Birthday Misadventures

My birthday was Monday, and I planned to spend the afternoon at the Chicago History Museum. As I usually do, I did some online research on parking in the area and compared public transportation routes. I decided to take the bus–there was only one interchange.

Like half the nation, it was cold here on Monday. I put on what I thought would be enough layers given the amount of time I anticipated walking and the desire to not need a sherpa in the museum. Dressing for Chicago weather is tricky, and even though I was here for most of last winter, I haven’t quite got the hang of it. I should have worn a heavier coat.

Then I left late. And the bus was slow. I realized that I hadn’t coordinated a meet time with Eric for our early dinner. (If you get to Flat Top Grill before 4, they charge lunch prices!) He’d planned to stop work at 3:20. That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the museum. Instead, I stayed on the bus a few more stops and waited in the warm building about 20 minutes for him to get off work.

Dinner was good, though, and I heard from my kids, so it wasn’t a total loss. When I do make it to the museum, I’ll get back to you on how wonderful it is.

Random bits

Today is the 39th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. For some reason I never realized it was the day before Veterans Day. I found this video on YouTube among several others, but I chose it because it has video footage of the dive when they found her in 1995 as well as the names of all the men who perished. I don’t remember the wreck myself. I was too young to take an interest in current events in 1975, but Gordon Lightfoot’s song has always resonated with me. I can’t help but feel sad when I think of the 29 families left behind. Rest in peace, lads.

In happier news, I’m plugging along with NaNoWriMo. Word count as of last night was 18,491. That’s almost 3,500 ahead of the minimum. There’s a method to my madness this year. I’m trying to front load as much as possible because The Boys will be here in two weeks for Thanksgiving. If I’m going to finish on time, I need to work ahead, but frankly, if I don’t finish, it’s not a big deal. This year it’s more about getting as much as I can as quickly as possible, to power through to avoid getting stuck in the middle. I hope if I can get through the middle before they come, I’ll be able to finish it after they leave.

One thing I will be doing is taking next Monday off. It’s my birthday. I’m going to do something fun. I’m not sure what yet, but I’ll be turning off the computer for the day. Actually, I might turn it on in the evening so I can report on the fun I had, if I’m not still having fun.

So that’s what’s been going on here. What have you been up to?

 

 

The Ada book signing went great! We had a good turn-out–better than I expected, considering Ada is one of those “can’t get there from here towns.” It’s adorable, to be sure, and apparently everyone supports everyone else because we even had trick-or-treaters come. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked since I was busy signing books. I signed my name so much I felt like I was buying a house. Somehow I managed to not get a single picture of Gail Henderson, who was our social butterfly and worked the crowd beautifully. Thanks to Gail, Stephen Bagley, Jean Schara, and Tammy Jones (who joined us via Skype) for making it a memorable evening!

book signing food

book signing food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Table

Book Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean and Stephen talking to Tammy via Skype

Jean and Stephen talking to Tammy via Skype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen with R-tutu-D-tutu

Stephen with R-tutu-D-tutu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you in the Oklahoma area?

Imagine my surprise when I looked to see what I’d blogged about in the recent past, and didn’t see anything about Blackbirds First Flight! If you’re my Facebook friend (and if you’re not, why?), you know all about it. You’ve seen the pictures of the cover and the hype about the release. If you’ve missed it, here’s the skinny:

I was invited to submit dark, gothic short stories to my friend’s anthology. I sent four, he accepted three. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu, but if you happen to be in the area of Ada, OK (more or less halfway between Dallas and Oklahoma City) on Thursday, you can come by the library, pick up your brand new shiny copy, and we’ll sign it for you. Four of the six authors will be there, including yours truly. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned–I’ll be back next week with pictures. Or check my Facebook page (Wendy Blanton, Storyteller).

Nine Months On

Nine months ago last Monday, my husband was laid off. It wasn’t completely unexpected. The contract he was working on had to reduce the number of workers. We mistakenly thought that the lowest producers would be cut. Instead, the highest paid (and highest producers) were let go. To say we were shocked is an understatement. It was the first time he’d ever lost a job instead of leaving it on his own terms.

We were blessed when he got a job offer two weeks later. The catch was the move from St. Louis to Chicago. But it was a job, and being retired military, moving for a job was no big deal. Or so I thought.

I’ve written a little bit about the really hard parts, about the grief of leaving my old life to step into the unknown. Again. The grief was new. We moved five times in the last seven years of Eric’s military career. I never grieved my old life. I picked it up and moved it.

Now that we’re settled in to our new place and have had friends come to visit, we feel more at home. I’m starting to see the possibility in the new normal and have learned to embrace both the good and bad of city life.

One thing I’ve learned is grief isn’t linear. I can go weeks without thinking about it, and then something comes out of nowhere and reminds me of where I was a year ago, and it makes me cry. Usually it’s something innocuous, but these days it’s as much gratitude that I’ve come through the worst of it as it is missing my kids. I was waiting to stop missing them so much, and then my mom told me it’s not going to happen.

I’ve come to realize that although chronologically I’m well into adulthood, I’m still a kid in God’s eyes. I still have a lot of growing to do, and He knew it wasn’t enough for my kids to leave the nest. To take my next step, I had to leave the nest, too.

100 Years

One hundred years ago today, Austria declared war on Serbia and set into motion a chain of events that would irrevocably change our world. The assassination of the Austrian heir and his wife was all it took to light the tinder, and secret alliances throughout Europe provided the fuel for the worst conflict known to man at that time. The United States stayed out of the conflict for three years, but did not join the war unscathed. Loss of American life began before the declaration of war.

Today our world is vastly different. Technology has exploded in ways people never dreamed of the day Austria declared war. It’s a lovely sunny day here in Chicago. The breeze has a hint of chill and my windows are open to catch it, heedless of the noise from the traffic. The weather is unheard of anywhere in the Midwest for late July. The breeze brings hope for the cool crispness of autumn, which is still more than a month away.

Our world is still in conflict. Areas that were part of the conflict a hundred years ago today are again in conflict. Between Ukraine and Gaza, our world could erupt into world war again. This time could very well be worse now that women are in harm’s way beside men. But I don’t think it will happen today. Today it’s sunny with a lovely breeze. It’s best to enjoy it because tomorrow may not be the same.

Sunset from our roof

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Taken last night (7-13-14)

Knocked down

It’s been a while, I know. A few weeks ago, I got feedback on a contest entry. To say it was disappointing is an understatement. It wasn’t quite devastating, but it was very discouraging. Thinking maybe the judges were smoking something, I sent it to a few of my writer friends. They disliked it, too, for more or less the same reasons as the judges. It was the first time I’ve written something that was universally hated.

It’s the measure of a true friend when they tell you what you don’t want to hear. Unlike the judges, who gave freely of their opinions and walked away, my friends helped me figure out a new direction for the story. It will be better, tighter, than it currently is. When I write it. I haven’t started it yet.

Granted, some of that is because this is a busy time of year for us, and I rarely get any good writing done from mid-June to mid-July. We have other commitments during that time that make it difficult to focus on writing, and when I do write, I almost always end up cutting or heavily revising it later. But usually by this time, I’m eager to get back to it. I’m thinking about the story, jotting down notes, trying to steal a moment or two to get to my keyboard. Not this year. The notecards for the rewrite are sitting on my desk and it feels like the task is too big. It’s too much. Why even bother? Why not just move on to greener pastures?

Because this isn’t the only one. I have four books in similar shape on my hard drive–skeletons of what they can and should become. Because this is a call, like it or not, and right now, I don’t. But in the long run, I’ll do myself more harm than good by not writing. So I’ll enjoy a week with my family, and when they’ve left, I’ll pick up the pieces and start. Again. Because I have to.

Assimilating

Vicky graduated from college last Friday night in St. Louis. Since we had family meeting us there, we decided to drive down Thursday night so we could have some time with them. The catch was, Eric wanted me to pick him up at work so we could leave from there, allowing us to get an earlier start and beat some of the traffic. It made sense, but I had a bad feeling about it.

Everything was great on the drive to pick him up, on the trip downstate, throughout the whole weekend. Even the drive back was fine. Then came this morning. Eric’s car was still at the office. I had to get up to take him to work.

He drove there, allowing me time to caffeinate, but I should have topped my cup up once more before we left. Traffic was really light outside his office and I thought I was home free. About fifteen minutes into my drive, I realized I’d missed a turn, and I had no idea where I was.

No big deal. I got out my cell phone and told it to navigate home. It told me to turn right in half a mile. Cool! I was in the right lane. Easy peasy. After I turned right, it told me in half a mile to take the exit onto I-290 East. Not so good. In my opinion, I-anything is a bad thing at 8 a.m. on a weekday. Still, I did what it said and merged onto the parking lot. It wanted me to go seven miles and change highways. Do you know how long seven miles takes in Chicago rush hour traffic? Half an hour. If you’re lucky. Rule of thumb is five minutes/mile. I figured I was looking at an hour to get home, but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what exit I would be on after I merged to the highway that would take me home. Asking my iPhone to find an alternate route did no good at all. Apple maps only goes one way.

Then I saw it: Western Ave 1 mile. *cue singing angels*

Suddenly, in the middle of no man’s land traffic, I knew more or less where I was. It still took another fifteen minutes to get home, but I got home stress-free (and hungry). The moral of the story is, at least in Chicago, pay attention to the names of the streets near you. If you’re lost and see one that looks familiar, chances are decent you’ll be able to find your way. The caveat is that even though a street might stretch from one end of the city to the other, there may be interruptions. Sometimes there’s a park in the middle of the street and you have to circumnavigate, and Chicago has its fair share of one-way streets, but if you get going the right way, it’s pretty easy to get around. Just make sure you are going the right way.

Kleenex is my friend

My allergies kicked into high gear all at once this year. This is how I’ve been feeling:

photo-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I can barely think coherently, I’m going to leave you with a picture of the Martha Washington Geraniums on my terrace. It’s a much nicer picture than me blowing, well, you probably can guess. Flowers are much nicer.

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