A place in the woods

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cabin

There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,

and my mind has been known to roam.

There are four walls and a roof that wait for me,

and long for me to call it my home.

The mass of buildings and lanes of traffic

are replaced with hills and trees.

The soothing sounds of Mother Nature’s lullaby

truly put my mind at ease.

I am homesick for a place I’ve never seen,

a place where my heart is replete,

a home where my soul is understood

 and a home where I feel genuinely complete.

The barren land beckons, the rolling earth lures,

I hear it calling my name.

I know when I finally find this haven

my life will never be the same.

I will shed the layers of the pretense I’ve lived

and genuinely feel at peace.

I will feel naked among the rocks and the trees,

and my life will have found a new lease.

There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,

and my mind has been known to roam.

I hope to one day discover this place,

and forever call it my home.

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Not-so-dry cleaning

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Working in the hospitality business goes hand-in-hand with working long hours.  I can adapt to the hours but my dog is the one who takes the brunt of my lifestyle in the summer months.  I will never leave her outside on a chain to battle the elements. She is firmly ensconced in our home, lazily spending her hours watching the wildlife from the comfort of my bed while the air conditioner keeps her cool.  I have several people who are more than willing to come over and let her out during the day because she is such a happy dog but having her be the excuse for me to leave work for thirty minutes is wonderful.

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(a much younger Callaway)

During these long days, I often wonder how she invests her time.  Is she reorganizing my kitchen cabinets?  Has she mastered the satellite remote?  Does she inventory my refrigerator?  But each day when I get home from my struggle to survive my sometimes 10-12 hour days, she is there to greet me and nothing in the house seems out-of-place.  Until recently…..

I returned home from my usual work day and I was greeted by the reassuring excitability that I have come to expect.  The house, as usual, was completely intact.  The garbage was untouched and the serene ambiance wrapped its arm around my shoulder and pulled me into its embrace to welcome me home.

My attention was immediately diverted to the duvet cover on my bed and what seemed to be a single article of clothing bunched up in the middle of the bed.  It wasn’t shredded, however the entire shirt was extremely damp.  She had been licking my shirt and focusing her attention on the armpits of the shirt.

Now, you have to understand that my closet is hidden by a decorative cloth shower curtain that poses as a makeshift door.  Somehow, she was able to get behind the shroud of the curtain, move the articles of clothing she had no interest in and gingerly lift that particular shirt from the middle of the pile of laundry in the basket.  She also strategically replaced the curtain so nobody could catch on to her devious plot.

As much as I miss her during my day, it broke my heart to realize how much she truly misses me during her day.  The writing was on the wall, or in this case on the bed.  My scent comforted her during her lonely day while she waited for me to return home.

We are more than halfway through our busy season and soon my work days will become shorter and more structured.  My time with her will increase and perhaps her need to be close to my deodorant-saturated shirts will abate somewhat because I will be here with her and not spending long days at work. I am grateful every day for her patience and her love and look forward to the moments we can spend together in the fall.

The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I have written many heartfelt posts telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But the more I read those posts again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun. My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbors.  They ran naked from the neighbors’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other. My mother summed it up completely in the caption of this photo of the four of us, “Happiness is Port Carling”.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects alcohol had on their relationship I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had with each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things I should remember.

 

Soup’s on

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Summer is a crazy time for me. The lodge is busy and I have the knack of having a multitude of side projects in the works while surviving my busy summer hospitality job. Some days feel like a smooth paddle on a calm lake and others feel like a roller coaster ride through Hell. By mid-summer, I am physically and emotionally drained and I need something to make me feel centered again.

Writing is a good place to start the process of realigning myself. Writing is cathartic. Typing words onto a screen makes the rest of the world fade slowly into the background until there is nothing left but me, my laptop and my imagination. The minutes and hours I spend writing make me happy and bring me to a level of calm that is somewhat hypnotic. There is only one other thing that can take me beyond hypnotic to being completely detached from reality and that is cooking.

It is 38 degrees today with humidity and my gut told me that it was the perfect time to make a summer corn and zucchini chowder. When my parents were still alive, the times we spent in the kitchen together were some of the happiest moments of our lives. My mom was the queen of baking sweet treats for everyone and my dad loved to cook. My brother and I inherited his passion for creating tasty dishes and homemade soups. My dad was never one to use a recipe, unless he was making Martha Stewart’s Shortbread, and his food was almost always delicious…..I will save the story of his scrambled eggs made with eggnog for another day.

To me, there is no greater satisfaction than creating something from a bunch of random ingredients. Individually those ingredients can taste good, but when you combine them in a way they compliment the flavor of the others, that is sheer bliss. The bacon is fried, the onions are rendering in the bacon fat and the rest of the ingredients are ready to be thrown in. The result will be a tasty summer chowder that would make my dad proud.

At the end of the cooking process, I will sit down to a comforting bowl of soup for dinner and feel thoroughly decompressed. My mind will be back in its happy place and I will relish the memories of my mother calling us for each and every dinner, regardless of the menu, by saying, “soup’s on”.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all in the details

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Yesterday was my day off. I get one day off a week this time of year so I have to pack as much into it as I can to make the way I spend it last until my next day off. My timing was altered slightly but I still managed to get everything done I wanted to do and enjoy some time with a friend in the process.

After my morning shopping and a few other tasks, I headed to my friend’s house so we could detail my car. He is a recent Honda owner and we both love our Hondas and take great pride in them. Mine has been sadly neglected over the past few months and in great need of a thorough cleaning. My friend, who has an entire Rubbermaid bucket labelled “car care”, was more than happy to help out and we spent a few hours making my car look like it did the day I drove it off the lot.

Every inch of my car was washed, dried and polished. Even the difficult globs of pine tar were beaten into submission and eventually removed. If you look inside my car now, you would never know I have a dog who sheds like crazy, drools everywhere and puts her nose on every piece of glass in that car.

As much as cleaning a car is about the details, so is friendship. It’s about the fact that you can have fun doing menial tasks, that you can laugh at pretty much anything and just enjoy each other’s company without having to feel like you are putting on a show for anyone. It’s about being you and knowing that the details of you are truly appreciated by someone else. And it’s about knowing that a true friendship may collect a little dust but it takes no time at all to polish it and bring it right back to where it should be.

The things I wouldn’t change about myself

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After reading a post by Little Steps to Somewhere, the concept of having the ability to change your appearance was passed between the two of us.  It made me think about what I would change about my appearance if I were the artist wielding the tools that would carve my body into existence.

Initially my mind began to compose a list of the physical attributes I would alter but then my reasoning got in the way. Due to a sense of logic beyond my grasp, I firmly believe I was meant to plod through my existence in this body, blemishes and all.  Sure my ankles and wrists are more suited to someone who plays football, but this body is me and the embodiment of many lessons I have learned along the way, good and bad.  I gained my strength through my imperfections.

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(image credit)

This body has taught me acceptance and empathy, understanding and insight.  I am a Raggedy Ann in a Barbie Doll world and that suits me just fine.  I am comfortable in my skin because that thick layer of protection has guarded me and served me well.  I have earned each and every scar.  I have learned what ugliness truly is and it does not have anything to do with not having a perfect body.  Ugliness has everything to do with never learning acceptance of those who are different and never showing compassion where compassion is due.

My arms jiggle but nobody notices that when they feel comfort in my embrace.  My cheeks are chubby but that shortcoming is shrouded by my genuine smile.  My mid-section carries extra weight but that casing does its best to guard the heart that always finds its way to my sleeve.  And my eyes tend to leak on a regular basis but I would rather err on the side of human, having cause to buy an extra box of tissues, than to never show any emotion.

So the chisel can stay hidden in the tool chest.  No one part of me is perfect but when I look at the sum of all of my parts, I am pretty happy with the total.

It’s okay to say “no”

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“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” ~ Steve Jobs

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“NO” is the most common word to ever come out of a child’s mouth.  It’s an instinctual response to any question or suggestion for anyone under the age of three and that response is never second-guessed.  So why now, when we have the ability to reason and make an informed decision, based on what is best for us, do we find it so hard to utter that simple word and mean it?

“No” is a complete sentence.  It does not require any justification, nor does it need an explanation.  It is a succinct and pithy response that needs no further words to make its meaning understood.

For us to procure as much happiness as we can from each day we are afforded in this lifetime, we must learn to make our decisions by putting our happiness first.  We must set boundaries for ourselves and embrace and listen to the most important voice we will ever hear – our own.  It’s human instinct to want to please other people by saying yes, but how much of ourselves are we giving up by agreeing so quickly and not allowing that inner voice to offer its opinion.

If the answer in your heart is ‘no’, find a gentle way of not accepting the offer or challenge and let that three-year old voice in your head speak for both of you. That voice is giving you some sage advice. You should take it.