Once a month or so, my cousins Susie and Shelley, hold a get together for my mom and her brothers and sisters and their spouses. My mom is the middle child of 9 children, so the ages are spread from 83 to 66. While all of them that are still with us are in good health, the fact that they are getting older means that there will be less years whereby they can get together, so I think it is a wonderful gift that my cousins are giving to them.

Susie and Shelley make a lunch for them and my mom, aunts, and uncles get a chance to talk about the old days. They reminisce about things they used to do, and laugh about the funny things. They talk about their parents and their sister, Deloris, who passed away in 1996, as well as other family members who have passed away. They talk about what is new in everyone’s lives…new babies, marriages, and sadly some divorces too. Basically, they have a chance to reconnect with each other in a relaxed setting, where none of them has to try to put it all together, because these two wonderful sisters, my cousins, handle all the details.

I sincerely hope that they know how much this monthly gathering means to their parents, aunts, and uncles, as well their cousins, because we all see how much our parents enjoy this time. It is just such a giving, selfless act on the part of my cousins, and whenever I hear about the things they talked about, it really warms my heart. As our parents get older, the time we have to do things for them gets shorter, and we are all so busy. Many of us work, and it is very hard to put the kind of time together that it takes to plan and carry out these gatherings. I want to make sure that credit is given where credit is due. I really appreciate my cousins taking the time out to do this. It means so much to my mom, as I know it does to the others too. Thank you Susie and Shelly for being the sweet angels you are. I hope you know how much you are appreciated. Love you both.

During the years that my nephew, Allen was growing up, he and his family lived far enough away from us that we didn’t get to see them often, so my memories of those years are limited. He was named after his grandfather, my dad.  Dad only had daughters and Caryl wanted to give him a namesake, so Allen became that namesake in that his first and middle name are the same as my dad’s first and last names. One thing I remember about those early years is that he had a funny way of saying Bob. He pronounced it with a long “o” sound, and it was just so cute.  It always made me laugh, and for a long time I called my husband Bob with a long “o” sound.  Allen seems to have a way of being funny without even trying. That really is a good trait. If we can find the humor in things, we are a blessing to those around us, and to our own spirit.

After Allen graduated from high school, he moved to Casper and started college here, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life at that point, so he made the decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps and  join the Navy, planning to go in to become a pilot. He was doing well in that field, when a foot injury sidelined him for long enough that he had to change course again.

It is in his new field, that I believe Allen has found his true calling. Allen was accepted in the program to become a Hospitalman, or HN. He studied very hard and finished first in his class. In fact, he graduated with the highest scores to come through the corps school in 5 years. With that ranking and his grades, Allen was offered a very distinguished position. He is stationed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which is a coveted post in itself, but his duties go further than that. Allen is proud to assist in the care of the President of the United States and his family whenever they come in for check ups, shots, or any other kind of medical care. It is a position that is only offered to the cream of the crop, so we are very proud indeed. This does not exempt him from doing the normal ship duty that is a part of the Navy, and so there are several other people who share that position and take turns doing ship duty, but the job is his when he is on shore duty.

Allen will also have the opportunity to continue his education, and should he choose to, could even become a doctor. The doors are wide open for him. I don’t know if he plans to make a career of the Navy or not. I don’t think that is a decision he has made yet, but we are all very proud of his accomplishments so far, and I know that he will do very well in whatever he decides to do with his future. Love you Allen.

Today was parade day, and as in most places, many businesses were closed so their employees could attend. It has been a long standing tradition for a lot of my family, and we are sizable, to attend. I usually arrive at the location we want around 7:00 am for a parade that starts at 10:00 am. I know that seems extreme, but if you want a good spot with enough room for your family, it is the only way. My daughter picked my mom up at around 8:30 to bring her down, so that she doesn’t have to sit there for too long. We also usually have a few friends that join us for the festivities too. Today’s parade found 18 of us in attendance and 4 of us in the parade. Not a bad showing.

Not everyone likes a parade, obviously. I am sometimes amazed at the ones who do as much as the ones that don’t. One expects that the teenagers might not be interested in parades, and yet my granddaughter, Shai and her friend, Daryan, as well as her friend’s brother, Brevan and my grandson, Caalab all had a great time, while my grandsons Chris and Josh, weren’t interested. Of course, parents with young children love it and enjoy the entertaining value it offers for their kids, but several of our singles had a great time too, and my mom…well for anyone who knows her, it just goes without saying that she loves it.

There is just something about a parade that brings out the kid in everyone. Parents are helping the kids run for the candy and trying to get the different people working the floats to throw more candy and stuff their kids way. They buy things like silly string and clown hair for their kids to add to the enjoyment of it all. The little kids dance around excitedly waiting for the next float to come by. And then there is the water…super soakers, and fire trucks, buckets and squirt guns all used to cool the crowds off as well as to provide that momentary shock and cold.

There is always something for everyone…fire trucks to police cars…horses to Alpacas…cheerleaders to gymnasts…bands to radio stations…churches to veterans…clowns to politicians…theater actors to beauty queens…and so much more. It is a patriotic time, as well as a fun and silly time. It is the parade.

Some people seem to have a heart for people. They seem to know what is needed and they just do it. My nephew, Garrett is one of those people. After church services, when my mom, his grandma needs help getting up and out to the car, Garrett just shows up at her side. He never has to be asked, he has just taken that responsibility as his own. It does make it easier on everyone else, and we sure miss him whenever he isn’t there.

He is no stranger to responsibility. At a young age, he decided to help at the church by becoming an usher. Unusual for a high school student. And while he isn’t the only young person to do that, it made me proud of his dedication. It is a big responsibility to take on, because you need to be there, and pay attention to what is going on…to be where you are needed.

And whenever there is a big project going on, Garrett is there to help out. Maybe he likes making things, I don’t know, but he digs right in and helps out. Once a year, we do some big project for my mom for Mother’s Day, and he is always one of the people who always show up to help. I don’t know if he knows how much that means to us or not, but I’m telling him right here that it means a lot!! These projects are usually big, and the more people you have to help, the better. The adults can always be counted on, but the kids…well it’s a smaller group, and Garrett is always one of them.

Garrett loves kids. He always has. It is very rare that Garrett isn’t holding or playing with the little ones that are around at family gatherings. And they love him. That is another rarity, but it is pretty common, it you have a heart for people…especially little people, a Garrett does. So many teenage boys don’t really want the little kids hanging around, but he always makes them feel like they are wanted there, even requested. Do you know what that means to a little kid…EVERYTHING!! That is what Garrett gives the little ones.

Not everyone has a heart for people. It is a rare gift indeed. Those who do, stand out as kind, generous, loving, compassionate people. It is a quality we should all strive to have. That ability to set self aside, and look for the needs of others. If there were more people like that out there…what a wonderful world this really would be. That is how Garrett is, and I am very proud of those qualities he possesses that make him the wonderful man that he has become.

A few years ago, a woman whose name I don’t remember, decided that because her boyfriend broke up with her, she would start a forest fire…to get even with him. An odd thought since she was a fire fighter for the forest service, and he was not. She got caught because she left his note where she set the fire. I’m sure she thought the evidence would be burned up, but somehow it wasn’t. She is now serving time in federal prison for her acts of total disregard for the safety of others, and for destruction of federal property. That really hurt her ex-boyfriend, right. I mean, she is in prison, and they are not back together. Maybe he saw something in her that others didn’t see, like psychotic tendencies.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not without feelings. I just don’t understand why she would destroy a forest that will take years to come back…if it ever does. I love the Black Hills, which is where this woman chose to unleash her rage, and I hate to see such a beautiful place so battered and scarred by the vicious acts of one woman. The forest will take many years to even resemble the beautiful place it was back then. I will always love it , scarred or beautiful, and I know fires can happen that could bring the same result as this, but they will not be deliberate, and that makes all the difference to me. If she was looking for fame or pity, she failed miserably in her quest, because it is not her name I remember, just what she did.

Every time I come into the Black Hills, I must now drive through that reminder, as well as every time I leave. I am very saddened, because in Wyoming, trees are not so abundant, and there is a lot more open spaces and…well, I love the forest. It is so hard to drive through my beloved Black Hills looking like a tornado just went through. And that is how it will be for some time to come.

I feel like this woman has cheated so many people out of the beauty of this area. I try not to be angry, but it is really hard. I forgive her, because I know it is the right thing to do, and I hope that she has learned that this was no solution, and she is probably better off without the ex-boyfriend. I hope she can turn her life around and because the way she has chosen so far is hurtful to herself and to those around her.

When you are dating in high school, you often think that this person or that person is the one for you for all time. Quite often that is not the case, but sometimes…well, you get blessed to find your soul mate at such a tender age of 17 or 18, and somehow that young heart makes the right choice, and steps into happily ever after. Such was the case with me. While Bob and I didn’t meet in high school, since we went to different high schools, I was still in high school and he was barely out when we met.

Stepping into marriage a little over a year later is a risky step for people still in their late teens or early twenties, but that is what we did on March 1, 1975, a little less than a year after I graduated from high school, and we have never looked back to see what might have been if we had chosen a different path. We are two people going the same direction in most areas of our lives. Yes, there are some things that we are different in, but that just adds flavor to the marriage, not to mention skills that have saved us money over the years.

This is not our anniversary or anything…not the day we met…so why am I writing this now? Well, it is a very important day indeed. Today is my husband, Bob’s birthday. The day I celebrate the birth of the gift God has given to me. The day that the one person God had in mind for me before either of us were born, entered this world and began the path that would one day lead to me and our beautiful life together. It was a winding path, since he was born in Montana and I was born in Wisconsin, but God worked it out and we both ended up living in the same city, Casper, Wyoming. I won’t go into all the details of our meeting, but God worked it all out and here we are, on our way to forever together.

I couldn’t have asked for a better man, a more faithful man or a more loving man. I remember the first time I saw Bob, across the Kmart store. It was like he just stood out from all the rest of the people in that store. I can’t explain that, but that is how it happened. And before I knew it, he was my man. How blessed I am. I love you very much, Honey!! Happy birthday!!

It has been a tradition of ours for a number of years now, to ride the 1880 Train from Keystone, SD to Hill City, SD and back on the last day of our time in the Black Hills. I suppose it is the kid in both of us that just loves the train rides. Or maybe it is about seeing a part of the Black Hills that you can’t see any other way, even hiking, since there is only one trail that crosses the 1880 Train route and then only once.

There is just something about riding a train. You can sit back and relax. The rocking back and forth, while noisy is soothing somehow. The scenery passes before you and you can both actually see it, because you don’t have to pay attention to the road. You can point out things and be able to enjoy them together. You just can’t do that in a car, because the driver cannot see what you can see.

The 1880 Train takes you back in time, as you travel through old mining towns, now deserted. At the same time, mixed in with the past are homes where people live today, and towns that are thriving on the tourist industry. There are old movie sets in which the 1880 Train took part. And of course, there are the amazing rock formations that have made the Black Hills famous. Trees growing out of the rock as if it were dirt, and yet the rock is largley granite, which is among the hardest rock there is.

The rock formations, if you look closely, hold the faces of Indian chiefs, or so the legend goes, and as we ride along, I look closely and let my imagination show them to me. And the local people help your imagination by putting up statues of fishing children, bears, cougars, or waving train watchers. It is all designed to make your ride more interesting. And everyone, including the tourists driving along the road that the train crosses 9 times over the course of your hour ride, waves at the train. It is simply enchanting.

I suppose many people would think it odd that we ride the train every year, but like many things in the Black Hills, it seems to be in my blood, or maybe it is all just addictive. Maybe, like the hiking bug that I haven’t yet found a cure for, I have a train bug too…and that is ok with me, because like the hiking bug, I’m not really looking for a cure.

Today would have been my sister-in-law, Marlyce’s 61st birthday, but she will be forever 39. She died of cancer in 1989, and we all miss her very much. Marlyce was sweet and loving to everyone who knew her. Though she was developmentally disabled, she excelled in many things. She was an excellent cookie baker, and I can’t eat chocolate chip cookies to this day without thinking of her. When we used to come over to my in-laws house, she would say, “Caryn, I made chocolate chip cookies today.” She was thrilled when I smiled and told her I couldn’t wait to have some. She was a people pleaser.

Marlyce loved to knit and made many hats for family members, and others who were blessed enough to receive one. She loved doing things for people, in fact that was what she lived for. It was her strong suit. She was one of the most giving people I have ever known.

She loved being an aunt, and my girls as well as their cousins were treasures to her. She loved children, especially babies. Her nieces and nephews used to playfully tease her and most of the time she took it all in stride.

Her life ended way too soon, when cancer took her from us. I think of her often, because her sweet innocence was so endearing. She never judged people. She just let each person be who they were, and she loved them just the way they were. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all that way. Happy Birthday in Heaven Marlyce. I love you very much.

Our goal this year for miles on The Mickelson Trail will not materialize, due to the second hike up Harney Peak. That’s ok with me, because I would hate to have missed Harney Peak. We love it up there so much. We walked 5 miles one way/10 miles total on the Mickelson Trail today, so we will be 10 miles short of our goal. I still feel good about it, because of the added difficulty of Harney Peak. What the Mickelson Trail lacks in difficulty, we make up for in distance, so while the workout isn’t the same, we still get a workout.

Bob and I have hiked for a long time, and we have learned that sometimes hiking isn’t about socializing. We have a tendency to walk at times quietly, each in our own thought world. I find myself, especially in the Black Hills, thinking of my Dad. The Black Hills was a favorite spot of his, and his echo is everywhere here. I hear him in the breeze through the trees, the crackling of a campfire, the rushing of water over rocks in the river, the chirping of the birds, and because he wanted us to see the historic places and deep patriotism that are here, I am reminded of him in everything I do here. He would have loved the places we have seen on our hikes. You just can’t see them from the main roads.

The animals that we have come across are always a total surprise. From the deer on the trail to a fox running away. From a chipmunk looking for food to a woodchuck watching us curiously and .yet not really wanting to run away. He seemed almost as curious about us as we were about him…peeking at us from his hole and ducking ever so slightly if we moved too much, then coming back up

I am always amazed at how much I need the hikes in the Black Hills. It’s like I come alive again, like I can breathe again. I think the Black Hills are simply in my blood. I need a week of trekking through them to refresh my energy again. I look forward to my yearly trips here, and am always sad to see my time here end. Nevertheless, because of the Black Hills, I go home refreshed and feeling very much alive…and very thankful for my time there.

Yesterday’s bad weather gave way to a very nice morning, so Bob and I set out for Harney Peak again. We are either determined or crazy, and since we passed a guy who went up and down twice today, I don’t think I’m so crazy. Today’s hike would be different. Our hikes up Harney Peak now total 6.8, with yesterday’s disappointing short hike to 1/2 mile from the top when we had to go down because of weather.

The weather this morning was perfect for a hike. The temperature was not too hot and not too cool. We started out early to beat the heat that would surely come. We were on top by 10:45 am. Many times when we have gone to Harney Peak, it was cold and we ate our lunch and headed back down out of the cold wind. Once again, this time would be different. It was so nice on top that we decided to take some extra time to eat our lunch and enjoy nature.

We found a spot to eat our lunch, and cool off. After eating most of our lunch in the shade, we decided to finish up in a more sunny spot. The chipmunks on the peak have lived their lives around people, and they have very little fear of us. The seem to think that your lunch is meant to be shared with them. I suppose that is because so many people do share with them. If you try to share with them, however, don’t bother with the bread. These little guys are picky. They want the chips.

Bob had Fritos, and that is one of their favorites. As we sat there, one little guy decided that we had a lunch date, and he was going to get to those Fritos even if he had to climb over me to get them…well almost. He wasn’t quite that brave, but he did go around me to get to those chips. And after getting his reward a couple of times, we were pals. He got very brave, coming back for more and even eating his chip by my feet. He was so cute. And after a while, he even agreed to pose for a few pictures. I think he knew I was going to write about him and would need a photo for proof of our lunch date.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Check these out!