Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Mugs - Whatever We Want

Today's almost over so I'm hoping to get this posted while it's still Monday. Heather said we could post whatever we wanted so I'm posting pictures from a recent youth group sledding trip Christina, Erica, and Anna went on.  

If you were around last winter, you may remember Erica's famous 2010 wipe-out picture.

She valiantly tried to top last year's picture.  

Yay Christina!
Think he looks like he's in a snow globe.

"Wait! Take a picture of me tackling Tina."

Hah! Payback for picking on her 
siblings when they were young.
Oops. It backfired.


  That'll teach her

Decided to pick on someone else

Sledding is exhausting

"Even when it's cold outside 
our memories keep us warm."

To see other Monday Mugs 
click over to Oswald Cuties.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Readers Digest Version of 53 Years

Today is Keith's 53rd birthday, which, as I irreverently posted on Facebook today, if he lives to be 106 means he passed middle age a few years ago.

Keith was born in a peaceful small town in Northwest Iowa a LONG time ago. Here's a family picture.

Oops, wrong family. Not sure how old you need to be to have watched Leave it to Beaver. (Trivia fact - Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, lived in Keith's hometown for a couple years when he was young.)

Keith (the little one on the floor who's refusing to smile) had a great childhood. Wonderful parents, doting big sister, no chores, and allowed to be a picky eater. He had his appendix out at age 5 and was operated on by a drunk surgeon, which explains his large crooked scar. His broken leg at age 7 taught him why it's not a good idea to ride on the front of your brother's bike.

His purple plaid prom ensemble made him the subject of family jokes for years to come.

He spent four years in the Marines where they didn't cater to picky eaters so learned to eat everything except liver.

We met in 1981 in college but didn't like each other at first. If you're interested you can read here, here, here, and here.

We married in 1984. I like to tell him that I'm the best thing that ever happened to him. We planned to wait 5 years before we had children. Bet you can see where this story is going.

By the time we'd been married five years we had three kids. Don't regret a single one of them but Plan A of me working to put Keith through Seminary went out the window. Instead he worked three jobs and took six years to get a two year degree.

We set a record for the most American people squeezed into a two bedroom basement apartment.

We moved back to Keith's hometown in Iowa in 1995 and added two more arrows to our quiver.

After 13 years in the land of corn and pigs we moved to Northern Wisconsin. We gained a daughter-in-law and someone to be my son's keeper.

And somewhere along the line we grew old but don't entirely remember when that happened.

Happy Birthday Sweetie.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'” - Robert Browning -

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Did It!

I’ve mentioned before that Northern Wisconsinites embrace winter. One way the locals beat the winter blues is by holding an annual mid-February 10k cross-country night ski race/tour across our frozen finger of Lake Superior.

Book Across the Bay begins in Ashland (my town) and ends up across Chequamegon Bay in Washburn.

1,000 ice luminaries light the way and volunteers pass out drinks, snacks, and encouragement at rest stops placed every 1k along the route. Free Hot Chocolate and chili at the end. Now there’s motivation. 

Photo lifted from Book Across the Bay's Facebook page
Last year we watched the race start, thinking maybe we should try that as a family next year. Which meant a lot needed to happen to make that work.

Like say for instance….learn how to cross-country ski.

We’ve been practicing since Christmas. Christina handled registration and tried to pin me down. Maybe yes, maybe no. I’m not sure. Okay, fine. Sign us up. Oh my goodness, we’re committed. 10k is a long way, for me at least. Yikes!

Keith opted out early, not liking winter and wanting it to be over yesterday. Then Anna, bowed out after trying cross-country skiing once and not liking it. Erica had to work.

That left Christina, Kiah, Amy, Lani, and I. We gave Erica’s registration to a friend we renamed “Eric.”

I worried all last week. 

What if I can’t make it? How many people can the ice hold? They expected 4,000 people.  What if it only holds 3,995? What if I need to use a bathroom halfway over? How will I keep track of my girls in a crowd of 4,000 people? What if I’m the 4,000th person to cross the lake?  

To add to my worries, the weather cranked up last week. Melting snow, slush, mud, shrinking snow piles. Sidewalks that haven’t seen the light of day for months reappeared. Did I still want to venture out on a lake whose stability might have been compromised by an unseasonable thaw?

Thankfully the weather cooled down again and stopped the melting, but that left ice everywhere, including the now snowless race route. Lake Superior was a sheet of ICE.

I can’t do ice. I’m not that good of skier. I’m old. I could easily fall and break something. Should I take the risk?

I woke up Saturday morning hoping snow had fallen overnight. I saw dry snowless sidewalks and prayed, “God, I’m too scared to do this.”

Saturday afternoon Lani and I visited the starting point, hoping that seeing the layout beforehand would help me mentally prepare. Trying not to be chicken, we carefully walked 100 yards out on the icy lake. We watched a snow grinder make a better path by chopping a few inches of ice into snocone consistency.

At 5:15 pm we rounded up participating family members, attached race numbers, and gathered five pairs of skis, boots, and poles.

Christina planned to cross with her friends. She had funky “Yak Tracks” that attach to shoes and opted to walk instead of ski.

Picture lifted off our newspaper's website. Shame on me.
We met “Eric” at the starting line. Kiah and “Eric” are two competitive peas in a pod so they took off and I didn’t see them for three hours. When Amy and Lani pushed off, I knew that was my moment of truth.

The groomers couldn't cut cross-country tracks in the ice. I’ve never skied without tracks. I tentatively took a few strides and realized it was doable. I silenced my nagging fears and pushed forward. Lord willing, I hoped to book across the bay.

I could have been a poster child for the tortoise in a Tortoise and the Hare book. The only person slower than me was a seven-year-old girl named Audrey and her Dad. 

I quit worrying about what place I’d finish in. I just wanted to get across the ice without falling and breaking something.

Amy and Lani waited three minutes at checkpoint #1 for me. Sigh!

At checkpoint #2 Amy said she was freezing and didn’t want to finish. I wavered between not wanting her to have a miserable experience and thinking she’d feel good about the accomplishment once she’d finished. We kept going.

Lani started skiing beside me. Not sure if she couldn’t ski faster, but I like to think at least one of my children was concerned for my well-being. It was nice to have a companion and someone to trade comments with, “It’s cold. The ice is awful. We didn’t dress warm enough. Maybe there’s hot chocolate at the next rest stop. How much farther? It’s cold. How far do you think Kiah is now? What if the chili’s gone when we get to the end?” Repeat, pause, repeat.

Some skiers turned around and headed back saying it was too slick. I totally understood but we weren’t turning back. Not after going that far.
At checkpoint #6 Amy had a meltdown, wanting to flag down the nearest snowmobile and beg for a ride. I knew she could finish so encouraged her to keep going. 
Christina and friends at Checkpoint #8
 By Checkpoint #7 we could see the lights of the tent at the end. Both girls were cold and miserable, but we plugged away. Finally we reached the big sign stretched across the finish line that said, “You Booked Across the Bay – THE END.” 

Certainly nice of them to say so but we didn’t book across the bay – we had slugged across the bay. Our time? A whopping 2 ½ hours.  

But we made it. Yahoo! I didn’t fall into the lake. Matter of fact, I didn’t fall at all. I didn’t get blisters and I wasn’t in last place. Yippee!!

We found Christina, Kiah, and Eric, compared times, and swapped stories.

Christina’s eyes danced. She had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed herself. In fact after the festivities, she walked with her friends over the ice back to Ashland.

Kiah and Eric finished an hour before we did. They had a great time and bubbled over talking about how fun it was.

Amy, Lani, and I looked at each other wondering if we had been in a different race. I’m so proud of them though. It’s one thing to finish when you’re enjoying yourself. It’s a bigger thing to finish when you aren’t enjoying yourself.

All things considered, I’m glad we did it. It was fun to be part of this unique event. The enthusiasm and energy was contagious. It felt good to finish. It was fun to do as a family, though at the same time, it was the most miserable cross-country skiing I’ve ever done.   

This was a victory for me to do something I was afraid to do. I pressed on in spite of my fears and slowly plugged away even though it was hard.

Christina now wants to try the Polar Plunge next month. I’m not even tempted.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday Mugs - Cell Phones

Heather chose this week's theme of CELL PHONE based on I Heart Faces theme of the week. I've seen different participants approach this differently. I don't have a cell phone so don't have any cell phone pictures.

My two youngest reminded me of a picture from Erica's 18th birthday party. She had a digital scavenger hunt and one of the categories was a High School Playground activity. They staged this picture and everyone is either talking or texting. Done in fun, but it's kind of sad but true.

At least once a week my family says, "Mom, you need to get a cell phone." But so far, I have resisted the siren call of cell phone technology. For other cell phone pictures visit Oswald Cuties.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Trip Ever!!!

(I asked my oldest daughter Christina to write a couple blog posts about her recent missions trip to Honduras. She doesn't like writing so these posts are a labor of love.)

As a general policy, I avoid writing or speaking about trips I have gone on.  To me, travel is a deeply personal experience, and while to the individual, travel is something special and unique, to the general public uninteresting and cliche.

Talking about my recent trip to Honduras, however, breaks that policy.  I have lived overseas several times and traveled to multiple countries, but those trips were focused on me and what I wanted to do.  This Honduras trip impacted me in many ways because I realized how much I enjoyed focusing on the well being of others instead of myself. 

This trip also combined several of my passions and was a small taste of what I hope to do career wise in the future.   I am currently on the waiting list to start Nursing School and hope to eventually move into the area of Public Health.  I also love the Spanish language so enjoyed a trip that combined traveling, Spanish, and the medical field. 

In mid-January I spent eight days in Honduras working as a Spanish translator for a group of local medical professionals that annually travel to Northern Honduras.   

According to the World Bank, Honduras is the third poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti and Nicaragua and the income disparity is huge between the rich and poor. 

Our main focus was to put on free medical clinics in remote mountain villages surrounding the city of Santa Barbara, Honduras.

The team I went with has been doing these clinics for the past 14 years so they were quite familiar to the people in these villages.  

Many villagers have no access to medical care and our visit will be the only medical attention they receive all year.  

What made the biggest impression was being exposed to the abject poverty that we encountered in the villages.  They have so little, and compared to them, I have so much. They lack so many of the everyday things I take for granted. 

The first village we visited was the most remote and poverty very apparent.   We worked in a field with a few ramshackle tables that served as workbenches.  

Pharmacy - Honduras style
I'll write more about the trip in the next post as this one is getting long. I'll close today by saying that the people of Honduras and their needs touched my heart and I'm thankful for the trip and the opportunity to have a small part in helping to make the world a better place.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Lovely Address

Very sincere Valentine greetings from a variety of venerable, versatile, vacation-loving, van-driving Viks.

A friend asked for directions to our house and I told her we live at 214 _____ St. (Street name intentionally left out because we'd hate for the Paparazzi to find out where we live)

My friend said, "2 - 14." That's the date for Valentines Day." Our address is not quite as cool or obvious as the folks who live in Loveland, Co, but we have to work with what we're given. 

Happy Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Only in Wisconsin

My husband is a die-hard Denver Broncos fan. When our church interviewed Keith two years ago, their first question was, "Are you a Packers Fan?" When he said he liked the Broncos they supposed that would be okay, as long as he wasn't for the Vikings. 

Some friends gave Keith a Green Bay Packers tie saying that if he wanted to save souls in Wisconsin he needed to  become a Packer fan. But how can you expect a man to change his football allegiance just because he changed states?

So despite the state-wide Packer frenzy and general euphoria, while Keith and the oldest 4 girls went to a youth group Super Bowl party, the rest of us stayed home and watched Letters to God on Netflix. I could tell by the firecrackers going off outside that the Packers had won.  

Happy sigh! Football is done for another year. Big grin.

The next day I'm checking out at Wal-mart. Nobody behind me so the clerk is not in a hurry. I tell her I want my two groups of items rung up separately. 
She gets a bit crabby. "Do you want them bagged separately?"
I know attitude when I hear it so now I'm on guard.  "It doesn't matter."
The clerk grunts, "You're paying for them separately but it doesn't matter if they're bagged together?"
So much for the customer always being right. Wanting to get away from this testy lady as soon as possible, I reply, "Yeah."

The clerk switches gears, "So what about them Packers?"

She'd have no way of knowing I'd rather have a cavity filled than watch a football game, but I want to be polite. "Um...yeah."

The clerk suddenly becomes Chatty Cathy. "Man that game was exciting. I kept holding my breath."

It didn't matter now whether I talked or not, she just kept going. "Um...yeah."

By now the clerk is almost done bagging my groceries. She grins, "I would have lost a lot of money if the Steelers won."

I'm weary of being polite.  "I'm glad it worked out for you."
People are now in line behind me but she keeps talking. "There was a lot of yelling at our house."

Finally done being polite, I admit, "I didn't watch the game."

The clerk stops what she's doing. Looking genuinely stymied she asks incredulously. "How can you live in Wisconsin and not root for the Packers?"

Indeed. How could I? Probably some sort of genetic defect. Which is worse - to not like football or to not like the Packers? I offer a conciliatory "If I would have watched the game, I would have rooted for the Packers."

At that point she probably decided I wasn't worth talking to and we finished our transaction and I was out of there. 

Sheesh! I'm back to my conclusion from my hair-dying post, when you're not sure what to say, the safest response is "Yep."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Mugs- Look Down


Initially I was stumped with this week's "Looking Down" category, then found quite a few. Sorry for the overload but I narrowed 33 pictures down to 12 that I've titled - 

"The Spirit of Childhood."

You know how kids have imaginations
And see things
the rest of us miss
How they stop
to smell more roses than we do
And are fascinated
with little things
I love to catch them
When they're lost in wonder
Childhood is a precious treasure
And is fast used up

The days pass quickly,
like leaves falling from a tree.
Here's to giving our children happy childhoods. 

Be sure to visit other Monday Mugs at Oswald Cuties.