Gypsy's Travels

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Day 2009

After an extended breakfast, our group, now numbering 12, headed for Nathrop, Colorado. It is only about 10 minutes down the road. I wanted to show the children and grandchilden where their great grandfather went to school. The building is privately owned now. It seems to be in greater disrepair than the last time I saw it and the big climbing tree in front has been split by weather or lightning. A relative's house across the street, still stands in silent testimony of the courage of the pioneers.
After our sightseeing visit, we lost 3 more of our group. DS, Tia, and GS-W, left, planning to take Highway 285 to Denver. They will spend the night there and take in a concert of some sort before they fly back to Houston on NYD. Our group is down to nine, all active and interested in what comes next.
We journeyed a few more miles into Salida and found some neat shops. Most were having sales and we picked up a few bargains.
Heading back to THOJAL, we stopped by City Market to replenish our supplies, did I mention how nice all the people are here? Menus and Great Adventures are now planned for the rest of our time here. I think we girls are going to check out the site for tomorrow's planned sledding.

30 December 2009 - Skiing

DD-Ki, L and Ky left for St. Louis today. That is the simple version. Actually, Ki was not feeling well so she did not eat or drink so she could avoid being sick while she was traveling. Poor kid. We loaded her, her luggage, and 2 small children into my "sleigh" for the trip to the Denver Airport, leaving 5 hours before her flight time. We figured 3 hours travel time (from Buena Vista to Colorado Springs to Denver) and 2 hour hours for check-in. We made it right on time. All the security rules meant I had to leave DD at the curb, with stroller, 2 car seats, 3 large bags, and 2 small children. She is a strong, resourceful woman and, in spite of not feeling well, maintained her composure and shepherded her bunch safely home. I had tucked pastries and fruit into the children's backpacks for "just in case."
I enjoyed the drive home, it was so peaceful and the scenery was beautiful. I took Highway 285 out of Denver, all the way to Buena Vista. It was about 70 milles shorter, but curvy and slower posted speed limits. The roads were very clear, traffic not heavy, and the snow-covered mountains and trees were gorgeous.
Just DS and GS-W were waiting at THOJAL, with DS on tap to grill as soon as everyone was back.
The rest of the crew? The remaining 4 adults and 5 children went skiing. They picked up discount tickets for the lift, in town, and mistook Ski Cooper for Copper Mtn Ski area. No problem, a quick lunch, and they all headed back down the road.
Ski Cooper is billed as being "family friendly" and less trafficked than some of the more well-known areas. Our group gave glowing reviews. The clerks at the ski rental shop, still talking about the onslaught of our group, were patient and had a good sense of humor. DD-Kr waited with those children who dropped out of the ski pool early, plying them with hot chocolate and french fries. The rest spent their time on the slopes, slowly graduating from Bunny Hill to colored diamonds. Now we have definite skiers and non-skiers in the group.
Dinner was waiting for our tired skiers. After taking turns in the hot tub, they were ready to turn in. DDs-Kr, Ko, and I chatted until the wee hours.

29 December 2009 - Day Trip to Leadville, Colorado

Breakfast followed by a trip to the laundromat doesn't seem like a great adventure, but try participating in those events with 14 other people and the dynamics change.
The laundromat was actually a fun outing and it was very warm inside the building. There was a play area for the children and a small TV with several children's videos available. That kept the eight children quiet, but the volume of the TV had to be constantly turned down. Well, I guess that is understandable considering that the seven adults playing "Catch Phrase" and were not very quiet. Fortunately, there was only one other person in the place and she preferred to wait outside in her car for some strange reason.
With our clothes clean and dry, we headed out on our day's Great Adventure. We have given this name to the day's activities so we can be flexible in our plans and not stir up a cauldron of disappointment. This day's plan included Leadville, Colorado. Unfortunately, mobilization of the group sometimes takes a little longer than expected, so we arrived rather late in the day. But the drive was beautiful and the roads clear, so we did not have any problems.
I recalled a Mining Museum DH and I had visited several years ago, so we headed in that general direction. Sure enough, it was still there (well, you never know). I wondered aloud if we could get a group rate as everyone headed for the gift shop to explore while I checked on tickets. The very nice lady at the ticket counter told me the museum would be closing in 15 minutes.There was a collective groan of disappoint from the members of our group. The lady looked at us and then suggested we could visit free for the next 15 minutes, but they would have to close promptly. With a flurry of activity that only our group of 15 can produce, we headed out to see all we could in 15 minutes. I led the group to an attraction that I felt certain they would all enjoy, a real mine environment created to give a realistic look at early mining procedures. This is particurlarly informative since we had family members mining in this part of Colorado in the early 1900's. The children went through that area several times before moving on. There was something of interest to everyone and we fanned out to explore more specific areas. There was particular interest in the neon glowing rocks in one of the rooms. I think they may have allotted us a little more than 15 minutes, but we certainly couldn't see it all.
It was icy cold in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the continental US, but we decided to walk around town anyway. Well, "walk" might be a misnomer. The children were happy to be out and while we tried to maneuver the icy sidewalks and avoided going into the shops with our crew, the children kept running around. clambering up and down the stairs, and burning off energy. We stopped for a few minutes to eat cookies by the car (we never travel with out a few snacks) then re-boarded for the trip home.
Although there is a lot of snow on the ground, we are still waiting for it to snow while we are here..

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Visit to St. Elmo

The resident odds right now are 7 adults and eight children. Still, it seems to take us forever to get organized and get out in the mornings. We packed a (large) picnic lunch, gathered all the warm clothes we could find, stopped at the City Market for lunch meat, then (finally) headed out for our "Adventure of the Day." We made our first stop about 5 miles down the road, when W barfed in the lead car and our convoy came to a screeching halt. The diagnosis was "too much OJ at breakfast." A quick clean-up and we were off again.

DH and I had visited St Elmo, Colorado, a couple of times, but always in the summer. This is winter and there is snow everywhere. It will be interesting to go back and compare the summer photos with these winter ones. Today, we were assured the road would be clear, and it was. I was very comfortable driving on the hard packed snow, although not as fast as the locals(?) were traveling to and fro.
St Elmo is an old mining town. It looks as if people just walked out one day and left it, intact.
There is still merchandise in the General Store and "stuff" in several other buildings.
The little schoolhouse has been refurbished.
There are several private residences in the town and, although there has been restoration, some of the buildings date from the late 1800's. The fence sets some of the residential area apart.
The undisturbed snow was quite deep and signs requested we remain on the street. Fortunately, there were not too many visitors, so the children took their sleds to the street and had quite a hilarious time.
Junior kept trying to improve on the age-old methods of sledding. Chas tried to perfect the running start.Twelve year-old Em figured she had the biggest snowball ever, even though she was not allowed to use it.
For some reason, Abs liked to be "one" with the snow - packing it around her.....
...and making snow angels.
Lacking picnic facilities, we had a tailgate party. No one wanted to take off all those snow clothes, climb back in the car, drive to some unknown possible picnic spot, get out and re-dress, for lunch, then repeat the whole procedure.
But Ky had the best seat in the house.
Afterward, we wended our way back to THOJAL, hot chocolate, and home made cookies.

Our Christmas Celebration

                                                                                                               Photo by ABW
We settled in to The House of Joy and Love (THOJAL) on our 26 December arrival. Amazing how much joyful noise 8 children can make. The last part of our journey was through a curvy mountain pass. Dark comes early here, which left us in the precarious position I had hoped to avoid. However, the roads were clear and we sailed in with no problem. Getting to the house itself was a challenge (we could see the yellow house, but the entrance was so snowy and icy that we had a hard time finding it). DS had dinner waiting. We visited a while, then all turned in for the night.

Sunday, 27 December
This is our Christmas Day Celebration. DS, W, and I, spent a couple of hours at the local grocery, City Market, in Buena Vista, Colorado. It was hard to manuever when people kept stopping us to exclaim over 1 year old W. Fortunately, there was a designated store employee standing near the front of the store to direct lost people like us to the proper aisle for our necessary purchases. Everyone we met was super nice in this little town. you think they could tell we are from Texas?
Loaded to the gills, we headed back to THOJAL ready to prepare the long awaited feast.
The conversational level finally lagged as we tucked in to a partially traditional meal - turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, steamed brussel sprouts, fresh green beans, and pea-corn salad. I know, it was heavy on the green side, but we had the things we liked!
Dinner was followed by the sharing of presents. This involves the family tradition of handing the presents out and opening them one by one, a process that prolongs the procedure significantly. Our innkeeper kindly provided a small fiber-optic Christmas tree to enhance the celebration. As the children played with new toys, the adults started putting together a very complicated picture puzzle. When we finish it, we will leave it behind with a challenge for the next group to put it together in less than our recorded time. We have never heard whether anyone has taken the challenge.
The evening ended with several family members soaking in the hot tub. All declined the, sometimes traditional, roll in the snow.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Greetings from Plainview, Texas! DD-Kr, Chas, D.A., and I left , a little later than planned, today. We loaded my "sleigh" with a bundle of toys, food, luggage, and other good things. Just looking at the mound of proposed items to be loaded, was enough to make us falter at first. However, we did manage to get everything in, except one box of craft items meant to keep the children busy in case of truly inclement weather.
We had a glorious start to the day, leaving after the children opened their presents at home. Kr is the navigator and the boys do the backseat driving. The roads were clean and dry, traffic was light, and the boys had new books. A wonderful beginning.
We began seeing snow on the ground as we passed by houses and fields on the way, but the roads were clear and dry. Right around Post, Texas, we noticed snow on the road. It was all downhill from there. We found a roadside park , dripping with melting snow. We made sandwiches and ate them, standing by cold wet benches, while huddling to shelter from a bitingly cold wind. Ham sandwiches for Christmas Day lunch tasted pretty good. We plan to have a more traditional meal and celebration when we are all together in Colorado.
We picked our way carefully along US 84, avoiding the snow berms left by the plows, and maneuvering to avoid cars and drivers who thought they were immortal. Only one really close call as a large pickup truck tried to speed past. I saw him coming and knew there was nowhere to go if he slid, so I slowed and pulled as far to the right as I safely could without hitting the snow berms on my right. As the speeding truck approached on my left, he hit the snowy, icy area, throwing up a large amount of the displaced berm onto our car, The windshield was almost occluded, but the mess triggered the automatic windshield wipers which allowed me to keep both hands on the wheel as I struggled to stay on the road. The truck slid back and forth, until its wheels finally grabbed the road and he moved on.
I managed to stay apart from most other vehicles for the remainder of the time. Almost everyone was driving very conservatively, encouraged, perhaps, by the 25 cars we saw that had slid off the road and were stuck in snow on the sides of the road. We decided to stop for the night. The threat of more black ice on the roads and drivers who refused to acknowledge their vulnerability in the face of Mother Nature's superiority, forced us to choose a safe haven in Plainview. The motel is almost full now and we are looking forward to a leisurely start tomorrow, after the roads are clearer.
Wish us luck.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Angels of Christmas

The Angels of Christmas
Have you seen the Angels of Christmas?
No, not the ones with halos and wings,
No beatific faces with eyes raised to heaven,
No ephemeral gowns flowing free.
The Angels of Christmas
May have dirt on their hands,
They might look tired and unkempt.
Their arms may be full of books or clothes
Or holding a pet or a child.
They might just be listening to a troubled soul
Or offering a helping hand.
They are with us and working all of the time,
But we look with blind eyes and don't see.
Look closely at those around you this year
You might see an Angel of Christmas,
And note with surprise
Is someone you recognize.
May the joy of the Nativity remain in your heart all year long!
Jackie Taylor Switzer
12th in a series

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Karen McCann Hett has been my memoir writing mentor. We are avid about people putting their life stories on paper / blog / tape, anything to preserve the stories. See her website for more stories of people who remember Pearl Harbor. Time is growing short as many of those who lived through the attack are coming to the end of their lives. No matter how far away they were, everyone was affected.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, killing more than 2,300 Americans. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. The attack sank three other ships and damaged many additional vessels. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed. The surprise attack came at sunrise. The next day, they attacked Guam and Wake Island; and the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain declared war on Japan and Germany.

Valerie Maris Taylor was in her 80's when I interviewed her in June 2004.
This is her memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor:

At the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my husband, Jack, was in the Army Air Corps stationed somewhere in the Carribean, Jamaica I think. He had been in Cuba. Pearl Harbor was bombed the day before our daughter's first birthday. War was declared on her birthday. The bombing was a great surprise to everyone. I only had a radio, but it wasn't turned off for several days. I was scared for my husband's life.
It never occurred to me that the USA was in any danger. Daughter and I were living in Baytown, Texas, in a garage apartment. We didn't have a car, so we walked to the Post Office every day to get the mail. If there were no mail in the morning, we went back in the evening. When we finally got mail from Jack, we would rest a few days. Then we would start our routine all over again. Daughter did walk the whole way; she LOVED it. She was 17 months old, when her daddy finally got to come home on leave.
Shortly after war was declared, they began rationing shoes, sugar, canned cream, etc. You couldn't buy electrical appliances. I borrowed an old electric iron from my mother-in-law, and bought an icebox. I had a card to put in the window to tell the iceman how much ice to bring.
I was only 19 years old and had been married for 22 months. I wasn't really concerned about what would happen to me. The real concern was for Jack. I was worried they would bomb the island he was on which was the oil and gas depot for the planes.

Valerie's daughter adds: My dad came home from the war safely. He never talked about his time there but he had the confidence and bravado that is won by those who leave as young men and return as seasoned veterans. He also served in the Korean War and retired from the Air Force after twenty years of service.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Home Tour

Every year the Kiwanis Club hosts a homes tour, the proceeds of which go to charity, Two neighbors and I traipsed in and out of six homes decorated for Christmas and one for Hanukkah. This is always a popular activity so we were fortunate to hit the window of opportunity for fewer people in attendance.

As I understand it, local decorators come in and decorate the homes, then write up the accounts for a booklet that is handed out to advise the public of the decorating schemes. There was quite a variety in decor even though the number of homes was small. One home was done almost completely in red, black, white, and shades of gray - and that was prior to the addition of Christmas decorations. One featured clocks, one had toile fabrics in all the rooms, and another boasted a Tuscan color scheme. There was a different atmosphere apparent in each home, reflecting the tastes of the occupants. Some were quite formal, while others just begged to be enjoyed in a more familial style.

An elderly gentleman in the community does not get out much, but he supported the Kiwanis efforts by buying several tickets then giving them away. Happily, two of my neighbors and I were some of the recipients of his generosity. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour, in spite of the sales pitch at the first home we visited, and left with lots of ideas nad enthusiasm. One thing we all agreed on, was that we love our "stuff," and don't want to give it up for fancy items newly purchased to make a statement. The decorators who incorporated existing "treasures" into their decorating schemes got our votes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Goji Berries and Tea

I collect cookbooks. My children tell me it is fruitless since everyone can go on-line and find any recipe they want. Maybe so, but there are still a few of us who enjoy the feel of a book in our hands and knowing where we can find the recipe again once we have used it. I have graduated from the redundant group cookbooks which seem to recycle all the popular recipes. Now I go for ethnic and specialty books - "Island Cooking, Recipes from the Hawaiian Islands," a small paperback just on different kinds of beans, anything way off the wall.

One of my favourite things to do when I travel, whether it is another state or another country, is visit the grocery stores. While visiting in Colorado Springs, I discovered a bag of goji berries. Of course, I had to try goji berries since I had never heard of them.

The berries looked rather like a red raisin, but had a different flavor. They were chewy, had several tiny seeds inside, and tasted mildly 'blah.' I have yet to add them to something I bake, like cookies or banana bread, but I think that would be an agreeable addition. One reference suggested that this popular Himalayan fruit is often steeped in tea. I added a few to my afternoon cuppa' and found the flavor much more agreeable. The small berries plumped up and added a little different flavor to the tea. Although I don't know if the many health benefits attributed to the goji berry are substantiated, it doesn't appear to hurt anything . So I might just add a few to my tea for the antioxidants, possible cancer prevention, reduction in blood glucose, and lower cholesterol. So much easier than maintaining a healthy lifestyle, don't you think. I think banana bread might be the next trial.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So Much for the Winter Wonderland

My trip home almost took me through Oklahoma City! Silly me, trusting Nellie the Navigation System to keep me on track. She is almost as directionally challenged as I am. Missed Lubbock, where there was a big snow storm, and arrived in Georgetown at 4:30 am on Tuesday. Needless to say, the rest of the week has been a wash.

The promise of snow has followed me. The whole of Central Texas has been anticipating a "snowstorm" for days. There has been a run on the grocery stores to stock up on food and supplies, and winter coats have been brought out of storage for the big event. In truth, we do have some severe winter storms that might last a week, but they are generally in January. In the case of a real snow, schools let out and businesses shut down. We are nothing if not prepared.

Sure enough, I went out about 11:30 am to run some errands and noticed there were a few, fleeting, delicate flakes falling. I went into the garage and by the time I backed the car out, it was really SNOWING! The flakes were thick and fast, blowing horizontally in the wind. Within 10 minutes it was all over and not a flake was on the ground.

Right now, it is windy, cold, and sunny. Well, the day is not over and we are supposed to have a hard freeze tonight. Fortunately, I have not heard word that we will have "Blue Norther" any time soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday, Monday.....

Time to leave the cool, crisp to balmy weather of Colorado Springs and return to Texas. Not looking forward to the long drive home, but there is plenty waiting to be done when I arrive.

I have cleaned the room Em shared with me so it is "cleaner than I found it," baked the lemon pie Gunner requested ( I hope there is some left when he gets home), and cleaned up all the scraps from the curtains I embellished. Just family stuff....the stuff memories are made from.

I wonder if I will find any snow on the way home?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Morning

The weatherman promised, well, almost promised, snow by 4 AM. I woke up and checked out the window but, although it was very cold, there was no snowfall in progress. I waited all morning, checking at intervals, but it has begun to warm up from the (about) 32 degrees we saw this morning.

After a gourmet breakfast of sausage and egg crepes provided by Gunner, ABW and I headed to the AF Academy Chapel for Sunday morning service. I have wanted to go for years and was not disappointed today. The cadets are not back from holiday yet, so there were not many people in attendance, mostly visitors. Nevertheless, we got the full treatment. The music with the pipe organ was superb. Sadly, Since there were so few in attendance, I felt that I was the only one singing because the sound was swallowed by the building. I do want to return and hear the music when the chapel is full and the choir is in residence. Oh, how I would love to be here to hear the cadets sing Handel's "Messiah" on Decenber 4th,

The sermon was very good, concise, and to the point; the first advent candle was lighted during the service; and the added bonus was a video as well as slides to make the salient points. I have to admit, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into adding this type technology to my hometown church. I guess it is the wave of the future in a culture where everyone has something with wires hanging on his/her ear, and every conversation is interrupted by a text message. Just call me old-fashioned.

The day is cool and crisp and Gunner is readying the outside of the house for Christmas with Abs' expert help, ABW is still working on her paper, Junior is taking it upon himself to keep all the doors and windows in the house closed, and I am attempting to help Em learn to sew using a pattern. Everyone seems to be headed for success but Andrew and me.

I don't think it is going to snow today.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Think Snow!

Colorado has a reputation - beautiful, mountains, snow.....

All of it is true, just not all of Colorado is the same. I drove through flat plains headed to Colorado Springs. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, and maybe unusual for this time of year. As I neared my destination, snow-capped mountains rose on the horizon promising respite from the hot summer weather that was just beginning to dissipate when I left home.

Gunner, ABW, and family live in military housing on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I packed hiking boots and sweaters, looking forward to the cold weather, snow, and winter fun. ABW had shared the excitement of weeks of snowfall beginning in late August and continuing through November 15th. I was ready!

My dreams melted like powdered snow. We have had gorgeous weather since I arrived! It is bright and sunny, yet cool. Long sleeves are sufficient for this weather and just enough for long walks. One thing I had not counted on is the thinner air. It doesn't really seem that I drove uphill, but I have been informed we are at 6500 feet. I do have to work harder to breathe with exertion in the decreased oxygen.

Even though it has not snowed in 2 weeks, and "everyone" says "it doesn't stick long here," there is an abundance of snow here in the housing area. Of course, my first thought was to make a snowman, but the snow has iced over and become frozen. So we have the best of both worlds - picturesque "snow" and lovely warm weather. There is a slight chance I will see a snowfall on Sunday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming Full Circle

I have almost come full circle, and there are some happy feelings along with the sad.
As a child, I loved Thanksgiving dinner when any number of relatives, unseen the rest of the year, would arrive for the feast. It was an especially good time because all the women did the cleaning up and I got to play. As a young woman, with a family of my own, I was often in charge of the family feast. My sister and I traded the hosting of the day many times, when we lived within driving distance.

Now, I am visiting one of my children and her family. Our Thanksgiving feast yesterday was well within the bounds of traditional, with a few twists that will ensure they set their own traditions as life unfolds. Gunner cooked the whole meal, asking for information along the way. I enjoyed being asked to "put my two cents worth" in, thus ensuring the continuation of our family's traditions.

We feasted on roast turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, sweet potato pudding, German potato salad, 3 different cranberry concoctions, pea-corn salad, and squash casserole ( provided by a family friend in attendance). Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and peanut butter cookies (that sweet friend again).

Dinner was cooked and served, and the dishes were done. I really enjoyed my role as consultant. The circle continues....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Eve of Thanksgiving Eve

I have always been rather "directionally challenged". Thank goodness the roads run both ways and I can find anything, well almost anything, on my GPS. I was so busy enjoying the drive today that I missed my turn, so I opted for small country road through northern New Mexico (469 off I-40 at Logan, to Hwy 29, on up to I-25). Nice drive, no traffic, the scenery of desolate plains, and ...worst of all....speed limits ranging from 35 to 55 mph. It seemed to take forever and I just knew if I exceeded the limit there would be a policeman lying in wait. No matter that everyone else ignored the speed limit. They are the ones who never get caught,I managed to make up some time on the freeways where the speed limits were often 75 mph..

Finally, the snow-capped mountain range appeared on the horizon. With explicit directions from DD-Ko, I homed in on her residence on the grounds of the Air Force Academy. I only had to show my ID to the security guard at the gate....and let him check the contents of the car. He took one look at the load I was transporting and waved me on through. Probably thought the Beverly Hillbillies were moving in, but it was just another load that included over sized dinosaurs, various collections of rocks, plants entrusted to my care, and various clothes being exchanged by siblings whose children had out-grown them.

The residential area is in a shaded area where previous snow has not melted, but hardened over to form ice. The greetings of my grandchildren were most satisfying. I have a whole week with them before I have to return.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"On the Road Again...."

I headed out this morning for Colorado. Will spend the Thanksgiving holidays with ABW, Gunner, Em, Abs, and Junior. It was a balmy 70+ degrees when I left. It was a good day to work in the garden and my neighbor was busily doing just that. I invited her to continue her labors in my direction, but she declined. "I don't want to trespass," she said with a laugh. Oh well, I will get to it later. Grandchildren come first.

From Austin to Amarillo is a pretty straight shot and the beautiful weather made driving a particular pleasure. The country has fairly sparse, native vegetation, designed to stay alive with small amounts of water. Not enough grass for cattle to graze, but goats fare nicely and I saw herds of them grazing contentedly. Many of the nannies held hope for the next generation. Note to self: check out the festival in Brady, Texas, this summer. I have fond memories of barbecued cabrito from the last visit several years ago.

I always look forward to the various rock formations, many from roadway cross-cuts. The mindless driving gives me an opportunity to speculate on the people who braved the elements to settle the area. This includes some of my ancestors who arrived in the area via covered wagon from Alabama. They tried farming, but most moved on, including my grandfather. Some stayed, turning to cattle raising, but I don't know that any kept the mineral rights. That is unfortunate since underneath the desolation of the land, there was oil.

The sight of the day for me, was the miles and miles of windmills. In this land of wind. that rivals Chicago's "Windy City" title, these huge towers hum with the business of providing "green" energy. Hundreds of them stand on small rises, rotating their three arms. There is no competition on the horizon for these sentinels of energy.
I stopped for lunch at a "Cotton Patch Cafe," intending only to have a light lunch. Instead I had the Monday special, beef tips with rice, steamed veggies, squash casserole, a roll, and iced tea - all for under $10.00. It was a big lunch!

I was having so much fun driving and looking that I forgot to monitor my gas consumption later in the day. When the little gas tank with the nozzle showed up on my viewer, I became a little frantic. The first two stations I pulled in to, did not have diesel. I could feel my anxiety rising, especially when I realized I was in an area that featured bars across all the store windows. Thank goodness for GPS, which allowed me to search for the nearest service station. I could have called to see if they had diesel since all the info was on the screen. Instead, I headed out on fumes and a prayer. My thirsty little car took 20.09 gallons. I can't complain, since I had gone 513 miles on the last tank.

I am safely ensconced in a comfortable room at the Ashmore Inn in Amarillo. I passed on the hospitality hour and opted for cheese, crackers, and an apple in the room for supper. It sounds as if the continental breakfast, which is included, will be more than a roll and coffee. It had better be since there are two boys basketball teams staying here. There are also several jeans-clad people staying, who must belong to the horse-trailers outside. All, however, is quiet on the western front.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Today's Lesson in Frustration

The Frustration List has been extended. Is there no end?

I can't seem to load any photos onto Facebook.
I can't get my photos on to this blog.
I went out to the car this morning feeling very proud of myself for leaving early so I could take care of an errand. The car began beeping, if not frantically, at least insistently, the minute I opened the door. I just knew right away....dead battery.

No problem, I thought, I will take the TR since it needs an outing anyway.

I turned the key in the ignition of the TR and heard a loud THUNK, now it doesn't start.

Woe is me....I am waiting on Roadside Assistance to call and let me know when they can come out. I am not doing my part at the meeting. I just know when things go bad like this, they continue for a while. There must be a "law" for that.... "Murphy's"?

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Gathering

Thirty-seven members of the family gathered to celebrate life. Others arrived later.....


31 March 1922 - 5 November 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

This is Veteran's Day! We owe a debt of appreciation to all veterans, every day, because we live in a free society.

Appreciation is more than just saying "Thank you!", although that is a tangible part of it. Our appreciation should really be in how we conduct ourselves to take care of the country for which so many have fought and died. Do we litter the landscape of this beautiful land? Do we use our resources wisely or squander them? Do we vote? There are many ways we can show appreciation for the legacy of our veterans.

I come from a proud military family and honor them today.....

My Dad - a career military man who joined the Army Air Corps and stayed with the Air Force when it became a separate branch. Served in WWII and Korea.

My Uncle Bob - a U.S. Army Chaplain. Was a POW in WWII

Four of my brothers who served in the military - one in Vietnam.

Brother-in-law - U.S. Army

Son-in-law - One tour in Bosnia, 3 tours in Iraq, and scheduled for Afghanistan this summer.

A heartfelt thanks for the service of all veterans who make it possible for Americans to walk in freedom.
Thank you!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Eleventh Hour

The vigil continues as Mother defies the odds. I have heard it said that whatever you are like in your formative years, you are even more so late in life. Our Mother is a prime example of that. She can only move her left arm, but move it she does, and very effectively.

We resort to modern technology to keep our widespread family up-to-date. Calling each member of our large family every day would be physically and emotionally exhausting. Thank goodness for instant access. One of the grandchildren started a thread of memories. We are all too far flung to gather and share, so we share on the Facebook site where we can still laugh, cry, and support one another.

I remind myself constantly that the fragile shell inhabiting the hospital bed is only a remnant of the mother we knew. Of course, the people caring for her at this time in her life have never known the woman they see every day, as the adventurous, courageous, feisty woman we knew. We have placed a photo by her bed to let them see part of what she was like. It is the passport photo we had taken in preparation for our trip to Okinawa,one young woman surrounded by her seven children. The photo does its job and opens the door for stories as the staff asks questions.

Time is short and our hearts are heavy, but I have faith there is a mansion waiting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Vigil

None of us ever envisioned this - Mother resting comfortably in a hospice hospital bed. She was always so feisty and determined that seeing her in this situation is almost unfathomable. She was felled by a clot in the brain. We must all meet our end, but this is not the end any of us would have chosen had any of us had a voice in the matter.

Hospice has been around for a long time but I had never had any personal experience with it until now. Everything I have heard about it is true. The staff is wonderful, competent , and caring. They care, not only for the patient, but they care for the family. No deed is too insignificant for them. Settling Mother in, I mentioned that she seemed to like having her left hand out from under the covers. They immediately asked if there were anything else that seemed to make her comfortable. It was a small thing to do, but it was significant in indicating the depth of their attention to detail for her comfort.
The staff understands that she has not been able to hear for years, but they talk to her anyway, to provide reassurance and tell her what they are doing. They explain everything to us as we maintain our bedside vigil, come quickly when called, and provide relief for her whenever it is needed.
We wrestled at great length with the decisions that brought us here, but we are convinced that this is the most natural way for our Mother to continue on the journey that we must all take. The pamphlet hospice gave us says includes these thoughts by Henry Van Dyke:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
"Gone where?"
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destination port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, she is gone!" There are other eyes, watching the coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,"Here she comes!"
And that is dying.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Here I Go Again

Time is fleeting....
I am getting ready for my next big trip and haven't finished writing about the others yet....priorities, priorities....

Have sent my passport to register for a visa and am waiting to receive it back. You never know with the postal service these days.

I attempted to make flight reservation on-line, but it was too involved for the time I had available, so the travel agency did it for me. It certainly saved me time, grief, and stressing out about whether or not I would make connections. The price was not a whole lot more either. I did make my own flight arrangements to the gateway city at less cost and better times. Just hope 2 hours to connect to home from an international flight will be long enough.

Oh, where am I going?
It is a bike (bicycling) and barge along the Mekong Delta in November. Meanwhile, I have to get the bike tuned up so I can get in some practice.

In the meantime, I will be filling in on the rest of my trip to Thailand & China....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From the Memory Box - "Musical Noses"

"Somewhere there is a tape of [the three youngest children] playing 'Jingle Bells' with their noses."

Many families are overflowing with musical talent. When we were first married, I envisioned evenings around the piano, singing our hearts out, but no one can play well enough for that. I bought a player piano and that worked for special occasions.

I am not familiar with this tape or, perhaps, I have chosen to forget it. I can certainly believe that they played "Jingle Bells", and probably a few other things, on their noses. Maybe I can find that tape and copy it for their children.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Promises, Promises

We are about to set a new record in Central Texas. We have had 65 days of temperatures in the triple digits. It is not a record I want to see set this year, or ever.

Today, the skies were dark, there was thunder, and the lights flickered. I know that was rain somewhere in the area just teasing us here. When I stepped out to gather the mail, a gentle breeze whispered around the corner. It felt like the air from an oven just cooling down after a baking session. Not much to stir hope for the Fall, but every little bit helps.

Maybe the next promise will deliver rain....a cool front....relief.....

From the Memory Box - "Books"

"You have to read one good-for-you book every time you go the library."
Once a week, I would load all the children into the car and we would go to the library. I put a limit on the number of books they could check out, 10 each, and they would push the limit every time. Silence reigned as we drove home. The children were engrossed in the books they had checked out. I would already be worrying about keeping the books accounted for so we could return them promptly and not have to pay a fine. That was a lot of books to keep an eye on!

As we pulled into the drive at home, the children would complain that they had almost finished reading everything they had checked out. Suggestions that they should up their reading levels fell on deaf ears. Finally, I refused to take them to the library unless they got at least one good-for-you book. At least one had to address a subject that had some substance to it, was hard enough to read that it took longer than a 30 minute ride from the library, and presented enough challenge to keep them occupied for a while.

There were some perfunctory complaints, especially from DS who was in a reading competition at school when he was in first grade.
"All the other kids get to read books that have 1-2 words or even no words on a page. Why can't I?" he complained.
"Everyone has his own abilities and I know you can do better," I pointed out.
He redoubled his efforts and won first place, having read some 200 books in the allotted time period. When his teacher asked what he wanted for a prize, he never missed a beat...."Money," he told her.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Memory Box - "Fur Coats"

From the Memory Box

"The fur coats you got from Chinatown or somewhere that someone from gymnastics picked up for you."

I was so happy to find some other women who were always looking for a bargain. One brought her daughter in one day wearing a nice, furry jacket made of rabbit skin. It was really reasonable, she told me, so I had her get a couple for my girls. Every time the girls wore them, they left a trail of fur. Fur floated in the air and we all sneezed repeatedly. They really were cute, but I don't buy rabbit fur products anymore.

A Song From the Memory Box

No, I have not forgotten about the Memory Box the children gave me some time ago. I pulled one today to write about before I return to my wanderings....

"My reindeer flies sideways, your reindeer flies upside down! A song sung to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, so when you graduated from TWU, that is all could think of as they played that song."

Well, it is true. The children were so enamored with that silly song that it kept running through my head as the melody was played at my graduation ceremony. I was in a long line of serious minded women marching to the front of the church where the ceremony was held and all I could envision was reindeer flying around inside , rather like the silly bird that sneaks into the house through the open door then flies furiously attempting to find an exit.

It was reminiscent of my predjudice against the traditional Wedding March. My brothers had sung the silly version to that tune for ao many years, that I could not bear to have it played when I walked down the aisle.
You remember.....
Here comes the bride,
Big fat and wide
See how she wobbles from side to side.
Here comes the groom
Skinny as a broom
He'd wobble, too,
If he had any room.

So much for Tradition!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Life's Unforgettable Moments

DDKr, D.A., and I went to ChaMo's play this morning at the Palace Theater in Georgetown, Texas. ChaMo was a narrator and did an awesome job. He had a multitude of lines to remember and that job was interspersed with his role as a rat. Well, it was the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin after all. He has been in acting camp all summer and his roles varied from a talking head to Prince Charming.

Kr went to a meeting afterward and I get to keep the boys overnight. It was not too hard to entertain them. We went to SAM's to pick up some things I need for tomorrow and grazed on samples throughout the store. Funny, I think the samples always taste better than the product does when you fix it at home. Perhaps hunger makes a tiny taste seem gourmet.

We got a huge pepperoni pizza for lunch (less than $7.00) and there is a lot left for tomorrow. We cooked it at home and it was pretty good. The boys spent the afternoon playing with Legos and Connectix (or some such). It is amazing how everything turns into a sword, or a weapon of some kind. They were quite creative!

After grilling some funny-cut "ribs" for supper, we headed back to the Palace Theater for an evening show put on by the teen group. Thirty-two teens had been working for four weeks on a "junior" version of Guys and Dolls. The term "junior" just means it is a shortened version. There were only 2 boys in the group and the roles called for mostly boys, so the girls stepped right up to the plate and did what they were supposed to do - ACTED in the boys' roles. They were all awesome. I am always amazed at the talent in this small town and the talent of the staff that brings it all to fruition.

It was indeed a memorable night and for one young (12 year old) girl, a night that will be recounted for years to come. She was dressed in a knee-length bridal outfit and had just come on stage in celebratory fashion. The cast was strung across the stage getting ready to burst into song and dance, when the girl looked down and saw her skirt puddled around her ankles. Her reaction was priceless - a most surprised face. She was carrying a large bouquet with one arm and could not reach down to pick up her skirt. Thank goodness she had on a slip. Girl #2, standing next to her, picked the skirt up and attempted to fasten it somehow while girl #1 went bravely on with her speech and song. Holding her bouquet in her right arm, gathering her skirt top around her with her left hand, and traipsing around the stage to fulfill her role, girl #1 finished the remainder of the scene without missing a beat. What a triumph for her! Meeting and overcoming an unexpected challenge will have far reaching consequences, especially for the girl, but also for everyone who witnessed it.

Yep! Live theater beats movies any day.

I am reminded of a similar occasion when DDKr (15 years old at the time) was leading part of the opening ceremonies at a National GS convention in Houston, Texas. She had been through several practices and each time changes had been made. When the time came, she inadvertently asked the 20,000+ people to stand. About half those present stood, but the rest remained seated knowing the timing was off - 10,000 standing, 10,000 sitting. I sat in the convention hall wondering what DD would do and if she were panicking and what was going to happen. The program moved on and a minute later, when we were expected to stand, this amazingly calm young woman spoke clearly to the group, "NOW, will everyone please stand," and gave them a big smile. Amid the appreciative laughter, I could hear the people around me finally exhale.

Girl Scouts, theater, school - every child deserves a safe place to fall down, pick themselves up, and know they have support to continue their journey to success.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Long are Your Telomeres?

I just read the most intriguing article in my RN magazine, September 2008....I know, I know, I am running behind.

Telomeres are the little caps at the end of chromosomes, rather like aglets on a shoelace. Our DNA, but not the telomeres, constantly replicates, so the telomeres shorten each time. As we age, the shortened telomeres can no longer keep the DNA from unraveling so the DNA stops dividing and we age. Amazingly, telomeres are longer in people who are physically active. Therefore, some scientists have concluded that exercise can delay aging.

This discovery will probably annoy those who were waiting for a pill to cure aging. On the other hand, exercise can be free and is available to everyone, so there are no excuses. Will the government and health agencies stop encouraging people to exercise when agencies discover that exercise may increase longevity, thus increasing the demands on our health care system? Just think, really exercising and drinking plenty of water could be the long-sought Fountains of Youth.

I am off to Jazzercise....

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I don't cook as much as I used to and discovered this weekend that I am getting a little rusty. We had a surprise potluck for our accompanist at church; her baby is due in September. I made egg salad sandwiches since deviled eggs are a popular dish at our church potlucks. The sandwiches were fine. Even the ones I made with the heels of the bread were eaten, in spite of the fact there were two other plates of egg salad sandwiches, and two plates of deviled eggs. It was a high cholesterol Sunday!

I also made cupcakes for dessert.My vision was to to ice the cupcakes, make a nice flower from icing, and put a little plastic baby in the center. It had been a loooong time since I had done that kind of work, and I was never a pro. The cupcakes tasted good and the icing was tasty, but I tried decorating with the newfangled "icing in a container" and it was too soft. No problem, I thought, I will just spray it with some food coloring, put a sort of spiral design on it, and plop the babies in pools of icing in the center of each cupcake. That didn't look too bad. To improve on my improvisation, I decided to make a simple flower outline around the baby sitting in the pool of icing at the center of the spiral on the iced cupcake. It still was not too bad, even though it was a far cry from my original vision. I packed everything into covered containers last night so I could leave bright and early this morning.

When I opened the containers to set the cupcakes out, I realized my mistake! The icing was too soft for the project. The icing on the cupcakes had flowed together during the night, leaving me with lavender iced cakes sporting tiny plastic babies resting in pools of yellow. I set them out anyway because they tasted good and I had nothing to put in their place. Also they were chocolate and I was afraid to keep them in my household for my sweet tooth. That might have been my second mistake. All the cupcakes were eaten and there were several babies set aside near the dish. I only heard one person admit he ate the plastic baby, thinking it was hard candy.

I plan to get back to baking and regain my expertise.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Promises, Promises

I just read a comment by Uncle Dan that reminded me of a family story.
Uncle Dan said "I am always leery of anyone who promises the moon."

One day I heard one of my brothers trying to bribe his younger daughter to do something, He promised one thing after another. I did not say anything, but became increasingly annoyed. Finally I had had enough and blurted out "Well, why don't you just promise her the moon and be done with it!"

He never missed a beat. He smiled at me sweetly and confessed, "I can't do that. I have already promised it to her sister."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Random Thoughts....

We have had a few drops of rain here and it has cooled off....well, "cool" is relative.
Now guess what HEB has on sale....FIREWOOD! and we aren't even allowed to have open fires.

For several years I have attempted to view the wonderful meteor showers that should be appearing every August around this time. I never have any luck. I stood out in the backyard, in my jammies, staring intently at the eastern sky for about 15 minutes. The mosquitoes found me and I gave up. I did not see one "falling star."

Thank goodness for Jazzercise! I have to psych myself up to get out and get there, but I always love it after I arrive. Still walking 2-3 miles most mornings. Need to start riding my bike to prepare for my biking trip. I'll never be a triathlete like the rest of my family.

I have some good ideas for Christmas presents for the children this year. Hope I have enough time.

ChaMo went to a vocal workshop with me Wednesday. He has such a good voice and he is growing up too quickly. I am sure these years will go quickly. He and Em will both be in 6th grade. ChaMo is taking drama and Em is taking French.

I so dislike seeing people chew gum when they are speaking to a group. Did you see the guy on "America's got Talent"? He was voted off. I wonder if others were repulsed by it as well. The next day, I sat through a meeting where the leader of the group led the whole meeting while chewing her gum. I just couldn't concentrate on what she was saying. I kept thinking she should tuck it into a hole in her tooth until the meeting was adjourned. I wonder if this means I am getting "crotchety."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday "W"

A very happy 1st birthday!
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Home Alone.....

All the hearts are settled in Colorado, settled as they can be.

My heart just melted when I put Abs on the plane Saturday, after all she had been my constant companion for the last six weeks. Seeing the world through her eyes gave me a new perspective. I also have a new perspective on her world and the challenges she faces. No, I don't have any answers and I am not always full of patience for her antics, but she just brings such life to this world.

I goofed when I left packing Abs' bags until the last day. I had thought she would be anxious without her accoutrements, so I waited. The good thing was that her cousins, Chas. & D.A. were over for the day and served as a distraction while I packed things up. Abs could check two items and have a bag to carry on. First, I told her that the oversize dinosaurs would each require a seat on the airplane, so they would have to stay here until they could be delivered. Then I told her to bring all her things, including those left behind by other family members, so I could pack them.
The three children made several trips to pile my bed high with all the possibilities.... was an overwhelming task. Finally, I packed the suitcase to sitonthetopandzipitup and stuffed a large box with everything else I could fit in. The bicycle pump, petrified rocks (legally acquired), plethora of books, and sundry other treasures will have to wait. I have a sinking feeling that much of it will be waiting until they move back to Texas.

The children are like little puppies. I think they all roll in the dirt as soon as I let them out the door to play. I gave Abs a quick bath, did her hair, and she dressed for her trip. We had made a quick jacket since she was leaving the 100 degree weather of Texas and heading into the 40-50-60 degree weather of Colorado. Whatever the temperature there, she was sure to feel cold.

I had been explaining everything Abs might encounter on an airplane from air pockets to oxygen, and reminded her that the pilots were professional and she could ask the flight attendants about anything she might not understand. she was very confident, but subdued. She asked a ton of questions at the airport. She had a bad case of the "What ifs...." for a while, a trait inherited from her mother. Fortunately, she stood quietly while I signed her in. She asked questions the rest of the time....
"What is that thing moving in the back?"
"The conveyor belt for your bags," I answered. That led to a flood of inquiries on her quest for information.
"Where does it go?
"Does it make a loop?"
"How will my bags get off?"
"How will they know which airplane to put them on?"
"What if they get lost?"
"Why do we have to prove who we are?"
"Why do I have to pull my shoes off? No one could possibly hide anything in their shoes!"
"What does that machine do?"
"Will it X-ray my bones?"
On and on, right up to boarding time. Then Abs became very quiet and hugged herself to my leg as if she could never be pulled away. Only the thought of her family waiting for her in Colorado, moved her to board the plane. One small girl carrying two bags filled with dinosaur books, colors, reading material, beading materials, and her supper - peanut butter sandwich, grapes, 2 oreos, dried cherries and raisins.
"I am a little scared," she admitted at the last minute.
There were a half dozen unaccompanied minors travelling on this flight, all older and appearing more experienced. Thankfully, a mature young lady about 12 years old, stopped at the gate and took Abs under her wing. Abs never looked back. She was off an a new adventure.

The house is very quiet now. I am not yet accustomed to the fact that there is no one else here and that "quiet" does not mean someone is into something. I have not had to fish Q-tips out of the toilet. I do need to buy some eye shadow since the last lot was turned from caked into powdered, but it had been cleaned up and that shows progress. The TV does not blare cartoons when I turn it on and there is not a trail of clothes and towels leading to and / or from the bathroom. When I put something down, it will still be there when I the same the same condition. I am home alone....for a while.....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When All is Quiet on the Homefront

Abs and I had a wonderful trip. It is rather like childbirth, you forget the bad parts and only remember the good parts. There were plenty of good parts to remember, but Abs does not take "change" well, so there were a few difficult times too. Gunner was supposed to be in Colorado by a certain date, but he waited until we returned before he left so he could visit with Abs. ABW stayed a few extra days to run a triathlon, rested, then drove straight through to Colorado with two little hearts. Abs stayed with me. We dangled the offer of an airplane ride in front of her, like a carrot in front of Goozeberry, as temptation to stay. She will fly out Saturday.

This will be Abs' first flight since she was about 3 years old, so it will all be new. I have been filling her head with information so the ride will, hopefully, be smooth for all concerned. It is nonstop and her family will be waiting. Knowing ABW's desire to always be on time, they will be waiting at the airport long before the expected flight arrives.

My time with Abs has not been dull by any means.
"Don't blog about me!" she says, but we do.
Life with Abs deserves to be shared. So I choose a few things to share. They brighten my day, in retrospect, and I hope they brighten yours, serve as a reminder of fleeting childhood and that people are more important than things....or what someone else thinks.

With her parent's permission, I took Abs for a haircut. She had chopped a hunk off front and center and it was beginning to grow out. She is rivaling her brother's cowlick right now. She had also chopped a hunk off center back, but it doesn't show when her hair is down.

Before haircut

After haircut
"Doesn't that shirt belong to Em?" I asked Abs when I first saw her wearing it.
"She gave it to me," Abs said.
"Well, that was nice of her," I said, knowing Em is not fond of sharing her clothes with Abs.
"Yes. I touched it and she said it now had cooties, so I got to keep it," Abs told me matter-of-factly, but with a touch of sadness.
Abs has really been busy these last 3 weeks with me. She looked positively angelic serving as an acolyte Sunday morning. She has read "The Last Olympian" 6 times ( I offer new books, but she prefers to reread this one); painted plaster-of-paris dinosaurs, colored, and colored, and colored; pasted fabric on a sweatshirt for a project we are doing; strung beads, beads, and more beads; gone to 2 plays; gone to the park, played in the sprinklers ( mud and all); written letters using Egyptian hieroglyphics; built with Legos; played with cousins; etc., etc., etc. Ask her what she did and she will say "Nothing."

"This is a Drakon. It has hard scales and bright eyes, like spotlights. Most have no fire, but this one breathes fire so she can light campfires. She is several millennium older than dragons."

Abs plays quietly in the bath for as long as I will allow. That time has been getting shorter and shorter. The rules are:
  • Don't add water to the tub
  • Don't splash the water out of the tub
  • Don't water the plants
  • Leave the shampoo alone
Without strict supervision, she waters my tub-side plants to overflowing. When I asked why a giraffe planter was standing in an inch of water -
"I don't know how THAT happened!" she said with great surprise.

I shampoo her hair to conserve shampoo and water, but the tub was filled to the brim with bubbles and the shampoo bottle was empty -
"I didn't do anything," she said, "just swept my hands back and forth and all these bubbles appeared."

We are almost to the point of having water rationing here since we have had no rain for 60+ days and temperatures in the triple digits. Therefore, I request that Abs not add water to the tub. O.K., O.K., it is also because she tends to overflow it. Invariably, if I don't check on her often enough, I return to find a tub filled to the top with water, the tap "just trickling" in her eyes, "running" in my eyes, and Abs happily "surfing," and water everywhere.

Sleep? Abs lines up her 10-12 animals just so; snuggles down under 4-6 blankets, afghans, and quilts; says her prayers; then we call her mother. ABW talks to her for 1/2 hour, sings her a song; repeats the song as many times as Abs can commandeer; says goodnight and I turn out the lights.
"Turn the fan on; I'm hot!" she shouts from under her pile of blankets. Taking some of them off is not an option in her opinion.
Abs paddles in to get a drink of water....and again....and again...I am getting frustrated.....

Quiet reigns. I go back to check and find Abs reading. I take the bulb out of the lamp (I learned this from her mother). The overhead light is too high to reach easily so I make threats....
I return later to find her reading by the night light. I promise to remove it if she reads any more. Many people would be thrilled to have their children spend that much time reading. I used to read by the light of the moon

Last night I did not check again until I went to bed. All was quiet, I had left her snuggled and sleepy-eyed, and had congratulated myself on finally getting everything under control. I stayed up way too late and headed down the hall to go bed about midnight. The overhead light from Abs' room was shining brightly and I figured she had left it on after reading too long. I slipped in to turn out the light and take a last look at her angelic face in quiet repose. I discovered her sitting in her bed, fingers fairly flying as she twisted pipe cleaners into shapes "for my daddy." She had made a bunch of "large fish," a large "fish net", a small "fish net", and many small "fish (anchovies"). The "netting" was based on our visit with a Paiute elder we met on our trip, who was demonstrating the craft. It was midnight!

Abs is preparing for her trip to her new home in Colorado. I have warned ABW that, although I have washed all the clothes, and Abs has been wearing underwear all week, now she has none.
There is never a dull moment.

I will miss her, but right now it is very quiet and I need to see what new surprise she has in store for me.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trip with Abs - Heading Home - 5 July 2009

The Elderhostel program was over and we left St. George, Utah, to head home. Abs' family was preparing to move to Colorado and Gunner was waiting to give her a hug before he left.

I decided to make a couple of stops that were not out of the way and thought Abs might enjoy.

Somewhere I missed a turn and missed the weird houses I had seen previously but we did get a closer view of Glen Canyon Dam. Abs must have been a little anxious to get on the road because she declined to take a tour of the inner workings. Of course she did want to visit the attached book shop where we ended up with another book on dinosaurs.
We stopped early enough to drive through the painted desert

and visit the Petrified Forest (free with our National Parks Pass). The Ranger Station had scavenger hunt papers and Abs was all into it. She earned a pin and a patch and learned something in the process.
Abs was fascinated by the petrified wood.
She found it particularly interesting to see how dry the area was and learn how the trees had once stood straight and tall by a big lake that was frequented by dinosaurs. It really brought the entire picture into better focus.
Of course, we are never to busy to watch the rainbow and remember the promises God has made to us.
We watched the sun set as we headed back to our last night in a hotel. We would make it all the way home the next day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Travels With Abs - 7/4/2009 - Kanab, Utah

We left Ruby's Inn and headed back to St. George via Kanab, Utah.

We stopped for a brief look at Red Rock Canyon, before we left the enticing colored cliffs.

Scott Richardson joined us in Kanab to explain more about the excavation and freeing of fossils from their surroundings. He also showed us some of the latest finds. What an exciting time for paleontologists!

Abs holds the "toe bone" of a dinosaur that had teeth at least 6" long.

Scott explains the fossilized impressions of dinosaur skin.

This plaster model is the only thing left of a rare find from several years ago. The original skull was stolen and probably resides now in the museum of some private collector.

Fossils are carefully collected from sites and transported in "plaster jackets." The pieces are put together like an ancient jigsaw puzzle, often without a photo to guide.

They must be carefully pieced back together to tell the story of the animal.

Sott Richardson holds the bone of a dinosaur that had a broken leg. The leg was partially healed, but probably left the creature vulnerable. Many bones show teeth marks and other trauma. Paleontologists can piece together many of the stories the bones leave behind.

We spent a little time in the museum. They had a Junior Ranger program, but Abs was the only one interested and she did not have enough time to finish.
A visit to the local rock shop was a joy for rock-loving Abs. She shops for rocks like I shop for fabric. She did end up with a small trilobite for her Aunt Kr to make into some sort of jewelry for her.
Lunch was served at Frontier Movie Town where there are many old sets from movies, many of them filmed in Kanab and surrounding areas. The sets have been brought to this central location and are fun to wander through and take photos. No charge!

Lunch was preceded by our group's acting in "How the West Was Lost." We all put on costumes and followed the set script while a man ran around frantically taking photos. The photos were available later for $10.00 each. Fortunately, they sold out to doting grandparents before I saw them. I don't imagine I was very photogenic in my Indian garb with camera, and other items I carried for a couple of children, hanging off me, but it was fun.

We had a very nice barbecue lunch. Abs only ate rolls and drank lemonade, I limited the rolls to two and gave her an apple on the bus. I should have tucked a jar of peanut butter in my purse.

It did not seem like the Fourth of July. We were visiting the museum when Kanab had their town parade, but we were headed back to St. George and were assured our hotel was a great place to see the fireworks. That was an understatement! I think the whole town gathered in front of our place and we joined in the family atmosphere. I cringed when someone pulled a pick-uo truck in front of the building, opened the door, and turned the radio up to LOUD, but when the fireworks started, I discovered they were set to the music on the radio station and we felt like we had front row seats. It was one of the best firework displays I have ever seen. A barrage would go off at the park a few blocks away, and while it was reloading, we were treated to another display on a nearby hill. The two sites kept up a constant, heavy stream of fireworks for the entire time. no downtime to wonder if that was all there would be.
Finally, I felt like the Fourth of July had arrived.