Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just because I didn't take any family vacations for a few years, I guess I still did get around, seeing some of the beautiful sites throughout Colorado.
The Gunnison River running through Black Canyon National Monument,
near Gunnison, Colorado, July 1986

Grand Mesa National Monument, near Grand Junction, Colorado, July 1986
Lake Granby, along the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, 1986
The Cathedral at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 1987

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brenda’s Move Home

We had our share of fun those seven and a half months that Brenda and I lived on our own in Colorado. But then I met someone, and she didn’t. So it was time for her to move back home and for me to stay out there with my new life.

As a gift to our friend Sal, we flew her out to Colorado the end of May. You know how my family had driven all over the country, and Brenda’s family had taken at least a few trips. Sal though? I don’t think she had ever been anywhere, except to a Loverboy concert I took her to in Madison the year before.

We drove her all around the Rockies west of Denver. Then we packed up Brenda’s faithful car and the three of us drove back to Wisconsin. Somewhere in Wyoming, Brenda got a speeding ticket. How fast do you have to be going to get a speeding ticket in Wyoming?? Other than that it was a swell trip home, stopping in the Black Hills to show Sal some more of the world.

We unpacked the Nova. I left Brenda and Sal and all my other friends behind. I packed the rest of my stuff into Jolly (short for Jolly Green Giant, my 1974 Chevrolet Caprice), picked up my fiancé at the airport, and then the two of us drove back to Castle Rock to start our life together. Or at least the next seven years.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Move to Colorado

As you already know, if you have been reading my blog since day one (actually I think it was day two), back in 1984, I was living in a mobile home with my best friend Brenda. I was working in the deli at Nelson’s super market and she was working at Hardee’s.

July 28, she came home from work late and woke me up. “We have got to get out of Tomahawk. Let’s just up and move somewhere.”

So I dragged myself out of bed, threw a pizza in the oven and pulled out the atlas. We made a list of places we thought would be cool to live in and mailed letters to their chambers of commerce asking for information. This was 1984, way before the internet was in everybody’s home. The place that came out the winner was Castle Rock, Colorado.

We packed up Brenda’s blue Nova the end of August and drove 1200 miles to a place we had never been before. We arrived around one o’clock on a Friday afternoon, checked into a hotel, and by noon the next day, we each had a job. Brenda at the McDonald’s, me at Daylight Donuts.

By the end of the first week, we were renting a two bedroom apartment within walking distance to both our jobs. Within a month or so, I got a second job working two evenings a night at the 7-Eleven directly across the street from our apartment.

We were just two chicks from the sticks, having never been anywhere by ourselves. We drove all over the place in Brenda’s old car. We discovered lots of places to shop in both Denver and Colorado Springs. We also discovered some positively scary gravel roads going up and down the sides of the mountains.

And when we weren’t driving around, we were walking around Castle Rock. The city gets its name from a huge rock formation sitting on top of a hill next to town. The rock was shaped, I thought, more like a ship, but someone way back when must have thought it looked like a castle. There was a trail to the top from which there was a magnificent view of the Rockies.

The problem with moving so far from home is that all of my major trips for nearly the next decade revolved around either going home to Wisconsin or back to Colorado. I think though that I can find a few vacations in those nine years that will hold your interest.

Mom, Dad and Mac the first time they came out to visit me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

“…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance - character. And character - hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His Love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:3-4

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Ok, so say you are out with friends and have too much to drink. They know you are drunk, but they let you drive home by yourself anyway.

Case scenario one: You get picked up for drunk driving and lose your license. Imagine your job requires you to be able to drive, so you lose your job too. You want to blame your friends for getting you drunk and letting you drive, but come on, it’s not their fault and you know it. Don’t blame them, maybe just get new friends.

Case scenario two: You get in an accident. You aren’t hurt even though your car is pretty badly damaged. But what happened to that eight-year-old girl you plowed in to? Now she is paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of your life. Lucky for you, her parents are devote Christians and are just happy she is alive. They live by the verses above and feel this is a chance for their family to grow. You vow to never let something like this happen again. You even make sure that none of your friends ever drive after drinking again.

Case scenario three: You killed the girl when you ran her over. Her family is not Christian, they are utterly devastated, and you are now sitting in jail looking at a vehicular manslaughter charge. You take full blame for the accident and prepare to face the consequences. But what about that girl’s family? What did they ever do to deserve this? Do you think an incident like this is ever going to lead them to faith? No matter how long you sit in prison, it is not going to bring their baby back.

Wow, life can hand us all kinds of crap, can’t it?

I’ve come to the conclusion that suffering occurs for a lot of different reasons. We live in a sinful world and bad stuff is just going to happen. It isn’t always anyone’s fault; it just happens coz this isn’t heaven and only in heaven do no bad things happen.

I would love to copy the whole book of Job for you to read, but it is 42 chapters long. It is an amazing book, though, and if you haven’t read it, you really need to. Basically, Satan comes to God and says, “That guy, Job, you think is so wonderful, let me have my way with him and he will turn on you. He’ll stop believing that there is such a thing as a loving God.”

And Satan really does a number on Job, but Job hangs tough. He questions God but never denies Him, never gives up on Him. If you think you have ever suffered, you really need to read that book of the Bible. It will just pull at your heart.

And maybe it will answer some of the questions you have. But at the very least it will help you see how much God loves you and really doesn’t want bad things to happen to you.

Friday, September 24, 2010


My trip to Holland was different. Somebody sometime in that spring of 1983 decided it would be great to take a trip with Mom, Aunt Helen and Aunt Min, to see the tulips. For a long weekend, during the middle of my finals week at UW-LaCrosse. You did figure out that we only went to Holland, Michigan, right?

Aunt Helen, who I have previously mentioned, was Mom’s older sister and best friend, and my second mother. Aunt Min was the wife of Dad’s older brother Fritz. I was all of twenty-one years old, and they were all much older (I could figure out how old they were at the time, but that wouldn’t be nice).

In our quest for accommodations the first night, we initially stopped at a dingy hotel in a questionable neighborhood near Chicago. I don’t know what Mom was thinking by even bothering to pull in and look. And then she told me I had to come with her, as if I was going to protect her from the thugs in the ‘hood; we left the aunts in the car. The desk clerk did let us look at the room before we took it, and Mom gave her the excuse that the beds were too small. I was thinking, “Mom, just tell her this is a dive.”

The next hotel, the one we stayed in, was a Day’s Inn. Older, but clean and adequate. With a nice sturdy door with a deadbolt. And it had – I kid you not – a vibrating bed. I can’t remember which one of the aunts did it, but one of them had to stick a quarter in the slot and then they both laid there hysterical until the bed stopped bouncing them around.

I believe the founding fathers were a bit more serious. “On February 9, 1847, the Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte and a band of Hollanders founded the city of Holland.” So reads the sign put up by the Michigan Historical Society.

The city had quite a lot going on for that one week in May when the tulips are blooming in their most vivid colors. We watched the parade downtown, visited the De Swann Windmill and the acres of tulip beds, and toured the wooden shoe factory. To this day, I still regret not buying a pair. A dumb thing to regret, when now I could order those wooden shoes on line. Ok, I checked and they are way more expensive now than they were then (but isn’t everything?).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I have a confession to make, and no it is not about my fabric addiction.

A few years ago, I started writing a journal of my journeys, a documentary of all of my travels. I got up to about 1983, when my resources started running thin. I no longer had my parent’s camping log or home videos or the family stories told ad nauseam to jar my memory.

Up until this week, almost all of my travel blogs have been taken from that document. It dawned on me that I now have to actually start writing something from scratch again every night. Oh, nuts, like I have time for that? Especially with the series premieres on TV all week.

Also, as I have been trying to gather my sources, I realize they are few and far between. Actually when I started writing about my travels, I came up with a rough outline of the years. “Pre-1980 The Family Camping Trip“. “1997-2008 The Travel Log (a wonderful notebook my second husband bought me just after we were married so that I could log our trips). "2009 and Onward - The Travel Log Goes Laptop" (very exciting when I started taking my laptop on trips with me).

But as you see there is this big blank from 1980 to 1997, where my soul source is photographs (which often times I never wrote on the back of) and my dear diary (ten notebooks full of mostly teen angst and early adulthood depression).

I can do this though. I will just have to tape all the new TV shows and watch them next summer.

(The UPS man brought my new laptop today, so good thing I wrote this blog at 11:30 last night when I couldn't sleep! I'm sure I won't be sleeping tonight either!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eating Out

I had led a sheltered life. Honestly. Even for kids raised in small town America in the 1960’s, I was still pretty naïve. I was probably in 8th grade the first time I went to Pizza Hut. And I remember the first time we baked a frozen pizza at home.

I hated Mexican food the first time I had it. But learned to love it after a few attempts. The first time I went to a Chinese restaurant, when I was a sophomore in college, I ordered something American. When my friend’s food came, I tried it. And then ate it on her and left my cheeseburger sit.

When we were in Alaska, right after my twentieth birthday, other than cafeteria food at the dorm and the incidences above, I had only had home cooking at my home or someone else’s. In Juneau, however, Mary took us out to lunch almost every day, to one cute café or another.

At one such café, overlooking the bay covered in shards of ice, I thought the French Dip seemed exotic or at least foreign. Based solely on the name. I had never heard of it before, but the simple description on the menu was mouthwatering. I took a chance on it.

The waitress brought three cups, identical tea cups for my Aunt Helen and cousin Mary, one of a different color for me. I looked at it.

“Excuse me. I didn’t order tea.”

The waitress looked at me incredulously. “That’s not tea. That’s the French Dip for your sandwich.”

As I write this, all these years later, I still feel that heaviness in my abdomen, that “how could I be so incredibly stupid” feeling. Of course, the worst part is that I probably haven’t learned that much since then. Coz those kinds of foo-paws still occur fairly regularly.
Here I am eating some kind of relleno in
a restaurant in Lima, Peru. You can
only imagine the faux pas I committed there!

Monday, September 20, 2010

North to Alaska

Aunt Helen’s son, Don, had Alaska in his head his whole life. It didn’t take him long, after graduating from college and getting married, to head north to live the life he always dreamed of. He and his wife Mary were able to secure jobs in the capital city of Juneau. Mom and Dad flew there for a visit in 1979, but I sure never thought I would make it there.

In the fall of 1982, I was in my third year of college, spinning my wheels, not having a clue of what to do with my life. I also had no clue as to what I wanted for Christmas. I think it was at Thanksgiving that Mom told me what she and Dad were giving me – plane tickets to Juneau.
December 22, Aunt Helen and I arrived in Alaska. I had never flown before. It was a long trip from Central Wisconsin Airport to the Minneapolis Airport to the Seattle Airport to the Juneau Airport. The trip went without incident, thanks to my aunt’s world-traveling experience.

I wish I could remember it all, or that at least I had documented the ten days more thoroughly in my journal. But alas, mostly what I have are snapshots in my head.

The airport built on a small strip of land, which seems only barely long enough for planes to land or take off. The narrow winding streets of downtown Juneau. . Mendenhall Glacier. The ancient Russian village. Thousands of bald eagles in Haines. A dozen bald eagles at the Juneau city dump. A stranger buying us a round of beers while we waited for the ferry in Haines. New Year's Eve party at the high school. Thunder Mountain outside our bedroom window. Chile Rellenos.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Was it possible that this - all of this that seemed so wasteful and so needless - this war, this prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental? Could it be part of the pattern first revealed in the Gospels? Hadn’t Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little group and our small plans had been?

“But if the Gospels were truly the pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning. I would look around at the bare little cell and wonder what conceivable victory could come from a place like this.”
From The Hiding Place
by Corie ten Boom

Whereas Anne Frank had been in hiding, Corie ten Boom was one of those special individuals who hid families like the Franks. And Corie was also caught. After a horrific time in several concentration camps, Corie was released by the Nazis shortly before the end of the war. It was through a paperwork glitch that she gained her freedom and was able to share her incredible story.

Through it all, she kept the faith that God had a reason for allowing these appalling things to happen. And she prayed to God for strength for herself and for forgiveness for her captors. Even when she was bone-thin, covered in lice and open sores, unable to hardly lift her head, she kept that faith.

How is that possible? I complain about the tiniest thing - the constant pain in my arm, car repairs we can’t afford, a computer that died, my job. I have an arm that feels pain - I could be an amputee. I have a car to drive even if I can’t always pay to get it fixed. Did I really survive before computers were invented? Can’t I just be grateful to have a job?

It is so easy to whine, to think that we are truly suffering. But if we say, “we don’t have it that bad, someone else has it worse”, how is that fair? Why should anyone have to suffer? Or then my favorite is “God doesn’t hand you something you can’t handle”. If that were the case, why do people commit suicide?

Again there is no easy answer. I don’t even have the difficult answer. How do we attain the faith that Corie ten Boom had, a faith that allowed her, in massive pain and suffering, to pray for the people who had done this to her?

Maybe I will figure it out by next week and will let you know then. Stay tuned.

The picture is a picture of a picture Val took at Dachau, when she was in Germany two years ago.

Friday, September 17, 2010

“My Yashi”

Tonight we aren’t traveling far, just to Wausau, fifty miles away, and I didn’t travel there on a vacation. In August 1980, I moved into the dorm on the tiny campus of UW Center-Marathon County.

It was approximately a nine block walk from there to Eldridge’s Photo on Bridge Street. Where, that fall, I bought my Yashica FX-3 35 mm SLR. I had been using one of those instamatic cameras, where you drop the film cartridge in the back, snap shut the lid and you are good to go, with no capabilities to make adjustments for light or dark or motion or just plain cool effect. My instamatic had held up well for many years but it was way too limiting. I stretched my creative juices but pretty much all I could do was snap shots from a different angle.

I had been researching single lens reflex 35 millimeter cameras for quite a while. I needed to make my move. My tuition, room and board were paid up for the semester and I had a spare three hundred dollars (that was probably the last time that ever happened).

So, one Saturday afternoon, I started walking. They were extremely helpful at Eldridge‘s (which soon after became a bar), and I even signed up for a photography class.

My goodness, the pictures I took that fall. Playground equipment, stairwells, the corners of my bath towels, green grapes in a frying pan in the oven, maple trees covered in red leaves. And that was only the beginning.

That camera took me places you wouldn‘t believe. Sure it was a little heavy and if I added the zoom lens and separate flash, it really got bulky. But it worked so slick.

After running through a roll of 24 or 36 pictures, I’d take the cassette to the drug store or in later years drop it in the mail. Then wait. Sometimes the photos were awesome, sometimes not so much. Sometimes I would curse myself that I took such a horrible shot. If only I had changed the settings. If only I had put on a filter. If only….

Christmas, 2005. My husband bought me what appeared to be a simple petite digital camera. Sometimes, however, I think I have yet to really figure it out. A whole new era. A whole new story.

(There are no pictures tonight because that would be sacrilege. I have corrupted enough of my beloved 35 mm photographs by scanning them to digital format. If you want to see the picture of the grapes in the oven you will have to come to my house. Or contact me, and I will send them to you via US postal service. Or maybe pony express.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"June 6, 1980"

Yesterday was gloomy and we sat about reading, or whatever, all day. It’s been windy at night, and there were threatening clouds yesterday, but we only received a few drops of very uncommitted rain.

Today, the sun peeked out finally and we had another beautiful day. It was a little warmer, but that might be due to traveling away from the Lake.

About ten o’clock this morning, we stopped at a wayside near L’Anse, on the Sturgeon River, where there was a trail to the Canyon Falls and Rapids. It was spectacular!

The water went rushing between the steep rock gorges. The dark water tumbled and leapt over oddly jutting rocks, smashed into sheer walls, and turned into orange-colored foam when trapped between rocks or by its own swirling currents. We crawled and slipped along the rocks and cliffs, clinging to cedar trees as we traveled along the river’s high bank.

We eventually had to leave, though, and arrived here, at Bewabic State Park around lunchtime. This afternoon we played Frisbee and sat in the warm sunshine.

I really can’t believe that we’ve had no rain all week. For once we’ve gotten very lucky. There also hasn’t been any major difficulties with the truck, tent or with anything else.

Life out here away from it all is so simple. We can do what we want, when we want and how we want. I just want to be young and carefree, foolish and full of life, happy and only concerned with staying happy. This noon, we bought a large bag of cookies, Hydrox sandwich cookies, and ate them by dipping them in peanut butter. At present there are only two left.

We arrived home the next day without incident. It was the first of many such idyllic camping trips in the 1980s and 1990s.

After we arrived home from
that first trip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"June 4, 1980"

Yesterday we just knocked around the campground. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we laid out in the sun. It is vacation after all.

This morning we set out early for McLain State Park near Houghton. When we arrived, we set up camp, ate lunch, and then were off once again. We went to the tip of the Kewanee Peninsula at Copper Harbor. There we visited Fort Wilkins State Park where an old fort has been restored.
The weather was again beautiful. We drove along the Lake and found a wonderful place where we had stopped years before. There were these excellent huge rocks out in the water, breaking waves. On them, tiny violets and grasses grew and water sat in holes and crevasses. When, as little kids, Pat and I had last been there, we made up a story about a family that had been miniaturized and dropped on one such rock as punishment for some offense.

On our way to Copper Harbor, we also had passed a gift shop where we had stopped in the past. Ever since the first time I was there, I thought it would be a wonderful place to live. I could make little handicrafts to sell and would have a little garden out back. Well, when we went past it today, it was closed and there was a “for sale” sign in the window. I just about died.

“I want to buy it,” I cried.

On the way back to camp, we took a different route, up a mountain. From its summit we could see the Lake spreading out miles away. Green hills stretched in another direction. A hawk soared above. What peace, what beauty.

Monday, September 13, 2010

OK, so I am cheating for the next couple days. The day after I graduated from high school, my sister Pat and I went on the first of many many camping trips to Michigan's UP. The next few Blog entries are going to be taken, pretty much word for word, from my Journal of that time.

June 2, 1980

Right now, I am sitting at a picnic table in Union Bay campground at the Porcupine Mountains State Park on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I just love this part of the country. Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to.

The Lake is so peaceful and gentle, yet can be bold and wicked. When we arrived here today, it was blanketed in fog. It was reeking of mystery, breathing a cold mist at anyone who approached. The moods of the Lake are legend. Its gentlest wave drowns my voice and my thoughts. Its size floods the eye, larger than my wildest dreams. It has etched ripples in solid rock.

When I was walking along the Lake today, I came upon a rugged birch tree, its leaves soft green. It grew in the midst of sandstone rock. One root twisted its way through the rock; other roots snaked over the rock to find earth several feet away.

Then I thought of gnarled trees clinging to desert sands, searching deep down for moisture. And then there are hundreds of other trees hanging onto existence in unusual places through extraordinary means.

But I should start our trip at the beginning.

We left home a little before nine this morning. We arrived at the Porcupine Mountains, near Ontonagon, in time for lunch. But since we brought no time pieces with us, we were screwed up from the start and decided since it is vacation, who needs to know the time.

This afternoon we hiked around in the woods near Lake of the Clouds. It is appropriately named since it is so elevated that clouds do hang about quite close.

Pat setting up the tent our first night of camping. Ever.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“July 15, 1944”

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
From Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Just a few weeks after writing this, Anne Frank and her family were discovered in their hiding place and taken to Nazi concentration camps. No doubt, you know the rest of the story.

When I read this as a freshman in high school, I didn’t know the rest of the story. I assumed that she made it out alive or otherwise how had her diary survived. When I finished the epilogue, I was crushed, devastated. How could such a young vibrant optimist teenager meet such a horrible end? And why? What kind of God lets these things happen?

I wish I could give you an answer that would satisfy you, let you say, “ah-ha, I see now why suffering occurs.” I don’t have that answer and no one this side of heaven has it either.

So how are we supposed to deal with injustice, unimaginable horrors, debilitating pain? I try to turn it over to God. I say a prayer that goes something like: “God, I don’t understand why you are putting me (or my loved ones or total strangers on the other side of the world) through this right now, but I have faith that you know what you are doing and that it is all part of your plan. Just give me (or them) the strength to make it through another day.”

Does it really help? Sometimes, sometimes not. But when we have nothing else, we have to hang onto our faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

But Its Only Cloth.

Help! I need a twelve step program. I am addicted to fabric. I have stacks of Rubbermaid containers filled with my goods. Sometimes I take my cloth out and rearrange it and plan projects. “This pile of flannel I will make into a quilt. This pile of cotton I will save for a patchwork skirt.” Then I put my material away, rubbing my hands together, saying, “It’s mine, all mine.”

I was at a rummage sale last weekend and found the best deal - a whole bag of fabric for fifty cents. Sure, it was already cut into pieces for someone else’s project, but hey, I can do something with it, right?

You should have seen me last year when the quilting store in town went out of business. I got a whole tote of various cloth in various shapes and sizes for ten bucks. Of course, when I make such a score, I have to wash and dry it and then iron it.

That’s when I realized the other night that I might have a problem. As I was ironing this entire armful of material, my upper right arm down to my elbow started screaming in pain. Perhaps this obsession has contributed to my frozen shoulder. Maybe I even had an ironing injury that I forgot about that started that whole thing. I switched the iron to my left hand.

Another sign that I may have a problem is that I sneak my purchases into the house so that my husband doesn’t know how bad it is. And I tell him I just have to run to Wal-mart for shampoo, but I really run to JoAnn Fabrics.

I have thought about taking a quilting class to maybe use up some of my fabric, but wouldn’t that be like sending an alcoholic to a wine tasting class? Would it feed my addiction? Or would I be kicked out? “What do you mean I only get one glass of wine?” “What do you mean I can only use three different fabrics on this project?”

Plus, then some of my material would be used up and I would just have to buy more. So what would be the point of actually sewing something?

OK this is something I must do for myself.

Step 1 - I admit that I have become powerless over fabric - my life has become unmanageable because of it.

Step 2- I believe that only my Higher Power can -

Hold it! Isn’t there a sale at JoAnn Fabrics this weekend? I gotta go.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"The Last Boring Blog"

I hate to bore you anymore than I already have, but here it is - boring - once again. I have a couple thoughts in my head and wanted to throw them out there. And hopefully, tomorrow will start writing blogs that can hold your interest.

First of all, I am going to try a new blogging schedule. I am taking Wednesdays and Saturdays off. I know, like I have a life or something? But I have quite a few Saturdays filled for the next two months. And Wednesdays? I just want to take another day off.

On the other weekdays, I’m not sure. I would like to keep going with the vacation theme. Coz even though I am done with the family camping trip, my German wanderlust has never left me and I have all kinds of travel tales yet to tell. But we will see how it goes. I just plain have lots of stories to share.

On Sundays, with a little inspiration from above, I hope to write a devotion. Maybe a Bible passage that grabs me or something I heard from David Jeremiah or another TV pastor. A dear woman in town, Helen Hoover, sends everyone on her e-mail list a devotion every morning. Some of them are pretty darn good, so I might have to impart a few.

My next thought for tonight. The public library. Sometimes I live in such a shell. You know? We just kind of do things the same way for years and never even think to get out of the box. The other day a woman at work was telling me that she orders books on-line from the library. If they don’t have them at our library, they send them from another library and e-mail you when it comes in to your town.

Why am I so naiive? I’d never heard of that. So, I had to try it last night, and my book already came in today from Rhinelander. I am so psyched. Like I’ll ever read the 16 books I had to buy and they are all just sitting there, staring at me.

I also need to come up with a tag line. A phrase to either open or close my blog with. Like, “it’s choo time” or “happy trails” or I don’t know. I need to think about that.

Until tomorrow - blah - see I should say something short but profound. Don’t you think?
Ok, do you know what this is? And Val can't tell anyone.
Bonus points for guessing where this photo was taken. Again, you can not ask Val.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Family Vacation"

"When I was a child... I thought like a child."
1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

Which is why, when I was a kid, I thought that since my family went on a trip every summer, everyone else must have too. I don't know why, because none of my friends ever went on a trip with their families. My family, however, did travel somewhere every summer. These family trips were never anything spectacular, no vacations in the south of France, or even south of the Border.
It was a simpler time. People didn't have to jump in a plane and travel half-way around the world to see new and different things. Growing up in the sixties and seventies in the rural upper Midwest, it took very little actually to be new and different for me and my sister Pat. Everything was an adventure for us. And everywhere we went, our eyes bugged out in wonder and awe.
I could never imagine having had a childhood like the kids today. Where it is go, go, go, all the time, non-stop. A barrage of internet images, high speed everything, information overload, no down time, not even on vacation.
Perhaps mine is the last generation to live through that simpler, idealistic time. We didn't know anything. And that was totally acceptable.
So that's what you have just read over the last month or so. All those memories from an idealistic youth, a simpler time. A time when it was all right to spend time with just Mom, Dad and your sister.
As if I had a choice.

Pat, me and Mom just inside the camper door in 1967.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Virginia III

1978 and we were going to Virginia. Again. And we went to Rock City in Tennessee. Again. But this time I did cross the Swing Along Bridge. Hanging on for dear life, but I did cross it. I was 16 years old and about as uncool as a teenager could be.

What has always been cool, though, is mountains.

From southeast Canada to Alabama, the Appalachian Mountain range runs the entire length of our country’s eastern seaboard. Running the northern stretch are the Alleghenies, the Berkshires, The Poconos, the Catskills, all sounding like mountain resorts, places where families used to go for month-long retreats. In the southern section, the mountains have names such as Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies and Shenandoah. Romantic names, mysterious descriptive names.

The Rocky Mountains in the west rise rugged and majestic from the plateau below. But if you've seen one rugged, majestic mountain, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The mountains in the east, though rising not nearly as high, seem to have more personality. They change colors and moods throughout the day. Their forests are dark and mysterious, almost foreboding at times. Mists rise from the hills in the morning. You always have the feeling as if someone – or something – is watching you from the trees.

Next to our rig in the Allegheny Mountains

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Out West 1977

"We are never going to get out of here." Mom was not happy. I was even kind of nervous when I looked at the road ahead (which there wasn't one) and the buildings to the sides (which there were a lot of).

We were in Lead, South Dakota, having just come from the Grand Canyon. It was our first trip with the fifth wheel and without my sister Pat. For the first time that I can remember, I was asked where I wanted to go on vacation and I got to help plan it. I don't know if it was because I was getting older or if they just wanted me to feel special because Pat wouldn't be joining us.

We headed north from Arizona through Colorado and Wyoming and into South Dakota for one more visit to the Black Hills. As long as it was on the way, we couldn't resist visiting again. The problem is we ran into a detour in the small town of Lead. The arrow clearly pointed straight ahead so Dad diligently obeyed. The road got more and more narrow and the incline became more and more steep the further we went. We soon realized that we had to be on the wrong road, especially when the road suddenly ended at a dead end.

Mom was about to say something to Dad when she realized, I think, that she had pointed the way on this detour. Dad, as usual, didn't have much to say at all. He just kind of rubbed his head and then started slowly cautiously turning around. I don’t know how he did it. The road had squeezed down to a single lane, and the driveways were all only wide enough for one compact car, and most of them were filled with those compact cars.

I stopped breathing until he some how got the long rig turned around. Even Mom didn't utter a noise until we were pointed back down the hill, then she let out a long sigh. For Dad it was just another day's drive.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad, taken on that vacation in 1977. He was only 62, but the years had not always been kind.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Fifth Wheel

I promise that very soon I will be finished boring you with stories of our family camping trips. I just have a few left to tell. And this is a short one. (Also, please disregard the bathing beauty in this picture.)

The pickup camper served us well for many years, but for quite some time Dad had a hankering to buy a fifth wheel trailer. In 1976 that dream became a reality. If I thought that the old camper was fascinating with its tiny appliances, this yacht on wheels had a full bathroom with a shower. It even had an oven, which I don't recall we ever baked in. We used it mostly for storage.

Several weeks after returning from one trip with the fifth wheel, Mom was looking for one of her cake pans. It dawned on her that she had left it in the trailer in the oven while we were traveling. Ever the helpful daughter, I scampered out to the camper to retrieve it. Well, not only had Mom forgotten the cake pan in the oven, she had forgotten that there was still rhubarb cake in it. Ooh, it had gotten just a little bit moldy. Not only was it moldy, but the acid from the rhubarb had actually eaten holes in the metal cake pan.

I kid you not. I'm thinking if rhubarb eats up metal, what does it do to your innards? But it seems to me it does have laxative properties, so that probably is not a problem.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My lap top remains on life support after five days. And the rest of my week? My jaw still hurts from my visit to the dentist yesterday. My entire right arm is still in constant pain, thanks to the frozen shoulder that will not thaw no matter how much the chiropractor coaxes. My car spent two days at the car spa where the therapists cured its ills but also charged two hundred bucks. My husband's truck? Well, we are not going to spend eleven hundred dollars to resuscitate it, so I'm not quite sure who will be driving and who will be walking. My husband, the light of my life, has been cranky, not wanting to go back to driving school bus, and who can blame him? School bus driver was always on my list of five top jobs I never want.

I came home at lunch to pick him up so he could pick up the car. I jumped on facebook for just a few minutes while I chewed on my corn dog. Here is what popped up:

“It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the God of the Universe. He’s crazy about each of us, and if most people really understood that, their lives would turn on a dime and blessings would overtake them. And trust me, I know this firsthand—I used to be a hard, cynical, coarse human being before God pulled me up by the scruff of the neck and said, “Yo, Julie! Get a clue. You’re the apple of my eye!” as quoted by Julie Lessman, from the blog .

Wow, I thought, that‘s pretty good..

Back at work, I checked my e-mail. Every month our receptionists harass our patients into filling out surveys, asking how we are doing as a clinic, if they had a good experience, if they think our providers are competent. Today's survey results included the comment: "We LOVE Chris. She is the sweetest nurse and makes you feel comfortable".

I rolled my eyes, thought "whatever", and deleted it. Then I heard that voice in my head, the voice that is either God, or else I am schizophrenic.

The voice said, “Listen, just listen.”

No matter how bad things seem sometimes, God is always there. He’ll make it all work out in the end. Instead of dwelling on the things that make us unhappy, we need to focus on the warm fuzzies. No matter how small they may be.