"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Monday, December 31, 2012

WAVING OUT THE OLD




"Yes, I know. The New Year ship is docked just around the beach's bend, its flag of unknown and uncontrollable life events about to unfurl. But I insist on basking in the slow, warm, assuring waves of 2011 if only for but a few more glorious hours before the tempestuous 2012 tide rushes in..."

Little did I know when I wrote that last New Year's Eve how significant a role the beach and waves would actually play in my life in 2012.

Foreshadowing at its finest.




Beach Therapy
For indeed, for three glorious, life-redefining months this past year -- Sept.15 through Dec. 13 -- my life truly was a beach. Beautiful Myrtle Beach, SC, where I lived, laughed, worked...and sought regular therapeutic counsel from the Atlantic Ocean...and Mary, my dear friend/roomie and (as it turned out) my patience-of-Job "life coach".

The chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance...

Still mulling and analyzing and processing the experience and its meaning as 2012 officially comes to a close...
How Long Gone by Brooks & Dunn on Grooveshark

It seemed like I spent the majority of  my time earlier this year (when I wasn't working my two jobs here in Iowa) ensconced in my doll house-like attic writing room, tethered to my laptop, blogging daily, as I fulfilled my commitment to two intense rounds of the online 40 Days of Writing challenge.

I thought I would easily make the third round, which started just as I arrived in Myrtle Beach, but I completed only a week's worth of posts. At first I felt guilty, but then decided that I was so busy actually living and enjoying life for a change that writing about it would just have to take a back seat.

Oh, the wonder! The beauty!
Instead, I bombarded my Facebook friends with pictures of  ocean waves, beach sunrises, sea birds, more sun rises, backyard sunsets, more ocean waves...I swear I wasn't gloating, I just really wanted to share the wonder, the awesome oceanic beauty...

If I could have brought the Atlantic Ocean back in my carry on, I would have. Had to settle for a small bag of sand and a big sack of shells collected during long, contemplative walks along the beach...they are my special treasures. Precious keepsakes from what I have since dubbed "my salt water sabbatical".

Of course, a sabbatical -- like a year -- has a beginning and an end.

It was difficult saying goodbye to the ocean and the sunny, rhythmic, inner peace it affords, but I am glad to be back in Iowa, spending time once again with my family, seeing my friends. And yes, I even enjoyed the coziness of the first Iowa blizzard (sort of).


Normally, I get a little sad as fast away the old year passes (fa la la la la, and all that jazz), but I am not the same melancholy gal who left Iowa three months ago. I can't explain it, don't understand it totally as yet.

My final Myrtle Beach sunrise...
Maybe it's the surplus of Vitamin D from the cheery South Carolina sun.

All I know is that for the first time since I can remember, I am content to gently wave out the old year with fond appreciation and hope for the best for the new, and am not consumed with dread and loathing, fearing that the worst is ready and waiting to immediately roll into view at the stroke of midnight.

My only New Year's Resolution: To take what I have learned about myself these past three months and do my best to seize each day, to live in the moment, the here and now. Celebrate today, not mourn yesterday's passing or fret over what may or may not come tomorrow.

My Christmas gift from the sea, perhaps?

Peace and contentment to you and yours in 2013!

And, as always, thanks for reading The Home Stretch!

Home by Karla Bonoff on Grooveshark

Saturday, December 08, 2012

SOON!



That Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles on Grooveshark

THAT SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas is the time of year
For being with the ones we love
Sharing so much joy and cheer
What a wonderful feelin
Watching the one's we love
Having so much fun...

I was sittin by the fire side
Taking a walk through the snow
Listening to a children's choir
Singing songs about Jesus
The blessed way that he came to us
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
Heh heh
It's truly amazin'
That spirit of Christmas...


All the kin folk gather round
The lovely Christmas tree
Hearts are glowing full of joy
Sense the gifts that we're giving
And the love that we're living
Why can't it remain
Ohhh all through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
I'll tell ya
It's truly amazin'
That spirit of Christmas...

Let me hear ya
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
That's what I wanna hear
Listen to me
It's truly amazin'
That spirit of Christmas
Ohhh It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ain't it so
It's truly amazin'
Yeah, that spirit fo Christmas
Oh Christmas
Oh Christmas...

Monday, October 29, 2012

OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS

What do a conveyor belt, a frozen cash register, a plastic anti-theft box containing a package of condoms, and a fake $2 bill have in common?

All in a day's work for me at my new grocery store job.

Yikes!

As anyone who has ever hired me knows, I am a Nervous Nelly when I first start a new job, and I put gaboons of pressure on myself to get it right the first time every time.

A mere week into it and, lo and behold, I am not perfectly on my game. Dang learning curve.

Like running the grocery conveyor belt.

A conveyor belt?

Really?

Back at The Fro (Frohlich's SuperValu), in Coon Rapids, IA, shoppers just pushed their carts right up to the cash register and I reached into the cart to grab their stuff and scan it.

"You don't have to reach," one of the head cashiers kindly reminded me during training. "Use the conveyor belt."

Oh. Yeah. 

But finding my conveyor belt mojo is not as easy as it might sound.

Not when I am racking my brain trying to remember the Produce Look Up number (PLU, for those not in the grocery biz) for cucumbers, while wondering what the hell that celery-like-but-with-feathery-looking-tops-and-a-giant-onion-bulb-like-base bunch of produce is coming down the conveyor belt in a green plastic blag.

"And what might this be?" I cordially inquire.

"Fennel," replies the customer, a bit incredulously.
Fennel, aka anise. Who knew?


Ah.

We never sold fennel in Coon Rapids.

Naturally, I press the produce button on the register, then "F" for fennel.

Item not found.

Ack.

Well, of course it's under "A", darling.  For "anise".

What?

Meanwhile, I've somehow accidentally pushed the button that starts the conveyor belt that takes the groceries from the scanner to the end of the counter to the bagger -- who isn't there -- and the cute little coloring books I scanned just prior to the cucumbers and the fennel/anise debacle disappear under the metal plate at the end of the &$&%&@ conveyor belt and are seemingly eaten alive.

Crumpled coloring books. Lovely.

Note to self: DO NOT send coloring books -- or greeting cards, or anything thin -- down the &$&%conveyor belt.

Other things that make my neck hairs stand on end while trying to learn my new job:

*Cigarette and alcohol sales...back in Small Town Iowa, I knew everyone and their ages. A lot more carding required at my new job. It was while carding a customer yesterday, and trying to correct a wrong  number (thought a 6 was a 5), the $&^%#%  register froze. Pfft.

*Anti-theft plastic boxes containing things like expensive razors and condoms.  Unlocking the $&#&$&  plastic box with a special magnetic gizmo requires some manual dexterity, of which I have none. Still trying to get the hang of it. Grrrr.

*It's a matter of trust. Two dollar bills may be fun, signature mementos we love to give back as change at The Fro. But here in Big Town South Carolina, they're red flags. Need to take a closer look, apparently, when one shows up. Might be a fake. Innocence lost. :(

And it's just so weird not knowing any of the customers, having known most of my Fro customers for two decades.

One constant positive between my two grocery store jobs? The folks I once worked with and the folks I work with now. All very friendly and helpful. And patient.

This early in my new gig, of course, none of my South Carolina co-workers or customers are quite sure what to make of the nervous, albeit affable, Iowa gal who doesn't know fennel from celery.

Just an old grocery store dog trying to learn new, confusing cash register tricks, I explain, with a wink and a sincere Tall Corn State smile.

I think I might be growing on them.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 22, 2012

EAT, LAUGH, SMELL THE LOTION

Lest anyone think that a self discovery journey is all intense introspection and snapping soul-wrenching sunrise pics, please know this:

I don't think I have eaten or laughed as much -- nor have I smelled as good --  in the last decade as I have this past month since moving in with my awesome friend and soul sister, Mary, here in Myrtle Beach.

Laughter, I truly believe,  is the best medicine for whatever ails you, emotionally or physically.

And a Sonic Double Cheeseburger beats a McDonald's Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit for Saturday breakfast, hands down.

Furthermore, what woman doesn't find a new perfume scent from Bath and Body Works inspiring?

Yes, the past 30-plus days have been my own personal version of auther Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir of self discovery, Eat Pray Love. Only a tish zanier. And, apparently, more fattening. But with a fresh Sea Island Cotton scent.

Ever see the  movie, starring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert?

Eat Pray Love depicts the story of  woman who had looked forward to a contented life of domestic bliss, but ends up seeking her true destiny by first traveling to Italy where she learns to appreciate nourishment, then to India where she discovers the power of prayer, and finally to Bali where she unexpectedly finds the meaning of true love.

Mary and I watched it Saturday night.

Granted, I've never seriously entertained the idea of being blissfully domestic. And I'm in South Carolina, working and writing, not in India gleaning inner peace and wisdom from an ancient medicine man.

(Not to mention that the day Julia Roberts actually eats so much pizza she develops a "muffin top" and has to  lay down to squeeze into a pair of jeans will be the day I  refuse to eat pizza and have the figure of Julia Roberts. But I digress.)

But I do see some vague similarities.

Though too long and a tish compolicated for a book or movie title, one might call the lighter side of my inner journey thus far, "Eat, Laugh, Eat Some More, Laugh, Throw On  Mary's Leopard Vest Over My Coffee Cup PJ Pants With The "Life Is Good" Shirt And Flip Flops To Go Check The Mail...And Don't Forget to Stop And Smell The Lotion."

Take today and yesterday for example.

It was sunny but a bit chilly here in Myrtle Beach this a.m., hence, the leopard vest over the jammies. It just happened to be the first thing I grabbed out of Mary's coat closet. I was, admittedly, a sight to behold.

Not that I am a stranger to being less than a fashionista while running errands when it's cold.

I will never forget the frosty Iowa winter morning several years back when I drove Daniel to school wearing my PJs, robe and snow boots, with electric curlers in my hair. I am sure it is one of Daniel's fondest childhood memories as well.

The beauty of doing something like that here, of course, is that no one in this neighborhood besides Mary knows me. Not that it really matters.

For, those who do know me, no matter where I have lived, are never surprised but are actually intrigued by my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (PJ or otherwise) nature.

It's just who I am. It's how I roll. And I'm good with it.

Love me, love my fashion sense. Or, somedays, lack thereof.

I've also been known to spend hours in a Bath and Body Works sniffing lotions till I am nauseous in search of the perfect scent.

Nausea aside, aromatherapy is, for me, exactly that...therapy.

I indulged in a little bit of that Sunday afternoon.

"Ma'am, you've got a dab of lotion on the end of your nose."

Yes, darling, you are the third B&BW clerk to advise me of that.

This is, if I am not mistaken, a lotion store. Unless you spy a bumble bee or a pickled artichoke heart dangling from my sniffer, please do not bother to point out the obvious.

I'll rub the lotion in when I'm ready.

There is no rushing aromatherapy.

Thank you.

Ah! Yes! Eat Laugh Smell the Lotion!

(Oh, and the leopard vest! Musn't forget to don the leopard vest! In lieu of an ancient Indian medicine man, of course.)

Who knew personal growth could be so tasty and fun and smell so good, all at the same time?

Happy Monday!


Better Days by Eddie Vedder on Grooveshark

Sunday, October 21, 2012

BACK UP THE WATERSPOUT



Dear Mom,
 
Thinking of you.
 
Forty-three years ago today.
 
Remembering with perfect clarity the moment the school secretary showed up at my junior high study hall door, beckoning me to follow her to the office where Dad and Sissy tearfully broke the news to me, just three days before I was to turn 13, that you had died.
 
An accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, the coroner report later stated.
 
Accidental? Perhaps. Though looking back it was probably no secret to anyone who knew you that you had been on a path of self-destruction for quite some time.
 
At the ripe, young age of 47 you were not happy in your marriage and overwhelmed by your nursing home management job. You turned to alcohol to cope, and -- like many unhappy 60s housewives -- had been prescribed barbiturates by your doctor to ease the depression and anxiety that regularly crippled your daily functioning.
 
You had lost all hope of your life every being better. You had, it seems, lost your sense of self. You had lost your smile.
 
Beer and barbiturates as antidote for the impossible sadness and worry that poisoned your otherwise affable, laughing, loving Jeanne B. spirit?
 
A deadly combination. But apparently you were, for various reasons, at your wit's end and could see nothing but self-medication as your only way through, if not out.

Like the proverbial itsy, bitsy spider crawling up the waterspout, you were, in that final late October moment, washed out by life's rain.

And that is how you looked, the morning of Oct. 20, 1969, sprawled on the living room floor, eyes closed, a spilled glass of beer by your outstretched hand.

"Should we call an ambulancce" I asked my father, who was calmly shaving in the bathroom, as if it were just another fall morning.

"She'll be fine," he said. "Go on to school."

So, though frightened, I did as Dad instructed. I left you there, on the living room floor, and caught the bus.

You died the next day.

As your adolescent daughter, teetering on the delicate cusp between childhood and young womanhood, I didn't get it. Could not fathom the extent of your pain, the depth of your loneliness.
 
Could only feel my pain, my loss, as you were laid to rest on my 13th birthday. I was devastated. And years later, in my 30s, when I could finally admit it with the help of a counselor, I was extremely angry at you for abandoning me. You just disappeared from my life, without explanation, without a goodbye.

And I was angry at myself for not staying by your side, for not insisting that Dad call an ambulance.
 
Today, three days before my 56th birthday, I want you to know, Mom, that I so get where you were coming from. So understand how it can happen that an otherwise affable, laughing, loving woman, wife and mother, for various reasons, can one day find herself slipping down her life's raindrop-beaten water spout into the never-to-return depths of loneliness, depression and anxiety.
 
And, while yesteryear's beer and barbiturates may have been replaced by martinis and Xanax as a woman's self-medication of choice, I, in my 11th hour, was fortunate enough to have been presented with a healthier choice. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
 
It was a tough, life-changing decision. And it was with the love and support of family and friends, I made it.
 
I chose light.
 
Sunlight.
 
Each dawn that I watch yet another beautiful Myrtle Beach sunrise, I give even greater thanks for this new lease on my life.
 
Mom, I feel your love and happiness for me in every ray as I continue to grow in the warmth of the South Carolina sun and re-discover my smile, the inner grin that you never had the chance to find.
 
Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon on GroovesharkI love you. I forgive you.
 
I am learning to love and forgive myself, as well.

Hugs,
Annie

Out come the sun, and dried up all the rain, and the itsy, bitsy spider crawled up the spout again.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

DON'T MISS THE SHARK

Another gorgeous sunrise this morning.

It comes a bit later now, and Mary and I arrived at the beach, McDonald's coffee in hand, with more than enough time to plop down onto the sand and breathe in the fresh air of the  new day before the morning light spectacular began.

I can never sit there for long, though, pulled by unseen, magical forces to the waves' edge, keeping a child-like wondrous eye on the rolling water as it seeps between my toes while at the same time admiring the breathtaking oceanic panorama surrounding me on all sides.

The ongoing search for the perfect sea shell is also a part of my sunrise-watching routine, but there is not one thing routine about any of it. Every sunrise, every cloud formation, every sky-and-water color, is different moment to moment.

Caution: Bend over to pick up a shell, or hunt for the elusive-yet-highly-coveted shark's tooth, and you miss something. Something indescribably, soul-filling awesome.

In fact, you can get so caught up in looking down that you can miss the very part of the sun's rising that is, perhaps, the most inspiring.

Or, as Mary so aptly put it, "Don't concentrate so hard on finding the shark's tooth, that you miss the shark."

Perhaps a good question for each of us to ask ourselves, no matter where we live, be it near a beach, a shopping mall or a cornfield is this:

Are we striving so ardently, eyes narrowed and so hyper-focused on perfection --  in our personal relationships, our jobs, etc. -- that we are overlooking the imperfectly perfect beauty of what is smack dab in front of us, above us, or at either side?

Just a little sea food for thought this glorious Thursday morning.

Monday, October 15, 2012

EMBRACING THE EBB AND FLOW

Ah-ha moment for today:

So much of my writing, my blogging, has been about the past, for that is where I have spent so much of my time. Defining who I am by where I have already been.

All the while penning about the past, I have, on the inside, been nervously anticipating the future.

Hourglass in hand. Always.

Worried there would even be a future. Scared I would run out of time. Die before I had a chance to truly live.

Forever conscious of those evil twins, loss and abandonment, lurking in shadows, certain they would pounce before or immediately upon finally finding and feeling contentment, joy, inner peace and security.

Worrying negatively about the future based on my past has always been my way of trying to control what may or may not be coming my way. If I expect the worst, I keep it at bay.

Talk about stinkin' thinkin', as the self-help jargon goes.

So busy wading in yesterday, worrying about tomorrow, I have experienced most of my life from the backwaters of hoping, wishing, wanting...never truly trusting.

Afraid to have faith that who leaves but for a moment comes back. That who or what arrives in my life needs time and space and air to thrive and grow and change, evolve. Refusal to believe that change doesn't always mean "the end".

Hence, I have spent the past 43 years -- since my mother died unexpectedly when I was just three days shy of 13 -- clutching, clinging, and waiting for the other shoe to fall. And in doing so, I have squeezed the life out of  most of my todays. Bludgeoned them to death with "what ifs" or, perhaps worse yet, crippled them by conjuring up my worst demons,  fear of death and fear of failure.

Have I ever lived in the here and now?

Beginning to.

Baby steps.

My own personal gifts from the sea since moving to Myrtle Beach a month ago:

The constant assurance of the ocean waves, crashing onto the shore one moment, retracting the next, only to come back more fervently, or more calmly, moments later.  But always returning.

And every day, even when it is cloudy, realizing that the sun rises. A fresh start.

Yes, each dawn different, but beautiful. Full of promise. Knowing, without a doubt, that everything is possible if I just open myself up to all that is right here in front of me, all that is real, tangible, sturdy yet fluid.

I am learning to face my fears. I am growing. Remembering that what I allow will continue. My choice.

Having faith that, indeed, for all its terrors and tragedies, life is good.

I breathe in each new day, revel in whatever it brings, exhale and smile.

Welcoming, and writing while in, transition. Present perfect, despite its imperfections.

For the first time in my life, embracing, not merely enduring, the ebb and flow.

All so new to me.

Trust comes slowly. But it comes.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

MYRTLE & ME

So I missed Day 4 of the 40 Days of Writing challenge.

Day 4 was yesterday. Saturday. My one-month anniversary of arriving in Myrtle Beach and starting a new chapter in my life. My Second Act.

I've titled this second act  "Living" and that is what I spent Day 4 doing.

Instead of writing about my life, I lived it.

Celebrated it, really.

Started with a dash to the beach with Mary just at sunrise, with a quick, cold splash-around in the waves, savoring the feel of my toes in the sand, saying good morning to the Atlantic Ocean at the 38th Ave. access, my favorite place on the beach.

What makes it my favorite place has nothing to do with the beach itself, actually. Rather it's the way the trees arch across the road as one approaches the 38th Ave. access that fills me with both wonder and instant contentment.. It has become a sacred portal to my new found salty sanctuary.

I was just about to write that the ocean was my first new friend I made when I arrived in Myrtle Beach, but actually it was the second.

My first new friend was Mary's good friend, Mike, who had to pick me up at the airport because poor Mary was on her way to the emergency room with kidney stones just as my plane was landing.

Worried about Mary, I had no time to worry about the fact that I had no idea what Mike looked like, Mary had the energy to say only, "Tall, dark hair" before she hung up.

Seriously?  Just "tall, dark hair"? That's all I have to go on as I land at an airport full of strangers in an unfamiliar location?

Well, I did say I was in the mood for an adventure...

Fortunately, there was only one tall guy with dark hair standing near the terminal exit.

"Mike?" I inquired, cautiously.

"Ann?" he replied, equally as cautiously.

And off to the hospital we went to visit Mary in the ER at South Strand Medical Center. They later sent her home with lots of meds.

Sweet Mary, of course, refusing to let a few nasty kidney stones hamper my arrival in Myrtle Beach, insisted we go the beach the next morning, and out to brunch.

And thus, my Myrtle Beach adventure officially began.

I eventually met the rest of Mary's tight-knit circle of friends, and was made to feel welcomed by each.

A few days later I started my new job as Mary's fill-in office assistant, and inherited a fun-loving, hard-working bunch of political call center folks, who reminded me so much of  my wonderful friends at the job I left in Coon Rapids.

I got my hair cut, and my stylist happened to be from Fort Dodge, IA!  I got my nails done, and the salon owner turned out to be from Lincoln, NE! Both friendly folks!

With trembling fear, I learned how to drive to the beach, to the grocery store, and then -- the longest stretch -- started driving myself to the office!

WooHoo! So long comfort zone!  Hello personal growth!

And in between, I've soaked up some sun, increased my Vitamin D levels, relaxed, and continue to find my smile.

Yes, after a month here, I would wholeheartedly recommend that if you must find your smile, begin your search at the beach.

Myrtle Beach.

Happy Anniversary to Myrtle and me!

Friday, October 12, 2012

FEAR FACTOR

Fire ants?

Waddya mean there are fire ants in South Carolina?

Mary, darling, you never mentioned fire ants.

You said there are lots of tree frogs in Myrtle Beach, and occasionally green lizardy-looking things appear on the outside of your porch screen. I'm totally down with that.

But you never said boo about fire ants.

Really? Pouring Dawn dish soap over a fire ant hill will kill the little biting, stinging creatures?

Whew. Good to know.

Note to self:  Do NOT leave this house without a bottle of Dawn dish soap.

What's that, darling?

Gators?

An occasional gator has been known to wander onto the golf course just beyond your backyard?

Seriously?

Surely you mean the sporty four-wheeled utility vehicle, not the terrifying possibly-up-to-13 ft. long, rounded-snout reptile?

Oh, you do mean the terrifying possibly-up-to-13 ft. long, rounded-snout reptile.

Alrighty then.

Pardon me?

Oh, so gators have poor eyesight, and should I accidentally happen upon one in the backyard, all I have to do is throw a towel or perhaps a spare T-shirt across the gator's eyes to render them stunned, long enough for me to sprint to safety.

Got it.

Note to self: Do NOT leave this house without a towel or spare T-shirt AND a bottle of Dawn dish soap.

Well, guess I better get ready for work.

I'm sorry, darling, I could swear you just said I would have to drive myself to work today. Surely you jest! I mean, I have no clue how to get to the office...and there's all that...that..traffic!

Yes, I know traffic is comparatively nothing now that the tourists are gone for the season. And yes, I used to drive in Cincinnati 5 o'clock rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic. That was two decades ago. Lest we forget, I've spent those past two decades living in a town of 1,200 where four people at a four-way stop is considered a major traffic jam.

Excuse me?

Yeah, well, my big girl pants are in the wash, thank you very much.

Just joking, darling. Give me the damn car keys.

Note to self: Breathe, Annie. Breathe.

Fire ants, gators and driving! Oh, my!

Toto, we're not in Coon Rapids, Iowa, anymore.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

CHASING THE SUNRISE

It's just how we roll here every morning.

I wake up to the inviting aroma of  brewed Donut Shop Coffee, toss back my covers, run downstairs and head for the kitchen, calling out my cheery, signature "Good Morning, Darling!" to Mary, my dear friend and all-of-a-sudden roommate.

Mary, of course, is already working at her computer back in her bedroom, but she inevitably shouts back, "Good Morning, Darling!" and we laugh and drink our coffee and talk about whatever it is we feel compelled to gab about non-stop at 6 a.m.

One of my first mornings here in Myrtle Beach, I was just taking a sip of my coffee when Mary announced, "Get dressed! We're going to the beach to watch the sunrise!"

OMG! YES!

Watching the sun rise over the ocean was at the top of my bucket list!

I flew upstairs, threw on a pair of capris and a t-shirt and quickly wiggled my feet into a pair of flip flops.

"Hurry!" Mary shouted up the steps. "No time to lose!"

(So thankful for Mary's refreshing, healing, unstoppable "let's go!" spirit.)

We hopped in her white 2008 Sebring, and headed to the beach.

What incredible, spur-of-the-moment fun! Two old friends chasing the sunrise!

Ten minutes later, there we were, flips flops kicked off, running with our chairs past the dunes at the 38th Avenue public beach  access just as the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds on the horizon.

My heart was pounding like a bongo drum! The delicious spontaneity of the moment, coupled with the wild anticipation of finally watching an ocean sunrise was absolutely exhilarating!

We both plopped down into our chairs and watched in silent awe as the stunningly bright yellow orb rose rather quickly over the ocean.

"Oh, my God, Mary! Oh, my God!"

That's all I could utter, softly, as to not disturb the soul-stirring quiet splendor  of the breathtaking early morning light show rippling across the gently rolling waves.

Sheer. Heaven. Inner peace. Contentment.

My salty sanctuary! At last!

Amen! And Amen!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PENNING AMID THE PINES

So here I sit in my new writing room, beginning my third 40 Days of Writing challenge, with so much to write about I barely know where to begin!

Perhaps the best place to start is to describe the stunning view outside my new writing room windows, er, screens!

Yes, I am, as I type, cozied up under a pile of blankets on my screened-in porch on this cool South Carolina evening, staring out at a nearby row of  fragrant giant pines, listening to the soothing rhythm of a fall rain.

OK, technically it is not "my" screened-in porch. The porch -- my new cyber penning haven -- is but one of the lovely rooms in this spacious townhouse belonging to my good friend, Mary. She has graciously given me a roof over my head, a temporary office job, and oodles of inspiration and encouragement as I embark upon what can only be described as, well, a journey. A quest.

What else to call this crazy leap of faith I have taken since the last 40 Days of Writing challenge?

With my family's blessings, I left my home, a 40-hour-a-week job with benefits, and the familiarity of small-town Iowa for a shot at a new life...a different state (with entirely different flora and fauna), a different job and complete anonymity.

Why?

Why not?

Time to take a chance, enjoy an adventure. Re-discover, perhaps re-invent, myself. Again.

Find my smile.

Hard not to smile while watching the sun rise over Myrtle Beach, or feeling the salty spray of the Atlantic Ocean while splashing through the warm, rolling waves, lost in the search for the perfect seashell.

The cure for anything, they say, is salt water -- tears, sweat and the sea.

Indeed, I've had a couple of good, soul-wrenching cries since I got here, and have done my fair share of sweating as I've happily traipsed along the beach on cloudless 81-degree afternoons.

As for the sea, well...where else can you feel so small and alone yet so connected to the rest of the humanity? The ocean's vastness just naturally puts problems and the past in perspective.

Look at the faces of the people streaming slowly, quietly, single file, along the tide's edge early on a Sunday morning in early October.

Serenity. Pure and simple.

The perfect mindset for beginning my third 40 Days of Writing challenge, wrapped in blankets, ensconced in my new writing room amid the South Carolina pines, listening to the rhythm of a fall rain.

 Truly, a 24/7 writer's retreat.

Smiling!

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 08, 2012

WEDNESDAY! WEDNESDAY!

Yes, The Home Stretch has been on a bit of a vacay the past three weeks...

Put my YOLO ( You Only Live Once) mantra to the test, and have started a new chapter in my life. Scads of new stuff to write about!

Just in time!

For beginning Wednesday, Oct. 10, I will be back writing daily as I start my third 40 Days of Writing Challenge.

Thanks to all who have encouraged me along the way...good to be back!


Carolina in my Mind by James Taylor on Grooveshark

Friday, September 14, 2012

ONE MORE DAY!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper on Grooveshark

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DELICIOUS AMBIGUITY

Part of Me, Part of You by Glenn Frey on Grooveshark



I've been many things in my 55-year-old life.

A daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin.

A friend. A neighbor.

A high school drill team co-captain, an amusement park ride operator, a college graduate, a newspaper reporter/editor/columnist/owner; a freelance writer.

A blogger.

A wife, a mother, an aunt, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law.

A baker, a church secretary, a dental hygienist (just for one day), a hardware store clerk, a grocery store cashier.

A political activist.

A Presbyterian, a Unitarian, a Methodist pastor's wife, and a Buddhist wanna-be.

A Young Republican, a middle-aged Independent, and currently, a bleeding heart Liberal.

A telemarketer, a customer service rep, a purchasing coordinator, and most recently, a waybill processor.

Yes, I've worn many hats, as they say.

And a few days from now, I shall add a new hat to my life's collection...

My new hat!
Ann Heise Kult, Adventurer.

Yup.

Eastbound and down for a couple of months! Visiting friends! Seeing some sights! Working some political/marketing gigs!

Pursuing my passion...Writing!

Basically, breaking away from the daily routine for a bit, flying by the seat of my past-middle-age pants.

Channeling my inner Thelma and Louise without driving off a cliff!

And bless their hearts, the fam is all for it. Heck, they were shocked I actually came back from my Cincy vacay in July...as were most of my friends and co-workers.

Kinda exciting!

At 55 (almost 56), leaping and not worrying if the net will appear, just determined to go toe-to-toe in mid-air with The Great Unknown!  Embracing uncertainty for the first time in my life!
Gilda

Or, as one of my favorite comedians once said:


















Stay tuned!

Monday, September 03, 2012

SETTING SAIL

Closer To Fine by Indigo Grils on Grooveshark





Monday, August 27, 2012

ONE CHILD BORN TO CARRY ON

Two passionate politicos...who knew?
So on Saturday my fortune cookie advised me that a cheerful letter or message was on its way to me.

I was skeptical.

But by late Sunday afternoon, the cookie's prediction manifested itself by way of an AWESOME phone call from my son. And I am still smiling! And oh, so cheerful!

I mean, what life-long-political-activist Mom wouldn't be thrilled to discover that the reason she hadn't heard from her one-and-only college sophomore Sonny Boy all day  is because -- drum roll please -- he was busy canvassing for President Barack Obama!

"You're what?" I  asked, thinking I may have had a bad connection between his cell phone and my land line and hadn't heard correctly.

"I'm canvassing for Obama downtown," Daniel said.

As in downtown Iowa City.

OMG, DANIEL!  YAY! ATTA BOY!

My only child, a young liberal after my own heart!

"So, like what exactly are you doing?" I asked, barely able to contain my excitement.

Registering Obama supporters to vote, he replied.

President Barack Obama in Iowa  City
Not an easy thing to do, approaching people you don't know, inquiring about their political affiliation... and when an Obama supporter, making sure they are registered and ready to vote Nov. 6. If not a Obama supporter, a friendly tip of the hat and a "good afternoon". 

And oh, such an important, necessary job in the midst of such a heated, neck-and-neck presidential campaign! GOTV! Get Out The Vote!

Canvassing, making phone calls, registering voters, volunteering your time any way you can on behalf of a political candidate you wholeheartedly believe in is probably the best way for a young American to get their political feet wet.

I was absolutely giddy at the news!  My son, the growing political activist! A chip off the ol'  MOMocrat block! 

Makes me proud to think Daniel is realizing, as I did at about the same age, that democracy is not a spectator sport!

I was equally as thrilled when last spring he stood in line for hours to get tickets to President Obama's speech on campus. And he was up at the crack of dawn to make sure he got a good seat.

Could he have inherited my passion for politics? Was he deeply inspired by my whirlwind weekend bus trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago where I joined thousands of other concerned Americans protesting the Iraq war?

Had he actually listened to my stories over the years about canvassing the Chicago suburbs in support of the Equal Rights Amendment back in the early 80s?


Just me, RFK, Jr., and a couple other CAFO protesters...
Or were the seeds of political activism planted when Daniel was but nine years old and I, his mother the diehard investigative newspaper reporter/political protester, returned fired up after covering the annual hog summit at the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA, where Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had, during his opening speech, referenced my in-depth article on the environmental dangers related to large-scale/corporate-owned Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)?

Following Kennedy's speech, I asked him for his autograph for Daniel. And he quickly scribbled, as if from one political activist to another, perhaps foreseeing my young son following in my footsteps: "To Daniel...See You At the Barricades."

OK, so more than likely it was the cute co-ed from down the dorm hall who invited Daniel to get involved with Obama campaign that inspired him most...but that's beside the point.

The important thing is, he is involved in the political process, passionate about doing what he can to help re-elect our president.  Alas, my work here on earth is done!

One child born to carry on, to carry on!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

YOLO

There is nothing like a rainy Saturday afternoon for writing.

I love lighting my big peach candle, curling up on my day bed in my attic writing room, opening up my laptop and writing for hours...

Soaking in the stillness -- save for the soft, hypnotic drumming of raindrops on the roof  -- I stare out my  window occasionally, allowing myself to feel the shower of emotions with which my soul is instantly drenched.

I am at once filled with contentment, urgency, sadness, excitement, anticipation, regret, hunger, nourishment, loneliness, love...its the assuring coziness of a rainy day in my doll house-like writing room that calms me in the midst of such a perfect emotional storm.

Granted, I have a million other things I should be doing other than reflecting and writing.

Dishes. Laundry. Dusting. Vacuuming. Groceries.

But as my awesome high school friend, Jordan ( I now call her JDog), with whom I have the honor of working on Saturday mornings, recently reminded me...YOLO.

You Only Live Once

YupYup. Gotta do what you love.

Long story short, I decided that there will always be time for housework. Gotta make the most of a rainy day. Especially after a long summer's drought.

Must. Keep. Writing.

Hence, here I sit, curled up on my day bed, alone in my cozy attic doll house, putting cyber pen to blank blog post.

I pause, inhaling the fresh scent of my big peach candle, looking out at the rain, and listening carefully for whatever insight the raindrops may have to offer.

Settle down. It will  make sense. Eventually. Trust. Let go a little.  Breathing room. Sometimes, all you can do is let it rain. 

And the rain just keeps coming.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A SEXY SLIDE GIRL FOREVER...SORTA

Back in the KI days...
Once upon a time, as a 16-year-old ride operator at Kings Island Amusement Park near Cincinnati, I could run and leap effortlessly to the top of the Giant Slide, amazingly akin to a young gazelle.

Donned in a cheery blue-and-white polka dotted dress with matching bloomers and a pair of bright white Keds, I could also hop from lane to lane seemingly at the speed of light, swooping young children up in my arms out of harm's way if need be, delicately darting between a dozen or more other park patrons as they flew down the slick fiberglass hills on their itchy burlap rugs.

Those of us assigned to work on the Giant Slide were tagged Sexy Slide Girls, or SSGs.

We were young, lithe and lovely.
One Sexy Slide Girl

Fast forward 40 years, then, to Sunday when five of my friends and I  -- no longer young or lithe, but still lovely -- rode the Giant Slide at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

A patron now, not a ride operator -- donned in pair of brooding black capris, black shirt and scuffed off-white gym shoes --  I grasped my itchy burlap rug in my right hand, my left hand clutching the railing as I huffed and puffed up the gazillion metal steps to the top of the slide. I felt amazingly akin to the old and rather massive 1,500 pound boar sprawled in a giant slothlike heap on the floor of his stall over in the livestock building.

Finally high atop the slide, the gruff ride operator (she never would have made it at Kings Island) hailed me and my friends over to the far end. She hurriedly grabbed our burlap rugs and threw them down next to each other, edges overlapping, and instructed us to sit down quickly. We wanted to go down the slide all at the same time, so we locked our arms.


From left: Leesa, Karla, Me, Diane and Vick
More like The Golden Girls than Sexy Slide Girls, we moaned and groaned our way down into sitting position on our burlap, locked arms, and with one big push from the ride operator, off  we flew down the Giant Slide!

It was a magic burlap carpet ride! I felt like a kid again! Adrenaline rushing,  hair blowing back in the breeze...

WHOA, BABY!  THIS SLIDE IS SLICK! YIKES!

Oh, the screaming! The yelling!  The laughing! The sounds of our collective long-ago youth echoing across the fairgrounds!

We held on to each other for dear life as we zoomed toward the bottom of the slide. It looked like my friend Vicki might flip over!


 NOOOOOOO!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


And a grand time was had by all!
Seconds later at the bottom of the slide, our burlap rugs came to an abrupt halt and we were laughing so hard we were just about in tears, trying to catch our breath and collect ourselves as we struggled to stand up.

OMG! Too much fun at the Iowa State Fair!  Thanks, Ladies!  I needed that!



Sunday, August 19, 2012

CARE TO CHAT?

Conversation.

I crave it.

It's my verbal drug of choice.

Just something about the spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions and feelings that guarantees a lift in in my spirit! A spring in my step! A song in my heart!

Never been to Ireland nor kissed the Blarney Stone, which, legend has it, gives one the gift of gab. But goodness knows, I love to talk. On the phone. At the table. At my desk. In the grocery aisle. On the street corner.

I yearn to socialize, schmooze, chat and, if necessary, am not opposed to a little tete-a-tete now and then.

Lately, it seems, I've found myself caught up in a type of convo known as crossfire --  a lively and heated interchange of ideas and opinions --  on Facebook regarding the upcoming presidential election. Yikes.

(All in good fun, Mittens, all in good fun.)

For me, it's all about the connection. Making it memorable. Seizing the moment at hand, touching the heart of another person through words, sentences, exclamations, declarations. 

They say that conversation is feminine, while debate is masculine. Which may explain to some degree the occasional breakdown in communication in a male-female relationship. But lucky the woman who finds herself in the company of an ardent male conversationalist!

Worst conversation?  The dangling conversation...but a great song by the same name by Simon and Garfunkel.

Now, for some folks, the art of conversation is a lost art, a neglected pleasure. But never fear, the Internet is full of suggested questions, i.e. conversation starters, to assist you.  So next time you are at a loss for words as you are trying to get to know someone, try a couple of these questions on for size:


  • What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
  • If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be?
  • What's the longest you've gone without sleep?
  • What's your favorite Barry Manilow song?
  • Who's your favorite Muppet?
  • What's the habit you're proudest of breaking?
  • What's your favorite Web site?
  • What's your favorite school supply?
  • Who's your favorite TV attorney?
  • What was your most recent trip of more than 50 miles?
  • What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or thrift store?
  • Where were you on September 11, 2001?
  • What's your favorite tree?
  • What's the most interesting biography you've read?
  • What do you order when you eat Chinese food? 
  • Sunday, August 12, 2012

    BRAVE NEW WORLD

    Banner adventurous weekend for this ol' gal.

    Not sure what's gotten into me...

    Maybe it's the whole "like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives" philosophy that haunts me.

    Or maybe it was the welcomed drop in temperature, and the early-fall like morning air went straight to my head.

    Whatever it was, something mysteriously caused me to toss my usual "always approach life with extra caution" mindset aside more than a couple of  times:

    Inherited a Droid and went toe-to-toe with modern cellular technology. Yup. Spent three hours at the Verizon store in Carroll familiarizing myself with the ins and outs of a touch screen. I'd like to personally thank Diane Kohorst for being so patient and answering all my questions and calming my nerves, helping me to remain brave and stay the course when I was ready to run back to my "old school" non-smart phone after a whopping five minutes.

    Diane chuckled when I said I might have to spend the night there before I'd get the hang of it, but I was serious. Anyone who has had to teach me anything new, from a drill team routine in high school to how to process a waybill at work, knows I sometimes bristle and freak out if I don't catch on immediately. But I dug deep and was determined, faced my fear of failure, and Eureka!  I've got apps! WooHoo!

    Brave New World!

    Hopped on the back of a friend's motorcycle and rode, sans helmet, six blocks to the hardware store.  OK, so "hopped" is a bit of a stretch...more like "hobbled less than gracefully".  But  yeah, I rode on a motorcycle! For a whole six blocks! I know... I can't believe it either. I hate motorcycles. But when my good buddy Dell Petty pulled up to the corner as I was starting to hoof it down to Hardware Hank, asked me where I was headed and did I want a lift, I just blurted out, "Sure!" Yikes-a-roni! It was kinda fun!

    Demanded a working massage chair at the nail salon during my mani-pedi. Well, actually, I asked politely if I could please have a different massage chair because the one they put me in would not start, and that was like the third visit there where I'd gotten a bum chair. The first two times I never said  a thing.  But dang, the massage chair is half the fun of the mani-pedi experience if you ask me (especially the last chair on the left...yummy!)

    Now, I am not the kind of person who demands much of anything or makes a fuss if customer service is less than perfect. I don't send my food back at a restaurant if they give me beans instead of peas, or if the rice is a tish cold. If I get charged twice for a bar of soap at the grocery store, so be it. I utter not a peep. But by golly, I wanted a full-functioning masssage chair Saturday (especially after spending three grueling hours at Verizon) while my fake fingernails soaked off in a small plastic bowl of acetone and the callouses on my feet were scraped. So I spoke up! And I got my favorite yummy massage chair to boot! Yay!

    Got my hair cut Sunday at  the SmartStyle Family Hair Salon at the Carroll Wal-Mart . There I was, pushing my cart toward the exit, and I suddenly got the urge to get my hair cut. In the blink of an eye I decided what the heck, I'd trust a stylist I absolutely do not know nor was she recommended (which is usually a pre-requisite for me, seeing as I quake at the thought of a bad hair day).  Her name, by the way, is Rhianna, and she is excellent!  I love my new haircut!

    I also love the fact that Rhianna asked me if I had young children starting school soon. My eyes popped open wide.  Me? Young children? You really think I look like I could have children who are young? Wow! Bless your heart! Thank you!

    Granted, I sounded way too Sally-Field-at-the-'84-Oscars-Best-Actress-acceptance-speech incredulous ("You like me!  You really like me!"), but it really did make my day.

    When I told Rhianna that actually I have a 19-year-old son who just left for his sophomore year at Iowa, she looked shocked.  Might have been my horrible split ends. Anyway, she was so sweet, I bought a bottle of leave-in conditioner for an extra $10 and told her I'd be back.

    Only got a little nauseous and teary when said college sophomore son left for Iowa City Friday night. And maybe that's the reason for my uncharacteristic chutzpah the rest of the weekend.

    Round 2 of the Empty Nest and I am so OK with it. I know Daniel is where he needs to be, where he is happiest and most creative. I know he is blooming where he is planted.

    Hence, perhaps my soul is signaling in mysterious ways that it's time for me to bloom - once more -- before I'm planted...six feet under.

    Life is not a dress rehearsal, folks. And at 55, time is of the essence. Must make the most of it.

    Must.

    Carpe Diem!

    Saturday, August 04, 2012

    RAIN!

    Moments after I lament that I do not think it will ever rain again in Iowa...voila!

    RAIN!

    OK, a sprinkle. Followed by a tish heavier sprinkle. Suppose you could call it a shower. Followed by a light wind gust.

    I tear downstairs, out the front door, face upward, eyes wide open, giddily awash in the early Saturday morning rain drops, pajamas and all.

    For a second, I think I hear a rumble of  thunder in the distance. Bring it!

    "Mom, you look like a crazy lady! Come in the house!" my 19-year-old son pleads from the safe, dry confines of our front porch.

    "I am a crazy lady!" I reply, laughing out loud, letting the momentarily-wild wind tousle my crumpled bed-head hair.

    Rainy Saturdays!  My favorite! Maybe we do bring the rain. Still.


    I run barefoot across the hard, drought-dried lawn, now wondrously soft and wet. 

    Rain! Glorious rain!


    A cool breeze!  Goosebumps! A slight shiver! YES!

    Inhale deeply. Exhale slowly.

    Breathe, Annie. Breathe.

    Smiling.


    Reaching for something in the distance
    So close you can almost taste it
    Release your inhibitions
    Feel the rain on your skin

    No one else can feel it for you
    Only you can let it in
    No one else, no one else
    Can speak the words on your lips

    Drench yourself in words unspoken
    Live your life with arms wide open
    Today is where your book begins
    The rest is still unwritten...



    Friday, August 03, 2012

    BEAUTIFUL SONG, AWESOME VIDEO




    Wanted to share this awesome video, directed and filmed by my son, Daniel, and this beautiful song by my friend Chad Elliott...

    Happy Friday!

    Thursday, August 02, 2012

    IF YOU MUST RETURN FROM VACAY...

    OK, so we never danced to Love Shack. But our teams -- T.S. Squad and Ann's Team -- placed in the top four during the Trivia Night contest at Madeira Inn.

    The tips of my recently highlighted blonde hair may have turned green after swimming, but I got a nice tan.

    And I did not smuggle home jars of Frisch's Tartar Sauce and packets of Skyline Chili mix in my carry-on, but I managed to dine at both of my fave Cincy eateries TWICE while I was there...yummy!

    Yes, my Cincy vacay was wonderful! Thanks to all who have inquired  since my return last Tuesday!

    The best part of the trip, of course, was seeing the ol' gang-o-mine...though, sadly, everyone's lives busy and hectic as they are, I did not get to see everyone I hoped to see. And in all honesty, I don't zip around on vacay quite as fast or quite as energetically as I used to, and I spent a good share of my time just letting the stress of the work-a-day world  and the past few frenzied years of my life ooze out of my pores.

    I steeled myself for my return to reality, even had a day to adjust to the real world before I returned to work. Nevertheless, I still fell into a giant vat of post vacay blues the second day back. Felt like I never left. But isn't that always the way for anyone after several days of R and R?

    "Golly, it's so good to be back after 10 days of vacation!" said no one, ever.

    In fact, I have done some research, and because post-vacay blues are a universal malady, there are plenty-o-tips and ideas for dealing with them. Caught an article on Web MD that likens going on vacation to a trip into space, and I quote:

    "The nerve-wracking blastoff takes place only after weeks of careful planning. Then a few days of serenity and peace are followed by a harrowing re-entry. The old routine may feel like the force of gravity after days of weightlessness -- a familiar burden that suddenly feels harder to bear."

    Spot-on, Web MD!

    A harrowing re-entry indeed.

    So for those of you about to embark on a long-awaited vacation, I thought I'd share some of  my own post-vacay survival tips.  I call them Annie's Post-Vacay Blues Survival Clues.

    Yes, if you must return from vacay:


    1. Return on Tuesday of pay week. Take Wednesday off to adjust (i.e., whine), go back to work on Thursday and find your paycheck waiting for you when you return from lunch! WooHoo! And if Friday happens to be Ice Cream Day, and your supervisors are dishing up bowls of it on your morning break, even better.  Sugar always helps soften the blow of having to be back at the ol' grind.

    2. Put your pics on Facebook right away. Relive the fun! Now, I didn't do this because I still have Daniel's senior year pics taking up most of the room on my camera card (yes, he's starting his sophomore year of college in a few days...still hard to let go), and I still haven't figured out how to transfer just the few vacay pics I did take to my Mac. And no, I don't have a Smart Phone. But just do what I say, not as I haven't done, and you will keep those post-vacay blues at bay...somewhat.

    3. Pretend you are still lounging around your friend's pool, the beach, or whatever random body of water you visited on vacay.  Grab your lawn chair, a bottle of suntan lotion, a tall glass of iced green tea (with peach) and head out to your Iowa-drought-scorched front yard to catch some sweat-drenched rays in the searing 100-degrees-plus heat. Pay no attention to the dead, brown, what-used-to-be-your-lush-green-lawn crunching beneath your flip flops. I'd say turn on the sprinkler or fill a small plastic baby pool with water, but we're supposed to be conserving the H2O...oh, hell, just spritz yourself with the green tea -- a couple of flicks to the face, and you'll be rejuvenated. I know I was. Mental imagery is key here. Best of luck.

    4. Cry. Yup. If the first three suggestions don't make you feel better about your vacation coming to an end, just lay down on your bed, bury your head in your pillow, and bawl like a baby. For at least an hour.  Rail at the cat. When your friends text  how is it being back after vacay? immediately text back SUCKS! Yes, just wallow in self-pity till you can wallow no more. Then dry your eyes, hug your cat, text an apology to your friends for being so dour, and then throw on the big girl/big boy pants and face reality.

    IT'S OVER. DEAL WITH IT.

    Like an annoying summer cold, it generally takes me about a week to come to grips with reality after my Cincy vacay. And I've been back just a little over a week.  Followed some of my own advice. And look at me! 

    I'm fine!

    Really. I'm fine.

    Just fine.

    Fine.

    Oy.