Hell-bent, Bound and Determined

There are a few words in the English dictionary that I’m drawn to like gum to a shoe, or bugs to a windscreen, or women to Benedict Cumberbatch. Words that bring me joy, like Holiday, Free, and #BenedictCumberbatch. And there are words I crave that I want to see used to describe me, like Winsome, Adept, and ‘Admired by Benedict Cumberbatch.’

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There is one word that I can safely say I would pin upon myself like a nametag to a kindergartener:


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It has served me well for the time I’ve spent thus far in this world, although it is not an easy pageant sash to keep securely in place draped across from shoulder to hip, and the damn crown is forever attempting to slip off sideways if not topple from my head at every challenging bend in the road. Which is why you need an extra dose of perseverance to maintain a perseverant attitude. A bit of a Catch 22.

A couple of days ago, I returned from “Family Weekend” at my daughter’s university. I’d been invited to attend a lecture on campus the evening before the official weekend began, and thought it just might be possible to back up my eleven hour drive and make it there in time. Plus, the lecture was on a topic I knew nothing about, but was fascinated with. To top it all off, my daughter would be sitting a mid-term exam, so I’d be going it alone, and would hopefully be coming out of the experience with fresh, new and exciting science to dazzle her with.

Starting off a car journey at 3 am is somehow furtive and exhilarating—you’re leaving the house in the middle of the night, rolling down the long, dark driveway and hoping you’ve left all the other living, breathing creatures still tucked snugly in their beds.

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Somewhere about 6 am, furtive and exhilarating fly out the window as you’re imagining for the one hundredth time all the other living, breathing creatures at home still tucked snugly in the their beds.

By noon, the rain is no longer a gentle, soothing patter on my windshield, but a ragged dermabrasion effort by Mother Nature who apparently does not like the olive green paint on my car and is hoping something else lies beneath it.

I reach my hotel a few hours later and have just enough time to dash into the shower to untangle a few long-journey knots that have left my spinal cord resembling a larger version of my iPhone earbud’s cord.

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With my newest and now most coveted app—Google Maps—ready in my hand to direct me to the lecture hall—an easy 1.2 mile walk away—I head out of the hotel lobby and immediately note that it’s still raining. I sprint to my car and grab my umbrella. Off we go.

Google Maps tells me to turn right on Third Street. I love how the sweet little app also vibrates the smartphone in your hand to let you know that new directions have been given, so you don’t have to stare into your phone whilst walking.

Clever Google Maps.

I admire the neighborhood’s historic architecture, looking up at some of the snug brick homes and their heavy-lidded windows. My tiny umbrella is suddenly pulled from my hands—a gusty updraft—and I snatch at it just before it leaps into the air, but not without seeing it turn inside out.

An everted umbrella has got to be one of the most side-splitting images to come across as you’re walking down the street. Holding an everted umbrella is definitely one of the most humiliating ordeals. Seeing an individual, or being the individual who is in custody of an umbrella that repeatedly turns itself inside and out is to realize that your rain gear is possessed.

I search for a Catholic church along my route, hoping for a quick exorcism before I reach the lecture hall.

No such luck. I will have to purchase another ticket for the demonic banshee and hope he will be still during the power point presentation.

The rain pelts down, and cascades in cold rivulets along the undersides of the brolly. It flows down the spindly handle, over my hand and puddles at the tip of my elbow, soaking the arm of my raincoat, sweater and skin. It waterfalls onto my head and finds all available avenues to sneak beneath my collar. The wind batters at me from every direction, leading passersby to believe I am holding on to the legs of a massive black crow, flapping and thrashing, determined to take flight.

I am the antithesis of Mary Poppins.

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Google Map’s app vibrates, and threw squinting, rain pummeled eyes, I follow its directions to turn left. I walk and clutch at the edges of the umbrella waiting for the next buzz. Several blocks later, it comes, and directs me straight into the concrete barricades of impenetrable road works. There is no way around them. I must backtrack.

I am fully saturated at this point, with only my sense of humor remaining dry. I am positive the universe is sending me the message that I am not welcome here. Perhaps it knows something I do not? That the lecture will be disappointing? That the reception will be dull? That the entire auditorium has been swallowed up in a massive burp of earthly indigestion?

Perhaps it’s just that there’s a rerun of Sherlock playing on the television back in my hotel room, and wouldn’t I prefer sharp and caustic Sherlockology to abstruse and befuddling scholarship?

Well …

NO! I say to myself. I carry on. We carry on. Me, my bedeviled umbrella, and my Google Map app, which at this point is now shrugging rather than vibrating, communicating that despite all of the advancements in technology and space to earth communication, the elements have won, and I am on my own.

I shove my phone down my shirt and inside my bra, hoping this, at least, is not as underwater as the rest of me, and toss the bewitched brolly into the bushes. I stop a student, scurrying from class and look pleadingly into her eyes.

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“Where is the Koch Institute Auditorium?”

She casually points across the street.

Sure enough. There it is. Right behind the shuttle with the name of my hotel on it.


PS – Next week: I do actually get to the lecture!

PSS — This is the last week for ordering a Gotta Have a Gott calendar. The deadline is December 12 and Rob has TWO LEFT!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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71 thoughts on “Hell-bent, Bound and Determined

  1. Congratulations on being the most persevering perseverant I know. I mean all that driving, getting drenched all for a lecture you may not even like. Now that shows that you’re not just a perseverant but a Mom. Of course now that you know your Hotel has a shuttle you can catch a ride back. Maybe with a slight detour to a package store. Surely Ben is calling by now.

    • Why thank you, Benson. And I spent a fair amount of time wondering that evening what was the real drive behind my getting to this lecture, as it was strictly for MY benefit. I think maybe it was the Midwestern mentality that kicked in. While growing up one wasn’t allowed to complain that you were cold because in Wisconsin, EVERYONE WAS COLD. So get on with it. I’m guessing that was the mindset I put into gear whilst going through the brutal wind and rain. “This is life in this part of the world. Now get a decent umbrella.”
      And Ben? Well, truthfully, I prefer most celebrities to marvel at me from afar. The whole J.D. Salinger recluse kind of a mystique is what seems to work best for me.

  2. I am not made of the same stern stuff as I am fairly convinced I would have turned back to the warm and cosy hotel at the first gust of umbrella turning wind……….. And I am so hoping the lecture was a good one and worth every soaked inch of your admirable struggle with the elements. I am hanging out for the next episode!!

    • I think I said the same thing to myself a thousand times, Pauline. This lecture had better be more than amazing. It had better be stunning to the point that because I’m so wet I’ll nearly electrocute myself with the wow-factor. Plus, at that point I was beginning to believe I could benefit from shock therapy treatment in general. 😛

    • Would that be the part that has made you realize it’s best folks make a wide berth of me when I’m outside my own home?
      And I suppose seeing my child is equal parts bliss and horror. Bliss because I want to squish every inch of her, and horror because the gap between our shared common dialect grows exponentially wider with each passing day.

  3. Haha~! Yes! Over here where my primary transport is bicycle, regardless of the whether, I know this particular torture well. There’s nothing quite like hunching under an umbrella which is only keeping your head dry, while swerving one handed through traffic which seems to believe cyclists are either invisible or invincible… and then hearing a rumble of thunder signal your impending death by lightning strike.

    • Wow, NJ, that was a visual that trumps this story. The danger factor alone has me shivering. You’re like a mobile circus trick thrown into a pit of wretched weather and surrounded by metal lions. Yikes!

  4. my favorite words, well some of them, “a ragged dermabrasion effort by mother nature” i have a post about mother nature in the works so it’s pretty timely. also timely your mary poppins reference. i just saw ‘saving mr. banks.’ i don’t get out often 😉 and sharing my perseverance story, my holiday drive to see my family more than doubles once traffic hits, from 3.5 to 8-10 hours. but it’s worth it!

  5. At least the place wasn’t next to the hotel after all that. What a horror of a journey. Maybe I can bring a little joy to you by granting a wish. My brother said “I understand you’re devastated that the beautiful Shelly Sackier is married”, “Yes” I said ” but you winsome you lose some.”
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  6. I admire your gumption and your stickability. Worthy attributes dear Mrs P. Love the Mary Poppins analogy, cartoon and Mr B. Cumberbatch. (Just threw the last one in because I really DO love him. Shhhhh…..don’t tell anyone..)

    • Aw, thanks, Cheergerm. Those moods and mindsets have decidedly come in handy more times than I’ve had hot dinners, and they’ve gotten me into a bucketload of hot water nearly as many times as that hot water was needed to make those hot dinners. I think I may be breaking even.
      And you betcha, your secret’s safe with me. If the Yak should ask, I will literally print out your reveal all comment and eat it.

  7. Oh Shelley! I thought for one awful moment your were going to say you’d walked a perfect circle and the lecture hall was right behind the hotel all the time – I’m so glad you didn’t acquire all that extra moisture for nothing! 🙂 I’m sure there are times when the elements pull out all the stops just for us, the rain here has a habit of waiting to fall until I am halfway through my daily walk at the very bottom of the hill and will proceed to cease abruptly the moment I arrive back at the front door! 😀 Will eagerly await part 2 🙂

    • Ooh, I like the way you put that, Jane. Extra moisture. I could have been visualizing myself as some well-tended tropical plant (minus the tropical part). I suppose it’s all about perspective, right?
      And maybe the rain was doing you a cardio favor by giving you a reason to push on upward through the most difficult part of your walk and pace yourself in a lickety-split fashion instead of stopping here and there to catch your breath and snap the odd photo. Perspective. Thank you, rain.
      (okay, I tried, but the effort still left me hollow.) 😛

  8. You are the best story teller! Your kids must have LOVED when they were little – I can just imagine your stories as you tucked them into bed each night (and probably the reason they are as smart as they are, too!). PS – phone in the bra is the way to go (all the Costa Rican women do it too!)!

    • Wow, Jen–what incredibly kind compliments. My humble thanks. And yes, bedtime seemed to start earlier and earlier in our house as we had a lot of fables to fly through. Some days, we’d finish breakfast and head right back to brushing our teeth and sliding beneath the quilts. The end of the bed groaned under the weight of books waiting their turn.
      And I think I’m going to try stuffing a lot more down my bra in the near future. No purse and a more alluring figure–if not a little lumpy. Clever chicas.

  9. You have my utmost admiration for taking on an umbrella in the first place. My experience with them has always been less than dry and definitely not straightforward!
    Glad you hadn’t gone full circle though!! 😀

    • I’m thinking that perhaps I accidentally grabbed the wrong device from my car and instead of an umbrella, I took hold of a dowsing rod. That would explain a few things.
      And you all have had ample experience with the great soggy works of Mother Nature this fall. I feel for poor, tiny Maggie, although she is a trooper.

  10. Loved this post. Made me smile with its dry wit (at least the wit was dry!). My high school’s motto was ‘Persevere’ and I do have a strong perseverant muscle – or to use a great Scottish word – maybe I’m just ‘thrawn’ (closest meaning is stubborn). Keep on keeping on, Shelley – from one thrawn lassie to another.

  11. “Men are what their mothers made them.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson


    I adore this blog. Such intuitive bliss, comfort and a pleasurable read placement to put me in your shoes. Yet again, I felt as if I was there right beside you in the rain and the hopes to endure the lecture.

    I adore what is perhaps your best and most discriptive writings… “The rain pelts down…” the entire paragraph, so E. A. Poe, or Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”… your ability to paint a live oil canvas painting that is read and made visual is a true gift. Please, keep writting.

    Much love,


    • It would have been a really help had you been right beside me, as I would have asked you to drive my car and drop me off. Bingo. Problem solved. But no blog post, so …
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the description of my crazy chronicles, although you had yourself a killer one last week. Keep reading, keep writing. And of course, keep showering me with as much adoration as you can come up with. If you’re lucky, I might leave you one of my #2 pencils in my will.
      ❤ ❤

  12. Clearly Mother Nature has something against you, Shelley. Your only recourse is to re-paint your car to a more snazzy colour. 🙂 The “spinal knot” sequence was hysterical, with a great picture to go with it. Kudos! Hope the lecture was worth the pain…

    • I’m going to go out on a limb here, Sue, and guess that in a previous lifetime, I was likely the CEO to a massive coal corporation–something that continually belched out massive amounts of pollution and this is my karmic kick in the pants. I will suffer in silence–because blog complaining is a quiet activity so it doesn’t really count.

  13. Great post as usual, Shelley. Anytime I’ve been caught by the impartial elements, I always take it seriously and wonder why I’m being punished. Then, surviving the ordeal, I’m proud I endured. I loved your story and look forward to the next installment. 🙂

    • Yep. Enduring the barrage of nature’s cruel onslaught and coming out the other side of any endeavor still standing is worthy of celebration. In some cases, it’s worthy of a few months of therapy, but still worthy one way or another.
      Glad you liked it, Cindy. And even more glad you’ll return for the lecture bit next week.

  14. Of course, I’ve heard the word, persevere many time. But a little less that 30 years ago when I heard it during an interview I was on, I took to it. All of a sudden it was my word. It talks about inner strength in a way that doesn’t commit me in the absolutely having to success, just try my very best and be able to face the circumstances of my effort.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Glynis. It’s the attitude not the accomplishment. It’s how one chooses to face adversity and attempt to overcome the odds. It speaks of character. Although I may find humor regarding the circumstances, it really is a trait I wish to cultivate, and one that I see in abundance in so many of the folks whom I admire.
      Thanks for offering your take on it too. It’s always lovely to hear what you have to say.

  15. Ah, the indignity of an umbrella turning inside-out in the wind, and rain trickling down your scalp.
    But you were lost and tired too, poor thing! But BC obviously gave you the strength to persevere. Forget coal, you’re running on imagination, my friend!
    Looking forward to the lecture. 🙂

    • Haha! Susan, your comment gave me my first morning guffaw. So thanks. And go figure, that’s way before coal, caffeine or creativity has had a chance to kick in.
      Yeah, I could definitely be fueled by laughter.

  16. (yett, yetti?) another gooden (f)rollicking account, rendered (and i don’t mean ‘render’ in, uh, a ‘bad” way, like the rendering plant/facility, or something, but) –> pallatable. yoove arranged, mixt, sauteed (how duzz wun spell ‘saute” ddd?) yer werdz for a verbal repast more than fit for ev’ry-buddee !

    • Oh, I’m all for rendering–mostly duck fat. Yum. So having my essay compared to an incredibly expensive culinary delicacy is a thousand percent okay with me.
      And I’m glad you feel my recipe is appetizing enough not to have to choke down. “I’m Every Woman.” And I’m attempting to be a few men out there as well.

  17. It is unfortunate that Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch was not at that moment available to lend you his capacious, never-turns-inside-out brolly along with his extremely dry elbow to escort you safely to the lecture. I gather he was instead busy getting his photo taken.

  18. Did you take a page out of my life? Been There, bought the teeshirt, and yes, perseverance works, but I like “moist” better for your day. It’s one of my most favorite words, and you most certainly were.

    • It’s such a delicate description, isn’t it? So ladylike. Which I am not.
      And yes, I can totally see how many of our experiences run parallel. You do tell some marvelous stories!
      And who would have it any other way, right? No thank you to ‘dull.’

  19. I squirmed uncomfortably during your walk through hell. The only thing worse for me than getting drenched would be if mud was also involved. You are a trooper! I confess I would have skulked back to the hotel for a stiff drink and a date with Sherlock 🙂

    • I was so tempted, but then that would be life as I know it most every other night.
      Sometimes, you just get a bee in your bonnet and start screaming, “I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!”
      (But seriously, you’d have to be barking mad to give up an evening of scotch and Sherlock.)

  20. Seeing an individual, or being the individual who is in custody of an umbrella that repeatedly turns itself inside and out is to realize that your rain gear is possessed

    You -we could have survived the end world as predicted by the Mayan Prophecies.
    But still rain can become the new post apocalypse bane.
    And therefore, under these circumstances, an umbrella might be the most valued treasure.

    Sending you all my best wishes!. Aquileana 😀

    • I decided to keep that umbrella, Aquileana. Not so much as evidence against anyone doubting the story, but rather as bargaining power with the devil. If he promises to rid the earth of flashing internet adds, I will hand him back his rain gear. 😛
      Have a restful weekend!

  21. I admire your perseverance, Shelley (and I also admire the spell check on here, because I ALWAYS spell perseverance wrong 😛 ). As soon as my umbrella blew inside out, I would have turned heel and headed back the way I came. At least you were able to attend the lecture and your umbrella behaved once it was inside. 🙂 Your post makes me think that I need to have more perseverance. Unfortunately, I’m more prone to follow the advice of W. C. Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

    • HA! That’s a brilliant quote, Miranda. I’d give my left lung to be that clever.
      And I think you sell yourself short. You are one of the most indefatigable writers I’ve come to know. You are the very essence of perseverant. I just think we have more of it in some places in our lives than in others. For instance, I show not one shred of doggedness when asked to run a 5k, nor a 2 miler, or even when it’s bargained down to a walk to get the post. I do manage to muscle up the determination to eventually get out of the car though, so I’m not a total loss.

  22. Delightful storytelling, even though it was at your own expense. I’ve never had much luck with umbrellas. I either don’t have ‘enough hands’ to manage or like yours, they quickly turn on me. Usually one of the spokes breaks and I fear the old adage ‘you’ll put your eye out with that thing’ will finally come true.

    I’m looking forward to the next installment. Happy, too, that I’m catching up in the proper order.

    BTB I got my Gott calendar late last week. Blog post to follow. Love it!

    • Yay! So glad you got your calendar, Alys (and wonderfully curious to see what appears in your online post).
      And as far as the storytelling goes, I figure it’s just a little comic relief. In other words, relieved I can laugh about it now. There’s a lot to learn in this short lifetime, and some of us are syrup slow about it. o_O

  23. Sounds like quite the ordeal! I hate it when I can’t find a place, especially when it’s right in front of me! >_< In other news, congrats on the third Freshly Pressed! Well earned! 😀

    • I suppose as writers, the thing we crave in concert with churning out good writing, is the recognition that the writing has found an audience. It’s lovely to get a nod from WordPress, but the interaction with readers is what really heartens my soul. So thanks a million for being here, Alex. Cheers!

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