Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review - Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Ever wanted to visit Alaska but can't afford it? Do you enjoy the thought of adventure but not actually doing the adventures yourself? Do you admire brave people but are pretty sure if a situation requires bravery, you're not a qualified candidate? Do you like clean suspense novels without bad language and cynical law enforcement officers?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you'll probably like Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage Series. Set in beautiful Alaska, the series chronicles the adventures of five adult siblings who run an outdoor adventure outfitting business. Each story is a stand alone and makes sense by itself, but they definitely build on each other.

Sabotaged, the last book in the series was recently released by Bethany Publishing House. The story follows Reef McKenna's attempt to help a childhood acquaintance solve an important mystery during an Iditarod sled dog race. Reef and Kirra's story actually starts in the previous book.

I enjoyed the sibling's closeness and their willingness to help each other. They are servant hearted, other-centered, and willing to put aside their own needs and concerns to help others. They are integral parts of their community.  

The main characters from previous books still appear in later ones. Readers can catch a few more glimpses into their stories. I loved the book's cover and the author's fun website. (

Suspense is not my favorite genre, but I chose to give the first book, Submerged, a try because it was set in Alaska, somewhere I've always wanted to visit.

I feel like I've been to Alaska now. I've gone rock climbing with Kayden, skied with Landon and Piper, enjoyed a cruise with Darcy, went snowmobiling with Jake, diving with Cole, and tagged along on a couple Search and Rescue expeditions, all without leaving my house.

If you can afford a trip to Alaska, by all means go. But if like me, you're stuck in the lower 48 for the foreseeable future, Dani Pettrey's books are a much cheaper alternative.

I enjoyed these books immensely and hate to see the series end. I hope the author will find a few more excuses to write about the McKenna family. I was given this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Dani Pettrey

The other books in the series are
1.  Submerged
2.  Shattered
3.  Stranded
4.  Silenced

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Favorite Pictures of 2014

Apostle Islands Ice Caves
Lani with a family friend

Amy in a ski race

Me and a friend at a scrapbook retreat

Rachel, Cailin, & Andrew
Photo by Emily Hedstrom


Kiah and Dayton


The last of my son's 4 close friends from High School got married. 
(photos by Jake's wedding photographer)

Andrew was the first to get married, Jake was the last

 My son is the giant

He who finds a wife, finds a good thing

Four Generation Picture
My dad, my son, my granddaughter

Anna, Lani, and Amy

Lani on her 16th birthday

Look who turned 18

Erica flew home from Texas for the first weekend in December

And there you have it. 2014 is a wrap. 
Looking forward to what the next year has in store. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Highlights of 2014

After a record low of only nine blog posts in 2014, I have resolved to be more consistent in blogging in 2015. My kids are all gone today so I am thoroughly enjoying peace and quiet and the time to reflect on our last year. 

1.  My mom's funeral
     Hard to say good-bye. Glad she's out of pain. Nice to see family.
(With my siblings and parents two years ago) 

2.  Keith's mom's funeral
Unexpected. Double whammy. Life well-lived. Very loved. Good to see all my kids.

3.  Apostle Island Ice Caves
     Amazing. Beautiful. Unexpected boon for our area - 138,000 visitors came to see them.

4.  Cassaundra's wedding
     My daughter, Kiah's, best friend got married. 
Fun that the girls got married six weeks apart

5.  My dad's visit
    First visit from him in 17 years. 

6.  30th Anniversary
     Thankful for 30 years. Lost in the wedding frenzy. 
Promised to celebrate later. Still haven't. 

7.  Granddaughter Cailin's 1st birthday
      Adults don't change much in a year. Babies change alot! Fun to see her grow.

8.  Kiah & Dayton's Wedding
     Fun. Exhausting. Beautiful. At times overwhelming. 
           Thankful for a good man to love my daughter.        

9.  Vacation in Ontonagon, MI
     Quiet, relaxing, refreshing week enjoying the beach, books, and each other.

10.  House projects
       Checked many things off the to-do list

11.  Whistlestop Race Weekend
        Christina and Anna did a half marathon. Dayton and Lani ran a 10K. 
Glad someone's getting exercise.

12.  Thanksgiving
Ate at Kiah and Dayton's. Yay, the kids can cook. 
Worked myself out of a job. 

Thankful for faith, family, and friends. 
We have been so blessed and continue 
to trust God for the upcoming year. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Copper Peak Adventure Ride

One minute I was minding my own business, looking forward to a relaxing Saturday afternoon at home, and the next, I was riding a chairlift up a large hill in Ironwood, Michigan to look at fall colors. Once my oldest daughter Christina saw a picture of Copper Peak on Facebook, my day was hijacked.
I had read this blog post two years ago about a lady’s visit to Copper Peak (click here to read) and I remember not wanting to do that. I'm not afraid of heights, but aren’t happy with them either.

Copper Peak is one of six ski flying jumps in the world. It’s the highest and the only one in the western hemisphere. (The others are in Europe.) Ski flying differs from ski jumping.  Ski fliers start higher, go faster and fly farther. Olympic ski jumpers compete at heights of only 90 to 120 meters. Copper Peak starts at 170 meters high. Ski fliers soar about 600 feet to the ground. Only 100 people in the world are qualified to ski fly.

The jump reaches an elevation of 1,782 feet above sea level and is 1,180 feet above Lake Superior. Copper Peak is currently no longer used for ski flying and is only run as a weekend tourist attraction.     

Admission is a steep $17 each. Yikes! Did a quick mental calculation, pretty sure no view was worth $51. I thought about waiting at the bottom for Christina and Lani to go up and down. The clerk sensed my ambivalence and since we were the last customers of the day, only charged Lani the child rate of $8.  Plus, those who made it to the top received a free bumper sticker. Now there's motivation.

I waffled, uneasy about going up, unwilling to pay that much money, but also not wanting to disappoint my daughters. Christina insisted that since we had come that far, we might as well go up. I sighed, climbed on the wooden platform, stood on white footprints, and waited for the chairlift.

I had never been on a chairlift before and was not a happy camper. I watched a smiling four-year-old boy hop off and decided if he could do it, I could too. We began the "perilous" 810-foot ascent.

Very freaky to be pulled uphill on a swaying open metal cage. I knew the system had been running for many years, but it wouldn't last forever. What if that was the day it finally broke? If the cable broke and we crashed, would I die right away? How faithfully did they inspect their equipment? I'm not afraid of dying, but prefer not to suffer.

The chairlift stopped at the bottom of the ski ramp.

I took in the amazing view, thinking that was good enough, not needing to go farther. No such luck. Christina insisted I keep going.

I reluctantly rode the small elevator eighteen stories. I've been in many elevators before, including one in Jewel Cave National Monument near Mt. Rushmore that went twenty-four stories underground, but I've never been in a freestanding elevator on the top of a hill. Hopefully the builders were attention-to-detail people and had built the contraption right. 

We exited the elevator and I tried not to think about how high we were. I preferred not to continue but looked at the enclosed metal stairs with handrails on both sides and decided to press on. 

After we’d climbed one story, three people started heading down the three-foot wide staircase. I turned and faced the wall, more than a little uncomfortable and tried not to be creeped out while three large people, two male, one female, squished by. Definitely one for the strange experience books. Hundreds of feet above the ground, kind of freaked out with the whole experience to start with, and then having to go squishy touchy backside to backside with total strangers on a narrow staircase.

I continued climbing the next seven stories, motivated by my fearless daughters calling, "Come on Mom. You can do it. You're almost there. You've almost earned your bumper sticker."

I clung to the rails, and am proud to say, made it to the top starting gate. I wondered how many people the platform could hold and how long one needed to stand in a scary place to get their money's worth?

The view was unimaginably awesome. The picture doesn't do it justice. 
Unobstructed 360 view on all sides. We could see for miles in all directions.

I looked through the metal grate under my feet and tried not to think how high I was.

The platform gently bobbed in the breeze. (Maybe I am afraid of heights.) The leaves had just begun to turn. Another week and the view would be glorious.

Christina and Lani decided it wasn't enough of a thrill to be standing on top of the sixth highest spot in Upper Michigan. They stuck their heads through a railing and hung half of their bodies upside-down to take pictures. 

This was not okay. I barked, commanded, pleaded with them to stop. Stupid girls didn't listen. I held on to the bottom of Lani's shorts, thinking if she slipped, I could catch her. Lani complained, "Mom, you're going to pull my shorts down."

Finally it was time to descend. I white knuckled it down to the elevator. I looked back to see where we had been and shuddered. The top part isn't supported, just sort of hanging in the air. 

We took the chair lift back down. 

Halfway down, Lani commented, "Funny how after being at the top, this doesn't seem so high anymore."

We passed a big red chairlift tower and Lani said, "I don't like this one."

Curious, I asked, "Why not?"

She said matter-of-factly, "The other towers go up and down, this one is diagonal." Sure enough, she was right. It kind of stuck out of the hill at an angle. Sorry I asked.

We reached the bottom and I wondered which was crazier: that people had dragged huge equipment up the hill to build the thing in the first place, or that humans had launched themselves off the jump at speeds of 70 mph, or that I let my children talk me into doing things I don’t want to do.

I'm pretty sure I won't be one of those people who go skydiving on their 70th birthday. I'm glad to have gone up Copper Peak. I have my bumper stickers and fun pictures but someone will have to pay me fifty dollars to go up there again.

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.