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.

 To learn more about Cynthia and her books - visit