What Happened?

What the heck happened? Just the other day I merged onto US Route 4 after leaving Josh on the campus of Castleton State College to start his first semester at the college, teary eyed and dealing with many different emotions as I drove home. Today it’s almost two years later and I feel like I’ve fallen through a time warp. What happened to the last two years?

Many hours spent studying for certification exams, dealing with a host of issues around the house, lost inside vacillating between wanting this and wanting that (relative to many, many things) – yes, many time warps of many degrees. Or is it that age is playing a part in this?

I was driving home from work this evening and all of this hit me upside the head. It’s July 18 – a good part of the summer is already gone and yet I feel like I’ve just stepped into the heat. Maybe it’s the incredibly hot weather; maybe it’s lack of proper sleep (been tossing and turning a lot lately); or perhaps it’s just a midlife crisis (how long do those last anyway?).

Time is driving me crazy. I pump a lot into my days – I get to work before 7:30 am, I rarely take a lunch break, and I’m usually out of the office around 5 or 5:20. I cram a lot into those hours to take advantage of time as much as I can. But then after I get home I usually crash in front of the TV or find myself playing Forty Thieves solitaire or Angry Birds or Gardens of Time when I need to keep the mind exercised. Bit sometimes I get mentally exhausted trying to decide what to do next. I don’t always want to shut down because I like to keep engaged.

Problem is, a lot of the time I’m trying to determine what I really want out of life. I haven’t totally figured that out yet. And it seems like I’m running out of time. After all, I am 55. When does it become too late? Does it ever become too late?

The Busy Month of September

September was quite a month.  I started cramming for a certification exam on Labor Day weekend and basically did nothing but work, study, sleep, and eat for a little over two weeks.  All that focus allowed me to pass the exam – I am now a Certified Supply Chain Professional through APICS.  Besides the exam content material, I learned a couple of other things.

Learning #1 – set a deadline.  I purchased the self-study course in the Fall of 2009.  I did not set an exam date until I was informed that the material and exam were going to be revamped in 2012.  Thus, the cramming to pass the exam by the end of this year.

Learning #2 – breathe.

Josh decided to come home the weekend prior to my exam, which in itself was a nice thing, but his trip back to Castleton was somewhat eventful.  Eventful to the point I nearly had to drive up to meet him in northern Pennsylvania – that wonderful son of mine left home with barely any money in his wallet and no debit or gas card to use.  But Josh is resourceful and made it back to campus with just about a quarter of a tank of gas.  Oh, normally it wouldn’t have been an issue, but one of the legs of his trip, I-88, was shut down due to issues resulting from Hurricane Irene.  He had to rely on his phone’s GPS to get him to Castleton.  And it all worked out.

That Sunday when all of this was happening, I was a mess.  Between the stress of studying and the worrying about Josh, it felt like my world was a jumbled-up pile of crud.  Luckily, my mom called – I vented, I was emotional, and it all turned out good.  Later, my sister reminded me that I’m a worry queen.  Yep.

The weekend after the exam was the Maryland Wine Festival.  Jamie and I went on Saturday and both wound up buying more bottles of wine than we had planned on.  But again, it’s all good.  It rained on and off while we were there but it didn’t matter because we were having a good time.  I really like wines – especially the port –  from Little Ashby Vineyards on Maryland’s eastern shore, and sadly, they don’t distribute on this side of the Bay.  Next year, we’re going to remember to take our own oyster crackers to help cleanse our palettes in between wine tastings.  And a bigger umbrella (just in case).  And shoes that are a little more comfortable.  And lawn chairs.  That should do it.  Oh, and more money would be a plus.

And then there was Castleton’s Homecoming Weekend the last weekend in September.  I drove up to Vermont, hoping for more fall colors, getting slightly disappointed there was still so much green.  I had a great time with Josh on Saturday, taking a boat tour of Lake Bomoseen and shopping around Rutland.  The drive home was uneventful but foggy.  I started listening to a new book, “A Cup of Friendship”.

My next big task is to get back into writing.  There’s another short story competition coming up with a November deadline, and I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for the past several weeks.  Now I just need to get the thoughts on paper and see what happens.

Driving Home with Irene

I left Rutland, VT shortly after 8 am Sunday morning, August 28.  The rain had started sometime after 11 pm Saturday.  Irene had come.

I knew the trip home was going to be interesting.  I had been watching the Weather Channel as much I could Friday night after arriving in Rutland throughout Saturday evening after returning to Red Roof Inn after dinner with Josh.  The Weather Channel was reporting that the effects of Irene would be felt around the I-81 corridor, my soon-to-be destination.

When I packed for the trip back to Castleton to move Josh back to his dorm, I prepared for the rain and wind.  I had my gym shoes, my cap, and my jacket.  I knew an umbrella would be useless.  I knew the rain would be an issue but the wind more so.

Along the Adirondack Northway electronic signs indicated, “FOR YOUR SAFETY EMERGENCY TRAVEL ONLY.”  Five, six, seven … I lost count of how many of those signs I passed.

It was a good thing I had planned to take I-81 home instead of the NY Thruway, because as I approached the junction for the Thruway, the travel alert station notified its listeners that several sections of the Thruway were closed due to either flooding or downed trees.

I take US 20 through Guilderland and Duanesburg, NY to get to I-88 that then takes me to I-81.  Most of Guilderland was shut down due to no electricity and some debris in the road.  Duanesburg was an obstacle course of debris, fallen branches, and a downed tree that a crew was already working on, directing traffic, as only one lane was open.

There weren’t many cars on I-88.  That was a good thing, because when there were pockets of cars, the backsplash from their tires made driving even worse than it already was.  Lots of debris on the road.  Downed trees along the sides of the interstate.  Calming streams that I passed in the past were now angry torrents of water, brown, ugly with mud.

The wind seemed the worst on I-81.  There were times when the gusts slapped my car and jerked me to the point where my shoulders were getting sore from managing the steering wheel.  The rain would lighten up in some spots and then rage again.  So much debris.  Flooded farms.  Broken limbs from tall trees laying alongside the road.

I get a local AM radio station on during most of the trip.  Most of the areas I was traveling near were either without power or were experiencing or bracing for flooding.  All of the malls were closed.  The cinemas were closed.  People were being told to stay home.  Stay off the roads.

And here were the handful of us making our way to wherever it was we were going.

I stopped in Lenoxville at exit 206 to gas up at the Sunoco station where there is also a Convenient store where I get a deli sandwich.  Closed.  No power.  Not good news when I’ve got about a quarter of a tank of gas.  So I drove two more exits to find a mom-and-pop station that was open and charging $0.40 more per gallon.  Oh well.

Further down the road I stopped at the rest stop only to find they were locked up.  No power.  Oh well.  Good thing it wasn’t a bathroom emergency stop.

At one point just south of Wilkes-Barre the sky got darker and what looked like fat prongs of dark gray clouds slid down and the wind gust knocked everyone’s cars to the left.  I wondered if this was what it looked at felt like when a tornado was considering forming.

About 2 miles before the I-83 exit the clouds gave way to blue sky and sun.  It was still windy, very windy, but at least the rain was over.

Josh called me once during the trip to see how it was going.  My sister called me twice to check on how the drive was, to make sure I was going to make it home okay.  She and my brother-in-law cancelled the trip out to Maryland because of Irene.  They were supposed to leave Sunday night but because of all the weather reports and the electric outages, they felt it was a good idea to stay put in Illinois.  You just never know what to expect when a weather event such as this is taking place.

There was a little bit of cleanup at my house.  Some branches came down in the backyard but didn’t cause any damage.  We got lucky.  Things could have been worse.

Now, Josh, in Vermont, is pretty much stranded on campus.  They had one transformer blow which controls their Internet access.  Some cars in one of the lower parking lots are topped with water.  Much of the area is flooded.  Vermont got hit hard.

I’m still tired from the trip.  My upper body is achy.  It was stressful in many ways.  I’m glad to be home.

A Peaceful Setting in Vermont

One of my Facebook “friends” is Martin Guitars.  I have a Martin HD28V which I named Aiden which has incredible depth of sound.

Today Martin Guitars posted a question – “Sometimes it’s nice to be peaceful on your own and play – where would you like to take your Martin when you need to get away?”

I posted my comment without any hesitation …

One the last day of school in May, Josh took me to a spot on the outer rim of Castleton’s property where there’s a little wooden bridge that crosses a stream.  The water in the stream is the clearest I’ve ever seen.  It runs over rocks of all sizes and sounds like peace.  Josh and I sat on the bridge, feet dangling close to the running water, and we listened to the sounds around us.  Water, birds chirping, leaves rustling in the slight breeze – it was so calming.

We plan to go back there when we move him back up to Castleton. I can’t wait. I’m thinking maybe this time I’ll take my Little Martin with me. Maybe that sounds a little corny, but what the heck. I think I’ll get inspired and maybe write a song – something I haven’t done in mega-years.

Intro to Vermont

I’m sitting here at my desk at home and looking at a little stuffed moose with the word “Vermont” stitched on its belly.  Above “Vermont” there’s a scene of a lake surrounded by pine trees and a full moon peeking out from behind them, its reflection rippling on the water.  [sigh] I miss my son.

I’m so proud of him for taking that huge leap and going to a college so far from home.  It’s one of the few colleges that offer a forensic psychology program, and since that’s where his interest is, that was his school of choice.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a car up there (he does have one sitting in my driveway but right now it needs a new belt and it always seems to need something).

It’s about an 8-hour drive including stops for gas and breaks.  It’s not a bad drive and I actually enjoy the scenery.  And I love Vermont.  It’s a beautiful state.  Castleton itself is a charming little college town – perhaps a smaller version of Westminster, MD.  Much smaller.

I picked up that little stuff moose in Hoosick, NY at a little gift shop/deli that Josh and I like to stop at when we take the Route 7 route into Rutland.  It’s the cutest little place with all kinds of NY and VT souvenirs and tchotchkies (did I spell that correctly?).  And their food is good too – Josh loves their pulled pork, and the last time we stopped there I got a Moose Trot Wrap – a wrap with roasted turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly (I skipped the mayo).

Every time I go to Vermont there are things happening with the mountains and the sky that I’ve never seen before.  I usually stop on the side of the road to take pictures, but some of them simply can’t capture the natural beauty of what our eyes see.  It’s a shame.  I post some of the pictures on Facebook but the best of them are in my mind.