A Perfect Birthday Eve

Today is my birthday.

I believe that it is as important to say adieu to the old year in a positive manner as it is to start the new year off on the right foot.

Last year’s birthday eve was an utter disaster. Since I have no interest in reliving it, I’ll let you just click this link and read about it here.

I usually like to reflect on accomplishments and lessons learned during the last year. Honestly, I don’t know what I learned this year other than how to adapt, make do and survive. Changes at work and a major hiccup in my physical well being have dominated these last several months.

I’m tired and I’m tired of feeling like I’m living in a fog while fighting to figure out my new life. The issues that come with hypothyroidism are surprisingly difficult to shake.

It’s not all bad though. My health has improved and things have settled down at work. I’m hopeful that I’m headed in the right direction because survival mode is no place to dwell for too long. Once it becomes a way of life, it’s hard to get back to something better.

But I did get to travel some and explored a good bit in my own area this last year. Sunflower fields, a real life haunted house, fall in Denver, a trip down the river and a whirlwind trip through our nation’s Capitol are among my favorite memories. I even saw Old Glory and the only DaVinci in America during that DC trip. Of course, most of those things occurred before my thyroid diagnosis.

So there was a lot of good amidst the sad, the frustrating and the exhausting. It wasn’t all bad but it was still vital that the last day of my 44th trip around the sun be a good one.

And so I made it that way.

First up, I met a friend for a biplane ride at the James A. Rhodes Airport in Jackson County. My friend Dewey had brought his biplane Ace – a 1929 Travel Air – for some good old fashioned Barnstorming. I never pass up an opportunity to ride with him and it was a bucket list item for my friend too!

I had actually met Dewey at this airport a few years ago. You can also read about that experience – still one of my favorite memories. Learn more about him and his planes at his website.

The airport was hosting a fly-in so there were other aircraft including an incredible B-25 Mitchell Bomber from the Tri State Warbirds Museum.

And this nice Stearman which I believe was a World War II era training plane.

It was a gorgeous day. At eighty degrees, it was much cooler than we’ve seen lately and the sky was a brilliant blue. So after the airport event, I swung by Lake Katherine Nature Preserve for a peaceful hike.

It was wonderful having a moment in the woods to reflect, move and simply breathe. Sometimes you need to just breathe and do nothing else.

All told, this was a perfect day. Planes and nature. What more can a gal want?

Starting A New Year

It’s 12:34 a.m. on my birthday. I spent my last full day as a 43 year old person getting the gray washed out of my hair as the jingle told us, going on a failed adventure and watching undertakers carry my aunt’s lifeless body from her home.

I need my new year to be better than this.

I tend to get more philosophical around my birthday, thinking about what I have learned in the last year and what I think the next one should look like.

If I am to be completely honest with you and myself, I don’t really have it in me to do all that today. For the last few weeks, death and dying have been more prominent themes in my family than life and living.

That’s the season my family is in. It’s natural and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean we have to like it but that’s the thing about life – we don’t always have to like it but we do have to muddle through the best we can until conditions improve.

If anything, this time has been a superb reminder of why we should never complain about growing older.

After all, not everyone gets to do it.

Even with Covid limitations and even with family issues, over this last year I have managed to find enjoyment at home, to get out on adventures and to have some special experiences both near and far.

While hibernating at home this winter, I binged on I Love Lucy. I had bought the complete series and watched it in order- some episodes more than once. When conditions allowed, I visited her hometown and soaked in the recreated TV sets and had a few beautiful days wandering around western New York State.

I have walked hundreds of miles through parks and museums, wearing out shoes as I set out to see as much of the world as I can. This year found me exploring historic sites as well as natural places like a gorgeous sunflower field. I learned about Annie Oakley’s triumphant rise to fame from humble beginnings in Ohio. This year taught me that Buffalo Bill believed in equal pay and equal opportunities for women and Native Americans at a time that people still believed a woman’s place was at home and that Native Americans had no place in this country at all.

This year I cruised down highways in the Nerdmobile, floated down the Ohio and Muskingum rivers atop a paddle boat and soared high above the earth in a biplane.

The mountainside community of Thomas, West Virginia is where I learned about how immigrants of numerous nationalities lived and worked peacefully. Despite cultural and language barriers they were united by patriotism for their new home and the opportunities afforded to them in America.

This is where I saw the most stunning fall foliage of my lifetime.

I followed signs down country roads to find a working mill in Virginia, had a chance encounter with an artist and slammed on the brakes for many a roadside attraction or pretty scene.

I finally found a home for my pulpit, a family heirloom that I had been keeping safe until the right person came along and needed it for a church. When I couldn’t travel, I had books to keep my mind busy and I finally created a real office space for my work from home lifestyle with new furniture and decor.

When I did travel, I had the cutest little cat to come home to at night. Everyone should have someone in their life who gets this excited simply because they came home.

No, I didn’t leap from airplanes or fly off to exotic places. I flew to Denver and road tripped as much as possible. I daydreamed about all the places I still want to go and chided myself for not winning the lottery yet as that’s what it will take to fund the adventures I wish to take. Of course, I don’t actually play…..

For the last couple of months, I have spent more time getting to know my aunt and listening to her stories. Wednesday was my night to visit and to take something special for our dinner and dessert. It was far more fun and rewarding than I first expected.

As we have been bracing ourselves for the loss of this important person, we welcomed three small souls who have brought much joy and laughter to our lives. One of the most rewarding things you can do is to extend kindness to someone who has nothing to offer but their companionship.

This year has taught me to look more closely at what’s in my own area and that it’s ok to not plan, to just wander and make the best of things as they are. I have perfected the art of wandering this earth safely and appreciating whatever fun I’m able to find.

Friday’s adventure was a bust. I went with a friend to a hot air balloon festival where the balloons were grounded for weather, a detail event organizers didn’t mention until after we had paid for non-refundable admission. But we met a nice elderly man there and had a great dinner at Boston’s Restaurant upon his recommendation. We laughed a lot at the ridiculousness of our day and also got to see a gorgeous sky after sunset, a true gift at the end of a challenging week.

We had another chance encounter with a kind human when we experienced some trouble late in the day. I want to tell you about that experience but not today.

The moral of the story is that life is filled with sunrises and sunsets, with great fun and some disappointments. As my aunt slipped the bonds of this earth, somewhere else a child was born. As my trip around the sun comes to a close and another starts, there is both bitterness and sweetness.

If not for these things, life simply wouldn’t be life. What does the song say? We all want happiness but we can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.

A Birthday Adventure

My parents were excited to plan a birthday adventure for us on Friday. We didn’t wander very far because of Covid worries but they successfully found a place that I had never been and that I thoroughly enjoyed.

They wouldn’t tell me where we were going as they thought the surprise would be more fun.

Turns out we went to Cross Mound Park near Tarlton. This park exists to preserve an Indian mound that is in the shape of a cross. It sits atop a hill with some walking trails through the woods around the mound.

I didn’t get a decent picture of the mound. Honestly, it’s low to the ground and would be hard to make out if you didn’t know what you were looking at – one reason I’m really glad it has been preserved in this park.

The crown jewel of the park is a beautiful pedestrian bridge that was built by the WPA in 1936. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed millions of Americans, mostly unskilled men, to construct buildings, roads, bridges and other projects across the country. It was part of President Roosevelt’s 1935 New Deal to help struggling Americans survive the Great Depression.

Today we can thank the WPA for countless things like hospitals, courthouses, parks and fairgrounds. They even employed artists, musicians and writers.

This bridge is the only remaining WPA project in Fairfield County and it was rehabbed a few years ago. It’s a suspension style bridge with steel cables and tall concrete entrances on either end.

The bridge spans Salt Creek which happened to be a bit low during our visit. I scurried right down the bank to skip stones and take in the view of the bridge from below.

While the park is just outside a village, it is peaceful here, serene. It’s one of those places that hides in plain sight, providing easy access to the sounds of nature- the trickle of water, a woodpecker overhead, the call of a frog in the distance.

The walking trail to the mound is a bit steep but the trails at the top of the hill are easy and pretty.

We also drove some roads none of us had been on, did some antiquing, saw a 600 year old white oak tree, and had a picnic lunch.

We are off the beaten path, simple pleasures kind of people so it was a good day, just wandering around and seeing what there was to see.

It’s hard for this control freak to appreciate a surprise but they did good planning this adventure!

43

I’ve completed another trip around the sun and am starting my 43rd year of life today. I contemplated doing some kind of snazzy post about 43 things I want to accomplish this year but that seems like a great way to be disappointed during a pandemic.

Instead, let’s use math to take a shortcut (4+3=7) and discuss seven things I’ve learned these last 365 days.

1. Never pass on an opportunity to look toward the heavens when there is a sunrise, a sunset or a meteor shower to enjoy. On Tuesday night I spread out a blanket on the ground and laid down, contemplating the beauty of the night sky while the Perseid Meteor shower created a mesmerizing distraction. It was worth being tired the next day.

The sunrise pictured here also required lost sleep but was worth the effort given that I got to see the dawning of a new day and the enlightenment of the world in a way that most others miss.

2. A walk though the woods on a rainy day will cleanse your mind and soul. I’ve always been a fair weather hiker but there’s a real argument for going during a gentle rain. There are fewer people out and rain changes the feel of the air but the forest canopy keeps you mostly dry. Try it and you will feel like a kid again.

3. Self control goes out the window where vintage suitcases for cheap prices are concerned. For real, friends. I bought another one (a birthday gift to myself) even though the existing suitcase pile already meets the ceiling. Hi, my name is Brandi and I don’t know when enough is enough.

4. Working from home suits me. I like the quiet and find that I’m typically smarter, faster and better at my home desk than my office desk. The transition back into the office has been a challenge.

5. Rescuing a kitten from the street and offering him a pampered life is the most rewarding thing I have done lately. Scout was such a scrawny little baby but has grown into a sleek, strong, playful and smart young chap. He has brought much joy to my life and provided companionship during these many months of solitude.

6. I was made for quarantine living. You want me to stay home with my cat, live off what I already own, read books, go for walks and not talk to people? I’m in!

7. Life is only as good or as bad as you allow it to be. Sometimes the unplanned problems, the roadblocks and the derailments are there to bring opportunities for something better. So instead of complaining about the rain, get yourself a cute umbrella and some nice galoshes so you can go splash in the mud puddles! Better yet, just run outside and enjoy it. You may even catch a rainbow!

This calendar year hasn’t been what I wanted it to be. I miss travel and freedom and diners and live music and being able to to shop in stores without carrying hand sanitizer in my pocket.

However, 2020 has gifted me with amazing books, birds outside my window, kitty cuddles, hikes in my own community, beautiful backroads, and breathtaking meteors.

And when you add all that up, it hasn’t been so bad.

Life is short, friends. Enjoy what you have. And since it’s my birthday, I encourage you to celebrate with some cake and ice cream!

It’s Always Someone’s Birthday . . .

It’s always someone’s birthday. This means there’s always a reason to celebrate! Today happens to be mine. My suggestion is that you take full advantage of this auspicious day (I hope you can read sarcasm) and do something fun.

I once knew a guy who was a big Bob Dylan fan and we had cake to celebrate Bob’s birthday on more than one occasion.

So, my point is to always look for an excuse to put on your best party dress, have fun with friends or just treat yourself to a big ‘ole slab of cake.

There’s always a reason to celebrate – even if it is just a stranger on the internet turning the page on another year.

Happy Birthday To Me!

il_570xN.570881456_8yemToday is my birthday. If all goes according to plan, I will be off on a grand adventure with a friend today. The last couple of birthdays have been really hard for me but I’m actually ok with this one. 2018 got off to a rocky start but I’m thinking this day will mark the start of something great. These are optimistic words and probably famous last words but I’m sticking to them.

So, here’s my wish for you: while I’m out adventuring I hope you will do something fun as well. Go for a walk, get a milkshake, spend time with a friend – just do something that will make you happy!