Lessons learned on gravel roads

How I came to love pick up trucks so much probably lies in the way in which I learned to drive.  I grew up in eastern Iowa amongst some of the richest soil that God blessed Earth with.  Mile upon mile of mostly flat prairie that had been plowed under and replaced with hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of acres of corn and soybean fields interrupted by occasional rolling hills, all connected by gravel roads.  One afternoon while riding with my father on those gravel roads he stopped our truck, asked me to sit on his lap and while he controlled the accelerator pedal and brake, I steered.  It was a simpler time to be sure…in the late 1970’s and I was probably around eleven or twelve at the time.  At first I was terrified, not wanting this responsibility nor wanting to crash.  I learned how to counter-steer when the truck started to fishtail.  How to keep the tires in the “path” and not in the loose gravel along the sides of the road…and how to get over when you met a big old John Deere hauling a disk towards you.  While all of these lessons were unnerving I grew to love driving trucks.

“Truck One” was my Dad’s truck.  Fairly basic.  It had an AM/FM radio and shifter on the floor.  I drove this truck on my very first romantic encounter with a young lady from a neighboring town named Becky (the girl…not the town).  I won the girls affection and attention for a few short-lived months.  Truck 1.  Car 0.

Dad’s truck. I treated it like it was my own.

“Truck Two”.  I had turned sixteen years old and the first car of my own to drive was a pick up truck.  If I’m remembering it correctly it was a 1972 Chevy LUV.  Basic transportation.  Rusty.  Needed new brakes.  Manual stick shift and no power steering.  AM radio.  Would hold exactly three high school sophomores.  Dad and I bought it for $800 as a “project” for him and I to work on, grinding out the rust, filling the holes with Bondo putty or cutting sheet metal and riveting it to the body then spraying with gray primer.  After a $99 Earl Scheib paint job it was sold.  It was a safe and reliable means of transportation.  Truck Two was tough to drive and ride in and a pleasure to get rid of.

I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pall during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

 

“Truck Three” came in 1987.  I had my first full-time job. I was making $300 a week and was rolling in money.  Literally…rolling in dough.  Single and wanting a new, more reliable vehicle (one that would start when I wanted it to start) I traded in my 1975 Ford Maverick and bought a brand-spanking new Madza B2000 pick-up.  Small four cylinder engine, stick shift, heat, bench seat and no radio (though I added one in the months to come).  A short time later I took out the future honorable Constance Sue Ripley in this truck.  After the vows were spoken (and not to be taken back) the Mrs. admitted that she wasn’t exactly beholden to me at first glance. “You showed up wearing cowboy boots and driving a truck…”.  Its a good thing that I still had a full head of brown wavy hair back then or else I still might be single.  Dead serious.  Anyway…romance won out.  Truck 2.  Car 0.  I also took Connie to the hospital in this truck when Jordan was born.  Cold, dark and windy in the predawn hours of a December morn…bucking snowdrifts along the way.  Sturdy and reliable we eventually traded in Truck Three on a minivan for a growing family once Kid Two came along.

Truck Three was my first new “car”. No radio or AC. Bench seat. But it was all MINE

 

Truck Four was my Dad’s truck…again.  This time around it was for a drastically different reason.  My folks were moving off of the farm and didn’t need their truck.  A 1999 Ford F250 three-quarter ton with a V10 engine.  I bought it because we needed a another vehicle at our household.  Dad had kept it in awesome condition and it gave me considerable consolation after his death.  At times, while driving it, I could hear him speak.  I know that sounds stupid, but that truck helped me some days when I missed him a great deal.  I eventually sold that truck to my brother who still drives it to this day.

Truck Five was my nicest truck.  Purchased brand new in 2007.  It had many nice things that I didn’t have in most of my early trucks.  Air conditioning.  AM/FM radio with CD player.  Crew cab so that we could fit the whole family and go on vacations.  ABS brakes, power windows and door locks….all pretty standard stuff but for a guy who remembers using the hand crank to roll down his windows on a hot summer day it’s almost an extravagance to have something like power windows.  We moved all three daughters out of our house and to college in these last two trucks.  I started officiating basketball and baseball games in these two trucks.  I’ll tell you something….a truck makes a great umpire vehicle.  Just park it, drop down the tailgate, sit down and get your equipment on for the game.  I really loved Truck Five and didn’t see an end to its service to our family but things change.  We’re empty-nesters now.  No kids to ferry about (and no grand-kids on the foreseeable horizon…).  Warranties expire and things are going to need fixed or replaced eventually.  We usually keep our cars and trucks until they die or cost us too much to keep up.  I debated for several months on what I should do, if anything.  It seems to me that you’re either making a monthly payment on a new vehicle or paying to have the older one fixed.  This is why I reluctantly traded in Truck Five on a new car.

Ed…my 80+ year old neighbor said that my Silverado looked like a fire engine. What a great compliment!

Our new car has so many features in it that I may have to hire an eight year old to show me how to use them all correctly.  A six speaker music system that’s pared through Bluetooth with the ITunes on my phone (good-bye multiple CD’s in my armrest!!).  It has Sirius radio for several months!  Instead of a gear shifter it has a dial near my arm rest that I turn to select a gear.  It has a back up camera.  I can call folks while driving. It doesn’t have keys and I push a button to start it.  While the engine is half the size that I’m used too its turbo-charged and very responsive.  I actually have to “think” to use this car because its so simple to drive.  I’m not saying that its idiot-proof…but its a big step in that direction.  It’s also a really sharp looking blue.  Electric Blue….to be sure.

This car is too nice for me. Sporty and fast…it’ll take some time to get used to it. Maybe listening to some Johnny Cash while driving it will help

I’m going to be honest…I got a little misty when I turned my truck in.  While most folks view their cars and trucks as purely utilitarian objects I’ve come to love each and every one of my trucks.  Each time that I’ve driven them they take me back to a time in my life.  A first date.  Going to basketball practice.  A time in our garage working with Dad on a repair.  My last date as a charming single guy.  A trip to the hospital with a very pregnant and uncomfortable spouse.  Moving our kids around.  Road trips and vacations.   A time when I could still sit on my Father’s lap and steer his truck around those winding gravel roads of my childhood.  I miss many things in my life that shiny new buttons and whistles will never, ever replace.  I guess I’m still just that farm kid at heart.

The Ripley boys after a day of painting.  From left to right.  Brian, Dan, Me and Dad

 

 

The journey home

As previously mentioned on RICH RIPLEY, the blog, I traveled to Berlin Germany to visit our youngest daughter.  The sights, the food and drink, as well as getting to visit Macy, was well worth the price of the tickets.  I’ve traveled alone to Japan and Germany in the past few months, and what I’ve discovered is that there are friendly folks all over this planet.  Getting through international airports, from one terminal to another and finding my next flights gate can be a daunting task.  I’m not necessarily the smartest guy around (stop and take that in….it just blew your mind!) but I’ve usually been able to find someone along my path to guide me to where I need to go.  Politeness, common courtesy and a friendly smile go a long way in most situations.  The following are some notes that I jotted down during my vacation, flying to and from Germany.

  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: the rule of thumb for any Starbucks situated in a big, busy airport is to only have two employees working behind the counter while a third is seemingly constantly on break (standing on the customer side of the counter-talking to the two that are working).  Scheduling any more than two, or three, would mean that the line waiting for coffee would become shorter than twenty customers.
  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: It amuses me what folks choose to wear when traveling.  I usually wear nicer, but comfortable clothes.  Other folks wear suits or nice dresses, whereas some folks wear wild, brightly colored jogging suits from the 90’s or a combination that looks like they got dressed in the dark at a rummage sale.  I call these travelers wardrobe  “flea-market circus”.  I like the name so much that I might trademark it and start a clothing empire.  “Flea-Market Circus.  When you want to stand out from the crowd but blend in with the clowns”.  Coming soon to a strip mall near you.”
  • While flying into Charles De Gaulle airport in France on my way home:  The French countryside looks stunningly beautiful, so did the English countryside when I flew into London coming over.  I realize that even though I’ve traveled quite a bit there’s more of God’s green earth that I’ll probably never see in this lifetime…but I’m okay with that.  At least I got to see it from “up here”.

I was supposed to fly into Paris Thursday morning, then waltz over to another terminal and make my connecting flight back to the good old U S of A at noon, BUT the early flight to Paris was sold out (remember that whole computer glitch thing at United Airlines when I started this trip?  It was still kind of biting me in the butt.)  The next morning flight into Paris left a 70 minute window for me to: land, get my bag, find the train to the other terminal, find my gate and check in….and totally freak out when this didn’t happen.  Sadly I had already purchased that ticket from Expedia.com (w/o insurance of course) and spent roughly forty minutes on the phone with them (without an international phone plan=$78 phone call).  Long story short I bought a ticket that would leave Berlin early in the evening on Wednesday and get into Paris around 8 at night….where I’d have a SIXTEEN HOUR WINDOW of time to really, really get to know Terminal 2A at Charles De Gaulle airport.  I’m glad that I did since it took me over an hour to make it to the correct terminal on Wednesday night.

Once on the ground and in the correct terminal I noticed that the shops and food stands were shutting down, at nine at night.  I hastily made a purchase of some junk food to stave off hunger though the long night, and connected to their free wifi.  Thank God some of my friends kept me awake by “talking” to me through Facebook Messenger, where it was 8 PM their time in the States though 3 AM my time in Paris.  Connie, the honorable Mrs. Ripley, decided to do our income taxes that night as well…so there were more than just a few messages sent across the Atlantic that night regarding that.

Terminal 2A at 2 AM. Not. Much. Going. On.

Do you wanna know what happened in Terminal 2A the night of my overnight stay?  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • The guy riding a big floor scrubber did hot-laps for three hours right past where I was sitting.
  • They changed the ceiling light bulbs right outside of the McDonald’s.
  • The soldiers armed with automatic machine guns disappeared.  Apparently once they saw me they figured “old Rowdy” had this area under control.
  • Late arriving flight crews walk past, laughing…headed off to a hotel for the night.  Their work is done for this day.

3:13 AM…Hey hey!!  I’m at single digits until I’m taxi-ing down a runway…headed westward home!!

4:17 AM…Hot dog!!  Foot traffic is picking up.  Airport employees and blurry-eyed travelers getting to their gate for their early morning flights are arriving.

5:25 AM….Screw it.  I’m headed down to customs to see if they’ll let me through to my gate.  So tired.  So.  Freaking.  TIRED.

6:10 AM….At my gate.  Six hours til boarding.  This gate is totally sweet!

Breakfast of Champions

 

7-8 AM…Dozed sitting up.  Bobble-headed it.  I don’t recommend it.

8-11 AM…Cannot remember anything.  Been awake for the most part since 7 AM yesterday.

11:30 AM…The gate crew is very nice.  Total professionals and very patient.

12 AM…Got a seat on the flight.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  This planes a beauty.  787 and the seat next to me is empty.  SCORE!! 

I have a glass of white wine.  Then I have another, then a third.  I watch a movie.  Start another and have supper.  I wind up sleeping four hours, which is a record for me on a plane.

Blazing Saddles. One of my all-time favorites

We land in Chicago a little after two in the afternoon.  I travel to the correct terminal, find my gate, get some pizza and root beer then settle in until they call my name for a stand by seat, which I’m told “isn’t available”.  They board the plane.  “Dear God…I’m going to be stuck here until the next flight at 9…and even then there’s no guarantee that I’ll get on it.” Everyone’s boarded…then…my name is called.  They have a seat for me“Do you mind an emergency exit seat?” they ask.  “I’ve been traveling for around forty hours.  I don’t care where you put me, Ma’am.  I’m just happy to be on that airplane of yours” I reply.  I get a seat and a little over an hour later I’m walking to my pick-up truck.  She’s never looked better.  The air is fresh and crisp.  Someone near is plowing, I can smell that unmistakable scent of freshly turned soil as it hits the air for the first time since last spring.  I’m home, and soon I’ll be in the arms of the woman that I’ve missed.  It’s been a glorious week.  Its about to get better.

Thanks for coming along.

God bless,

R

You’re not here….

I stopped in to see you today.  I was minding my own business when Gun’s & Roses “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” came on the radio.  I’ve heard that song three times since you chose to leave us.  On the drive to your visitation.  Once in September when I was a block away from you and I stopped in, and this morning when I was three blocks from you.  Its like you, or someone else, is nudging me towards you, again.

I honestly don’t know why I stop to see you.  You’re not there, just a marker with your name, date of birth and the day you left us.  A relatively fresh bouquet of red roses, and one withered arrangement of lavender roses.  Some autumn decorations and one heartfelt Ziploc baggie with hearts drawn on with a few cookies in it.  We still miss you bro.

As if the holidays weren’t hard enough, a cold cloud of melancholy sadness lies over many of our hearts.  “What if…?” still crosses my mind.  I’m not alone. 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night.  I said "why the hell not..?"  You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannequins of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh.

I looked forward to you rolling your eyes at me as you flashed across the front end of our store, on your way to another supervisor call.  To you sarcastically telling me how amazed you are at me being able to navigate from one country to another.  To you telling me to “get to work”, to how much I looked forward to discussing my trip to Germany with you.  I miss your work ethic.  You left a huge professional void at our store.  I miss talking football with you…and movies.

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa this year

I’ve wondered why I visit your grave?  Throat tight, eyes watery, chest heavy…I guess that I’m no good at grieving someone who shouldn’t be dead…someone whom I love.  Do me a favor, Jordan, the next time that you nudge me…nudge me somewhere happyThanks bro.  Until then…rest my brother, rest. 

Rip

Sleep deprived is where its at!!

If you had told me just a few months ago that I’d be traveling to Japan this November I’d have thought you were crazy.  Not only is Japan a country that I wasn’t interested in its also a long-ass ways away from Iowa.  But…when your middle daughter (whom you love dearly) moves to Japan to take a job you find that your interest in all things Japanese rises significantly.  Karalee, our middle daughter, teaches English in a school in southern Japan.  Fortunately I can afford the time off and expense of travel to visit her. (remember all of those games that I referee…?  Yeah…some of that money went to this trip)

I decided to make this trip a couple of months ago.  My wife, Connie, wouldn’t be joining me since she was working and also had a trip planned in December to visit Karalee.  With the help of our daughters we planned out what I had to do, when I needed to do it and where I’d end up.  Without their help and expertise I don’t know if I would have been able to make this trip as easily as I did.  Granted…there were some well-place angels along my journey who pointed me in the right direction, and for them, I’m very grateful.

I left Iowa before six in the morning on the 31st, flying first to Denver then onto Los Angles.  I fly stand-by quite a bit.  What that means is that if there’s a seat left empty on the plane, yours truly is in line to buy that empty seat at a reduced price.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll even get a seat on the flight, but there’s a chance I might.  I’ve been left behind before, multiple times if the flight fills up. The bigger the plane, the better the chance to get on.  On the 31st there was a seat in Business class left if I wanted to pay the higher price for it (more than Economy, less than face).  I hadn’t ever flown Business Class before and it was a 12 hour flight to Tokyo so I asked for and got it.  It was over-the-top SWEET!!  My own space.  A totally reclining seat.  Bose noise-muffling earphones.  A top of the line menu (I had the salmon and a hot fudge sundae).  Alcohol, nuff said.  Midnight snack bar. A larger TV monitor.  A better selection of “free” movies and TV shows!!  I was like a kid in a candy store!!  Our flight attendant was Carter…and he was the bomb.  “Another bourbon Mister Ripley?”  Why yes Carter…that’d be excellent.

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I've got time...

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I’ve got time…

...for some nuts and adult beverage...

…for some nuts and an adult beverage…

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The whole experience was wonderful.  I knew that I’d have time to kill during the flight because (wait for it….) I can’t sleep on planes.  Tried it, won’t work.  I always hear someone coughing, or the toilet flushing or a chime or something.  I can’t sleep.  So I was especially excited about the upgraded entertainment options.  After I watched Star Trek 2 I opted for a Melissa McCarthy comedy.

Who doesn't find this funny...? Anyone?

Who doesn’t find this funny…? Anyone?

I watched TV show after TV show.  Read.  Wrote in my journal.  Laid my seat down.  Tossed.  Turned.  Read some more.  Raided the midnight snack island (my take was six lady-finger sandwiches and a handful of delicious cookies).  Anyway…no sleep.  Even in the comfort of Business Class yours truly cannot sleep, but the guy next to me fell asleep shortly after taking off.  I resent him for this. 

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Eventually….we get close to Japan and they serve us breakfast.  It doesn’t feel right eating breakfast when you haven’t slept and you’ve traveled fourteen hours INTO the future.  Towards the end of this day I figure that I stayed awake almost 29 hours straight. (I would NOT recommend it)  At Tokyo I breeze through customs (they’re thrilled to see me, who wouldn’t want to bask in the warm glow of my presence…?) and try to locate the ANA ticket counter for my connecting flight to Miyazaki where Karalee lives.  After several false starts and stops (mostly stops) one of the lady’s at the ANA luggage counter gives me easy to follow directions to the their ticket counter.  I need to stop here and say that the Japanese folks that I ran into were always very polite and courteous, my whole trip.  The ticket counter ladies found my Travelocity reservation and got me my ticket, then referred me to the shuttle that would take me to the correct terminal.  I breezed through a Japanese security check point then onto a shuttle bus where I struck up a nice conversation with two Germans from Munich.  Great guys, too bad we didn’t have time for a beer, but I had to find my gate.

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on...what's that say...?

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on…what’s that say…?

Fortunately the sign above rotated between English and Japanese every few seconds and the gates were easily found.

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out...I don't use them...

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out…I don’t use them…

I was feeling kind of sick now…just not right, so I walked around the terminal until I found a place where the food looked good.  I viewed their menu board and hoped that I could make enough sense to them so that I’d get some food.  The young man behind the counter beckoned me over and showed me a menu with photos of the food.   I just pointed to a sandwich and drink and hoped for the best.  It was delicious.  I’m sure that there’s a Japanese word for these sandwiches but in American lexicon it was a cold cut sandwich with avocados and egg salad on it served on a delicate sweet bread.  As soon as I stood up the young man returned and picked up my tray and thanked me (I think…he was smiling and nodding).  Regardless…my first real experience interacting with the locals.  Speaking of locals…they turned out in large numbers to see me off to Miyazaki!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Once boarded on my flight departing Tokyo we waited…and waited.  Not too long…but a busy night at Tokyo’s International Airport in Haneda.

There's at least two planes behind us out there in the dark...

There’s at least two planes behind us out there in the dark…

My flight to Miyazaki went well, only taking a little over an hour and a half.

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee's apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee’s apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Karalee was waiting for me at the airport.  I was so tired and thank goodness everything went well.  One thing that really played with my head is that in Japan they drive on the opposite side of the roads, that combined with going through some mountains, twisting and curving our way there…left me a little weirded out.  Not by her driving….just the whole being sleep deprived and seeing someone in a big truck in what I thought was our lane coming right at us.  Ah…good times being too tired to be totally scared out of my mind.  Once at her apartment I shower and hit the sack.  Too tired to roll over I fall asleep with my body halfway off the mattress that’s laid on the floor for me.  Karalee snaps a photo and sends it to Connie letting her know that I’ve arrived safely…even if I look like I’ve been murdered on her living room floor.  A fun week ensues.  Come along if you like, we won’t be talking politics.  That’s my promise to you.

God bless!

R

 

 

Rusty screws, new neighbors and a First Place Winner

Its been a dramatic and event-filled summer here at the Palatial Estates.  Here are some notables that didn’t get their own blog but warranted an honorable mention by yours truly.  We jump all around the spectrum today so I hope that you’re warmed up, ready to read and mentally fortified to take this all in.  YOU’RE WELCOME America.

  • This is my first vehicle.  A 1972 Chevy LUV pick-up truck that Dad and I bought together.  80% rust.  The only things that didn’t have rust on them were the brake peddle and steering wheel. Four cylinder engine.  Four on the floor which required the middle passenger to move their leg one way or the other when I shifted.  Crank windows.  Manual choke and steering.  The horn was a button on the dash beside the AM radio.  I installed a secondhand  8 track player and TWO 6X9 tri-axial speakers that rolled around behind the seat when I whipped kitties in the gravel.  IT.  WAS.  AWESOME!!  On a rare half-day from school me, Scott Carlson and Gary Kelting would squeeze into the cab and head off for Northpark Mall in the big city of Davenport.  Scott brought his boom box and a collection of cassettes.  Foreigner, The J. Geils Band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts sprinkled in with some Back in Black by AC/DC.   Not good times…EPIC TIMES!!  I was 16…my buddies 15.  I didn’t know any better.  Remember that for later…
I found out quickly that I didn't like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pale during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Rusty but reliable I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding or grinding rust off of metal. Dad taught me how to do light body work and basic mechanical things.  It was mine to fix up.  I must have had a grayish pallor during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

  • We tore off our old sunroom and put in its place a brand spanking new one.  We love it!  I christened it with a nap shortly after its completion.  Its also good for drinking coffee in during the morning and beer in the evenings.  Who knew?!
  • We tore down our old tool shed, displacing hundreds of crickets and spiders, and had a new one put up.  As a result I had to get a tetanus shot after being assaulted by a piece of plywood with a rusty screw protruding from it.  The nurse commented several times that she’d never heard a scream as shrill as mine.  True story.
  • We’re getting new neighbors for only the second time in fourteen years.  Our neighborhood doesn’t turn over that much.   When you live next to eye-candy like me you won’t want to leave.  Just sayin’.
  • I have just about everything ready for my Halloween costume.  On Monday October 31st you’ll see it on Facebook and remark “he apparently has too much time on his hands…” or you’ll high-five the nearest person shouting “THAT’S WHAT I’M FREAKIN’ TALKIN’ ABOUT!!”  I play to win.  Everyone else is dressing for first runner-up.
Here's that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

  • I kept a 1972 Eisenhower silver dollar in my pocket for the last two baseball seasons.  For most of my Little League and 3 on 3 basketball league games the initial possession is decided by a coin flip.  Hundreds of games have been started with the flip of that coin.  Hundreds of hours spent in my pocket during the last two summers.  I gave it to a young girl on the final night of my season who had volunteered to keep score at her brothers games that night.  I’m guessing that she was around the sixth grade.  Her brother and his teammates gave her crap all game.  She took it like a pro and didn’t let them get to her. As I gave it to her I told her how many games I had started with it and that I wanted her to have it for helping out all night long. Her face lit up as she whispered “wow”.  I hope that she keeps it.
My second car. A 1977 Ford Maverick. Did you know that Mavericks OUTSOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

This is my second ride, a 1977 Ford Maverick. Automatic transmission, power steering and two more cylinders but still no good radio to blast ZZ Top or Billy Idol until $240 later and a trip to Radio Shack.  Did you know that Mavericks OUT SOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

  • After the 2015 high school baseball season I made a decision to take a season away from working varsity baseball games.  I was getting home at 11:30 at night, getting up at 5 the next morning and repeating the process.  It also seemed like every night one of the coaches chose to act like a prick.  I decided to step away and only work USSSA kids baseball games and local sub-varsity games.  It went so well that I’m getting away from varsity baseball altogether.  The money is about the same while the time away from home is much less.  A final note about that high school season in which the coaches were edgy…I received two post-season recomendations…which is a nice acknowledgement that I was, in fact, doing a good job.  Go suck an egg Coach!
$40 of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less "Church Lady-ish". That's Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

$40 worth of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less “Church Lady-ish”. That’s Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

  • I realized that I sound great singing any Dwight Yoakam, Trace Adkins, George Strait or Diamond Rio song while driving my truck.  I’m quite talented that way.
  • I’m part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, pairing men and women with at risk kids. (I’m a “Brother” in case you’re scoring at home).  My little brother comes from a love-filled, single parent home.  Dad’s not in the picture, hasn’t been for quite a while.  My Brother is quiet.  We’ve been together almost two years. He doesn’t know some of the basic “guy” stuff so I’ve set some goals that instead of just going to movies and such we’d work on some of those things…basic “dude” stuff.   Today we washed and waxed my truck but not before turning on some classic rock on the garage radio (its a rule…you gotta have the tunes rockin‘)  then grilled some burgers with him setting up the briquettes, doing the seasoning and grilling.  He’s almost fourteen, stands close to six feet tall.  Too old to be a child.  Too young to be a man.   I made him work.  I made him learn.  He had fun.  Summers drawing to a close very soon.  I hope to get in some more stuff with him before its gone, though today…today was a good day.
This is Logan. He's my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner.

This is Logan. He’s my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner (which I love…)

I'd imagine that there's some coy way of using waxing old trucks and manual labor towards helping a young person become a better person...but I'm not the guy to figure that one out.

Old Red’s lookin’ sharp

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

  • Did I mention that I taught him how to clean up chrome rims?  If not…here’s proof that I did.  I figured that since I enjoyed cleaning up my parents car and truck when I was Logan’s age that he might just like it too if someone taught him.  He did.

I’d imagine that a better writer would find some coy and thoughtful way to wrap up todays blog, using an analogy to mirror the similarities between working, learning, having fun and maturing from kid to adult….but I’m not that guy.  I only wanted to help out a kid like the many  folks that have helped me out somewhere along my way, getting me to where I am today. Blessed I am.  A blessing I try to be.

Until next time, God bless you and yours.

R

 

fast

I knew that this day was coming, this storm…so to speak.  I’ve known about it since January when our youngest daughter, Macy, sat down next to me on the couch as I watched a game on TV and ate supper.  “How have you been?” was her question.  My stomach sank.  I reached for the remote and shut off the TV.  I placed my plate, half-finished, on the end table.  I looked at her and replied “what’s wrong?”  You see, our daughters don’t just ask those kinds of questions.  At least not yet.  She was moving to Germany in the summer to become an Au Pair for a German couple, taking care of their kids, for a year.  After the year she’d start attending a university in Berlin and resume her studies while getting a job.  Germany has free college.  She’s fairly good at speaking German.  My guess is that she’s going to get a lot better.  I asked her if this was an “idea” or a “done deal”.  Her reply “95% done deal”.  My stomach sank further while my heart rose into my throat.

Our middle daughter, Karalee, was due to graduate in May.  She got a job in Japan. Literally, within three weeks during the coming summer we’d lose two daughters to two countries.  4,545 miles and 6,371 miles away respectively.  The storm…was gaining strength.  I could see it in the distance.  It wasn’t going away.  It had been building since the day of their birth I suppose.  Since their first step.  Since their first defiant toddler tantrum.  Since swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, driving a car and so on and so forth.  Its been a steady and relentless learning curve to try and conquer new things.  Scary things, except this time around I’m the one who’s scared…scared for them and maybe, just maybe…scared for me.

We’ve been temporary empty-nesters for two years with both daughters living half an hour away while attending college.  If they needed us we could be there in a short time (they never did..).  What’s my role now?  How am I to be defined?  Too young to be old.  Too old to be young.  Not wanting to be hip. Not wanting to be stodgy.  The salt is overtaking the pepper atop my head.  Do I try to be that old guy who wears denim shorts, black knee-high dress socks and sandals with a fanny pack when I go out?  Maybe try wearing a tie-dye shirt and grow a pony tail?  No one told me how to do this.  I’m serious when I write this.  What’s my role now?  My wife can only withstand so much of me before she shoots me the stink-eye.  I’m not always a delight to be around. (true story)

They’ve moved into good countries, not third world places.  I can’t imagine how parents with kids in the military feel when their kids are put in harms way in a bad part of the world.

That storm kept coming.  It brought tension, the silent type.  I told them that they could come back home if things didn’t work out.  That life sometimes hands you failure that you can learn from, but life continues to go onward.  I told them that I was proud of them, loved them and to be safe.  To trust their inner voice.   That trust is earned, not given freely to strangers or folks that you just met.  I don’t know if any of it sank in.  I was young once too, bullet-proof and foolhardy.

The day of the storm arrived.  Our last child would be flying from our home.  The storm wasn’t made of lightning, thunder nor rain but of questions, uncertainty, an emptiness in our lives, a hole in our heart.  An awkward vacuum left in the place of parenting up close and personal.  Each of our daughters, all three, have plans.  They made them themselves.  They’re theirs to live and fulfill, regardless of our feelings as parents…and for that I’m thankful.  They’re good people.  I’m proud of them.

Karalee's flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Karalee’s flight to her new home in Japan, from Chicago

Macy's flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

Macy’s flight from Chicago to London before heading to Berlin.

On my phone. I can see what the weather is like where they're at except for New Liberty. Home town gets a place on the phone too.

On my phone I can see what the weather is like where they’re at except for New Liberty. My home town gets a place on the phone too.

From this....

From this….

...to this. It went by fast.

…to this

At the airport.  Silence speaks volumes.  Exuberance verses apprehension.  Exciting future verses the tedium of daily routine.  Throats tight.  Goodbyes whispered.  Eyes misty.  Silent walk to the parking lot as nearby jets rev their engines.  Quiet car ride to an empty house.  Prayers sent.  This storm, is it over or just beginning?  Trips to be planned.  Reunions in the future.  I wish that I had paid a little more attention to parenting while it was happening and savored those moments.  It went by fast.

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

 

 

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

 

 

Dear Dad….

…its been four and a half years since you passed.  Where has the time gone?  Regardless, I’ll catch you up on what’s been going on:

  • Holy crap!!  You’ll never believe who we have to choose from for Presidential candidates. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dumb.  Is it any wonder that I dislike politics so much.
  • Moms doing great.  Full of vinegar, good health & lively spirit.  She’s going to stay with your sister for a bit in July.
  • Jordan’s in Costa Rica tonight.  She’s a flight attendant.  We’re real proud of her.
  • Karalee graduated from the U of Iowa this past May.  She’s going to JAPAN in July to teach English to Japanese kids (that’s 5300 miles away from us).  She’ll be gone for at least a year.  Even though we’re real proud of her we’re anxious and concerned about not being close to her.
  • Macy left the U of Iowa this spring after her sophomore year.  They dropped her program so she’s opted to be a nanny in Germany for a year then go to a university in Berlin.  It’s a free education, she speaks German and at twenty years of age…quite independent.  We’re proud of her too…but Germany is 4541 miles from us.  Good Lord Dad…the furthest that us three sons went is five hours away from you and Mom!!  We’re a little worried about her as well.
  • Connie is doing great.  I love her a lot.  She moved out of the classroom and into a mentor-type position with a local educational center.  She enjoys the change.
  • Dan and Brian are doing well.  Dan’s close to retirement, while Brian’s getting closer.  Both are relishing their roles as grandparents.

father days 001

  • Me…well…I’m doing all right.  I think of you often.  I wonder if you spend time with your parents and in-laws.  Does Grandma Ripley still make her pies with that killer meringue?  What are the Wagners’ doing…playing cards?  Has Grandpa Ripley finally caught a fish bigger than Grandma’s? (I doubt it…).  I wonder if you’re in the bleachers watching me work a game?  I wonder if you watch over Jordan as she’s taking care of passengers on a flight?  I wonder if you’re sitting with Mom watching her watch TV at night….wondering when she’s coming home to join you?  I wonder if you’re with us or even given that option.  I wonder a lot.  I wonder if you know how much we miss you?  How much I miss you?

Its been said that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. They were right about that, though its a sad and lonely fonder.  Take care Dad.  We still love you, and we miss you.

P1020052

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