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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Twists and Turns of my Crazy Life

We've been watching the news about the terrible blizzard in the northeast.

The worst blizzard I can recall was the Blizzard of '67 in Chicago. The city was at a standstill. All I remember was that we didn't have school. 

I was a little like Hermione Granger. I was afraid my grades would suffer if I stayed away too long, so I fretted more than enjoyed the time off.

From what Greg told me, he was just the opposite. He'd go out at first light, building snow forts, snowmen, and having snow fights. He'd come home only long enough to change into dry clothes and then be off again. 

I like to listen to Greg's childhood stories. He led such a colorful life. My daring exploits didn't start until I hit my teens.

Most of my adventures (before marriage) had to do with extra schooling or summer jobs. My parents didn't think art was a good career choice so they refused to send me to art school. I decided if I wanted any kind of art training, I'd have to pay for it myself.

I worked summers and after school to pay for life drawing classes. It was the first time I'd seen a naked man. Back then no one thought to prohibit a then 16 year old girl from those kind of classes. Hand to heart though, I was such a serious student the model could've been Gerard Butler and I would've still concentrated on sinew and bone.

My next challenge was to make enough money to attend the Art Institute of Chicago--but then fate intervened. Greg married me and whisked me away to Texas. 

I hated Texas at first. It was so different from what I had known and it looked as if I'd never finish college. But what I thought were obstacles and setbacks were really training grounds for even grander adventures. 

My first job was as a veterinary surgical assistant. I absorbed everything I could from a great vet who encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. As much as I loved animals, I knew it wasn't where I wanted to stay. I drifted not knowing what I wanted to do in this outback when my first dog died suddenly. It was the worst day of my young life.

It was Joey who made me go back to college. The cemetery where we buried her was a stone's throw from the university.  One day after I'd gone to visit her, I stopped in at the Registrar's office and picked up a catalog. The rest is history.

And then there was the homesteading dream. Back in the day, we had soaked up every issue of Mother Earth News. (I still have all the early issues from the 70s.) It was our shared love of nature that kept us dreaming for a little parcel of land. Over the years it seemed like it would never happen, but hardheadedness and patience has its virtues. 

Kismet has played into our life too. At least we don't have blizzards.

Good luck, my northern friends. Hunker down until it's over.

Have you ever found obstacles and hardships to be a blessing in disguise? Maybe it's the way we handle the hard times that decides the final outcome.  

What was you're favorite adventure when you were a kid?


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love how you paid for art classes yourself! And this is so, so true - "...hardheadedness and patience has its virtues."

betty said...

Loved reading this; I can't imagine at 16 years old seeing a naked man, even if it was "for the sake of art." You did well in your life and I truly do admire you for the homesteading you do!

My sister in the DC area got 24 inches of snow on Saturday. I'm glad life took me where I'm at without a lot of snow :)


Maria Zannini said...

Madeline: People don't give hardheadedness enough credit. My mule-temperament can get me into trouble, but when it's something I believe in, I stick to my guns.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'm super jealous of their blizzards. I want them here, in MN. Also, we can totally handle that amount of snow in regards to infrastructure, so there's less issue and government shutdowns and all that jazz.

When I was in elementary school, we had a 30 inch blizzard on Halloween. We still tried to trick or treat, but only made it to about four houses before the snow became too much of an issue. That was an awesome day, though. And we had an extra long weekend since schools were closed.

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: Man, DC is getting hammered. So many people have died too--and animals.

I hope people are checking on their neighbors. This is one of those times we have to look out for each other.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: LOL! You are nuts! Though you guys are more prepared for that kind of weather than anyone else. I've always said Minnesotans and Dakotans are the hardiest stock in the whole US.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Snow days for me growing up on the farm meant a lot of shoveling or doing all the chores while my dad used the front loader to clear the roads. The milk truck had to be able to get in to pick up the milk.
We had almost 3 feet of snow this weekend but we're mobile again. It wasn't too bad since we didn't lose power.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: As long as you have power, you can sit tight and wait out the snows. Hope it won't last too long.

It's going to be 70 degrees this weekend--in case you want to visit me in Texas. :)

Lynn Viehl said...

You can always tell when someone has struggled and fought for something important to them, like their art. They have this serene kind of glow about them. Yours is like a lighthouse beacon. :)

I've been writing stories almost since I could hold a pencil, but I never intended to be a professional writer. I was going to be a doctor, and was actually applying for medical school through the Air Force when I found out I had RA. My condition kicked my plans to be a surgeon right out the window. I also couldn't re-enlist, and had to give up working in the medical field altogether a few years later when I lost the use of one hand. Twenty years later writing about the life and adventures of a surgeon 2500 years in the future got me published. I don't really believe in that "it all happens for a reason" attitude, but in this case it certainly helped push me in another direction.

As a kid my favorite adventure was rescuing baby loggerhead turtles every year when they hatched on our beaches in South Florida. Hundreds of us would spend the night turning the babies around so they could get to the sea instead of being crushed by cars on A1A. We would have bonfires and roast marshmallows and have a wonderful time. They don't allow the public to help with the turtles anymore now, which I think is tragic. Those nights with the turtles gave me a wonderful respect for nature, and immense satisfaction with being able to help preserve it.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: Not that RA is a good thing by any means, but at least it told you early on that you had to redirect your energies. I think you would've made a brilliant surgeon. The care you take with your research and writing is proof of that.

Re: rescuing turtles
I remember reading articles about that. I wasn't aware they had stopped that. What a shame.

Diane Carlisle said...

When I first saw those types of sculptures growing up, I thought the figure had his arms chopped off as punishment for having his penis exposed. True story!

Stacy McKitrick said...

Luckily this northerner didn't see any snow. Yay!

As for my greatest adventure when I was a kid... My friend Debbie and I decided to ride our bikes until we got lost. I remember riding everywhere. I guess we had a good sense of direction. We always knew where we were!

Angela Brown said...

There weren't many snow days when I was a kid. Mostly ice dangling dangerously from overhead lines. Like you, I enjoyed the time away from school but not as much as I should have given I was worried about my grades slipping.

As a kid, I loved sitting out on the porch and reading at sunset. Seemed like little more than a simple thing then, but looking back, reading at sunset was me getting to skip off on a fantasy adventure by the blush kissed rays of the fading sun.

Sandra Almazan said...

When Chicago had the snowpocalypse back in 2011 (hard to believe it's been almost five years), both work and school were closed. The snow blower gave out, so it took us three sessions of shoveling by hand to clear the driveway. Alex definitely enjoyed it more than we did.

Shelley Munro said...

I've never lived in a place where we've had snow - oh, wait. It snowed twice when we lived in London. We get a lot of rain, but I never mind that. It makes New Zealand green.

Determination and hardheadedness are good traits to have, I think. Way better than the sense of entitlement that seems to have become a trait of some of our younger people.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I haven't found too many blessings in hardships. It's more like I expect the road ahead to be littered with obstacles, so I try to get ready to step around them. Or more likely, fall over them but get up again. Obstacles are great for teaching you to get back up again.

I grew up on a farm surrounded by pasture, so from our house when I was little, you couldn't see any other houses. I remember quite a few nature rambles with various dogs and the occasional adventuresome cat. On one memorable one, I stumbled into a recently vacated coyote den. I remember small animal bones scattered here and there, and the flattened grass where they'd been lying down. When I realized how little time had passed since they'd left, I got scared and hoofed it home. I also remember nearly tripping over a huge snake who was busy eating a baby rabbit. We stared at each other for a second, but his mouth was too full to do anything. I think I actually said, "Sorry," and hopped over him. That was another quick trip home.
Nature is terrifying. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: Ha! Why weren't we sisters?!

Actually I didn't think they had their arms chopped off, but I did believe the highway signs to be speed limits. Glad I grew out of that once I got to driving age. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I do not have the gift of direction. I can get lost with a map. But I have found some great places while getting lost.

PS If you're going to try to get lost, it's always nice to do it with a friend.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: That's a lovely memory. So many sunsets, so many ways to get lost in a book.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: Kids always enjoy the snow more than adults. I guess we worry too much about work, losing power, and having a heart attack while shoveling snow.

I hear Chicago is cold, but at least you're not getting what DC is facing.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Oh, don't get me started about people with entitlement issues.

In my book, if you didn't earn it, you didn't get it. Simple as that.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: That reminds me of some of my adult adventures. LOL. Especially the snake.

We were walking down a trail when we came across a copperhead. The dog hopped over the snake but Greg was about to step down on him. I couldn't get the words out of my mouth fast enough, so I just grabbed him.

Luckily it was cold that morning. The snake hadn't warmed up yet.

Sometimes I wonder how we manage to survive to the next day! Great stories, Barbara!

Jenny Schwartz said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Maria. Obstacles do become opportunities - if they don't knock us out, first :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Sometimes they knock us out anyway. I have the bruises to prove it.

Mike Keyton said...

A lovely post, Maria, very evocative. It might read boastful to say I can't choose which adventure I love best - as though I have too many to choose from, but ti seems so sometimes and the difficulty in choosing is because they all run in to each other - cause and effect kind of thing. If I was to choose it might be the time I hitchhiked through Morocco in the late 1960s

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I love that you were able to hike through Morocco. I can only imagine what it was like back then.

It's important for people to keep having adventures and step outside our comfort zones once in a while. Young people always take risks but as we get older we get too careful. I don't want to leave this life with more wishes than woo-hoos!