Archive for the 'Stories Travels and Dreams' Category

More Fun at the State Fair

August 19th, 2010

Yesterday there was more fun in Iowa after the rain. The sun came out and so did the crowds, but we had a goal to see a few things- it’s so big!

The Dr. Suess exhibit was enormous… That’s a lot of butter! And the butter cow too- what a tradition.

We saw sheep being trimmed for showing. One family had four people working quickly to brush and smooth the wool- you could see the pride in their work.

Then were able to see the goats! They were so cute- especially the little ones just a few days old.

I remember a friend years ago (maybe late 70’s?) that had a few milk goats- we were on their homestead for a few days and one doe was struggling to give birth. I called long distance from Arkansas to Missouri and talked with my Mom who had close friends that ran a larger milk goat farm in New Jersey (we lived there previously too and grew up on raw goats milk and eggs for a few years).

Anyway, we patched a three-way call for some expertise and I think it helped out a lot.

I remember visiting that farm in New Jersey and marveling at watching this small woman pick up those big heavy metal cans of milk and pouring it right into gallon glass bottles without spilling, as fresh as could be with thick cream at the top.

Here’s a picture of the boy milking the cow… He did really well. Chook it sounds like you’ve got some wonderful memories there!

All in all it was great fun… The crowds were huge and I was surprised at how many of the older folks really came out… Talking with many it seems this is a strong tradition for their families.

It was neat seeing the 4H exhibits and blue-ribbon chicken tractor. The boy loved his giant cold dill pickle, and I enjoyed the pork chops and free hard-boiled eggs.

We finished up with the rides; went on the “Ye Old Mill” ride which was riding a floating log through the dark. The boy said “What was the point of that!?” and as I looked around at all the teenagers I laughed and realized he would understand too soon in a few years.

We found some more rides for faster fun… where do the kids get that energy?! We need to save some of it for getting home and cleaned up :)

Maybe next year we’ll enter something in the Missouri State Fair… Or at least go. Iowa has put on a terrific Fair!

Fair Days in Iowa

August 18th, 2010

Well… This morning we entered the “land of rain” or, as Ed and the signs fondly proclaim… Iowa. I’ve read how this is such a wet year here, but wasn’t prepared to see miles of flooded fields.

We have traveled in a small camper these past two weeks, the boy, the dog and I. Now ensconced amid hundreds of other “mobile homes” this morning was a sea of mud, grass, fiberglass and aluminum while the rain poured down..

But we persevered! The Iowa State Fair is amazing in its size and scope. The boy even milked his first cow :) I love seeing all the livestock, and the ag exhibits. The 1300+ pound pumpkin won the blue ribbon.

The boy was tickled playing with that “old-fashioned” rotary phone… He was amazed we grew up that way dialing so slowly and tied to the cord… And here I am writing this from a tiny wireless device that can call anywhere.. My father would have laughed- he worked for Western Electric and the telephone industry for 34 years.

Several families walked around with “Century Farm” t-shirts, reaching that family milestone which is so impressive in this day and age.

I had my first “Beef Sundae” (think pulled beef on potatoes with gravy and cheese), and the boy other gastric oddities like a “Monkey Tail” or frozen banana dipped in chocolate.

We could see downtown Des Moines and the State Capitol from the skyway ride. The rain kept things cool… A nice day with a lesser crowd. Tomorrow we’ll have another go before heading home. Need to find that Dr. Suess butter exhibit!

I miss the north country already… But I’ll show better pictures later. That washing machine was all I figured out from my phone for the first time! Maybe we’ll find that Mexican restaurant too…

It’s classic summer fun… We had hoped but won’t see the poultry exhibits at the fair…they don’t start until after we leave. Maybe the goats tomorrow which I think are cool. But I hear our own little chicks are going on two dozen eggs!

Three States and Into the Farm Belt

August 17th, 2010

We left Michigan yesterday… The UP is a land of fudge and pasties! I took a photo of the Garmin GPS as we rounded the north end od Lake Michigan… Wisconsin was beautiful but we didn’t stay…We have many pictures on another camera to share another day. These are taken with my phone so I’m not sure how well they turn out. Yesterday was a long but nice drive down through Wisconsin… This morning we’re in Iowa at an amazing rest stop. They even have murals and wireless internet! We may be heading to the world famous Iowa State Fair, but home (and school!) beckons as our summer fun winds down. This has been a nice trip… We’d like to keep going :)

Driving On

August 16th, 2010

Awoke this morning on the shores of Lake Huron, the sound of the waves peaceful through the night. The water calls to me somehow… Yesterday was fun.. Enjoyed the charm of Mackinac Island, if a bit too commercial. The homes were beautiful however. The yellow lab got all the attention, and he loved it! Today we are heading across the upper peninsula in Michigan. The wind along the northern reaches of Lake Michigan is amazing, and the air has that feel of Autumn not too far off… I looked for meteor showers the last few nights but didn’t see any… We have wishes in reserve… Onward!

All Washed Up

August 15th, 2010

Well it seems after a week I figured out how to post something from my phone… Silly I know but kind of neat when I’m sitting at a campsite. More importantly however… We’re enjoying the sights and even have clean clothes again! :-)


The Road Goes On… And So Do We

June 17th, 2010

Do you ever wonder what that other road might look like?   You know, the one not taken?  Or maybe it’s a few different roads.    Most of us have thought a time or two about what our life would be like if …  or, maybe…  or I wonder what would have happened…

Then again, perhaps it’s just me.   You see I’m very thankful for my life and where I am.  Of course I’m human too and can always see where things need improvement, or changed or let go.  But  I’ve been very fortunate in life.  I’ve had the chance to realize several dreams, and to explore avenues of my own growth and throughout the world that I could only imagine as a child.   And still, I remember making many choices along the way that could have led to a far different life. Bear with me… I’ll probably reflect on a few of those choices now and then.

Some of those choices meant that I lived, where I might have died only moments before.   Sometimes it wasn’t even a choice, but that I found out later that I was lucky.  And still other actions that meant someone else lived where they may not have.

I remember working as a lifeguard in my youth for many seasons and at school.  It wasn’t glamorous or exciting at all.  Just hours spent patiently sitting and watching and pondering.  And cleaning bathrooms, or coaching or cleaning the pool.

And yet one moment a father jumps in the pool for a quick swim, and his toddler jumps in after him, sinking to the bottom, while he swims away.   I make a quick dive in the pool and the toddler is sputtering on the side, and moments later the father’s eyes are wide at comprehending what happened.  Something simple, yet profound. And we keep on…

Yet I have seen far too many instances of the vagaries of life and death to think that anyone has a lock on guaranteeing some aspect of our lives.   I remember an aircraft getting ready to launch off the carrier, after I walked in the ready room after a flight, still high on the adrenalin of the experience.  The ship was pulling into port a day later, and it was one of the last aircraft sorties for the day.  The crew’s excitement after months in the Middle East was tangible. We didn’t have to fly that day, but it was a press for some milestone or another.

The aircraft launched… but something was wrong.  It should have been faster, but the catapult malfunctioned and the aircraft didn’t have enough speed to fly, yet was going too fast to stop.   The aircraft carried four crewmembers- two naval aviators (pilot/copilot) a naval flight officer and a mission technician… just aviators in navy parlance.   I was staring at the closed-circuit television in the ready room as I watched the ejection seats come out of the aircraft as it went over the angle deck in front of the carrier.

The carrier was steaming at 26 knots… Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!  I heard above me in rapid succession…  our ready room was a few decks right below.  Except that only one seat kind of went up.  The aircraft had pitched rapidly down and over the deck as the other seats were firing. They went sideways, and down.   It just happens too quickly.   And in a matter of seconds, three aviators are dead, and one left alive.  They picked him up with the helicopter, unconscious, found one other body and two were just gone.

It was a staggering moment, not only because I was a witness to the tragedy (I was growing numb to such events…), but it was just the stark contrast to everything that was happening up to that very moment.  What had been an incredibly lively atmosphere was shattered by the realization that several of our shipmates were dead.  Two of the three officer’s wives had already flown half-way across the world and were waiting to meet them the next day.  It was hard to comprehend.  The memorial at sea was four days later, after the port visit, and we were back flying again and heading towards home across the Pacific.

And life went on.  The moment shaped me however.  I didn’t know why it happened, or how it happened, but I knew they would find out.  And I knew I wanted to learn about how to prevent things like that from happening. I chose a path that took me along that way.  And I continued to learn that our choices do impact the experiences we will have in our lives.

I know many folks believe the Almighty has a plan- some that God has predestined our lives, or that a specific “plan” directs our lives. Perhaps so.  Sometimes I have doubts about my relationship with Christ in understanding the path ahead, and I wonder if there is such a plan.  More often, I have believed that God sets things in motion for us, provides opportunities… and we have the freedom and privilege- even the responsibility- to make choices along the way in directing our lives… for better or worse.  And yet I believe “things” do happen for a reason… is that part of God’s plan?  Do I really “listen” or seek His guidance when I have so many questions?  Perhaps not enough- as one brought up to embrace individuality and “self-reliance” I usually jump at challenges and try to handle most things on my own.  I must admit that I even forget that He is there at times.

I know I don’t have all the answers… so why do we so often search for them in all the wrong places?!  And then I learn, time and again, that there is little in our lives that we do “on our own.”  Lots of discussion there for an age old debate.

I remember seeing something the other night… a young girl asked her father, “If we’re all supposed to go to heaven anyway, then why does God put us here first?” Her father didn’t have an answer. Some say to learn faith. Or as a test. Or maybe to fulfill a purpose. To grow, to serve. And maybe to learn to Love.

Regardless of the reasons for our existence, or God’s plan for our lives, I believe we can influence the direction and the nature of our experience.  More than that really… that it is vital to really embrace life. Is that hubris?  Lack of trust or belief? For me, I think of our choices as the paths we can take throughout our lives.  Sometimes we walk in the light, and it’s easy and free.  Sometimes we’re stuck on one path for a very long time, in the shadows of life… Sometimes the path is cut short, or we take an unplanned detour for reasons that have nothing to do with us.

Do we just throw our hands up, sit down on the side of the road and quit walking?   Yeah, sometimes we do.

But maybe we learn to get up again, and keep slogging along looking for things that validate the context and experience we seek while making new choices along the way.

It doesn’t guarantee anything.   That catapult malfunction was because of equipment failure.  Whereas most accidents involved a human in the chain of events, sometimes things just happen, things just break.   After an accident like that, they replace, redesign and inspect more aggressively with similar parts all across the world to help prevent the same thing from happening again. They still happened, but we could learn from them. Learning from the mistakes of others, or how to better design or improve something also involved choices.

No matter what we do, we still face challenges.  We still make mistakes, we still make choices… and we get to try again.  We are really pretty fortunate to be able to do just that.   Those choices are going to take us somewhere.   I figure it might as well be somewhere we’d like to go.

Welcome Home Jessica Watson!

May 15th, 2010

After seven long months at sea, it’s wonderful to see Jessica Watson return home from her amazing journey around the world. A solo, non-stop voyage through the world’s southern oceans, at age 16…

On her return on Saturday, Prime Minister Rudd, who was waiting at the Opera House, praised her as “our newest Australian hero.”

“At 16 years old, you are a hero for all young Australians, you are also a hero for all young Australian women, you do our nation proud. This is a great day for our country,” Rudd said.

Still a little shaky on her feet after so long at sea, Watson disagreed.

“I don’t consider myself a hero, I’m an ordinary girl,” she told the welcoming crowd.

“You don’t have to be someone special to achieve something amazing, you’ve just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard. I’d like to think I’ve proved that anything really is possible if you set your mind to it.”

I appreciate the courage and determination it took to make such a journey, and in part it shows how from our imagined dreams we can achieve great things. I was learning to drive at that age, and thinking about school, sports and how to work up some money with odd jobs. My biggest adventures were roaming the forests, lakes and streams of Missouri.

I had dreams as well, and was fortunate to realize many of them. But sailing alone around the world? That stands, fittingly, alone among a few. All I can say is Congrats Jess! and Happy Birthday as you turn 17 in a couple of days. Let your journey serve to inspire others, and to help guide your life in positive ways.

Seeing the World in Raindrops and Oceans

April 26th, 2010

If April showers bring May flowers, then we’re going to have a beautiful month coming up.  It has been non-stop rain the past few days.  We sure needed it, but goodness it has just been a bit much.   On the plus side, the garden is really looking great.  On the minus side, the bees haven’t been able to forage for several days and will be going through stored honey like crazy.  I’ll feed them to make sure they have enough, but it’s a tough start for them.  

Everything is dripping from the rain… 

As I bent low to look at raindrops on the tiny seed heads of grass in the yard, I wondered what I might see?

I leaned in closer to look at a drop of rainwater hanging from the top of a seed head of bluegrass…

 In that tiny drop of water I found the reflections of an ash tree, a cherry tree, some pine trees and a fence post on the hillside…

I wonder about the things I miss in this world simply because I do not see them?

I wandered around a bit more, and found the last flowers of the redbud trees gathered on the ground where they fell…

But a few days ago the dogwood trees were blooming still.

A field of dandelion is going to seed, but that’s okay.  The bees just love dandelions.

And so do curious boys…  did you know you can put a dandelion seed head underwater? I didn’t… it traps air bubbles inside.

There is so much to see and do in spring. We have a few sunny days coming up thankfully, and then more rain… the nature of things.

I’m just amazed at how fast the leaves have changed the landscape this spring. 


For a different perspective, we continue to read of Jessica Watson’s journey around the world.  She’s battled quite a few storms recently and huge seas, with her 34 foot sailboat even being knocked down again yesterday while she was catching some sleep.  After spending around seven months at sea, she’s now south of Australia and only has to make her way around Tasmania and up to Sydney to complete her non-stop solo journey within a matter of weeks.  If you’ve read her posts, she has shared much of her challenges and emotions.  It’s difficult to imagine really.

Jessica will become the youngest person in history to sail non-stop around the world.   Really I don’t care how old you are, just the journey is amazing in itself.   You may have read the news that another young sailor, Abbey Sunderland, has struggled on her journey half-way around the world in a 40 foot sailboat, and will not be able to complete a non-stop circumnavigation due to a faulty mechanical auto-pilot system.  She is a bit younger than Jessica, and was bidding for the record. 

With unnecessary dismay, Abbey writes that even though she must stop for repairs, she will continue her journey around the world, perhaps stopping again. It’s hard to imagine sailing around the world at all, let alone worry about whether it’s non-stop or not!   Her older brother Zac made a similar journey at age 17, completing a solo circumnavigation in 2009 in 13 months.  He had to stop for repairs also, finsihing with 13 stops around the world.     

But hey, there’s still hope for the rest of us.  All you need to do is read about Minoru Saito, the 75 year-old Japanese yachtsman who has sailed around the world seven times.  He even completed a non-stop solo circumnavigation at age 71.   Right now he is more than half way around the world… sailing a reverse course against the wind for an 8th circumnavigation attempt which he hopes to finish at age 76.  

From a tiny drop of rain, to a macro view of sailing around the world. It’s amazing how we can shift our focus and our thoughts among things that challenge the imagination at different levels.   Not that those are things we should try, but simply that I think of how we limit ourselves so often, both in perspective and for the things we take for granted each day.  Our lives are so much more… and I think one of the most important lessons I see these adventurers sharing is that we really can do just about anything we put our hearts and minds toward. Have a great week…

Life Lessons and Snow Fun

February 17th, 2010

I know it must be spring somewhere… quite a few latitudes south to be sure. I hope you’re enjoying the weather down there. One of these days we need to come visit.   Ah, but lovely February in Missouri. Where would we be without a little cold and snow?  Okay, it’s colder up north- you guys have me there.   I think I’m just ready for the next season.

I went looking for daffodil tips the othere day, trying to find them poking up through the ground. Too much snow yet to see them, but I know they’re there! Besides, in just a couple of weeks it will be March already. How weird is that?

The weekend past was spent enjoying some new fallen snow, and plowing the driveway.   Finally.  It’s under the snow where the Shiba is sitting… the wind drifted it up a little.


Our cars do fairly well considering the “big dip” in the middle of the driveway.  But it’s a slippery affair. Once last week I was taking a good run back in the driveway with the car squirming all around, steering wheel spinning like four-wheeling through the mud and just barely gaining traction. From the back seat the boy yells, “I feel like a chicken on skis!”  I smiled and complimented him on his description of our ride.


So I finally rigged up the old 6′ blade behind the tractor and got busy. It cleared a wider swath of snow than the little bucket could.   But you can only do so much with a gravel drive if you don’t want to ruin it. There’s going to be a lot of packed down snow no matter what, and most cars do just fine.  This was before we got another 4-5 inches.   You can just see the sunset reflection in the house’s window in the distance.


Besides, the next day it gave us a chance to get out the Flexible Flyer! Surely some of you remember sledding long ago, or perhaps not so long ago? Seems like we had more snow when I was a kid, you know, like when we walked two miles through it to school?  Maybe like everything seemed bigger as a kid, everything seemed snowier too… 

But in the winter I think I lived on the sled. This is one of them… it’s over 35 years old now and the boy is just getting to try it out.



You need some good packed-down snow for it, and the driveway was just the ticket.  At least the icy parts around the gravel patches.   So there we go- on the far side coming back down the driveway. “Get on,” I tell him as I lay down. He climbs on my back and I demonstrate how to properly steer one of these things. “Wheee!” and away we go.

It was pretty fun… except for the part with the yellow lab running right in front thinking this is some new game for him… we weren’t half way down the little hill and the dog, running alongside as we zoom by, reaches out and snatches my hat off my head and runs away! “Bring that back!” I yell but he’s having too much fun. We roll to a stop with the boy laughing and the dog shaking my knit cap like a rag doll.

Thus educated, the boy proceeded to have a little fun.  Even with the limits of our little hill.  He tried the bigger slope to the pond.  Alas the snow wasn’t packed down enough. Then the sled got away and almost ran out to the pond alone. Fortunately a tree stopped it short. Reminded me of my own youthful adventures….

I was ten or eleven years old and liked testing myself.   One snowy weekend morning my brother and I (he a year younger) joined a throng of other exuberant souls at the top of a big hill near some woods. The goal was to see who could start the highest up, and then go down the fastest off a big ramp or jump, fly through the air and then continue all the way through the trees to the bottom.

After watching a few fainthearted boys try their luck, and older ones too, I marched up higher than anyone had gone and stated those fateful words that evey co-pilot dreads, “Watch this!”

Away I went, zooming like mad headfirst toward that ramp looking at the trees beyond.  I was enjoying every second and smiling at the sheer speed, blissfully unaware of the total lack of control I was about to encounter.  Then all at once I knew, with some primeval instinct, that I was about to enter uncontrolled flight….  I hit that ramp and went soaring high into the air, parting with my sled and feeling mad at myself for not figuring it out better as I hurtled toward a huge tree. 

I just remember an enormous “Crash!!!” and the yells of the other kids.  I think someone asked, “Is he dead!?”

It was a long walk home, what seemed like a half-mile but was probably less.  I cradled my right arm to my chest trying not to cry but it hurt like crazy. I looked at it and told my brother I broke my bones in my arm. “How do you know?” he said. “I just do!” and I was more worried about what my parents would say. Finally we arrived home, meeting the folks outside and I let loose, crying that “I broke my arm!”

“Oh, it’s okay, don’t worry… you probably didn’t…lets take a look…” said Mom or Dad… followed quickly by, “Oh! Umm… well lets get the car and go to the hospital…”

That day provided a good lesson. Something about showing off while doing something you really had no idea about. In a strange sort of way I remember the gleam in the other kids eyes as I was about to launch myself down the hill. I remember the yells and screams… and I remember liking that.   And then feeling pretty stupid afterwards too.  I think it provided some measure of a data point for the things I would do, and the things I would not do later on.   As much as I’ve always enjoyed speed, sports and fast machines, that single day gave me a bit of experience for how things can turn out differently than you thought.

It wasn’t the last of my youthful lessons by a long shot.   I was pretty lucky a whole bunch of other times… and I’ll probably write about them too.  I wish I could data-dump some of them to the boy… share my stories and mishaps so he doesn’t have to learn them quite the same way. I think Benjamin Franklin once said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”  I appreciate his point, and think there’s a lot of wisdom there.

Yet while I’m a big believer in academic learning, mentorship and helping others avoid the hard lessons… most of us seem to have our own stories to tell, and our own scars to mark our experience.   You can only teach someone so much, and our experience is priceless.  It shapes us in so many ways.   Which makes it one of my parenting goals… trying to put it all together so that what shapes the young one as he makes his own choices, isn’t quite so rough along the way.   Time will tell.

A Journey of Dreams and Inspiration

January 18th, 2010

It’s often amazing to read about what some people are doing with their lives. I have written of one such person in the past, and I find myself following her progress nearly every day.   Her name is Jessica Watson, and at 16years of age she is making the journey of a lifetime.  There has been much discussion or even amazement at how someone so young could be on such a journey at all.  But I don’t write this to entertain the “Why” or “Why not” of such a trek.

Today I’m simply offering a salute to a fellow adventurer on this great journey of our lives.  Sailing the world in a tiny 34 foot sailboat (see what it looks like from the top of the mast!), She has just in the past week accomplished an incredible feat of rounding Cape Horn single-handedly as part of her attempt at a sailing solo circumnavigation of the earth.   Just sense the excitement as she shares a little of her experience:


Her parents even made the journey from Australia to the Cape so they could fly over her sailboat in a plane. She is now journeying northeast past the Falkland Islands, continuing and only about half-way around the southern seas of our planet. 

One may reflect upon the challenges, strife and human suffering we see throughout the world… but does that diminish the triumph of the human spirit in a different context? As simply as one who reaches out to help others, I believe we can choose to embrace life and each new day as a chance to grow and achieve. We may see human effort and consequence in stark moral terms, and that is our privilege or failing, as the case may be. Sometimes however, others help frame the context of life in ways we may leverage to show us what is possible. To each their own.

For now a young woman has chosen this path for her life. I can find no fault in it… rather it seems to me quite empowering to reflect upon the opportunity and challenges that any of us may accept and accomplish, no matter how mundane or encompassing. She writes of her journey from the heart with such honesty… I find it inspiring, courageous, amazing and even a bit breathtaking to imagine it all. We wish you fair winds and safe passage, and… Godspeed Jessica!

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