Me and my big mouth…

Have you ever had one of those seemingly innocent conversations that, in hindsight,  ends up costing thousands?  If you have…welcome to my world.

Literally a few months ago Connie and I were sitting in our living room when I mentioned that it’d be nice to replace the carpeting in our living & dining room.  It was at least fifteen years old, had survived three daughters running across it, had absorbed multiple spills, had obtained a black stain about the size of a quarter that I think was asphalt and was an easy target for one rogue cat that had occasional bouts of the stomach flu…spitting up juicy hairballs.  It started its career as a pristine, beige in  color, medium pile carpet.  It ended its life as a well-worn speckled beige-like floor covering.  What began as a “thought” took on a life of its own.  Not only are we getting new carpeting in the living and dining room but also new flooring in our entryway, half-bath, kitchen, up stairs bathroom and carpeting up the stairwell and upstairs hallway.  Its true.  Most of the flooring in our home on the main and second level were from the 1990’s and (wait for it….) 1980’s.  While showing its age, fashion-wise, it was holding up fairly well considering all of the traffic that our and the previous families had put on them.  No sooner had we brought up the idea of getting bids on the flooring when Connie brought up the fact that our furniture in the living room was past its prime….so we went furniture shopping as well.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Between trying to match fabric samples verses carpet samples my right-brained analytical wife went into overdrive.  A new couch, chair, end-tables, coffee table and entertainment center are inbound to the Palatial Estates.  I honestly just lost interest and turned the decisions over to her.  Here’s another little deal….you can’t have new furniture and carpeting without….wait for it….a new paint job in the living and dining rooms.

So…the floor guys are here now.  They’re not being quiet.  There were around three or four layers of older vinyl flooring beneath the one that we thought was way past due.  They’re pounding the life out of our kitchen floor.  Literally…hammering away on it like their very lives depend on hammering away.  Stripping, sanding and hammering.  Our refrigerator and stove are in our dining room…as is the breakfast bar and kitchen table.  Its all a mess.  A big, noisy mess…so be careful of what you say. 

Our living room…full of kitchen stuff while Connie paints the living and dining rooms a different…more relaxing shade of….tan? Beige? I don’t know.  She’s hosting a party here in four days.  She’s just a little stressed out.

Onto another topic (stay with me now…its been two full months since I’ve blogged so deal with it).  I was removing the leaves from our ancient oak kitchen table when I had one of those “jeez…just think if this table could talk” moments.  It all started back in 1988 when Connie and I were newlyweds.  A co-worker had this old table that she wanted $100 for.  She had bought it from a farmer then stripped the paint off.  Stained and varnished it looked pretty good to us… being poor,  and needing a table we jumped at the chance and our seller threw in four chairs from a former pizza place.  What a deal!!  Our new table was built to last, hefty and if you accidently grazed your sock covered foot on one of its thick oak legs then you probably broke a toe as the table always held its ground like a fortress of heavy oak against that puny little toe.

The table is over a hundred years old.  Built to last.  Its seen multiple moves from rental house to apartment to first home to this home.  It was with us before we had kids…but not before nephews acting silly with Grandpa.

Connie with our nephews and Dad. Do you like our fashion sense? All that really mattered was family. We didn’t have much…but we had each other.  1989

Its seen our family go from two, to three, to four and eventually grow to five.  Feeding a young one in a highchair as we had supper.  Wiping up spilled milk as it ran between the leaves and onto the floor.  Thousands of meals.  Plenty of talk…lots of laughter and maybe a few lessons learned along the way.

Dad with Karalee and Jordan…drawing pictures for each other.

Many a birthday parties and holiday meals were shared upon this table.

Later on as we gained a dining room it became a “kids table” during the holidays.

Did I mention that it was built to last? I don’t think very many tables these days are made like this one. Its oak…solid…no particle board.

The holidays were probably your most used times…holding court as others mixed up ingredients and frosting.

If you ever want to get a message to me….leave a note on the kitchen table. I’ll get it there.

Once the kitchen flooring is done the table will return, minus any leaves.  We simply don’t need that large of a table.  In its heyday it held fifteen of us one Thanksgiving, though now it’ll just be the two of us…again.  Its kind of weird how things in life circle back around like that.  Weird and yet reassuring.  I hope it finds another good family after we’re done with it in a few years.

Thanks for coming along.

God Bless you,

R

 

 

My Germany journey begins

When you have adult children living and working in different countries, and you wish to see them…like I do, you travel to them.  In this case, Berlin Germany.  I’d never been there, in fact, up until a year ago the only other country that I’d visited had been our good neighbors to the north, Canada.  Our daughter Macy has lived in Berlin for eight months.  I hadn’t seen her since we dropped her off at the airport last summer.  It was a tough moment for my wife and I.  Here was our “baby”, little Macy Sue…all twenty years of her…flying off to be an Au Pair in Germany.  My wife and I would finally be “real” empty-nesters.  Our girls would all be quite a ways away.  Jordan in Miami, Karalee in Japan and now Macy in Berlin.  Needless to say our mood during the ride home from the airport and subsequent evening were “subdued”, almost in mourning.  Our kids….gone.  We missed them already.

Fast forward to January when I started booking my visit to Germany.  I’d be going alone, Connie had to work, plus she had gone over the holidays when I was working.  I fly standby much of the time so I go to the airport and hope to catch a flight.  Normally it works out fairly well, but with United Airlines computer glitch the day before all of my options for flying standby to Germany evaporated the day prior to my departure.  My plans went like this:

  • Cedar Rapids to Charlotte; Charlotte to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)
  • Cedar Rapids to Chicago or Dallas/Fort Worth; DFW to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)

It was decided that my best option would be to buy a one-way ticket for a flight leaving Chicago and arriving in Berlin from Air Berlin.  I bought a ticket that way, BUT it wouldn’t use the front end of a connecting flight from Paris to Berlin so I called Expedia.com to see if I could still use the back-end of the return flight Berlin to Paris when I wanted to return home.  Literally an hour and a half on hold with them and I finally reached a person who could tell me “no”, I could not do that.  Airline policy prohibits it.  So, at three in the morning of my departure I purchased a one-way ticket from Berlin to Paris to hook up with my return flight.  Done deal.  I’m good to go!

After arriving at my starting point at the Cedar Rapids airport (at 4:30 AM) I received an email from Air Berlin that my Chicago to Berlin flight had been cancelled overnight, less than twelve hours after I had purchased it,  (I was really, REALLY getting anxious and irritated at this point) BUT the email went onto read “American Airlines picked up the flight, with a transfer to British Airways in London.”  Thank God!!  The trip was still “on”.

My Cedar Rapids to Chicago flight was just fine, I had a twelve-hour layover at O’Hare.  Once you’ve spent time in a big airport terminal, that’s pretty much enough.  I’ve been there several times and appreciate its amenities, though pretty much just waited until my 5:25 PM boarding time.  My flight from Chicago to London went well.  We flew overnight.  I caught a glimpse of the northern lights, which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid growing up on a farm….and I didn’t sleep a wink.  I usually don’t sleep on airplanes, even though it’s not because I’m nervous or anxious.  My day began at 2 AM and it’d be a long, long “day”.

We arrived at Heathrow airport.  The English countryside looked amazingly beautiful and London looked to be a cool city to explore someday.  My layover was only seventy-five minutes, which isn’t much when you’re:

  1. Arriving at one terminal and needing to get to another terminal of a huge airport.
  2. Need to find the shuttle/tram/bus to get to that terminal.
  3. Go through security again. (my tiny tube of Crest toothpaste was eyed closely) AND I received a complimentary pat-down in the home of some of my ancestors.
  4. Locate the gate of my departure only to find out that they wouldn’t post it until forty-five minutes prior to departure. (is it any wonder that we rebelled and formed our own country with airports posting which GATE YOU’RE FLYING FROM in a timely manner?  Just sayin’)

Fortunately I researched the whole “how to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5” question while I was sitting in O’Hare for twelve unremarkable hours and found the shuttle easily.  Terminal 5 at Heathrow is really nice.

I was told that the information desk that I was looking for was “down there in the middle.” Do you see it? Yeah…neither did I when I walked around down there.  Those danged Brits and their dry sense of humor.

As with many of my trips I try to gather as much information as I can to ease through airports and such.  Sometimes it works, sometimes you just go on faith that it’ll work out.  I’ve found that being polite, patient and courteous go a long way when asking for information when out of the States. (I can spot Americans at foreign airports, they’re the ones being loud).

While waiting for my British Airways flight I struck up a conversation with a fellow American from Joliet Illinois.  She was traveling to see a sister in Germany and we had a good laugh about the different things just between the English and Americans.  Our flight to Berlin was boarding so we wished each other a good trip and settled into the (quite) nice British jet.

Once on the ground in Germany, the Tegel airport in Berlin is rather old.  They’re building a new airport but it’s not in use as of yet.

Holy smokes!! England and now Germany, plus I got to see the English Channel.  I got a window seat since I’m a big shot in the States.  True story.

Once I was off the plane I got in line to have my passport checked.  Honestly…the guy really gave me a once, then twice over.  Perhaps he was just super impressed to have ANOTHER American enter his country OR that he recognized me from Facebook, regardless he stamped my passport with the authority of a LeBron James slam dunk and handed my passport back.

Customs!  It’s where they really, REALLY go through what you could possibly be bringing into their country.  Since I fly standby I travel very light.  Small suitcase that holds a couple of days worth of clothes and a small backpack.  I read their customs sign carefully, slowly, making sure that I wouldn’t get into the wrong line and end up causing a commotion.  I had to go through the “green door”.  My qualifications indicted that I had to be screened once I entered the “green door”.  “Dear God!!  What could I possibly have to endure?”  The passport guy was intimidating enough!!  I cautiously approached the green door, glanced around…no one else was even CLOSE to going through this door.  I’d probably set off a series of alarms, guns would be drawn and K9 units would chew on my tuchus. (one of my best attributes!!)  I pushed the door open, glanced around and looked at a guy sitting on a stool.  I looked at him.  Him at me, then he pointed to a gate for me to go through where (wait for it….) MACY WAS THERE!!  Holy smokes!!  Home free!!  Well…not quite home free.  We still had an hours-worth of bus and train rides to get across Berlin to my hotel.  I was so tired but gave Macy what I had left in the form of hugs.

After the bus and train rides we made our way up to my hotel, which was just a few blocks from where Macy lives, and checked in.  I’m not sure how much English the hotel people know, but with Macy as my interpreter (she’s fluent in German) the transaction was done in German.  I had booked the hotel on Expedia.com, which is quite easy.

The view from my hotel window. It’s set in a quiet neighborhood.

My room. It cost around $50 a night.

The lobby of the hotel.

After quickly settling in we went out for supper at a….wait for it…TURKISH PLACE!!  They have these gyro-like things that they call doner’s.  Two words.  DEE.  LISH.

Meat on a pole. MMmmmm….meat.

Macy and our doners.  Say it like “duner”

Around the neighborhood that I stayed, and in fact, around Germany are “stumbling blocks”.  Small, cobblestone sized brass memorials for those victims of the Holocaust. Every stumbling block has the name of the victim, the date of their birth and the date of death.  These blocks are set in the pavement of sidewalks in front of buildings where Nazi victims once lived or worked.  There are around 25,000 stumbling blocks in 600 different cities around Germany.  Its the worlds largest memorial, and its still growing. The name of the death camp is stamped on it as well.

Stumbling blocks

With supper finished I tell Macy that “its probably close to six or seven o’clock” and that I should retire for the evening and get some sleep, I’ve been awake for over thirty hours.  She replied “its four o’clock in the afternoon Dad.”  Regardless…I head to the hotel, take a hot relaxing shower, send out a few messages to family and fall asleep at seven, not waking up until six the next morning.  The hardest part of the trip is over, I have four days with Macy in Berlin.  Let the fun begin!

God bless!

R

Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

The trip home…

My trip back to good old America started with me being dropped off in Miyazaki for my overnight stay prior to my flight out the following morning.  Miyazaki’s a large city and I readily looked forward to an afternoon to walking around and exploring the sights nearest my hotel.  It was a Sunday so not a lot was going on but there was still plenty to take in.  Firstly…I loved it.  It’s not too often that a middle-aged guy like me anticipates an afternoon of just walking around and looking.  I didn’t have my interpreter with me (our daughter Karalee) so finding my way back to my hotel after walking quite a ways from it would be my biggest challenge.  I had booked my room through Travelocity.com and was pleasantly surprised how nice it was for only $58 a night (The Sky Tower Hotel).  Here are some of the local sights that I found interesting.

McDonalds Halloween Witch's Fries.  Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce.  I didn't try any.  What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

McDonalds Halloween Witch’s Fries. Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce. I didn’t try any. What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

The "thing" in the refrigerator was a bottle of water.  Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them?  True story!

The “thing” in the refrigerator was a bottle of water. Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them? True story!

A traffic light.  This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan...

A traffic light. This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan…

No need to get spooked.  There's only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

No need to get spooked. There’s only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

...and now he's stealing your bike...

…and now he’s stealing your bike…

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me.  I tried to alert the proper authorities...in vain.

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me. I tried to alert the proper authorities…in vain.

So I walked around for a few hours, into the late afternoon, up and down streets and avenues packed with all kinds of shops.

The Colonel's kind of a big deal in Japan...

The Colonel’s kind of a big deal in Japan…

I found, of all places, a “Celtic Sport Pub” where I had a delicious American Blue Moon bottle of beer…for close to $9.  Regardless of its high price it tasted awesome.  I headed back towards my hotel where I contemplated eating in their hotel restaurant.  I hedged thinking that I didn’t fly halfway across the world not to take a chance at a local place.  I chose a place and took a seat.  Thank goodness that the menu had photos and between me and my server my selection was made without any international incidents occurring.

...uh...yeah...the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with...cheese?

…uh…yeah…the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with…cheese?

…and….

Delicous-ness!!  Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Delicious-ness!! Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan.  Dead serious.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan. Dead serious.  He looks none too happy about it.

Fast forward to the next morning.  I had set up a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.  That went great.  Once arriving at the airport the ticket counter couldn’t “find” me.  Literally…they had my passport and couldn’t find me on the 11 o’clock flight to Tokyo…and the lack of them understanding English and me Japanese didn’t help.  We were about ten minutes into this dilemma when I said “listen…I gotta be on that flight.  I’ll buy a ticket and settle up with Travelocity.com when I get home”.  The third of the three ticket counter ladies just smiled at me and continued typing away.  Sweat beads ran down my back…it was warm and I was stressed.  Finally one of the ladies asked if I had kept my old ticket stub from when I had arrived.  CHA-CHING!!  I had kept it!!  I gave it to her and literally (LITERALLY) two minutes later I was walking away with my new ticket.

Fast forward again…I landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport on time.  I had to transfer to Tokyo’s other international airport via a shuttle bus.  I had somewhere like six hours before my flight to Chicago boarded.  PLENTY of time (or so I thought).  I hustled to the shuttle bus ticket area and found…CHAOS.  Okay…not chaos…but an alarmingly large selection of transportation venues.  I was kind of “oh…sh*t…” (ever been there?  Not a good state of mind…am I right?)  Anyway…if you believe in God (like I do) you’ll like this.  I saw an airport employee, a young 20-something, walking towards me.  I got her attention, without looking like a crazed middle-aged American, and asked her where I could buy a shuttle bus ticket to Narita.  Get this…she was friendly, she took me to a ticket kiosk, changed its screen to read English, helped me buy the right ticket then led me to the bus stop and put me in the right line (mind you…there’s many buses coming and going by the minute).  She was an Angel.  Dead serious.  My wait for the bus was like two minutes before I was boarded and heading the right way.

Second Angel.  As we began our drive to Narita airport, which I thought would be a twenty minute ride, I struck up a conversation with a guy who I was pretty sure would understand English, Thomas.  Thomas is black.  There aren’t many black people in Japan, like he was the only one in Japan at the time.  Anyway…I asked Thomas how long the ride was.  He replied “an hour and a half.”  Holy cow!!  I hadn’t planned for this at all.  In my rush to find a ticket counter and thinking that the ride would be a short one I didn’t buy or bring something on the bus to drink, and I was parched!  Get this…Thomas not only calmed me down (I’m a little high-strung when traveling…) he gave me his unopened bottle of apple juice (I’m not a big fan of apple juice BUT this one tasted wonderful!!) and gave me a great person to talk and listen to during the ride and told me which stop to get off at once at Narita.  Thomas was great.  He’s Methodist by the way.

Once I found my gate I had a couple of hours to kill.  I was flying back in economy…not quite the business class that I had hoped for…but I was going home.  The plane would take off at 6 PM Tokyo time with a 3 PM landing in Chicago.

So long Japan!   Its been fun.  Let's do it again soon.

So long Japan! Its been fun. Let’s do it again soon.

I used to be a nervous-nelly on flights.  Twitching at every little chime, buzz or sound.  Not anymore.  Old Rich Ripley is a world-traveler.  I write.  I read.  I have a few drinks.  I watch TV.  Flying over an ocean…? No problem.  Forty minutes into our flight we had turbulence.  I mean real-live roller coaster, people shouting, plane shaking, pilot telling the flight attendants “ATTENDANTS GET TO YOUR SEATS”.  It was scary.  I thought to myself “this is the way that Hollywood portrays the moments before a plane crash.”  Surprisingly enough…I didn’t get overly concerned, but enough to have an impromptu chat with the Lord concerning aforementioned flight over said ocean.  The turbulence only lasted a few minutes…but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

We reached Chicago unscathed.  I had to really hustle to make it from my “big jet” gate to my little old “regional jet gate”.  I had less than 70 minutes to find my way through customs and on towards my new gate…which I didn’t know where it was…yet.

After clearing customs (when you’re a bigshot like me, they’re just happy to have me back in the States…you feel me?) I was starting to find my bearings as to where I needed to go next.  I saw a couple of the flight crew from my flight walking next to me.  I made a remark about the turbulence that we had experienced, had a nice laugh and I asked them if I could go out the door that they were exiting by…..and my next Angels were there.  They asked me what gate I was flying out from and once they heard that they replied “we’re walking right past it.  Come along with us!”  Dear Lord…these two attendants made the fifteen minute jaunt through a major international airport, onto a shuttle train, through security and right to my gate back to Iowa so easy.  I mean it…our Good and Gracious Lord made coming home so easy.  From the girl in Tokyo to Thomas on the shuttle to these two attendants walking me to my gate after working an eleven hour flight…just AWESOME.

My flight back to Cedar Rapids from Chicago is barely thirty minutes long.  I look down on the lights of Chicago fading to the east as the darkened farm fields of rural Illinois and Iowa slip under us.  I see the Mississippi River, the moon reflecting on it…it won’t be long now.  A combine illuminates the corn rows ever so slightly before taking them it.  Its funny what a person recognizes, if even from thousands of feet in the air above it.  I see a farm houses stretched down rural roads every so often…shining like little warm mercury-lit beacons…like bread crumbs left along a trail…guiding this Iowan back home.  We land, the cool early November air washes over me in the jet-bridge.  Dear God…what a journey.  Thank you for carrying me home.

Thank you for coming along with me.

God bless,

R

 

Rainy day road signs and rattlesnakes

With our time in Colorado coming to an end we packed up and headed east towards home, a two-day drive for us.  VACATION 2016 was ending.  The following are photos from various days that have a story to tell.

We drove in a steady rain for the first three hours...up and down mountains. I can't say that I'll miss those hills.

We drove in a steady rain for the first three hours…up and down mountains. I can’t say that I’ll miss those hills.

Oh great...rattlesnakes. My bride "got me" with the old "dead brand on the back of her husbands bare leg" trick. Once I returned to Earth I calmly told her that I didn't appreciate such sophomoric stunts.

Oh great…rattlesnakes. My bride “got me” with the old “dead branch on the back of her husbands bare leg” trick. Once I returned to Earth I calmly told her in a high pitched/profanity laced tirade that I did NOT appreciate such sophomoric stunts.

 

Cousins having fun. Karalee and Maddie

Cousins having fun. Karalee and Maddie

Maddie and my mother-in-law Ardis. I'm her favorite son-in-law. You'll have that when you're the ONLY son-in-law. Regardless...it was great seeing everyone at the wedding.

Maddie and my mother-in-law Ardis. I’m her favorite son-in-law. You’ll have that when you’re the ONLY son-in-law. Regardless…it was great seeing everyone at the wedding.

Macy and Karalee yelling at their Uncle Jim who's crossing the hotel parking lot. Wallflowers one minute, obnoxious loudmouths the next...poor Jim

Macy and Karalee yelling at their Uncle Jim who’s crossing the hotel parking lot. Wallflowers one minute, obnoxious loudmouths the next…poor Jim

Apparently Connie and I are taking too long at Bridal Falls as we get the old "geez...are they done yet?" hands on hips look from Jordan and Macy

Apparently Connie and I are taking too long at Bridal Falls as we get the old “geez…are they done yet?” hands on hips look from Jordan and Macy

Here's the girls watching the Sound of Music. Our cabin didn't have a TV stand so Connie had to hold it the whole time.

Here’s the girls watching the Sound of Music. Our cabin didn’t have a TV stand so Connie had to hold it the whole time.

Oh joy...eight and a half hours of driving and we lose an hour going back to Central Standard Time. No matter how you slice it...a long day

Oh joy…eight and a half hours of driving and we gain an hour coming back to Central Standard Time. No matter how you slice it…a long day.

 

 

The foot bridge at the cabin. Mostly used for bear and mountain lion traffic, I'd occasionally tempt fate and cross during rush hour.

The foot bridge at the cabin. Mostly used for bear and mountain lion traffic, I’d occasionally tempt fate and cross during rush hour.

I crept down into the creek to get this photo of both bridges at the cabin and was accompanied by several thousand thirsty mosquitoes. I quickly departed but not before satisfying most of their appetites.

I crept down into the creek to get this photo of both bridges at the cabin and was accompanied by several thousand thirsty mosquitoes. I quickly departed but not before quenching most of their thirsts.

From Scottsbluff NE. "We have nice rooms. Not great...but you know...nice, but not TOO nice."

From Scottsbluff NE. “We have nice rooms. Not great…but you know…nice, but not TOO nice.”

We stopped in Ogallala Nebraska for lunch on our way home.  We found the place, a finished out Morten building on the far end of town away from the interstate, with help of Yelp.  You could tell that it was thee meeting place, complete with bar, sit-down restaurant area and meeting room for banquets.  After we placed our order at the bar the woman taking our order asked where we were from.  I laughed, replying “…is it that obvious that we’re not from here?”  We stood out from their “regulars”.  Good food and we were back on the road towards Grand Island.

What the hell is going on in Wyoming that they need six inch thick walls separating each urinal? Never mind....I don't want to know.

What the hell is going on in Wyoming rest areas that they need six inch thick concrete partitions separating each urinal? Never mind….I don’t want to know.

In Glenwood Springs CO. Not quite sure about this...?

In Glenwood Springs CO. Not quite sure about this…?

I love a good sign. Direct Dial Touch Tone Phones?!?! Can I get TWO rooms?

I love a good sign. Direct Dial Touch Tone Phones?!?! What’s next…COLOR TV’S in EVERY room?!

My favorite sign...in the middle of Starbucks, Subway & modern business's. Their lobby had a statue of....wait for it...ELVIS.

My favorite sign…in the middle of nowhere amongst a Starbucks, Subway & modern business’s. Their lobby had a statue of….wait for it…ELVIS.

My second favorite sign

My second favorite sign

Found this novelty in Glenwood Springs. Turns out me and my friends are worth MILLIONS!!

Found this novelty in Glenwood Springs. Turns out me and my friends are worth MILLIONS!!

Oh boy...eastern Colorado. Hours and hours and hours of this...

Oh boy…eastern Colorado & western Nebraska. Hours and hours and hours of this…

...and llif Colorado. llif?

…and llif Colorado. llif?

Did I tell you that I love a good sign? Julesburg CO

Did I tell you that I love a good sign? Julesburg CO

Cabin yard and creek. Many a lion, tiger & bear were seen in this area every evening when I wanted to look at the stars.

Cabin yard and creek. Many a lion, tiger & bear were seen in this area every evening when I wanted to look at the stars.

Saw this interesting business partnership. Bar & Barbershop.

At first I was drawn to the Walken sign then saw this interesting business partnership. Bar & Barbershop.  Get a buzz cut while getting buzzed.

Connie shows us how long the last snake she saw was....which wasn't that long ago...

Connie shows us how long the last snake she saw was….which wasn’t that long ago…

Cheers!!

Massive cronut and Blackberry soda for lunch after a morning of hiking.  Not.  Too.  Shabby.  Cheers!!

Present day vacation photo....

Present day vacation photo….

 

 

...but when I look in the back seat....I still see this.

…but when I look in the back seat….I still see this.

Our last night of vacation was spent in Grand Island Nebraska….still over six hours away from home.  Our company has a grocery store in Grand Island.  I’d sound less than authentic if I didn’t admit that it was good to get back to what I’m used to.  It felt reassuringly familiar, even if it was Nebraska.

Thank you for coming along with us.  I enjoyed your comments and hope that you had a good time reading.  Take care and God bless.

R

 

 

Ugh…hiking

As you may or may not know, my bride sets up our itinerary for our vacations.  I’m free to participate in them or not.  An activity like horseback riding is something that I’ve passed on, which is really extraordinary seeing as how I look and act so much like a real live cowboy.  The confident swagger (I got it).  The “awe shucks Ma’am” demeanor after I rescue a lady in distress (nailed it).  The boyish good looks (what can I say?  God don’t make no mistakes…).  The alpha male/John Wayne persona (got muh six-shooter by muh side…pilgrim).  Me wearing just my straw cowboy hat and underwear, bare-chested on the cabins porch…blowing the steam off of my pine cone-shaped coffee mug (lookin’ pretty good if I do say so myself…).

Anyway…Connie had set up a couple of hiking days for us.  One at Maroon Bells and the other at Hanging Lake.  Let me be clear about this.  Despite all of the macho stuff that you may think that you know about yours truly, Rich Ripley….liar extraordinaire, I really don’t care for activities.  I like “alone time”.  Driving…alone.  Eating…alone.  Listening to music…alone.  Watching TV…alone.  You get the idea.  But here’s the catch, we had our three adult daughters along and I thought that I’d regret it if I didn’t hike with them…so up the mountain side I went, mile after glorious mile.  Here are a number of photos with descriptions and captions.

The "trail" for Hanging Lake. It ascends 1000' in altitude in 1.2 miles of climbing.

The “trail” for Hanging Lake. It ascends 1000′ in altitude in 1.2 miles of climbing.

I was goofing around at the trial head when our middle daughter scolded me.

Karalee:  Dad…quit joking around so much.  You’ll run out of breath!

Me:  That’s quitter talk!!  Ha ha ha WHEEZ….WHEEZZ….WHEEEEZZZ!!!

(Not a lot of oxygen up there in those hills.  Rest assured…I remained hilarious)

The troops mutinied when I set a pace that was too brisk and was demoted to the rear of the formation, a prime bear-target area. As I reminded the girls, "I only have to run faster than one of you, which I most surely will." Family vacations bring out the BEST in me.

The troops mutinied when I set a pace that was too brisk and was demoted to the rear of the formation, a prime bear-target area. As I reminded the girls, “I only have to run faster than one of you, which I most surely will.” Family vacations bring out the BEST in me.

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

This is what we climbed to see and were NOT disappointed. WHEEEZZZ!!

This is what we climbed to see and were NOT disappointed. WHEEEZZZ!!

Maroon Bells on a grey rainy day. Still beautiful.

Maroon Bells on a grey rainy day. Still beautiful.

Awesomely wonderful

Awesomely wonderful

We got lost for a few hours...that's when my Cub Scout training kicked in. OVER THERE GIRLS!! I SEE A STARBUCKS!! (I wore black knee high socks that day. I regret nothing)

We got lost for a few hours…that’s when my Cub Scout training kicked in. OVER THERE GIRLS!! I SEE A STARBUCKS!! (I wore black knee high socks that day. I regret nothing)

My advice to you about hiking is this:

  1. Wear good shoes & proper clothing.
  2. Take snacks and plenty of water.
  3. Arrive early.  It’ll take awhile to hike a mile or so to the attraction, and back.
  4. Learn multiple songs that can be sung by many, songs like 99 Bottles of beer on the wall.  Singers of 99 Bottles of beer on the wall rarely surprise moose and/or bear, and if you do surprise them and they take one of your group…hopefully its the tenor.  No one likes those snooty tenors….am I right?!

Okay…activities aside….we’d return to the cabin except for the one day when….

OH. MY. LORD. This place ROCKED!!

OH. MY. LORD. This place ROCKED!!

We were on the verge of death…literally starving and on life-support when we walked into this eatery in Glenwood Springs.  Our daughters milled around the illuminated glass display cases when the owner (a younger guy) approached them and asked “YOU GIRLS READY TO PARTY?!”  This place specializes in donuts, cronuts and specialty sandwiches.  We went for the cronuts and were filled with fried, iced and filled with cream….DELICIOUSNESS!!   It closes at two in the afternoon so we got two for the price of one…or at least the girls did.

A pack of hungry wolves couldn't have done it any better as we tore into these delectable pastries.

A pack of hungry wolves couldn’t have done it any better as we tore into these delectable pastries.

Later on that night we drove down to Aspen to check out….wait for it….

Excuse me while I get in touch with my inner nerd

Excuse me while I get in touch with my inner nerd

Its beautiful. Its free. Its like his music.

Its beautiful. Its free. Its like his music.

yep...just quiet with the sound of the brook running through it...all in Aspen

yep…just quiet with the sound of the brook running through it…all in Aspen

Connie and Jordan

Connie and Jordan

As for Aspen itself…I could live with never going back.  Its pricy and getting around is a little congested, what with it being nestled in between majestic peaks and such.  We did see some cool homes though.  The average price of a single family home?  Five million clams. 

Our cabin was a good place to stay.  Unfortunately there were some issues that arose.  We were blessed (still are).  Our problems weren’t health or safety related…just a broken washer so that I had to haul our bath towels into town every day and wash them, then truck them back to the cabin to dry.  THAT…right there…is a FIRST WORLD problem.

There's nothing like walking in from a 90+ degree parking lot into a 90+ degree, steamy laundromat. I jot down some blog notes while Macy snaps the pic.

There’s nothing like walking in from a 90+ degree parking lot into a 90+ degree, steamy laundromat. I jot down some blog notes while Macy snaps the pic.

One more day of vacation left, plus a few twists and turns along the way.  I think that I enjoy the road more than the stay.  Thank you for following along.  This vacation was made all the more enjoyable back when my brother Brian left for college in the summer of ’77 and left his record collection for me.  Hours of listening to him and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  That was a pretty good summer.

Until next time.  God bless.

R

 

 

Big Sid’s is where its at!!

We tried something different on this vacation. We hired someone to drive us around in a Jeep, up in the mountains, above the tree line and I thoroughly enjoyed it…the girls…maybe not so much.  The drive took us on roads (if you can call them that…) up steep inclines, through creeks and on plenty of paths that I wouldn’t have had the courage to try to navigate.  The reward was breathtaking views and time with family.  Our drivers name was John, though he reminded me a lot of my buddy Joel.  His voice, his demeanor, his knowledge of wildlife and the history of Aspen and Colorado (maybe not Joel so much in that regard) and his easy going segues into being a smart-ass and laughing at his own jokes.  Good times.

We passed maybe two or three vehicles all day on these paths.

We passed maybe two or three vehicles all day on these paths.

YIKES!!!  I thought for a second that Bigfoot had jumped in the Jeep with us.  Turns out its just Connie Sue's hair went bat-sh*t crazy.

YIKES!!! I thought for a second that Bigfoot had jumped in the Jeep with us. Turns out its just Connie Sue’s hair went bat-sh*t crazy.

We were lucky enough to see this young bear along the way.  I coaxed him into the Jeep, scratched his ears and sung him a little Rocky Mountain High before turning him back into the wild.  I think...he cried a little as we drove off.

We were lucky enough to see this young bear along the way. I coaxed him into the Jeep, scratched his ears and sung him a little Rocky Mountain High before turning him back into the wild. I think…he cried a little as we drove off.

Even above the tree-line my legs are sexy.  True story

Even above the tree-line my legs are sexy. True story

We had a picnic in an old ghost town near Aspen

We had a picnic in an old ghost town near Aspen

The wonderful views were plentiful.  Just awe inspiring.  The camera doesn't do it justice

The wonderful views were plentiful. Just awe inspiring. The camera doesn’t do it justice

Group "jump" photo.  First attempt....fail

Group “jump” photo. First attempt….fail

second attempt....NAILED IT!!

second attempt….NAILED IT!!

...and sisters being sisters

…and sisters being sisters

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

No trip to Glenwood Springs is complete without stopping by my buddy Big Sid's Bottles and gettin' a little medicine.

No trip to Glenwood Springs is complete without stopping by my buddy Big Sid’s Bottles and gettin’ a little medicine.

...and not having anything to do with Big Sid's Bottles is that all of that fresh air required a nap in the afternoon.

…and not having anything to do with Big Sid’s Bottles is that all of that fresh air required a nap in the afternoon.

So far….a great vacation.  Thanks for coming along.

R

 

 

INNER NERD=Colorado

Day three of our vacation had us leave Nebraska, scurry through Wyoming and into Colorado.  Once we got close to Denver the inevitable question came up from Connie (wait for it….) “anyone want to listen to some John Denver?”  Dead serious…we’re big John Denver fans.  In the mid 1970’s when Connie and I were growing up John Denver was HUGE.  He was at the zenith of his career.  TV specials.  Concerts selling out.  Movies.  His hit music being played and we readily listened.  Unfortunately John was killed in a plane crash.  I can’t help but think that his career would have had a wonderful resurgence like so many other performers of his day.  Back to the present we hooked up Connie’s phone to the vans audio system and jammed out to Rocky Mountain High, Poems, Prayers & Promises, Back Home Again and many others.  I’m as serious as a heart-attack (again…NERD ALERT!!!)…most in our van were singing along with the lyrics as our girls grew up with Denver being played in our home.  With God as my witness I got misty singing along to Back Home Again and Rocky Mountain High having to stop a number of times to clear my throat.

As with any other vacation involving driving, we ran into road construction.  This one was no different.

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is...

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is…

...going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

…going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

We arrived at our destination, a cabin outside of Glenwood Springs Colorado in mid-afternoon.  Connie had rented a cabin for us, it was someone else’s home at other times of the year.  I didn’t know what to expect.

The living room

The living room

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Loft

Loft

It had room enough for all of us, a full kitchen, garage and (wait for it….)

...an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

…an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

The caretaker of the home informed us that there had been a “small bear” in the area and to “be aware” when outside.  “You’ll probably never see anything…the mountain lions and bears have all moved up….but still, be aware…”.  Well ladies and gentlemen…when you tell Rich Ripley that there’s the possibility that a bear could still be lingering in his general vicinity Rich Ripley is at “Scaredy-Cat Level 3.75” on a scale of 5 with 5 being the highest level.  Rational thought is given some credence, all while said rational thought is being had while sitting inside the cabin whilst drinking a Coors Light, but when I ventured outside around eleven one night to see the stars (they’re spectacular in the mountains) I was marveling at the cosmos when I heard a twig snap down by the creek (roughly thirty feet away) and bolted safely back into the cabin within a few seconds…covering a stretch of gravel driveway in flip flops like a sprinter competing for gold at the Olympics (who was being chased by a bear…).  True story.  Thank God I made it back inside safely and lived to tell the tale.  Stupid bear, mountain loin, skunk, mouse….

Anyway…we have a tradition in our family of leaving at the break of dawn (or earlier) to get to our main activity for the day.  I’m not lying.  Whatever it is that we want to do, we’re usually one of the first ones at the gate, fence, building, ticket office, Ranger station, restaurant, subway, movie theater, airport whatever.  We’ve never been late. Even with reservations we tend to leave early in case we have a flat tire (its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) mechanical breakdown (again…its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) or heavy traffic (see “its never happened in 27+ years of marriage).  Oh sure…we’ve had flat tires or mechanical issues on the way home (twice in 27+years)….but never getting there.  Its our Lou Gehrig-like streak that cannot be broken unless one of us dies, then the remaining spouse will dutifully drag the others dead ass to the event saying “I got dressed and ready for this and you’re not going to ruin it!!”

Today’s activity was white-water rafting.  We had done this nine years earlier on a different river so it was nothing new to us, but we were still looking forward to it.  Our guide was a twenty-two year old, cute, tan and engaging young college student named Raleigh.  Here are some snapshots of our adventure.  You get to enjoy them without getting soaked by ice-cold mountain water, or having your youngest daughter ogle the guide.

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Where'd we go?!?!

Where’d we go?!?!

So far...so good!!

So far…so good!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

Cold, wet and exhausted we retired to our cabin for the remainder of the day.

What's to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That's easy...pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

What’s to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That’s easy…pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

That’s Sunday and Monday wrapped up in 914 words.  The week gets more interesting with a trip to CERTAIN DEATH, wildlife (damn bears…) and more mugging for the camera (I told the girls to quit screwing around when the camera was out…but they take after one of their parents a little too closely.  I wonder who?

Thank you for coming along with us.

Take care and God bless.

R

 

 

EXPERIENCE NEBRASKA!! (or so I was told…)

Here’s how it works.  Sometime in January my wife informs me that we need to start planning what we’re going to do for a summer vacation.  I wholeheartedly agree by mumbling “…okay…whatever…let me know what you decide…”.  She then plans our vacation, making reservations, setting up an itinerary, researching points of interest, restaurants and letting me know what dates to block off for said vacation.  I’m only in charge of my own packing and driving us to and from places.  It works out best this way since I don’t really care to travel but for the sake of keeping my bride happy I look for things along the way to keep me interested AND I always enjoy myself.  Its kind of an adventure.

This years vacation coincided with our nieces wedding in northwest Nebraska.  For those unfamiliar with the state of Nebraska, and all that it has to offer, its greatest resource are its people.  They’re nice, just like Iowans.  Iowa and Nebraska’s sister states Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota all have sexy attractions like: Chicago, The Dells, The Ozarks,  National Forests, Door County, The Great Lakes, The Packers, Bears, Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Vikings, Twins, Chiefs, White Sox, Bulls, The Twin Cities, Kansas City and St. Louis just to mention a few.  In Iowa we have the Amana Colonies where the Amish settled AND really, really kickass rest areas along the interstate highways.  If you’re from Iowa you really can’t look down your nose at Nebraska…especially when you’re known for being a leader in the production of: corn, eggs, chickens, milk and hogs….all of which are just dandy but not sexy nor attractive (actually…YOU’RE WELCOME AMERICA…while the rest of you are having a blast we’re just toiling away in America’s Heartland, listening to the corn grow and tending to the millions of chickens and hogs that reside with us between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers).  But tirades aside…we were destined for the northwest corner of Nebraska and my wife decided to take us westward from there to Colorado after the wedding.  A great thing happened along the way….all three of our daughters would be joining us.  Ages 25, 23 and 20, it’d been years since we could all vacation together and we were looking forward to it, and truth be told….I like Nebraska.  Dead serious.  The state and its folks are fine with me…just don’t get them started on the Huskers unless you’ve got HOURS to listen to how terrific they are…er used to be.

The drive across Iowa and Nebraska is breathtakingly beautiful if you enjoy lush green rolling hills and plains chock-full of corn and soybeans, interspersed with hay, hogs and cattle in various states of growth.  Dead serious…hour upon hour of green…until you get to central Nebraska then its drier and less green.  To my point…not much going on until you exit I-80 at Ogallala and head north.  You don’t realize it while its happening, but we had climbed from 800 feet above sea level (where we live in Iowa) to 3280 at Ogallala.  It has BLUFFS that dive deep to Lake McConaughy (not affiliated with the actor) and rolling, far as the eye can see, prairie.  Its beautiful. 

Here’s a reenactment of our 2007 trip to Colorado.

At a rest area in Nebraska 2007.  Throwing away an ornery Macy. (try not to stare at those sexy denim shorts and mid-calf white socks...LADIES!!)

At a rest area in Nebraska 2007. Throwing away an ornery Macy. (try not to stare at those sexy denim shorts and mid-calf white socks…LADIES!!)

Nine years later...she's still sassy, a little heavier but I have the situation under control...sans the sexy denim shorts.

Nine years later…she’s still sassy, a little heavier but I have the situation under control…sans the sexy denim shorts.

Uh oh.  Fortunately they only got me six inches off of the ground.  I was thinking "if they drop me...how can I drive with broken ribs...?"  This was Connie's idea BTW.

Uh oh. Fortunately they only got me six inches off of the ground. I was thinking “if they drop me…how can I drive with broken ribs…?” This was Connie’s idea BTW.

We arrived at Scottsbluff the day before the wedding and went about investigating the locale and took the following photos over the next two days.  It was a really nice town out in the middle of nowhere.

Amazingly beautiful.  Scottsbluff National Monument was a great place to visit.  The Oregon Trail passed through it.

Amazingly beautiful. Scottsbluff National Monument was a great place to visit. The Oregon Trail passed through it.

Pondering my next move...

Pondering my next move…

...and suffering the consequences.

…and suffering the consequences.

Having a little fun with the pano setting on my phones camera and its filters.

A beautiful day.

A beautiful day.

Family fun…

Karalee and Macy hamming it up for the camera

Karalee and Macy hamming it up for the camera

So many cool views...this doesn't do them justice.

So many cool views…this doesn’t do them justice.

We had lunch in Scottsbluff at a Mexican restaurant that received good reviews on Yelp but wasn’t much bigger than a two car garage.  It was authentic and tasty.

Are the bars on the windows to keep folks out...or in?  Regardless...I was too hungry to ponder this question for very long

Are the bars on the windows to keep folks out…or in? Regardless…I was too hungry to ponder this question for very long

We went to the wedding, held outside on a high hill overlooking the surrounding plains.  Definitely “country-western” themed.  It was beautiful.  God.  Family.  Friends.  Food.

The bride and one of the groomsmen.

The bride and one of the groomsmen.

A storm had rolled in the previous night and I got a few shots of it.  That’s one thing that I really like about being in the country…seeing the sky.

Top to bottom...blue, white and pink.  Strong winds didn't keep the mosquitoes from harassing me between gusts.

Top to bottom…blue, white and pink. Strong winds didn’t keep the mosquitoes from harassing me between gusts.

IMG_0980

 

Together again…the RIPLEYS ARE GOING TO COLORADO!!! (via Nebraska and Wyoming).

Connie, Karalee, Jordan, Macy and me.

Connie, Karalee, Jordan, Macy and me.

The ride gets wilder as we enter a state that offers legalized fireworks, marijuana, scenic mountain views, critters that can eat you and a speed limit bordering on insane down 5% grades.   Thanks for tagging along!  More to come.

God bless,

R

 

 

 

 

PARENTHOOD…DAY 9,178. So far…so good

The time frame for this, the fourth of six chapters of my life as I enter the tender age of 50 (in less than two weeks if you’re mailing your gift to me…), begins around the beginning of 1989.  Connie and I had been married for almost a year when she brought it to my attention that we should start trying in earnest to get pregnant.  If I remember it correctly we didn’t discuss how much the baby would cost us in terms of money, time, patience, formula, medicine, insurance, sickness, loss of sleep, worry or anything else….we were 23 years old and it was time.  Connie, being a right-brained analytical type, purchased a Basal thermometer and started charting her ovulation cycle on graph paper which was compared to a calendar on her nightstand.  After a couple of months of this she informed me that “this next week I’ll need you on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights around nine PM” to which I wholeheartedly agreed that, this whole baby-making scheme of hers sounded “just grand” to me (HAR HAR).  What I came to quickly realize was that being called upon to sire a bloodline is TOTALLY  different from frisky and fun spontaneous sex.  My bride was all business…with no time for foolishness nor foreplay. She was all “GET ‘ER DONE” before the phrase was coined.  The following video closely illustrates our exchanges at that time. The movie She’s Having a Baby was the movie that we went to see on our first date.  Funny stuff…hits close to home.

We got pregnant quickly though it didn’t last…two times in a row.  We were heartbroken, with one even going into the second trimester.  Geez…did we really want this hurt to continue?  We cautiously approached this whole “parenthood” thing again and came through it with our first-born daughter Jordan.  She was perfect.  Eight pounds and a head full of hair.  As I laid down to sleep that night, with Connie and Jordan still at the hospital I thought to myself “I can finally relax…she’s born…she’s here…” before a stark realization pierced my conscience with “DEAR GOD…IT’S JUST BEGUN!!”

Connie and Jordan early on

Connie and Jordan early on

After Jordan was born Eastman Kodak probably posted record earnings.  We took photos of her endlessly.  Repeat…endlessly.  She was unique.  She was so smart. She was in the 100% percentile of her age group!!  She also pooped a great deal, spit up almost constantly, tried to eat our cat and was the apple of our eye.  Why our child was destined to be someone wonderful!!

Never mind that Jordan's gouging my eye out...she's happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

Never mind that Jordan’s gouging my eye out…she’s happy and I can buy a glass eye for myself

First born children shoulder the burden of breaking in new parents.  Who would teach new parents that they should ALWAYS bring at least one set of clean clothes for the baby to even the most routine trip…?  The first-born.  Who would teach new parents that they shouldn’t leave the diaper bag (with diapers, wipes, Tylenol, pacifier and burp clothes in it) on top of their car then drive twenty miles before realizing that its now somewhere along a rural county blacktop…probably being ripped apart by cars driving over it?  The first-born. (true story…we realized it at eight o’clock at night…as we were getting ready to put Jordan down for the night).  Someone found it and turned it into the sheriffs office where we picked it up the next day.

Fast forward three years and BAM!!  Daughter number two shows up and she’s TOTALLY different from her sister in attitude, temperament and intestinal regularities (funny how when a kid doesn’t poop as often how your WHOLE being is centered on that until the issue is relieved…no pun intended).  We were in a new town, a nice apartment, new careers and adjusting to being a family of four.

Karalee was more of a Momma's girl in those first few years...

Karalee was more of a Momma’s girl in those first few years…

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

At a wedding reception that had a teeter-totter close by that caught a little girls eye

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky...it was fun.

Not much money in those early years so we went camping. The flies were so bad that we ate inside the tent. I remember this trip real well because I woke up from a nap with chewing gum stuck to my bare back. Sunburned, sweaty and sticky…it was fun.

And fast forward again…

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a "come hither you sexy stud" look? Me neither...

Have you ever seen a very pregnant woman give a “come hither you sexy stud” look? Me neither…

BAM!!  Mason Sue was born…all TEN POUNDS OF HER.  Our girls topped the charts in weight by coming into this world weighing at least eight pounds each.

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Grandpa Kenny and Macy Sue

Just because you just had a ten pound baby doesn't mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

Just because you had a ten pound baby doesn’t mean that you stop being a Momma to the others.

By the time Macy arrived we were old hands at raising little girls. We had bought a little house and Connie was real adept at finding garage sale clothes that a growing family needed and bought our girls winter coats the previous spring during seasonal closeouts.  Our kids didn’t mind and frankly…our family of five’s budget was lean.  All through this time there were always plenty of books, a sandbox, a swing set, bunk beds and their imagination.

Fast forward…

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations

Karalee, Jordan and Macy at a amusement park in 2001. Short trips and overnight stays were our vacations in 2001

DON'T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

DON’T LOSE THE BABY!! Connie with a death-grip on Macy on a log ride 2001

We continued to learn life lessons…like if our toddler ate half a bag of cheese popcorn at the babysitters said toddler of ours would throw up an orange mess onto our beige carpet that wouldn’t come out.  Or…if one child gets sick the parent who slept on the floor of their bedroom to comfort them would eventually catch what the kid had (it didn’t kill me….)

It was around this time that I taught the girls how to ride their bikes.  True story.  They were having trouble learning how to ride, so I loaded up their bikes, dressed them in jeans and drove them to a park with a steep grassy hill.  They put on their helmets, knee and elbow pads then I had them take their bikes to the top of the hill.  They weren’t too sure of this method and expressed their doubts constantly to me.  They got on their bikes and I pushed them off, yelling “PEDAL!!  DON’T STOP PEDALLING!!”  They’d make it a little ways, crash then really expressed their doubts about my methods with “DOES MOM KNOW ABOUT YOUR TRYING TO KILL US?!?!”  Within minutes they were riding their bikes down the hill and onto the blacktop playground at the base of that hill.  Happy and confident, but not without a bump or two.  The girls were little, and whenever Connie left town for a conference and I had to be Mister Mom for several days I ran our girls hard….and they loved it.  If it were summer I’d let them get up around 8 and mill around the house until ten or so.  I’d load up the van with bikes, a cooler of food and drinks then head off to a park where they’d play until lunch time.  We’d picnic, then change into our swimsuits and go to the pool.  After a couple of hours at the pool we’d head to Dairy Queen for ice cream.  After getting home I’d send them outside to play some more.  Supper.  Showers.  A little TV and reading then send them off to bed at 7:30 where they’d crash.  It was a great plan…sadly I was almost as wore out as they were.

Without Connie around I usually relaxed the house rules.  On one occasion I encouraged belching at the dinner table with a follow up exclamation “GOOD FOR YOU!!”  shouted by everyone and hitting the table with both hands (this was done by one adult, me, and three little girls under the age of 11 for approximately one week).  It went over BIG!!  The girls loved it and practiced it as often as they could…with silverware clattering with each pounding and a lot of laughing….then Connie got home.  I didn’t think to tell the girls to stop our little routine, why would I?  At our first meal with Connie back Macy let out an ear-splitting belch that would make a sailor proud then hit the table with both hands and yelled “GOOD FOR ME!!!!” with a big smile on her face.  Connie’s jaw hit the floor.  Jordan and Karalee looked on in astonishment like Macy was about to die.  I chuckled and told Connie what we had been doing.  It ended right….there.

Fast forward…we wanted a larger house and bought one.  Everyone was excited.  Each girl had their own bedroom and got to decorate it accordingly.  Friday afternoons I’d pick them up from school then race home to clean the house, shower, order pizza then crash on the couch and watch Nickelodeon’s Friday night line up of Dexter’s Laboratory, SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, Rugrats and Ed, Edd and Eddy.

Good times...

Good times…

They grew…

First day of school

First day of school

School days…roughly 7,000 of them…not to mention their time in college.  Our girls got good grades, a direct reflection of their mother’s influence.

Family reunion 2006

Family reunion 2006

Lots of Halloweens…

Thug life. Don't ask me why..

Thug life. Don’t ask me why..

Connie was/is always in charge of Christmas.  Since I work retail I’m usually not in any good mood to do anything other than drink and watch others enjoy the festivities.  We both grew up with generous, loving and thoughtful parents.  I’d like to think that we carried those traits onto our family.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007.

Me, Brian, Dan and Dad. Christmas 2007

Lot’s of birthdays.  We’ve hosted many, many birthday parties for our daughters.  When they got older and had friends over…we got wiser and ended “sleep overs”.  I suddenly started feeling my age when I started telling kids “its 4 AM dammit…get into your sleeping bags and go to sleep!!”  One hundred and thirteen birthday cakes later…we’re still ready for more.

My bride didn't have a "9" for my 39th birthday so she improvised with "38" and "1".

My bride didn’t have a “9” for my 39th birthday so she improvised with “38” and “1”

My 40th birthday with my girl. We're both grayer now...go figure

My 40th birthday with my girl. We’re both grayer now…go figure

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn't bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over the her school shoes)

Our girls showing a little of their moxie while exploring some timber and railroad tracks close to Grandpas house. (it was muddy and Macy didn’t bring her old shoes so we went old school with grocery bags and rubber bands over her school shoes)

Vacations.  We finally started taking good vacations.  Destination spots.  Disney.  Washington DC.  Colorado.  It’d take a couple of years to save up for them.  I think that Connie and I were just as excited as our girls were.

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn't fit. (I call this my "white socks with denim shorts phase)

Nebraska 2007. Here I am trying to stuff Macy into a trash can at a rest stop. She wouldn’t fit. (I call this my “white socks with denim shorts phase)

On top of Pike's Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

On top of Pike’s Peak Colorado June 2007. At 28 degrees and windy we were Ripley-sickles in this photo

Photos!!  We took a lot of photos!!  There’s around 15 large photo albums of the past 27 years, with roughly 20 smaller photo albums of our vacations.  Connie is to credit for all of these, that and we took photos of everyday life and special occasions.

High school and middle school days

High school and middle school days

 

Did I mention birthday parties…?

Macy and friends...

Macy and friends…Diet Dew and cake

Jordan...with Karalee photobombing

Jordan…with Karalee photobombing

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Birthday cake has been usurped by gourmet cupcakes

Long a tradition in our home...birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn't include a place with Happy Meals.

Long a tradition in our home…birthday dinners out. We had to make a rule early on that their restaurant of choice couldn’t include a place with Happy Meals.

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Prom 2014 Connie and Macy

Graduations…four of them.  Three high school.  One college.

Macy's high school graduation. 2014

Macy’s high school graduation 2014

As a tradition that our girls started…whenever we have a holiday or event that one of them can’t attend, the absent ones face is printed out and taped to the face of a stuffed snowman…so she can be there in spirit.  What started out as a joke is now kind of a deal for them.

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan "bring" Karalee to Macy's graduation party

With Karalee in Japan, Macy and Jordan “bring” Karalee to Macy’s graduation party

Empty-nesters.  Nuff said.

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now...?

Macy moving into her dorm room August 2014. What will we do now…?

Flying the nest…literally…

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Jordan graduating from Flight Attendant Training fall 2014 and moving far away.

Traditions.  We have them.  Won’t go too far into them.  One is cookie baking for the holidays.  Here Karalee photobombs with the batter.  I think she’s practicing to take my spot as the family ham…but I’m still firmly on my throne.

COOKIE TIME!!

COOKIE TIME!!

More Christmas…

Who doesn't like a good head-hug from their kid?

Who doesn’t like a good head-hug from their kid?

Uhhh...what happened to my little girls...? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me...? Anyone...?

Uhhh…what happened to my little girls…? Has anyone seen them lately? Furry Barney slippers? Beauty and the Beast pajamas? Wiggling into a spot on the couch with me…? Anyone…?

As I looked back through our family photos I became a little melancholy.  Where did the time go?  I always knew that we were very blessed, but to see it again and again….and again…all of the love, the fun and good times…it makes me feel overly blessed.  Connie’s done a WONDERFUL job as a wife, and mother of our daughters…I couldn’t ask God for a better person to spend my life with.  I couldn’t ask for better parents or in-laws.  They’re the kind of folks that taught us about love, affection, laughter, honor, God, home, a work ethic, family, solidarity, responsibility, honesty and how to be a good parent, spouse and brother/sister.  They taught us without saying anything most days….we just didn’t know it.

Whenever I overhear a young couple say that they don’t have enough money saved up to have a child I tell them “don’t wait, you’ll never have enough money and you’re missing out on the ride of a lifetime.”  Parenthood isn’t for everyone….but it was for me.

Once in a great while…we get all three of our daughters home.  It doesn’t happen very often.  When we do…this is how they act…

Goofy women in my truck

Goofy women in my truck

…but this is how I still see them…

Good times

Good times

Parenthood has made me a better person.  Nuff said.

God bless and thanks for coming along…

R