Monday, September 2, 2013

Summing Up Summer

My friend Amanda, sister Kristy,
and parents (not pictured)
helped me celebrate my birthday.
August is my one full month off from my job as a tutor of children grades five through eight. It’s the month I celebrate the day I was born (by eating at Cheddar's, of course), and it’s also the month in which my family typically tries to go on vacation.

This year was no different. My parents, sister and I packed up our Tahoe and headed down the road. Up the road, technically, since our destination was north of our home state of Texas.

Where were we headed? Indiana and Michigan.

My challenge? Not getting distracted by the landscape whizzing by my window.

Yes, that’s right. I brought my laptop. I gladly sacrificed some of my landscape-watching, book-reading, z-z-z-z-catching time in order to get a good jump on the edits necessary to make my manuscript shine. That task proved quite daunting, but I steadily made progress on my work in progress (WIP). No, I didn’t get it completed. Even though I didn’t meet my goal 100%, I couldn’t be too disappointed in myself. I could have taken the entire month off, claiming it as family time, which would have been true on all accounts. But I chose to use the many hours in the car to my advantage.

Did I have fun on this trip, or was it just a working vacation for me? Oh, I had fun. Lots of fun.

The reason my family chose to visit Indiana was to spend some time with my dad’s aunts, uncles and cousins. My two great-aunts we met last summer, and of course we wanted to make more memories with them. This year, though, we also planned on meeting my second-cousin and another uncle and his wife. Since the cousin’s brother was in town, we got the bonus treat of meeting his family, including his granddaughter. When puzzling it out, I realized that she was my fourth-cousin. That meant we had four generations—from my great-aunt to my fourth-cousin—at Golden Corral that day! How neat is that? It was so wonderful to share a meal and fellowship with these relatives I’ve only known for one year. Hopefully we’ll get another chance to gather again soon.

JoAnn Durgin
Since we were going to Indiana, I asked my parents if we could stop by and meet author JoAnn Durgin on the way. JoAnn was one of four authors who critiqued my manuscript proposal in order to help me improve it. I really appreciated the tips she gave me and wanted to thank her in person and get to know her even better than I already had on Facebook. Also, I was planning on taking the first book in her Lewis Legacy series, Awakening, along on the trip to read (when I wasn’t working on my MS). My parents agreed to take a route that would take us through her part of Indiana, so we met JoAnn at Cheddar’s, my favorite restaurant. Tasty food, great company and conversation about books . . . It couldn’t have been a better evening.

Vigo County Historical Society Museum
From there, we took a side trip to Vigo County. This portion of the trip was sweet because I actually got to go “on location” for the manuscript I took along to work on. I had the opportunity to visit the small town I had chosen as the hometown for my characters. Also, I got to stop by the Vigo County Historical Society Museum to see what information they had on the town I had chosen. Though the file on the tiny town wasn't very large, the information was wonderful. It confirmed to me that the town was a tight-knit community that cared about each other . . . just like in my story!

West Michigan Glass Art Center
Once we reached Michigan, we stayed in Kalamazoo, just so we could say we’ve been there. The next morning, we went downtown to this neat place called West Michigan Glass Art Center. When we told the man that greeted us we were from Texas, he offered to give us a tour of the place. The art of working with glass is quite impressive and takes so much patience and time to learn. From creating stained glass to bead making to flameworking to glassblowing, they do it all—and a little bit of everything in between. The thing that surprised me the most was the fact that they leave the huge furnace on 24/7 to keep it at the correct temperature for their art form. The only time it’s shut down is when it needs to be replaced every five or so years.

Besides visiting Kalamazoo, another of my family’s goals while in Michigan was to put our feet in Lake Michigan. (We had done the same in Lake Erie in the summer of 2012.) We accomplished this goal while making some new ones. There are numerous lighthouses along the lake, and we decided to see some of them. We enjoy taking pictures of them as they are typically very beautiful. We weren’t disappointed. The lighthouses we went to were gorgeous with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan from the grounds.

West Point Lighthouse

Two Harbors Light Station... now a B&B too!

At that point, we were barely a week into our two-week trip. We didn’t really have any further plans of things to see or do. My dad surprised us by suggesting we travel down the coast of Lake Michigan, into Wisconsin and up into Minnesota, stopping by Lake Superior before heading home through Iowa. That would give us three more states on our quest to see all 48 continental United States over the years, leaving fewer than 10 states to accomplish that goal.

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, we saw a few more lighthouses, including Split Rock which was such an amazing sight from the lookout point up the road. While we were putting our feet in Lake Superior, a ginormous freighter left the port. I didn’t realize just how humongous those things really were until I saw this one up close. Talk about daunting!

Split Rock Lighthouse

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

My sister Kristy and friend Jessica
Yes, that's a bear in the background.
We were at the Tulsa Zoo.
The last day of our trek, we stopped in Oklahoma to visit a dear friend whom we met at the beginning of summer. Her car had broken down on the way home from college, so my family had taken her home to Houston—six hours away from our hometown. We stayed in touch over the next couple of months, and my family decided that hanging out with her for a day would be a great way to end our vacation.

All along the trip, we met great people who each had a story to tell. Oh, the books I could write with such inspiration! At most, if not all, of the hotels we stayed at, the staff were friendly and ready to help their clients. At restaurants, the waitresses were often overworked but still managed to wear broad smiles across their faces. Some of the people I met were having bad days, so I smiled and greeted them warmly, hoping to add a little sparkle in the midst of their stressful moments. To many of these people, I gave a bookmark of one of my favorite authors, along with my own blog information. If you are one of them, thank you for your kindness and friendly smile. Thank you for visiting my website. I am thrilled you’re here! Please leave me a comment or friend me on Facebook or Twitter.

This summer’s vacation was amazing. I’m so grateful for every experience and each person who crossed my family’s path. Many more people and things and experiences than I could possibly mention made the trip one never to forget. My family and I had a memorable, enjoyable time. And I even made progress on my WIP!

What helped make your summer special? Was it the people around you? A family vacation? What will you remember most about Summer 2013?

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Andrea, and sounds like a fabulous vacation. I have to admit, much of my summer has been spent working. I did have a few relaxing weekends here and there...one of the best being five days of hanging out with three amazing writer friends up in Minnesota. Loved that time!

    Probably what I will remember most about this summer is the excitement/nervousness of getting ready for my book launch while getting book two edited. Busy times...and yet, underneath it all is this constant reminder of why I'm so busy--because a dream is coming true. And I'm soooo thankful.

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    1. Love that memory, Melissa. When our dreams come true, it can be bittersweet. We want it to come true but aren't quite sure what to dream up next. It's good to see it's mostly sweet for you. :) I'm so happy for you and your book launch--and so thrilled to be one of your Tagg Teamers!

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