Monday, July 23, 2018

Can't even Pull off Angsty...

Well, as seems to be my M.O. - I had high hopes of sticking to a writing schedule with the Sunday Picture Challenge being a fiction installment and a post later in the week on something more 'coast-y'.

One post in and I lost all ideas.
And interest.

I wish I could pinpoint a cause.
Life is good around here.
Maybe that's the problem.

I have no angsty, dysfunctional complaints.

I mean, take a look – even the first 10 random songs on my ipod are happy...

American Kids
Kenny Chesney

First off, let it be known that I have exactly ONE Kenny Chesney song on my ipod. I hate to admit that there are a handful more of his that I like, as long as they are the more Trop-Rock and less of the whiney country ones.
Second, note that this song is about people who have everything and are enjoying it.

Hello, I Love You
The Doors
A love song in its most bare element...and Jim Morrison...come on, long haired hippy with a smokey voice....

Hot Fun in the Summer-Time
Sly and the Family Stone
Its right there in the title. Hot fun. In the Summer....

Whenever I Call You Friend
Kenny Loggins
Of note, this was the FIRST Kenny on my playlist. He will always evoke good 'feels' for those early adult days when nothing was complicated.
And, its a song about friends no matter what...

The Way
So, this one I had to look up.
I was ready to blame this one on the kids and their one time joint use of our i-tunes account until I listened to it.
On the surface it is a song about two people chucking everything and taking off together. Living the dream. Oh sure, it is probably, in that 90's manner, a superbly depressing take on excess but on the surface...well...its right there in the refrain:
"anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
and it's always summer, they'll never grow old"
This is the most accurate description of my current situation there ever was.

Chasing Hemingway's Ghost
Scott Kirby
The story of an artist following his dream.
Or, how I like to see myself...

Hungry Heart
Bruce Springstein
This may actually be the saddest song on the list. Guy deserts wife, meets some tramp in Kingston, leaves her too...
But Bruce is notoriously hard to understand and there is just something exciting and energizing about the music...

The Tiki Bar is Open
Jimmy Buffett
(written by John Hyatt)
Alcoholic on the wagon falls off because the Tiki Bar is open...
Again, maybe if you scratch the surface not the most inspirational.
But, its summer.
This is a bouncy, happy song.
And we just got back from an awesome Tiki Bar in Chicago...
Three Dots and a Dash - the wall of skulls as you wander down the stairs from the alley...
Three Dots and a Dash is morse code for V as in Victory

note the 3 dotes, and 1 dash garnish
the signature drink and glass

Jason Mraz
The song's title is LUCKY.
Come on people.

Brown Eyed Girl
Van Morrison
This actually had me laughing out loud.
For starters, who doesn't love a good Van Morrison tune. And this one is such an iconic song.
A friend of ours, who played drums in a weekend band, once lamented the fact that all they every do is play Brown Eyed Girl, left our table when the break was over to return to the first request of the second set from the table full of bridesmaids – you guessed it – Brown Eyed Girl.
Also, I am a Brown Eyed Girl.
And, if you haven't noticed, every RomCom this side of 2005 is required by law to have at least three Van Morrison songs in it.

I was a little sad to see my new favorite song – Havana by Camila Cabello – didn't make the random cut. But hey, its my blog and I can add her in just like this...

Here's wishing each of you a non-angsty, happy-go-lucky playlist and summer.
I'll be back, eventually.
Hope you will be too!
the result of Three Dots and a Dash...
exotic flower and skull pics sold separately 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cuba part one

Welcome to Summer here on the Coast of Illinois. This season I am trying something new. Mondays will be a fiction post, inspired by the Sunday Photo Fiction bloghop, a group dedicated to 200 word fiction inspired by a photo. I may be pushing the 'boundaries' slightly. I am hoping to make each post story-like, but Big Picture, I am shooting for a serialized story based on characters from an old fiction piece that I have yet to finish but hope to one day. 
A little background on this - Egypt- was a story I started years ago through an on-line writing group. It is a romance/mystery/adventure sent in Cairo in the 1930's during the beginning of what would become WWII. Initially I had hoped for this to be a stand alone story but as I worked on it more and more I found it lent itself nicely to a series of stories founded on the main characters love of playing 'hide and seek'. But as adults, seeking a greater good. 
Sounds heavy but I assure you, it is not. It is the sort of story I want to read in the summer, heavy on romance but exciting and adventurous. Not in that bodice ripping harlequin manner but more of a Casablanca, The Mummy (Brendan Frasier version)way. 
To help maintain the 200 word limit, and avoid too much more explanation let me introduce the main characters.
Celia - the female lead, a photographer.
Grayson - her brother, the instigator of the game.
Miller - a special forces sort of agent, Celia's love interest.
Al'Rhoubi - Grayson's right hand man.

I hope you enjoy the series. 
And if fiction isn't your thing, check back towards the weekend when more of a 'sailing' theme will prevail.

And now, without further adieu...

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding, from Sunday Photo Fiction

part one

Every town has one, she thought as she stepped through the door into the cool pale darkness. Questionable cleanliness, so much graffiti carved into the beams it was a nod to the a higher power that they still held. She took a deep breath, but rather than clearing her head, the dense smells of stale beer and old seafood sent memory spinning.
From a shadowy table in the corner, Miller waved her over, bottle in hand. "Just as hot as Cairo, but much better beer." He slid an opened bottle across the scarred surface towards her. "Any word?"
She took a drink.
"None yet." She turned her chair, angled between the table and door. "We wait. Like always." The waiting was the worse, both tedious and exciting. Drug-like.
"Wouldn't it be easier to just tell us what crusade we're on?" he knew the answer before the question left his lips.
"No. It's not how Grayson works. Never has been. Never will be." She stretched, remembering. "You think those kids will be okay?" The faces of the brother and sister waving from the train as it sped on to Lisbon haunted her.
"as sure as..." Miller's reply trailed off as the light from the open door was eclipsed by broad shoulders of a broad man.
In the stranger's hand was a white envelope. Even from their place in the corner, the writing on its face familiar.
"Well, here we go." Celia stood. "Senor?"

Who is the mysterious stranger? What does the letter say? 
Come back next Monday for more.....Cuba....

For more posts in the SPF click here:

(Sunday Photo Fiction or SPF links can be found here: )

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


It is 6am here on the Coast of Illinois and the temperature is already near 80, humidity in the triple digits. (Yes, triple digits. That's when it is so humid you can actually watch the moisture squeeze onto plants...)
look closely. you can actually see the droplets forming. even in a still picture...
Just two months ago we were complaining about the cold and lamenting the fact that summer would never arrive.
We were fools in that earlier time.
never thought we would see these again...
Now, older and sweatier, we understand.
Summer is here. If not calenderly, then at least in a temperate manner.
can't you hear them singing...Hot Hot Hot.....
I, for one, am thrilled.
There is nothing better than sitting on the deck in those early morning moments, eating breakfast, sipping coffee – which still manages to get cold despite the thermonuclear power of the rising sun – watching the cat melt into the deck as the squirrels desicrate the bird feeder.
I long to absorb every once of humidity, every bit, until my hair is so frizzy I can barely fit through the door. I delight in the dampness on my skin from the sheer effort of turning the page of the book I am reading. I consider it a free cleaning when my glasses fog to opacity when I exit the air-conditioned space of home to get to the car and then, in reverse from car to house.

Because in just a few short months it will be winter again and that person who lamented the slowness of summer only to immediately bitch about the heat and humidity, will return to their giant puffy coat and whine about heating bills.

Enjoy the moment!
to me, nothing simultaneously says cool shade and pourable humidity like these leaves.
(this brief, slightly griping post brought to you by a little too much sun exposure while reading in the sun...)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Almonds for Breakfast

Sitting here, late on Saturday morning, regretting the peanut butter graham crackers I ate at 2am when I couldn't sleep but really needing a little something to accompany the acidic, delicious coffee I am drinking.
It has been a funk inducing week. Family stuff – everyone okay, but still worrisome. Work stuff – superbly annoying to the point of resume searching.
But, the weekend is beginning and I will not let the week win.

Nectarine, Parmesan, Marcona Almonds. Would never have eaten this for breakfast 40 years ago.
But reading Provence 1970, and remembering our trip to Switzerland...

My go to weapon against this funk...

Now settle down. I know 'eating your emotions' is not healthy.
But, eating good food is a totally different treatment.
And good food doesn't mean fancy. Or expensive.
'Good food' triggers a sense of well being – safety and love from tomato soup and grilled cheese as a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons; excitement and laughter shared over a ridiculously large bag of whip cream served with key lime pie, closeness only good friends have shared over a glass of wine....

The second question to the family, after 'are you feeling okay' has been, what can I bring for lunch, dinner, snacks....
The powers that be at Work have fed us daily with lunches, snacks, even candy in areas where we aren't suppose to have candy...
There is nothing I love more than to cook a wonderful dinner for family and friends. Yes, it's a lot of work. But it's also therapy, creativity and ultimately an opportunity to create a shared experience.
And it's those memories of shared experience, triggered years later by that spicy salsa or that gooey breakfast biscuit which remind us of good times and provide hope for the future.

Food can't solve everything. But, sharing food, even the most modest meal, can sometimes be the most powerful medicine.

~Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life.~
Anthony Bourdain

(I don't like 'jumping on a bandwagon' but I also feel an obligation to use this medium for good. Suicide is a devastating act. It's effects reach much farther than just the victim. If you feel alone and need help, don't be ashamed. If you have a friend or family member you are worried about, don't hesitate. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255). We all need a little help every once in a while.)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

What's Your Number...

Got your attention, didn't I.
Well, I am not talking about 'that' number. 
I am talking about your Great American Read number.

Please Note!
The following opinions are MINE and MINE alone.
I don't mean to insult anyone.
But if I do, you'll get over it...

my stack on the deck under a palm tree. one of my favorite places to read.
note, there is also mint which is pretty tasty in many summer beverages to be had while reading...

For me, this is the start of my Official Summer Reading List.
In grade school my list consisted of Scholastic Summer Weekly Reader and whatever books I could find at the library. I read alot but the only book titles I can remember are The Boxcar Children and The Bread and Butter Indian.
We tried reading The Boxcar Children to our kids. Turns out there were a whole lot of beatings I didn't remember when I read that book....
In middle and high school, the library still figured prominently but my reading was influenced more and more by popular movies, school assignments and friends.
Until I discovered Hemingway and Nancy Mitford.
After that I exclusively read The Sun Also Rises and Love in a Cold Climate/In Pursuit of Love every summer until John Irving entered the picture.
Those weren't the only books but they were always in my stack of to be read at some point.

Thankfully, Rob is also an avid reader and it wasn't difficult to keep that spirit alive in our children. We spent many a Wednesday and Saturday morning at Mrs. Clark's story hour at the public library, followed by an hour of checkout at the desk for the twenty five pounds of books they managed to pick.

And now PBS is getting in on the fun.
Through a national survey, the fine people at Public Broadcasting have compiled a list of 100 favorite books. The list can be found at The Great American Read.
There is a companion program on PBS which speaks to each book on the list, why individuals – in their own words – chose the books they did. There are author interviews and interesting facts surrounding different books.
And, you can vote for your favorite with the winning book to be announced later this summer.

Not being one to miss a chance to feel dumb, I read through the book list only to find that I have only read 25. Thankfully The Sun Also Rises is on the list.
I did not count it 17 times. Even though I have read it at least that many.
I did start an additional 8 on the list, only to never finish them as they were either too dumb or too smart for my taste. (I am a middle of the road reader. I don't want to be preached at – 100 Years of Solitude guy, but I also don't want to spend my precious reading time wishing I could hunt down the author and asking them how they got such ridiculous work published – Left Behind, series dudes...)
Breaking down the list even more, I have seen 15 movie adaptations of the 25 books which I have read – I only counted The Great Gatsby once even though I have read it nearly as many times as Hemingway's work and seen the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version of the movie about as many times as I have read the book. There are an additional 5 movies for books which I have not read, and never will – Hunger Games chick.
I really wanted to count Hatchet on my read list as the kids both read it for school and then had Rob read it to them repeatedly which forced me to hear about the poor kid who's plane crashes in Canada and ends up eating nearly as much trout as Hemingway's characters catch in every book he has ever written.
I also wanted to count The Book Thief, which was our daughter's first favorite book of her young adult life; a book which took her to the Jewish Book Festival where she met the author and had her copy signed. But, I have yet to actually read it. Sounds way to sad. Too sad is also a reason I won't read a book.
Two of our son's favs made the list – The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy – which is on my Not Read but Saw the Movie list, and Game of Thrones series – which is on my Have Not Read, and Won't Watch the Series list. (Sorry George RR Martin, I tried but there was way too much gore and not enough dragons for my taste.)

We were discussing the list at breakfast and Rob also suggested counting out the Books I Read as Graphic Novels (or comic books as they were known when we were younger) but not as Actual Books but that just seemed silly.

My summer reading list does not reflect the Nation.
Currently I am reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. It is a sweet book about love and loss but not in that 'ooooo, I am suh intellectual' and more in the 'now where did I leave my glass of wine and my baguette' way.
Which is perfect for summer reading.

Summer books should never require too much thinking. Rather, they should transport you to a place or time far removed from anything you have every experienced. Winter books can be a little heavier in subject. Turns out I have a lot of rules for what I will and won't read. Starting with IT MUST BE AN ACTUAL BOOK and not that e-reader nonsense. If I am going to read a book on a computer then I am going to play Home Design instead.

The other books on my list include:
The Little French Bistro, also by Nina George
(although I don't like reading books by the same author, one after the other)
Provence, 1970 by Luke Barr
(because a teacher Rob worked with loaned it to him after hearing about my love of cooking)
Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen
(because he is the best for summer reading and one of the few who I WILL read one after the other)
Henry and June by Anais Nin
(because I have never read any of her work, but I did see the movie...))
The Fermata by Nicholson Baker
(because I mentioned I wanted to read a 'sexy' story but not in that gross 50 shades way)
and of course,
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
(Why would I want to re-read a book I have read so many times? Because there is something in the story which really speaks to me. Plus, after reading A Dangerous Summer which is the actual account of what is fictionalized in The Sun Also Rises, it seems the thing to do.)

Have you made a summer reading list?
Did you check out the 100?
What's your number?

And, as an aftermath of the April A to Z blogging challenge, I am now part of the Road Trip, in which participants are asked to visit as many other blogs as you can. I hope to hit at least a couple a week.
Here are a couple of blogs for you to check out: – for some interesting and funny on-line dating stories – and find a darling new children's book

And of course, don't forget to check out the folks on the No, You've Really Got to Read this... sidebar!

I have also been notified that the EU has a new policy regarding 'cookies' and privacy. Blogger, my hosting site has added a comment about cookies for those of you who are reading outside the US. If you see it, please let me know. 
I am unable to see the comment here. However, I will continue to maintain my stand on cookies as stated below and will maintain everyone's privacy to the best of my ability. 
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Bottom Job!

There are several questions to ask yourself before buying a forty year old sailboat.
Is the Keel intact?
Is the hull structurally sound?
Are you prepared to spend one beautiful spring day sanding until you turn blue?

Have you lost your mind?

For good or bad, our answers to the above questions were all 'yes'.
Except for the sanding part.
That information was withheld.

The hull, or the underwater portion, of our fixerupper is fiberglass – layers and layers of it.
The Keel, the big fin underneath, is lead.
Both are covered with marine grade paint to protect them.
Or in our case, were covered.
Over time and exposure, that paint peels and no longer protects sufficiently.
Just like a house.
Except you can't put aluminum siding on a boat.
At least I don't think you can...


The normal person would pay to have the boatyard powerwash and repaint. Or, as the Ozark Yacht Club calls it, a Bottom Job.
But, from those original questions, we have established that we are, in fact, not normal.
Plus, we spent the 2018 boat budget on a new propane outboard and a port-a-potty.

Which is why I found myself, on a lovely April afternoon, sanding the bottom of the boat, which is up on jack-stands on a parking lot right off the Bagnell Dam Strip. There is no electricity. There is no running water.
Just a whole lot of gravel and sun.
Sure, I am in the shade...

This is after 10 minutes. Ten. Minutes.
Truthfully, the sanding wasn't terrible. It took a couple hours but we got the worse of the peeling paint off. Sure we inhaled a moderate amount of fiberglass and lead dust. But you know, live and learn.

The sanding was followed by a vigorous brushing with a stiff, long handled broom and then an alcohol wipe down.
Rob chose the alcohol wipe as
      1. there was no water to rinse the excess dust off
      2. alcohol dries very rapidly.
Oh, and
                       3. inhaling all those alcohol fumes just added to the amazing quality of the                                    day....

Once we regained consciousness, the boat was taped off and Rob rolled while I edged and painted the smaller areas around the jack-stands where the roller wouldn't reach. (Sorry about the paint on those straps, guys.)

Blue tape. Blue Boat. Blue paint...
Fancy Hull Paint. Only used about half the can!
Goes on smooth...
Clean up was a little dicey.
It was a toss up between being 'green' and trying to wash all the rollers and paint containers in the bathroom at the yacht club or remaining members of the yacht club.
At the end of the day, everything went in the trash.
Looks brand new! And to think, this will be underwater the next time we see her.
We brushed off as much blue dust and paint as we could before heading down the hill to clean up a little.
With the lake three hours from home, and our 'lake house' on jack-stands, we opted to stay the night at the Quality Inn.
It says a lot about the desk clerk that she never mentioned my interesting blue tan or the homeless quality of my clothes.

Sunday was spent taking Blue Skies, our wooden sloop, out on the big lake. She was neglected all last year in favor of the fixer-upper.
We set her up in the parking lot, with one good reef in the main as it was fairly windy, even in our cove.
In the land of power boats and fiberglass, this is a sight for sore eyes.
And if anyone doubts that a boat has a soul, they should have been holding the bowline as she hit the water.
The minute Rob pulled the trailer away, she strained at those lines, just begging to sail.
It was an amazing feeling, holding her back, sails still down and no tide or current.
You get a much neater reef when it's done on the parking lot.
We had a fantastic afternoon, even with one reef. We did put the jib up after a bit and even ventured out into the main arm near the dam, where the wind really picked up and Blue Skies soared!
Wing on Wing. Don't get to do this very often.
The weekend wrapped up with that three hour drive home.
We were slightly sunburned, pretty stiff and sore and not a little exhausted.
But it was so worth it.

Cool Change was ready for an exciting new year of sailing.
Blue Skies had her water fix for a bit.
And we learned a little more about sailboat ownership:
      1. I look good with blue highlights in my hair.
      2. Alcohol plus paint dust = permenant blue paint on your hands.
      3. Eagles get a kick out of watching people attempting to get their photograph and instead coming about in a complete circle. Twice.
Nest and Eagle

Fuzzy as it's from my phone. We have seen this guy out and about early in the morning.
Can't believe he lives so nearby!
Next time the boat hull needs painting we will opt for the professional Bottom Job.
But only after they buy us dinner first.

*As it so happens, this is a possibility. I just got an email from the Ozark Yacht Club offering Dine and Detail – you order up your boat work and your dinner from the Lakeside Cafe. You have a lovely waterfront meal and the boatyard does the work!

You had me at Torpedo Tacos...

Monday, May 7, 2018

Reflecting,,,A to Z

Today is Reflection Day.

As part of the A to Z challenge, we are to post reflections of our experience.

Writing is a bizarre process.
Some things just demand to be written.
Others refuse to let loose of the space they are hiding in and must be pried loose like a dried out wine cork.
I first learned of the A to Z challenge two years ago after reading another writer's post. The idea sounded fun so I followed along unofficially. Last year I started the challenge but didn't make it to the end.
Too many of those metaphorically stuck wine corks.

In March, it occurred to me that the challenge would be starting soon and perhaps joining in would be just the thing to get me back in the habit of writing consistently. Writing had dwindled for me over the previous year to the point where I wondered if I really wanted to continue.
But, the thought of giving up Coast of Illinois made me unreasonably sad.

And, since April is such a transitional month – one day winter, the next, summer, then back to a drizzly autumnal feel, joining the A to Z Challenge seemed the thing to do. 

I chose to use sailing as my topic. It was a little bit of a challenge, finding posts for some of those 'unusual' letters but ultimately having that topic really helped me to organize my thoughts and on days when I didn't feel like writing I had a kick start place from which to begin. As usual, I didn't prep ahead. Well, that's not true. I had three whole posts written and ready before April 1. Once April 3 rolled around I was pretty much barely keeping up. 
Rob really helped keep me focused and me, being me, was motivated to not disappoint that mystery reader who is hanging on my every word. 

As best I can tell, the folks who run this show do it out of the kindness of their hearts. There is no fee to join. There are no monetary rewards for finishing. There is an awesome T-shirt for sale, which I will model once mine arrives. All that is asked is that if you post then in return you should read some of your fellow participants works.

This brings me to one of my favorite aspects of the writing community.
It is just that.
A community.

The A to Z folks posted an encouraging blog daily through the month. Fellow writers stopped by and left encouraging comments. The closer the end was, the more enthusiastic the 'you've got this' chant became.
And in the end, I did finish the challenge and came away with a feeling of accomplishment that I haven't felt in a very long time.

So to that end, I would like to send out a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all the folks over at the Blogging A to Z Challenge! You brought me back to feeling a part of a wonderful community of writers. Dorothy Parker had her round table. Hemingway had his ex-pats. We have this wide world of internets. I have been a part of other on-line writing groups and while they have dissolved over time, I have been left with some wonderful writing friends. I hope to maintain some of these relationships kindled here. 

Which brings me to my next appreciation speech.
Don't start that orchestra music just yet...

I would also like to say Congratulations, Great Job and THANK YOU to the following writers. They consistently visited Coast of Illinois and left wonderful comments and I, in turn, tried to always make a stop at their sites.
D.B. McNichol - DB approached the challenge with a word-picture association which produced a series of wonderful flash fiction stories. She also maintains a blog about her Doods-two rather large poodley looking dogs...
Iain Kelly - Iain wrote an alphabetically fueled fictional series inspired by England's decision to leave the EU. They were insightful, informative and entertaining. I look forward to seeing where Iain's writing takes us next.
Leanne - I have followed Leanne's work for a while now through Women of Midlife, where I found her Cresting the Hill blog. She filled the challenge with an A to Zen of life coaching questions that were sometimes fun, sometimes difficult but always informative.
Alana - Another of my Midlife writers, she did a fun, informative series on Florida outside the theme parks. Her quirky, rambling blog is such fun and it is well reflected in her A to Z challenges.
Please, take a moment to stop by these folks pages.
Each one has a different approach and goal to their writing which reveals a wonderful talent. There were many others who either stopped by here or I visited, but these four made a strong impression on my. As have the other writers listed on the sidebar. 

And while I am thanking folks...
THANK YOU to all who have been reading Coast of Illinois, whether you were here at the beginning of Start Seeing Hairnets or just happened over for the sailing posts, your stops and clicks and comments mean the world to me.
Me. Reflecting...
Come on back later this week for 'Bottom Job' - it's not just a stripper move...

And if you are a nurse, know someone who is, please take the time to check out my It's a Living tab. This is National Nurse's Week and I have several posts there which reflect my 34 year experience on the business end of a bedpan.