Thursday, January 16, 2014


This week has been a difficult one.

Three or so months ago a long time friend and co-worker was diagnosed with advance stage melanoma.  Within a week of diagnoses he was told it was everywhere in his body except his brain.  It only took a week longer for that to change.  I often hear people say "it happened so quickly".  I even experience "it happened so quickly" with my own dear dad.  Once again "it happened so quickly".  My friend, Joe, passed away Sunday evening.  His funeral was yesterday.  Joe was one of those guys who everyone loved.  He was everywhere and knew everything about our parish and our parish family.  Fr. Greg gave him a first class send off.  During the eulogy Fr. called Joe "the boss", but more than that - a leader.  When there was something needing to be done, he didn't direct, he led by doing, right alongside everyone else.  As Fr. said it, when someone would ask where something was or how to do something, the inevitable answer was "ask Joe".

The funeral home Jim works for had Joe's funeral.  The visitation was in church.  So as Jim was getting things set up in preparation of the visitation, he was having trouble getting electricity to the lights on each side of the casket.  A co-worker and Joe's son joined in trouble shooting.  Jim finally said, "You know, the problem is the guy who knows the answer is in this casket".  So they asked Joe and he told them to turn on the power strip.

I was wrong when I thought I was prepared for Joe's passing.  I have seen him almost daily for 9 years, often only for a minute when he would bring the mail in or just pass through the church building.  I can still see his slow, steady, walk as he moved from one task to another.  He had slowed down a lot the past few years, and I even found myself getting frustrated at the amount of things that weren't getting done, but Joe always gave as much  as he possibly could.  The finality of his death hit me as we walked to the cemetery... and it was gut wrenching.  My friend, JoAnn, looked at me and said, "I want him back", then we held each other, sobbing.

I want him back.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hi all.  Surprised to see me?  Me too.

Happy New Year!

Is it really 2014?  14!!!  I remember when the world was going to come to an end when we entered into the year 2000.  I happened to be working as an administrative manager at a data center in 1999.  The dire predictions were everything was going to stop working.  Everything from clocks to elevators to every other computer program to mankind.  Period.  Programmers spent years leading up to it rewriting code to go past 1999.  I have to wonder why nobody thought about the fact, when the original code was written, that at some point we would get past the year 19something.  We were all on high alert as we neared midnight that year.  Many of our technical staff spent their New Year's Eve in the computer room, monitoring things in case everything exploded (OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit).  The rest of us were on call... just in case.  Fourteen years later, all of that is just a faded memory.

Another faded memory is that it has been 10 years since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.  One mastectomy, a number of operations, and a bit of chemo later - 10 cancer free years!  My most vivid memory was when I talked to the surgeon after the operation, I asked him how bad the cancer was.  He responded, "you don't have cancer... I got it all".  Now that is definitely something to celebrate.

2014 has brought weather challenges to much of the Nation.  Deep freezes where there is usually no freeze.  We had quite a bit of snow and days of below zero temperatures, but nothing like our friends "out East" and the upper Midwest.  All in all we have been the lucky ones.  Tomorrow's weather prediction is around 60 (I know - crazy!)  We will finally get our artificial Christmas tree out of the living room.  The box has to be drug outside to get to where we store it.  Dragging it through snow was not an option.  So tomorrow is the day!

Did you make New Year Resolutions?  I leaned years ago that the best way to set myself up for failure is to make resolutions.  We did start working out again, after shamefully "letting ourselves go" all of last year.  We opted for good old fashioned walking, throwing a ball back and forth while we are walking (which makes me run a lot because I'm so clumsy at catching a ball), hand weights and stuff like that, rather than paying for a gym membership that we won't use because it takes us too long to get there.

I have some posts to be written in the next couple of weeks.  A big, long overdue one, is of our trip last Fall to the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Caroline.  What a wonderful experience.  I planned on coming home and shout into the blogo-sphere how great it was.  Life got in the way.  Over and over I've told Jim that we would be in trouble if we lived closer, because I would be taking classes all of the time.  Stay tuned for that post.

Here's to all - Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We have a name

Thanks to suggestions from Betty and Chicagolady, our Casita now has a name.  I had been toying with the idea of holding a Casita naming contest, but that turns out to not be necessary.

Betty suggested Cassie or Marshmallow and I loved both names.  Then Chicagolady suggested Tubby.  Be still my heart.  We have a Tubby!

Thank you Betty and Chicagolady.  You are the best!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maiden Voyage

We chose to stay relatively close to home for our first outing with our Casita.  Our son, Greg, and his family, often camp with friends at Arrow Rock State Park, and were gracious enough to let us crash their party.

Arrow rock has been a favorite day destination for us for many years.  This year the trip was about the campground experience, rather than the charming little town.  For those who are interested, though, I stole this information from the town's official web site. 

For generations, the Arrow Rock bluff was a significant landmark on the Missouri River for Native Americans, explorers, and early westward travelers. This flint-bearing, high limestone bluff first appeared on a 1732 French map as “pierre a fleche,” literally translated as “rock of arrows.” Archaeological evidence shows that for nearly 12,000 years indigenous cultures used the Arrow Rock bluff as a manufacturing site for flint tools and weapons.
Following the War of 1812 and the subsequent peace treaties with Indians in 1815, large numbers of immigrants from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia began pouring into the fertile “Boone's Lick Country,” so named for the salt spring or “lick” across the river.
In the 1820s, the earliest travelers on what became the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river on the Arrow Rock ferry and filled their water barrels with fresh water at “the Big Spring” before heading west. In 1829, the town of Arrow Rock was founded on the bluff above the ferry crossing. Originally named Philadelphia, the town's name was changed in 1833 to coincide with the better-known landmark name, Arrow Rock.
Many citizens prominent in state and national affairs were closely associated with Arrow Rock including Dr. John Sappington of quinine fame and George Caleb Bingham, Missouri's preeminent artist of the mid-1800s. Three 19th century Missouri governors also came from Arrow Rock.
When the Civil War began, Arrow Rock had reached its peak population of 1,000. The region had a decidedly southern character evidenced in its culture, politics and architecture. One-third of Saline County's population was enslaved African Americans. The Civil War precipitated an economic decline from which Arrow Rock never fully recovered. Steamboats and river commerce gave way to railroads that bypassed the town. Two fires devastated the business district, and the population dwindled to 400 by 1910. Today, 45 full-time and 33 part-time residents call Arrow Rock home.
While the village is small, don't be fooled by its size. Arrow Rock remains a vital community. The restoration of the Huston Tavern in 1923 marked the beginning of historic preservation in the state of Missouri and set the stage for Arrow Rock's future. In 1963, the entire town was designated a National Historic Landmark because of its association with the Westward Expansion. In 1968, the home of artist George Caleb Bingham was listed separately as a National Historic Landmark. Arrow Rock is also a certified site on the Lewis & Clark and Santa Fe Trails.
The campground was relatively full and we were definitely a small fish in a big pond. 

Is it my imagination, or is the truck longer than the Casita?  Can you see the blue lights around the belly band of the camper?  Cute, huh.

I think our granddaughter, Anna, said it best.  She said she "just looks for the upside down bathtub".
It is amazing the amount of attention our little guy generates.   People are just fascinated by its size.

For comparison sake, here is Greg and Alicia's RV.  Now this is an RV!  They camp a lot with 2 kids in tow.  It is their home away from home.

Greg and Alicia, Tessa and Bill, and their families showed up to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.  Yes, Arrow Rock is close enough that Tessa and their families could show up for an evening of fun and then head right back home.

Solving the world's problems.
We had so much fun our first time out with our little Casita.  We need to come up with a name for her.  Thank you Greg and Alicia for including us with your friends and for showing us the ropes of camping luxury style!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Toy

Jim says he misses my blog.  All together now, "Awwww that's sweet".  It IS sweet!  When he said that, it made me realize that I miss my blog.  It is time to get back into the blogosphere.  

We bought a new toy since the last time I posted.  My friend Patti at Osage Bluff Quilter and her husband, BT, bought a Casita RV a year or two ago.  We checked it out and thought it was pretty cool.  It is compact and lightweight, making it easy to pull, but still has the comforts we want (toilet/shower, kitchenette/table, bed, and AC/Heat)  Ever since, we've cussed and discussed getting a Casita like theirs.  Conversations took place like "We've been wanting to tour the national park sites - what better way to do it" or "Greg and Alicia have an RV - this would let us do a little camping with them without intruding on their space" or "If we had an RV we could easily take the Demon Dog with us".  The conversations were endless until finally Jim became obsessed with finding us a used Casita.  That task should be easy enough, right?  Wrong!  Every time he found one that fit the bill of what we wanted he'd call, only to find out it had already been snatched up.  He finally spotted one in Indiana.  And it was still available!  We talked to the guy and found that he made a hobby/business in his retirement of buying Casita's, adding his own twist to them, and selling them.  We decided it was worth a jaunt to Indiana to check it out.

This Casita (I think it is a 2009) was originally owned by two ladies who bought it so they could tour Canada.  After several months on the road they returned home only to have one of them take ill and die.  It sat in a hay barn for a couple of years before our buddy Roy (we now fondly call him Roy Boy) brokered it for the lady.  

Thanks to road work and horrendous traffic in East St. Louis, Illinois, we arrived at Roy's much later than we had anticipated.  Since we were pretty certain we were going to buy this little gem, we had even scoped out camp grounds close by so that we didn't have to go far before it got dark.  Roy had that all figured out, though.  After he had showed off his pride and joy and convinced us it should be ours, we told him we needed to get going.  He would have none of that.  He already had us hooked into his electricity so we could spend the night in his back yard.  Now that was unexpected!

Roy was a character.  Some of his gems (selling points?) was that the bathroom was haunted.  Every time he went in there he saw an old man looking at him.  The next morning he asked me if I had spotted the old man during the night.  I told him no, there was an old woman haunting the place now....

He had installed "mood lighting" through the tubes that run around the inside perimeter of the Casita.  He was most proud of these lights.  They are white tube lights strung through the tubes and connected to a dimmer switch.  Roy was adamant that we couldn't check those lights out until he was gone because, "He couldn't be held responsible for what might happen when those "mood lights" came on.  (I'll never tell...)

The selling point for me was the mattress.  My one fear of RV life was having to sleep on back breaking foam mattresses.  When I expressed that concern, Roy conveniently remembered he had a high end custom made for a Casita mattress in his basement.  According to Roy it was valued at $800.  When I saw it, I knew this would make all the difference in the world.  Once we talked Roy into throwing the mattress into the mix, we had a deal.  When we got home the next day there was an email from Roy saying he needed a picture of the two of us for the FBI most wanted list for stealing his mattress.  What a riot.  We have since discovered by going through the paperwork he left with us that the mattress did indeed cost between $800 and $900 when it was bought by the original lady owners.  Yep, Roy Boy had removed the mattress and then put it back in as a bargaining chip.  

We have also discovered that Whiskey is an excellent traveling companion.  

Up next is our trip to Arrow Rock State Park.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What we have here is...

Dakota and Austin spent the night with us last Thursday night.  We were planning on doing a little shopping the next day.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me:  We have a lot of shopping to do tomorrow.  Maybe I'll even get you guys each a pad and pencil for school.

Grandpa (trying to maintain his "so tight he squeaks" image):  I'm not spending that much money on these two!  We'll buy only one pad and one pencil and they can share.

Austin:  I get the pad!

Dakota:  They are talking about a paper pad, Austin, not an iPad...

Austin:  Really?

Me:  Yea, you know, like a Big Chief Tablet

Austin:  What's that...

Austin with his much wiser older brother Dakota

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Christmas in July

I'm not sure whether I am experiencing writer's block or whether I'm just too busy to write.

My hobbies have overtaken me.  There are more of them than there is time.
Between our small garden, my roses, embroidery jobs, family, sewing, playing with the mandolin (sure wish I could master that sucker), and crafting (I'm in love with Copic Markers, by the way), blogging seems to have taken a back burner.

We did find time for our Christmas in July, though.  This year we headed back to Bass River Resort in Steelville for a float on the Huzzah River.

We rented a lodge that sleeps 20 so that we could all be together.  A couple of weeks before the get together Tessa, Alicia, Julie and I got on a Facebook chat to decide who was bring what, and plan out our meals.  I tend to go overboard on things.  The theme of the chat was "keep it simple, mom".  So we did.  The first night was BBQ Pork Steaks, baked beans, yummy macaroni and cheese, and brownies.  If that is keeping it simple, then keeping it simple definitely works for me.

Nice large open area where everyone can mill around and visit.

Ghost story telling requires a bit of pacing, right Anna?
Monday morning was a gorgeous day.  The temperatures were supposed to get into the lower 90's and there was only a 20% chance of rain.  Does it get any better than this?

Ready to go!
Front row: Allen, Dakota, Reagan, Austin, James, Anna
Back row:  Cody, Travis, Emily, Cara
Ready to go floating! (A shocking experience)

Austin and James - Where you find one, you will find the other

In my wildest dreams, I could not have predicted how this day would have played out.
We rented 2 six-person and 1 eight-person raft for a six mile float.  The families all kind of started out as units, knowing that the groupings would take place naturally as the day went on.  I decided early on that every time they stopped the rafts, someone else would be stuck with me until the next stop.  I figured it would be interesting to see how quickly they would want to stop when I was with them.

After the first few miles, we experienced a beautiful, gentle rain.  The light coming through the clouds ahead of us let us know this was just a little pop up shower.  The sun came back out in time for lunch and a romp in the water. Then dark clouds besieged us again.  This time the rain was much harder and colder.  The wind picked up, making it even worse.  At one point, as Anna, Emily, Tessa and I were huddled under towels to break the wind, Jim said, "It could be worse.  At least it isn't thundering and lightening."  Wrong thing to say!  Almost immediately we heard thunder in the distance followed by a flash of lightening.  Time to get off of the water.

Ours was the first raft, with Greg and Doug' rafts and crew a short distance behind  We could see them well enough to know that they were pulling their raft out.  That is when it hit.  Most had made it to shore, but Travis, Bill, and I still had our feet in the water.  Tessa said it looked like we were doing synchronized dancing as we jumped high when the lightening hit the water.  It was the strangest feeling I've ever had.  Fortunately only a foot or two were in the water and we were ok.  But we absolutely could not see or hear what was happening on the gravel bar across the way with the rest of the family.  That was the most unforgiving rain storm imaginable as we stood huddled under sopping wet towels for warmth.  Then just as quickly as the water works began, the sun shined down on us again.  We waited as everyone headed our way so we could regroup.  We knew immediately that something was wrong.  Cody's leg was in the water as the lightening hit, so he got about the same pop as the rest of us.  But Greg was another story.  He was in the water up to his waist trying to hasten the raft to the side.  Little Reagan noticed something was wrong first and screamed for him.  Alicia said when she looked over at him his eyes were glazed over and he was hanging onto the raft.  Once they got him on the gravel, he apparently he came around pretty quickly.  He says his body felt like he had lost all control of it.  He could only compare it to what it must feel to get tazered.  It took him awhile to get his equilibrium back and for the headache to go away as we headed on down the river.  Poor Cara was beside herself to the point of hysteria when we were finally all together.  She saw what happened to Greg and had no idea if the rest of us were alright.  At that point all I wanted to do was get out of that water and onto dry ground, even if the storms had passed.  I still shudder when I think of how bad it could have been.  The rest chalked it up to God had been watching over us, now let's enjoy the rest of the float.

Once we got back to the cabin, we ordered in Pizza (it was more like card board with unidentifiable topping on it).  Doug, Travis, and Cody headed home so they could make a 9:00 ball game.  Most of us called it an early night.  The day had taken its toll on us.  I think Jim and Greg, still nursing a head ache, sat up and rehashed the day over a glass of whiskey.  Tessa, Bill and their family were to head home at 5:00 the next morning to make it to a funeral of a hometown teen who had been killed in a car accident.

If you ignore me, I'll ignore you

All in all it really was a wonderful vacation.  We knew we would be making memories - that is why we do this.  However, the excitement of this family get away will be a bit more memorable than any other.  And yes, Greg is ok.  He refused to go the ER or Dr., hard head that he is.  All's well that ends well!

Fair warning, all electronics will be banned next time.

So, what's been going on in your lives?  I plan on doing a little blog hopping to find out for myself.  Hope all are well and enjoying a little sunshine.

I choose to make the REST of my life the BEST of my life.  Louise Hay