Best laid plans

blogIMG_8057There’s a saying that I’ve often heard, “The best laid plans of mice and men go astray.” 

The actual line came from a poem written by Robert Burns way back in 1786. Apparently, the line is actually, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” written in a poem Burns penned as an apology to a field mouse whose nest he destroyed while plowing up a field.

That line floated to the surface of the river of thoughts that meander through my mind just recently when Papa and I made what we thought would be a best-laid plan.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we must forego any kind of real vacation this year. So instead we’ve decided that we will take a day or two here and there as the schedule allows and journey on a day trip to some place we’ve not visited or seen or sounds interesting.

We set a date, checked the weather forecast which promised mild, summer temperatures and blue skies, decided upon a destination, and researched attractions there.  You know, made plans.

Papa plotted our trip, which would take a couple of hours one way, by checking both Google Maps and Mapquest.  We decided upon a more scenic route instead of the more direct one, which would take us through our nearby city at rush hour, something we’ve done way too many times. You know, been there, done that.

And so our journey began.  And with that, our best laid plans started going awry.

The scenic route proved to be the most convoluted, time-consuming, go 1.5 miles then turn, then drive 3 miles and turn, then go 1.5 miles and turn again kind of trip. The longest distance we covered on one road turned out to be 12 miles I believe.  Those blue highways were making us really blue as we started getting annoyed by the directions which seemed to meander all over the countryside instead of making real progress. Busted plan #1.

Twice we pulled over along the roadside because we were convinced we had missed one of those turns and finally, I dug in the glove compartment and felt like shouting ‘Eureka, I’ve found it!’ when I located a map of the state next door in which we were traveling.

With map spread out before us, we finally made our destination more than an hour later than we had hoped. When we arrived, we found construction through the little town we were attempting to visit and traffic back-ups.  Still we forged on and decided to stop at a flea market that promised a little something for everyone.

Um…not something for us. We stayed only an hour and found nothing worth spending time to investigate nor anything to purchase.  Instead disappointment loomed as I picked up several ‘craft’ items only to discover ‘made in China’ on the backs of them. Bust #2.

So those plans went awry too. We then visited some shops which we found expensive and full of items that this couple married for almost 40 years didn’t want and certainly didn’t need.  At this point in our lives, I want to get rid of clutter in my house, not bring in more. Yep, bust #3 in our best laid plans.

We had packed a picnic lunch and were certain we could find a park or some shady beckoning spot to stop, spread a blanket, and eat. We drove and we drove and we drove some more.  No parks to be found, only parking lots.

We ended up sitting in our vehicle in a parking lot spot in front of an empty store front in a small strip mall under the one shade tree there. Busted plan #4.

By this time, it was afternoon and these two disillusioned travelers felt like we should have either:  #1- stayed home or #2- made a last minute plan to visit elsewhere.  (We had considered driving to Lake Erie for the day and just sitting on the beach, taking some nature walks, checking out the lighthouse, and maybe searching for sea glass.)

Throughout the day as those best laid plans went awry, Papa and I kidded each other by saying, “We should have gone to Lake Erie.”  Finally we did find a large pavilion full of antiques that proved interesting and enjoyable to look over and directly behind it another crafts “mall” with real honest-to-goodness handmade crafts.  But after visiting them, we were tired, a tad cranky, and frankly, ready to pull out that map again and find a better path home.

But first, we decided to stop to eat our last meal of the day at a home-style cooking restaurant before we hit the highway home. It was a bit early for dinner (I was glad of that as there weren’t many people there yet and you will soon find out why), but we wanted to get on the road back home. 

After being seated in the large, airy, and nicely decorated country style place, we placed our drink orders and perused the menu.  The waitress came back to our table to serve Papa his raspberry iced tea and me my half sweet, half unsweetened tea.  We were looking forward to just sitting, relaxing, and sipping our iced teas while we decided whether we would have the chicken pot pie or the home style meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

And then it happened.  The waitress placed the raspberry tea in front of Papa and hurriedly began to place my sweet tea down when….surprise! She knocked it over and an entire glass of tea and ice cubes promptly got dumped into my lap! It happened so quickly that I couldn’t even jump back from the table in time to escape the waterfall of tea running down the checkered vinyl table cover. 

I was too shocked to even comprehend how it happened as I sat there with a lap full of tea all over my khaki capri pants. The waitress grabbed some napkins, mumbled an apology, and ran off to get more.

I stood up and tea ran down my legs onto my sandaled feet – sticky, cold, and what a mess. I was given a couple of wet cloths to mop up the tea from my pants, legs, and feet and of course, the table. The waitress said she felt bad, and I replied that accidents happen. But I tell you, it wasn’t very enjoyable trying to eat dinner with soaking wet pants. And it was a bit embarrassing as well. Bust #5.

We ate quickly, – we did have the meatloaf which was good – paid our bill, and couldn’t wait to leave. As we got in our car, we looked at one another and said, “We REALLY should have gone to Lake Erie!”

The trip home was shorter and happily uneventful.  We chalked those plans up to just not our thing and put the day into the memory banks or so we thought.

The next morning I awakened at 6 a.m. to find Papa searching throughout the bedroom with our landline phone held up to his ear.  Groggily I asked him what he was doing.  He was dialing his cell number because he couldn’t find his cell phone. He searched high and low all through the house and the car hoping to hear it vibrate.  It was nowhere to be found. He lost it on our trip! Bust #6.

Again, we should have gone to Lake Erie!

Finally, we thought through where we may have been when he last used it the day before.  He liked some leather handmade belts at the crafts mall, and he tried one on to make sure it fit before he purchased it. When he took his old belt off to do so, he laid his cell down on the display,  got distracted, and forgot to pick it back up. At least that’s what we thought had happened.

Neither one of us wanted to make the return trip to the place where our best laid plans went awry.  We waited until 9 a.m. when the shops opened and called to ask if anyone had turned in a cell phone. No, was the answer but Papa asked if they would check at the display.  Eureka! It was still there and the manager said they would ship it to us at no charge to us.  One bright spot from a day of one disappointment after another.

It’s just like life. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you hope they would. But there’s always something to be thankful for. At least, Papa got his cell phone back.

But…our next day trip probably is going to be to Lake Erie. And we’re not going to plan anything.

“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~ Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer



Sign of my times

“Signs, Signs, Everywhere there’s signs.
Blocking out the scenery. Breaking my mind.
Do this! Don’t do that! Can’t you read the signs?”

When I recently read that this week’s Word Press photo challenge was ‘the sign says,’ these lyrics immediately came to mind.  Yes, it’s an old song from my youth, but the lyrics still ring true.

Signs are everywhere we look.  Street signs, signs on buildings, signs saying “do this,” signs saying “stay out,” and billboards blocking the scenery dot our world.  The only thing that’s changed since I was a kid and that song was popular is that many of those signs are now digital advertisements.

I have a few pictures of signs in my growing photography collection, but three in particular, taken during separate excursions hubby and I took, prove photo challenge worthy  at least in my opinion. 

blogDSCN9628I shot this first photo on July 4, 2012 during a visit to Fort Ligonier, Pennsylvania, which was a British fortification during the French and Indian War.  

While there, you can learn a lot about our first President, George Washington, and his early military career, and you can view his saddle pistols and a journal of his own handwriting.

When I first spotted this sign on the way into the site, I had to think about it for a second, and then its witty meaning finally dawned on me.   

Whose face is imprinted on our American dollar bills? Ol’ George, father of our country. 

And this quote taken directly from his writing about the time he was at Fort Ligonier  explains why he possibly didn’t have good sense yet: “During the time the army lay at Loyalhanning a circumstance occurred which involved the life of G.W. in as much jeopardy as it had ever been before or since.”  ~ George Washington remembers Fort Ligonier in his autobiographical remarks.  (You can read about this incident by clicking here.)

On a trip down South a couple of years ago, we stopped in Louisville, Kentucky to do some sight-seeing.  This clever sign caught my attention on a street in that city.


But you have to see the next photo to understand why the first one is so memorable.  Right next to the building advertising Kentucky Mirror and Plate Glass with that giant baseball shattering the ‘glass’ is the building which houses the Louisville Slugger Museum where this stands:


Things like that crack me up which is why I’m always checking out signs to see if there’s anything clever and witty or photo worthy – just another sign of the times in my life.


Coming to a city near us

All last weekend, it felt like my family was in the movie “Madagascar”  because our theme song was “Move It.”

I felt like King Julian, that crazy ol’ lemur in the movie who sings “I like to move it, move it.  She likes to move it, move it.  He likes to move it, move it.  You like to…MOVE IT!”

blogDSCN7913If you follow my blog, you know that I’m not fond of flying anymore.  But in the interest of time, I boarded that magic silver jetliner which transported hubby, middle daughter, and me to the Deep South last Friday for a mission – to help oldest daughter move back to our home state, to the city near us.  [happy dance here]

We arrived safely (no problems or delays) in her southern city late Friday night.  Oldest daughter and boyfriend (aka BF) picked us up at the airport and whisked us off to her apartment, which was in various stages of disarray with moving boxes, suitcases, packing tape, etc.

A crew of daughter’s work friends arrived early Saturday morning and after a hearty breakfast from Chick-fil-A, (I’ve never eaten chicken in a biscuit for breakfast before, but it was good!), we started loading up the U-Haul truck for the trek back home.  MOVE IT!

I watched with tears in my eyes as oldest daughter hugged her friends goodbye and they had a crying moment.  I find moving is always bittersweet – sad because you leave good friends and memories behind, yet exciting as you venture on to a new chapter in your life.

blogDSCN7914All loaded and locked down, apartment cleared out and cleaned, we left the city oldest daughter has called home for the last four years with a caravan  – MOVE IT! – hubby and I in the U-Haul, daughters and BF in oldest daughter’s car, to our destination stop for the night.

BF’s gracious parents invited us to stay at their home, which also gave us the opportunity to finally meet them.   We were treated to showers, comfortable beds, and a delectable breakfast the next morning and the joy of meeting daughter’s boyfriend’s wonderful family.

Joining us were BF’s sister and brother-in-law who offered to travel back home with us to help unload.  What a blessing they were!  We packed our overnight cases once again, climbed in the vehicles, and hit the road.  This time we had us a convoy with the truck, daughter’s car, and BF’s car.  MOVE IT! 

blogDSCN7916After our several hours long trip, we arrived in the city near us where we unloaded some of daughter’s furniture and belongings in the apartment she will soon share with middle daughter and her roommate.   MOVE IT!

Since middle daughter will move out of the apartment next spring when she marries fiancé, we decided to take advantage of the U-Haul and move some of her furniture to – you guessed it – our basement for storage.  So once again, we loaded the truck with a few pieces of middle daughter’s larger furniture mixed in with the rest of oldest daughter’s belongings to store.  MOVE IT!

By this time, old mom and dad were starting to drag from all the physical exertion,  long nights, early mornings, not to mention all the hours of driving.   Our little caravan headed to our home in the country, where all of us (7 humans and oh, did I mention a CAT?) were so relieved and happy to be out of the vehicles.

But the task wasn’t over yet.  MOVE IT!  After dinner, we still had to unload the truck and cart all of middle daughter’s furniture, some of oldest daughter’s furniture, and all her boxes of stuff to be stored into our basement.  By then, it was dark, a little rainy, it was late, and hubby needed to return to work the next day.  Oldest daughter also needed to arise early in the morning to attend orientation for her new job in the city.  MOVE IT!

The next morning, Dad and Daughter left for work, and the rest of us lounged a bit, but not long because after breakfast, BF and his sister and bro-in-law needed to be on the road again back to their home.  MOVE IT!

After everyone departed, my move it energy depleted, I couldn’t move it if I tried.  I confess I spent the afternoon on the couch in dreamland and after a 3-hour nap(!), I realized middle daughter was conked out as well.

The only creatures at our house who seemed to be ready to move it were the two cats (ours and oldest daughter’s), but that’s another story for another day.  Today in Chapter 9, Page 15, in my book of Opportunity, I’m so grateful God granted us safe travel.  And I’m elated He provided a new job for oldest daughter in the city near us.  I will cherish the couple of weeks that she stays here with us in the empty nest until she moves into the city apartment.

But I’m still feeling the effects of ‘moving it’ so I’m headed for the couch…again.  If you’re feeling the urge to ‘MOVE IT,’ please don’t call me.  Right now, I don’t like to move it, move it, no matter how much King Julian’s little ditty usually makes me want to dance.

Copyright  ©2011

No flight plan, part 2

blogflyingThis wasn’t the flight plan we filed.

We arrived at the airport very early that morning and the departure screen screamed out our first problem of the day – our flight had been cancelled.

We scurried to the check-in counter to be told that there were no other flights on that airline to our destination, but we could be scheduled for a flight the next day!

That was not an option because daughter had just recently returned from a three-week trip to Africa and, with no vacation days left, had to report for work Monday morning. When asked why our flight was cancelled, we were told that our pilot didn’t show up.  What???

The solution was to book us on another airline because we had to get home.  Satisfied with two new tickets in hand and happy to get away from the long line of angry customers, we left the counter and started walking away.

Daughter said, “OK, now we’re flying to Charlotte and from there to our final destination.”  I looked at my ticket and said, “Huh?  No, we’re flying to Houston and then to our home airport!”

Yep, the two of us, who were traveling together, were booked on separate airlines, going in opposite directions and arriving at our final destination many hours apart.    Back to the counter we trotted, which by now was surrounded by throngs of angry would-be passengers.

After a long wait, I realized my flight was calling for final check-ins, so I ran over to encounter another long line there.   What to do?  Check in and fly to Houston?  Wait and see if we can get on another flight together?  Go…wait…go…wait??

Finally, daughter, who had been standing in line at the original airline counter, gets waited on and explains that we need to be on the same stinkin’ plane, for crying out loud! Suddenly, daughter yells above the din, “Wait, Mom!!!  Don’t go!!  They’re getting us on another flight together!”

Relieved, I rushed back to airline counter one and my daughter.   Again we walked away with fresh new tickets, comparing them to find success – we’re both flying to Atlanta on the same plane and then to our destination together.  Finally!  And that’s when we notice our departure time.  Twelve hours from now!

blogA flyingWhat do you do to entertain yourself when you’re stuck in a small city airport for 12 hours and you’ve already turned in your rental car?  And you’ve only brought small carry-on bags, so you don’t have a lot of entertainment fodder with you?  Let’s just say we learned every nook and cranny of that airport and then some.

The nightmare continued when we checked in for our flight all those hours later.  Standing in the long queue for security screening, we were shocked to get pulled out of the line.  Daughter was escorted one way, I was escorted another.

Apparently, the haggard, exhausted looks on our faces made us appear to be would-be terrorists!   I realize now that our names were probably red-flagged because we had been jostled around from flight to flight that day, but hey, that wasn’t our doing! Blame that on the airline!

Our carry-on bags and purses were taken from us, opened and searched thoroughly while we were instructed to sit facing each other.   And as I sat there, shoeless, without my ID, my purse or my carry-on, the screeners took their sweet time examining our belongings first and then us.

Yes, I was frisked and so was my daughter and this was years before the latest TSA security measures.   And still we sat and sat….and by this time, I fumed because I was certain the delay was going to make us miss our flight…which we waited 12 hours to board!

And that’s when it hit me.  We could have driven by car and been almost home by then.  Instead, we literally sprinted to our boarding gate, endured two flights, a layover, and finally arrived at our city airport after midnight.

There we waited another 45 minutes for a shuttle to transport us to the outer parking lot where daughter’s car sat.  We slumped into her car, totally exhausted, and braced for the hour’s drive home.

The trip that should have taken us just a few hours by plane took almost 19 hours!  By the time we actually arrived at our house, we realized that if we had traveled by car we would have been home by dinner time and soundly sleeping in our beds for several hours.

Hassle?  Absolutely.  Stressful?  Without a doubt!  Totally exhausting? Unbelievably.  And that’s why I fear flying.  I would much rather be master of my own trip than place myself at the mercy of airlines and security screeners.   So on this 13th page, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and on any day, I’d much rather say, “Road trip!”


No flight plan, Part 1

blogDSCN7913Airline tickets for $39.  That ad attracted my attention for about a nano-second.

I used to love to travel by plane; now I’d rather pull out my own toenails.  In the past, I thought there was no better way to travel than flying.

Jump on an airplane on one coast of the country, be on the other coast in six hours, as opposed to driving for six days? No better way to go, I used to think.  I know because I’ve done both.

Flying used to be enjoyable, an adventure I willingly embarked upon even with three small children in tow.  I loved the sensation of lifting off into the air, peering out jet windows to catch glimpses of wispy, cotton candy clouds floating beside me, observing the patchwork of fields, mountain tops, or rambling threads of rivers and roads beneath us thousands of feet down.  Equally enthralling was catching the breath-taking view of a city all aglow in brilliant lights outlined in the dark of an inky black night sky.  Glorious.

Landing thrilled me even more!  I loved the sensation of gradually making the descent, feeling your ears pop, watching the ground get closer, closer, closer until you felt the bump of the plane’s tires touching down.  Then came the amazing part for me….flying on the ground, traveling at such a high rate of speed you wondered if the plane would ever be able to stop, but finally brakes grabbed hold and the plane came to a halt.  Exhilarating!

For certain, flying used to be fun.  Now I’d rather avoid it at all costs.  Unless there’s a dire emergency, you’d have to pay me to fly.  I’m not afraid of flying; instead I fear and loathe everything prior to and in between the actual flights.

“If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport,” someone named George Winters apparently once said.  Well, Mr. Winters, times have changed.  Now I believe it’s actually easier getting to the airport than it is getting through the airport.

I understand the necessity for security; really in today’s unsafe world, I get that.  But given the choice, after my last flying experience, I’m done with that mode of transportation.

My last venture by airplane occurred before the rash of outrageously crazy TSA screening stories that you watch on internet videos or hear about from a neighbor.  You know, the ones about 3-year-olds getting stripped and frisked and people having to remove prosthetics or endure some humiliating ordeal.

Flying just isn’t in my plans; I don’t care how low air fares drop.  I’ve got my own crazy story which sealed the deal when it comes to my disdain for air travel, and I haven’t flown since then.   A few years ago, I flew south with oldest daughter for a weekend.  Her career necessitated a move there, and we embarked on an apartment finding quest.

Our flight departed late in the day, so we had no time for dinner.  The only sustenance we received on our short flight to our next lay-over was a glass of water.  No individual bottle of water.  The flight attendant rolled down the aisle with a large communal bottle from which she poured water into a plastic cup for those of us thirsty travelers.  No food, of course – not even a tiny little bag of peanuts.

We ran to our next flight at our layover.  Again no time for food; and again, no food on the plane.  Arriving at our destination close to midnight, we were starving when we checked into our downtown hotel, where the only hot meal we could find was a vending machine Hot Pocket warmed up in a microwave.

Our trip on the ground was successful – she found a great apartment, we explored the city a bit, enjoyed our meals and one delight for me was sipping Southern sweet tea.

Because of all the waiting in line necessary for security screening and because we needed to turn in our rental car, we arrived at the airport very early Sunday morning for the airline’s first flight out to our home destination.  That Sunday unfolded as one of the longest days of my life!

And that story will unfold on tomorrow’s blog.   I’m tired just thinking about it on this 12th page of Chapter 4 in my Opportunity book.


Snapshots of the South

So a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words.  Although I’m usually full of words to write in my blog, today I don’t have time to spend trying to wrap my mind around my thoughts in a concise, coherent, and meaningful fashion.

So for today, instead of writing a thousand words, I’m posting some pictures I took on our trip down South,  simply giving you a little snapshot of our time well spent.

See if you can figure out where we ventured on our side adventures during our trip.









Have spouse, will travel

Image via

Picture the car loaded with these items: packed suitcases; snacks and water; books and crossword puzzles;  jackets (just in case); pillows; Mom and Dad…but no kids!

For the first time in over 28 years, my husband and I recently took a brief vacation together sans children.  Okay, I should amend that sentence; we traveled to the deep South to visit one of our grown children, so we weren’t alone for the entire trip.   But for a few days, it was just hubby and me traveling together.

When Mama’s Empty Nest was full, we always journeyed together with our children for vacations.  I can only recall a couple of times when my husband and I went away for a night without the kids.  During most of their growing up years, dear hubby traveled a lot for business.   So I always felt it important that we spend as much time as we could together as a family.  That meant always taking family vacations never taking couple vacations.

Those excursions were often trips back to our home state to visit our extended family where we would throw in some fun side expeditions for the children to enjoy.  Some times vacations were big trips like Disneyland, a week at the beach (both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic), historical places like Williamsburg, VA, or to cities across the country from Seattle to Saint Louis to Philadelphia.  Our kids lay claim to having visited a majority of states in this great country of ours.

So for this trek, it seemed a little odd to travel without our children along –  even though they are grown –  but we enjoyed our time together immensely.  A vacation should really be a time to relax, recharge your weary and waning batteries, and enjoy life away from the hustle and bustle.

Both hubby and I relate to the old saying, “A trip is what you take when you can’t take anymore of what you’ve been taking.”   In other words, we both needed a little rest and respite – he needed rest from the stress of his job, I needed respite away from the same old humdrum order of my life.

Roman philosopher and dramatist Seneca said, “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”   That’s what we needed!  A change of place and new vigor!

So we decided to meander our way down south to visit oldest daughter, but take our time on the journey to and fro,  investigate sights that interested us,  or take some scenic routes away from the usual rat-race of interstate highways. And that’s exactly what we did.

I learned a few things on my restful trip with my husband.  First I learned that I love traveling in the fall.  The weather is perfect and the crowds are few.   The days were sunny, bright and warm without being too hot, and the evenings were cool and crisp.  My kind of weather.  We didn’t have to force our way through throngs of people at any of our stops.  Life seemed a little slower and less hectic than summer traveling was for us.

Secondly, I discovered that I don’t have to stick to an agenda.  Our trips in the past were always planned – arriving here and seeing this, this, and that, then traveling there to see this, do this, experience this all in non-stop motion.  For this trip, hubby and I decided to stop wherever we saw a place of interest, taking a few detours here and there because we weren’t in a big hurry to get anywhere.

We still had hotel room reservations for nightly destinations (and thanks to “frequent stayer” left over points from hubby’s traveling days, we had free accommodations at a great hotel), but in between we could meander wherever we wanted.

The third thing I realized was that if I had enough money, I would really relish being retired and doing the same kind of traveling we just experienced.  This trip gave me a little taste of something to look forward to and plan for, since we can’t retire yet.

Another thing I learned is that no matter how far from your abode you wander, you’ll see someone who reminds you of home, whether it is a retired couple from your home state who you exchange pleasantries with at a Chattanooga, TN Civil War battlefield or when you spot your children’s college alma mater license plate on a car in the Space and Rocket Center parking lot in Huntsville, AL.

And finally, I learned something about my relationship with my husband.  Before we left, I was curious about the outcome of our trip.  Would hubby and I get on each other’s nerves, disagree about what to do and see (he loves historical places especially Civil War battlefields, I grow weary of them after awhile), would we have anything to discuss during the long car rides, or would it just be strange and lonely without our kids along?

I’m happy to report that the trip was magnificent.  We actually enjoyed each other’s company and we had fun to boot!  When my husband informed me that he told a co-worker that he looked forward to this vacation, even though it was short, to just spend some time with his wife, I was so appreciative.

Doesn’t that just melt your heart?  It did mine.  After 33 years of marriage, raising three kids, the stresses of job losses and moving several times,  hubby still wants to spend time with me.

Famous American writer and wit Mark Twain said, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

For me, I found out I don’t just love my husband, I like him.  And yes, I even want to travel with him – even if it’s only to a Civil War battlefield!