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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

We’re heading out on vacation next week, nowhere particularly fancy this year, just to Niagara Falls for a day and then to Cooperstown, NY so Marty and the Youngest Child can see the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (I’ll be going to the Farming Museum, also in Cooperstown, because while I support the Detroit Tigers and can tell you a lot about baseball, the thought of spending hours around baseball memorabilia makes me fall into an instant coma.) We don’t have a name for our vacation this summer, unlike last year’s Oceans and Dead People Tour, but there are plans for Oceans and Dead People Tour II, possibly next summer. We shall see.

I did, however, insist on being around big water, so Lakes Ontario and Erie will do nicely. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls once before when I was around nine or ten years old and Youngest Child has never been so it will be cool to experience it again. Plus, I’m getting a massage at the spa, so all is well.

I don’t remember much about my first venture to Niagara Falls, but there’s one thing I do remember: The Mummy. No, not the movie. I would have italicized the title if I were talking about a movie. English teacher here. I’m talking about a genuine dried up person that had been alive a few thousand years ago but was, for some reason, on display in a little museum in Niagara Falls. It was amazing.

There are a lot of overpriced touristy-things at Niagara Falls, so we didn’t do a lot of them, but we did go into this little museum. I could not tell you 99.5% of what was in the museum, but I will never forget that it was where I saw my first mummy. It was in this glass case, kind of up high (at least to a ten-year-old) and I was amazed. Not amazed in a grossed-out way, but amazed in a this-is-so-cool-it-used-to-be-a-person!!!!! kind of way. The mummy was touted as an Egyptian pharaoh and had been brought to Canada from Egypt through a collector. We didn’t believe for a minute that this mummy had been a pharaoh, but it was still pretty awesome to see. Unfortunately, it was very common and fashionable in the 19th century for Europeans and North Americans to buy “souvenirs” that had actually been looted from Egyptian tombs, including actual mummies. (Sidenote: Egypt would LOVE all of its artifacts back, by the way.) That’s how this mummy had crossed the Atlantic and ended up in a tourist trap museum in Niagara Falls, Canada.

To make a long story short, years and years later, in 2002 to be exact, a news story came out that this mummy actually was an Egyptian pharaoh! Hearing the rumors about the Niagara Falls mummy, Egyptian archaeologists had tested its DNA and found that it was most likely Ramses I, founder of the Ramses dynasty of pharaohs. You can read the BBC story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3215747.stm

Since then, I’ve seen many more mummies. There’s one at the Detroit Institute of Arts, there are some incredible natural mummies under St. Michan’s church in Dublin, Ireland, one of which I got to touch, and there are dozens of mummies in the British museum. (Sidenote #2: The St. Michan’s mummies recently made the news because some arsehole broke in and stole a head from one of the mummies. I hope he’s being severely haunted right now. Like Poltergeist-style haunting. Jerk.) Here’s a link to see the Irish mummies: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/st-michans-church

There was also a TV show in the early 2000s called The Mummy Road Show, hosted by two professors. It was on when Youngest Child was a tiny baby, so I watched a lot of that. They also visited the Irish mummies (That sounds like a great band name, doesn’t it?). You can find details on that here: https://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/mummy-road-show/episodes/390281/

I know that many people, my family included, think that my obsession with mummies is a little odd, but I’m okay with that. I’ve always been fascinated with things that a lot of people find odd or disturbing. My mom used to say I was morbid, but to me, mummies are a tangible part of our long distant past. When we study ancient history, we are often limited to just reading about it, but through mummies and artifacts from civilizations past, we can actually see it, touch it. We like to separate ourselves from them, but these are people who lived, breathed, laughed, and loved, just like we do today. They had families, jobs, insecurities, worries, and joys. Somebody loved that face once. They were us, just 5,000 years ago. Mummies make me feel connected, somehow.

I didn’t know how that little visit would awaken such an interest in me, but I’m really glad it did. I’ve seen a lot, read a lot, and my life is richer for it. It’s also fun to say that my first mummy was a pharaoh.

I don’t know if that little museum in Niagara Falls still exists, but if it does, I may just go have a poke around inside. You never know what you’ll find.

If you have any “odd” interests, feel free to post them in the comments. I’m interested to read about them!

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Let me say up front that this is not a pity party. I’m not expecting pity, I’m not wallowing, but damn, I wish I had that carefree spirit of not really caring whether I am accepted or not. It’s easy to say that I don’t care but it’s not the truth. I do care! Most people do, whether they want to admit it or not.

Rejection sucks, even though I knew it was coming. I’m beginning to think that it’s never going to happen, that no literary agent is going to take a chance on me. A temporary setback in my mindset, only a flesh wound.

I thought I was ready for another round of, “Thank you for thinking of me, but this project just isn’t right for me”, emails and to an extent, I was. I had just forgotten how much it stings after the first onslaught. How many times did J.K. Rowling get rejected? 20? No, Google says 12. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times, says almighty Google. Well, by now, I have both of them beat. That’s an accomplishment, right? That will be my claim to fame if I ever do get published again. I can just see my interview with Savannah Guthrie now…

Savannah: So, Julie, congratulations on your best-selling novel! Can you tell me a little about the road you took to get here?

Me: Well, Savannah, I don’t want to brag, but I was rejected more than 50 times before my amazing agent put me in touch with XYZ Publishing.

Savannah: More than 50 times? Wow, that’s more than J.K.Rowling and Stephen King combined! You must be so proud!

(Al Roker steps in, shaking my hand)

Al: More than J.K Rowling and Stephen King? That’s incredible! I can’t believe I’m meeting you!

Me: (blushing) Aw, shucks…it was nothing.

(Al grabs the copy of my book off of the table.)

Al: Please sign this for me, it’ll go right next to my Emmys in the living room!

Me: I would be honored.

Ah, well, maybe someday.

I get it, agents are inundated with queries and they have to be picky about what they take on but I have to wonder about some of the stuff that does get published. As an English teacher, I read a lot of books for kids. I mean, a lot. Most of it is great stuff, but there are always a few books that make you wonder if the author was related to the publisher or if they had some kind of blackmail thing going on. Is my writing worse than those books with flimsy plot lines and inaccurate historical details? Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

BUT…I am going to keep writing, I am going to keep trying, this is just a low moment and it will pass. I’m going to keep pestering literary agents with queries for all of those things that I’m going to keep writing and one day, one day, it will happen.

Get ready, Savannah and Al. I’m on my way!

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After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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I’ll be completely honest: I hate the idea of getting older. I am not at all comfortable with my number as it continues to go up..

Before this goes any further, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to get older. I know that people have terminal and debilitating conditions and I count myself as fortunate to not have gone through that as of now. I understand that there are people who are sensitive to this topic, but this blog is about dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with transitioning into this new territory because they exist and are valid, so no comments on how I should feel lucky to be getting older, please. I’m not whining, just processing. (But I will be wine-ing, later, at an acceptable hour. See what I did there?)

At 44 (yeep!) I feel better than I ever have; I’m healthier, mentally and physically, than I’ve ever been in my life. I (mostly) eat healthy and exercise almost every day. I’ve been seeing my therapist for around eight years now, which has done wonders for helping me with depression, anxiety, and my past. I’m deliriously happy in my marriage. While I’m not even close to knowing it all, I’m much more comfortable in understanding that that’s okay. But for the first time, I’m worried about this getting older thing. It isn’t so much about how I will look, although I admit that does bother me. I do my best to stay in shape, to eat right, drink a lot of water, and I use my moisturizer every morning and night, the way my grandma taught me, but I know that physical changes are inevitable. I do intend on fighting that particular aspect every step of the way.

What I will eventually look like isn’t what bothers me the most, though. What gets my stomach churning is the thought of being seen as less of a person because I will be old. I fear the perception that I will be feeble, the loss of control in my life, the lack of respect from younger people who won’t think I’m “with it”, the impatience of those around me. I’m afraid I won’t recognize that I’m not capable of doing things anymore, like driving. (Although, if my evil plan works and we move to London, I won’t need to drive anywhere, eliminating that painful milestone.)

For the record, I fully intend on being an independent, bad-ass, older person complete with tattoos, but I also know that an accident or disease could take that choice away from me in an instant. I’m also downright terrified of having dementia or Alzheimer’s. It was painful to watch both of my grandmothers decline mentally and physically. I’m sure it was loads more painful for them to go through: the confusion of the disease and the understanding in their lucid moments must have been terrifying. I’m hoping to escape their fate and doing everything I can to ward off those demons: puzzles of all sorts, reading, exercising, and drinking my red wine faithfully. (Don’t laugh, there are tons of articles on red wine preventing dementia. Who am I to discount research?)

I know that this is a long way off yet, but I see signs. There are fine lines forming when I look in the mirror. I have two adult children, one who is living completely on his own, with a teenager close behind. I remember things that happened twenty years ago like they happened yesterday. I actually need reading glasses now, which really sucks. I had been prescribed glasses for years, but I’ve only recently noticed a big difference. Marty thinks this is funny. Me, not so much. Certain theatre roles would be a bit ridiculous for me now, which makes me sad.

BUT… I saw a post today from a friend who’s only a bit older than I am and she was absolutely embracing the idea of getting older. It was about the freedom to be yourself, having less of a filter, and being comfortable in one’s body. I want to feel that way, I want to get there mentally. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. My therapist says to not dwell on things that haven’t happened yet and might not ever happen. The key is thinking positively and planning for what you want to happen. There is a 103-year-old woman who still runs competitively and was on the news a couple of weeks ago. I’m aiming for that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do all of things that I’ve been doing not only because it will combat the bad aging stuff, but also because it’s fun.

That includes the red wine. Obviously.

Salute!

Red Wine

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Do you want to know one of my favorite things?  It had been blah-cloudy all day. You know what I mean, cloudy and muggy with no good reason. Seriously, it’s a real downer and I spent a lot of this afternoon trying to get motivated to do something.

So, after watching Jeopardy, I made myself go out side to do something and saw the pile of branches I’d been meaning to cut up all week. Not my favorite thing, but it had to be done. Awesome.

I was outside for maybe half an hour, which encompassed not only cutting branches, but a petting session with one of my favorite neighbor kitties, the wind suddenly picked up with a purpose. All of the little hairs that had worked loose from my braid suddenly stood straight up in the rush and there was a note of change in the air. It was exciting, exhilarating. I could smell the rain, but it didn’t arrive for a good ten minutes after it began announcing its arrival. I continued cutting dead branches, just enjoying the feel of the wind with a purpose running through my hair.

It was a wind of change, a wind with a job to do.

I felt joy.

Suddenly, the day that had been somewhat boring weather-wise (I did get some good reading and writing in) was now exciting and unpredictable. I stayed out as the first few sprinkles fell and didn’t go inside until it was a semi-decent rain.

Life is beautiful sometimes, God gives you these little gifts. You just have to be open to find the joy and I need to learn this more than anyone.

Many thanks for the joy of the wind tonight.

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I’m not a huge fan of summer weather. While being cold isn’t great, I hate dripping with sweat just from standing outside. Breathing is too hot. Anything above 82° and I don’t get along, even lower temperatures if the humidity is rocking, which usually happens in Michigan. I grew up with no air conditioning and summer nights were brutal. I vividly remember being miserable unless I was in the lake or we begged the next-door-neighbor to let us swim in his pool.

That being said, I love the season of having a break, especially since I now have air conditioning and can escape the stickiness. I can get things done. I deep-cleaned our bedroom today! I never have energy for anything more than superficial dusting and Swiffering during the school year, so you know I’m relaxing.

I’m getting my soul back, too. I’ve been sleeping in way more than I thought I would; my body is apparently taking charge of recovering from the stress. It’s been almost a week and I feel a million times better already. I feel more like me. I haven’t been cussed out in a week.

For thousands of years, summer has been held in regard for more serious reasons than a break from school. While we have several examples of how our ancient ancestors welcomed this, Stonehenge in England really stands out to me.

Seven years ago today, my aunt and I visited said Stonehenge with a tour group. (Rob from Trafalgar, btw, made that an amazing trip. Just saying.) It was the day before the summer solstice and the field around the monument was already packed with people who wanted to celebrate the next morning. Stonehenge itself was crowded, but not enough to detract from its beautiful simplicity. I could feel the ancient vibrations, the thing that lingers after the people are long gone. It was that significant for me. As we watched the news the next morning, we learned that a few arrests had been made as some of the celebrations had gotten out of hand, something I think the ancients would have probably understood. At this moment, 11:30 EST, they’ve been partying all night at Stonehenge and the sun is about to rise, so it’s a very exciting time.

Those stones, arranged so carefully by people from so long ago, echoed deep inside me and still do today. The people who placed those stones welcomed the summer, more than I do. Summer was a reward for surviving the harsh winter, a time for tending crops and enjoying life. They worshiped the sun, the giver of life in their eyes, and felt the need to commemorate that particular spot as sacred. Somehow, they calculated the solstice, got those impossibly heavy stones to the sacred spot, and arranged them in the perfect way. Most of them still exist in perfect form, not bad for being around 5,000 years old.

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I have deep roots in England, going more than 1,000 years, and some from the town of Salisbury not far from Stonehenge. Did my many-great-grandparents dance around the stones? Did they dance the pagan dances, worship the sun, drink the mead? If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s very sobering to think that I could possibly have had people there at that crucial time.

So, in spite of my distaste for excessive heat, welcome, Summer. Welcome, ancient holiday that meant life and respite to our ancestors.

Respect.

Summer-Solstice

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