Vacation? What’s a Vacation?

The topic Favorite Vacation makes me realize how long it’s been since I actually went on one that didn’t involve something other than traveling for pleasure.

WW June 16

It’s not that I’m a workaholic. I only show up at my day job three days a week (although sometimes the Houston traffic makes it feel like more). It’s just that travel for me has always been about business. The last few years I’ve called my trip to RWA Nationals my vacation (and I’m going again this year), and that’s let me visit several cities I’d never seen.

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For many years my late husband and I traveled for research, historical and archeological, and that was great fun. We wandered all over the Southeastern states, as far north as the Ozarks, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C. We went to Santa Fe one summer—alas, my suitcase went on to Los Angeles without me, but it did find its way back before we had to come home. We even made it to Mexico City, where the museums and restaurants were a lot more interesting than the oil industry conference we were writing off our taxes.

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When I was a teen, my dad was part-owner of a small ad agency in Miami, too small to have people wandering off on long vacations every summer. But he also had quite a few clients in travel and entertainment, and I remember trips to a motel in the Florida Keys, a visit to an amusement park somewhere on the Florida Coast, and a touristy trip to Charleston, South Carolina (I have no idea what prompted that one—I was about twelve—but we did get to see Fort Sumter).

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My family had moved to south Florida when I was ten, and the next summer I was allowed to fly back to Milwaukee, by myself, to spend the summer with my cousins. Much of that season was spent at The Cottage, a summer house my family had (and my cousins still own) on a lake in central Wisconsin. I haven’t been there in more than fifty years, but from the pictures my cousin Bob posts now and then on his Facebook page, it hasn’t changed much, although I suspect the shores of Round Lake have seen a lot of development.

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The Cottage on Round Lake, with its sleeping porch and uncomfortable beds, brings back more vacation memories than any place I’ve visited since. We went there every summer, our fathers joining us on weekends. When I was very young, we had no plumbing, until my Uncle Norman, who was in the plumbing supply business, took care of that. The summer my brother was born, when I was almost six, my dad and I went up to the Cottage without my mother. That was the year I walked up behind my dad while he was working the pump. I had a chipped front tooth from that little incident until I had the tooth capped decades later. (I’ll bet Dad’s explanation to Mom when we got home was memorable, but I don’t think I heard it.)

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Here I am on the lake shore below The Cottage, my mother in the background. I was probably about three. It makes me happy to know that my cousins’ grandchildren still play there.

Kay at cottage

This month my fellow Wednesday Writers are Tamra Baumann, Carol PostTL Sumner, Jean Willett, and Sharon Wray. I’ll bet they all have prettier pictures than mine!

When I Grow Up

When the Wednesday Writers picked “What you wanted to be when you grew up” for our May topic, my first thought was That was decades ago—I don’t remember. My second thought was Am I there yet?

WW May 16

Back then, in a previous century, the big three choices for girls were Teacher, Nurse, and Secretary. None of those really did it for me, although any of them would have pleased my mother, a very intelligent woman with a high school education, whose work experience was limited to the years during World War II when all the men were away. My dad, on the other hand, was convinced I could be whatever I wanted to be, and told me so.

I did at least think about teaching, briefly, and about following my dad into the advertising business. A well-traveled journalist neighbor encouraged me to study foreign languages and aim for the Foreign Service, and I took Spanish, French, and German in high school.

I went off to college with no particular target, took more Spanish and French, and somehow wandered into an anthropology class. Next thing I knew I’d majored in anthropology and archeology, moved on to grad school, married a fellow archeologist, and gone into the cultural resource consulting business.

Somehow there was a thread running through all the detours. Remember my dad in the ad biz (in Milwaukee and Miami, thank goodness, never Madison Avenue)? He was there because it was one way he could make a living while writing, and I caught that from him. By the time I was twelve I was writing fan fiction (although that wasn’t a thing back then, and there was no way to share it). In high school I took honors English and creative writing, and wrote chunks of a totally unauthorized senior class satirical yearbook (I think I still have a copy of that somewhere, but thankfully not of the fan fiction).

I happily wrote term papers through college and grad school, and when Jack and I did archeological work I wrote the reports. And eventually I realized that what I wanted to do when I grew up, and what I’ve been doing under one name or another all my life, was write.

Here’s my dad at his desk in 1946.

And here’s my desk in 2016. Big changes in equipment, same love of the written word.

Desk 2016

This month my fellow Wednesday Writers are Tamra Baumann, Carol Post, Priscilla Oliveras, Sharon Wray, and TL Sumner. Pop over and find out what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Writer Wednesday: Natural Disasters

I have lived in hurricane country since I was ten years old, and have sat, slept, and occasionally cowered through more hurricanes and tropical storms than I can remember. The prompt for this month’s Writer Wednesday post sent me to Wikipedia, where I picked through several lists of storms (in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana) to find the ones I remember most.

WW JulyAs with many things in life, “firsts” have a special place. My first hurricane was Donna, which hit southern Florida on September 10, 1960, my birthday. (My birthday is often cited as the peak of the hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico, although I celebrated this one in the suburbs of Miami.) My mother, used to life in Wisconsin, was terrified. My brother, who was seven, slept through it. My dad and I thought it was an adventure. When the storm passed, and the electricity did not return (I don’t remember how long it was out), my dad made a valiant attempt to bake me a birthday cake on his charcoal grill. It didn’t look much like a cake, but served with melted ice cream, it tasted just fine.

In the summer of 1969, when I was attempting to move from Tallahassee, where I had just graduated from Florida State, to New Orleans, where I would attend grad school at Tulane in the fall, the central Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Camille, a nasty killer that closed the coast highway for weeks, forcing us to travel inland and hope we could find gas stations with electricity often enough to make it across Mississippi. The coast road was open again in the fall, and I remember seeing huge commercial ships on the beach.

In 1974, Jack and I sat out Hurricane Carmen in our house outside New Iberia, Louisiana. Although Carmen was a serious storm along some of its path, it didn’t hit us too hard, although it made our tin roof rattle something fierce. On the other hand, I remember looking out the window and watching a cat, oblivious of the weather, wander across our lawn. Somewhere around that time, I had my closest encounter with a tornado, as we ducked behind the refrigerators in a New Iberia appliance store while a twister roared down the street out front.

We moved to Seabrook, southeast of Houston between the Space Center and Galveston Bay, in 1976. In 1979, Tropical Storm Claudette dropped 42 inches of rain on a nearby weather station and overflowed an open garbage can in my yard. No flooding in the house, but we were on an island for a day or two. Claudette was followed by Hurricane Alicia in 1983—lots of damaged vegetation, which all grew back in a couple of years, and a power outage that lasted a week or so—and Hurricane Jerry in 1989, a smallish, late season storm that went right over our house, the only time I’ve experienced the Eye of the Storm.

Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, scored a catastrophic hit on the Florida Peninsula, and scared Jack so badly he insisted we evacuate inland. The storm went to Louisiana, but we did have a nice visit with Jack’s uncle in Austin. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was the storm that refused to go away, circling around and causing severe flooding and a number of deaths in Houston, but the worst of it missed us and we watched it on TV. That was the last storm I shared with Jack, who died the next year.

By the time Hurricane Rita reared her head in 2005, only a few weeks after Katrina devastated New Orleans, local authorities had become a lot more emphatic on the subject of evacuation, and I had no desire to stay home, so I packed up my cat and dog and we went to Houston to stay with my friend Jo Anne, the day before evacuation was made mandatory for my zip code. That was a good move, because the storm caused such panic that people who tried to flee west were stuck on the highways for hours, sometimes twenty or more, while the storm went east to the Beaumont area, and Houston seemed deserted—and perfectly safe.

In 2008 we had a visit from Ike, a massively destructive storm. This time people not in the flood prone areas were urged to stay home. My cat and I went to Jo Anne’s, where I stayed until my neighbor called to say she was home and the power was back on—twelve days later. My yard took another beating, but my house was okay.

Since then the hurricane seasons have been quiet here. Last month Tropical Storm Bill paid the area a visit, bringing more rain than we needed but not much damage. If Bill is our storm for this year, we’ll be happy.

Every storm has its own set of stories, but I still have fond memories of that first adventure in 1960, and my lop-sided, crispy-edged birthday cake served with melted ice cream by candlelight. Thanks, Dad!

For tales of more natural disasters, check out the Wednesday Writers in the sidebar to your right. Two of our merry crew have new releases this month: Carol Post’s Hidden Identity, a suspenseful tale of blackmail and murder is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret is available for pre-order at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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