Sunday, October 31, 2010

“Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4 (The Way Bible)

I can list a lot of desires which I have.

If I had unlimited wealth, I could pay off the bills, fix up the house, quit my job and still have lots left over to give to friends, family, charities, orphans in third-world countries. You name it and I will give it money.

How about my physical body? I could stand to be better looking. I would really appreciate not having all the aches and pains I have. And I so wish that I had a guarantee that my body is not going to give out as I get older, that when I am in my seventies I can still wash my windows, crawl up on my kitchen counter to get the “fancy” dishes off of the top shelf, stand on my feet all day (hopefully while shopping instead of while working).

I long for my family to have all their needs met, that they stay physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. That my kids find success in their careers and in their romantic lives. That my mother never needs to go to a nursing home and that she passes away blissfully in her sleep when she is much older. That my husband never needs to go to a nursing home either and that we pass away together in our sleep when we are in our nineties, after we have reached every goal we have set for ourselves.

And my list could go on and on. But hold it, what desires are those really? Those are things which I want for my body and mind, but what about my heart? What just is the desire of my heart?

A saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing that my Redeemer lives. Living in the faith that I am never alone, that the King is always with me, at my side. Delighting in me as much as I delight in Him.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I believe I mentioned in a much earlier blog that the world’s largest Indian is in Ironwood, Michigan. The giant stands 52 feet tall, weighs 16,000 pounds and has been standing guard over this retired mining town for over 40 years.

I’ve been there many, many times over the years. In September of 1996, Val, Nick and their cousins Ashley and Raquel visited it for the first time.
We took the usual obligatory pictures and one of the kids looked up between his legs to see if he was wearing underwear. About that time, Ashley let out a scream.

Some insect had stung her on the finger, and it quickly started swelling. We rummaged through the vehicles in search of something to slow the reaction and ease the pain. Someone discovered an anti-itch packet in an ancient first aid kit. It seemed to give some relief to the swelling at least, and Ashley fought off the pain like a trooper.

Then it was finally Val’s turn.

Even though there was a fantastic waterfall right outside the door of the cabin where we were staying, we just had to explore some more falls in the area. Giles Falls, formed at the top of Giles Flowage just outside of Montreal, is a picturesque area with a small park and a few hiking trails.

As soon as we stopped the vehicles, the kids took off running, wanting to explore the woods and waters. Val, who sometimes takes after her graceful Aunt Judy, tripped on something (her own feet?) and went flying. One of her knees took the brunt of the fall, but both hands and both legs showed some of the effects.

Since she fell in the red clay that lined the path, we couldn’t tell at first what was injury and what was just stain. We threw a tearful Val into the back of the SUV and half of us headed back to the cabin. The rest of the group jumped in the car and went in search of a store that stocked medical supplies.

Once Val had been properly doused in the shower, I could see that the injuries were not that bad. The red was more from the clay than from her blood. And the tears were more from pride than from pain.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The family vacation. That’s where I went with this blog back in August, and that’s why the trip to the cabin at Peterson Falls is so memorable. The family.

In the 60s and 70s, the family I belonged to - traveled with - was Mom, Dad and Pat. By 1996, that had expanded to include my kids, and my older sister and her family.

When my sisters and I had gone camping earlier that year, we discovered a wonderful place called River Falls Outdoors, which, in addition to renting canoeing and rafting equipment, rented a quaint A-frame cabin overlooking Peterson Falls. We thought at the time, wouldn’t it be awesome to rent the cabin for a weekend and bring up the whole family. I have those kinds of fantasies a lot, but they rarely come to fruition. This time, though, we made it happen.

The Friday after Labor Day we all converged at the cabin on the Montreal River. My boyfriend Himey, my kids Nick and Val, Pat, Judy, her husband Claude, their two granddaughters, and my mom. I would have never thought that this collection of people would get along so well in close quarters for an entire weekend. We had a hoot!

Instead of sharing with you what we did, where we went, what we saw, let me tell you about the accidents. In no particular order.

I can tolerate most insects, rodents and even snakes. There is one thing which I cannot tolerate, one creature which God put on this earth which completely freaks me out.

We were at Black River Harbor on Lake Superior and the kids were wading in the shallow water. Judy’s granddaughter, Raquel, a year or so older than Val, pulled her foot out of the water.

“What is that?” she asked pointing to what appeared to be grains of long white rice moving around on her foot.

I took one look and let out a blood-curdling scream. Leaches! She had stuck her foot into what must have been a whole bed of leach babies and they all decided to have a party on her lower appendage.

My screams brought people running from all over the beach. I was pretty embarrassed by my over-reaction, but when the good Samaritans saw what the problem was, they all seemed to totally understand where I was coming from.

We got all the leaches off and Raquel suffered no ill effects.

Tomorrow night you will get to read how two others in our group met similar fates.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I hadn’t planned on that simple two day trip to Madison turning into a three day blog. But what’s a girl to do?

After the night of the tornado at home, we checked out of the Midway Hotel and headed to the Wisconsin state Capitol building. Himey had been there many times and was excited to give the kids and me a tour. He rattled off all kinds of facts, such as the building is three feet shorter than the United States Capitol building.

We wandered the halls of the fascinating building, sneaking into the chambers for the Senate and for the Assemby. In the Supreme Court we were in awe of the paintings on the walls, until a gentleman stopped us.

I thought, oh, nuts, he’s going to kick us out. I truly couldn’t believe that they just let us wander around.

“I’m Supreme Court Chief Justice Day. Do you have any questions?”

“Oh, no, I’ve been here quite a few times. My dad used to work here.” My boyfriend answered, nonchalantly chewing on a straw.

“Oh, really? Who is that?”

We were in our vacation shorts and tourist tank tops. It was too hot outside to care much what we looked like and the sweat was probably still evaporating from our foreheads. I am sure he was thinking, your dad must have been the janitor.

“Senator Lloyd Kincaid,” Himey answered without fanfare.

“Really? I remember Lloyd. He worked so hard for his constituents.”

“Why, yes he did.” I had only known Himey for a little over a year. At first it blew me away that his dad had been a state senator, but when I met him, he was just like any other guy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I had wanted to go to Circus World Museum in Baraboo ever since I could remember. The romance of the circus, the free-spirited performers, the draw of the open road. Imagine a job where you travel from town to town, every day a new adventure. Hasn’t every kid wanted to run away with the circus at one time or another? Probably not anymore, huh?

In July of 1996, when I was well past being a wide-eyed child, my boyfriend of 14 months took me and my two kids there. I think I got more of a kick out of it then they did. We had to go to the “Lemonade and Popcorn” circus under the big top. It would have been much more enjoyable if the heat index hadn’t been approaching ninety-five.

We got through it though and drove unto our hotel in Madison for that night. Lucky for everyone else traveling through Madison, Wisconsin, they tore down this particular hotel shortly after we stayed there. Last time I drove through that part of town, a Walgreens stood on that corner.

The hotel basically stunk. It was old and rundown and the air conditioning wasn't working. Not a good thing at all in the July heat and humidity. We took the kids swimming in the pool but that didn’t even do much to cool anyone off.
The worst part of the whole night was watching the ten o’clock news. Because our hometown was mentioned for a tornado that had passed by. I immediately called my mom.

“Oh, yes, you better call your sister, because she was at your house when the tornado went through.”

“What?” Nick was incredibly bummed out for having totally missed it.

I called my sister Pat. “What happened?”

She and her friend Angie were driving by our road when they saw a funnel cloud approaching from the west. They sped to our house and broke in through a basement window to wait out the storm. There wasn’t much damage in our yard, just limbs down. But a house a mile away was completely destroyed.

In all the excitement, Pat left her Tenneco Packaging cap at our house when she and Angie left after a few hours. We still have that dirty green baseball cap as a memento.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have I already hit the “wall”? I just could not think of anything inspirational to write today. That’s when it dawned on me; don’t make this difficult, just write what comes to mind.

Everybody has hit the “wall”. Whether you are writing a blog or writing a term paper or writing your resume, all of a sudden – boom – you are brain dead. It happens in all other areas of our lives too.

We need to find the right outfit for a special event and just can’t look at the clothes in the store anymore. Nothing fits or it’s too expensive or now we will have to buy a bunch of accessories because we don’t have anything to go with this dress. We hit the “wall” and decide we just will make do with what we have at home. Or worse yet, we decide we will just not go to this event.

We are cleaning a closet or the basement or the garage. There is just no place to put all this stuff. We already have a pile of things to go to Goodwill and another pile for the landfill, but there is still too much to put away and organize. We just can’t finish, we take a break, and leave it all for another time.

Is it OK to just leave it? To just forget it, to give up? Shouldn’t we persevere and get the task done, no matter what it is, no matter how long it takes and how frustrated we get?

So what does the Bible say? You’ve probably heard the verse about “finish the race and don’t give up”, but there is a lot more.

Ecclesiastes 2:20 reminds us that we are not alone in feeling this way. “That's when I called it quits, gave up on anything that could be hoped for on this earth.” (The Message)

2 Corinthians 8:10 says: “So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't." (The Message).

But this is the passage that grabbed me.

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:1-3 (New International Version)

God created our whole entire beautiful intricate world in six days, and then he rested. Maybe I should dive in and get my work done, so that I can relax and enjoy the rest of my day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I looked at him and he looked at me. We both had the exact same thought, and we both knew it. My stomach fell completely out of my body; someone had stolen the car.

I had started going out with Himey the year before. A mutual friend had introduced us and by the end of our first date we were reading each other’s minds. Though he was from Crandon, Himey had spent a lot of time in Madison, around the capital, and wanted to show it to me and the kids.

We headed south on a warm July day. We stopped in Westfield for lunch and decided to first take in a game of miniature golf. Himey, who plays regular golf, won hands down. I could easily have passed on keeping score all together. The kids had fun, though, so that was what really mattered.

At the end of the course we came around the corner of the Pioneer Golf office and Himey’s maroon Chrysler LeBaron was gone. We were 130 miles from home and didn’t know anyone living nearby. We had plans, we had hotel reservations. We just didn’t need his kind of hassle.

“What are we going to do?” we asked each other.

The kids were oblivious to our dilemma; they just wanted to eat lunch at McDonald’s. We walked out to the parking lot, heading towards the Golden Arches and there sat the car.

We had forgotten that when we first pulled in, we were planning on eating lunch. We had never parked next to the miniature golf place. Himey’s vehicle had been next to McDonald’s the whole time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The next day we packed up camp and set off to find more waterfalls. Our first goal was Spring Camp Falls. The Wisconsin Gazetteer showed a little red line, Camp 7 Road, heading west off of Highway 51. It connected to East Branch Road, which led right to Spring Camp Falls. The book “Wisconsin Waterfalls: A Touring Guide” gave different directions, but they would take us further out of our way. The Gazetteer had never led us astray. Well, maybe sometimes, but it still was more reliable than Mapquest.

Camp 7 Road began as any other gravel road through the woods. But it quickly deteriorated. The tract went straight through a swamp, so when the road was first laid it was a corduroy road. In case you have never heard that term, a corduroy road is made by laying logs across the roadway, especially over wet, lowland terrain. The idea was so that the road was dry, but it made it incredibly rough, and the roughness only got worse over time.

In 1996, this particular road was simply heinous. By the time the logs were coming up under Pat’s Blazer, the lane had become a path, barely wide enough to fit through, branches hanging in front of us and tree trunks encroaching on both sides.

Judy and I got out and started walking the track in order to help Pat drive through. We continually stopped to access the situation, but since it was obvious we couldn’t turn around and backing up was out of the question, we kept slowing crawling forward. We checked the cell phones. Yes, we still had coverage.

“And if we called for someone to get us out of here, how exactly do you think they would do that?” Pat asked logically. She had a point. And we were at a point of no return.

Finally the road, not even an ATV trail by this time, approached a slight incline, at the top of which was dry land and a grassy opening big enough to turn around. Now the question was, do we turn around?

We knew what we had just slogged through, but was it better or worse up ahead? As tired and frustrated as we were, I thought we should leave the Blazer and at least walk the road for a little ways to see if it improved. Pat hated to be pessimistic, but she feared that the trail would get worse, or even suddenly dead end and then we couldn’t even turn around. And Judy? Well, hey, she will have to post a comment, won’t she?

The Waterfalls We Did Find

Gile Falls
Sandstone Falls

Monday, October 18, 2010

In June of 1996, Pat was feeling well enough that she decided it was high time we went on another camping trip and that we should take our other sister Judy along.

The first night we stayed at Lake of the Falls just outside of Mercer. It is a cute little county park along the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. For some reason Pat and Judy went up earlier to set up camp, and I followed after work. Pat told me where they were and I thought I understood her directions. But when I got to the county park, which is not very big, I drove around it several times, but couldn’t find them. Luckily we were not so far from civilization that Pat couldn’t call me on the cell phone.

“Hello? Where are you?”

“Where are you? I’ve been driving around the campground and you’re not here.” I stopped the car along the water’s edge and got out.

“Well,” my sarcastic sister replied, “Now I know where you are. Just look straight across the water.”

I looked across the lake and there they both were waving at me. What were they doing there?
There were a couple more camping sites on the other side of the dam, and they had found an absolutely gorgeous spot. We left the vehicles in the parking lot and hauled our stuff maybe fifty yards onto a small peninsula. It was almost like being on an island.

Go to Google maps and type in “Lake of the Falls County Park Mercer WI”. We were on that little appendage off of the county park road, the one practically surrounded by water. Way cool.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 NKJV

My son was seven the year his dad moved out and his grandpa died. Sweet innocent Nicholas was left without a male role model. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I found out about the Kinship program in Rhinelander and signed him up.

Then, as now, there are always more kids waiting for mentors than there are caring individuals willing to spend a few hours a week with a boy or girl who just needs a friend. After several months, there were no men willing to drive from Rhinelander to Tomahawk to mentor my boy.

Luckily that fall, Nick came home with information on joining the Cub Scout pack. He seemed pretty enthused, so I signed him up and off he went in his blue Scout shirt. What a difference it made in his life. He had friends, he had goals, he had activities to keep him busy. And most important he had positive male role models in his life.

Who would have thought that 17 years later, I would sign up to be a mentor through the Kinship program here in town. My kinskid, my mentee – what a doll. I care about her as if she were one of my own. I’ve heard it said that the mentors get as much out of the program as the kids do. I believe that is true.

The point is kids need positive adult figures in their lives. Even the best of parents just cannot do it by themselves. There needs to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, somebody else they can turn to, they can count on.

I look at the youth of today and it just makes me want to cry. So many lost kids, so many kids who could do so much if only they had the support, someone believing in them.

Jesus knew the importance of our children and the importance of putting them first in our lives. His followers wanted to run the children off, they thought the urchins were bothering their teacher. But Jesus said, no, that children were as important as anyone and that no one was to prevent them from joining him.

Have you been that kind of a champion in the life of a child? Can you be? If you need a place to start check out or

Friday, October 15, 2010

At the campground in Jordan, Minnesota

Jousting at the Renaissance Festival

After months of chemo and radiation, my sister’s hair started to grow back, she gained back a little weight and the only ill effect she still had was that her digestive tract, from the radiation, couldn’t tolerate raw vegetables. The bad memories of the trip to Minnesota the year before had faded, replaced by the good. We decided to try it again, taking Nick and Val with us. We even went for five days, camping in the KOA at Jordan, Minnesota.

There are a lot of things to do in that part of the Gopher state. We went to the Zoo one day and the Science Museum the next. Our friend Phyllis came up from Belle Plaine to visit us. It was all a lot of fun, but you must get tired of the boring details, so let me just jump right into the hurricane.

Hurricane in Minnesota? You are probably thinking. Darn right.

Friday night, Nick, Val and I were all cozy in our tent. Right next to us, Pat was snoozing in hers. It started raining, no big deal. Then the wind started. Then the horizontal rain started.
My tent was leaking. Nick woke up and I chased him into Pat’s Blazer. Val, however, just kept sleeping, and every time I pulled her sleeping bag out of the puddle of water in the center of the tent, she rolled herself right back into it.

Pat hollered from next door, “Are you guys ok?”

“Fine, just wet.”

“Ha, ha, ha. I am totally dry sitting on my air mattress. I told you you should get one.”

“Who knew that its tsunami season in Scott County Minnesota.”

The rain continued, pelting the side of the tents unrelentingly. Pat, floating on her air mattress, finally dozed off. Nick, high and dry in the SUV, surely was sound asleep. I spent the rest of the night wide awake, continuing to pull Val to high ground as best I could. I don’t know why I bothered; she obviously could sleep through anything.

In the morning, the sun greeted us as we crawled out of our hovels to view the devastation of the campground. Branches and small trees lay scattered like fall leaves, water covered the ground.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked Pat, who was still gloating over her dry bed.

“It looks like a beautiful day. Let’s hang everything up that we can and go to the Renaissance Festival.” And that’s exactly what we did.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Copper Falls at Copper Falls State Park, Mellen, Wisconsin, October 1, 1994

Lake Superior at Saxon Harbor, October 1, 1994

We have had an unusually warm October this year. In 1994 the weather was a bit more typical. The first of October was overcast and the temperature was just comfortable – sweatshirt weather you might say.
Pat and I took a ride up north. Not an overnight trip, just a day trip, but those eight hours are burned into my head. Visions that haunt me still.

My sister had been the one who always had the long hair. Even when it hung just above her shoulders, it was longer than mine, all one length, while mine was short all over. For one year in high school, Pat had it cut in some kind of style of the time, but it didn’t take long before her tresses ran down her back again, often in a single thick braid.

When we got home from the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in August, her husband drove Pat straight to the hospital. The Vicodin were no longer touching the pain and the ride home had been torture.

The following week she had surgery to remove an abdominal tumor and started chemo shortly after that. Trying to accept the reality that the chemo would cause her hair to all fall out, she had her long locks cut.

When I picked her up that Saturday morning, to just go for a ride up north, she wore a bandana. It had only been a couple days since I had seen her, but her skin had turned sallow and thin.

“Everything ok?” I asked.

“Yup.” Her jaw was set; the same stubbornness would get her through a lot in the coming years.

“I’m not eating much, yucky stomach, but other than that, I’m ok.”

“All right.” I was skeptical.

We headed to Lake Superior. We saw some waterfalls, I took the usual ton of pictures, and we had some laughs. Finally, though, as we stood at a wayside on a hill overlooking the orange and red leafed trees, she asked if I would mind if she took off her bandana.

“Well, sure, why would I care?” It was only a head of hair, wasn’t it?

If I would’ve wanted to, I probably could have counted the golden hairs left on her scalp. She ran her hand over her head and more precious strands came out and she released them to the wind. I wanted to catch them and save them; maybe somehow we could figure out a way to attach them to her head again. She couldn’t just let them go.

But there it went, foot-long strand after strand, into the meadow, onto the dry stalks of straw that littered the field where we stood.

“It’s better here than in the shower.” She described the wad of hair she took out of the drain every night.

Things had changed; we had changed. And nothing was ever going to be the same again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Trip to the Renaissance Festival

How many incidences have occurred in your life which you look back on now and just laugh? At the time, however, you were either so angry or embarrassed or scared, that you saw absolutely nothing funny. You never thought you would ever see the humor in it. And today when you try to tell someone else the story, you can hardly get the words out for laughing.

Have you ever had the opposite happen? As you lived the event you were in hysterics, tears ran down your face, your sides ached from laughing. Today, you can smile nostalgically when you share the story, but any tears that bubble up in your eyes are not brought on by joy.

It was August 1994. My sister and I had talked for several years about going to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, just north of where her college friend Phyllis lived. We finally made the arrangements and a friend of Pat’s from work, Angie, came along and drove. We were going to stay for free in Phyllis’s basement apartment and just have a fun all-girls weekend.

One problem. Pat had been diagnosed with cancer the year before. The specialists all had hoped that the hysterectomy had gotten all the cancer and didn’t see any reason for further treatment. A year later, though, the terrible pain returned in her abdomen. The doctor set her up for some tests the following week, gave her some pain pills and told her to have a good weekend.

I don’t know how other people function on Vicodin, but it quickly became obvious that my sister could not. Luckily, Angie and I were able to find Belle Plaine, Minnesota, without Pat’s help. But when we tried to find Phyllis’s, we were useless and turns out so was Pat.

We hadn’t even brought along the address because Pat kept swearing she knew exactly where she lived, right across from the school. With my sister in her own little narcotic world in the back seat, we thought, it would still be ok, Belle Plaine was a small town and we should be able to find the school. Wrong.

In the dark, we must have driven up and down every one of the twelve or so streets in town without success. About the time we pulled into a convenience store to ask for directions, Pat’s head popped up in the back seat. As Angie went inside and asked where the school was, Pat, watching through the window, began to heckle the gas station attendant as her arms swung to and fro pointing out the streets we had to take.

“She isn’t even pointing to where the school is.”

“Pat,” I answered as best I could through my giggles. “You don’t even know what state we are in.”

“Oh, you silly, I know we are in Minnesota.”

“Are you sure?” I had to tease.

“Umm, I think so. Unless you guys got us lost.”

Angie got back in the SUV and immediately joined our laughter without even asking what was so funny. Somehow we found the school, and the house where Phyllis lived. We were still in hysterics as we stumbled down her stairs and she just thought we were nuts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Green Bay in 1994

The summer after my divorce was final, I packed the kids, the tent and too much food into my Honda Civic and headed to Green Bay. Nick was eight and a half and Val was just four. And actually the kids both remember this trip, so I was finally doing something right.

We camped at the Cedar Valley Campground in Kewaunee, about a half hour due east of Green Bay. The first night we were the only ones out in the field in our tent. The other campers, in campers, were parked in the trees where they had electricity and water. We, however, were roughing it. No, not really, since the campground had a swimming pool we splashed in every night.

Our first full day of vacation, we played at Bay Beach Amusement Park. The Park is an old-fashioned family-centered spot, which charged no admission and the rides were all amazingly cheap – between ten and thirty cents each. Sure the rides were pretty basic, but what kid still does not just love the Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, and Tilt-A-Whirl. The only disappointment was the giant slide. Nick was too short to ride it alone and Val was too small to ride it at all.

The second day we visited the National Railroad Museum. Nick, if I remember right, thought that it was absolutely awesome. I believe he was still in that fireman-railroad worker-helicopter pilot phase. His glory was finding the MT&W locomotive which had come straight out of our home town paper mill. Built in 1938, it served the Tomahawk mill for years before coming to the railroad museum in 1973.

When we got back to the campground that afternoon, we thought we finally had neighbors. Until I realized it was our tent that had rolled three or four campsites over. Thinking that the inside would air out, I had pulled up the stakes that morning. During the day, the wind had taken it for a little walk. We retrieved it before anyone came along and staked it down.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Tribute

Another Tribute
“Kenny, that was wonderful, but why don’t you have a seat and let someone else share their story.” Mrs. Hanson oozed kindness out of her every pore.

While all the girls in our freshman English class read stories taken from Reader’s Digest of puppies run over by cars and children with incurable illnesses, in a contest to see how many other girls they could make cry, the boys shared stories of football injuries and deer-hunting accidents. Ken Nick, however, who would go on to graduate third in our class, brought in an article on graphite fishing poles. Those of us who were still awake after the first paragraph, gaped at the boy in the front of the room, trying to figure out how this fulfilled the assignment of bringing in something interesting to read in class.

Mrs. Hanson, however, did not miss a beat. It would slay her to say anything the slightest bit offensive to one of her students. She gently cut him off with her usual sweetness, however gravelly her voice was from years of heavy smoking. As Kenny sat down, she nodded her head, holding her hands together as if in prayer.

The papers she returned were filled with smiley faces and “this is terrific”. Well, at least mine were. I can’t however imagine her writing anything stronger than “I think that maybe you meant to say…” or “Webster’s Dictionary spells it this way, but if you were trying to be creative, it could work your way also.”

The last time I talked to her, nearly thirty years after my high school graduation, she asked if I was still writing.

“I’ve just started up again,” I answered, and actually the Christian women’s conference we were at was what had inspired me to put fingers to keyboard after many years.

A few weeks ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on the devotional I had a written, I had an epiphany. I should send the book to her to review and also to connect with her, let her know how much I appreciated her support, how much she inspired me to keep writing.

A day later, I heard that she was having some medical problems and debated whether or not now was the time to bother her. Then my mother called this past Wednesday afternoon. Monica Hanson’s obituary had just been on the radio.

What a blow, what a loss, not only to puny insignificant me, but to her family, her friends and all of the students who were blessed to have had her in class. Granted, she was 78 years young and all those packs of cigarettes had to take a toll. But don’t we somehow think that our favorite high school teacher is immortal?

Only God knows what was in Mrs. Hanson’s heart, but I would bet that her faith was as strong as anyone’s. And that does make her immortal.

“Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:2 (NIV)

Friday, October 8, 2010

In March of 1993, my first husband moved out, and other journeys, new journeys started all over again, as if there hadn’t been a ten year interruption. The quest to photograph all of the waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula began.

As Pat and I were driving north on Hwy 41, just past Bruce Crossing, a sign jumped out at us. O Kun De Kun Falls. We looked at each other only for a second, before Pat braked for the turnoff.

The yellow and brown wooden sign in the parking lot pointed towards the trailhead and announced that the hike to the falls was 1.3 miles. Again we nodded to each other, agreeing silently.

The trail wound through a swamp for a bit before coming out into a clearing of tall grass. The sun beat down on us. The cool July morning had turned into a warm early afternoon. As we entered the forest again it first dawned on us that this might be a longer walk than we had prepared for. It was so worth it though, when we after a few more minutes, we could hear the distinct sound of water tumbling over rocks.

The first waterfall we encountered was short and bland.

“Is that it, do you suppose?” I asked.

Pat shrugged. “It is still neat, even if it isn’t very big.”

The trail hadn’t ended yet so we tromped on. Down a short hill and through a ravine where the trail had washed out, we could hear the sound of water rushing.

We scrambled along the path and burst out of the pine trees at the river’s edge, just at the top of the waterfall. A series of several short falls ended in a plummet to the Baltimore River some 20 feet below.

We had made it and it was worth it, even though we were starting to swelter in our jeans.

“Hey, there’s nobody I around.” I told Pat as I stripped off my pants.

“Look,” Pat pointed, after she had laid down her freshly shed jeans. “There is a ledge that goes all the way behind the falls.”

“That would be such a cool photo-op.” I had purchased just about all the fascinating equipment which I could for my SLR camera, so everything I saw I turned into a photo opportunity in my head.

“I’ll hand you your camera after you crawl back there.” I had a flashback to a similar conversation many years before. Dad had brought home this huge safe, and Pat bet that I could fit in it. Why did I always do the dumb stuff she suggested?

So, of course, I crawled behind the waterfall on a slimy eight-inch sheet of rock. Just as I was in position and about to reach for my camera, my foot slipped. I have no idea how I hang on but somehow I did. The picture I snapped from behind the falls wasn’t really worth it. And the shot Pat took of me is not going to be published here or elsewhere, because – remember? – I was in my underwear.

At the trailhead of the falls. Note that we did find shorts to put on.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tonight I am going to the Thousand Foot Krutch concert in Rhinelander - not really a band I had a burning desire to go see, but they are still pretty good. I am really going so that I can work the Compassion booth and try to get sponsors for all those kids around the world who are going to go to bed hungry tonight. Check out their website . And if there is just no way for you to sponsor a child right now, pick one out anyway and pray for that little boy or girl. It will still make a difference in their life.
Hopefully tomorrow I will be back on track with my blog travels.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back to Colorado

Without fail, Daniel and I made at least a yearly foray back to his hometown of Franktown, Colorado. We went for a few birthdays and most Christmases. I wish – oh, how I wish – that I could conjure up happy memories of those trips. Why is it the bad always stays with us more clearly than the good?

One year when we were there in the winter, Daniel wanted to go up in the mountains skiing. We took along one of his friends and I rode along thinking that a day alone just hanging out, reading in the ski lodge would be all right. When we got up there, they didn’t have ski boots to rent in Daniel’s size. So while his friend went up and down the slopes all day, Daniel wandered around with me, moping, and I didn’t get much reading done.

Another time, when the kids were still fairly little, we went for a ride up in the mountains. Nick and Val, sitting in the back seat of Grandma’s truck, did not fare so well. First one child threw up all over the back seat, and just as we had stopped to clean it up, the other child threw up also.

Coming home from Colorado one January, we ran into an ice storm on the interstate. It was dark and all the other motorists were pulled over on the shoulder, resigned to wait it out. Well, not my husband. We just kept inching along, sliding off the road once. I have no idea how we were able, in the glare ice under our feet, to get the car moving again.

Back in Wisconsin, Nick and Val had no first cousins their own age, so I wanted them to be able to just play with Daniel’s niece and nephew. I guess they had fun times together, I hope they did anyway. Their grandpa Loehmer, my dad, had to seem ancient to them and was getting more and more forgetful. Their grandparents in Colorado were young by comparison and I wanted my kids to know them while they could. I hope it was all worth it.

My childhood just seemed so idyllic compared to theirs. It’s a mother’s daily stress. “How can I give my kids a better childhood than I had?” I don’t really know if the trips back to Colorado had any positive effect. And I suspect that if I asked them, they would say, “what trips to Colorado?”

Nick with his cousins, Jeremy and Christina, at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Cripple Creek, Colorado, once a ghost town, but now a tourist spot.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to the UP

The first and only camping trip which I took with my first husband and son was to Michigan’s UP in the summer of 1989. Nick was three and a half years old by then, full of life and questions. And sometimes answers. He was - and still is – the blood line of his Grandpa Loehmer.

I was a different person then. The first time I had been to this Michigan state park, Bewabic near Crystal Falls, I had been a kid, fresh out of high school. My eyes were wide open to the wonders of the world and my whole life was ahead of me. Suddenly, a mere nine years later, I was so changed. My whole life was no longer in the future it was right there by my side in my husband and my son.

The weather did not cooperate. We tented the first night, but after a steady drizzle most of the first day, we sought sturdier accommodations. Being that it was the summer tourism season, all of the hotels had no vacancy signs.

Finally, as we arrived along Lake Superior and the town of Ontonagon, we found yet another resort, Lambert’s Cottages. Daniel pulled up to the manager’s office. They had one cabin open, a small single bedroom with a small couch, just big enough for Nick. It was dark by the time we were settled.

In the morning, the sun rose warm and red over Lake Superior. The sky was clear. The water was brooding as it usually is after the rain, as if thinking why did I give way to sunshine, why can’t I always be in control of the weather, the world?

I was refreshed, renewed, as I always am when I am on Lake Superior. I thought back to all the times I had been here before. The Lake was always in a different mood, it is so much like me. Maybe that’s why, the older I get, the more I feel its pull. Or with the passing of time, and of people, Gitche Gumee is what always brings me back to my childhood.
Nick and I at Fort Wilkins State Park, in Michigan's UP, in July 1989
(I made the shirt that I am wearing, but I don't know what is up with my fluffy hair.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

I’ve been writing about suffering for a couple weeks, and this passage starts out talking about sadness, unhappy things we encounter in life. But then we hear, “Joy comes in the morning”. No matter what you are facing today it will not last forever. Your life will turn around; God has been listening to your prayers and He will answer them when the time is right. Your life will suddenly be blessed.

Even if you are suffering an incurable illness and leave this life in pain and misery, you need to know that there is an eternal life that is better than anything you can imagine. There is joy in the knowledge that we have everlasting life with our Lord and Savior.

You will wake up someday, either in your own bed in your own house and things will be better for you. Or you will wake up in heaven where there is never any pain or suffering or worries at all.

It is all in God’s hands, and all we can do sometimes is wait until our own morning of joy arrives.

Friday, October 1, 2010

In fall of 1987, I moved back home to Wisconsin with 18 month old Nicholas and his dad. We didn't go bumming too much those first few years, but you know me, I can not stay put for long. And we still made lots of trips back to Colorado.
Sunset over Somo Lake, just west of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, June 1988
Door County, Wisconsin, September 1989
Red Rocks outdoor amphitheater, west of Denver, Colorado, Fall 1989