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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Cutting Wood

Bret hard at work chopping kindling for the fire. This is the third fire he's building today. He made one for breakfast, one on the other side of the pit where he's making dinner, & this one that will end up as our evening fire. We're going to make crescent rolls foe donner & later we'll make s'mores.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009
Taking Pictures II (or is it too?)

Mileage - 82.3

We left Sidney, NE about 8:30 this morning. Everyone slept great last night. We all needed a good night sleep. We stayed at an AmericInn hotel. It was very nice with a hunter's lodge theme as befits a hotel next door to Cabela's. The breakfast buffet wasn't bad either.

We're in Wyoming now. We had a slight change in plans. The store isn't opening until 10 in Nebraska, so we decided to go through Wyoming and south through Salt Lake City. This adds about an hour to the drive, but since we left 3 hours early, we'll still arrive in Panguitch earlier. We want to get there before dark as it's much harder to set up camp in the dark.

This does mean that we are not cutting through Denver and we'll miss the gorgeous ride through the Rockies, but we'll make sure to take that route when we go home. The bonus is that Bret can now add Wyoming to his list of states. This is the opposite of how we traveled last summer. Then we went through Colorado on our way to Panguitch and north through Utah and across Wyoming on our way home.

We just made a pit stop at the Little America gas station by the hotel. We loved our stay there last summer.

By the way, digital cameras are a great way to keep entertained on a long car ride.

Next stop - Cabela's at Levi, UT

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Taking Pictures

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Saturday, June 27, 2009
Sunset & We're Done

Mileage - 938

It's 8:15 pm local time, and 10:15 our time. We're all hungry, tired, and sick of being in the car. We're about 10 miles from our hotel. We're going to pick up some takeout, eat in the room, and try to get 30 minutes in the pool for two kids who've done amazingly well on this long day.

Good Night!
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For years I've heard about Maid-Rite sandwiches. I've read about them on food boards and newspapers. People rave about them, especially if they can no longer get them. I've seen many recipes posted claiming to replicate the original. I even tried one recipe. I wasn't impressed. None the less, when Jim and I saw a sign for them in Iowa, we decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Do you remember when Roseanne started her own business selling loose meat sandwiches? Well, that's a Maid-Rite. They're a seasoned loose ground beef sandwich with mustard, chopped onions, and pickles. They were very tasty, if a little messy. They're even served with a spoon. Think of a sloppy joe without the sauce and with the aforementioned condiments.

I know what I did wrong when I made them now, too.

We're now in our fourth, and final, state for today - Nebraska. In 310 miles, we'll be able to call it a day.
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Sunrise & We're Off!

Mileage - Zero

It's about an hour later than planned, but isn't it always. It's 6:30 am, and we're off. First stop Sidney, NE.

Sydney is approximately a 15 hour drive. No matter how much I do ahead, it always seems that I'm up far too late doing one more load of laundry and finishing our packing.

My nephew, Bret, flew in yesterday to join us on this trip. Sera is so excited to have him with us. She was so wired last night. She kept saying she was going to stay awake all night long. We did let her stay up really late hoping she'll sleep a lot today. Last year we took our time driving to Utah. This time we are powering through. It's 25 hours of driving time, and we'll do it in two days.

Since this wasn't exactly a planned trip, we've been very creative. We're camping for one thing. Lodging for $25 per night is hard to beat. We are staying at a hotel tonight and Friday night on our return, but it won't cost anything as we're using the rebate we get from our bank. If we use their debit card as a credit card, we get a percentage back as a rebate. If we use the rebate with one of their services, it doubles. We used their travel agency to book the rooms.

Another way we economized is with food. When we camp, we usually eat most of our meals out. This time, we're bringing our food. In the car, I have boiled eggs, Gogurts, string cheese, granola bars, cereal bars, PB&J Crustables, Bagel-fuls, & Lunchables. In the cooler, I have food that I've cooked or prepped for the week. Our menu includes Pulled Pork BBQ, Shipwreck (a casserole Jim's grandmother used to make for him), Chili with Rice, Chicken Creole with Rice, Hot Dogs, yogurt, granola, fresh strawberries, cantaloupe, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, corn bread, crescent rolls, home-made banana bread, fixing's for blueberry muffins baked in an orange half, campfire eggs, and pancakes. Phew! No wonder I'm tired. Oh, and I can't forget the chips and the stuff to make s'mores.

So as I was saying, we shouldn't need to eat out.

Please excuse any typos. I did this post on my BlackBerry.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Things Like This Drive Me Nuts!
First, I must confess one of my guilty pleasures, reading Page Six.

Seen in today's issue of Page Six

June 23, 2009 --
STEPHANIE Winston Wolkoff is not a granddaughter of jeweler Harry Winston, as we reported here last week. Wolkoff -- who just quit as Vogue's head of special events to spend more time with her husband and three kids -- was adopted by Bruce Winston, one of Harry Winston's two sons, when Bruce married Stephanie's mother. "Harry Winston has only one true grandchild, a son born to Ronald Winston and his wife," a family source says. A rep for Wolkoff said, "In New York state law, an adopted child is treated the same as a natural- born child." Bruce told us, "If my father was alive, I'm sure he would be proud to call her his granddaughter."

The bolding is mine. Kudos to Bruce Winston who has it right. An adopted child is as much a part of a family as a child born to the family. I am so grateful that I've never had to personally experience anyone with this attitude. Anyone who would consider my child not to be part of my family because she was adopted would no longer have a place in my life. My sympathies to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff who can't say the same about her own family.


Monday, June 22, 2009
A Father Passes
Early evening on Father's Day, Jim's father, John, passed away. He'd had a long and hard battle with cancer. He was diagnosed a couple of years ago with bladder cancer. They'd remove the tumors, and he'd be fine for awhile. Then the tumors would come back, and he would have to start over. This was complicated by his severe spinal arthritis. John had been in a very serious car accident when Jim was a baby. Those old injuries caused him considerable pain throughout his life.

The other day, Jim found some digital pictures we'd taken during our wedding. The differences between John from nine years ago and John from last summer are staggering. His illnesses had aged him so much that he could have been mistaken for a man in his 80s rather than his 60s.

John didn't have much in the way of material possessions, but he had something even more important. For the last 10 years, he's had Dee in his life. Dee is an amazing woman and made John happier than he has ever been in his life. They shared a home in Sedona, AZ for years before building their dream log cabin about 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon in southern Utah. When we visited last summer, he would tell us multiple times a day how much he loved Dee, their home, and where they lived. He could not have been any happier.

When we left last summer, we knew it was most likely the last time we would see John. We learned a few weeks ago that his health had taken a turn for the worst. John was not able to admit this, but Dee took the phone during one of Jim's regular calls to let us know. In those calls, John was still planning a big trip to South Dakota in his RV for this summer. In fact, when Jim spoke to him last week to let him know we were going to come see him, he asked Jim to stop and pick up some Winchester shells for him. He was still fighting the fight.

Unfortunately, John didn't make it until we got there. It's bittersweet as we would have loved to say goodbye, but he was in so much pain at the end that we're happy that has ended for him. Our trip is still on. We'll be camping at the campgrounds near John & Dee's home. Jim's brother is going to try to join us camping. The kids will be able to spend some time together and the brothers will help Dee handle John's final affairs.

We'll also be bringing some of John's prized possesions home with us. Things of value only to him and to us. The boxes of family photos that used up hours of our visit. As Jim pulled each photo out, John would regale us with stories from the past. There are a few items from Jim's grandmother, like the medicine bag John made for her, that John pointed out on his last visit saying he wanted Sera to have them. He has an extensive collection of guns, knives, John Deere collectibles, model car collections, etc... We'll leave those for Dee as he collected them with her. If they have any value, it's only fair that she recoup it. Dee also told us that he had spent a lot of time before his health worsened making two revolvers: one for each of his sons. We're not gun afficianadoes, but I'm sure Jim will put his father's final gift somewhere safe that will honor it.

It will be a bittersweet trip. It's never easy when you have to go and wrap up someone's life, but it will also be a celebration of that life. We will go to John's favorite place in the world. We will camp, one of his favorite activities, and we will have his grandchildren around us to remind us all to laugh and smile and enjoy our lives. He spent his final years living his dream. I think it's a great reminder to all of us to live our dreams every day.


Saturday, June 20, 2009
Circle of Life

We've just wrapped up an incredibly busy week. One of Jim's oldest friends was visiting for the week. Carl and his wife, Mari, moved away in 2002. Since then, they've had two boys: Elliot, 5 and Linus, 2. They arrived in town Saturday afternoon. Mari was attending a conference that would have her busy from 9-9 each day. We met them that night for dinner and ice cream. Then we headed back to our house to build a campfire in the fire ring Jim installed in our backyard. The kids hit it off instantly and played hard all night.

On Sunday, we hosted a BBQ for members of the old gang to reunite. We scheduled it for 1 pm; the first guest arrived at noon. I had made pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, brownies, and strawberry cheesecake trifle. We also had cheese & crackers, veggie trays, and chips & salsa. Jim had the grill fired up and had freshly ground hamburgers, giant kosher hot dogs, freshly made brats, and chicken breasts to choose from. He also set up a gazebo where we set up a buffet line. Our friend, Eric, brought another gazebo, and we set up the tables and chairs. We had about 15 adults and 5 children under 5. The party ended around 10:30 pm.

On Monday morning, Sera had her first swimming lesson, and that evening about half of the party guests returned to help eat leftovers. Tuesday was another swimming lesson, and out with Carl & family for Chinese before going back for the 4th campfire night in a row. On Wednesday, we had swimming lessons, playgroup, a three hour nap, ballet lessons, and all the gang back at our house for pizza and a fire. Thursday had me at an all day workshop then hanging out with Elliot, Linus, & Sera while the men went to see Star Trek. After another fire, we said a sad goodbye to Carl, Elliot, and Linus. Friday was another workshop for me, and then we all relaxed at home last night.

While hanging out, Sera asked to watch Finding Nemo. Since we'd already watched it twice this week, I started naming other suggestions. She said no to all until I got to The Lion King. It wasn't until it started that I realized this choice might not have been the right one. On the other hand, maybe it was.

This was a hard movie for Sera to watch, yet she wouldn't let me turn it off. She didn't understand how Simba's Uncle Scar could be mean. She didn't understand why his daddy didn't get up. Parts of it scared her; parts of it made her laugh. She recognized Nala from one of her books.

This isn't the first movie she's seen that has had a death in it, but I don't think she's ever caught on that the wicked Queen dies in Snow White. She still doesn't really understand what death means, but she did understand that Simba's daddy was hurt very badly and couldn't get up.

The timeliness of this subject is what makes me think it may have been the right choice after all. Last July, we made a huge cross country trip. It's main purpose was to spend some time with Jim's father as he'd been battling cancer for some time. About two weeks ago, we learned that his prognosis had taken a turn for the worse. We've been working on some last minute plans to get back out to Utah. My nephew, Bret, is flying in to travel with us as we'll be camping near Bryce Mountain. We're going to power drive there next weekend as Jim only has one week off between summer school sessions. Our plans included giving Jim time to spend with his father while helping his wife, Dee, who has been taking care of him. Bret, Sera, and I would spend some time at the house, but I'll also take them to Bryce Mountain to do whatever we find to do.

While in the middle of typing this post, we received word that John has reached the final stage. His nurse said it could be hours, it could be days, but the end has arrived. We'll be there to help Dee handle the arrangements, but maybe it's best that our final memories will be of the man who was proud to see his son and thrilled to meet his granddaughter.


Thursday, June 11, 2009
Last weekend was the 30th reunion of my high school class. I've been looking over all the pictures on Facebook.

I've never been to one of my high school reunions. I remember hearing about the 10 year reunion, but I don't remember why I didn't go. It probably seemed too early to me. I'm sure I didn't think I'd been "successful" enough to go back.

I moved to Indiana about the time of my 20th reunion, literally. I moved up here around Memorial Day weekend. The reunion would have been in early June. When the 25th came around, we were in raising money for adoption mode. I wouldn't have made the long & expensive trip down there. Now it's my 30th, and I didn't really think about going.

It's funny because in the last few months, I've become Facebook friends with many of my old classmates. I was very happy to see they had posted so many photos in the last few days, and I have spent hours looking over them.

They've given me the oddest feelings. I look at these faces. Some are familiar; most are not. I look at the names. Same thing. For the most part I think who are these people? I don't even know what I would say to them if I'd gone. I'm sure they're all very nice, I just don't know them. How can we have gone to school together for three years?

The other day I exchanged messages with the one friend from high school with whom I am still in contact. She didn't attend either. We're both in the midwest and our Florida high school is quite the trip. I told her that the feeling I had when I looked at all the pictures was that I would have felt strange and out of place at the reunion. Then I laughed as I realized that I pretty much felt strange and out of place in high school. No wonder those are the feelings that came up.

My high school was the 10th school I attended (I think, I feel like I'm leaving some place out). I was pretty used to being the new kid in the school, and I was again. The first few months saw me spending a lot of time in the library, but soon I made my group of friends. I had a great group of friends in high school. I became very involved in drama and felt like I had a pretty good high school experience. Yet I see those faces and wonder why I don't remember more about them?

I left that town about a year after I graduated from high school. There was nothing wrong with the town other than it didn't fit the wanderlust that had hit me. I wanted more excitement, but then who doesn't at 19?

Most people remain connected to a town through friends and family. By the time my 10th reunion was scheduled, I'd lost touch with all of my high school friends, except for Lori, and everyone in my family had moved away. There was nothing to bring me back.

I'm sad about that.

When I look at the photos of people having a good time reminiscing and reconnecting, I envy them. The curse of the nomadic life that I've led is that you leave people behind, and it becomes too easy to keep doing that.

If you give me a week's notice, I could be packed and ready to move anywhere. It used to only be a few day's notice, but a husband and child add a lot of baggage. I would move on without a second glance and start over (as long as that husband and child were with me).

Though some might consider this an admirable trait, I'm no longer as proud of this ability as I used to be.

I now find myself envying those who have long, deep ties to a community. I envy those who live near family, who have generations of roots surrounding them, who still know their best friend from kindergarten, who have a support system who could be at their side within moments, and who can also be right there to support their loved ones as well.

I've now lived in this community for 10 years. This is the longest I've ever lived anywhere in my entire life. Prior to this, the record was 5 years. Obviously, this is also the longest I've ever worked at the same job. What's odd though is that somewhere along the way, I quit assimilating.

With so many new schools, new towns, new jobs, etc..., I became quite the expert in finding my group and making friends. I can't do it anymore. I forgot how. Don't get me wrong, I know quite a few people around here. In fact, I've met some wonderful people around here. But I find that I keep them at arm's length. I'm sure there's some deep psychological reason. Maybe I've had to say good-bye to too many best friends, so I just don't let myself have one anymore. I miss having a best friend. I miss having a girlfriend I could call at any time who would meet me somewhere for a drink or an ice cream binge where we moaned and groaned about our lives.

In my life now, my husband is truly my best friend. When I need my girl bonding, I have my sisters. But since none of them live within a 12-hour drive, it doesn't really completely fill that best girlfriend need.

Wow, I have meandered everywhere. This post started with my high school reunion and ended with me missing having girlfriends. Oh well, I guess this is what happens when I quit posting for a while. Everything gets all bottled up, and then I purge.

I don't know the answers. I'm not even sure I know the questions. I do, however, wish I had gotten to know so many of those faces from my high school better. I wish I had let them get to know me. I wonder how many of them even remember me?


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