Friday, August 29, 2014

In Which I Arrive an Hour and a Half Late for My Daughter’s Wedding Reception

Not the actual wedding reception but a separate reception hosted by Dayton’s family last weekend. 


Two aunts on the left, Grandmother on the right

I have a reputation for being late but outdid myself this time. How does one nonchalantly walk into a room of mostly strangers, and hope it’s not obvious that I don’t have it all together? That I had  told Google Maps to find the shortest distance route not the shortest time? I hoped a lot of people would be standing around talking, and I could slip in the back unnoticed.

No such luck. This was a small reception. We walked in at the front of the room with everyone sitting down, all eyes on us, and Dayton’s aunt jumped up and said, “Oh, you made it.” Very embarrassing. Kindness all around. Nobody blunt enough to say, “You nincompoop. Who would be stupid enough to almost miss what you drove 350 miles for?”

I’d originally declined the invitation. Between a wedding, vacation, and house projects, we’ve had a busy summer. But I had to drive to LaCrosse so decided the extra 150 miles were worth it to get to know Dayton’s family better.

So how did I, someone who's been driving for 38 years, make a mistake of such epic proportions? For starters, not giving trip planning serious thought. I had to be in Aplington, Iowa, by 6:30 Friday night. I’d driven through Aplington 15 years ago so vaguely knew its location. Iowa is mostly laid out in a mile grid so if you know the general direction, you’ll get there sooner or later.

Later, as in my case. 

Since another daughter had our GPS, I googled directions on my iPad. Google maps estimated a six and a half hour travel time. Lani and I left Northern Wisconsin at 10 a.m., thinking we had wiggle room.

We headed south, relaxed and looking forward to shopping and eating our way down to Aplington. We were taking our old dishwasher to Kiah and Dayton, which unfortunately filled up the back of my small Pontiac Vibe and almost completely blocked my rear view. When  I needed to back up, Lani had to get out of the car to give me back up signals.




Lani had stayed up to 3 a.m. the night before so planned to sleep in the car. However, I needed a navigator and being the only passenger, she was it. She sighed, picked up the iPad, and told me where to turn.

Beautiful day, good company, pretty scenery. After stopping at a bakery and thrift store, I noticed the time and realized we had used up our margin and shouldn’t make further unnecessary stops.

Google Maps listed two options: Duluth, then south on I-35 most of the way. (Boring and monotonous) or US-63 diagonally through Western Wisconsin (very pretty). Being my father's daughter, I chose the scenic route.

Three hours into the trip, Lani accidentally lost the iPad directions. Without internet, I couldn’t get them back. We found a McDonalds and sat in their parking lot to use their free Wi-fi to pull up the map again. 


We continued south and I suggested Lani screenshot the directions in case she accidentally lost the screen again, we’d still have them. Lani looked over with a sheepish grin and said, “Too late.” Seriously? She had lost the directions twice in twenty minutes. Sigh.

Tired of listening umpteen times to Lani's Viva la Vida CD by Coldplay, I found an oldies radio station while driving through Lake City, Minnesota. I was transported back to high school when I was young and didn't have the responsibility or pressure of timing road trips.

I generously provided Lani with useful bits of information. "These are the Beach Boys. They're an American classic. It's important to know who they are. This is Journey, the same group that sings "Don't Stop Believing." The Eagles song, "Best of My Love" always made me sad. Yes, I know this sounds like a woman singing, but the Bee Gees are three brothers. After an hour, Lani was tired of music history lessons and popped the Coldplay CD back in.

We kept driving and hoped to see another McDonalds. Unfortunately after US-63 crosses 
I-94, there’s not another obvious McDonalds until 80 miles later in Rochester. I started mentally kicking myself. I should have brought a Wisconsin map. Or an atlas. Or a child who knew how to navigate. In self-defense, Lani reminded me that she’s the youngest and had never had to navigate before. She usually sleeps or reads on road trips.

A car search found maps of Michigan (useless for this trip) and Minnesota which was useful for the 80 miles we were in Minnesota. We could either find a McDonalds in busy Rochester, or call Keith who would use that tone to give directions.

Thankfully a third option presented itself. Dayton called and gave us directions from Rochester. I promptly somehow turned east on I-90 instead of west.

After turning round five miles later, we were on the way again. We exited I-90 at Dexter, Minnesota, and drove south through Iowa corn and soybean fields and an occasional small town. I turned left when I should have turned right. We missed turns and got turned around. So much for being easy to find places in Iowa. 

Dayton called at 6:22 to check our progress and said we still had an hour and a half. What? Nothing sucks the fun out of a road trip more than knowing short of a life flight helicopter or a Star Trek Transporter, we had no chance of arriving on time. We bought a small bag of Doritos at the nearest convenience store to console ourselves.

While buying Doritos, I saw a wonderful, easy to understand, compact, laminated Iowa map but balked at the eight dollar price tag. I refused to spend that much when I had three Iowa maps at home. 

Lani entertained herself that last stretch with a few "This is taking forever!" selfies. 







I normally drive the speed limit or a few miles over, but under the circumstances, drove as fast as I safely could and hoped if pulled over, the officer would have pity on my plight and not issue a ticket. Thankfully we didn’t see any policemen.  

We finally arrived in Aplington and drove through town hoping to see the church somewhere. We didn't. Had to swallow my pride again and call Dayton. He directed us to turn just past the bank and Stinky’s Bar and Grill (love that name) and head north a few miles.

Just then, I heard the distinctive clanging of a railroad crossing. Ironic. To be so close and have to spend five minutes watching a LONG westbound train take its sweet time going by.

We found the church and debated how to handle our late arrival. I figured it is what it is. Everyone already knows I’m late and obviously has issues.

Lani complained to her sympathetic sisters, “Mom kept stopping to use the bathroom.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I said, “Lani, you hypocrite. You went every time I did.”

We had a great time and Dayton’s family made sure I knew how to get to La Crosse the next day. I had a map, written directions, Google directions on the iPad, and a screenshot. Happy to report, I made it without any glitches.

Other than arriving 15 minutes late and making my son Andrew late for work. But as we all know, it could have been worse.

I’m asking for an 8 x 10 travel atlas for my birthday next month.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Locks of Love

With six daughters we have a lot of hair in our family. Our youngest three girls have long hair. 


Amy has wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love for awhile, so recently took the time to get it done. 


We know it's for a good cause 
but we're sad to see her pretty hair go. 



 She went from this




To this







Quite a change but we all like it. 


 


As long as she keeps her smile, we know it's still Amy.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review - All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti



I was supposed to post this book review earlier this summer, but it got lost in the shuffle of my daughter's wedding, our vacation, and numerous house projects. I apologize, Cynthia, for missing your May book release. 

I have had the privilege of meeting Cynthia Ruchti on two occasions and enjoyed getting to meet her. Two years ago she spoke at a local Christian women's event.  She radiates hope, graciousness, loyalty, encouragement, and seeing the best in people. I love her smile.

I'm fascinated how she takes an idea for a story and develops it. Her settings are all so different so I'm impressed with her ability to write about many different things. 

(Throughout this review, click on the orange, italicized book titles for links to learn more about those books.)  

All My Belongings opens after a judge and jury convict the main character's father of several counts of mercy killing. In the wake of painful publicity and shame, Jayne changes her name to Becca and moves to Southern California to begin a new life.

Becca provides live-in hospice care for an elderly woman dealing with dementia and end of life issues. Becca's unselfish care is a beautiful contrast to her father's way of dealing with disease and failing health. While caring for her patient, Becca looks for ways to keep things positive and hopeful.

All My Belongings explores the difficulties of caring for someone who is chronically ill or suffering from Alzheimer's or Dementia. It's emotionally draining to watch loved ones deteriorate.

Without giving away the satisfying ending, there’s a twist that bookends the beginning.

I loved Becca's emotional growth. She starts out bitter, negative, unsure, indecisive, self-focused, and close-lipped about personal details. She ends the book very other-centered, gracious, wise, selfless, positive.

I highly recommend this book, along with her three previous books:
(set in the Canadian Boundary waters)


When the Morning Glory Blooms (about unwed mothers)



Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People's Choices


I'm really looking forward to her next book, As Waters Gone By, due May 2015, as it is set on Madeline Island which is about 30 miles from where I live. 

http://www.christianbook.com/as-waters-gone-by/cynthia-ruchti/9781426787270/pd/787270?event=ESRCN

 To learn more about Cynthia and her books - visit cynthiaruchti.com

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

World's Most Complicated Wedding Invitation

I have a talent for making things harder than they need to be. 

Kiah first wanted postcards wedding invitations. I thought that was too easy and wouldn't use up enough of my time, so with a short 3 1/2 months between Kiah getting engaged and getting married, the most efficient thing to do was to pick the hardest and most time-consuming option.

Mistake #1 - Thinking homemade invitations would be fast and easy.

My friend, Laura, and I attended a scrapbook retreat in April. We saw two sisters making wedding invitations for friends. The sisters cranked out 325 hand made invitations and made it look easy.

Mistake #2 - Choosing a complicated project

The one sister said she'd seen the cutest wedding invitation in a Scrapbook store.  



She showed me a picture and speculated that it would be easy to make. Said they'd be willing to come help.

After browsing Pinterest options, Kiah chose the invitation I'd seen at the retreat. Then she returned home to LaCrosse while I worked on this "easy" invitation.

Mistake #2 - Not asking my retreat friends to help

They live three hours away. They're both busy and I didn't want to bother them. Thought that between my daughters and friends, we could get it done. The invitation ended up taking two months to finish, much to my husband's chagrin. 
 
Mistake #3 - Not buying a necessary tool

When I bought the metal die, the clerk asked if I wanted the metal shim. The metal what??? She said the shim helps the metal die to cut cleaner. Nah. My husband is great at improvising. He could make something that would work. 

Mistake #4 - Not admitting I'd made a mistake

I gleefully cut paper and shot it through the Cuddlebug. Nothing. No easy, amazing, beautiful die cut.  Turns out I needed a "C" plate for the machine. Who knew? Of course could not be purchased in Ashland. Or any other nearby town. We found it seventy miles away at Hobby Lobby in Duluth. 

Mistake #5 - Not cutting my losses

Round 2. The Cuddlebug shuddered, creaked, and sounded like it would break any second. The crank was hard to turn. The paper was only cut halfway through. Ah! So that's why the metal shim was necessary. The metal die won't cut all the way otherwise. Drats! The scrapbook store clerk should have insisted I buy the metal shim! At this point I didn't want to spend any more money so used an improvised shim Keith had made.

Mistake #6 - Enlisting Laura's help

Everyone said the invitations were too much work and that I should do something simpler. Laura thought they were really pretty and offered to help. Laura spent many hours helping me assemble the invitations. If she hadn't helped, I might have listened to the 20 other people who I was crazy.



Cranking paper through the Cuddlebug was hard so we took turns. Every crank sounded like it would be the last. The paper had to be gently coaxed from the die. All the cut out pieces of paper were still firmly stuck in the die. 


Fortunately the die had holes in back to push the paper out. Unfortunately, there were over a hundred holes. 


We had to poke the paper out with a needle or toothpick before the die could be used again. EVERY STUPID TIME. No fast mass production here. I conscripted my girls to push the little pieces of paper out, cut paper, turn a few cranks, color letters, and cook dinner while I worked.

We originally planned to make 100 bases in one color and 100 tops in another. We planned to cut letters off the top layer and glue them to the bottom layer. After making 100 bases
, it became quickly apparent that our wrists couldn't handle 100 more cranks and Kiah would be celebrating her tenth anniversary before we finished. 

We nixed cutting the second set of 100 die cuts. We colored the letters on some with gel pens. For others, we cut letters with Laura's Cricut, put them through a Xyron sticker machine, and attached them to the base. Couldn't decide which color combination we liked best so few people got the same invitation.






We mostly made white bases with either gold, silver, or royal blue letters. Anna asked for a pink base.

The machine broke and sort of exploded on the 101rst crank. The crank unwound really fast and hard and banged my wrist. Thankfully Keith fixed it.  

Mistake #7 - Not listening to my husband

My husband sighed when he walked through the dining room. I avoided eye contact. Ignored him when he said that nobody keeps wedding invitations. That they get thrown away after the wedding. I didn't care. I wanted the invitations to be unique and beautiful. 

Mistake #8 - Using beads

We attached eight small white pearl beads to the invitation fronts. Hobby Lobby's self-adhesive beads for some reason did not stick.  Keith said to forget the beads, but I thought they looked better with. Laura figured out that the beads could be stuck on with a glue pen. 

I ordered pictures from Shutterfly when they had a free 101 prints offer. 



Kiah and Dayton didn't have many pictures to choose from since most of their dating had been long distance.

I expected making the invitation insides would be easy since I'd made lots of computer cards before. Unbeknownst to me, when we upgraded the computer, my trusty card making program had been deleted. Microsoft Publishing 2013 is not near as easy or intuitive as the Microsoft 2000 program I'd used for years. Took me awhile to figure out how to make it work. Lots of wedding invitation rejects landed in our scratch paper pile. 

Same thing with the mailing labels. Needed to learn all over again with Microsoft Word 2013. Printed a set of address labels before Amy noticed our return address was wrong. Sigh!

After I finished printing, Kiah informed me that she'd changed her phone number so her R.S.V.P contact number wasn't correct. Instead of reprinting, I wrote the new number with black pen. 

FINALLY - the invitations were done. The pretty beads meant the invitations had to be hand cancelled in the post office and required an additional .21 cents postage.  Double sigh!

Then there were bloopers. Dayton's grandmother received a blank invitation. A friend received two of the same pictures. The invitation beads made indents in Kiah and Dayton's picture. Two weeks before the wedding, Kiah's friend mentioned that she hadn't received her wedding invitation yet. A search turned up eight invitations still in the envelope box. 

I don't regret making them but wish they hadn't been so time consuming. Before all was said and done, eight people had helped me. The invitations cost .60 each, but if all the woman hours were tallied, they'd be very expensive. 

Last week we received a postcard wedding invitation. I marveled at it's simplicity. When the next daughter gets married - we're doing a Facebook invite.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Times

I haven't written a blog post in so long, I hope I remember how. One phone call changed the course of my spring. From that moment on the bulk of my attention was focused in one direction. 

My 24-year-old daughter, Kiah, called on March 28 with the wonderful news that her boyfriend, Dayton, had proposed. It's been four years since the last Vik wedding and Keith and I aren't getting any younger so if our children don't want their kids to have old grandparents, they should get married sooner, rather than later. 

Sooner, rather than later. I should be careful what I wish for. They decided to get married on July 12, which at the time was 3 and 1/2 months away. 

At first I panicked. Weddings are a lot of work and we didn't have much time. I barely slept that night. I got up in the middle of the night and started making to-do lists. I finally calmed down by telling myself that to get married, all one needs is a minister, a bride, a groom, and two witnesses. Everything else is extra. If things get done, great. If not, they would still get married. 

We're really happy with how things turned out so I want to share about this blessing in increments. Today will be a little background. 

Kiah had not dated for four years after a painful breakup in 2009. She focused on college, work, fitness, faith, friends, and enjoying her family. 



For a few years she had no interest in a relationship. If a guy looked at her twice, she quit talking to him. She said married people were boring. Thought her married friends were settling, that there were more exciting things to do than get married. I knew when she met the right person, she'd change her mind. 

Two years ago in 2013, Kiah went to work for the summer at the Bible camp where Andrew worked. Andrew confided that he hoped to set Kiah up with someone. I recommended that he not tell her, because if she got wind of his matchmaking, the match would be over before it began. Ironically, one of the people Andrew had in mind was Dayton's brother. Right family, wrong brother. 

Kiah called home to talk about her summer. She said there were no guys she was interested in. So what else was new? She hadn't been interested for awhile so that didn't surprise me. I asked who she had enjoyed getting to know. She mentioned a few people and then said there were three brothers that she really liked. She said they were nice, fun, hard working, funny, and everyone liked them. 

Kiah returned to camp the next summer (2013) She called to talk about her summer and said, "You don't have to worry Mom. There's nobody here I'm interested in."

I told her I wasn't worried. I firmly believe God is my children's matchmaker and does a much better job in that department. I trust God for His timing.

We talked a month later and she confided in me that she was interested in the youngest of the three brothers she had gotten to know the previous summer. 

She was concerned that he was four years younger than her and wondered if that was okay. I told her that once people get past high school, age doesn't matter as much. Maturity doesn't always correlate with age. I know young people who are mature and old people who aren't. 

I went to camp six weeks later to see my new granddaughter. Kiah asked if I would pray with her about her interest in Dayton. She wanted to trust God and didn't want to get weird. She asked if I thought it was okay for her to ask him out. 

I didn't know what to say. When I was young, guys did the asking. It had been so long since I dated that I wasn't sure what was acceptable now. Andrew said it was okay so she decided to take a risk. I wouldn't have been that brave. 

She asked Dayton to hang out and they did, but it was very awkward. He later confessed to being scared. He liked her but wasn't sure he wanted to pursue a relationship at the time.


Picture taken by a fellow camp member the first time they hung out

After camp they started corresponding online. They used up more than their fair share of Facebook's personal message space. Dayton lived in Florida so they were a long way apart. Kiah was unsure for a few months how he felt about her. 

On December 23, Dayton called to ask Keith's permission to date our daughter. Keith had never met Dayton so wasn't sure what to say, but based on his children's endorsement who did know Dayton, he gave his blessing. 

Two days later, on a Skype date, Dayton sang her a song and asked her to be his girlfriend. She was ecstatic, happy to know that he returned her affections. 

Kiah and Anna went to visit Dayton and his family in January. 



First official date

 

The visit went well. Dayton visited in February but spent much of that time with our family when Keith's mom passed away. 

Dayton's family is bigger than ours so I figured we wouldn't overwhelm him. But we did anyway. Turns out a big family with mostly brothers is way different than a big family with mostly girls. Girls are a whole different breed.  



 

I knew they were talking about getting married but no movement had happened in that area. I don't endorse pushing people into marriage, but if they wanted to get married this summer, the sooner he asked her the better. I decided to quit worrying because worrying makes me weird and doesn't fix anything. 


Unbeknownst to us, Dayton had called Keith to ask permission to marry Kiah. Kiah went to visit Dayton's family again in March and this is when he proposed. Dayton fixed her a nice dinner, wrote her a very sweet song, and asked her to marry him. Very creative and romantic. 







We were all very excited. Andrew would finally get a brother after wanting one for 22 years. The sisters were amazed at Kiah's about-face. From thinking married people were boring to wanting to get married as soon as possible. We all liked Dayton and looked forward to July 12 when he would join our family.


Stayed tuned for more installments in the Kiah and Dayton saga.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Catching Up

     
You may or may not have noticed that I haven't written a blog post in the past six weeks. I'm running seriously behind schedule and just sent out our 2013 Christmas letters. One of my life's goals is to some year send the 
first Christmas letter people receive. Obviously 2012 wasn't the year. Neither was 2013. Procrastination combined with an unprecedented number of changes this past year meant a May letter. After 4 years at the same location with the same jobs, we did a Fruit Basket Upset.

Change #1 - Keith's sister wins the Biggest Surprise of 2013 Award by getting married at the age of 65. She moved to a new house and now we have a new brother-in-law and find that we like married Karen even 
                                               better than single Karen.

   Change #2 - After living in the midwest his whole life, Keith's older brother, Neil, and his wife moved 
   to the Seattle area.

   Change #3 - Erica (22) graduated last May with an Occupational Therapy Assistant degree.  
   Christina (28) and Kiah (24), graduated last May with nursing degrees.




   Change #4 - Anna (19) graduated from high school.




   Change #5  - Keith's family sold his mom's house so we spent a week in June helping Karen clean it. 
   Grandma had lived in the same house for 34 years and her basement had become the family storage unit
   which means there was a lot of stuff to find places for.

   Change #6 - We joined the grandparents club! Last July, Andrew (26) and Rachel (24) blessed us 
   with our beautiful granddaughter Cailin Louise (like Caitlin without a "t"). Cailin is the first grandchild 
   on both sides and has six aunts and one uncle to spoil her.




   Change #7 - In August Kiah and Anna moved five hours south to LaCrosse, WI. Kiah works as a       
   nursing home RN and Anna is a barista at Moka Coffee Shop. Anna wants to be the favorite aunt so 
   babysits for Andrew and Rachel. They acquired a cat they named Ramona after Ramona Quimby. 




   Change #8 - Keith's Uncle Jim Christiansen passed away over Labor Day. He was in the same 
   Assisted Living facility as Keith's Mom. 

   Change #9 - After five years of camp ministry, Andrew and Rachel felt led to do something different. 
   They moved in September to an apartment ten blocks from Kiah and Anna in LaCrosse. Andrew 
   works at Best Buy in the computer department. Rachel works part-time as a nursing home 
   Recreational Therapist.

   Change #10 - Erica moved to LaCrosse in November and lives near Kiah and Anna. Makes it easy 
   to visit our kids now since they're clustered in the same part of the same city. I had hoped that our kids 
   would grow up to like each other as adults. So far, so good. Erica works in LaCrosse as a Medical 
   Services Coordinator for Logistics Health.



  
   Change #11 - Our 28 year streak of driving big family vehicles came to an end. We traded our big 
   red passenger van for a small Pontiac Vibe that comfortably seats four people.

   Change #12- Christina is an RN at a nursing home in Ashland. Do you notice a pattern here? She 
   moved out a month ago and lives 10 blocks away. She traveled in January to Honduras on a 
   short-term medical team that holds clinics in remote villages. 




   Change #13 - My mother, Pat Taylor, died at the age of 74 on January 17, 2014. She had severe 
   COPD and congestive heart problems for 12 years.  She died from pneumonia and a C02 build up 
    in her body. I know she's in a better place and wouldn't wish her back, but we're never ready to say 
    good-bye to our loved ones. Kiah and I rode the train to Portland for the memorial service.

   Change #14 - On the way home from my Mom's funeral, I got the news that Keith's mom, Marie Vik, 
   had suffered a stroke. After four days of hospitalization, she passed away at the age of 89. We knew 
   Keith's mom was aging, and my mom was very sick, but we never dreamed our mothers would die two 
   weeks apart. Our whole family was able to attend the funeral.

   Change #15 - On a happier note, Kiah got engaged a month ago to Dayton McCauley and they plan 
   to get married this summer in Ashland. Kiah met Dayton at camp two summers ago. We like Dayton 
   very much and Andrew is happy to finally be getting a brother.



  
    Keith and I, along with Amy, and Lani are the only Viks who didn't move in the last year. Besides 
    being grayer and flabbier, Keith and I haven't changed much. 





    Church is going well and other than enduring the coldest winter we've ever experienced, we're happy 
    to live where we do. The house is cleaner and quieter but we do miss the fun of having all the girls 
    home. We have a guest room now so feel free to book a stay at Hotel Vik.

   Amy (17) finally has her own room for the first time in her life. Amy is a junior and the family extrovert. 
   She loves working at camp, babysitting, knitting, hanging out with friends, and being on a cross-country 
   ski team. We enjoy Amy's friendly personality and are blessed to see her grow into a sweet young lady. 
   After so many years of juggling seven children (not literally), it's a treat to just have two kids to care for.

   Lani (15) is a freshman and is fast becoming the family handyman. She loves to clean, organize, and fix 
   up old furniture. She is patiently redoing her bedroom by herself - stripping wallpaper, patching, 
   sanding, painting, ripping up carpet, etc. She wore out our last electric sander so Keith just bought 
   her a new one.

   This has been a crazy year but we know the One who holds all our tomorrows in His hands. We believe 
   God knows best and we trust Him with our future. We hope all is well with you. It's always a treat to 
   hear from friends and family. Thanks for being a part of our lives.
                                                                                                                                          
    Love,
    Angie for the family