Recently, one of the companies I write insurance for gave our office a Garmin, which my boss gave to me (because he is a very nice guy) and this is the first really long trip we have used it on. The Garmin is a wonderful item, and one I would highly recommend to anyone who likes to travel. We easily maneuvered Salt Lake City, as well as Reno, and all along the California coast and across Oregon. Normally, these trips would find me with an atlas making sure we are on course, but this trip I was able to relax and let someone else be the navigator.

The Garmin girl does have a couple of quirks, however. She just doesn’t like it when you disobey her orders. If she were a real person, you could say she was controlling. And I guess you could say it anyway, but there is not much you could do about it. Whenever you decide to stop, be it for a pit stop or something interesting you want to see, she begins the directional repairs. “Recalculating…drive 1.2 miles then turn left, and turn left…” It is all designed to keep you from getting lost, but we found it quite funny. It was like being scolded for not following directions at school. We laughed every time, and even warned each other that she was going to be upset, because we were about to get off course.

The poor Garmin girl just couldn’t understand that we knew what we were doing that time. All she could see was that her charges simply refused to listen. So….here we go again, “Recalculating…drive 500 ft and turn right…then turn right…so you can get yourself back on track…you silly driver who can’t listen, and refuses to pay attention to me. Don’t you know that I am in charge???” Finally in desperation, she says, “Make a U-Turn…Whenever possible, make a U-Turn!!!” I guess we freaked her out!! We laugh and go our merry way, and then when we are ready, we begin to follow her instructions, and once we are back on track. All is right in her world again, and she can relax.

While traveling in California, I noticed one particular tree. Now, I know that is odd considering the vast number and distinct types of trees in California. We were on our way to the Redwoods, but this was a little fir tree of some type. I’m sure many people would have considered it insignificant, and even weird, but it got me thinking. The tree was full and well shaped, but sticking out all over it were dead branches, from some event that happened to it. But this little tree had persevered and was coming back. The dead branches were simply battle scars from its fight for survival.

The reason this particular tree got me thinking is that it reminded me of many people around us. People who have been down a tough road, and with the scars to prove it, but through hard work and perseverance, they are still alive…still moving on…still living life. They are coming back from their battle, and working on being, at least to a degree, the person they were before.

So often we look at people who have bee through it, and decide that they have let themselves go, when in reality, maybe they have been through it, but they haven’t let themselves go, rather they are fighting their way back. Every person is beautiful in their own way, just like that little tree. Sure, there are some rough edges, and a few battle scars, but the tree was lush and green around all those dead branches, quite unique. I didn’t take a picture of that tree, and have regretted that, because I looked and looked for another, and found none. It was unique, and it was alone in its look, and that was why it was so special.

Today we went through more of the Redwoods, including the Tour Thru Tree, and the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway where we saw The Big Tree, which for that area was bigger than the rest…and those were all giants. It was gorgeous!! You just can’t comprehend the beauty of the rain forest and the Redwoods until you have experienced them for yourself. We took lots of pictures and walked the trails in the area, and as we went, I was struck with awe at just how small I was. I realize that I am in no way as tall as any tree, but next to these, I felt the size of a mouse or something. It is truly amazing that they can get so big.

These trees were amazing in several ways. We were surprised at the fact that when a tree fell, often another tree would just begin growing right over the fallen tree. Before long, the living tree and the dead tree were one. Another thing we saw was a tree that attaches itself to another tree, and after the lower section of the tree broke off, the upper part just kept right on growing due to the fact that it attached itself to another tree. It’s like the whole forest is connected and it just continues to use what is available. The clover grows on the dead logs, the moss attaches itself to the trees. Everything is used, nothing goes to waste. It all supports everything for the common good of all life there. How very unusual that is.

As we head home today, it is with some regret, that we didn’t have a little more time, and yet I am thankful that we got to come at all. We had not planned on the California coast or Oregon, but we were able to do both, and found both to be incredibly beautiful. We live in a beautiful country, and I feel very blessed to have seen as much of it as I have.

Today Bob and I visited the Redwoods in northern California. It was a beautiful drive that we will continue tomorrow, when we drive through a Redwood tree. Our trip was altered somewhat by a mudslide on Highway 101, that shut down the part of the area where some of the most famous trees are, but after some scrambling, we have found an alternate tree to use for our picture, so that will be posted tomorrow on Facebook.

Today we drove through some beautiful areas, and found some awesome trees, as you can see. The Redwoods are truly amazing, as was the northern coast of California, which neither of us had visited before. It is quite different from the southern coast, but we did find a great beach to walk out to and find drift wood. I especially liked all the rocks out in the ocean along the coast. It makes me wonder how they came to be there, but I don’t suppose I will ever know.

Touring the Redwoods today, reminded me of a story I was told concerning Bob’s brother Ron, who was 4 or 5 at the time of this story. Bob was in high school and had a job, so he was unable to go on vacation with the family when the went to California and the Redwoods. Nevertheless, they had a great time and young Ron decided that he wanted to stay. In an effort to convince Ron that they couldn’t stay, they said that staying would be impossible because Bob was at home and would miss them. Ron, who was quite quick in my opinion, had the perfect solution…send for him in the mail!!! Well Ron, I just wanted to let you know that the mail finally delivered Bob to the Redwoods…soooo, where are you?

We left Reno, Nevada and headed west toward Redding, California. The morning was cool, but with the promise of getting warmer. We were so excited to go, since neither of us had ever seen the Redwoods before. We hadn’t thought of doing it, but Jim (my boss) brought it up, and when we found that it was something we would have time to do, we made the decision to go for it.

As we drove along from Reno to the California state line, the land was brown and lifeless in the late March sunlight. Just a short time out of Reno, we crossed the border into California, and it was like going from one planet to another. The air was warmer…I had to take off my jacket. Then, I noticed that everything was becoming greener and very fresh smelling. You could tell that you were in California.

The route we traveled, took us over the mountains. When we left Susanville, California, the temperature was a very comfortable 68 degrees. Then we went up into the mountains, and while the roads were clear and dry, the snow was higher than the car. The trees were a tall and green pine (or some such, since I’m no expert), but definately not Redwood…yet.

By the time we arrived in Redding, the transformation was complete. The trees had leaves, and the grass was green. The air was warm and we didn’t need a jacket when we went for a walk. We even saw the Sundial Bridge, which is a very unique foot bridge. It was such a beautiful day. Perfect really. Awww, this was it. The reason we go to a warmer climate in March…to feel the coming summer, if only for a few days.

Every year Bob and I take a vacation to go to the National Bowling Tournament. This year it is in Reno, Nevada. Every year we go with the hope of Bob’s team doing well. Some years are great and some…well not so good. But, no matter how they bowl, we always have a good time. Bob and I have made it a tradition to take the whole week even though he only bowls two days, and then only for a couple of hours. We have had the opportunity to go a number of places that way, and still give him the chance to bowl in the tournament.

It is a very exciting thing to come and bowl in nationals. They make a big production of it by bringing the bowlers out in a big procession, set to music, and with everyone clapping and cameras snapping pictures. Then the practice begins. After 10 minutes, the National Anthem is played and the competition begins. This year has not proved itself to be a hot year for Bob, so far, but there is hope until it is over. He came in with a 212 average, so bowling badly really hurts the team.

So far, it looks like this year will be one of those years. There has not been a lot of cheering going on…anywhere in the bowling stadium. The scores are all pretty low, and everyone is trying to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it, but that doesn’t dampen the spirit of these men. At the beginning of the final game of the team event, it has become very obvious that there is not much hope for a good showing, but even though they are discouraged, they continue to encourage each other, and have a good time. That is just how these guys are. And there is always tomorrow and the doubles and singles event. Hopefully they will have a better showing then.

I have been thinking about a situation that happened to me a few years ago, and while I have moved on, the shock of what happened still comes to mind sometimes. A good friend of mine passed away, and left some things to me and several other people in her will. Now, I know that many people would think that the only thing I care about is the things, but that is the least of it. In fact the things mean very little in the scheme of things. What brought this to mind again is the trip we made to visit her grave, which we do as often as we go to Reno.

What has bothered me over the years is that her children, chose to keep everything, and not honor her will at all. It was such a selfish act, and not because of the things, but because her final wishes were not honored. Oh, I’m sure they thought that they just couldn’t part with their mother’s things, but they didn’t belong to them. They stole from their mother!! Stole her right to have one final say in her own life. Stole her right to leave a bit of herself to her special, beloved friends. And, they stole their own peace of mind, because I know that every time I see one of them, she quickly looks away, because she feels guilt.

My friend had given me other things through the years, you see, she was an artist, but she told me that I was to have my choice of her paintings when she passed away. I knew it was in the will several years before she died. And it was brought up by her daughter right after she passed, but then it was dropped. There were some paintings that so reminded me of her sweet spirit, but I would never have deprived her daughters of all the paintings. We could have easily come to a workable agreement, but I was never given the chance to be generous toward her children. I received occasional correspondence from the attorney, who told me that there was nothing he could do about their refusal to honor the will, but nothing more. I don’t think of myself as a greedy person, but I do feel awful because my friend was robbed of her final say. She had been so happy when she told me she had put in her will to give me the paintings.

I just can’t believe people could be so cold, as to steal from the dead! It doesn’t matter, I suppose. At least not to them. But think of how they would feel if their children did that to them. It puts it in a very different light, doesn’t it. Please, when your loved one makes a will, do the honorable thing…honor their wishes.

Lately I have been thinking about what my life is all about. What my goals are. What my purpose is. When I leave here, I don’t want to think that I didn’t really do much with my life. I want to know that because I was here, someone had a better life. That something I did changed a bad situation to a good one. That someone’s life was easier because of me. I don’t want to think that every part of my life was spent selfishly on my own desires. I don’t want everything I do to be about me, but rather I want it to be about what I contributed. Don’t you want to feel that way too? I read a poem recently written by a fourteen year old boy with amazing insight. It went like this:

It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and blossoming of nature.
I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect.
I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

How often does this play out in real life? Well more than we think would be my guess. When we are always waiting for the next big event to come along, we miss the here and now. We really need to live our lives on purpose. Decide what we want our life to be about and focus on that goal, doing the things that it takes to get to that goal. I don’t mean to say that we need to always be driven, but if we can look beyond the desire for the dramatic that occupies our minds, and try to make a difference each day, then maybe our lives will be something we can be proud of when they are over.

Shai & Caalab in the Whee ChairIn my living room is an unusual chair. It is an office chair, but it does not sit at a desk. Someday, I suppose it will be taken away, but for now it serves to remind me of some happy memories. The chair was one that was given to me by my boss (don’t tell him I used that word, because he hates that word…so it will be our secret, ok). It was intended to go downstairs to my office, but it just never got there.

You see, my 4 little grandchildren found out that the chair turns around, and…well, it was my fault really…if they were fussy, we would put them in the Whee Chair, and turn it around like a merry-go-round. Within minutes the fussy grandbaby was squealing happily, “Whee, whee!!!!” Hence the Whee Chair. It was a great way to entertain them. There were many times we would have more than one of them in the chair, and even the occasional fight over who got to be in it. We finally had to make them take turns.

As time went on, the kids learned to maneuver the chair themselves. Rarely did a day go by, since I have had the great blessing of being able to see my grandchildren almost every day, that one or up to three little kids weren’t squeezed into that chair, begging to be spun around. And rarely was once or twice enough, so it was a relief when they were big enough to do it themselves too. Had it not been for that, we might have been worn out a lot.

Yes, it’s funny the things that kids can find amusing, given the chance to use their imaginations. So, the Whee Chair still sits in my living room, although it no longer provides rides for children. I suppose one day I will reassign it to another location in the house, but I think that day will make me a little sad, because it will be the closing of the childhood days chapter of my grandchildrens’ lives. Not that those days aren’t all but over now, since my youngest grandchild will be 13 in September, but rather it will mark the point when I accept that those days have come to a close.

In thinking of my grandchildren starting to drive, I am reminded of my own experiences in learning to drive. My dad was such a patient man when it came to the teenage driver, and I don’t know how he did it. I remember teaching my girls to drive, and all I can say is…I was somewhat less patient than my Dad. But my girls survived, and became good drivers. Now it is their turn. It is a task I do not envy. I know I will also play a part in letting my grandchildren drive, and I hope I will do ok.

I will never forget some of the training my dad gave me. Dad didn’t feel like a person had all the training needed to be a good driver unless they can parallel park. Now as you know, many people have lots of problems parallel parking, but I can honestly tell you that I do not, and it is due to the training my dad gave me. We were driving one day, and he had me drive around until he found what he was looking for…a good sized pickup with a big steel grill guard. It was down town in front of the America Theater. And so we began. I backed into the parking spot…bumped the truck…pulled forward…backed up again…bumped the truck…pulled forward…and, well you get the picture. I can’t tell you how many times I bumped that truck, but I parked and re-parked in the spot for at least 30 minutes, and by the time I was done, I could parallel park. It seemed a crazy plan, but it worked.

I remember a trip we took to New York to visit my sister, Cheryl. Dad was driving around Lake Superior, and after many hours of driving, he had a stiff neck. He asked me to drive while he laid down in the back. That, of course, left my mom the supervise, and she was, well a little nervous about it. It was a foggy evening, and that only served to increase the tension. Every time I got over about 20 mph, my mom would grab my leg and tell me to slow down, and when I say grab…well, I mean pinch!! She didn’t mean to, but she did. We finally got out of the fog, to my great relief. Most of the time Mom did ok, but I’ll pass on the fog driving with her, if you don’t mind.

I will always remember the driving lessons I learned…some of them with a bit of a smile on my face, because I can still imaging how funny it must have looked to anyone watching. Thanks Mom and Dad, and to my kids and their kids…well, all I can say is try to keep a good sense of humor.

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