NaNo! NaNo!


This month I am semi-participating in NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month.  This is a writing challenge that spans the month of November, and the goal is to write 50,000 words towards a single work of fiction.

I am going to be a bit of a NaNoWriMo rebel, however. First of all, I don’t write fiction (yet) and second of all, I can’t commit to 50,000 words (yet). However, I do want to establish better writing habits and eventually write an actual book – whether it be a work of fiction or a collection of anecdotes or the Adult Book of Pooping (hey, write what you know).

My main goal in this challenge is to create a new writing habit, which I will achieve by hitting 15,000 words for the month, and committing to writing at least 15 minutes each week day, and an hour each Saturday and Sunday.  And I am publicly signing up via my blog as a way to hold myself accountable – if I tell you about it, I will be more likely to follow through.   Feel free to send encouragement.  And if that doesn’t work, send cake.

One of the other points to NaNoWriMo is to try to write without editing.  To give you an example of how excruciatingly hard this is for me, realize that I retyped this very paragraph 6 times.  Obviously, my inner Mrs. Editor is a raging lunatic.

Getting caught up in editing on-the-go and rewriting the same paragraph twenty times until I get it just right (or just “write”…hahahahhaaaaaaa!  I kill me.) is not conducive to word count or creativity.  I really want to learn to just write without worrying so much about how pretty it sounds. Making it pretty can come AFTER I get the actual idea on paper.

Participating in this challenge means not as many hours watching Parks & Rec on Netflix, lurking on Facebook, or playing Spider Solitaire (I have won using 4 suits.  Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.).  I feel kind of sad about that, actually.  I mean, this could be an entire month of no Andy Dwyer falling in the pit or Leslie Knope eating waffles.  Dave does a killer Ron Swanson imitation though, and we live with April Ludgate, so I guess I will survive.

Anyway, just wanted to let you all know that’s what’s goin’ down.  On the down low.  Fo shiz.  WERD.  Wait, no – WORD.  Or PAGES if you are on a Mac.

Your favorite dork,

Sue

PS.  Every time I see “NaNoWriMo”, I hear Mork from Ork saying “Nano, Nano” in my head. And yes, that is a little distracting, especially when I am supposed to be writing and not digging around on the internet for Robin Williams photos.

PPS.  Shazbut!

PPSS.  Mork calling Orson.  Come in, Orson!

PPPSS.  I miss Robin Williams.

Mork

FitBit Round 2


“You look like a weirdo bouncing around out here,” said my husband from his open truck window. He had that look on his face. The one where he thinks I’m adorable on the one hand but doesn’t want to admit our marital status on the other. I grinned and leaned in the window, planting a kiss on his cheek, hoping that would sway him closer to “adorable” for the day.

I refrained from ‘bouncing” while he continued on his way to work, but as soon as he was out of sight, I began jogging in place again – I had to get some steps in before I was chained to my desk for the day.  Every morning I take the dogs for their “poop walk”.  The main goal is the production of outdoor tootsie rolls and not indoor tootsie rolls camouflaged on our brown carpet only to be found by an unsuspecting bare foot. Not a pleasant way to wake up.

However, our oldest dog, Lucky, is like a fussy old Englishman when it comes to picking his outdoor bathroom:  “Shall I poop here? No, no, no – doesn’t smell right. Shall I poop here, then? Hmmm. No, not quite right yet. Perhaps this spot? Drat! Still not right….Oh?  What’s this?  A delightfully dead worm!  I think I shall sniff it for 10 minutes and then roll madly about all over it!”

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST POOP ALREADY!!!

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST POOP ALREADY!!!

In the past, I just wandered along behind them, slack eyed and drooling before my first cup of coffee.  But, since climbing back on the FitBit pony, I realized there was a wealth of steps to be made on this walk, if only I was willing to look like the neighborhood idiot.

Seriously.  I look like that chick on the prancersize videos, only in the bustier Clydesdale version. Now, imagine seeing that come by your window when you first wake up in the morning. You can kinda see why Dave might want to deny all knowledge my existence.

Thankfully, I am NOT wearing revealing white pants.  Instead, I don the clothing of my people:  A Packer sweatshirt and pajama pants.  Hey, it’s 6:30 in the morning.  Be happy I have on a bra.

A bit of history: I bought my first FitBit Zip last year – you can read that story here – and proceeded to destroy it via wash machine. At it’s untimely demise, I fished out another crisp $100 bill and laid it down for the next step up – the FitBit Flex. Which I lost within a month because I had the great idea of attaching it to my shoe while I rode my bike (Note to self:  You are a bonehead.  That is all.).

I decided then that i was too irresponsible (and now too poor) to own a FitBit and I hung up my obsessive compulsive I MUST STEP ALL THE STEPS shoes.

Until, one day, I saw this beauty – the FitBit Charge HR.  Besides counting steps, it counts calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, and miles walked.  It has a sleep mode and an exercise mode.  It’s a watch and it pairs with my phone and buzzes with an incoming call.  Oh yeah, and it has a heart monitor in it!  Be still my geeky heart.  Nevermind that it cost more than both of my other two put together.  IT HAS A HEART MONITOR!!

FitBit Charge HR

FitBit Charge HR

So now I have this new FitBit and I’m in about a thousand challenges a week and let me tell you I am kicking FitBit ASS.

Some might say it’s become a little life controlling.  “Some” would be wrong.  I can quit anytime.  So what if we don’t have any clean underwear and I spend my evenings walking around the kitchen table until midnight?

Dave was downstairs watching TV and I had been marching around the kitchen for about 20 minutes when he came upstairs and glared at me. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Um…getting my steps in?”

“For the love.  It sounded like a herd of elephants from downstairs.  You need to get a grip.”

Fine.  I’ll walk outside.  In the dark, dark, dark outside, where we have no streetlights or sidewalks, past the woods and the cornfields, and pray I don’t get hit by a car.  Or attacked by a werewolf.  Or snatched by the Children of the Corn.

Now, if you will excuse me – I have to go find my crucifix and garlic cloves so I can go for a walk.

Until next time,

Werewolf Bait Sue

PS:  I have since learned from other people that FitBit has indeed sent people new units even if they have lost them in incredibly stupid ways, like drunk swimming, bungee jumping, wearing them during an alien abduction, leaving them in 1986 during a hot tub time machine incident, etc.

PPS.  I only bring this up because my very wise oldest sister told me to contact them both times and I didn’t follow her very sage and intelligent advice.

PPSS.  And it pains me to say this, but YOU WERE RIGHT, TERRI!

PPPSS.  Sue is still great.

 

Hot Tub Time Machine


Once upon a time I was going to write a blog post about the odd phenomenon of abandoned shoes found lying on our streets, county highways, and interstates.  I mean, it’s weird- right?  Because it’s not even pairs of shoes.  It’s single shoes.  And most disturbing, sometimes it’s a toddler shoe.  Like, what even happened here?  How did some baby just randomly lose a shoe on the interstate?  And it’s not like you’ve only seen them once or twice – IT’S ALL THE TIME.  Anywhere in the US, you can hop in the car, drive down your local highway and find at least one shoe within the first 10 miles.

That alone is enough to call Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Machine – time to bring in those meddlin’ kids.  But my discovery this morning really takes the cake.  And you know how I feel about cake.

On my way to town, I noticed a large, round object in the ditch.  I was running late (shocker, I know), so I only glanced at it, thinking it was a big spool of construction wire or maybe a big new cement culvert or something.  But on the way home, I was driving at a much more sedate pace (translation: speed limit), and noticed that what I had originally thought was a culvert, was actually an abandoned hot tub.

Wait.  What?

A hot tub?  How does one go about littering a hot tub?  It’s not like chucking an empty pop can (or baby shoe) out the window.  This is a fricking hot tub.  A HOT TUB PEOPLE.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Abandoned Hot Tub Time Machine. 1986, anyone?

This is by far, the weirdest, random, piece of trash I have ever found on the side of the road.  Like, whoever threw this out deserves a 5 million dollar littering fine, and maybe a medal because how did they even lift it out the window.

Okay, I’m sure it was on the back of someones pick up truck but still.  “Gee, I don’t want my hot tub anymore.  I think I’ll just go leave it on the side of the road.”   Who does that?

Hot Tub Time Machine

Just to prove I really did find it on the side of the road, here is a photo taken a little farther out.

Seeing it reminded me of the movie, Hot Tub Time Machine – a predictable but somewhat funny movie where 4 guys get drunk and go back in time to 1986 via faulty hot tub and bizarre Chevy Chase cameos.  It was tempting to make a “FREE- HOT TUB TIME MACHINE” sign for it and con Dave into sitting in it with me just for the photo-op.  But then we’d have to haul over some booze bottles, make the sign, fill the tub with water, find Chevy Chase….  Plus, maybe it really is a time machine?  Did I really want to chance 1986 hair?

So I just snapped this plain old boring photo and you will all just have to be happy with that.

Hot Tubbingly Yours,

Sue

PS- this post is in participation of Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge.  Click on the icon to join the fun!cob-banner

 

Clean Your Plate. #CFFC


I’m way behind on my blog and wanted to do a quick little blurb so you all know I’m alive and kicking.  Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (#CFFC) this week is about our Sense of Taste so I figured it was the perfect venue for something short and sweet (see what I did there?  Now that’s talent.)  Grab a quick couple of food photos, pop them in my blog and viola.

Do you have any idea how many food photos I have?  Neither did I.  Holy cheese on a cracker.  Apparently I like to eat.  And before I like to eat, I like to photograph it.  And then eat some.  And then photograph it again.  And then photograph the empty plate.  No starving children in China at my house, that’s for sure.

It took me forever to whittle down my food photo collection to a few that are actually in focus and have some sort of visual aesthetic.  So not only do I take a lot of pictures of my food, I am so excited to eat it I can’t seem to take a decent photo. Even so, I still had over 20 photos to consider.  Man, do I like food or what?

I finally decided to go with tasty regional treats – food items that fairly scream “WISCONSIN!”

First up:  Booyah.  And not the “BOO-YAH!” yelled as an exclamation.  Booyah as in Chicken Soup That We Don’t Call Chicken Soup Because It’s Really Called Booyah.

Most booyah is made with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, along with other random vegetables like onions, green beans, celery, etc. and then maybe some beef stock or something – hard to say seeing as most recipes are family secrets handed down from generation to generation.  It all gets chucked in a ginormous iron kettle and cooked outside over an open fire, and served Burn The Top Of Your Mouth Off Lava Hot.

Summer church picnics, local festivals and family gatherings are where you will find booyah, often sold as a fund-raiser so bring your empty plastic ice cream buckets and be sure to buy some to take home.  It’s best eaten with a cold beer in one hand and a handful of saltine crackers in the other and perhaps a piece of homemade bread on the side slathered with real butter.  Follow that with some Belgian pie or raspberry torte and a hot cup of joe.  Or another beer.

Belgian Heritage Center Booyah

Booyah! Served at the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur, WI.

Speaking of beer…..that just happens to be my next photo.

Yeah, yeah – Wisconsin cliché’ but at least I didn’t photograph it with a brat (“brat” – pronounced “braht” -meaning delicious regional sausage that you set on fire with your grill while praying you don’t burn down the neighborhood and then eat it’s charred goodness on a bun with onions, mustard, ketchup and sometimes sauerkraut depending on your ethnicity).  But only because I didn’t have a photo of one.  I must eat all my brats before I think to photograph them.  This also happens a lot with cake.

Wisconsin is the land of sky blue waters and a LOT of beer, but New Glarus Spotted Cow is the best beer in all the land.  IN ALL THE LAND I TELL YOU.  Do not argue with me on this, beer heathen.

It’s also only available in Wisconsin, so if you want it, you gotta come here to get it.  It will be worth the trip.  I promise.

New Glarus Spotted Cow

Ice cold Spotted Cow on a hot sunny beach.

And for my final entry:  Friday Night Perch Fry.  Because A) we are as regionally Catholic as they come and B) the Great Lakes and Green Bay have a strong commercial fishing industry, with much of the catch being yellow perch.  Which are delicious deep-fried in batter and bathed in tubs of tartar sauce so you don’t actually know you are eating fish because fish are gross.  I do like perch except when they get ‘fishy’ and you never know if you are going to get fishy perch so I usually just get fried cod instead or better yet a steak.  In fact I think my photo is actually cod, not perch.  But who cares.  My point is that we eat a lot of fish on Friday’s, and perch is super popular and most people eat it except me because I’m a weirdo.  And fish are gross.

Friday Fish Fry

Friday night fish fry at Gibraltar Grill in Door County, WI

And that’s a wrap, people.  Oh wait – here’s a collage of cake just because you can never have enough cake.  The two people in the one photo are my parents.  You can tell the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Nobody in our family will get kidnapped.

Caketastically yours,

Sue

The more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap! Stay safe! Eat cake!

The more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap! Stay safe! Eat cake!

PS.  My apologies on my short blurb getting sorta long, so I guess I should have explained that I meant “short” by Sue Standards.  Cuz ya know, I always gotta write a book.

PPSS.  Don’t forget to check out the other entries at Cee’s Photography!cffc

 

Jack Of All Trades


Master of none.  That would be me.

I am one of those people that loves to try new things, but rarely sticks around long enough to master my skill.  Unless you include being a dumb ass.  Pretty sure I have my 10,000 hours in on that one.

So far, I have tried my hand at scrapbooking, knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, beading, running, biking, photography, writing, clarinet, banjo strumming, volleyball, video gaming, veterinary medicine (in the sense that I worked for a vet, not that I became one), cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, history, genealogy, beanie baby leashes (don’t ask), horses, pokemon (again…don’t ask), comic book collecting, softball….

I don’t think I purposely tried so many things because I have some internal bucket list or because I’m so full of life I just have to try EVERYTHING.  It’s more like a repressive ADD gene that whispers “Aren’t you bored?  I’m bored.  I see something shiny on the other side of the fence.  Come on!  Let’s go see!  I’m dying here!  SO BORED.  Bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.  MUST.  CHECK OUT.  THE SHINY THING!!”

Of course, that has its limits.  There are certain things my inner ADD will never get me to do.  Like, you will never see “bungee jumping” or “becoming an astronaut” or “sky diving” on that list.  I would prefer to live long enough to collect social security or become the crazy cat lady or just be a crabby old bag all the neighborhood kids tell stories about and ding-dong ditch me to see if I’ll run out with my shotgun.

That actually sounds kind of fun.  Dang.  Fifty isn’t nearly old enough to get away with that without getting arrested.  Although it seems I now found my reason to live to be 90.

So, where was I going with this…oh yeah.  One of my current hobbies is photography.  It’s hard to call it a hobby when I know almost next to nothing about it other than pointing at something interesting and pushing the shutter button, so every once in a while I get a wild hair and actually read something instructive.

This last time, my “something instructive” was reading Cee’s Tips and Tricks about macro photography.  I love macro shots, but I have a hard time figuring out how to get shots with that trademark striking clarity.  Cee’s macro photography is beautiful, and if I can ever learn to take photos of that caliber, I will be a happy camper indeed.  Of course, I might then get bored and move on to rocket science or something, but based on my current pace and the fact that I have about 50 other irons in the fire, that will be a long time coming.

Today I fooled around with my lenses – I only have two – an 18-55mm and a 55-200mm, which I know is supposed to mean something to me but I’m not really up on my lens lingo.  I only know the 55-200 is the bigger one and lets me take zoom photos which works well for zooming in on things like trees and rocks but terrible for birds.  I need one that’s like a foot long for bird photos because no matter how sneaky I am, those buggers hear or see me (“stealthy” will never be a word used to describe me.  More like “bull in a china shop”) and take off well before I am in any kind of decent range.  I tried hiding behind the bench but then the mosquitoes found me and I almost needed a blood transfusion.

I like to watch birds – or to use the politically correct term – “birding”.  I even have a list of birds I have spotted and I get all wiggy when I see a new one.  Does that make me an old bag?  I think it does.  In fact, I think I saw “bird watching” on the back of my AARP card.  Next thing ya know we’ll be going out to eat at 4:30 to beat the crowds.  Oh wait, we already do that.  Dagnabit.

Moving on….

So here are my most recent photos trying for a good macro shot.  I hope you like them and aren’t horrifically bored.  But if you are, I’m sure I can sell you some scrapbooking supplies or beading supplies or embroidery floss or a banjo or roller blades or a binder full of Pokemon cards.  They could be your next “shiny” object!

Enjoy!
Sue

flower3Flower2

This one is my favorite of all the flower ones.

This one is my favorite of all the flower ones.

Lucky dog!

Lucky dog!

Daisy girl!

Daisy girl!

Look closely into her eye...what do you see?

Look closely into her eye…what do you see?

 

“Where The Heck Is Cornucopia?”


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia contributor Royalbroil

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia contributor Royalbroil

These are the words uttered by my husband when I told him where we were staying for our vacation in the Apostle Islands.  At the time, all I could tell him was, “I don’t know.  Somewhere over by Bayfield.”  Seriously, I had no idea.  I thought it was fairly close to Bayfield but on our way up, we soon discovered it was actually another 20 miles past.  Long drive gets longer when you have no idea where you are going.  It looked close on the Google map, but that didn’t seem to fill Dave with confidence.

Sorry, honey.  My Vacation Planning OCD failed and it was the end of June before I realized our 30th anniversary was almost upon us and I still had not looked for a place to stay.  By the time I found the Siskiwit Bay Lodge in Cornucopia,  I would have booked it if it were a smelly old tent next to a raccoon infested dumpster.  Thankfully, the photos showed beautiful shots of Lake Superior and a cozy suite with a kitchen and private seating area.  It even had a separate bedroom with a queen sleigh bed and a corner jetted tub that looked over the lake.

Just waiting for you...

Just waiting for you…

None of the photos showed a single rabid raccoon or ax wielding maniac, but I was leery.  We had been burned by pretty photographs before (and ended up with crappy accommodations although no mouth-foaming wildlife or serial killers so far.  But it’s still early).

Plus it was a bed and breakfast.  Eating with strangers every morning seemed like a recipe for a Sue Disaster.

You know, what if I spilled food down my chest, or snort laughed coffee out of my nose, or stuck my foot in my mouth instead of my fork or just acted like such a complete dork that nobody (not even Dave) wanted to sit by me during breakfast? All of my friends are seriously nodding their heads right now because I have done and will again do ALL OF THESE THINGS.  The struggle is real.

As it turned out, our hosts – Bruce and Sandy – were wonderful, and the grounds and room were actually better in person than they were in the photos.  Vibrant sunsets and blooming flowers and comfy adirondack chairs.  There weren’t even any mosquitoes.  And all of the other guests were wonderful, too.  And the breakfasts were homemade and delicious!  And tiny singing birds and little chattering squirrels dressed me each morning while I broke out into song and twirled on the deck.

Okay, maybe not that last part.  But I did have coffee on our private deck each morning while listening to the blue jays and red squirrels argue in the pine trees and getting visits from hummingbirds on their way to the flower gardens.  All in view of Siskiwit Bay and Lake Superior.  I gotta say – it was pretty awesome.

First sunset

First sunset

Another highlight of our trip was our cruise out to the mainland sea caves with Captain Mike of Good Earth Outfitters.  We decided not to do the kayak thing seeing neither of us wanted to work that hard, and Bruce and Sandy highly recommended Captain Mike  as an alternative.  We are really glad we took them up on it.

Because of the rough waters that evening, our cruise out to the caves meant engaging both 200-horse motors, resulting in whipping hair and water spray and grinning from ear to ear.  I draped my hand over the side to feel the water smack against it, and giggled like a little kid.  It brought back a lot of memories of boating with my family and my Dad going wide open while we all hung on and laughed.

I yelled to Dave then – “I FORGOT HOW MUCH I LOVE A GOOD BOAT RIDE!”  and he yelled back – “DOES THIS MEAN I HAVE TO BUY YOU A BOAT NOW?”.  Hmmmmm..

Captain Mike’s real expertise and years of nautical experience growing up on Lake Superior came into play as he maneuvered the boat right in to some of the caves, despite the high waves.  His knowledge and obvious love of the area made him the perfect spokesman as he described the formation of the rock by the passing glacier, and the caves by the relentless pounding of Lake Superior.

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(The caves were stunning and my photos don’t do them justice.)

Although Cornucopia is small, and off the beaten path a little bit, we found ourselves gently swaying to the music of this small seaside community.  Of course we did the touristy Bayfield trip and took the boat cruise and checked out the souvenir shops and ate at a restaurant that required a reservation.  But I think our best memories will be from little Cornucopia.

By our last day, we were tapped into the slower drum beat that comes with unplugging.  Evenings spent with our toes dangling in the sand of Corny beach, mornings on the deck, hiking to Lost Creek Falls and sloshing thru Siskiwit River, sunsets spent side by side in the chairs at the lodge, plunging under Lake Superior to rise gasping and laughing (and freezing!), digging thru the sand for rocks and stones and driftwood.  Not saying a lot – mostly just BEING.  Being present.  Being together.

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30 years is a long time.  But it doesn’t seem like near enough with this man.  I hope we get 30 more.

Sue

PS.  I did not ONCE spill food down my shirt at breakfast, nor did I burp out loud, pass gas, or say anything inappropriate.  Truly a magical week.

30 years. Word.

30 years. Word.

 

 

Older Than Dirt: A Photo Challenge Part 2


Hi there!

This is my 2nd entry to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge:  Older Than 50 Years.  As usual, my photos are more about the stories that go with them, and less about the photographic composition.   I’ll have to make this short and sweet though, because I seem to have gotten tendonitis in both of my elbows and my right arm is flaring up right now.  And if you really believe that will keep me from writing a long dissertation then I have some swamp land under the Leo Frigo Bridge I would like to sell you.

Last post (you can read it here if you missed it) I told you about a mini family reunion we had and the stalking finding of our 3rd cousin Randy, still living on the original Conard family farm.

Our jolly caravan’s next stop was to visit my grandparents cottage on the bay, where we spent many a spider-filled day.  The original plan was to park on the road and peer thru the leaves at it while trying not to be noticed (or arrested), and then mosey on to my house for lunch.  However we were spotted by the current owner, Callista, who graciously invited us in and let us run amok on her property while we ooohed and aaaahed over our collective memories.

Callista was as thrilled to hear our stories as we were to hear hers.  While the interior is completely different, much of the exterior has the same feel, mainly because they kept the original stonework of the outside walls and fireplace – built with bay rock picked from the shore by the original owner (not my grandparents).

The door is gone, but you can see the space where it was.  That door survived a lot of grandchildren banging in and out of it all summer.  My sister and I got a little teary eyed walking across the cement steps.  Lots of memories there.

The door is gone, but you can see the space where it was. That door survived a lot of grandchildren banging in and out of it all summer. My sister and I got a little teary eyed walking across the cement steps. Lots of memories there.

The same wet cement steps that our young feet ran across when we banged thru the wooden screen door into the cottage to play crazy eights and drink bug juice. The same stoney corridor along the outside back of the house where chips of blue china were cemented in the grout and waves of bright green moss spilled across the top.  The same slab stone steps leading to the same rocky beach with the same boat house, although the front portion was gone.  They even had a hammock where my grandparents used to have one.

New, steel supported steps were built over the top of the old stone slab steps leading down to the beach.  Much safer, but I am glad they left the old ones underneath.

New, steel supported steps were built over the top of the old stone slab steps leading down to the beach. Much safer, but I am glad they left the old ones underneath.

What was missing?  Besides the front section of the boat house, I spotted only a few spiders – most of them quite small.  I swear when we were kids the spiders were the size of quarters and had huge bulbous abdomens and they hung on EVERYTHING.  I remember calling for grandpa to beat webby paths thru them in order to get the bamboo fishing poles or the black inner tubes we used for swimming.  Before going to bed my cousins and I would call for grandma to spider proof the bedrooms and make sure we didn’t have any in our sheets.

A note about the boathouse:  As kids, we spent very little time in it (spider haven – the really really big ones lived inside the boat house) but a lot of time on top of it, as it served as a beach deck.  A web and spider covered beach deck which I recall being a bit freaked out about.  Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?  I hated spiders.  Still actually not a fan.

Anyway, my grandfather got a really good deal on some irregular cinder block – which couldn’t have been too bad seeing as the boat house is still standing.  He sent my Uncle Jim and my dad and some guy who had access to a milk truck to go pick it up.  Now remember, this was the early 40’s so you need to get that image out of your head of the giant tanker trucks you see running around today.  This was probably more like a 1935 panel truck or something.

My uncle, my dad, and the driver were hauling the load of cinder blocks to the cottage when the transmission broke.  My uncle said they “broke gear box” just as they were about to go down the escarpment to the cottage.  I’m not sure what that hill looked like in the 40’s but I can barely ride my bike up it now without needing oxygen, so I’m sure it wasn’t any better.  It was, needless to say, a harrowing descent, well remembered by two mid-80 old farts.

They laughed when they told this story, but fewer smiles appeared when they described how they had to haul that cinder block down to the beach two at a time in a wheelbarrow.  Which leads me to the next tidbit – there was a family of girls in the next cottage down – one of whom still lives there and happened to come talk to us while we were visiting.  I am sure there were many girlish eyes stealing glances at the sweaty teenage boys building muscles while hauling cinder blocks….

Obviously we had to take our picture on top of that iconic building and I was a little worried about the actual structural integrity left in those old block walls.  All that boyish hard work paid off however, because the boat house still supported the weight of a bunch of older than dirt cousins.  I was impressed.

We are all over 50, and the boathouse is over 75, so we all qualify.  The railing is new, thank goodness....

We are all over 50, and the boathouse is over 75, so we all qualify. The railing is new, thank goodness….

Old fartedly yours,

Sue

PS.  Besides frightening long lost relatives and imposing on complete strangers, we also visited the cemetery to say howdy to our Belgian immigrant ancestors.  great-great-great grandparents Gillian and  Marie Francoise Nihoul Conard and our great-great grandparents Louis and Marie Flore Laurent Conard and our other great-great grandparents Joseph and Mary T Boulet VanCaster (whose daughter Pelagie Blanche married Louis and Marie’s son Julian (my great grandfather), in turn having my grandfather Cliff Conard who then had my father – Thomas W. Conard).  I have pictures below for my family members who were not able to make the reunion, and of course for any weirdos of my followers who happen to have a bit of a morbid streak like me and love looking at old grave markers.  I also included a few bonus pics.  ENJOY!

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Older Than Dirt: A Photo Challenge – Part 1


Okay, so the theme isn’t really “Older Than Dirt”.  It’s Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge:  Older Than 50 Years.  

Technically, I could include photos of myself, as I am over 50, but I haven’t quite reached “dirt” status and hope not to for a while yet.  I thought about adding my parents but that could cause me to fall in ranking from “Favorite” to “Disowned”.

Last June we had a mini family reunion on my dad’s side.  Some of my cousins flew in and we went to visit my grandparent’s home, their cottage, the cemetery in Champion where our ancestors are buried, etc.  It was a lot of fun to catch up and see everyone.  Some of us haven’t seen each other in 30 years or more!

I have a lot of photos and stories to go with them, and had been wondering how to tell it without boring everyone to tears.  I mean, it’s interesting to me, but how to make it interesting to you?

Then Cee announced that this particular challenge would last until August 6th, and I realized it was the perfect venue to share my favorite photos and stories, and hopefully not make anyone want to poke a sharp stick in their eye.

My first photo is of the barn built by my ancestors, who came over in 1856, or thereabouts, from Grand Leez, Namur Province, Belgium.  This is the Walloon Belgian ancestory, and for some reason the vast majority of these immigrants chose NE Wisconsin.  My dad claims they all got the same set of bad directions.

This is actually almost true.  From what I have read, most were under the impression they were coming to rich farmland, only to arrive and find the entire area covered in a vast, dense forest.  I’m pretty sure they were not jumping up and down for joy upon their arrival in the New World, but they had just traveled 10 billion miles by crappy boat and crappy roads, so their choices were travel back 10 billion miles or clear the land.  They cleared the land.

So, we have this caravan of 5 cars or so, driving down Conard Road (my maiden name and yes, named after our family.  We are obviously kind of a big deal).  I’m in the lead with my parents and my Uncle Jim – all well into their 80’s but the only ones who have any inkling where on this road the original homestead would be.  I was beginning to wonder if we were on a wild goose chase when my dad and my uncle both said “This is it right here.  This is Harold’s old farm.”

ConardBarn

In case you are interested, Harold was my grandfather’s cousin.  Harold’s father, John, and my great grandfather Julian, were brothers.  You can read more about Julian here: Walking With Grandpas.

The house was newer – probably about 30-ish years old, but the barn was obviously old – possibly original.  Anywho, we all piled out of the cars and milled about on the road talking excitedly, pointing at the barn, wondering what the little doors were for (all of our guesses were wildly incorrect), and snapping pictures.  This went on for about 15 minutes when a man cautiously came out of the house and slowly walked toward us.  Being of non-confrontational Belgian descent, I’m sure he was wondering if he should come over and interrupt us to find out what was going on or meander aimlessly around outside until we all regained our senses and left.

We made it easy for him, and walked over and introduced ourselves.  Turns out, he was Harold’s grandson, our third cousin!  We bombarded the poor guy  with a million questions:  “How old is the barn?”  “What are the little doors for?”  “Are you still farming?”  “Boxers or briefs?”

We found out he had no idea how old the barn was – just that it was “really old”.  The little doors were for pigs (who knew?) which he did not keep but apparently our ancestors did – he only kept a few steers, but his uncles had a larger farm on the adjacent road (also our relatives – I told you we were a big deal!).  We held him captive for another 15 minutes or so, and closed the deal by making him take photos with us out in the road, times about 20 smartphones.  We were all happier than pigs going thru little doors.  He, on the other hand, was probably scarred for life.

Actually, Randy (his name, btw.  I somehow managed to forget that detail in my narration) was a very good sport and actually seemed to enjoy himself once he realized we weren’t serial killers or zombies.

Below is a color picture of us minus my parents and Uncle Jim – who were in the car waiting for us because 80+ year old bones aren’t very cooperative when it comes to standing around in the middle of the road for ages.

RUN RANDY!  SAVE YOURSELF!

RUN RANDY! SAVE YOURSELF!

And that’s how we met our 3rd cousin, Randy, and got to see the old Conard homestead.

Sue

PS:  Part of the reason for this mini reunion was for my cousins to see Uncle Jim.  He is a Catholic priest with the Maryknoll Fathers and has lived as a missionary in Africa for almost 60 years.  He comes home to visit about every three years.  That’s another story all by itself!  Interestingly enough, he had visited Harold back in the sixties to learn artificial insemination, so he could improve the stock of cattle in Africa.  Neither he or my father had been to the farm in over 50 years, but they both remembered once they got there.  Thank goodness for that or we would still be driving around.

 

3 Days, 3 Quotes Challenge


Last week, my friend Helen invited me to participate in the “3 Quotes, 3 Days” challenge, which is to post a quote each day for 3 days and nominate 3 new bloggers to participate.  I’m going to cheat a little (Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater…) and I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular and just say that whoever wants to join in is more than welcome.

I’m also going to cheat by doing all three of my quotes in one post (…had a wife and couldn’t keep her…wait….what?  I think I just messed up a nursery rhyme…) as a time saver.  While this could be seen as purely selfish on my part, I’m actually doing you a favor as you now only have to suffer thru one post and not three.  See?  I’m always thinking of your welfare.

“Live long and prosper.” – Spock, Star Trek

When I was 13, I thought Captain Kirk was the coolest character on Star Trek, not to mention hot.  He was my first movie star crush and my favorite episodes were always the ones where Kirk fell in love… *swoon*

Now as an oh-so-much wiser adult no longer under the mesmerizing affects of puberty, I have done the smart thing and fallen in love with the Wolverine instead.  You thought I was going to say Spock, didn’t you?  Not so much.  But I do love him – you know – as a friend.  And, he has been, and always shall be, the coolest character on Star Trek.

*Note to my friend Doreen.  I am fully aware that quoting Star Trek and having a teen crush on Captain Kirk and not dumb old Shaun Cassidy totally makes me a nerd.

*Note to my brother, Joe.  Thank you for saving me from the horrors of the Mickey Mouse Club and forcing me to watch Star Trek even at the risk of getting into trouble with mom because you would rather watch nothing at all than allow me to watch weird children dancing around in mouse ears, and after a fierce fight over the channel dial, you pushed me into the carpet and pulled the plug and I went crying to mom.  I owe you one.

“That is one big pile of shit…” – Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

My family has an abnormal addiction to certain movies, and we randomly quote them in day to day living.  Perhaps you are wondering why even use a movie quote as one of my picks and not something profound from Ghandi or Sue the Great?  It’s because stupid movie quotes are like an inside joke – a connectivity as a family – sharing the same sense of humor and same taste in movie genre enabling us to watch them 100 billion trillion gazillion times in a row.

 

It was really hard for me to pick just one quote from our entire repertoire of memorized movies.  I chose this one because you know how much I love the “S” word, and it covers just about anything life throws at you.  Bad hair, bad job assignment, bad dinner.  Plus Ian Malcolm is the cat’s pajamas.

Note to anyone still reading: Myself, my son, and my daughter were standing in line waiting to see Jurassic World, when we heard someone make the sound of Austin Power’s phone ringtone.  We had found our people.

“Hurry up and get the work done so we can screw around.” – Dave

I was going to put a serious quote in here – change the tone and be all profound and philosophical and high brow tootin’ fa-lootin’.  But I’m really tired because my friend Kay and I kicked asphalt today riding 65 miles in the Titletown Bike Tour and I didn’t take a nap after so now my eyelids feel like they weigh 500 pounds each.

Instead you now get my hubby’s daily mantra.  We live by this code in our house – there’s much tom foolery to be done, but we don’t want to do it with dirty laundry and a full sink of dishes.  I don’t have a video for this one.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.

Until next time my friends –

Live long and prosper,

Sue

My Brain Is Tired


The freaky-deeky cool anniversary bench.

The freaky-deeky cool anniversary bench.

The last three weeks have probably been the longest and most excruciating I have ever put in on my day job.  28 hours a day, 9 days a week.  My fingers are now only bone and my ass is completely worked off.

I may be exaggerating because I’m currently sitting on something and I am 99.99% sure it’s my ass, but my brain really and truly is tired.  And tired brains are not conducive to creative writing, hence my once again prolonged absence from the blogging planet.

The worst is over…at least until Monday.  I am currently sitting on my freaky-deeky cool anniversary bench, drinking God’s nectar (coffee with cream), listening to my dogs chew their bully sticks (Do NOT ask what a bully stick is.  Just google it, be repulsed, but do not judge.  My dogs are finally quiet), and watching the neighborhood wildlife.  And no, I don’t mean my neighbors.  I mean real, honest to goodness wildlife.

The rare and elusive brown pond koi...

The rare and elusive brown pond koi…

This morning we had 5 deer on the path behind our house but it is now mid morning and I am only graced with finches, blackbirds, mourning doves, grackles, sparrows, swallows and the occasional orioles (Yes!  We have orioles!  Thank you, Grape Jelly!) and cardinals.  Oh yeah, and Mr. Green Frog spotted while going down to check out the two brown pond koi (aka “carp”), a white butterfly, a yellow butterfly, a dragonfly, and several mosquitoes and tiny black spiders who suffered an untimely and premature death.  Apparently I am only tolerant of wildlife with 4 legs or less.

I let this one live.  Very pretty but I have no idea what it is.

I let this one live. Very pretty but I have no idea what it is.

UPDATE:  The dogs are now fighting over the bully sticks.  My peace is shattered.

UPDATE #2:  The orioles are getting pissy because I am sitting too close to their grape jelly.

UPDATE #3:  Another spider just bit the dust.  What is their deal, anyway?

UPDATE #4:  It’s getting a tad warm.  Sweat is beginning to run down my back.

UPDATE #5:  Ungrateful orioles!  They are now buzzing over my head, flipping me the bird.  (Get it?  AH HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I kill me!)

UPDATE #6:  Another spider.  Tenacious bastards.

UPDATE #7:  Why, exactly, did I want to be out here?  The bugs are awful, the birds are noisy and poop on literally everything, which the dogs are now rolling in.  Good Lord.

UPDATE #8:  Sweat is running down my butt crack and pooling in the bottom of my light grey shorts.  I probably look like I peed myself.  Wonderful.

So, I started doing these updates and now I don’t know how to stop doing them so I’m just typing randomly until I basically have what looks like a normal paragraph and it’s getting awkward because I really can’t think of anything to say so I’m just going to go in the house now and do laundry.

Peace out, and don’t work too hard.  Life might pass you by.

Sue

UPDATE #9:  Walking up to the house, I passed my neighbor as he was going down to feed the birds.  He glanced at my inconveniently sweat-stained shorts and quickly looked away with a horrified expression, so I felt the need to explain.

“It’s not what you think!  My brain is just really tired and the dogs were rolling in poop and the spiders kept bothering me and it was getting hot and the orioles were mad about the grape jelly.”  As he took off running, I shouted after him, “IT’S REALLY NOT PEE!  I JUST SWEAT A LOT!”.

I’m sure he now feels much better about buying the house next to the crazy lady who apparently doesn’t pee herself and is merely a heavy sweater.  Yeah.  Probably I shouldn’t come out of the house for a while.