Monday, June 27, 2011

Cows and Trolls

Sometimes, believe it or not, I just can’t find what I want on the internet. It kind of distresses me, but then I realize that it is time to return to the past and research stuff via the printed word. Which for me, in this case, is the travel brochure. I pick them up everywhere, so you would think that I would use them once in a while.

New Glarus, in the southern part of Wisconsin, was founded by a group of pioneers who left their hometown of Glarus, Switzerland, in 1845, due to the dismal economy at home. Within 15 years, the new settlers were doing so well that they were able to send money back home when much of “Old Glarus” was burned down in a fire. (OK, that much was on the internet.)

When you are driving around New Glarus, you will notice these statues of cows, creatively painted, standing on many street corners, in front of various businesses. What are they doing there, you ask yourself?

Well, a while back, two New Glarus business owners saw various painted cows in the airport in Zurich, Switzerland. They thought that it would be a fine idea, since they lived in an area already thick with living cows, to import some statues from Zurich. Area artists then painted the cows with appropriate designs and the New Glarus Cow Parade was born. (Information compliments of the New Glarus Wisconsin tourism publication I picked up back in 2008 when I was there.)

From the Cow Parade in New Glarus, it is an easy drive to the Trollway of Mount Horeb. If you do an online search of that, you will get many hits, and some may actually tell you the truth about how the many homely, carved trolls began gracing the street corners of this tranquil village. And unlike the snot-nosed smelly troll from Harry Potter, these trolls are generally good-natured and quiet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Time to kill . . .

In 2006, as you probably know, I traveled to Kenya on a mission trip with my daughter and 13 others. Each day one of our team members was assigned to lead devotions. When it was my turn, I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes 3 and was amazed that every line was something I had witnessed while in Africa. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing those reflections in my Sunday blog.

A Time to kill

When we first arrived at Mosiro, Dave Bell, our team leader, purchased several goats from the Maasai. Every day one of the goats would disappear and would later reappear on our dinner plate. I wish I could say that the goat meat grew on me, but it seemed that with every meal, the meat just got tougher. Unlike the teenage boys on our team, I passed on the delicacy of raw goat kidney.

And a Time to heal

While in Mosiro, we spent two days holding a medical clinic. Most of the Maasai had never seen a doctor before. Some of the most common ailments were upper respiratory infections, skin infections, and eye infections; everyone got treated for intestinal parasites. Cathy Reese, from Indiana, was our physician for the trip, and she worked with two Kenyan nurses, Naphtali and Andrew (shown here).

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Best Laid Plans Always Change

Having traveled between Madison and Platteville quite a bit over the last few years, I had started to get a hankering to visit Pendarvis Historic Site in Mineral Point; the signs we always passed had peeked my curiosity. Our summer vacation of 2008 finally looked like my chance. On Monday evening, we decided that we would arrive there promptly at ten the next morning to take the first tour of the day.

Somehow or other, by 8:20 Tuesday morning, as we were leaving the hotel for the day, our plans changed. We ended up at Little Norway, near Blue Mound, instead. I can’t tell you if we made the right decision or not, since I have yet to tour Pendarvis, but I can tell you that I did like Little Norway. A lot.

Oh, go visit yourself, or at least visit their website. For me, having no Norwegian blood running through my veins, I still felt like I was in the “motherland” as I wandered the beautiful grounds and fascinating buildings.

Bonus for the day was that we bought discounted passes to get into both Little Norway and Cave of the Mounds, just down the road.

Cave of the Mounds is just another cave, but cool just the same. As we were going through it my husband shared one of his deep dark secrets – he had never been in a cave before. The poor sheltered man. Can you believe we have been together 16 years and still he has not seen it all?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The House on the Rock. Again? Really?

Yes, really, when we stayed in Madison for vacation 2008, to tour around the neighboring countryside, we had to stop at the House on the Rock in Spring Green. Again. That must have been the – maybe eighth or ninth time I had been there in my lifetime. Honestly.

I think I might be done with it now. It has gotten way too big. As I am sure I shared in earlier blogs, the actual House itself, latched to the top of Deer Shelter Rock, is still the best part for me. The nooks and crannies, stairs to nowhere, carpet on the ceiling, a waterfall coming out of a corner, books on shelves which no one can reach. I love it.

And then over the years, they added the Streets of Yesteryear, the music machines, the big whale room, and on and on and on. It’s crazy.

Give me peace and quiet and a slow pace. Give me one little House to visit, to build a rapport with. I just keep going back. I don’t know, it’s like picking a scab I guess.

After that long walking tour of millions of random antiques and stray paraphernalia, we drove through Dodgeville, Mineral Point and Mt Horeb. All of which are fascinating little towns, with lots of interesting stuff to see, and darn it, I sure can’t keep them straight. Except that the Mustard Museum is in Mt. Horeb – something that is hard to forget. I need to spend more time in those quaint villages, and less time at that House on the big boulder.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Minnesota Zoo

Yesterday, I brought my Kinship kid to Minnesota and today I took her to the Zoo. We had a great time, but got pretty tired out, and didn't even see all of it. It is a big place! Instead of telling you all the boring stuff, here are a few pictures.
The Puma. Isn't he cool? I bet he's thinking, "I could wipe your puny house cats off the face of the earth."
This is the seadragon. I am pretty impressed how good this picture turned out using the flash.
This is Semo, the bottlenose dolphin. He is 47 years old and one of the oldest dolphins in captivity. He is a tough old man. He lives with his eleven-month old baby and her mom.
And then we had lunch. It was really good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A time to plant . . .

In 2006, as you probably know, I traveled to Kenya on a mission trip with my daughter and 13 others. Each day one of our team members was assigned to lead devotions. When it was my turn, I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes 3 and was amazed that every line was something I had witnessed while in Africa. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing those reflections in my Sunday blog.

A Time to plant and a Time to pluck up what was planted

In Najile, we had the opportunity to visit the garden of Pastor Joseph. He has been sharing his irrigation system and gardening techniques with the local people. Up until this time, the Maasai had been letting their cattle and goats graze free-range, which not only destroys the eco-system, but means that the Maasai are not eating a balanced diet. The ability to farm will help them to become healthier and more self-sufficient.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Gardens

Our first stop, and only stop the first day of our 2008 vacation, was Olbrich Gardens in Madison. The four months I had gone to college in Madison and all the other trips I had taken there, I had never been to the botanical gardens.

Not until we had our foreign exchange student Ines and she wanted to go to Madison to meet up with another foreign exchange student that she knew and we met them at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, did I ever go there. That trip was in very early spring and there was still snow throughout most of the grounds. The conservatory was open, of course, so we took a tour. Beautiful inside, lots of tropical plants and flowers and running water, a great place to visit when winter is starting to wear on you.

In July, it was a different story. It was hot and muggy outside. Skipping anything inside which might also be hot and humid, my husband Himey and I wandered the beautiful grounds, in awe of the manicured lawns, sculptured gardens and splashes of color everywhere. The Thai Pavilion, a gift from Thailand to the University of Wisconsin, is one of only four authentic pavilions found outside of Thailand. A breathtaking structure, it features gold leaf etchings, a lacquer finish, and intricate decoration.

The only thing that hurried our stay was the heat. We jumped in the car, cranked the AC and headed to the Baymont Inn for our four night stay. Only when we got to our room, it was nearly as warm inside as it had been outside in the gardens. Himey was wild. As I fiddled with the air conditioning unit, he made up his mind that we would just check out and find another hotel.

Luckily, just in the nick of time, I found a reset button and soon cool air was filling the room. Another crisis diverted by the always calm wife. Right, Himey?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Madison Connections

I’ve already shared with you my earliest memories of Madison, Wisconsin, and I alluded to a semester of college there. After that semester, I visited friends there a few times, attended a Loverboy concert. But didn’t take any road trips to my state’s capital, until after I met my husband.

Himey has been to Madison a lot. Not only because his father, the former senator, had worked there, but also because he just liked Madison. I kind of liked it too and was pleased to find someone who wanted to take me there.

I knew that Himey was my soul mate the first time I met him. And here is just another instance proving that. A few years after we were married, someone cleaning their house came across an old newspaper, and they gave it to my husband. The headlines included an article about his father, the Senator, and even included his picture. Himey didn’t think too much of it, but thanked the person and brought it home. He was interested in it enough to show it to me. I looked at it and squealed. “Did you read the date?”

“No,” he answered. “January 21, 1986?”

“That is my son’s date of birth. Isn’t that a crazy coincidence?”

He thought it was interesting, but he didn’t freak out.

We had taken the kids to Madison in 1996, but in 2008, we thought that just the two of us would bum around the city and outlaying area for four days. Four hot, humid days. And, just like in 1996, there was an air conditioner issue at the hotel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Betty is finally heard from

"Oh my goodness," Mom said. "What is out on the dog pen door?"
"Is that Betty?" Mom said next. "She is so cute."
"Why, yes, it is Betty, the coolest cat on the property!"
Fred, you all know, is nothing but a snob, Cheshire is just a big stupid boy and Alice - really? I think she thinks she's a dog. She spends all her time with that silly Dino.
But, me, Betty? I am simply awesome. You have never seen a cat like me before. I am the epitome of cool cat.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

There is a time for everything under heaven

As you already know, in August 2006, I had the chance to fulfill a life-long dream, by going on a mission trip to a third world country. I traveled with fourteen others to Kenya, as part of the last Life Missions team to travel to Africa. Our goal was to educate the Kenyans about disease prevention and to share the word of Christ.

Each day one of our team members was assigned to lead devotions. The day I was scheduled for devotions, we had just left the "Bush", the land past the end of the road, near the tiny village of Mosiro. We had held seminars and medical clinics for the Maasai warriors, a people whose lives have not changed in 2000 years, except that now many of them were dying from AIDS.

I had left my prepared devotion and Bible back at the HEART compound in Nairobi, but somehow now at the edge of nowhere, that passage seemed inappropriate. I had just taken my first shower in five days, and all the water I used amounted to two pitchers full, but it was the best shower I had ever taken.

I borrowed my daughter Val's Bible, and opened it to Ecclesiastes 3. I was amazed that every line was something we had witnessed since being in Africa. Shortly after returning home, I wrote a short book using those passages and pictures from our trip. Over the next several weeks, I will share that with you on my Sunday blog.

A Time to be born and a Time to die

While in Nairobi's Muthari Slum, our team members met many victims of AIDS. This young mother, Eunice, was too weak to get out of bed the day some of our team members visited. Whatever food she was able to obtain, she gave to her baby or her other two children.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Earliest Memories of Madison

When I was much younger and anyone mentioned Madison, Wisconsin, my state’s capital, two things would come to my mind. Actually, after all these years, I still think of two things. Dunkin’ Donuts and torrential rain.

In 1970, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in one of his kidneys. At that time, even though the general practitioners in our small town were delivering babies and performing appendectomies in our small hospital, any surgery that involved the “C” word was performed at a big hospital in a big town. Which, for us, usually meant Madison, nearly 200 miles away.

His surgery went well and he was soon home. Unfortunately, a few days later, he woke up in the night with chest pain and difficulty breathing. Mom rushed him to our hospital where he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung. They loaded him into an ambulance and took off for Madison.

Now, I work in the medical field and a blood clot in the lung is truly serious, but the doctors I work for don’t usually rush these people off to a university medical center. They may no longer perform much in the way of surgeries, but they do treat some serious stuff. I know that advances in medicine and medication have changed how they do a lot of things. Another great advancement we have is that we can get people in a helicopter and fly them somewhere if they are that critical.

In 1970, no such luck. They went by ambulance, and the road to Madison was still mostly two lanes. No freeway.

The EMTs let Mom ride in the front seat of the ambulance and to this day she will tell you what a harrowing experience that was. The driver went down the middle of the road, lights flashing, sirens blaring. At one point they got behind a camper with a kid watching out the back window. The kid just sat there watching the ambulance and his parents just kept driving the speed limit in their lane, while traffic just kept coming in the other lane. The ambulance driver, I guess, was absolutely wild. (This would be one of my pet peeves – people who don’t pull over for emergency vehicles. I’m thinking I will some day write a blog all about my pet peeves.)

My goodness, once again I am way off track. Back to Madison.

Between Dad’s kidney surgery and the blood clot, my sister Pat and I got to make a few trips down to St. Mary’s Hospital to see him. (Other than that I don’t think I was in Madison until I was in college.) Whenever we went to Madison, whichever adult relative we were with would stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts for donuts for the trip home.

On one such trip home, it started raining. I have never before or ever since been in such heavy rain. It was as if one monstrous bucket of water was being dropped from the sky. All the other cars pulled over to the side of the road, but Mom kept crawling along.

In the fall of 1983, on my way to Madison to start my fourth year in college, I ran into a downpour almost as impressive. The worst part about that was that my 1974 Chevrolet Caprice had a leak in the trunk and by the time I got to the house where I would be living that semester, half of all of my possessions were soaked.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Virginia Beach

When we went to Virginia in 2008, the one thing that Val wanted to do was go to Virginia Beach. So, after her grandma and mom got to do what they wanted, we all spent a day and two nights at Virginia Beach. Of course, it was cold and windy when we were there, but that didn't keep Val from sitting out on the beach. Us old ladies toured the Old Coast Guard Light House Museum, where my mom bonded with the elderly woman giving the tour. That's ok, though, let the senior citizens have their fun. And actually, it was too early in the season for much else to be open.

And before you know it, it was time to head back to northern Wisconsin, a long uneventful journey.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Historic Jamestowne

Whilst my mother, my daughter and I were in Virginia in March 2008, we ventured to explore our nation’s past by visiting historic Jamestown. Once again it took me a while to figure this one out.

I don’t remember being at this particular place as a kid but I knew I had been to Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in the New World. Ah, yes, we had been to Jamestown Settlement, where the settlement had been rebuilt, along with replicas of the three famous ships which had brought 104 men and boy to the banks of the James River in 1607. This would be the place where college students spend their summers dressed like settlers from the seventeenth century.

Just a few miles down the road, however, is Historic Jamestown, the actual site of James Fort and the ruins of the old church, the only original building which survives today. Excavations continue at the site.

And the best part? It is run by the National Parks department, so when we were at the ticket counter the woman working there asked if any of us were members of the National Parks Service or had National Parks Passes or anything like that. Mom digs out this ragged worn little gold card. “Will this work?” It was a Golden Age pass that she had had since about the time Dad had retired (circa 1980). She hadn’t used it in forever – it’s the kind of thing I tend to throw out when I clean out my wallet.

We got in for free.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bean Sprouts

I finished planting my garden last week. The tomato plants are all in, along with a few pepper plants, zucchini and cucumber. I tried the pumpkin plants in a different spot and they are not doing so well. That’s how it goes; live and learn.

The carrots and lettuce are popping up out of the ground, but you have to get right down there to see them. The pea plants are going wild, as peas will do in the spring before the weather gets to warm. And my bean plants slowly, methodically are making their presence known.

I love it when the beans sprout out of the ground. The shell around their seed pod hangs onto the first leaves which unfold, eventually falling away as the plant grows. Sometimes that shell hangs on, not wanting to give up protecting its little plant. Even when the plant is a few inches tall, the shell might remain.

As a parent, sometimes I wish I could keep my protecting arms around my kids every minute of every day. Just because they are in their twenties doesn’t mean I don’t worry about them as much – maybe more – then I did when they were toddlers. But just like the bean plant, it looks pretty silly for me to be hanging onto them when they are taller than me and out on their own.

The bean plants will have to deal with the hot sun and cool nights, dry days and torrential rains. To some extent I can continue to protect my bean plants, at least watering them when it doesn’t rain, but don’t expect me to be out there covering them in the event of an early summer frost. They are on their own then. Our children, on the other hand, are protected in all weather, from droughts to floods, from frost to heat wave. No matter what the elements bombard them with, they are covered by the love of their heavenly Father.

The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:11, New King James Version)

Friday, June 3, 2011

More about horses

Oh, can you believe it? I am talking about horses again.

No visit to my mom's cousin in Virginia would be complete without a visit to the horses. I don't remember if I told you in a much earlier blog, but this particular cousin raises horses. Not just any horses, but horses who will, hopefully, go on to harness race.

I think that everybody in this country knows about the Kentucky Derby for thoroughbreds, and most people have heard of the Preakness and the Belmont, which round out the Triple Crown. But how many non-horse people know about the Hambletonian Stakes? Or that the race is named after Hambletonian, the horse who would become the father of all Standardbred horses in America? Or that some harness races are for trotters and some for pacers? And do you know the difference between a horse trotting and pacing?

I will not bore you with all of that. You can look it up on Wikipedia, or where ever else you get your odd facts and interesting trivia. Me? Sorry, I looked it up just to be sure, but yes, the girl from Wisconsin who never had much of a life already knew all of this stuff about harness racing. Is it because I have a relative who raises them or just because I was horse-crazy at an adolescent, I am not sure.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just another house

I realize it has been a couple days, but I am still going to finish telling you about the trip to Virginia that my mom, my daughter Val and I took over Spring Break in 2008.

After the trip to the ER, and a visit with my great-aunt and great-uncle, the next stop in Virginia was at my mom's cousin's house. I tried describing it to Val, actually I described it pretty much like these pictures. Val did not believe me. She thought I was kidding or something. She didn't think that we really had relatives who lived in a genuine restored plantation house at the end of a boulevard-like driveway.

I've lived most of my life in a simple ranch containing three bedrooms or less. If I got up in the night to go to the bathroom in a house larger than that I would get hopelessly lost. Wow, it would be worth it though. I love my cousin's house; I always have. It is just plain cool - romantic and mysterious and cozy, all at the same time.