August 10 on 10 Zooma the Wonder Dog’s summer follies

This is part of a monthly blog circle where photographers and bloggers share ten photos from the previous month on the tenth day of the month. To follow the circle find the next link at the bottom of the blog post, after my dog has finished her ramblings.


I haven’t been anything but trouble this summer.

DSC_5444That’s what my Mooom tells me anyhow.

She’s not really my Mooom but that’s what the short, loud human calls her so I do too. Plus she’s like a mama to me now that I live here with the human daddy and Plaything One and Plaything Two. She feeds me, cuddles me, tells me I’m a good girl and she even scolds me, just like a mama.

This summer she’s scolded me a lot. She doesn’t let me have any fun.

Before I go too much further I should tell you who I am. I’m Zooma the Wonder Dog, and I’ve talked to you before, filling you in on my adventures since I was adopted from the farm.

I hear my name yelled a lot these days and I happily bark back at the sound, even when it’s said in “that way” – the “annoyed tone” as Moooom calls it.

“Zooma!” “Zoooooma!” and “ZOOMA!” are how I hear my name a lot. It’s usually followed by statements such as:

“What are you eating?!”

“Stop eating that!”

“Get down off that table!”

“Did you just pee in there?!”

“That’s not where you poop! You poop OUTSIDE!”

“Leave the cat alone!”

Ah. The cat.

I call her The Beast.

She totally loves me. She does.

Don’t let the flailing and hissing fool you. We’re best friends. We totally are. She loves when I nip at her ears and chase her up onto the couch and corner her under the table. Those flying paws are a simple greeting of joy and adoration. Sure, she catches me with one of those sharp things on the end of her feet sometimes but I’m certain it’s a total accident so I just keep showing her love until she starts to love me back.

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It’s been real hot lately and I have what Moooom calls “lovely fur” all over me so I feel really, really hot when I’m in the backyard watching the neighbors push machines around their yards. Moooom says I’m supposed to be outside doing something called “my business” but since I have no idea what that is I usually just go out there and lay in the grass, chase the fat buzzing thing with wings that flies out of the hole under the house, tip my head at the other humans getting in and out of those loud things called cars and finding a new way to twist myself around Plaything Two’s table. ‘

When I get twisted around the table and cry Mooom gives me extra attention and says things like “Oh. You poor thing. How long have you been like this?” And then she pets me and hugs me and lets me kiss her face without saying things like: “Ew. I know where that tongue has been. Don’t you dare lick me.” which is what she normally says when I try to kiss her.

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Sometimes when it’s hot outside Plaything One and Plaything Two splash in something they call a kiddie pool. I like to bite at their ankles and toes and listen to them scream as they step out of the pool and then sometimes I stick my head in the pool and slurp out the water.

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I like Plaything Two because she feeds me all kinds of yummy treats, even when Moooom tells her to stop it. Mom calls Plaything Two, “Grace,” but I like to just call her Plaything Two. Plaything One is fun because he runs a lot and I try to bite his ankles and his shirts while he runs. Mom calls him “Jonathan” but again, I’m just sticking with Plaything One. He flails his arms wildly, and screams all crazy like while he runs, which is always entertaining to watch.

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Well, it’s been a long day of chasing The Beast and chewing up cardboard, bones, paper bags, Plaything Two’s toys, and having some ice cream at Johnny D’s, so I think I’ll take a nap, probably in the middle of the floor again so Moooom can say “What in the world dog? You can’t find a better place to lay?” and I can look at her with that innocent expression I’ve mastered, complete with the head tilt, raised ear and lolling tongue.


To continue this months 10 on 10 blog circle visit Jennifer Blake at Blueberry Hill Images

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The week in review: swearing preschoolers, more rain, and a little local history

When I got back from picking up a few groceries one day this week my 11-year old niece let me know that my daughter, who will be four in October, had been placed in time out while I was gone for taking the Lord’s name in vain. My niece didn’t call it that because my niece hasn’t been brought up in the church so she doesn’t know the Christianese my family does, but she felt that my daughter saying “Jesus!” emphatically several times in a row was not appropriate and so she made her sit in time out. My daughter didn’t mind sitting in time out, by the way, but what did send her into a crying fit was when she was told she couldn’t watch any cartoons for the duration of the time-out. Her time-outs are three minutes so it’s not like not watching a cartoon for that duration is the end of the world, but I suppose it’s a big deal when you are almost four.

Now, in my house I have said “Jesus” several times in a row but not as a swear word. I deal with some chronic health issues so I have been known to say the name Jesus when I can’t think what else to pray. And sometimes I even say it emphatically. I thought maybe this is what my daughter was imitating but I didn’t really have time to try to figure it out at that moment because she needed a nap. I thanked my niece, took Little Miss up for her nap, and didn’t think much about it again until that night at bedtime.

We read The Oscar the Grouch book two times and then she told me she’d learned something that day.

I said, “oh? What did you learn?”

“I learned that geez louise is a really bad word,” she said seriously. “It is not good to say.”

I said, “is that what you were saying today with your cousin?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding and looking a bit bewildered by it all.

Though her brother says he heard her and knows she was saying “Jesus” I have a feeling she thought she was saying “geez louise” and never thought she was somehow swearing at the heavens.

I let her know that geez louise isn’t necessarily a polite word but in our house, it isn’t considered a swear word. After that conversation, I felt relieved my daughter hadn’t picked up an offensive way to speak about Jesus and looked forward to the day her articulation is more developed.


It rained all week again, which left the little town I grew up near dealing with some flooding. I live about 40 minutes north now and we escaped any major damage but we were ready for some sunshine and a change of scenery by the weekend so we traveled to a historical site near us called French Azilum.

It’s touted as the place where Marie Antionette was going to live if she had escaped France alive, which, of course, she didn’t, instead losing her head to the guillotine. A group of her servants traveled on ahead, however, eventually settling the land in the area along the river before some of them eventually returned to France and others left the settlement and founded other villages around the county, including the village I grew up in.

One of the main highlights of the site is the Laporte House, which was built in 1836 by John Laporte, a son of one of the original French settlers. The home is original and provides a look at how life was lived in the early days of our country. Mr. Laporte was a US Senator, a state representative, his family name was carried on in the town name of the county seat of our neighboring county, Sullivan County, and apparently, he was also a very tall and large man at 6′ something and 300 some pounds. A tour of the home and where his family would have lived is something that I had never experienced before, despite living in the area my entire life and having visited the site more than once over the years. My mom has told me I did tour the house at least once, as a child, and though I don’t remember that tour, the house did seem vaguely and eerily familiar to me, which I figured was simply because I grew up in and around very old houses.

A Civil War encampment had been set up on the grounds, unrelated to the historical site, and we were being given a tour by the local historian and camp commander when he was called away to a cast iron frying pan throwing contest. Yes, you read right – a cast iron frying pan throwing contest.

 

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We decided this wasn’t something we wanted to miss so we headed to a field to watch women in long dresses toss cast iron pans toward the camp commander to see how far they could throw. I believe the longest toss was about 37 feet and it was a young girl with a wicked pitching arm. Apparently, the tossers normally have their husbands or intended stand out in the field as a “bit of motivation” for their throw. This time they had the local historian instead and luckily he came out unscathed.

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I was asked to participate and I declined, a decision I now regret, because, as I told my sister-in-law later in the day, I don’t feel you’ve fully lived until you’ve tossed a cast iron pan at a man in a field. If I’m ever asked to toss a pan again I’ll definitely take them up on the offer.

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The Week in Review: Rain, Photography, ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ and Tom Cruise

This week it was all rain, rain, rain and then a little more rain. I thought we would be building an ark soon and indeed some in our area did need to seek higher ground as the water raged around them. Luckily the flooding and damage was minimal and there were no major injuries and only moderate damage to some roads and property.

Thanks to the rain we spent a lot of our time inside watching Netflix and reading (gasp! I know!) books. I also spent the week feeling awful and looking for clues to all my weird health issues, finally deciding that maybe it’s just all that perimenopause stuff I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and to accept it for what it is. In between raindrops and twice in the midst of heavy downpours, I ran with the kids to events in town to take photos for the editor of the local paper (who I happen to be married to) because he and his reporters were covering so many events at one time.

The first night we were treated to a concert by a local band, held inside the library, instead of the planned outdoor venue. The guitar player is also a well-known photographer in our area who I imagine is one of those freaks who has about five different talents. He’s probably a talented photographer, guitar player and then goes home and cooks up amazing dishes and ends his day by painting a portrait of his wife, who is the singer in the band. After the concert,  however, he assured me I have seen his talents and there are only two. As my mom always says, ‘likely story.’

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The second night we ran through pouring rain to see a man whose talent is blowing bubbles (it’s as strange as it sounds, but also wonderful for the children) and the third night we ran through the rain to watch two children’s entertainers and musicians, a concert that had to be moved inside the local theater.

When it was Netflix time and I could wrestle the remote from my children, I turned on Somebody Feed Phil (*disclaimer this post is not sponsored by Netflix. Shoot. I could use that income.) If you haven’t seen this show and enjoy travel food shows, it’s worth a look. It features Phil Rosenthal, the writer and co-creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. Not only is he hilarious, but you can also tell he is genuinely fascinated with the food and the people of the country he is visiting. I won’t lie, I binged watch both seasons in the span of a few days and am going back to rewatch the moments I may have missed when I was making dinner or separating the children.

My favorite episodes are the one in Venice because I love the Chef Massimo Bottura, who I first saw in an episode of Chef’s Table (also on Netflix), Dublin (hilarious Irish twins…that’s all I have to say); and Tel Aviv, Israel. I love Phil’s personality and his obvious love for family. He has wild eyes and when he eats he opens his mouth full and wide almost like a toddler He ends each episode with a hilarious, sometimes awkward video call to his elderly parents back in New York City. During one call his mom answered a phone call and he had to wait until she was finished to talk. In another call his mom told him to feed the cameraman.

Netflix also features the original show “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”, his first foray into this type of show, which ran on PBS. That series was co-produced by his brother Richard Rosenthal, also involved in Somebody Feed Phil.  The presence of Richard opened the door for some hilarious moments, including his parents interrupting a conversation to ask if they could see Richard, who was part of the crew and meant to remain off camera.

I’m hoping there will more seasons of this series, a happier, lighter version of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unkown.

My week ended with this hilarious clip from The Late Late Show with James Corden. I seriously felt every ounce of anxiety and fear James felt as the segment worked up to him jumping 15,000 feet out of a plane with Tom Cruise. It’s something I know I will never, ever do because of my intense fear of heights and flying. The only thing I can compare it to is the overwhelming anxiety I felt when my son begged me to jump off the diving board, into the deep end, at the pool of some acquaintances.

His friends, my friends, and a bunch of people I didn’t know were cheering me on but all I could think was that I was going to sink down and not be able to push myself back up because the deep end was definitely over my head, thanks to my short stature. I did finally jump and I did get back to the surface, but I’m pretty sure I looked like a complete crazy person during the whole process.

 

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When you’re afraid to let your thoughts go beyond the surface

I’ve been keeping my thoughts at surface level lately, finding ways to distract myself from the “deep thoughts” I don’t want to face.

It’s been going on for months, but it got to the point of fully crawling into a psychological  hole of denial around the time my aunt died in the end of December. When those thoughts would come to mind – the ones that reminded me everyone dies and others will follow my aunt soon – I grabbed my phone and flipped through photos on Instagram, or watched clips on Youtube. Anything to keep my mind from going there – the dark part of my mind where thoughts grab me and pull me down and hold me in the darkness while my soul spins around and around in a panic.

“I don’t want to grow up. I hate that daddy can’t carry me anymore and I’m too big for us to cuddle at night,” my almost 12-year old told me one night as we turned off the lights for bed.

My stomach tightened and I mumbled something about knowing it was hard but that it was natural to feel worried about the future and growing up. Then I hugged him and rushed off into the darkness of my room and tried to hold it together. I searched for comedians on YouTube and watched them until I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I knew if I cried it was all over. I’d fall apart and it would take me days, if not weeks, to recover because if one rock slipped out of place they would all crumble down.

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The rock that said my little boy is growing so fast and I can’t slow it down.

The rock that said my daughter doesn’t fit snuggly in my lap anymore either and it’s leaving me feeling out of control.
The rock that said I thought about calling my aunt the other day to tell her a funny story and then remembered she wasn’t there to tell.

The rock that says my mom’s health isn’t good and someday I won’t have her to call and seek comfort from.

The rock that says my dad is so tired from Lyme and taking care of two properties and I’m worried he’s going to end up in the hospital, but I can’t make him slow down because he’s an adult.

The rock that says our finances are often not great and it scares me. The rock that tells me I’ve failed at making a career and helping support my family.

The rock that says I don’t pray enough and I know it.

The rock that says I don’t trust God the way I should.

And when all those rocks come down – what will happen?

I have to keep the rocks in place because with them in place I am less of a spazz, less of a person people shake their heads at sadly, less of a jumbled mess of anxiety and more of what a good Christian is supposed to be.

At least, this is what I have told myself as I hold myself hard against the rocks, holding them back, putting them where they belong if they threaten to fall, while the tears try to leak through and push my feelings out into the open, where anyone could see them and know I don’t have it together at all.

I know I’ve said I’m not a vision person and I wouldn’t call it a vision when I was thinking about all this late one night and I saw Jesus standing by me, looking at me with a small, gentle smile, as I held the rocks in place and then watched as he took each rock in his hands and they faded into nothingness.

“Don’t worry about these,” he said. “I’ll hold them for you. You can let them go.”

I don’t let go well, Lord, you know that, but I’m trying.

I’m trying.

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Why lip gloss…why?

One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.


Why, lipgloss, why?

By Tiffany Kuhn

Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.

Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing?  Yeah, I think not.

While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.

You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.

The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?

The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.

It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.

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The day I made a nationally known writer run away from me

One day in June I caused a nationally syndicated advice columnist to run from me after I mentioned I enjoyed her column when really I had only looked her up a few days before because I was told the freelance photography job I had been assigned would include her. She wasn’t even the subject of the photos or the story; her husband was.

I think the columnist, who for the sake of this post I will call “Betty”, imagined I was some fan-girl, wannabe writer and was going to gush over her writing and beg her for advice right there in the houses her husband had built. I, however, had no intention or interest in gleaning information from her about how to become a successful writer. I don’t really have aspirations to be a successful writer, which is something a writer isn’t supposed to say, er, write. It isn’t that I wouldn’t enjoy getting paid for writing and having more than only my family appreciate it, but the idea of accepting all that comes from being well known doesn’t appeal to me.

Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why “Betty” was even present at the interview, which was being conducted by someone else and hasn’t been published yet, since the story wasn’t about her. It was about her architect husband and the tiny house community he had built along one of the picturesque Finger Lakes near us. I’m guessing her “nationally known” status was the reason for her presence, though I didn’t know her. After being told her name by the editor of the magazine I was shooting for, I looked her up where anyone else looks people up these days – Google. The couple had their engagement and wedding featured in the New York Times and her column showed up on a who’s-who list of national newspapers. It turns out she’s also a New York Times best selling author. (Disclaimer: this post was not sponsored by the New York Times, unfortunately.)

On this day “Betty” had no clear connection to the story, other than she was the wife of the subject, and I could tell even she was a bit baffled by her presence. Her confusion over the need for her to be at the interview may be why she ultimately excused herself, but I did notice that move came immediately after I said, “I enjoy your column.”

Actually, I also said, “I’m a blogger. No one reads it, so I just do it for fun.” I can see how that sounded like I was about to follow that comment up with: “What can I do to get people to read my blog?” But I wasn’t going to. Because I wasn’t there for Betty. I was there for her husband. I was actually only trying to be polite and recognize her work as well as his.

I don’t even know why I said anything because I’d only read one of her columns.

Ever.

Two days before I met her.

However, I really did enjoy it and also enjoyed listening to her talk about how creative, smart and amazing her husband was. She was a delightful person who reminded me of myself in some ways, except she’s older and has five daughters in her blended family., and, based on her column, has a great deal more talent at writing.

Shortly after, or actually immediately after, my awkward comments she leaned toward her husband and said, “If I’m no longer needed, I’m going to slip away.”

And she did, though the interviewer suggested I grab a photo of the couple before she left. I did and it was sweet how the pair, who found love for each other late in their lives, smiled and giggled at each other like young newlyweds. Still, I couldn’t figure out why a photo of her was needed because, I reiterate, the story had nothing to do with her.

It’s a shame I frightened her away because I probably could have actually learned quite a bit from her, if not about writing, then a little bit about life itself. I guess I can read her column more often if I want to learn about her view on life. I’ll probably find we don’t agree at all on a number of things but there may be others we do.

What I do have to learn is how to be more tactful when I try to compliment others on their talents.

Maybe I’ll submit a question to her advice column about all of this.

Something like:

“Dear Nationally Syndicated Columnist:

I inadvertently freaked out a nationally syndicated columnist who may or may not have thought I was trying to ask her for writing advice during an interview about her husband. I was not trying to ask her advice. How can I explain to her I’m not some weirdo freak, but really was just trying to be polite?”

Sincerely,

Weirdo Blogger in Pennsylvania.

Why artists need social media breaks

This is part of a five part series focusing on tips for creatives to keep their own, unique, authentic voice from being silenced.


Listening to your creative voice (1)I recently dropped Facebook for about a week, except for posting a few photos to my Facebook page. I stopped scrolling the timeline. I looked at Instagram maybe once a day or even skipped days. Then I started reading photography tutorials or going on YouTube for tutorials so I could focus on my own development, my own journey.  I had to break the hold comparing myself to others had on me so I could hear my own voice.

And I need to do this again because I am finding myself spiraling down into the trap of comparison and it’s drowning out my own artistic voice. When you, as an artist, spend most of your time looking at other artists, you start to lose yourself. You start to tell yourself you’re not as good as whoever’s work you are looking at. You may also start to recreate what other’s are doing, thinking that if you don’t you won’t find the success these other artists have found. When you, as a person, do this, the results are the same.

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DSC_4477-2When you are constantly looking at work or lives that aren’t your own, you lose sight of your own path; you can’t hear your own voice over the other voices swirling all around you. To ground yourself again in your own art and your own self you need to get quiet and hear what you want to say. You need to clear your mind and listen to your own creative view. When I say, ‘you’ know that I am preaching to ‘me’ because I am horrible at doing this.  I constantly compare myself to others – whether in photography, writing, or life.

I’m almost 41 and I still say to myself “I’m not as creative as this person, as talented as that, as pretty as her, as smart as him.” But when I do that I shut down my own voice. I tell it what it has to offer isn’t important or worthy or it’s own. We don’t all have to be the same. We don’t all have to create the same, look the same, or photograph the same. These statements are obvious and we know it but we don’t really hear it and take it to heart and adopt it as truth.  We see the meme or hear people say “There will never be another you. No one can do you, like you do you.” And secretly we think to ourselves “Ugh. Thank God because the me I know is awful and untalented.

DSC_2079This week my son was crying before bed, lamenting the fact he’s not as good as the other Lego creators he watches on Youtube. He talked to me about his lack of resources, his lack of money to get those resources and what he sees as his lack of creativity compared to those other creators. He sounded just like me and it broke my heart. He is talented and he does an amazing job with what he has access to.

DSC_2281-2DSC_1938.jpgIt’s true that we can’t afford to give him all the tools he needs right now but I reminded him he’s on a journey and reaching a goal in that journey will take time and hard work. Everyone has a different story and a different path that lead them to where they are. What he is seeing and what we are seeing are the highlights of these people’s journeys, not the failures or the tough times or the continuous doubts.

It does sound cliche to say there is only one you and only you can provide your view of the world, whether in photography, writing, or other forms of creativity but it is true. The way each person expresses and shares their creativity is unique and different and even if it is similar to what others have done it’s not exactly the same. Half of the fun of being a creative is the experience of learning and growing and seeing where the next lesson will take us.

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DSC_5101-2I challenged my son to take himself off of YouTube for a week and simply create for the joy of creating. Now I’m challenging you, and myself, to take a week off social media as well and rediscover the enjoyment of seeing the world through our own eyes and not the eyes of a hundred other creatives.

Rediscover what made you start to create in the first place. How did it make you feel, how did it make you see the world in a different way? Quiet the outside world and listen to the voice inside yourself and let’s see what we all create at the end of this week. I hope you’ll come back and let me know how you did.

 

 

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Covered bridges, old general stores and getting lost in the boonies

One way to keep your marriage fun and spontaneous is to suggest a restaurant for your anniversary dinner that’s in the middle of nowhere, has no WiFi or cell service and then forget your wallet.

My husband and I usually take our children with us or eat a family meal at home because our life is void of a reliable babysitter roster. We also usually eat somewhere in the Finger Lakes region, which is lovely, but this year I decided we should travel another direction and see what the wilds of Pennsylvania might offer us.

The location I chose (also unusual because I’ve never picked the restaurant for our anniversary) was near my parents, free babysitters who don’t usually travel to our house because of my mom’s various health issues, and a diner I had been reading about through their entertaining Facebook posts. It had been a busy week with mornings full of Vacation Bible School and afternoons of traveling to zoos 2- hours away or a nearby campground pool where we spent four hours jumping in the heated pool and we left for my parents after the final VBS and a birthday party for my husband’s great aunt.

“Are you telling her you’re leaving or are sneaking out and letting us deal with the tears?” My Dad asked, referring to our rather clingy 3-year old daughter, right before we walked out the door.

I told him “good luck” and we snuck out while my daughter was falling in love with a baby toad our son and her grandfather brought her earlier in the day. We headed out into what we call the boondocks and outsiders may call simply “the middle of nowhere” of Sullivan County, Pa., twisting and winding around roads with more curves in them than Shirley Temple’s hair. Trees and mountains shot up around us almost directly against the car window until we finally arrived in the little community of Forksville, in search of the covered bridge and nationally recognized Philadelphia cheesesteaks at the Forksville General Store. In our “neck of the woods” we don’t say “cheesesteak” without Philadelphia in front of it because in our minds no one else makes cheesesteaks.

I’m sure General Store owner, Big Mike, who runs the cash register himself, understands why we feel that way since he’s originally from Philadelphia himself and the crux of his menu is their famous original cheesesteak, a recipe he brought from Philly in 1999, and recognized as one of the top ten cheesesteaks by the USA Today.

IMG_6041I’ve been to Forksville a couple times in my life but it had been years and I almost forgot how to find the store and bridge, which is a bit humorous considering there are only about 20 houses in the village.

It wasn’t until we parked out front of the restaurant that I realized I’d left my wallet at home. This wouldn’t have been an issue except we have two checking accounts, one was empty because of bills, and we’d forgot to move money from one checking account (which acts as our savings) to the other and my husband only had the card for the account we had forgot to move money into. The card we needed was in my wallet and my wallet was 50 miles North at our house. Though we had a gift check from my parents in my purse, we had decided not to cash it on the way through the tiny town of Dushore (which used to be the only town in the county with a stoplight) because, hey, I had a card in my wallet. Only I didn’t. Because I didn’t even have a wallet with me.

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A quick inquiry inside of the man at the front counter, who we later learned was Big Mike, the owner, revealed there was no WiFi “around here” so transferring money from one account to another via our bank’s ap, wasn’t about to happen. Disappointed we almost decided to head back the 13 miles to semi-civilization where Dushore may not have had a Starbucks but it did at least have an ATM, but then I said “no! We will find a high spot somewhere in this cell service void world and transfer to that account.” This was our plan and I wasn’t about to diverge from it, no matter how high I had to hold the phone up over my head to get it.

IMG_6008When we passed a place that rented apartments and I saw three men outside, all looking at their phones, I knew they either had WiFi or were just sadly looking at their phones wishing they had WiFi. I urged my husband to pull in so we could hopefully steal off their WiFi and transfer the money. After a lot of lifting, tilting and shifting, mainly from my husband who was nervous the property manager was going to think we were there to rob the place, I was able to hook up to their open WiFi and — then get kicked off again and again and again until finally EUREKA! (Like the show because it was creepy cool) we struck gold and the connection worked.

Then it was back to the only tiny gas station in a 15 mile radius to utilize the ATM and hopefully get back to the diner before it’s kitchen closed. The only problem was I apparently moved the wrong amount of money but luckily this station also had open WiFi, which made me think maybe Big Mike should research more about the availability of WiFi in his small village a little better before he says it doesn’t exist there.

After all that drama, I had a sinking feeling we might get inside the diner and find out all the news of great food and atmosphere might have exaggerated, but no, the food did indeed live up to the hoopla. I should have known it would, since there was a photo of Big Mike with Dale Jr. on the wall in the front, next to a framed copy of a front page article on the restaurant in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If you’re reading this and you need a last name to go with Dale Jr.,

first, I shake my head at you in disappointment but second, I offer you the last name of Earnhardt. Seeing a photo of Dale with anyone in Sullivan County isn’t a total shock, really, since his sister is married to a Sullivan County native and they visit from time to time still.

The inside of the diner features a deli counter like you might see in a Philadelphia butcher and then a small dining room lit with fairy lights stretched across the ceiling and filled with tables and booths to sit about 50.

IMG_6018In the end, neither one of us actually had one of the famous Philly Cheesesteaks. Shame on us. The covered bridge hamburger sans the bun, with fries and topped with melted Mozerella cheese and the diner’s own slab bacon was my choice while the husband ordered the buffalo chicken cheesesteak. Our dinner ended in an embarrassing way when the owner came to our table with a complimentary Philadelphia style cheesecake, drizzled in plenty of chocolate, and announced to the entire dining room, with a little song, that it was our anniversary.

Only two people knew we were going to be there at that time so, of course, when we arrived back at my parents later we pretended the singing never happened, laying a trap for my mom, who I knew couldn’t resist asking “wait. The owner didn’t say anything else to you?” At that comment, the mysterious tattle teller was revealed and we knew we had her and my dad (who had actually made the call) to blame for our blushing but thank for an amazing slice of cheesecake.

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The store, built in 1841, has been revamped over the years, of course, but still sits directly next to the covered bridge, one of only a three original wooden covered bridges left in the county and now a historic landmark. The bridge is one lane only and when we sat under it after dinner my husband remarked that it reminded him of the bridge in Sleepy Hollow, which wasn’t very comforting to me.

Despite stepping in a hole the size of a woodchuck while we looked at the famous bridge, we survived the adventure and our children enjoyed roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with grandpa and shooting off fireworks my Mom shook her head at the cost of. Incidentally, if a man tells you to watch your step, realize men often skip details, details like “watch your step. There is a HOLE THE SIZE OF A WOODCHUCK IN FRONT OF YOU.”

Also, if you’re going to travel to the Forksville General Store bring your appetite and a camera but leave any devices that require WiFi at home.

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When you hit old age before you’re old

000000_DSC_3270-EditI wake up with a weird, buzzing, anxious feeling in my chest.

Everything is wrong, but nothing is wrong.

Everything is scary, but nothing is scary.

Everything is death around the corner, but death is not there.

Restless.

That’s what the ladies in an online support group I’m in call this feeling. I call it sheer terror.

This buzzing,crazy, I’m-going- to -crawl- out of -my -skin -feeling.

I don’t know what to call the internal buzz other than a feeling of doom and darkness, the feeling something bad is about to happen but I’ve forgotten what so I sit for a while each morning trying to remember what in my life is bad and terrifying. I can’t think of anything I should be anxious about so my brain conjures up something for me.

That twinge in my hand.

Is that numbness?

That pain in my back.

Could it be my heart?

Crap.

My cheek feels funny.

Is that numbness?

It’s probably a stroke.

That’s it.

It’s a stroke.

I’m having a heart attack, a stroke and a brain aneurysm all at once.

Before I can decide which ailment I’m dying from there is a kid in my room asking if he can go outside and ride his bike and a toddler hanging off my neck like I’m playground equipment, asking if she can have candy for breakfast. Now my heart is pounding and both my hands are numb and my right ear has filled up and I can’t seem to move my legs right. I’m not old enough to be old but here I am at 40 with all these terrifying symptoms and general feelings of oldness.

The anxiety is nothing new to me, it’s been there off and on for years. The intensity of the thoughts and the inability to slow them down, that’s slightly new, a bit of a sign that something is making this curse progressively worse the older I get.

Despite the horrors my brain keeps screaming at me, I’m certain what I’m dealing with is hormone induced and that learning to cope is what I’ll have to do, especially since the worst time for these thoughts and feelings are right before the cliche “Aunt Flow” stops by for a visit (like a nagging old lady). I’ve told myself I’m not alone in having these feelings and I know I’m not because I’ve read their stories.

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So many women with so many of the same thoughts and all of us terrified and being told it’s all in our head and we just need this pill or that surgery and we will be fine. And don’t forget the traditional lines that always begin with “Well…you’re a woman, so…”

We have become our own doctors, doing research, reading books and blogs and asking questions that many times don’t get answers. We have left behind doctors and “experts” because none of them have helped us and we have had to become our own expert.

And we are cutting out certain food and adding certain food and dropping supplements and adding supplements and living our lives by trial and error to see what makes us feel less like we are hanging by a thread that is about to snap at any moment.

We share our self-care with each other over coffee and via technology and together we find assurance that we aren’t “just women” and, more importantly, we aren’t alone.