Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Memorial Day

I wasn’t going to do a special blog for Memorial Day; it seems too predictable. And what can I say that hasn’t already been said. Yet here I am.

This weekend in church, in the Pastor’s sermon, he revealed that he doesn’t personally know anyone who died in combat. I immediately thought of my cousin Ben, which naturally made me start crying, so I thought I should pay tribute to him.

Honestly, I don’t remember ever meeting my cousin Benny. I’m sure I had, but I was little when he went off to Vietnam, and he hadn’t been living around here at the time. Somehow a couple years ago, one of Ben’s nephews was able to find an eye witness account of the day Ben was killed in May 1968. Click here to read it in its entirety.

The account is tough to read for someone like myself with no military background, the descriptions of the weapons and the abbreviations. But when I read the details of the moment Ben was shot, chills run down my spine.

“I saw him struck right in the head from a small arms round from the front and all the poor soul did was raise both hands and put them up to his ears as if to cover them and he fell back into the turret. I was so shocked by that indelibly etched snap shot of death, as I have called it ever since.” P.J. Ronzo

I was too young to remember Benny, but I remember crystal-clear the day I heard that Ryan Adams had died. The son of a co-worker of mine, he died in combat in Afghanistan in October 2009. I can still see the anguish on his mother’s face, his father fighting to stay strong. I can hear taps playing. . .

Can you?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Just Accept the Good Stuff While You Have It

The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3 (New International Version)

A week ago, we received some fantastic news. My husband was offered a full-time job, the first one in nearly nine years. In 2002, the factory where he had worked for over 20 years, the place he had planned to retire from, shut its doors. Since then, he has worked several part-time jobs, plus been my incredible housekeeper. Then a week ago last Friday, he got the call we’d both been praying for.

As if that weren't enough, my son finally got the letter which I had been praying for. UW-Platteville awarded him his bachelor’s degree. I don’t know why it means so much to me, probably because I so badly want my bachelor’s degree, or just because so few people in my immediate family have their college degree (is there anyone?). In any case, I am so proud of him and wish him the very best. Now he just needs to get out there and get on with his life; he has so much to offer.

I want to just bask in this happiness. Praise God that things are finally turning out for us. Then those nagging thoughts creep into my mind. Something bad is going to happen now. What is it going to be? When will the other shoe drop? I try to force that negativity out of my head, but it’s either me or just plain human nature to not be happy just being happy.

Heavenly Father, thank you for all of the goodness you shower down on us. Help me to be more appreciative of all the gifts you have given. Let me accept today for the beauty it holds.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the House of My Great-Aunt and Uncle

Over spring break 2008, my mom, my daughter and I ventured to Virginia to visit relatives. It had been exactly thirty years since I had been there, but as we got closer, the streets of that small Virginia town became more and more familiar. I recognized the house, a low brick ranch, right away. And the smell. It’s not a bad smell, but one I always associate with their house. It reminds me of hot asphalt, but Mom said it was from the insecticide everyone there uses.

I would have recognized my mom’s uncle anywhere, too. Age had slowed him a little bit physically, but his blue eyes were as bright as always, his mind sharp as pin. His wife of 75 years hadn’t faired so well; Alzheimer’s disease had taken its toll. Being ever the southern belle, she smiled and laughed with us when appropriate, but over all, she didn’t connect with our conversation.

Their daughter had made arrangements for round-the-clock help to keep an eye on both of them, assist with meals and housework and whatever else needed to be done.

Val, still recovering from her bout of food poisoning, retreated to the car to sleep. She hadn’t been out there long, when the evening hired-help showed up. Mary scooped Val up and ushered her back inside.

“I found this little girl out in the car. She say she been sick, and the back seat of a car ain’t no place if you sick. I goin’ put her to bed and git her some lemon tea.”

Val followed Mary into the bedroom and dutifully crawled into bed. When it was time to leave for the evening, Val really didn’t want to go. She found southern living quite to her liking. At the time, though, she had not seen any true southern living.

Val, later that day, at the home of our cousin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Curse

Val in the mountains before the curse struck her.

Did you read this blog? Or the one I wrote the next day? You'll need to read those to understand why this is called the curse.

Over Spring Break in 2008, my mom, my daughter Val and I drove to Virginia to visit my mom’s relatives, including her uncle who had just turned 100. We left on Saturday morning, accepting the fact that we might not make it there in two days. By suppertime on Sunday, as we drove into Danville, Virginia, we decided that right after dinner at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, we would find a motel for the night.

The only problem with that plan was KFC for supper. Or at least the sandwich that Val ordered. Hours after going to bed at the Super 8 on the other end of town, Val started vomiting. By three am, my mom and I decided that enough was enough and we dragged my poor daughter into the car to begin searching for the nearest ER.

The night clerk at the motel tried to be helpful, but in the dark of the night, her directions made no sense. We just started driving, hoping to run across a big blue H sign.

The Danville Regional Medical Center is a nice, modern facility, and I would definitely recommend it if you are ever in the area with a crisis in your car. (They were very obliging about accommodating my monthly payments over the next eighteen months.)

It didn’t take the doctor (was his name really Dr. Dan, or was I sleepwalking at the time?) to diagnose food poisoning and we had no qualms about accusing the Colonel. With IV fluids and Compazine running, Val was able to fall right asleep in her hospital bed. Grandma and Mom, on the other hand, dozed fitfully in our hard plastic chairs, our heads bobbing and jerking, until they released Val at seven am.

Monday, May 23, 2011

First stop – The Windy City

Ines, our foreign exchange student from Portugal, came to live with us over Thanksgiving of 2007. The following spring, her parents wanted to come to America to visit her. They thought that the ideal meeting place would be Chicago, as it seems so close to Tomahawk, when you look on a map. And there is so much to do in Chicago for a week (not for me and my family, but for other people).

Once that plan was set in motion, I came up with an even more elaborate plan. That’s just how I operate.

My mom’s uncle who lives in Virginia had turned 100 that January, and she hoped to get out to see him one more time. Granted, downtown Chicago is a six hour drive from my house, and where the East Coast relatives live is another 16 hours, but that didn’t deter me. It made perfect sense to me.

We left our house at six am on Saturday, March 15, arriving at noon at the Sutton Place Hotel, where the Portugal parents and their two sons were staying with Ines for the week. They treated us to a fine dinner at Gibson’s Restaurant across the street. Way too much food for Val, Mom and me at noon on a Saturday, but we couldn’t really complain.

The worst thing that day was driving in the big city. Traffic, those narrow streets, uck. But on this particular Saturday in March, the river was dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, so the vehicular and pedestrian traffic was even worse than usual. And do not get me started on those one-way streets. (Yes, I drove up one the wrong way.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

His Presence

I am sorry that I have missed a couple Sundays. That happens when you go out of town three weekends in a row. I haven't forgotten about Easter, though. I wanted to post this one a while ago, but am just getting to it now.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was. Luke24: 13-16 (The Message Bible)

It was Easter morning and the tomb where Jesus’s body had been laid had been found empty. Everyone was talking about it, including these two disciples. A stranger started walking with them and asked what was going on. So they told him.

Much later, after an extended discussion as they walked, the three men arrived in town, and the disciples, still not recognizing Jesus, invited him to dinner.

Have you ever been in a store, or at an event at school, maybe even at church, when someone comes up to you and starts talking to you? You wished you knew who they were but your mind is just blank? Don’t you feel foolish when it finally dawns on you who this person is? Or worse yet, when they tell you who they are?

It’s true that in this occurrence in the Bible, Jesus purposely kept from being recognized. But do you think that there are times when Jesus is an intimate part of your life, and you don’t see him? Maybe he’s not walking down the road with you in the form of another person, but I am sure he is at your side at times and you don’t even know it.

He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared. Luke 24:30-11 (The Message Bible)

Jesus, Blessed Redeemer, open my eyes. Reveal your holy presence to me so that I may rejoice in your saving grace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Like I need more daughters

As a lead-in to next week's blog trip to Virginia, I need to tell you about some of my other daughters.
We've had a total of three girls from Germany stay with us. Our high school German class does an exchange where our students match up with one of theirs for two weeks in Wisconsin during the school year and then two weeks in Germany the following summer. Julia number one in Fall 2003, Julia number two in Spring 2006 and Verena in Fall 2007. They were all great girls, but Verena totally adopted us and even came back for a visit.
Ines, from Portugal, and Meimei, from Taiwan, at the Mall of America. Thanks to all these international daughters, I made way too many trips to the Mall in Minnesota within four years. About the time of this trip, Meimei started going out with one of my son's friends. They are still together and just came over for a visit this week.
Ines lived with us from November 2007 until June 2008. Like a regular daughter, she drove us nuts at times, but like any other daughter, we loved here unconditionally.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


If anyone jokes about Iowa, they probably joke about Dubuque, too. Doesn’t the name put pictures of pigs in your head? I don’t know why. I have never seen a pig in Dubuque.

In the maximum heat of the summer of 2007, my husband and I spent a day in Dubuque. It wasn’t long enough. My son came over from Platteville for the day and showed us around a bit. We toured the Mines of Spain – a strange name, coz I don’t remember any mines and the only thing Spanish about it was maybe that the heat felt like we were in Mexico. I guess there were lead mines in the area as early as 1800 and somehow or other at that time Spain owned the land around what would become the city of Dubuque, even though it was a Frenchman by the name of Julien Dubuque who settled the area along the Mississippi.

Ah, the Mississippi River. That doesn’t remind us of the French or the Spanish. That makes us think of Mark Twain, so we toured the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Toured a riverboat, saw lots of fish, watched the otters play.

We finished our day by taking the Fenlon Place Tram to the top of the bluff overlooking town. Then we went to Olive Garden for dinner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

the cats

Don't know what happened to Wednesday's and Friday's blogs this week. I put them out and now they are gone. I am getting ready to leave for the weekend, again, and just don't have the energy to post them again. I'll be back at it with bells on come Monday! In the meantime - pictures.
Betty and Fred - Fred is looking way too friendly, and Betty usually is not that aloof.
Alice and Ches - Ches is waaay bigger than this now, and Alice hasn't grown at all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Iowa Countryside

Who really ever goes to Iowa on vacation? Don’t knock Iowa. There really is a lot to see. Of course, if you have been following my travels, you know it doesn’t take much to thrill me.

The summer of 2007 my husband and I took a short trip north and a month later took another short trip south. Himey has a brother who lives in the Quad Cities so we spent one night with him. Good thing, because the car started acting up on the way down and John was able to take it to his mechanic for us the next day. While he was doing that, we borrowed his mini-van and drove to Nauvoo, Illinois.

I couldn’t believe Himey was willing to go back there after the miserable time he had driving through Illinois a few years before. He is either a sucker or a really good sport.

Nauvoo is very neat. If you like Williamsburg, Virginia, you would like Nauvoo. The buildings, the history, the stories. You feel like you stepped right out of the buggy into the 1800’s.

On the way there, we found a cool covered bridge over Henderson Creek. On the way back, we found something even cooler. Ok, maybe not cool. How about bizarre?

Fort Madison is home to Iowa’s maximum security prison. It is this huge ancient fortress, the oldest prison west of the Mississippi. Just looking at it from the outside causes chills to run up a person’s spine. But here’s the crazy part. Someone built a mini-golf course/ice cream parlor not 50 feet from the north west corner.

So do parents in Fort Madison say, “Come on kids, let’s get a hot dog for supper over next to the prison. Maybe we can watch an escape.” Actually, the walls of the quaint food stop were covered in newspaper articles of prison escapes. Very nice décor.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Here is Nick, age one and a half, the summer he spent at my parents'. My mom took a picture of him, dressed just like this, walking through the woods with my dad and his dog. We all just loved that picture. And it seems to have disappeared off of the face of the earth.

1987 was way before digital photography, so you wouldn't think those things could possibly happen anymore. Not in my world. Right.

As I have been sharing all of my travels with you these last months, I have scanned into the computer the pictures of these travels. At long last, in 2006, I got a digital camera. Ah-ha, no more scanning. Don't I wish. It appears that a great deal of the pictures I took between 2006 and 2009, once I had them printed the old-fashioned way, I deleted them from all digital media. What is wrong with me?

Just now, as I was allowing myself to distress about the situation, I read this blog posted by a friend of mine. Wow, just the thing I needed to read right now.

It just never fails to amaze me that God is paying attention to measly useless me. I sure have no right to complain about a few lost pictures.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Scenic Buildings

Every city has their own “favorite son”, someone who has made a name for himself, become famous, someone who has done his town proud. For Superior, Wisconsin, that man was Richard I. Bong. Thus, when my husband and I spent a few days in Superior in 2007, we had to visit the Bong Museum.

The actual name of the facility is the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center. It is a tribute to the men and women who fought so valiantly in World War II. There are exhibits of the Korean War and the Vietnam War as well. It was an interesting place, and would probably be even more fascinating to the military buff. I just don’t like dwelling on things like war very much.

The only other building we toured that summer in that city was Fairlawn Mansion. Now, I now I told you all about this place once already, so I am not going to go back over it. I am going to remind you though, that, there is still a story brewing in my head. Someday I promise to write about those orphans.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Scenic Waterfalls

Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesoa. The next stop on our short vacation of 2007. And another hot day. I suppose I can’t blame all the many other people who were visiting Gooseberry that day for wanting to play in the water, but gee whiz, for the second day in a row I had to muster lots of patience to get any pictures sans tourists.

By the next day we had figured it. We bounced out of bed at some ridiculous hour – ridiculous for vacation anyway – and went to the next waterfalls before eating, or showering, and before anybody else was up and about.

Nature the way it was meant to be – just me and my camera in the woods all alone, seeking out a new waterfall.

At 165 feet tall, Manitou Falls is the highest in Wisconsin. Located in Pattison State Park, it is a short walk to view from either side of the river. The problem is that the view is not that great. I really don’t want to sound like I am complaining, because I much rather have the natural trees in the ravine and a poor angle than have some colossal eyesore of a structure jutting into the gorge allowing me the perfect photo op.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Scenic Superior

I already told you all about my major travel with Val in 2006. So suddenly, I am up to 2007. It is July 29, a Sunday morning, and Himey and I are heading to Superior. I have this three day trip planned, like usual, down to dollars and hours, and Himey doesn’t have a clue.

First thing to surprise him is the big sign coming into Superior advertising the Bong Musuem. I told him I planned on going there the next day. He thought I was pulling his leg. But, just like Himey, you will have to wait a day to hear about it.

We stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park just outside of Superior. A pretty place, but way too many people on a Sunday afternoon. Rather hard to take a decent picture of the Falls when kids and their parents are playing in it.

We got to our hotel in time to check in and headed right back out for supper. We found a little family restaurant, Julie’s, the food was pretty good and our waitress was super. The only problem was it was warm in there, but hey, it was hot outside, so really what do you expect.

The next morning, at the usual crack of dawn, we rolled out of bed and downstairs for the free continental breakfast. If you have stayed at many Day’s Inns, you know it truly a hit or a miss. Some are simply dumps and some are pretty decent. This one – well, it was ok, a little old and musty, and if I remember correctly one wall was a solid mirror, but at least it was clean and we didn’t plan on spending much time there.

We were on the road by 8:45 am, heading to Split Rock Lighthouse. My husband had never been there, and from his reaction, he hadn’t seen pictures either. Split Rock Lighthouse, to me, is the epitome of the perfect lighthouse. Set high on a rocky bluff above Lake Superior, it is the classic cylindrical shape, several stories tall and made of brick. The look of it says romance, history, a thousand stories, some happy, some sad. And my sad story is that with my digital camera just a year old, I managed to delete all the best pictures.