Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Connecting Life's DOTS


Remember the old expression, blazing a trail? Yesterday, that's what I thought I'd be doing. Yep, blazing a sparkling trail from Minnesota to Oskaloosa, Iowa for a book event at the Book Vault. Lots of preparations on both ends; very excited to see the store (it has an actual vault in it!) and chat with the peeps, share my behind-the-stories stories!  FUN ROAD TRIP!

The night before my scheduled departure, I stayed up till 12:30 a.m. clearing my work slate. You know how it goes with last-minute this and that. Send rewrite file to editor; rethink wardrobe (baby, it's cold outside); make sure have safety kit in the car (wind chills down to 30 below); get up in plenty of time to take dog to kennel—OH! Didn't pack his treats! One more thing, one more thing.

After I finally got to bed, my brain was still going two-forty. It took me about an hour to nod off. Twice I was awakened by the rattling window in the bedroom of this old farm house. Wow! Hope that wind's not causing too much drifting, because if it is, that won't bode well for I-90, I-80, I-35, or any other I-yi-yi-yi kind of road through the Midwest. I'd doze back into a restless sleep until the next time I'd awaken.  Is there ice? Will readers be able to get to the store? Do I have enough juice in my windshield washer thingie? (Hubby warned me twice but still haven't checked.)

At six a.m. I gave up on sleep and fired up my laptop. It's always the last thing I slip into my backpack before heading out the door. I went straight to the Iowa Department of Transportation 511 winter road conditions website to check on the roads.

Yikes! Nearly the entire STATE was RED, much of it CLOSED. The map looked like a schematic of human blood veins. Roads that were open indicated that "travel was not advised." Phrases like "completely covered" kept my attention. I checked the Minnesota DOT 511 site (winter roads) for Southeastern MN which didn't look any better. It didn't help calm my nerves that the day before, there'd been a 40-car pileup on I-35 in Iowa. (Check out THOSE picture.  And shelters open?!)  I thought conditions were supposed to get better!

The maps refresh themselves every minute or so (nice!), so I set about sitting in front of them, staring, fretting. Still closed. More closed. WAIT! That one way down there is now orange. What does the note say? "Roadway is mostly covered with ice, roadway is mostly covered with snow, towing services prohibited." In other words, if you're dumb enough to try this and end up in the ditch, you're on your own, Bucko.

By the bazillioneth screen refresh--and after many cups of tea and dithering about when, exactly, I turned old enough to switch gears from the "I'm sure you can still make it!" mode to the "You better stay safe!" mindset—I called the kind ladies at the Book Vault. Although they said they'd received notification that a portion of I-35 had just opened, there was still too much treacherous traveling to do before I got to that point, and the forecast for the next two weeks was not good. Also, what did "open" really mean when the Iowa DOT still said it wouldn't allow anyone to come rescue you?

Alas, the trip—the event--was cancelled with talk of a later reschedule some time after Mother Nature can no longer huff and puff us into staying put. We FaceBooked, Twittered, emailed and websited the cancellation news. Still, it didn't stop me from continuing to check and connect the online DOTS throughout the rest of the day, wondering if I'd made the right choice. Although it appeared that by nightfall, most roads eventually opened, they were still listed as "mostly covered." My editor sent a sweet email saying she was glad I stayed safe. Me too, I thought.

But at what age did I decide staying safe was the goal?

Is it a smart goal? Of course it is. Still, as I look out at today's sunshine and sparkling snow, I feel a little defeated, a little more creaky and cranky, a little too safe. Perhaps I'll go blaze a trail to somewhere, just to help me get over this—right after I slip my ice cleats onto my boots.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Charlene,
It must be truly disappointing to not make the event.

However, not driving on icy, snowy roads where, you've been warned, no one will come to rescue you is not exactly "playing it safe." It's commonsense. And I congratulate you for not letting your desires get in the way of commonsense. Cause you just know that some people went out in that weather. And then put others at risk because someone would eventually have to come and get them. (Getting stranded on road not quite the equivalent of people stuck on mountains when they shouldn't have been there, or out on the water when they failed to heed the weather warnings, but...)

Your post reminded me of when I was a teenager in a Pennsylvania suburb that pretty much shut down in icy and/or snowy weather (When the bridge froze, you literally could not get over it and several people in the area died trying.)

When bad weather descended on the weekends and we weren't allowed to drive anywhere (thus missing DATES! Dances! Parties!), we were inconsolable. How stupid could our parents be? They were wrecking our lives.

The good news: Many of us are still alive because somebody else, not us, valued safety as well as our well-being far more than we did.

At what age did I decide staying safe was the goal? Charlene asks.

My question is: At what age did you begin to equate valuing your physical well-being and safety with a lack of risk taking? At what age. or under what circumstances, should a person's safety and well-being stop being a priority?

If there is no one else in your life who "requires" your presence, feel free to put life and limb at risk for whatever (a road trip? Why not something more adventurous?).

But most folks don't do that because other people (spouse, family, kids) expect them to be around as long as they can. And most folks want to be.

Methinks you've got a severe case of cabin fever, and even risking life and limb is more appealing than missing out on something.

Don't mean to sound so intense, but I value the lives of people and hope that they feel the same way.

Yea, we're all gonna go out from something, but to put ourselves at risk for something like missing an event? Seriously.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for your thoughtful input. I value your wisdom. If we're not on the exact same page, we are close.

Of course others are always counting on us, first and foremost family and friends. We want to be there for them, staying both sane and well for as long as possible. As an author and professional speaker, "others" also includes those who invite/contract me to come speak, so no, I don't take cancellations lightly when people are counting on me.

In this particular Oskaloosa case, kind folks at the Book Vault (and my publisher, and me, too) engaged in lots of planning and advertising for my appearance. Readers put my arrival on their calendars; I love telling my stories. However, staying safe had to come first. It had to. It is not sane to knowingly drive onto icy roads.

On the same note, I wrote a book titled Don't Miss Your Life! An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter and Grace. One of the threads in the book (the written version of my most requested speech the last nearly 20 years, and one of the books I was going to talk about at the event) deals with assessment of the actuality of our lives. Sometimes we can start living our lives so "safely"--no longer willing to take any risks--that we've actually succumbed to living in misguided fear. Fear of making a mistake or looking bad in front of someone. Fear we might fail or cause conflict. Fear of every "what if" scenario that bites our brain.

Fear is a snakey and constricting thing.

But, even keeping THAT in mind, still, nobody should drive on ice--unless you're like a motorcyclist racing on ice. ;>) Still, it's always good to question our more "global" choices about "safety," and that's what I was trying to take a light-hearted look at here.

As for cabin fever, nope. Don't suffer from it. I'm always out there, doing one thing or another--and oftentimes, that includes blazing trails. I come from a long line of gritty women, and I never stop thanking them for passing along their courage.

Again, thank you for taking the time to tell it like it is, and for your concern for my safety and the safety of others. Your points are well received and I'm sure shared by many.

mariblaser said...

Wow, you made the right choice, I think. These events are important, but it's better to miss one than missing a bunch because you're in the hospital, right?

Besides, you got to enjoy the snow safe and warm at home, heh. ;)

Snowy cheers from twitter! :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

I felt horrid when last year I was to do a book signing at City Lights (in sylvia NC). CL advertised for it and sent out newsletters and etc etc.

Two days before the event, I had an emergency appendectomy. There was no way I could make it. I had to ask my husband to contact them before I went into surgery to cancel it.

Still, I actually did ask the doc "Can I postpone the surgery?" He looks at me, in the emergency room bed, as if I'm making a joke. I was not. *laughing* - then after the surgery, I asked, "Think I can make that signing?" He just laughed at me this time, shaking his head and saying "Not no, but NO..."

Of course he was right, but it still made me feel so terrible.

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However, not driving on icy, snowy roads where, you've been warned, no one will come to rescue you is not exactly "playing it safe." It's commonsense. And I congratulate you for not letting your desires get in the way of commonsense.
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