Death in the Fire Swamp

20180202_211428811_iOSA couple of times a year my mother, sister and I spend a girls’ weekend away from the hustle and mundaneness of everyday life. This past weekend we set off on one of these said adventures.  Our journey took us to Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, OH.  We participated in a murder-mystery themed weekend entitled: Death in the Fire Swamp. When my sis asked us whether we’d like this get-away weekend as a Christmas gift, I immediately texted back, “I’m in!” without really reading the fine print (oops!) The Princess Bride is my all-time favorite movie, so I figured, why not?

We surmised we might be in over our heads when a few weeks before we received an email from the nice Mr. Denham requesting baby photos for wanted posters, encouraging us to dress up and bring fake clues and reminding us it was a 24/7 adventure for which we might want to sleep with one eye open! All three of us where thinking the same thing: “WTF did we sign up for!?!” Alas in line with my “Be Brave” mantra of 2018, we emailed our pics and briefly discussed and then dismissed the idea of wearing costumes. Going in we knew this was not going to be our typical girls’ weekend of mani/pedis, followed by a bit of shopping and maybe taking in a chic flit and holing up in our hotel room to read a good book with a glass of Moscato in quiet, uninterrupted bliss.

For a trio of introverts, this elaborate weekend expertly put on by the Shadow Stalkers was a bit outside our (my – I really should only speak for myself) comfort zone. Luckily we were part of a team that included two hilarious sisters from Long Island that almost single-handedly found all the items on our scavenger hunt (such as an interaction with a fire department and feeding a live white deer!) and the Scooby Doo gang from Columbus.  Our mission was to determine who killed Miracle Max’s assistant, find a missing diamond, bring back various items in a scavenger hunt and participate in night searches to recover body parts (fake ones of course) to earn bonus points. Additionally there were other puzzles and brain teasers to solve mystery artifacts, pictures and bones to identify as well as well as an insurance policy number to secure.

20180203_151502221_iOSWithin hours of arriving at the castle, my mom had contracted “the grip” and had to speak with her fist on her head when she spoke and wear a look of extreme constipation. Luckily a healer was on site and eventually she was cured. At breakfast the next morning; however, my sis and I found out that we had an unfortunate brush with the killer the previous evening and were now “mostly dead.” By the end of the weekend all but one of our teammates was “mostly dead.”  While our team came in last place and didn’t find the diamond or sleuth out who the killers were, I think it is safe to say well all had a good time (thanks sis!).

Although I probably won’t sign up for another murder mystery weekend (especially ones with zombies), I would go back to Ravenwood Castle. When I awoke Sunday morning to a beautiful dusting of snow,  I found myself rethinking how much I usually hate snow, the cold and anything winter. (Being a February baby you’d think I’d be a winter person, but no.) As the snowflakes gently wafted down and settled in my hair, I wandered about and made the first footprints in the untouched snow and snapped some photos with my iPhone along the way.  My heart thawed just a little, teeny bit at the beauty winter can bring. I could have spent hours exploring and taking photos from various angles.  I can imagine myself spending a long weekend taking photos, writing and of course reading in this beautiful setting. While these seem like solitary endeavors to some for me it is exactly what I need. I feel comfort when my loved ones are sitting in the same room with me as we each enter our own imaginary worlds and as we escape into our books. I enjoy walking and chatting and of course laughing as we take funny pics along the way. Even more than the time away, I appreciate coming back home to my girls. This weekend embraced all of that and more.

Here are some of my favorite pics from the weekend. Enjoy!

What do you like to do on your get away weekends?

 

 

 

No Drama….Puh-lease!

nodramaNo drama. What does that even mean? Seriously. No drama. I’ve read these words in hundreds of dating profiles. I’m not exaggerting either.  There seem to be many single 40 and 50 something men out there who seem to have serious aversion to drama (or at least in Northwest Ohio anyway).  I’m not a psychologist or a dating coach – far from it. But, I am a writer and an observer.

As I read over profiles (yes, women do read them! Thank you very much!), looking for my “Ultra Match” or “Chemistry Match” or “My Top Prospect” or whatever match, I’ve noticed patterns that instantly throw up a red flag for me. For every “How you doing” message I receive, I find myself itching more to message back not that I’m interested in a date, but to offer my help in re-writing his profile so someone else might be!  Alas, I hold back and just delete the messages, unanswered. Although, I actually think I could really help people and make a small fortune on the side! Afterall, people put in a lot of effort in their resumes to land a job, why not put just as much into finding the love their life? Especially, if you are paying to be an upgraded user, why wouldn’t you want to make the best first impression possible.  I can picture it now — a small store front, a laptop, a camera, an Internet connection and I’m in business. If only it were that easy!

And so, free of charge, I give you…

Shar’s Top 5 Dating Profile Red Flags

  1. No Drama: Delete these words from your profile. Go! Do it now! If someone is overly dramatic, she probably doesn’t realize it and even if she does, saying you don’t want drama is probably not going to prevent it. If you say you lead a drama-free life, I think you are either a liar or boring or don’t want to put in any effort to the relationship.
  2. No Cheaters, Liars, Players or Gold Diggers. Duh! Does anyone want to date someone like that? Do you think they’d tell you if they were? This just gives off a negative vibe that you have baggage you haven’t dealt with yet.
  3. Ask me. Come on. What a cop out. You can’t take ten minutes to write a coupe of sentences about yourself? If a person doesn’t have time to write a short bio, do they really have time to date and build a relationship?
  4. I’m a nice guy. OK, if you have to say you are a nice person, it kind of makes me think maybe you aren’t. Show her you are a nice guy.
  5. I workout every day!  That’s wonderful that you have so much time available to commit to fitness. I wish I did. Us single mom’s with mom bodies and full-time jobs, typically don’t have the time (or energy) to devote to the gym every day. Oh wait…that’s why you are looking for women 10-20 years younger than you.  Nevermind. Carry on. Good luck with that!

What are your online dating profile red flags? Please share in the comments.  I can use all the pointers I can get:)

Be Brave

IMG_0833Happy new year! Yes, I know technically I’m fourteen days late with this sentiment. To be fair though, my birthday is February 9, so I’ve always considered that to be the first day of my new year.  So in my reality, I am four weeks early!

This year as I’ve done in the past few years, instead of setting a lame resolution that’s destined to fall flat, I am focusing on a mantra: Be Brave. I didn’t choose this mantra because I am necessarially afraid, but to remind myself to think bigger, to be bolder and to let go of control.

Letting go of control, might not seem related to being brave, but for me it really is. I like to feel in control of my life whether or not I truly am is another story. I want to know what’s coming around the corner. I’ll read the last page of the book first. I’ll peek at my horoscope just to see if there is some glimpse of what the future might hold for me. Waiting is hard. Not having control of a particular outcome is hard. Asking for help or relying on someone else for something is hard.

I want to know. As a Christian, I’ve been taught that God has a plan for me. He knows me by name and knows what I will choose before I do myself. If I relinquish control and my will over to Him, I will be rewarded. I want to believe that. I want to let go, yet my will to know holds me back.  If there is already a plan and God knows what I am going to do before I do, what’s the point then? Why can’t He cut to the choice and just tell me what that plan is? Do I really have free-will or am I destined to be someone determined before I was even born?

Life is so random. I had no control over being born and to who my parents and family are. Happenstance placed me in midwest Ohio to the family that loved me and raised me.  I’ve been out-of-control from the moment I was conceived. Yet the choices I’ve made have taken me down different paths. Each decision I made takes me in a new direction. The words I am writing in this post are different than they would be if I had written the yesterday when I first pondered writing this post or tomorrow had I procrastinated writing yet another day.

To me being brave means to finally release control and letting the suspense build. I can’t control the outcome, so I might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.  I will know what life has in store for me soon enough. Time marches on. I can either fight it or go with it. I’m choosing to go with it.

Every day is a new beginning.

Be brave. Be brave. Be brave.

Fur Babies Rock

img_4251Yes, as you might infer from the title (which could also double as a cool band name), this post is going to be one of those crazy dog lady sappy musings…

Back in college when I was writing a weekly column for the campus newspaper, I once was accused of having a happy-go-lucky, perfect world where nothing went wrong. When I read those words printed in an underground rag where someone had written a spoof of one of my columns, it felt like a knife stuck me. I wanted to defend myself . Are you kidding me? My life is not perfect that was the whole point. Isn’t there a place in the world for light-hearted thoughts? Don’t people want a break from reading about all the disasters, short-comings and negativity that regularly filled the newspapers and now cyberspace?  It wasn’t long after that, I retired my column from the paper.  For some odd reason, I let the criticism get to me and take away the joy I felt writing about the little things. As you can tell, I have a hard time letting go of criticisms (as I still remember this moment vividly and it happened over 20 some years ago.)

I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to share that particular story as an introduction to this blog post besides the fact that this  is indeed another one of those feel-good stories I so enjoy writing. In fact a smile is crossing my lips as I type these words (can you see it.?) The topic of the day? Puppy love.

My first dog was a black and tan mutt, named Kip. I don’t remember much about Kip as I couldn’t have been but 4 or 5 when we first got him. I have a shadowy memory of him as little puppy with his liter-mates and bumping his head on a wheelbarrow.  Poor little thing had my heart right then. The only other memory I have is the cold windy night that my dad answered a knock at our door. The man on the other side inquired if the dog he’d hit was ours. My heart broke in two as you might imagine.

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Pedro and me, age 10

We had another dog in between, but the dog that captured my heart next was a brown chihuahua named, Pedro. One morning as my sister and I were getting ready for school, my dad called to this little dog walking along the side of our road. We got him a bowl of water and put him in our little shed. We put up a sign at the local market and notified the dog shelters, but no one claimed him. He became ours. He slept with me, he rode in my bike basket, my friends (you know who you are) and I dressed him up and put him in the toy box.

He was the best dog. For sure he didn’t know he was only five pounds. He had a loud bark and big balls. We never did get him “fixed” as my dad joked he’d lost half his body if we did. I have so many fond memories of Pedro. He was the dog of my childhood. He lived a long life and died when I was a junior in college. I came home from class and found him lying next to the step down into our family room. He didn’t come great me like he normally did and before I laid my hand to stroke his head I knew he was gone.  I called my dad at work sobbing. Dad buried Pedro under the lilac bush in our backyard. My heart was broken again.

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Piper and me, age 21

It didn’t take long before I was ready to let another fur-baby into my life, although it took much longer to convince my mom to let us get another dog (she’s really a push-over though as she’s has a dog of her own even to this day – love you Buttercup, the wonder puggle). Piper, a red cocker spaniel, was the fur baby of my twenties and early thirties. I loved that dog best I think. She was spoiled rotten. She’d get sad and mopey when I was out-of-town and get so excited she’d pee when I came home (yes I know that peeing thing was annoying, but that was her).

She was the first dog I actually trained. I took her to obedience class and she actually passed. She could sit, lie down, shake hands/paws and bark in that order too.  If I held up a treat, she go through all her tricks one after the other.  She liked to ride in the car and sit on my lap, ducking her head whenever we drove under an overpass. She curled up in the bend of my legs and rest her head on my booty. She didn’t enjoy other dogs and would pace back and forth across the top of the sofa, barking at them from her perch – she tolerated my ex-husband’s dogs at best, but she was the queen and she knew it. While Pedro inspired my action-hero story (see The Story Teller to read about his alter-ego), Piper got a poem, aptly entitled, Piper’s Big Eye.

My oldest was 18 months old when Piper at the age of 12 had a stroke while I was away shopping for the day. I came home and learned she was at the vet hospital. I hoped beyond hope she’d recover. I visited her and in my heart I knew she was suffering as she couldn’t move her hind legs and was so confused. The hardest decision I ever made was putting her down a few days before Christmas. For those who say, “it’s just a dog” I’d say you’re wrong and guess you’ve never loved a dog.

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Ollie, me and Maggie

For a multitude of reasons, more than a decade passed before I truly connected with another dog and in this case it’s a duo of dogs. After my divorce in 2015, the girls and I rescued a quirky Jack-Russell Terrier-mix puppy, name Maggie Mae. She is quite the character and keeps me on my toes. She’s helped us heal and has brought laughter into our home. My oldest really wanted a “fluffy” dog so this past February, we rescued 3-year old cockapoo. The girls named Oliver Queen aka “Ollie.”  He’s more laid back than Maggie and would rather lay in the sun than chase a rabbit. Sure they can be total pains in the ass when they chew a hole in the crotch of your favorite undies or shred a roll of paper towels and spread it around the living room or wake you up at 3 am to bark at a squirrel in the back yard or eat the last piece pizza in two rapid bites that you only left unattended for a brief moment. But, for all the hassles and frustrations they cause, they bring me happiness and comfort twofold. I love when I pull in the driveway and see them perched on the back of the chair watching out the window. I love when they race to the garage door to greet me. I love watching my girls play with them and cuddle with them. I love how the lick my cheek when they can tell I’m down. They are truly part of our family and we love them. Their lives are so brief, but they bring so much. I know we spoil them and give them a good home, but I sense they give us back more than we give them. Their unconditional love and trust is a gift I cherish.

I’d love to hear about those special dogs that had/have a place in your hearts! Please share in the comments below.

Fur babies rock!

What Do I Know?

img_4197As I pulled into the driveway this evening after finishing up a long work week, my youngest came running into the garage to greet me.  She stopped short, looked at me and asked, “Why are you so sad, Mommy?”

It seems lately she’s asked me that question a lot. I am quick to reassure her. “I’m not sad, sweetie. I’m just tired.”  That is not a lie. I am tired. Some days I think I was born tired. My mini-me follows me into the dining room and continues to ask me, “What’s wrong?”  Again I reiterate that “nothing’s wrong.”  Yet, she continues her interrogation, “Please tell me!” she pleads. I’m starting to feel exasperated with her and try my best to convince her that “I’m fine.”  I’m not sure if she bought it or not though, but she finally let it go – for now.

I look in the mirror and study my reflection. I guess I do look a bit sad. I think I might just have resting, “sad face” and I force myself to smile. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I am filled with gratitude. So much so I should be shining with happiness, but my little one is right. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have been feeling a little down lately.  I’ve turned to comfort foods and sitting on my porch with a nice glass of wine. I go out with my brilliant friends and I laugh. Yet still somehow deep down, I still feel an aura of sadness and negative energy seems to follow me around. I’m not quite sure how to shake it off. Do I  push myself outside my comfort zone and socialize more or turn into myself and go into hibernation mode to recharge?  I haven’t decided yet.

I think it comes back to the overall feeling of discourse that we as a county are amidst. Where ever you turn there is another story of despair, conflict and meanness. I know without a doubt that absorbing myself in that world does bring me down. I like to read and know what’s going on in the world around me. I thrive on on knowledge and looking at topics from different points of view. I whole-heartedly believe that there is more than one right answer. What I find most distressful is the lack of respect we seem to have for each other. With the popularity of social media platforms, it is easier to call people names and write them off as “stupid,” than it is to really listen to what each other thinks. We’ve let the “agree to disagree” mindset die and tend to quickly cast others with differing ideas as nefarious or stupid. If I elimated name-calling, arrogance and condensation from Twitter, my feed would be very short.  It is so easy to get sucked on to that band wagon — no matter what “side” you are on. Why can’t “both/and” replace the “either/or” mentality? People would be much happier.

A few weeks ago I went to a Joe Crookston concert in a neighboring town. He commented on how music can connect and bring us together no matter our differences.  He began to playing the beginning notes of a song that  he said everyone would recognize no matter how old or young, Democrats and Republicans and anyone inbetween. He then began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Sure enough everyone in the audience knew the words and joined in. His words resonated with me. It wasn’t more than a week or two later that Ed Sheeran’s song “What Do I Know” came on the radio as I was driving my kids from one activity to the next.

The chorus of his song goes like this:

“We could change this whole world with a piano
Add a bass, some guitar, grab a beat and away we go
I’m just a boy with a one-man show
No university, no degree, but lord knows
Everybody’s talking ’bout exponential growth
And the stock market crashing and their portfolios
While I’ll be sitting here with a song that I wrote
Sing, love could change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment
But what do I know?
Love can change the world in a moment.”

Music tends to move me and this song really nailed what I’ve been feeling lately. Music is a common language that connects and makes that world a better place. A song or a melody or the first bars of a song can take your back in time and lift your spirit.

Maybe I am a sucker for the happy endings and the positive beat, but it feels a hell of a lot better when my daughter asks me “what are you smiling about?” This weekend I’m going to X out of the negative. I’m going to binge watch the Hallmark Channell, sit on my porch with the sun in my face, and ask Alexa to play upbeat music in the living room:)

How do you pull yourself out of the doldrums? I can always use more smiles.

Gratitude = Happiness

Chowing on nachos with a good friend of mine, she reminded me that when life gets you down to focus on what makes you happy.  (Thanks Stace).  She pointed out that I have a good job and can pay my bills,  my children are healthy,  I have a supportive family and friends as well as a warm house to come home to.  She’s absolutely right. I know she’s right. I just need that friendly reminder when that pity-party band starts playing in my head – LOL.

Focusing on random aches and pains, complaining about the dysfunction in our world,  stressing over the minor obstacles in my life and pining after what I don’t have, absolutlely brings me down.  Yes, I do need to set goals and make little changes and take action to acheive my dreams, but I need to do so in a positive way.  I need to make time for myself and let myself be me. So I’ve come back to gratitude.  Remembering what I am grateful for and reminding myself that I am enough and I have enough, genuinely leads to happy feelings and drives my blues away.

Beyond those obvious “BIG” things I am truly grateful for (my children, family, friends, health, home  and job), I played back the last few days in my life and found little things that I am grateful for…in no particular order:

  • Giving my cockapoo a shampoo and blow out at the self-serve dog bath with my teenager. He smells great and looks positively fluffy.
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  • Writing with a brand new gel pen. There’s next to nothing more satisfying than writing that first stroke with a new pen:)
  • Stocking up at the olive bar. (Need I say more?)
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  • Listening to the Coffee House channel.  Even though I am musically inept, listening to music while reading a good book lifts me up every time.
  • Eating a yummy waffle sandwich (Again, need I say more?)
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  • Watching an old movie in the dark. Just like a good book, a good movie is good for the soul (happy endings only, please).
  • Playing with a new fun photo editing app.
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  • Dropping my daughter off at her first job (brought back memories for another post).
  • Being reminded by my friends to keep on keeping on.
  • Writing this blog post and hopefully resonanting with other grateful people.

What random things are you grateful for? Please comment below.

Confessions of a FB Quiz Addict

20171003_222155000_iosYes, it’s true. I find it hard to scroll past one of those dumb quizzes that inevitable appear in my FaceBook feed without clicking on them. Because really, who wouldn’t want to know what the most popular words they use in their posts are or who has a secret crush on them?

I for one want to know what the color test tells me about my most dominant character trait is (kindness in case you are wondering) and I found out I’m an introvert by ordering a pizza (not that I didn’t know that already!)  Probably most compelling though are those quizzes that deem me a genius – you know the ones that proport to say that 90% of people don’t know the meaning of these 22 words or the like.  A smile of satisfaction crosses my lips when I find myself in the 10% that know them all. My fingers itch to press “Share” so my FB friends know how smart I really am (or not if you factor in the amount of time I waste taking these quizzes instead of sleeping) and they too can partake in the fun of quiz-taking. 90% of the time, my friends are also in that illustrious 10% of smarties. So, either I am surrounded by extra-intelligent friends or someother nefarious forces are in play. I tend to side with all my friends being on the genius level.

I am so lucky to live in such modern times that I get instant results for these pop-culture quizzes.  Back in the dark ages of my teenage years, I actually had to wait for my monthly issue of Seventeen to appear in my mailbox before I could indulge in such fun. I had to flip through those glossy pages to find the quiz that told me if that special guy was into me or not.  I had to carefully write down my answers on paper none-the-less and then assign a 1, 2, 3 or 4 to my corresponding A,  B, C or D answers. Finally, I had to exercise those math skills to get my total and find the answer to my burning questions.  Am I an optimist? a realist? a pessimist? Oh those insights gave me even more fodder to overthink the little things.

After completing the quiz of the month, I inevitably flipped to the last page to check out my horoscope for the month.  What did the stars have to say about my future?  Is an Aquarius woman compatiable with a Scorpio man? LOL. I confess though, I still click on those articles that appear in my feed. What do the psychics say about my career today? When will I meet my soul-mate? I admit I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball and could see which path I should take or avoid. I’ve even had a personal psychic reading just for the fun of it. Alas, even though she seemed to know things about my that I don’t know how she could her predictions have not come to fruition.

Last but not least, I had to skim over the “Top Ten” lists. Those are the best. You know the top 10 things a man is looking for in a woman or the top 10 things you should stop doing on a date or the top 10 things an older woman should never wear. I love how advice can be summed up in ten easy points.  Its no surprise that I also find myself clicking on these gems when insomnia grips me and I click on my Huffington Post app. You would not believe how many self-improvements can be made in 5 to 10 steps!

I’d like to say I’ll never waste my time again taking a quiz, reading my horoscope or checking out the latest top-10 advice column, but I know I will. I mean what else have a got to do at 2:00 AM when the dog is running around the yard and won’t come back in and I’m engulfed with a hot flash. I’m certainly not going to be able to fall back asleep. I apologize in advance if my sharing these distractions suck you in as well.

Anyone else give into the guilty pleasures of these time-wasters?