Monthly Archives: July 2012

I was at the annual Fair Parade yesterday, and watching the crowd along with the parade. We were sitting in a group of my niece Jessi’s co-workers, who were kind enough to save us seats along with the rest of our group. They were all lovely people, and watching their children and grandchildren enjoy the parade and collecting candy was a lot of fun. As I was watching, one of the moms wanted to get a picture of her daughter, and as the camera came up, the little girl smiled and held up her treasurers, as if on demand. Once the picture was taken, the smile disappeared. The little girl was not angry, she just went back to her own thoughts, and the need for the smile on demand was obviously over.

Of course, we all smile when things are funny, or make us happy, but from the time we are little babies, we are being taught the smile on demand, for pictures, meeting people, or just to show that we are one big happy family. I don’t mean fake smiles, just parents wanting those great moments with their kids to be great. And kids love those moments too. Once the picture is taken, they want to see how good it turned out, and they love it when you show the picture around, or put it on Facebook.

When I think about the times when I have begged my daughters or grandchildren to smile, as babies or otherwise, for pictures or whatever, it almost makes me cringe. Mostly because as a young mother, I wanted everything about my babies to be perfect, and when they were fussy at picture time, especially when a photographer was involved, it was always a nightmare. Then when they got a little older, you could pretty much get a smile on demand, as with the little girl at the parade, and it seemed that all was right in my world again.

I would still take the forced smile on demand look over the tight lipped lack of smile pictures that seemed to by the normal when pictures first started being taken. It seems like all the old time pictures had tight lipped faces, which tells me that the people weren’t very happy. That was probably not the case, but rather just the way it was done back then.

Every year on July 10th, I take a few moments to reflect of the wonderful gift that God has given me…my husband, Bob. When I wake up on July 10th, it just hits me. Almost 2 years before I was born, the man God planned for me…to be my husband…was born. Bob is so perfect for me. We are good together…a good team. Our personalities compliment each other and we share like interests. What could be more perfect.

I was talking to Bob’s dad today, and he mentioned his memories about the day of Bob’s birth. It is quite a story. The family was spending the day in Billings when my mother-in-law went into labor with Bob. Since this was her third child, things can go very fast. My mother-in-law was determined to have her own doctor deliver Bob…her doctor was in Miles City, which is 145 miles from Billings. My father-in-law said that he sure didn’t want to leave Billings, but she was so determined, so he gave in. I don’t know how much time they had to spare, but I do know that there was definite concern that Bob might arrive somewhere on the highway between Billings and Miles City. Bob waited, and his arrival was in Miles City…after which, my father-in-law breathed a huge sigh of relief.

As my father-in-law spoke about that hurried trip, I could picture the whole scene in my mind. My mother-in-law has always been very strong willed, and my father-in-law has always been pretty soft hearted where she is concerned. I can just imagine how she felt too. At a time like that you want your own doctor, not a stranger, in a strange hospital, is a city you don’t live in…especially since hospital stays for births weren’t 1 day or less then. She knew it would be a hardship on the whole family if they had to try to go back and forth.

In the end, it all worked out, and Bob waited until they reached Miles City to be born. I believe he would have been fine either way, and I suppose being born on the highway would have given them all a story to tell, but it would have been scary too, and I’m glad they didn’t have to go through that. Happy birthday my sweet husband!! I love you very much, and thank God for you each and every day!!

So often we determine the value of a person by their beauty, wisdom, athletic prowess, intelligence, college degree, or bank account, but so often these things have nothing to do with the real value of a person. It who the person is inside that we should be looking at. That is the person of value.

My sister-in-law was mentally disabled, but while she wasn’t an athlete, a lawyer, doctor, or nurse, she was one of the most valuable people I have ever known. She didn’t leave some great mark on history, or set any world records, but she left her special mark on my heart, and on the hearts of the rest of her family. Marlyce was a child in many ways, and yet not in ways of playing with toys. She loved to bake and knit. And as a Special Olympian, she learned to bowl and totally loved it. Another thing that she totally loved, was being an aunt. Marlyce loved babies.

I could always tell when Marlyce had been baking chocolate chip cookies before we arrived, because even before the smell hit me, I could tell by the smile on her face. She knew chocolate chip cookins are my favorite, and she loved pleasing me by having them there for me. As I said, she had a way of getting into your heart and staying there. In fact, once she got to know you, you were like family. She didn’t have enemies, or strangers…just friends she hadn’t met yet.

Marlyce left us in 1989. She was only 39 years old at the time. Though she has been gone now for 23 year, I can still see her smiling face and her her infectious laugh. She comes to my mind whenever I smell or eat chocolate chip cookies. I still miss her very much and every day. Happy birthday sweet Marlyce. We love you very much.

Friday was our last full day in the Black Hills, and while the hike for the day was the longest we did this trip, at 7 miles, we felt the best of all the hikes. I’m sure there are a couple of reasons for that. First, our muscles finally got used to being worked like they used to. Second and possibly the most important, it was cloudy and cool. While I prefer warm weather, most of the time, when hiking, cool weather is much better. The clouds kept the sun off, and while it was cool, it did not rain. Don’t get me wrong, I was tired when we were done, and truth be told…before we were done, but we made it. I have found something out about myself during this time…it isn’t just about finishing a hike…it’s about that something inside me that…that sense of accomplishment. I made it, even though it hurt, and made me tired, and many people would think I was crazy for walking 7 miles just to say I did.

The hike of Friday moved us to the 51.9 mark one way on the Mickelson Trail, which for us is 103.8 since we do each section twice. That is something I can feel good about. My hope for next years is that we will continue to stay in the necessary shape for the tougher hikes. We lost Harney Peak for this year, because we just weren’t in shape for it. That saddens me because Harney Peak is my favorite hike, but it also makes me more determined to be able to take that hike next year. Still, every hike is an accomplishment, and I am happy that we got to go.

The afternoon brought another of our favorite things to do in the Black Hills…riding the 1880 Train. Now I suppose many people would think that is kind of a little kid thing to do, but since I get sick on merry-go-rounds, and the carnival rides have the same effect, I’ll stick to the 1880 Train, thank you. It always allows me to imagine what it would be like to travel in the Old West…or even when my Dad was a kid riding the trains his dad worked on. I don’t think I’ll every outgrow the train rides. And riding the train in the beauty of the Black Hills is the perfect end to a lovely vacation.

There are all kinds of special birthdays, and our family has a few of them. My mom was born on New Years Day, and my granddaughter was born on Leap Day, but we had never had a birthday on a day that was special because of its date and year. We got that on July 7th of 2007. The date 07-07-07 according to many people would be the luckiest day of that year. Many people set up their weddings to be on that day. Now personally, I don’t believe in luck. I don’t think certain days have anything to do with whether or not a marriage will work, or a child will have a good life.

One thing I do enjoy though, is birthdays that occur on special days…not because they are lucky…just because they are…cool!! I don’t think that a child born on July 7, 2007 is any luckier than anyone else, but in this case, I believe that we were the ones who were blessed by this birth. It was such a surprise to all of us when Audrianna arrived on July 7, 2007. Who would have ever thought it would happen? It just seemed so unlikely. Her mom was due on July 9th, so we knew it was possible, but still unlikely.

Audrianna was born in Zanesville, Ohio, which is where my nephew, Rob and his wife, Dustie were living at the time. They have since moved back to Casper, and we are all very happy about that fact. Audrianna was a very quiet girl for a very long time. I began to think she was either terribly shy, or couldn’t talk…then, she decided to talk, and she said some of the funniest things. It wasn’t that it was anything in particular, it was just the spur of the moment funniness. That was the kind of humor Audrianna had. And she often didn’t even understand what you were laughing about.

Today, Audrianna is 5 years old. She will start Kindergarten in the fall. I can’t wait to see what funniness she will come up with in the next 5 years. If the first 5 years are any example, then, the next 5 years should be great. Happy birthday Audrianna!! We love you!!

Today, Bob and I hiked the next section of the Mickelson Trail. It was a 3 mile stretch one way, so going out and back put us hiking 6 miles. While this hike was half a mile shorter than yesterday’s and on the Mickelson Trail, which is much more level, the hard thing about this hike is that out of the 6 miles, approximately 5.5 of it was in the bright sunlight, with no shade to be found. We knew up front that it was going to be a tough hike.

We started our hike at the White Elephant Trailhead, so named because of a Feldspar mine across the highway that was named the White Elephant Mine. From there our hike took us on the uphill side of this portion of the trail. Our walk back would be mostly on the down slope…a good thing when you think of being more tired and hot.

When we came to the first real area of shade, which was a place where the builders of the railroad that used to occupy this trail, had found it necessary to cut through the rock for the tracks to go straight through it. Bob noticed a tree that had persevered in its fight for life by reaching through the cracks in the rocks to find the soil it needed. He found it interesting, and asked me to take a picture of it, but I saw something different…perseverance. That tree pushed itself through the little cracks in the rocks in order to live. It was fighting for its life.

As we walked along, I kept thinking about that little tree, and several others as we had seen along the way. Against all odds, they lived, because they never gave up…they persevered. As we sweltered in the heat of the late morning, going from shade source to shade source, we were thankful once again that we were experienced enough to have plenty of water…even if it was warm by this late point in the hike. The little tree stayed on my mind, and I began to see what perseverance is all about. Yes, the tree was fighting for its life, and I was just working toward the end of the trail. They weren’t even the same thing…or were they. In reality, we were both after the prize…the end of the race…the victory. Yes, that was it! We were alike, and like that little tree, I had the victory. The tree had life, and I persevered and made it to the end of another trail. With the completion of today’s hike, we have walked 48.3 miles of the 108.8 mile Mickelson…twice, since we walk out a ways and then back. That is a victory…that is perseverance.

 

Today, Bob and I went on a hike called the Iron Mountain Loop. It is a 5.1 mile easy to moderate trail that we found to be quite pleasant…except for that one hill. I’ll go into that more later. We began our hike thinking what a lovely day it was and what a nice change it was from the 90 degree days we had been having. Our first fork in the road put us onto the actual trail we wanted as it split from the Centennial Trail, which is a trail that is much more used. I thought about that old Robert Frost poem I had always loved, called “The Road Less Traveled” and felt, as I always do on the trail, like the adventure was just beginning.

Our hike continued along beautifully, and we were very much enjoying ourselves. Then the trail came to an end. There was another trail…much less traveled, that went to the right and to the left. Looking again at our trail book, I determined that the trail to the left would meet up with the Iron Creek Trail so we…or should I say, I decided that we should go that way. As we started down the trail, we immediately hoped that we would come upon the other trail, because having to come back up this hill would not be fun. The further we went down the hill, the more I began to think this was a mistake.

Finally, I decided to consult the trail book again. At that point, I realized that the Iron Creek Trail was probably right near where we were, but that was not going to be the easy way back to our car. We were going to have to go back up that hill we had just come down. The big problem I see here is that while I am an experienced hiker…I am an out of shape experienced hiker. I had now just turned and easy to moderate trail into an easy to moderately strenuous trail, and one that an out of shape experienced hiker was going to find…well, difficult!!

With a sigh, I told Bob we needed to go back up. After about 30 minutes, we finally made it to the top of that hill, and back to the trail we had come in on. While it was still easy to moderate, it seemed strenuous to our tired bodies. Finally, we got our second wind, and the trail became easier to maneuver. I can’t tell you how glad I was that we are experienced enough to have plenty of water. When we finally got back to our car, we felt tired, hot, and yet good about ourselves. Even though we were out of shape, we had made it 6.5 miles instead of 5.1, and part of it was very strenuous. I think we did really good…except for that one hill!!

For years now, Bob and I have been coming to Custer, South Dakota in the Black Hills, for our Independence Day celebration. This year is no different…or is it? The heatwave that is hitting our nation right now, the droughts, and the wildfires that are the result of the droughts, are changing the face of Independence Day as we know it. For the first time in all the years we have been coming here, the 4th of July fireworks displays have been cancelled. Of course, we are disappointed, but we fully understand the reasoning behind it, and absolutely support the City of Custer, South Dakota, and their fire department in the decision they have made. The Black Hills have taken such a beating in recent years with wildfires and Pine Beetles, and we don’t want to see any more trees destroyed.

So, what will we do to celebrate our nations independence? We will go out to dinner, and then probably watch some of the fireworks displays in areas of our country who can safely have the shows. Yes, we enjoy the displays, and it doesn’t seem like it can be the 4th of July without them, but as with other things in my life lately, I am finding that sometimes you have to set aside things that you thought were the most important, for things that simply are more important.

As with my mom and my in-laws, whose health is not the best right now, the health of these areas of our nation is far more important than the fireworks celebrations that we all love. I seriously doubt if the people of Colorado Springs are thinking much about fireworks, as they worry about whether or not they will have a home to come home to. So, I will continue in prayer for my fellow Americans whose homes are in the path of the multiple fires in our nation.

Today is Independence Day, whether we have fireworks or not. It is our nation’s birthday, and as a proud American, I will celebrate our nation’s birthday with a heart that is filled with gladness…gladness that I am a citizen of this great nation. I will honor those great men and women who have fought and died to give me the freedoms that I am so grateful for and that we Americans sometimes take for granted. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them. Yes, I will celebrate Independence Day…our nation’s birthday…even if it is without the rocket’s red glare.

The summer of 2012 could very well be known as Wildfire Summer. June has brought record high temperatures and more wildfires than ever before. Colorado Springs lost at least 350 homes in one neighborhood. At least one fire fighting plane has crashed killing most of the people on board. Tens of thousands of acres have been burned. Whole forests and wilderness areas close to being wiped out. It is such an awful situation. Rain seems to only exist in the areas that need it the least…like Florida. Each day I pray for rain for the areas that need it so badly, and for comfort for those who have lost so much.

If the summer of 2012 is Wildfire Summer, then 2009 would have to be known as Pine Beetle Summer. So many trees were lost on mountains, forests, and wilderness areas. As a hiker, the loss felt devastating to me. The beauty of the Black Hills that I love looks so scarred, and it makes me feel so very sad. It is hard to look at the dead trees when we were on the trails, without feeling the loss very deeply. Our annual hike to Harney Peak, though we will not be able to take it this year due to a lack of time to prepare, takes us right through the Black Elk Wilderness Area. I’m told that virtually all the trees in there have been killed by the Pine Beetles, and that makes my stomach churn. It is such a beautiful place…or was. What will it look like the next time I see it.

Then today, when we were on our hike, I saw something that made me realize that all is not lost. There in front of a stand of large trees was a row of smaller trees…the next generation of trees. It occurred to me that every year the pine trees drop their seeds as the pine cones mature. Those seeds fall to the ground, and somehow manage to get started in the process of growing a new tree. As each tree drops hundreds of new seeds every year, and those seeds form hundreds of new trees, the next generation of trees is born.

Looking around, I began to notice several different years of new trees that were different heights now. There were 4 or 5 different years worth of new growth that were visible along the sides of the road and trails. The forests are the same, of course. All around the downed and brown trees there is new growth. Yes it will take years to regrow it all, but it will return. Of that I have no doubt, because I have seen the hope of the next generation.

Bob and I went on the first hike we have taken in a very long time today. We used to hike 8 miles a day at least 5 days a week. Now our days are filled with something different…caring for Bob’s parents. His dad has Emphysema and his mom has Alzheimer’s Disease. It takes time to care for another individual…much less 2 of them. Something has got to give when you are caregiving. There is no way to spend the amount of time necessary to keep a person healthy and still spend all the time you normally did on yourself.

When I was able to walk 8 miles a day, I was not only in great shape, but I was at my ideal weight. Now, I have learned to forgive myself, and to know that I cannot “do it all” and still take care of my aging mom and in-laws. I may not be in the best shape ever, but I could not look myself in the mirror if I did not take care of them. Besides, I love them, so I’ll set my needs aside for a while and care for theirs.

Our hike today was harder than I am used to, but it felt so good, and I want to be able to do more of it. I know that the road I have chosen to take will limit the hiking or even the after dinner walking I will be able to do, but…well, life happens, and we have to follow where the road takes us. Many times it is more important to set aside our needs for a time to do something that is more important for someone else. People do it all the time. Raising children is a prime example of it.

I will get back to having time for me again. I’m not worried about that. It is the way that I will get time for me back that I am trying to avoid. They will need help for the rest of their lives, so as long as they live my time will be less mine…and that is ok. I’d much rather have the parents I have left be here a while longer, than have the time for me.

Yes, our hike today was lovely, and it took the work of 5 other people to make it happen. Corrie, Amy, Josh, Brenda, and Jennifer gave of themselves to give Bob and me a vacation, and it is a gift I will never forget. I know it was extra for each of them and their families sacrificed too. I want them each to know that I love them and I appreciate the time I have been given to rest and get my strength back. I will be forever grateful.