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Lilypie Kids birthday Ticker
Monday, July 06, 2009
I am so tired, so very tired. The summer of '09 is turning out to be quite exhausting. It all started on June 8th. That's the day I started cooking for our big cookout. We had friends visiting from out of town, and we wanted to host a BBQ for anyone who was available on the following Sunday to see them. They had moved away in 2002. Jim has an aversion to covered dish parties. He thinks it's rude to ask people to bring food to our house if we're having a party. I love cooking for parties, so I don't have a problem with this at all. I started cooking on the Monday before and freezing what I could.

Our friends arrived on Saturday afternoon. From that day until Thursday, we had guests at our home every evening. We had dinners and campfires in the yard every day. It was tons of fun, but lots of work, too.

During our party that Sunday, Jim received the phone call from his father that changed everything. That was when his partner, Dee, took the phone from John and let Jim know how sick he really was. He died the following Sunday.

That week was filled with getting ready to go to Utah. This was not a scheduled, nor a budgeted trip, so we planned to camp. I started cooking and freezing again. I planned out all our meals and brought everything as cooked or prepped as I could to avoid eating out as much as possible.

On Saturday morning, Jim, Sera, my nephew, Bret, and I set out for Utah. Over the next 48 hours, we spent 31.5 hours in the car. The week in Utah was very busy. There were some really enjoyable times, but it was also on the stressful side. We decided that we couldn't do that drive over two days again, so we took three to get home. Saturday and Sunday were not bad drives, but Friday was one of the worst and most stressful travel days I've had. As I started to type the other day and lost on the Blackberry, we got off to a late start. Tearing down the campsite always takes a little time, but most of the time was lost trying to get everything in the car. We were expecting a couple of boxes of family photoes. There were more like seven boxes. I'm still in shock that it all made it inside the car.

We finally hit the road around 11 am. Jim and I hadn't had anything to eat. I know that Jim's sister gave Sera some cereal and milk, plus snacks while the car was being loaded. I'm not sure if or what Bret ate. The closest fast-food we could get was an hour away. We wanted to just grab some food we could eat in the car. We'd lost enough time already. Jim took the first leg and the majority of the driving. I took over somewhere in Colorado, I think, and drove us to our dinner stop north-east of Denver. The Rockies are just gorgeous, but the constant elevation changes are really hard on me. I never realized until we visited them last year that I am sensitive to elevation changes. I immediately get headaches, light-headed, and it's harder to breath. Not seriously, but enough to make it physically tiring to me. We'd actually planned to eat in Denver before we realized that the route was actually going to take us around the north-east part of the city. When we switched highways, we ended up going through the industrial section of Denver. Not exactly filled with eating establishments, ya know? By the time we saw some restaurants, I pulled off the interstate without even caring what they served. We ended up at a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.

When we got back in the car to finish our drive to Sidney, NE, Jim pointed out a cloud on the horizon. It was a white fluffy cloud at dusk, but you could see flashes of lightning inside of it. Soon we noticed several clouds like this on the horizon. It was actually very pretty, almost like a light show with the lightning inside the clouds. Within about 45 minutes, the rain started. Almost immediately it turned into a complete and torrential downpour. We literally could not see the road. We couldn't tell where one lane ended and another began. We couldn't tell where the shoulder was to pull off. We couldn't tell what was beyond the shoulder - a field or a huge ditch. All we could do was follow the blinking hazard lights in front of us. Eventually, through flashes of lightning, we found the shoulder and pulled off. The rain seemed to lighten up a bit, and we followed the car in front of us as it pulled back on the highway. We soon noticed an exit coming up and decided to pull off the interstate and wait out the storm. By the time we reached the bottom of the exit ramp, we realized we had made a huge mistake. The road was completely flooded. We'd driven right into a flash-flood. We pulled into the closed gas station at the corner and pulled up next to other cars who'd driven up the slight incline to the garage doors. Other cars followed us in. You could see the water shooting out of the manhole covers in the roads, and the current on the road was moving very fast. The rain continued to lighten up. We watched the road and noticed that the cars were able to make it as far as the entrance ramp back to the interstate and decided to get out of there. Being stuck on the side of the interstate was preferable to being in a flood. Luckily, the worst of the rain was over. The rest of our drive to Sidney was uneventful, but we were already wiped out.

On Saturday, we left Sidney with plans to go at least as far as Des Moines, IA. We wanted to save as little of the drive for Sunday as possible without killing ourselves by trying to get back in just one more day. We also stopped at several of the Cabela's in Nebraska so Jim and Bret got to feed their inner outdoorsman. When we hit Iowa, we decided to go as far as we could. We even briefly, very briefly, entertained the idea of going all the way home.

One of the very great things we had on this trip were our Blackberries. I did start looking for a hotel in Des Moines in case we decided to call it a night. In the process, I found a hotel online that offered a 100' slide with their pool. It was in Coralville, about two hours further east. We didn't see anything in Des Moines and decided to keep going. It was also really fun watching all the 4th of July fireworks displays as we passed by the various Iowa communities. I kept Googling looking for a good place to stay. Finally, we passed a billboard advertising a hotel with a waterpark. It was 15 miles before the hotel in Coralville, so we decided to stop and check it out. This is how we discovered the Amana Colonies. I was not familiar with them and found their story quite interesting. The hotel had rooms available and was priced competitively with every other hotel off the highway. The main difference was that we did not get a free breakfast. Instead we got free passes to their indoor waterpark. Okay, waterpark might be exaggerating slightly. It was pretty small, but it was a perfect way to let Bret and Sera blow off some steam before another day in the car.

We took out time on Sunday with a morning at the waterpark and a few hours in another Cabela's before getting home around 7:30. We could tell the minute Sera truly recognized where she was. She was so excited. She started cheering and yelling that home wasn't too far away any more.

This morning was rushed as I got both kids up, dressed, and out the door. We had to go out to eat because I had nothing to feed them after being out of town for 9 days. No bread, no eggs, no milk, no breakfast. A late breakfast, a quick tour of Notre Dame, and then off to the airport to see Bret off. Sera was very sad. She wanted Bret to stay with us. I had to explain to her that Bret's mommy and daddy missed him and it was time for him to go home.

When we returned home, I just crashed. It was the first moment I just stopped and it all hit me like a brick wall. A look at our bank account showed us just how much even a cheap trip across the country cost us. Even bringing our own food and camping for most of it was not enough to keep it from costing a small fortune. This on top of being treated by everyone as if we were the "rich" relatives who were expected to pick up the tab (hence all the food I brought to help offset this) or people acting as if we were trying to get something was just too much. What exactly did they think we were after? John had nothing. When Jim brought me to meet him, he was so humiliated because his father was living in a camper shell. Not a camper; a camper shell that you put on the back of a pickup truck. Anything of value that he had was purchased by his partner. We never asked, expected, or dreamed of getting anything of monetary value when John passed. What we, and by we I really mean Jim and his brother, went to pick up were the things that John received when his mother died: all the family photos and few isolated items such as the folding yardstick that Jim's grandfather used in his shop or the medicine bag that John had made for his mother during her illness and had specifically told us he wanted Sera to have one day. That was it. There was no money expected. There was no money offered. There was no money received. There was plenty of money spent. It's really sad how death brings out the worst in people.

This post is so long that I don't expect any to read it. If anyone persevered long enough to have to deal with my rant, then you get to hear this news as well. One of the things I've wanted to blog about, but haven't been able to sit down and write about is my weight issues. I know I've mentioned them, but I really wanted to address them. I kept putting it off until I had time to write some big, eloquent post. I can do big, but I don't know that I can do eloquent. It's time to stop waiting and start telling. Jim's active approach to getting healthier has inspired me to try and follow in his footsteps. I'm taking babysteps to his big gigantic steps, but I've been working on it since April. I was shocked this morning (I weigh myself every Monday morning) to learn that I had lost over 7 pounds in the last two weeks. I didn't weigh myself last Monday as the tent didn't have a scale. This makes about 32 pounds since I started in April. I'm not breaking records, but at least I'm moving in the right direction.

Okay, I feel better now that I've typed out my rant. Thank you, and good night!

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