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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Endings and beginnings…

Baseball season has ended.  Fall basketball leagues won’t start for another six weeks or so.  What will I do with all of this spare time on my hands?  For starters I have to get caught back up on what I’ve neglected.  I have referee stuff strewn about the house.  Whistles, uniforms, rule books, camp information, cold weather jackets, shoes, etc, etc.  Believe it or not….I’m preparing for basketball season already, which officially starts for me on November 20th in a small town forty minutes west of here.  I also need to haul stuff to the landfill.  There’s just something about moving, and then re-moving, then re-moving again…three daughters about their various apartments and cities that we now have one wrecked futon (I accidently drove over it with the truck…I wasn’t paying attention) two old dorm mini refrigerators, an old TV (weighs around 800 pounds, and old playground slide (not from their apartment) and various junk.

It’ll be a time to reconnect with relatives in other states, getting Mom back to her old stomping grounds and slowing down to sit and visit.  Beers and burgers with friends.  Movies and shooting hoops with my Little Brother from Big Brothers. Lining up help for a Christian Men’s Retreat this fall. Sitting in a lawn chair, eating ice cream in the evening as the neighbor kids ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk. It’ll mean driving along gravel roads on warm and humid summer mornings…watching the Killdeers race across the road while old ghosts from my past watch from the cornrows and pastures.  It’ll be a time when I drive two hours in one direction to have lunch and laughs with cousins that I don’t see enough of. When others ask what I did with my day off I’ll reply…”not much of anything” but in reality…I refilled my soul.

This coming basketball season brings change…I’ve joined a new crew that lives a lot closer to me and that I’ve known for years.  We’re friends off the court, which is a benefit as well…and I’ll still be able to work a few games with my old crew…which is a blast as well…I really am blessed in this regard and practically in every regard.

Summer’s here…its time to relax.

 

 

The end is near!!

The end is near!!

I hope that your summer is good as well.

Peace,

R

And…they’re OFF!!

It used to be that when my wife went to a teachers conference in the summer months, usually somewhere hours and hours away, I’d take a week of vacation and have our three daughters all to myself. When they were just little kids it was my plan to “run them hard all day” then let them fall asleep early in the evening. It worked like a charm. After breakfast I’d let them watch a little TV or play in their rooms, then a picnic at the park followed up with a couplea hours at the pool. Return home, have them play outside, feed them supper, give them baths then they’d watch a little TV, read then be in bed no later then 8. Easy. As. Pie.

As they grew up and more independent they didn’t need constant “Dad Sponsored Entertainment”. They got themselves out of bed. They read their own books. They fed themselves. They kept themselves entertained and they sure didn’t require “Dad” to be anywhere near the bathroom when they were in it. Truth be told…I kind of miss the old days. They relied on me. Its easy to be a hero when Dairy Queen’s your Plan B. I taught them how to ride their bikes without training-wheels (a steep grassy hill with a long flat area at its base to either crash or pedal around on). I took them fishing. I made a meatloaf in the shape of a cat and made its eyes, nose and whiskers out of ketchup…they loved it. I might have called it “cat-loaf”. Its easy to raise girls when you teach them how to “rassle” on the living room floor. Blowing bubbles and sidewalk chalk on a sunny afternoon. Fireflies to catch and anthills to pick apart. Its easy to be a hero when all you have to do is pack a cooler with ice and Kool-Aid, go to the park and give “under-dunks” so that they feel like they’re flying. Its easy to patch up a scraped-up knee with a Band-Aid when someone’s having too much fun and crashes to the ground…trembling bottom lip and tears give way to a limp that disappears within minutes when the “fun” starts to happen again. Sparklers, Morning Glories and snakes…all good nighttime fun in the backyard or driveway. Bedtime stories told from their favorite books over and over and over again…so much in fact that I started to change the stories and make them better. They liked that. The Adventures of Phyllis and Francine….two little girls who looked a lot like you…but liked to get into trouble.

Presently we just had our middle daughter return from a four month stay in Japan, where she studied….Japanese. Recently we had our oldest daughter move back home with us until she flies out Sunday morning for a two month training period to be a flight attendant with an international company. And not to be out done…our baby of the family will be a freshman at the University of Iowa this fall. Her and the middle daughter will move out in a couple of weeks to start their Senior and Freshman years, respectively, at Iowa. This leaves me feeling a bit melancholy for me…excited for them. I remember when I moved off the farm back in August of ’84. Dad and Mom moved me to my apartment, took me out to lunch then left quickly. I thought that they might stick around awhile longer, but no…they left me to unpack by myself…which was AWESOME!!! I WAS ON MY OWN (on their money mind you). I asked Mom about that moment years and years later…why they didn’t stick around longer that day that I moved out. Her reply was this “When Dan moved out it was hard since he was our first, though we still had two boys left on the farm. When Brian moved out, well we still had you left on the farm. When you moved out…we didn’t have anyone to go home to…it was kind of hard, especially on your Dad.” I get it…now.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy.  Our girls.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy. Our girls.

Jordan, Karalee and Macy.  All grown up

Jordan, Karalee and Macy. All grown up

I’m excited and happy for them. Good Lord only knows when we’ll all be together again, what with Jordan supposedly flying all over the place and the younger two doing their own thing (it took five days to just get them into the same room for a photo even though they were under the same roof). I have faith that they’ll be okay…I ain’t so sure about their Dad…he may just have to leave that “last move” more quickly than the previous two,

Until next time…God bless and peace.
R