James River, Richmond, Va

Rivers are such enjoyable places to be on a sunny day. They are teeming with life in the most microscopic of scale. They provide a cool breeze, a constantly changing scene. They start and end civilizations, sometimes within a matter of a generation. We try to construct structures to conquer them, but we know in our hearts that they are truly too wild to be contained forever.

We drive over dams built, cross bridges designed to ease our travel along them. We see them from a safe distance, like a tiger in a cage. Then one day, the river becomes a stranger to us, pouring over our banks, spilling over dams, refusing to allow us to control it anymore.

Rivers are reminders of the balance we must keep each day in our lives. We each exist in a frail balance between thriving and dying.

Weird and Mysterious Places in NC – Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill, NC 

Weird and Mysterious Places in NC – Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill, NC 

Gimghoul Castle Front

I had always wanted to see Gimghoul Castle, but I never did it. It was on the long list of my Triangle bucket list items. You can not even find it on most maps, but we were out on a random trip to Chapel Hill on a short hike and saw the castle was nearby. We went with our dog, Shady and trapped the half mile to this sight from my photo above. You have to travel onto a gravel loop drive to see the house, just note the no trespassing signs on the front of the wall near the road. 
It was an impressive structure. The picture does not do it justice it is, it was a sunny and hot day. I think it might be a bit spookier in times at dusk. No one seemed to live in it, but we did see some residential house bins. 
I did a little research, although no one seems to know the true story…

It is built on the site of a supposed duel over a young woman in Chapel Hill in 1833. There are many different accounts of the story, but from what I have read this seems to be the most accurate. It is believed that Peter Dromgoole, fell in love with a young woman, who did not match his love. She was in a relationship with another young gentleman, and Peter decided to have a duel with this young man and lost. Each young man brought a friend to the duel, then the three surviving members of the duel buried Peter somewhere on the grounds. 

(Read more of the story here) 

From – http://www.carrboro.com/gimghoulcastle.html

The castle, located on Gimghoul Road in Chapel Hill and originally known as Hippol Castle, is said to have taken somewhere between 4 and 6 years to build, beginning in the early 1920s, at a cost of $50,000. Legend claims that artisans from France were hired to painstakingly cut the 1,300 tons of stones used to construct it. Gimghoul Castle is listed in the International Registry of Castles and the North Carolina Historical Society. 

It made a nice highlight to our unexpected road trip to Chapel Hill, it made up for the hot walk we had to make to get there. I think we will return soon. I think we might stay in the car if it is dark…

Here are some tips to get there, it will not show up in GPS, but will get you on the right road. When the road becomes gravel, drive on and loop around, see the image below. 

Being a Writer

Often when I tell people stories from my childhood or my life, in general. People often tell me that I should write a book. I don’t think this is unusual to say, I often find people like this. I have a sneaking suspicion, that many of us have lived similar lives in many ways, I just think some of us are more observant than others. We process something much different than others.

Take this morning, as I walked my dog, I saw a man in a black suit, with a skinny black tie, sitting in a blue Mini Cooper Turbo. Many people would hardly notice him, but in my writer’s mind, he was a hitman, getting ready to make a hit, which would rock the neighborhood. He also was possibly a CIA agent who is gathering information about a possible spy from another country in our neighborhood.

People might call it paranoia, I don’t think so. I did not call the cops, or confront the person. I just thought it, not in a sense of being worried about it, but about the possibility. This is what it is like to live in the mind of a writer, whether you have never written anything or not, this is how writers think. We live in the space that is exists between possibility and impossibility. It is an uncomfortable place for many, but for some of us, it is how we make peace with our busy minds that are constantly processing our surroundings.

I sit in a coffee shop, where without thinking about it, I have thought about what each person is doing here and a possibility of a story of them. One is a retired dancer, who has never been able to get back to feeling she had on stage. A couple of women sit nearby weaving threads together, which is therapeutic to them, as they used to be on a bomb diffusing team in Iraq. Another older man, sitting and eating is wondering how many more days and years have to pass as he mourns the recent loss of his wife Irene. Another man sits with all of his business paperwork, with his back to the wall, as if he is working on the next Enron scandal.

See this is what is like to sit in the mind of a writer, a scary place. A place where a million beginnings lie. A place where a million possibilities take place. Then we take off our headphones close our laptop, wipe the smile or tears from our face and try to enter back into the reality of world for good or bad.

The next time you see someone writing nearby you, just remember that they are creating and exiting worlds as you are nearby in the present. We exist in a different place, we live in our imaginations and it is sometimes hard to have our head in reality. Forgive us, for we are just trying to make sense of the gift and the curse of being a writer.

Mary Lou

Gravel RoadI had the privilege of knowing both of my grandmas for a number of years. Not everyone has this situation. My maternal grandmother was Mary Lou Kolbaba, a tough, yet kind person who lived on a rural farm in Northeastern Kansas. I remember her love for jigsaw puzzles, garage sales, feeding local cats, and keeping a successful  garden.

Her hands were riddled with what I think was rheumatoid arthritis and had inflamed joints that nearly made her fingers curl even when she tried to hold them straight. Although she struggled with obvious pain in her joints, she would often sit down to the typewriter and write us letters with her signature x’s and o’s at the end.

She was a hard worker, who kept her yard immaculate. On her property were a few ponds, one of them which we were able to fish and play around regularly. She was our country grandma. She lived down a gravel road, that would telecast a coming car for over a mile.

With wildlife coming near the house a common likelihood, my step-grandfather Frank’s cabinet was near the side door of the house. My brother and i would often sift through the pea gravel near her outdoor patio area to find .22 gun shells. She lived on the high side of a valley, so Frank could shoot at about anything since his misfires would only fit in a few acres of field, with little chance of hitting the trailer park about a half mile away.

Her house sat on quite a few acres which felt expansive to a kid from the suburbs. I remember picking blackberries and eating them right from the tree. She was a canning expert and often fed us from the jars that she filled with assorted fruits and vegetables. My favorite thing that she made was rhubarb, she would put it in pies and even in our jello. She also always had apple juice in small tin cans, which for my brother and I represented the sugar that we always craved as young kids. The sat in a corner cabinet in her kitchen, which was framed around the edges by a clear plastic walkway to protect the kitchen floor from high traffic.

We had a lot of fun on her farm, although by the time we visited, most of the farmland was rented out to farmers and even her sheds on the property were rented out. She kept control of the chicken coop, which we stayed away from most of the time. She had the most epic Easter egg hunts, which was quite easy since her yard was gigantic. She took such joy in us having fun at her house. She would always have something fun for us to play with in her back bedroom. She had a bedroom in a separate are in the house, which had a tile floor which we would play on. I remember her dresser having a lot of neat items on it, one of them was her favorite perfume, Charlie. Still to this day, when I smell that perfume, I am taken back to spending time with her and how she always made us feel special.

I remember visiting her in the hospitable after she suffered a stroke. She was still the kind person I knew, but I could tell she was feeling off, it was one the hardest times I ever experienced as I did not understand why God allowed that to happen to such an incredible person. After her stroke, she went on to live in a nursing home in Topeka, and lived out her days there. The last time I was there, was when we had her memorial. It was the last time I saw some of my family, as she was the glue that held us all together.

I catch myself taking country roads some times, hoping that I will happen on a gravel road that could somehow, magically take me back to her house and see her coming out, excited to see my car. Although I know this is not a physical possibility, I believe in my heart that one day I will get to embrace her again and tell her how much she means to me.


Fake Mourners

1280px-lidice_memorial_-_sculpture_of_woman_mourning_-_near_prague_-_czech_republicI haven’t listened to Prince, since his passing. In all honesty, I don’t think I have intentionally listened to any of his music since 1999, at my New Year’s Eve party. This does not mean that I don’t like his music, I definitely do. I think he did a lot for music in our generation, but beyond that I don’t know much about him.

I don’t understand people who dusted off his records, and are listening to him for the first time in years, just because he died. It is sad that he passed, very sad, especially at 57. I don’t want to cheapen his death, by acting like I will miss him, because he was not a part of my life for at least sixteen years. 

Our virtual relationships with celebrities on social media is pretty sickening. I don’t know why people want to capitalize off of his name. A few celebrities posted that had never really known him, yet their twitter feed lit up with new followers. Our local movie theater is showing Purple Rain, all weekend. I don’t understand it at all.

Why do we mourn people after we have forgot about them for so long. Bandwagon jumpers bought a lot of Prince tracks and are fake mourning all over the world.

Jesus experienced this in Matthew 9:18-23 ESV

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment,
21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly[d] the woman was made well.

23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,
24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him.

25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Jesus told them to go away, not because he had to have the room empty, but because they were hired professional mourners. They often did this in those days, it reminds me a lot of all the fake mourners for Prince.

We as a society often do not appreciate someone until they are gone. I want to take all the energy, that I put into “fake mourning” and put it into all the people who are aging and showing my appreciation for them, before it is too late for them to feel the love I have for them.

So, keep listening to your Prince album, but remember to actively care for those who you have actual relationships with and help them know the love you have for them.

I Came By it Honest

RedZ32Long ago, I was taught to appreciate good humor.

One summer day, I was in my grandparent’s house alone, my grandmother had went to run a quick errand. Then, suddenly, I heard their old antique phone ringing. I picked up the receiving end of the phone, and crooked my neck into the microphone, “Hello,” I said. The man on the other end said, in a deep hoarse voice, “Is Lois Miller there? She just won a new car, but we need to talk to her as soon as possible!”

I told the man to wait and I sprinted down the back alley towards my Great-Grandma Falen’s place which was just four houses down the road. When I arrived there stood my Grandma Lois laughing her head off. I still told her that she won a car, but I quickly figured out that she was the disguised voice on the other end. I think I shed a tear that day. I am a car guy, what can I say? 

So I come from a long line of jokers and pranksters, so after a full day of April Fool’s fun, please forgive me will you? I came by it honest.

I Hate the Middle

Shadow, my faithful pup, overlooking some of the work, installing a French drain in my swamp of a backyard.

I said something today and it made more sense after I thought about it for awhile. You might be like me? I say some things and then think about it later. This goes for the good and the bad that I say. On a hike around Bond Park this afternoon, I stated, “ I hate the middle.” I was talking about working around projects on our house. I like starting a project and I love finishing project, but I truly hate the middle.

When it comes to home projects, the middle is where the real cost is found. The multiple trips to Ace Hardware and Lowes. I keep forgetting some menial part and have to return time and time again. The watching of Youtube videos to see how to install or fix something that I already messed up. The nursing of being out of shape, hot baths with epsom salt, Aleve, and the joint pain. The middle really sucks.

In the middle, I find all the limitations that I have. I find that I am 40 now, and it feels much different than 18 (the last time I remember doing work like this). I realize that I only have so much energy each day to do manual labor, teaching has made me soft and my hands too delicate. I find that I am vastly different and weak, compared to the hardened carpenter hammering away for hours on end next door.

The middle make me reconsider my plans, change my intended goal. It takes so much of my concentration. The middle demands that I don’t go all ADD and start something else.

When I talk about the middle, I realize it is the place that I must work the most on. If this work I was doing were compared with a road trip, I would most assuredly say that it was a long frustrating drive in the dark and through the rain. Yet, it was a journey all in itself. Through a few weeks of projects around my house, I am reminded that after some practice, I am still that person who can physically work hard, if I am ever forced to. I can do it.

I hate the middle, but I think the middle taught me a lot these past few weeks. The middle helped me appreciate the house we are buying tomorrow. The middle helped me remember what a great career I have in teaching. I am blessed.