bring on a headache hot enough to spark a fire. Solving her problems means stealing a car. From a dingbat lawyer.

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three goals: Keep the Sanders family out of prison, regain her footing in her relationship, and find the genius who wrote the software for Future Gaming. One of which, the manhunt part, is iffy. Because when Alabama hides someone, they hide them good.

DOUBLE STRIKE. A VIP invitation to an extraordinary high-stakes gaming event, as thieves, feds, dance instructors, shady bankers, kidnappers, and gold waiters go all in. #Don’tMissIt

Double Strike is available from Amazon in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Do not miss it! This is a great read. Fast, funny, witty, intelligent … and fun. You will like it. That’s a promise.

And you will love Walter, wherever he may be.

DOUBLE STRIKE — GRETCHEN ARCHER — A NEW DAVIS WAY CAPER

It took me almost a week to read Double Strike. I could easily have read it in one marathon night, but I was enjoying it so much, I intentionally slowed down to make it last longer. I didn’t want to eat it in one bite, as it were.

double strike gretchen archer

I didn’t think it was possible, but Gretchen Archer and her cast of characters have gotten even better — and they were already wonderful. Ms. Archer’s writing is crisp, sure-footed, smart. You can clearly hear the author’s voice, something that was a bit muffled in earlier books.

I have it on good authority the editors — this time — let her “have at it.” There are sections in Double Strike, descriptive, opinionated, and hilarious. So good I stopped and read them aloud to my husband. I don’t usually do that, but I was having a “wow” reading moment and had to share.

Davis Way and her associates are becoming more 3-dimensional. No more cartoons. Everyone is a person with motivation, a back story, and a unique personality. Even the “bad guys” are complicated. The interpersonal relationships are also filling out and filling up. Bradley Cole works with Davis, at the same casino. Ms. Archer could easily create an entire other series — the same events from Bradley’s point of view.

I loved the book. The complexity and depth of old and new characters. The intricacies of a plot which the author handles perfectly, never dropping a stitch. I have read a lot of mysteries over the years. Thousands of mysteries — and I have never seen a plot of this complexity handled better or more elegantly.  Gretchen Archer is a champ and a pro. Each book is better than the last.

Bradley’s growth as a character is particularly satisfying. He always had potential, but he was never around enough to become real. Now he’s in the middle of the action. All of the “regulars” get flushed out in this third book. Fantasy, No-Hair … even Bianca Sanders are growing new layers, developing depth.

Ms. Archer’s descriptions of southern culture are mind-blowing. I doubt they will make her popular in Alabama, but it’s some of the best, snarky, sharp, intelligent descriptive writing of a place and its culture I’ve ever read. Astute, witty. Highly quotable.

Double Strike Gretchen Archer

I am so impressed with Double Strike.  I hate to gush, but it was a privilege and a pleasure to read this, especially because I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Archer since Double Whammy. And I was sure  — knew for sure — that this author has “it,” the special something which separates an author from the herd, makes her unique, memorable. And I’m betting “best seller.”

I didn’t want Double Strike to end, but when I got to the final few chapters, I knew I could not put it down until I finished it.

It was 2:30 in the morning when I finished the book … and I read the last chapter three times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. A fantastic, climactic finish to this story! Our intrepid Davis Way has plenty of bread crumbs to follow into her next adventure. A satisfying conclusion for readers with enough dangly bits to make us come back and read the next installment.

Author, author!!

From the publisher:

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three problems: She’s desperate to change her marital status, she has a new boss who speaks in hashtags, and Bianca Sanders has confiscated her clothes. All of which bring on a headache hot enough to spark a fire. Solving her problems means stealing a car. From a dingbat lawyer.

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three goals: Keep the Sanders family out of prison, regain her footing in her relationship, and find the genius who wrote the software for Future Gaming. One of which, the manhunt part, is iffy. Because when Alabama hides someone, they hide them good.

DOUBLE STRIKE. A VIP invitation to an extraordinary high-stakes gaming event, as thieves, feds, dance instructors, shady bankers, kidnappers, and gold waiters go all in. #Don’tMissIt

Double Strike is available from Amazon (release yesterday – October 21, 2014) in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Do not miss it! This is a great read. Fast, funny, witty, intelligent … and fun. You will like it. That’s a promise.

And you will love Walter, wherever he may be.