Celebrating The 4th!

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A gray start to the day

The day dawned gray and a bit stormy looking but my husband and I loaded the car for our annual 4th of July celebration. We headed for the lake to join family and friends at my sister and her husband’s lake home.

We did make our way there slowly, as we tried to stay a bit behind the storm. Our road trip there took longer; but we got to investigate new antique places, small towns and garage sales on our way. (There is usually an upside to even rainy days!)

We made our annual stop at Trapper’s Bay on Silver Lake. My husband spent many hours fishing there as a kid and loves to drive through the small park. We arrived there not too long after the wind and rain had made it’s way through that town. Lots of trees were down and the people there were spending their holiday cleaning up.

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Docks underwater due to lots of rainfall this year

Typically the day is hot and excellent for boating, swimming, and just enjoying the water…..not so this year. After having had some very hot days leading up to the 4th, we started the day with rain…and we ended the day with rain.

The lake was so high that there was a no wake rule for all the lakes in the county. We did get a very leisurely boat ride in the afternoon. I must admit there was something wonderfully relaxing about that slow boat ride. It was quiet, with very few boats on the water.

Another storm moved in early in the evening and the big firework show was cancelled….but not the fireworks my brother in law had purchased! We sat in the dark, under umbrellas and watched as our guys attempted to keep the wicks on the fireworks lit.

This was the first year I had ever seen them lighting fireworks while standing under an umbrella. There was lots of laughter, much encouragement and we made sure to oooohhhhh and aaaahhhhh as the sky lit with colors.

It didn’t take too long and we had to abandon the effort, as it just became too soggy. (Much to the relief of my future daughter-in-law who had given my son stern instructions that morning; that he was not to get injured, as their wedding was only a week away!)

The guys did manage to get a wonderful finale firework lit to end the night. I wish I could have downloaded the video my sister took but I just am not quite tech savvy enough to know how to make that one work; so you will just have to make do with a still shot.

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The Grand Finale~photo credit to my sister Andrea

The rain did put a damper on the day, due to the fact that we were not able to do the things we normally do on the 4th of July.  In looking back on that day, I am realizing that the most important things still got done….

We remembered the sacrifices made for this country. We prayed for our country, our leaders and those who serve. We gave thanks for family, friends and good food. We laughed, enjoyed each other’s company, and we did get wet….just not in the lake.

Sometimes it is good to not have a day go how you planned. Sometimes it leaves the door open to see the holiday from a different view. It is good to realize that joy in family and in friendships is not dependent on weather or circumstances. It is totally dependent on being together and that is enough.

 

“Cherish your human connections
– your relationships with friends and family.”
– Barbara Bush

 

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Choose Fun?

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It has already been two weeks ago since I got home from a cruise. It is hard to believe that those two weeks have gone that fast. I don’t know why I am always amazed at how fast time seems to go….. because it always seems to go fast.

I was talking to my husband about some of the funny things that happened on that vacation with our group of 8 family members…all women. I was relating how when we boarded the ship we entered a lobby that was glittering with shiny brass, glass and well polished wood.

There was already a crowd of people in that space. They were all listening to a guy standing on a stage behind a bar and he was hollering one word and the crowd was hollering one word back.

I thought this guy, who later turned out to be the cruise director named Peter, was hollering “Juice!”  …. to which the crowd responded heartily, “Funk!” I turned to Cousin Barb and asked what they were saying. She responded, “It sounds like Juice …. Funk”.

I have to confess; it took till the following night (after hearing this repeatedly in various locations on the boat) that I (and my cruise mates) figured out the chant was actually “Choose….Fun!”  My sister-in-law then informed me that, those words were the motto of the Carnival Cruise line. (Nope, I am not getting reimbursed for mentioning the cruise line…though if they offered….. I would take a free cruise!)

I was just happy that I was not the only one who could not figure out, immediately, what they were hollering. There is some comfort in sharing the stupid!

This memory was brought back while watching the Olympic winter games on tv. One of the commercials was from Carnival and they were…..you guessed it….chanting, “Choose Fun!” ( I have a feeling my brain will forever translate that as Juice Funk.)

I love watching the winter Olympic games but I do wonder about some of the sports those athletes do. I wonder about someone belly flopping on a tiny sled and plummeting down an ice-coated slide….a slide that twists and turns. I never hear a peep from those athletes participating in the Skeleton. I know for a fact I would be screaming my fool head off on that one.

I also wonder who in the world decided it was a good idea to strap both your feet to a board and shoot down a thing called a half pipe only to shoot back up and launch yourself unbelievably high into the air. Is this courage or something else?  Having raised boys….I think it is safe to say it probably was hatched in the brain of a man child. (Sorry guys, that is just my experience.)

Another event that baffles me is the ski jump. Again…..who thinks of these things? Maybe it is just me…… but rocketing yourself off of a ledge to land on a hard ice/snow packed surface leaves me scratching my head. It ranks right up there with jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or bungee jumping.

Our area of the country does have a small claim to fame when it comes to ski jumping and the Olympics. Back in 1932 the Olympic ski jump trials were held at a place called Canton, SD. If you want to learn more click on the name Canton, SD and check out the link to that bit of history.

I am always glad when the Olympics are on and I absolutely love the winter games. I always kind of wonder if I enjoy them so much because I am in awe of what those dedicated athletes can do. I am amazed at the grace of the figure skaters. I have no idea how those slalom skiers manage to make it through all those little poles/gates and watching the bobsled athletes plummet down that ice coated slide makes me want to squinch my eyes tight shut (and I am not even on that slide).

I think it takes a special kind of person to be one of those athletes. I think you need to be more than fearless. I think you need to have a different idea of fun than I have. I think you maybe need to do more than “Choose Fun” I have a feeling you may also have to “Juice Funk”!

“We all have dreams.
But in order to make dreams come into reality,
it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self discipline, and effort.”
— Jesse Owens,
American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist
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Finding the Beauty

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The other morning my sister sent a photo to our “Cruise 2018” group; of her feet in the snow.  Her caption was, “This doesn’t look like sand!”  Her photo was in response to the snowfall that we had just had in our area.

Yesterday it started snowing here and snowed through the night. Schools were started two hours late to give the road crews a chance to clear the blacktops, highways and gravel roads that buses needed to travel.

It was a jolt back into the reality of winter in the Midwest.  Once again, I had to tend to the girls and shovel trails through the snow so they would be able to get here and there outside.  The sun was shining brightly and it was quietly beautiful…..but oh so cold. The world was brilliantly white…so white it almost hurt your eyes to look.

I am finding it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that just one week ago I was basking in temperatures of 80 degrees and sitting on beautiful sandy beaches. It seems a long time ago and yet it also seems as if it was just yesterday. I am not quite sure how that can be…but it just is.

 

I love the fact that this world holds such a variety of beautiful things. Pristine snowfalls, days so cold you can see your breath, shells that come in all shapes, colors and sizes and the sound of waves rushing up on the beach with gulls swirling overhead.

The pure whiteness of a new snowfall is a totally different kind of beauty than last week where waves washed the beach and deposited sea shells at our feet. I did take some beach sand and shells home with me from Mexico and have them drying on a tray in my kitchen.

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It is a wonderful reminder of our week in the sun. It is a great reminder of the time spent with some of the women in my family…….a time spent catching up with each others’ lives.  (The eight of us represented five different states – Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas.)

Those shells and that sand are a reminder that the simple things in life matter so much and mean so much. They are a reminder not to overlook the joy of time spent with those you love…..to open your eyes to what God has put before you…whether it is cold, pure white snow or the warmth of sun-kissed sand.

Take the time this weekend to let your soul soak in the beauty around you and bask in the warmth of friends and family. You may have to look closely to find the beauty…..it might look more like snow than sand….but it is hiding there somewhere!

 

“Earth’s crammed with heaven.”
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
John Muir

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Lessons Learned From Vacation

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Two steps forward and one step back…..that phrase seems to really explain the last couple days. I had the wonderful experience of escaping the cold of an Iowa winter the last week. The upside…it was so much fun. The down side……I am now playing catch up on everything from housework and laundry to writing and reading blogs!

Last week, along with a daughter-in-law, 1 sister, 2 sisters-in-law, 2 nieces and 1 cousin, I was able to cross an item off my “bucket list”. I went on a cruise. The planning for this event started last summer already, after these same family members read one of my posts where I mentioned that if you really wanted; you could start down the road and end up anywhere.

One sister in law quizzed me as to where I would go……my answer was someplace warm with water and a beach. Another sister in law immediately began researching things like cruises as they were all inclusive and would fit our budgets. Our husbands seemed to have zero desire to go on a cruise so we invited all the women in our family. Eight of us chose to go and this past week we sailed from New Orleans, LA.

We had stops at Cozumel and Progresso (Yucatan Peninsula). We had opportunities to shop, spend time on the beach and just have a great time together. I did learn and relearn some things on this vacation…

I learned that it is good to laugh till you can’t breathe. It is good to smile at everyone you meet and be open to learning about those who serve your meals, clean your rooms and answer your many questions. People are people no matter what color or religion and generally will reciprocate when treated with respect.

I learned that most of us have the same fears, hopes and dreams. I learned (from watching some groups) that drinking to much will turn you into idiots and make you obnoxious.(It might also make you toss your lunch on the beach..it puzzled me to think a person would do that to themselves!) I found that playing Bingo, while fun, will not make you rich.

I learned that caramelized cheesecake is included on the breakfast menu and does, indeed taste delicious at that time of morning. I found that trying the “rare and interesting” appetizers on the menu should sometimes just be something you keep wondering about instead of ordering.

Another thing, I found was the non-drowsy Dramamine is indeed your friend on a cruise….especially when going through a storm. The storm, while making for a bumpy ride, was also amazing.  I also learned that sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful sights that God has gifted us with.

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I found that the simple pleasure of wading in the surf and searching for sea shells is truly one of the great pleasures in life. I learned that the warmth of the sun, combined with a good book and the company of people you love is really all you need most of the time.

I also found that getting back home to the rest of those you love is a wonderful thing. It is a joyful thing to know someone is there waiting for you.

We came back to single digits for temperatures, snowstorms and all the things that make up day to day living in the Midwest…… some good and some not so fun.

I cannot speak for the rest of the gals that went, but I came back with a great appreciation for the relaxation of vacation and a greater appreciation for all those things that make up my day to day life here at home. It is good to go…but it is even better to come back.

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs
and returns home to find it.
George A. Moore

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Beauty in the Barren Places

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Sunrise Over The Badlands

Sometimes beauty shows up in the most unexpected places. Barren, desert like landscapes are strangely beautiful when you really start to look closely at them. When the sun rises over them; they are cast in an amazing glow that makes the land take on an entirely different life.

The world takes on a feel of expectation….a waiting to see what the day will bring….a hush that borders on the feel of standing in a holy place.

As I walked through the crunchy half dead grass of the Badlands of South Dakota; I began to notice that this barren looking land was filled with life……blooms and plants that are fragrant and colorful.

Trees cling tenaciously to life in this land and golden yellow flowers bloom with abandon along the Sage Creek roadway. Perhaps it is the contrast of the lifeless looking grass that elevates the blooms of flowers to something so much more than mere patches of color.

The days can be amazingly hot, with a wind that never seems to quit. As we camped on the rim of the badlands, our pop up camper was buffeted by winds that seemed to want to tip us over the edge. The second night my husband actually chained our camper to our pickup for a little extra safety measure!

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Even with the downside of sudden storms and hot dry winds, this land has much to teach us. It teaches us, at least it teaches me, that beauty can be found in the barren spaces. I have learned that if you look closely you will find an abundance of beauty.

That beauty may not be flashy or showy, but it is abundant. The sage gives off a wonderful aroma if you happen to step on it and the sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful I have seen.

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I am hoping that if you are stuck, waiting in a barren place, that there is one small patch of beauty  to be found. A place for you to rest your heart and feed your soul. May you take delight in a sunrise or sunset….and may it cast a wonderful glow over the barren spaces.

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Sunset Over The Badlands

 

 

“The desert,
when the sun comes up…
I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began.” 

― Tom Hanks

 

I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought.
Hosea 13:5

Not Finished Yet

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We were gone last week. We decided to venture out to the Black Hills in South Dakota. (Which is why I have not been reading any blogs or commenting!  I will be attempting to catch up soon.)

One of the places that we continue to visit, when we get out that way, is Mt. Rushmore. It never changes but it is just something that seems to beckon us to stop and wander around. This time we were able to visit with the last known remaining carver of the mountain, Nick Clifford. He is 96 years old this year and still sharp as a tack.

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After speaking with him and reading the plaques along the trails, that wind around the base of the heads; we rediscovered the fact that the sculpture was actually never finished. They quit carving on it when the US entered World War II. Originally the presidents were supposed to have their coats as part of the sculpture.

It was a beautiful day to be outdoors enjoying the view. The flags were fluttering in the breeze, the crowds were thinner due to school starting, and we were able to stroll the trails in the sun and take our time reading plaques that helped to educate us.

It did really strike me that this project was never finished. My first thought was they should have finished it or should be finishing it now. My second thought was that this memorial is a pretty accurate representation of our country and of us as people….we are not yet finished.

We are constantly changing….sometimes for the better….sometimes not. We have gone through wars, riots, racial challenges, scandals, parades, cheering on our veterans, raising children, everyday life, etc.  Some good…..some not.

On this day, the 11th of September, it is good to remember that we are not yet finished.  This is a day that, as a country, and as a world we won’t forget. For my generation….it is our Pearl Harbor.

We have learned things since that day. There are still things that we, as a country, need to change. There are challenges still to be faced. We are growing and will continue to grow for years to come. Some things will change and others will not.

People will still be people with strong feelings and opinions about things. There will be wars, because we, as a world are made up of imperfect people. We will struggle with events and we will celebrate other events.

We will continue growing, with those four stone faces looking on. I sometimes wonder what they would make of this country and it’s people. I wonder if it would be what they had in mind when they were in charge.

I anticipate that my husband and I will make a trek to those heads a few more times before we are done….at least I hope to in the years to come. I also anticipate that we will grow as we are chiseled, hewn and shaped into what we were meant to be.

 

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May we be gracious while we are being shaped and carved into what we are meant to be. May we persevere and in the end stand firm as a mountain. May we realize that we are not yet finished……..

“When things do not go your way,
remember that every challenge
— every adversity
— contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” 

― Roy T. Bennett

 

Learning New Things

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The old saying “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks” is not necessarily true. I am fast discovering that fact. Approximately one week ago I joined (as my kids would say) the current century…..I am now the owner/user of a cell phone.

My husband and I have never had a cell phone. We relied totally on our land line and our laptop computer for people contacting us. Our children would often nag question us as to when we were going to get a cell phone so they could get hold of us when they wanted and to know where we were.

The response my husband always gave went something like this, “Well….you don’t have to know everything.” He was quite content with his landline. It did not bother him at all to be on the road and have family wonder exactly where we were. Our daughter-in-law likened us to a UPS package. We would check in when we stopped somewhere that had WiFi …….and it kind of was like tracking a package!

I knew I would be going to my kids, four hours away this past week to take care of my grand-kids, as the babysitter was not available and school had not yet started. This was going to be my first solo trip to our kids and I was pretty adamant that I would have a cell phone with me, should I run into any trouble along the way.

I also wanted the comfort of that “google map lady” telling me where to go when I got into the city. I did discover that if you don’t know how to make the “google map lady” work properly she is not much help! (It also does not help to talk back to her as she just keeps on telling you the same thing…..speaking loudly to her doesn’t help either.)

The phone was pretty handy to check in with people and I think I have the texting down pat…..sort of.  It was kind of funny how impressed people were with the fact that I had totally skipped the flip phone phase and headed right for the smartphone.

My husband informed me that I was not a “very serious cell phone person”. He was commenting on the phone case that I had purchased from Amazon. I told him I may as well have some fun with it!

My granddaughter, who is 3, amazed me this week. She was looking at the pictures on my phone and then informed me that she had taken some pictures with it….and indeed she had! I decided then and there, if I had any questions about what my phone can do…I would definitely ask a child.  They just seem to ooze technology and it’s mysteries.

I discovered this past week that one is never too old to learn something new….if you want to. I made my solitary trip to the kids and I am learning how to operate a smart phone. It is kind of fun to do the new things! If I can figure these things out, I am confident that anyone can!

I am so grateful for my kids who are always so willing to answer any question…no matter how stupid it might sound. (They will laugh to my face…at least my sons will, but they will answer the question. It is usually safer to ask my daughter-in-laws as they don’t laugh…at least not to my face.)

In the past I have not wanted to try something new for fear of failure. I still hate to fail because I hate to look stupid. I don’t know why I worry about looking stupid…… I sometimes feel I have perfected that as an art form!

Sometimes you just have to get past that fear and go for it. I have found, that in this case, the learning of something new is kind of fun. When you get past that fear of ailure and looking dumb, life gets to be a grand adventure.

May your weekend be filled with adventure the learning of new things. What is the “something new” that you are learning?

 

 

We’re scared to death to try new things
because we think we have to get it right the first time.
Joel Salatin

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You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner,
the whole world opens up to you.
Barbara Sher

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