Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Must-tell stories

More on vacationing at the beach:

When five Ohio-born women get together in the Deep South, there's bound to be a discussion about bugs. Specifically cockroaches. There's no question as to their presence, but how ubiquitous are they? When Bette found a cockroach in her closet, a big discussion ensued at dinner: how big do they get? Even the waitress chimed in, describing the gigantic palmetto bugs that fly. (They're THIS long, but don't worry; they immediately die if they get inside. Huh?) Nancy was getting particularly grossed out by the possibilities. So when Bette had the opportunity to play a joke on her, she went for it. What should Nancy find when she went to the bathroom? A dead cockroach on the toilet seat, of course! I'm not sure if Nancy thought it died a natural death just sitting there, but she seemed pretty convinced that the cockroaches were now going to attack her while she slept.

But things went from bad to worse in the scaring-ourselves department. Before the night was out, I was unable to open my door to the balcony (which faced the ocean), despite the fact that it was on the second floor and there were no steps leading to it. Several of them had me convinced that an intruder would, no doubt, find his way in to commit mayhem; thus, the knives were put in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. That's so the intruder would have to use his own knives.

Moving into the light of day found us at the beach. By now, all of Arlington, Ohio must know that Kay lost her phone and camera. When we discovered the loss, we seriously backtracked with some heavy-duty beachcombing. In the meantime, a good samaritan found the phone and started calling. The recipients of those phone calls may not have known about Kay's whereabouts, but they quickly learned. At any rate, Kay happened upon the caller who, fortunately, handed over the phone and camera, no questions asked. That may have had a better ending than the incident with the key. I found it in the sand; not knowing what else to do with it, I threw it away from the shoreline amidst protests. Too late, I pictured a lost soul searching the sand, locked out of her house with the magic mirror.

Yes, magic mirror. In the middle of the giggles and the shrieks, we admired ourselves in the magnifying mirror in my bathroom. I stumbled upon its magic when I pulled it away from the wall. I'm not kidding, it took ten years off my life. When I pointed out my discovery to the others, they felt compelled to follow my lead and came away astonished. I made it a practice to check its magic every now and then. After I caught a glimpse of my blurry eyes when I awoke, I stumbled pass the regular mirror to the Magic Mirror and saw only wide-awake youth. Must have been beach magic. There's no other answer.

Those are the stories I'm free to tell. And then there's the rest of the story.

Friends, family, vacations . . . oh, my!

I’ve traveled here, there, and everywhere over the past month. The first part of the month found my husband and me in western NC to build a ladder-backchair (husband) and learn how to draw (myself).

Next was a short visit to my son in Norfolk since we were halfway there—happy to see him in his new place; sad not to hug him. I had a fierce cold that I’d picked up in NC—fortunately, not until Friday evening AFTER our fun week there. (I know the exact time when it happened. I laid my head down on my pillow to go to sleep and glanced at the clock . . . BAM! At exactly 10:30 p.m., the itchy sore throat set in!)

Nathan had a hand in designing the building in the background, the MacArthur Center.

When we returned home, I spent a few days recuperating before I hit the road for Birmingham and WIK12 (Writing and Illustrating for Kids). Spending hours with Donna Jo Napoli inspired me; walking with Leila Sales, associate editor at Viking Children’s Books, delighted me; and chatting with Julie Ham, associate editor at Charlesbridge, and joining her for a written critique left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Finally, the workshop with Marietta Zacker, agent for Nancy Galt Literary Agency, left me in stitches. (Many thanks to my delightful host, Joan Broerman, for her hospitality and to Peggie Hulebak for keeping me company throughout the day.)

Leaving the conference before the wrap-up party, I sped home to get ready for a few days at Gulf Shores. When the Pacifica pulled in, loaded to the gills with suitcases and women, I was ecstatic. After hugging Nancy Alexander, Bette Richard, Kay Sidle, and Janie Jarvis, I shepherded then inside, demanding everything that had been said in the previous nine hours. From that point on, we talked incessantly: at my house, in the car, on the porch facing the ocean, on the sand, poolside, at the restaurants, inside the luxurious five-bedroom place. You name it, and we talked about it. One would think we’d tire out, but lively conversation continued on the trip home. Of course, one of our topics included when and where to meet up next. Since they all have family nearby and I’m the odd woman out, I have to take into consideration chunks of time to visit my kids. At any rate and lots of giggles later, we returned home very happy to have gotten this chance to spend time together.

People envied us our youth and our fun, or, at least, that’s what we claimed when people started staring at us at Bahama Bob’s. It surely had nothing to do with a certain someone drinking—okay, I confess, it was I—one Long Island Tea, precipitating lots of giggles on my part, which infected the others. (But was it really necessary for the one truly-old geezer to turn his chair around to watch us? And why didn’t anyone ask about our lookalike tee-shirts? Is this normal behavior for the Gulf?)

At the risk of sounding sappy, we really are five forever friends. Having known each other since elementary school, the fact that we’ve taken the time to become reacquainted has been such a blessing. We all look forward to our next big adventure together. Wanna join us?

Only seriously silly women need apply.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Voted best, most unusual vacation ever!

Nestled in the hills of western North Carolina lays an inviting workshop. Run by Drew Langsner, Country Workshops offers periodic how-to sessions in a remote, idyllic setting. Last week, my husband started with this:

And ended with this:



Steve will weave the seat soon.


Drew’s wife, Louise Langsner, works the garden, and, boy, are we glad she does! This lady really knows her way around a bean! With hearty soups, fresh eggs, homemade breads, and other luscious treats, we ate exceedingly well. I'm sure all of us wanted our own Louise.

While Steve did his thing in Drew’s workshop with two other not-afraid-to-work apprentices, Jim and Dan, I hiked past the cows to the neighbor’s studio to learn how to draw from marvelous artist Nancy Darrell. Before I took art lessons, the best face I could draw was this:


Afterwards, I managed this:

Not bad for either of us, huh?

I plan to write more about Country Workshops. Any suggestions on where to submit?