Friday, December 18, 2015

Taking the Plunge

American Gothic Plunge
I begin this by stating that my husband, Ray, is one of the smartest people I know.  His vocabulary is so vast, he could have written the Thesaurus.  His wit and wordsmithing always keep me laughing.  He also writes songs, sings, plays guitar (and working on the harmonica) and records these creations.  As a retired computer programmer, Ray has become my computer guru.  He can fix almost all of my computer woes.  I could write a whole blog post singing praises to Ray, but I think that would make him uncomfortable.

That being said.....Ray is not a plumber....nor am I.  So, what do I do one evening when the kitchen garbage disposal vomits its contents into both sinks?  It was a complete hint of a slow drain.  The water had disappeared so I tried the disposal again.  Something must be plugging it because the result was the same.  So, I hesitantly stuck my hand in the garbage disposal  (The disposal was NOT running.) to check for anything that could be clogging it.  Nothing...except gross pieces of 'stuff' sticking to my hand.  Yuk!  

At this time, I just had to tell Ray.  We had been watching the last episode of Fargo when I had gone into the kitchen to clean up.  I tend to leave the room at tense parts of that show. Anyway... I think it was about the time Ed and Peggy had locked themselves in the store freezer, hiding from some guy with a rifle...and someone was kicking at the freezer door.  That is when I called Ray in to assess the sink mess.  Thank goodness the show was recorded, so we did not miss the ending.

We decided to use the plunger...but where was it?  I found a small one in the upstairs bathroom, but it didn't work.  Ray finally found a large plunger somewhere in the basement.  We both plunged away, only to create a worse mess, and for some reason, more water.  Now there was about an inch of icky water in both sinks.

My solution....use Draino!  Of course, I did not think we had any.  I use vinegar and baking soda on our drains (but have neglected the kitchen!!!) and we never have (or had) clogged drains.  So off to the store to get something stronger to tackle the drain.  I returned with two bottles of Liquid Plumber...the kind that was supposed to eat through the clog and all we had to do was wait and then run hot water down the drain.  It did not work.  Now we had more water standing in the sink.  

Next step is to use a snake.  We bailed out as much water as we could and then I used a plastic Coke bottle to suction out most of the rest.   Ray was not successful in his search for the I ordered one from Lowes to pick up in the morning.  By this time it was about 9:00 and we were tired of working on the sink.  Plus, we wanted to find out what happened to Ed and Peggy. 

To see how our clogged drain fiasco this YouTube.  I managed to take some video of the rest of the story......Snaking through the Clog.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Cat Burglar

It is that time of year again....Thanksgiving.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, Thanksgiving was never a favorite holiday of mine when I was a fact, it was that dreaded day where I had to sit at a table full of food that I did not like.  We usually had guests and I had to be on my best behavior, which did not mean staring at my plate with a small dab of mashed potatoes, a tiny slice of turkey and three beans from the horrid lima bean specialty that everyone raved about.  I could never understand (and still don't) how people would request that my father make that dish.  I think I hated about every kind of traditional Thanksgiving food.  Sweet potatoes were almost as bad as the lima beans.  The bribe of eating the food on your plate (which was minuscule) and then I could have dessert did not work because I did not like pumpkin pie either.  Sometimes Maxine would fix a mince meat pie which would about put me over the edge.  At least I was not expected to try that.  Oh how happy I was when sometimes a guest would bring a pecan pie.  I would even eat four lima beans if my reward was a piece of pecan pie.
This is our Barn House, from the back.  I am in the tree. 1966

By the time I got in high school, I had learned to smile and join in the chit chat as I choked down a small amount of what everyone else was calling a delicious feast.  And I was.  My father spent a lot of time planning and cooking while my mother took care of decorating, setting the table and boiling the water for the potatoes.  What I do like about Thanksgiving is that I have some fun memories.  Once, we had dinner at Linda's in-laws, Ed and Em Foster's home (the only time our feast was not at our place).  As soon as we said "Amen" to the prayer...all of the food started sliding toward my sister and Barb.  The table leg had broken and had fallen to the floor.  Linda and Barb were quick to catch the sliding dishes and bowls of food while holding up the table. Ed solved the problem by stacking a pile of books where the table leg belonged.  Fortunately, he was a college professor and books were in great supply.  I truly enjoyed that dinner.  The best thing (other than the near catastrophe of food falling to the floor) was that Em served her plum pudding with hard sauce. Wow!  Here was something I actually liked!

It has taken me some time to set up the story for this post. This takes place in our house in Toledo.  We had just moved to what I called our Barn House.  Our old one eyed, jagged ears, no tail black cat (Black Beauty) had died a few months after we moved there.  Dad, Linda and I saw an ad in the paper for a Siamese kitten...and one day we brought little Bangy (short for Bangkok) home.  The first thing that cute little blue eyed kitty did was climb the custom drapes that Maxine had installed the week before. (Poor Bangy was declawed (front only) soon after per Maxine's demand.)

Here I am holding Black Beauty, the one eyed, no tailed cat.
This was probably 1966

This Thanksgiving took place in 1966.  That was when it was no big deal to leave a frozen turkey in the sink all night to thaw out.  My dad did this every Thanksgiving.  This year was eventful in that when he walked downstairs he noticed pieces of plastic making a path through the living room, dining room and into the kitchen.  To his horror, in the kitchen sink, the once plump turkey had bits of pieces torn from its breast.  (Bangy was sleeping on the couch, his fat tummy rising and falling as he dreamed little cat dreams.)

Those of you fortunate to have know my father, (Mort) know that he was a most patient man.  I rarely saw him get angry.  Most people would have been angry with the cat, but my dad realized that he should have taken precautions to prevent Bangy from getting to the turkey.  Dad was able to "repair" the damage and later served a lopsided turkey.  We always had guests for Thanksgiving and they laughed about the cat eating the turkey...even Maxine thought it was funny (once she realized our guests were not grossed out about having the cat eat part of the turkey) , and Bangy was forgiven with a small meal of cooked turkey.

This was the only picture I could find of Bangy.  I was going to some dance with
a guy named Bob.  Maybe Linda has a better picture of Bangy.

The story does not end there.  The year is 1967.  We had the same guests as well as others. (Sometimes our family of four would have twenty or more join us)  This time, my dad put a heavy pot lid over turkey and wedged it in the sink.  He also put Bangy in the basement for the night. The next morning he was greeted with pieces of plastic in the living room, dining room and kitchen.  The lid was shoved to one side and the wounded turkey looked pathetic.  Bangy was washing his paws while sitting in a sunbeam.

"THAT DARN CAT!!" was all my father said....his voice slightly raised, but he had a smile on his face.  He had been outsmarted by a cat!  Again, he repaired the wounds and again our guests were presented with a turkey with a pothole right in the middle of the breast.  I don't know who was blamed, but one of us must not have closed the basement door completely.

Shall I continue?  It is 1968.  This year Bangy spent the night in the basement again.  Poor Bangy was used to roaming the house and honoring us if he chose to sleep in our bed. This was sad for all of us, but we could not have another year with the turkey breast mangled.  We all stood by the basement door and watched my dad check it to see that it was latched.

My father knew something was wrong when he saw Bangy sleeping on the couch the next morning. There were those dreaded plastic pieces strewn on the floor.  Yes, the turkey breast was chewed...again.  "THAT DARN CAT!"  Bangy looked up with sleepy eyes, stood up, stretched and walked into the kitchen, purring and winding around my dad's legs.  How could my dad be mad at this kitty....but did the cat get out of the basement?

It was not until a few months later when Linda and I were making something in the kitchen that we learned Bangy's escape method.  We had put him in the basement while we were cooking.  Thump, Thump, Thump!  There was quite a thumping and banging downstairs.  It was getting closer!  And then...SWISH...out flies Bangy from the clothes chute.  He had braced himself and walked straight up (there was no angle).  I still don't know how he did it as it was slick metal all the way to the basement.

Once we told Dad what happened, he got his toolbox, wood and saw and built a compartment to catch the clothes.  He put a strong door on it with a strong latch.

The year is 1969.  Dad sees no plastic pieces on the floor.  In the kitchen a perfect turkey greets him. It will be the first Thanksgiving Dinner with a whole turkey on the table....except for one tiny slice.  Bangy is yowling to get out of the basement.  Dad opens the door.  "I finally outsmarted you, didn't I?" he said as he slipped a tiny piece of turkey into Bangy's bowl.

This is a family photo of us when Linda and I were in high school...about
the time that we had the mystery of the turkey eating cat.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sid, Wonder Woman

Sid being Sid at a fundraiser.
I have always considered myself to be lucky.  I had no choice in who my parents and sister would be...and how fortunate that I landed in a supportive and loving family.  I did choose to say 'yes' to Ray's proposal of marriage...and that, too, has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made.  But this post is about how fortunate I feel in choosing to remain a teacher/counselor in a small school district and being able to work with many great being, Sid Schafer, our middle school secretary.

Anyone who has worked in a school knows that the secretary is core of a successful school.  Anyone else can be absent (including the principal), but on the rare day that the secretary is absent...there is an underlying panic as to hoping nothing out of the ordinary occurs.  I am not going to go into all that the school secretary does because that would take pages...and this post is about one special person who happened to be the school secretary.

I can't remember the first time I met Sid.  I know that when I began teaching at the middle school, Sid greeted me with a serious look but with mischievous eyes.  I had walked into the office, the week before school, asking for my class lists and schedule.  "We don't have those yet," was her reply.  She could read the dismay on my face, and while answering the phone, (which did not stop ringing) she motioned me to a stack of papers on a small table behind her desk.  Ah...the class lists. "But don't touch them!" she said, "They will change daily. Don't write the names in your gradebook (this was long before computers) unless you want to do a lot of erasing."

I was a bit confused as to why the lists would change, but after watching Sid in action I realized that it was a miracle that there were even temporary lists.  Students were moving in and moving out, adding band or choir or dropping out....and oh no....the 8th grade science teacher has taken a job at another school.  She answered each call with a calm and confident voice.  I finally backed quietly out of the office, making eye contact that I would come back later.

That was my introduction of how talented Sid was.  As the years came and went, Sid and I became good friends.  Her knowledge of the community and families was priceless.  Many times she would pull me aside with news about a student or student's family that would help me.  Johnny's dog was hit by a car and died last be aware; Susie's father lost his job; Jimmy's father was arrested for domestic violence; Cathy's grandma died.  The list would fill pages.  Her insight and knowledge of each of the students helped me and taught me.

I must get back to Sid's mischievous eyes.  The rest of this post will be times I had with Sid that bring smiles and joy to me.  Times I remember.....

I remember the tasty food Sid would bring to the office...sometimes daily...and sharing her unique recipes.  The office would often smell of vegetable soup, fresh baked bread, coffee cake, pies or some new Greek recipe.  There were always eating utensils for people to have a snack. 

I remember Sid wanting to write a play with me about middle school life.  Of course, the center of action would be the office.  We made a list of all of the characters and even picked out actors for each.  Sid was going to be played by Meryl Streep...or maybe Lucille Ball.  Bea Arthur would play Rae.  Sid looked at me and said, "Patty Duke or Sissy Spacek can be you because you are short."  I told her later that maybe Shirley McClaine would be a good choice for me, but Sid thought that our art teacher, Pottsy would be a better fit for Shirley. We had characters like the Mop Man (the man who came monthly to sell mop supplies...he had a deep voice and nice hair)...played by Lee Marvin.  Billy Bob Thornton would be one of our custodians.  Our choir director, Stephanie would be played by Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore would play the librarian, Carol Pizor.  Anthony Hopkins would be the person in charge of food services, preparing meals for the cafeteria. (We tried to keep the gender of our characters the same as the staff...but thought Anthony would be a good touch for meal preparation.)  Morgan Freeman would play one of the English teachers where students would be in rapt attention in his class.  Jim Carey would play an inept teacher.
Sid and Rae...or Meryl and Bea

The list of characters grew.  Sid kept the list under her desk calendar and would pull it out when another character came to her.  We did this for years, so some of the characters had to retire or move to different schools.

Sid thought that while there would be action in the office... the background (the hallway and the gym, both could be seen from the office window)  would be would have various subplots.  An example would be this: 
Enter newspaper reporter to cover the student council food drive.  In the background music from the gym can be heard.  It is the aerobic warm down up0ed of Barry Manilow..."I Write the Songs."  As the reporter asks questions there are constant interruptions....Jim  Carey bringing down a student because he threw the teacher's stapler out the call that lunch would be five minutes late because the food truck got a flat tire...a student comes in stating he is sick (Sid takes his temperature and sends him back to class)....students are carrying various stage sets down the hall (not quietly and dropping props such as swords and billy clubs....The Pirates of Penzance actors playing their parts as they return to the music room.

We had so many scenarios.  I could write many posts about them.  But what I remember most is how we laughed when we thought of a new scene.  Why we never wrote these down...I don't know.  Maybe it would have taken the fun away...maybe it would have become a chore and we would lose the spontaneous plots.  So now I am combing my memory...and laughing at the fun times we had.

I must stop here...there are more I think I will have to write more posts about Sid.  She was one of those 'One of a Kind' my mother, Maxine and my dear friend Rae.  Yes, I have been so fortunate to have these people in my life. But it is so difficult when I (we) lose another special person.  I miss their voices, laughs and wit...but I am so thankful to have the memories.

Friday, August 7, 2015

With a Voice of Singing....

Mary Anderson Playing Piano in
the Choir Room.
We all have had a person (or people) who have made a great impact on our lives.  This weekend I was able to join friends from many years ago.  We gathered to celebrate in song.  We all had been members of the Chapel Choir at Monroe Street United Methodist Church in Toledo, OH.  Our celebration was to honor Mary Anderson, our Minister of Music, whose love of music and dedication to youth was a gift that many of us did not appreciate until we got into the real world.

But I must back up and tell you  my first experience with the Chapel Choir.  My sister and I were not part of the choir program that started with the Cherub Choir for children 3-4 years old.  Linda and I moved to Toledo when she was a sophomore in high school and I was in the eighth grade.  Our family left a small country church, Salem Methodist, when we made that move.  This small church had nurtured us, an intimate and close congregation where we knew everyone. Salem also had the best pot lucks (or as we called them "pitch ins") full of all types of home made treats.  There were lots of tears on our last Sunday at Salem and we wondered if we would ever find another church like Salem.

Our parents planned to attend a number of churches in Toledo and then make a family decision on which we thought would be best.  The first church was Monroe Street.  It was huge!  Sitting in the pew I remember wondering if I would ever fit would I find my way to the youth classes.  And then it happened!  I heard beautiful harmony coming from the back of the church...voices of a choir...soft and full of joy. And then silence....until the organ blared me into attention.  I sat upright, every cell in my body full of electricity.  What happened next, sent chills through me....the choir, singing, walked down the aisle.  First the men....I turned around to see a double line of high school students walking to the front of the church.  It seemed to go on forever. They filed to the front of the church and were seated in the choir section.

At that moment I knew...I wanted to be a part of that!  I think Linda must have felt the same thing because we convinced our parents at Sunday lunch that we did not want to go to another church...we knew that this was the place.  This was the perfect choir for Linda as she had already had voice training and fit right in.  Since I was in the eighth grade, I was a member of the Cecilia Choir, which was for 7th and 8th grade girls.  There was also a choir for the 7th and 8th grade boys.  In fact, there were eight choirs!  Cherub - 3-5 year old, Bethlehem - 1st & 2nd grade, Carol - 3rd & 4th grade, Gloria - 5th & 6th grade, Cecilia - 7th & 8th grade girls, Boys 7th & 8th grade, Chapel - High School, and the Wesleyan Choir which was the adult choir.

Here are some pictures of the choirs.  Thanks, Ann Luppens Laney for sharing your family's pictures.

I think this is the Bethlehem Choir.  Sharon Luppens Harris
is on the far right, top row.

I think this is the Carol Choir.  Ann Luppens is 7th from the left, front row.
Pam Hostetter is 10th from the left, and I think her cousin, Kay Kern is
to the right of Pam.

Boys' Choir

Mary Anderson was the backbone who inspired so many children and young people to be part of this music program.  She instilled high expectations, discipline and a love of music in her students.  This is a typical weekend for a high school Chapel Choir member:  Saturday morning: 8:00 am- 12:00 was girls' sectionals. Altos the first hour, Sopranos the second hour, Altos and Sopranos together and then individuals the last hour.  Yes, she worked individually with each of us to improve our voices.  The boys had their sectionals before choir practice (I think...not sure how long).  On Sunday at 8:30 am we had practice before the 9:00 service.  We sang every Sunday at the first service.  Sunday afternoon at 5:00 was our regular practice.  After practice we would have a dinner (made by our parents) and then we would have MYF (youth group).  It was wonderful.

I never felt like I HAD to do this....I felt excited to go to practice and sectionals. We must have all felt this way.  A few of the attendees at our reunion told the story of the Prom conflict.  Prom was on a Saturday.  It was going to be a late night.  Mrs. Anderson told the choir that she still expected them in the choir room at 8:30 sharp.  Some of the choir members feared they might sleep in, so sneaked through an open window at the church and spent the night there so as not to miss choir on Sunday morning.
Monroe Street United Methodist Chapel Choir...not sure of the date...early 1960s is my guess.

 Mary not only challenged us with difficult music...she expected us to learn it...she had faith that we would meet the challenge.  She arranged through the Choir Guild to send a number of high school students (each summer) to Choir Camp at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey.  How excited I was when I was chosen to go!  Those of us who went to choir camp were then expected to help with the younger choirs.  That was another way that Mary strengthened the choir program. 
This is when I was in the choir.  We travelled to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands and England in 1968.
We even had someone in charge of our choir robes.  I am glad that was not my job!

So, it is not surprising that so many return for our Chapel Choir Reunions.  We all share the love of music.  We all have Mary stories.  This is my story.  My words tell only a tiny bit of what I learned from Mrs. Anderson.  One thing I remember most is that she never gave up on any of us.  She would not allow anyone to say that he could not sing.  In her eyes...or should I say ears...everyone had a song to sing.  And so we meet again, to sing our songs in honor of our teacher, coach, mentor and friend, Mrs. Mary Anderson.

Here is one of the songs we sang, "Lord, Make Me and Instrument".  The words are from the Prayer of St. Francis. I wondered how the voices of our aging choir would sound...we were no longer young high school students singing.  We had all been members of the choir from between 1956-1975.  Most of us are in our 60s-70s....some older, and we had only two hours of practice to prepare six songs.  We were fortunate to have Bette Bodley Chambless, a member of the Chapel Choir from the early 60s, direct us.  I think of her as a gentle Mary Anderson.  I think we all felt Mary's spirit join us as we  lifted our voices in song.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rae. July 2, 2015

July 2 is Rae's birthday.  She would have been 78 years old.  As a tribute to her I wanted to share a bit of our memorial that we had at Cuyamungue Institute in May.  I wrote about my plan to complete the circle of Rae's life in an earlier post titled Here Comes the Sun .

Most of you know that Rae was a board member at Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico.  She was the vice president.  The Institute and the land were a part of Rae's life.  She loved the land.  Rae, Stephanie Stephens and I conducted many workshops at the Institute so we have many fond memories.  There was an empty space at the board meeting this year.  We all felt the loss of Rae's wisdom....but her deep laughter was missed most.

As a board, we watched Rae's Memorial Service from Park of Roses in Columbus, OH, that I had recorded.  Everyone was fascinated but not surprised at the many people who attended.  Rae touched so many lives.  I won't repeat what I had written in Here Comes the Sun but you can click on the link to read about Rae's activity at Cuyamungue Institute.  I just want to tell what we did to honor Rae and what our plans are for her memory.

Monday morning we met at the Labyrinth to greet the sun.  Rae was thrilled that one of our members, Julie, offered to build the Labyrinth with stones from the area.  Rae was determined to travel to Cuyamungue last June, even though she was weak from chemo treatments.  We were having a Centennial Celebration and members from around the world would be at the gathering.  the Labyrinth would be finished for all to see.  Rae was not going to miss this, and I am so glad she was able to see and walk the Labyrinth.

Waiting for the sunrise at the Labyrinth.

So this year, at the Labyrinth we each walked quietly along the path and remembered our times with Rae.  We sent her our love.  Some of us hummed quietly.  Julie played Rae's drum (Rae made a drum many years ago and wanted me to donate it to the Institute.)  We gathered in the center of the Labyrinth.  I had some of Rae's hair that I had gotten from one of her brushes.  We had a small fire in the center and burned the hair....sending the energy into the wind and having the ashes of the hair remain to be part of the land she loved so much.

Beginning the walk.

Paul and Laura Lee

There were many tears, but also joy.  Each of us had a small pinch of tobacco that Stephanie and I got from the American Spirit brand of cigarettes that Rae smoked.

We offered the tobacco to the six directions and blew the rest into the wind.  Paul lit one of the cigarettes and we passed it around...each taking a honor of Rae.  I have to admit....I don't smoke (in fact, I don't think any of us smoke) so my puff was small and shallow.   Paul played a flute...the pure, clear tones were carried by the wind.

Here Comes the Sun!

Sunrise at the Labyrinth

Sunrise at the Labyrinth

We walked out of the Labyrinth, following the path, Julie still drumming Rae's drum.  The sun was shining reflecting off the dew and making the spring flowers sparkle.  The path took us to Thunder Bird Lodge....another one of Rae's favorite places.  The huge drum, sitting in the center invited us to beat on it.  We each picked up a drum stick and began pounding the drum softly....softly...and slowly the beats were louder and faster.  With each beat I was able to release a bit of sadness...a bit of anger...a bit of frustration.  And then, the beating began to slow down....became softer....softer....until there was silence.
Walking the path to Thunderbird Lodge

Ceiling at Thunderbird Lodge

Paul walking into Thunderbird Lodge

We stood in a circle, shoulder to shoulder.  No one had planned the one had planned an ending....what do we do?   I heard a raspy voice sing in that low voice...begin..."Mother, make us a ____________.......Mother, make us strong."  This is the song Rae, Stephanie and I sing at the end of our workshops.  Each person takes a turn to name something (often and animal) that makes them strong.  Everyone sings the whole song...but where the blank is....we take turns and each states what makes us strong.  In this case....we each picked animals that Rae often talked about.  "Mother, make us a dolphin.....Mother, make us strong....Mother make us strong."  The words of strength were turtle, bear, raven, wolf, sun, wind and others.  It was the perfect ending.  We held each other and sang and felt Rae was with us.

Jackie, Stephanie, Julie, Laura Lee and Cynthia

Later that day, Stephanie and I headed to the three casinos that Rae loved...Cities of Gold, Big Rock, and Buffalo Thunder....and we each played $5 for Rae.  We actually won enough money to buy us dinner at the Turquoise Trail Restaurant. Thanks, Rae, for being part of our lives...for touching so many with your love and joy...for your strength when things would look bleak...for your thirst for knowledge, and for encouraging so many people to go beyond their expectations. 

We are going to build a permanent shelter for an area that Rae called "The Firefly."  This is a table and chairs outside the Student Building where people are allowed to smoke.  Every evening it was a gathering spot for everyone...even the non-smokers.  Right now there is an umbrella for protection from the sun....but it gets damaged and is often we are building  a patio type shelter and naming it "Rae's Firefly."

Since I am unable to get on Rae's memorial page on Facebook, I have made my own for her.  I welcome all to follow it and write comments.  I am still in the process of creating it, but it will always be a work in progress.  I have lost all of the touching comments that so many wrote on her Facebook when you learned Rae had died.  I ask you to check out the site and write a short tribute to how she touched your lives.  It would mean a lot to me.  The Facebook site is Memories of Rae LeCompte . (This is what I have named her memorial page.)

Jackie, Stephanie and Rae on the Ridge

This was taken before Thunderbird Lodge had walls.  It is one of my
favorite pictures of  Rae and me.

Happy Birthday, Rae, my friend.  I miss you.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mount Rushmore in the Fog

South Dakota is packed with so many places to see.  When my sister and I left the airport at Rapid City our plans were to drive through the Black Hills, check out Mount Rushmore, and then head to Faith. (Linda had a research project in SD.  The first stop was Faith.  I was tagging along to keep her company and have some sister time.)  Mother Nature was not cooperating.  It was spitting rain and becoming foggy.

We were not going to let the fog and rain dampen our excitement for the day.  It was a short drive to Mount Rushmore. The fog made it difficult to see the road signs...but we did not get lost!  I figured that visiting Mount Rushmore in April we would not have to fight the crowds of tourists like I have had happen other times.  We paid our $11.00 for parking (The National Park Pass is not accepted for parking...not even a discount!) and carefully drove the narrow road to the parking area.  The fog was getting denser and denser.  I don't know why...but even when we almost missed the entrance to the parking garage because of the fog...we did not think that maybe...just maybe...George, Thomas, Abe and Teddy might not be visible.

The park ranger at the visitor center told us that visibility was not going to get better for the rest of the day.  I felt bad for Linda as she had never seen Mount Rushmore, but I felt worse for the family who came in after us.  The father limped up to the park son about the age of five was hanging on his leg and the other son about eight was using that animated voice asking where the carved presidents' heads were.  Younger son released his father's leg and began running in circles pretending to be a plane.  The mother...looking somewhat haggard was standing by the door staring into the foggy scene while their teenage daughter slumped against the wall heaving a sigh looking totally bored.

"I don't suppose there is any luck that the fog will lift, is there?"  The father was trying to be optimistic.  "We just drove six hours for Jeremy here to see the carvings in the mountains."  Little Jeremy was checking out a book shouting out facts about Mount Rushmore.  My heart almost broke knowing that he would not be seeing anything but photos unless they were able to come the next day. I also knew that we would not be able to see the progress that has been made in the Crazy Horse carving. When we left, the family was disappearing in the fog heading for platform to see the carvings. I took a quick picture of a model of Mount Rushmore, Linda bought some postcards...and we left.  Next stop: Deadwood.

This is our only picture of Mount Rushmore...the model in the visitor center.

Our drive to Deadwood was through the Black Hills...or from what we saw...foggy Black Hills.  It was still beautiful and as we came through them, the fog began to lift a bit.  We got to Deadwood in time for lunch.  Every time I have been to Deadwood has been in the summer and it is full of tourists...lots of tourists.  When we arrived, it could have been a ghost town. Here is a picture of the main street.  During the summer there would be no way I could have taken a picture standing in the middle of the street.  Of course, the rain probably kept other travelers inside, so it was the perfect time to take such a shot.

Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood had been a lively mining town.  This is where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered.  It is quite a tale that I have no time to tell.  Check it out at Wild Bill Hickok Biography.  He was murdered while playing a game of poker.  He always liked sitting with his back against a wall, but for some reason was sitting with his back to the door of the saloon.  A man, Jack McCall, walked in and shot Wild Bill in the back of the head.  The poker hand that Wild Bill was holding became known as the "Dead Man's Hand"...a pair of black eights and a pair of black aces.

Deadwood had more to offer than stories about Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  Linda and I also lost five dollars each at the small casino in the Bullock Hotel. (I hear there is a ghost that lives there.)  We also stopped at the Chubby Chipmunk Chocolate store.

If you visit Deadwood, stop and buy some yummy chocolate there.  This piece had a thin layer of caramel inside wafer thin chocolate.  Linda has already figured out how to make it and so I hope I will see some of these at Christmas next year. :-)


After lunch at Mustang Sally's, we were back on the road, heading for Faith.  We left the Black Hills and found the terrain more prairie like.  We did pass a few interesting land formations.  This one was called Bear Butte.  Legend says that the Sioux Chief Crazy Horse was born here. 
Bear Butte

I will stop here.  The next post will be about Faith. SD.  I had never been there, but found it an interesting small town.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Running to Fly

My sister had a research project in South Dakota the last week in April.  Since my schedule was open...I was able to join her.  We had fun sister time and visited places I had never seen in the other times I had been in South Dakota. 

Our first adventure was at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  Our connection to Rapid City was through Minneapolis. (Ray and I had had a connection there last year when we flew to Vancouver and I had no bad memories of it.)  Our first problem was at O'Hare.  They had to close one runway, so our plane had to share with landing planes.  Our pilot told us that we were taking turns.  That caused us to be about fifteen minutes late.  When we landed at Minneapolis I checked my iPhone to see where our connecting gate was.  We were coming in at F7 and we needed to be at B16.  We had 40 minutes....that should be okay....well, then I checked the airport map and realized that F7 is at one end of the airport...and B16 is at the other end.  This was going to be tight...I was sitting in the front of the plane but Linda was in the back.  It would take precious time for her to get out of the plane.
I marked our gates with a big purple X to show the distance between the gates.

 Once I was off the plane I asked an employee if we would be able to make our connections. He looked at my ticket, shook his head, pointed at one of those golf type carts and said that was the only way we would make it. I ran to the driver and asked him to wait for Linda. Minutes later Linda emerged through the crowd, caught my eye and bee-lined it to the cart.  Two other women were close behind, frantic looks on their faces, but my sister won the race.  Fortunately there was enough room on the cart for all of us.

Our driver assured us that he would get us there as he zigzagged around people, honking to warn others to get out of his way.  "The employees are the worst to move!" he shouted back at us as he sped past everyone.  "Hold on, we have some turns up ahead!"  Childhood  memories of riding the Wild Mouse at the Riverside Amusement Park in Indianapolis came to me as I gripped the hand rail.

Wild Mouse Ride picture taken by Abie Danter (found on line)

 I swear I heard him say the gate was about a mile away.  I have tried to research to see the distance between gates at this airport, but have not found any facts yet.  I did read one review that said, "If you are training for the marathon, this is the place to make connecting flights."  Many other reviews said that they had missed their flights.  Some suggested that a three hour layover would be the only way they would ever go through that airport.  I can't believe there is not a monorail like Detroit Metro has.  But we zigzagged so much, it may not be possible...or maybe there is something like that, but we missed it.

Our driver got us to the end of his line.  Relief!  At least, that is what I thought.  Instead, he screeched to a halt, pointed down a hallway and said, " Walk down to the first set of escalators (or was it the second set?)...go down the escalator, follow the B1-B16 signs.  They will take you down another hall, you can use the moving sidewalk.  Then, take the escalator up.  There will be another hallway to your gate.  B-16 is the last one.

I am glad that Linda and I are fast walkers....I don't know how anyone who can't walk fast would have made it.  We arrived at the gate right when the doors of the plane were ready to close.  Of course,  where were our seats?  We were in the very back of the plane.  I slumped into my seat wishing I had taken some pictures of the airport...but they would have only been a blur.

Here is a picture I found on line.  There were numerous bars/snack bars like this close to the gates, where one might have a leisurely drink before boarding.   I am sure many people have had positive experiences at this airport.  It seemed clean, modern and had lots of shopping options.  They just need some way to transport people from one end of the airport to the other.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

Good Morning Sunshine (The sun is shining over Rae's shoulder)
Every summer I travel to New Mexico to attend a board meeting for Cuyamungue Institute.  I also sometimes teach a workshop.  This year our board meeting is in May, and I will be attending a wedding on one of the days of the meeting. It would be easier for me to skip the board meeting this years as I will miss most of it.  But I must go. The Land calls me.

Our meetings are usually two to three days...with enough free time to spend time in Santa  Fe or surrounding areas.  The land at Cuyamungue is some of the most beautiful on earth and I treasure the time I get to spend there. 

I am walking to the ridge.
One of our traditions is to walk to the ridge, one of the highest points, and greet the sun.  We all face east waiting for the sun to rise above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains .  Someone will say a morning verse.  My favorite is this.

Those in and around the mountains,
Those in and around the hills, 
Those in and around the earth:
Your gifts and blessings,
this day,
we return to you.

After greeting the sun we give hugs to everyone and then someone will break out in song...anything from "Morning Has Broken" to "This Little Light of Mine" to "You Are My Sunshine", and my favorite, "Here Comes the Sun"...anything that has the word 'sun' in it.   What a perfect way to begin the day.

The sun is rising.

The main reason I must go to Cuyamungue is to complete the circle of my friend, Rae's life. I know this is more for me than for her...but I need to do this.  I need to walk to the top of the ridge, open my arms, breath in the clean crisp morning air, and release my grief.  My friend, Stephanie, will join me.  She, Rae and I conducted many workshops at the Institute and our bond was and still is strong.

Stephanie, Rae and I at one of our workshops

In this collage, each one of us communicated to each of the other participants in our own way.  Stephanie was song, I am not sure if Rae's was a hug or if it was Duane's, mine was silence through the eyes.  In the one picture we have Rae in the center receiving healing and loving energy from us.

 I don't know how the grief will be expressed...tears, sobs, wails?  Will I shout out my grief or will it come out in song?  And after the grief...what?  Will releasing it be enough?  Will I hear that deep, hearty laugh of Rae's, echoing  through the wind?

I won't know until I go...until I am on the ridge...releasing my grief and feeling Rae's spirit riding the wind.  Riding the wind, free from pain, free from stress, and full of love for all of those she touched.

(...and aside....As I was typing this, tears in my fingers began to type this....'come down from the ridge and play $10 on the slots at Cities of Gold, and $10 at The Rock, and then $10 at Buffalo, love and this for me...) 

Thank you, Rae, my friend, I will follow your wise words.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waning Winter

I know that those of us living where the winter was brutal feel that winter is refusing to quietly allow spring to begin her performance.  Yesterday I even got out my earmuffs again to wear while doing some errands.  It is the end of March and soon spring will take her place.  But before she are a few pictures I have taken of what I will miss about the winter.  Each season has its beauty.

A Squirrel Eating a Peanut Perched on a Tree Limb

A Swan in Swan Creek
Blue Jay Waiting for a Peanut

A Grackle Waiting His Turn

Shades of Green and White
Half Rack...from Last Winter

Looking from a Covered Bridge
Tufted Titmouse

Taken on a Winter's Walk

Last Year's First Flowers...It Won't Be Long

Yes, every season has its own beauty....and I am ready for the beauty of Spring.