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

 

 

 

RICH RIPLEY NOW ON VIDEO!! (I’m dead serious this time…)

So with our trip to NYC I had our teenaged daughter research and order me a digital camera for myself.  Its pretty nifty and even has a video option WITH SOUND ON IT. (I can only imagine how dangerous I could’ve been with this as a kid)

This is from the tail end of our day in NYC…ending in Times Square.  I wish that I hadn’t used it so quickly, and that I’d used it more often. I didn’t discover that it had worked until we returned home last weekend.

This is just me fooling around.  Again…I didn’t know that it worked.  Connie thinks that I’m taking her photo.  You can hear me chuckling in the background as she smiles at me….the goof.

 

 

Thanks for reading!  God Bless!

R

Meatballs and raw sexuality….a potent cocktail

Practically every vacation that we’ve taken has involved some sort of water recreation.  Swimming.  White-water rafting. Water parks. Fishing or just hanging out at the beach and taking it all in.  Day four finds us walking towards our only water recreation of the trip…a cruise around the waterways surrounding New York City.  It’s a mile walk from our hotel but the morning dawns bright and clear so we decided to hoof it to the pier where our Circle Line boat awaits us.  We paid a little extra to get reserved seats on the top deck where my vast and ample forehead braised like a raw chicken breast on a hot grill in the bright sunshine of a cloudless June morning, becoming the envy of many a rotisserie chicken chef.  The two and a half hours spent sightseeing while the boat navigated the waterways around NYC was money well spent.

The skyline of NYC from our Circle Line Cruise

The skyline of NYC from our Circle Line Cruise

 

Two and an half hours of time well spent with views like this

Two and an half hours of time well spent with views like this

 

Liberty.  A cool shot that Connie took

Liberty. A cool shot that Connie took

 

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge

I'm no Sex in the City expert but I'm pretty sure that's Chris Noth (aka Mr. Big) on the corner by Papaya Dog...which is my newest nickname...Papaya Dog...not Mr. Big

I’m no Sex in the City expert but I’m pretty sure that’s Chris Noth (aka Mr. Big) on the corner by Papaya Dog…which is my newest nickname…Papaya Dog…not Mr. Big

After our cruise and upon the recommendation of our hotels bartender we made our way down to Chelsea and found The Meatball Shop.  It became one of our favorite spots of the whole vacation.  Quirky with an old timey feel to the place they use re-purposed tables and chairs and have a really friendly staff.  Their menus are laminated with multiple choice options that you mark with a dry erase marker AND they had homemade ice cream sandwiches for dessert.  In a term used loosely…it was delicious comfort-food.  Prepared from scratch and served up multiple ways.

My newest FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT.  The Meatball Shop

My newest FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT. The Meatball Shop

Inside The Meatball Shop.  They had PBR on tap!

Inside The Meatball Shop. They had PBR on tap!

Cool feel to this place

Cool feel to this place

Their basement party room...closed for the day

Their basement party room…closed for the day

Their daily specials and such

Their daily specials and such

Did I mention the home baked cookie ice cream sandwiches?  EPIC!!

Did I mention the home baked cookie ice cream sandwiches? EPIC!!

Their "tongue in cheek" ball menu

Their “tongue in cheek” ball menu

One of the contradictions of NYC for me was that every place would be huge buildings and a literal concrete jungle.  While there’s certainly a lot of that in Manhattan and such I was surprised how you could walk from the hustle and bustle of a loud big city street and in a block or two be in a quiet, almost….small town setting.

Quiet small town living in NYC?  Who'd a thunk it?!

Quiet small town living in NYC? Who’d a thunk it?!

After lunch we made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked on it.  We didn’t go all the way over (it was starting to cloud up and we had already walked quite a bit) but we saw some really neat things while we were on it.

One side for bikes, the other for walkers.  Tons of people...even talked to some sailors from Spain's Navy.

One side for bikes, the other for walkers. Tons of people…even talked to some sailors from Spain’s Navy.

Shameless selfie on the Brooklyn Bridge

Shameless selfie on the Brooklyn Bridge

We found the subway and started our way back towards Times Square with no real plans to do anything but let our feet and curiosity do the work.

The problem with having such a beautiful wife is that guys are always trying to pick her up

The problem with having such a beautiful wife is that guys are always trying to pick her up

The Naked Cowboy is a HUGE RICH RIPLEY fan though asked me to depart quickly as I was drawing the tips away from him.  Too bad...sweet guy

The Naked Cowboy is a HUGE RICH RIPLEY fan though asked me to depart quickly as I was drawing the tips away from him. Too bad…sweet guy

We checked into the hotel for a bit before heading out for supper at another restaurant that had been recommended to us, Trattoria, an Italian place.  The food was good, I had spaghetti with veal in it while Connie had something that was covered in green sauce that she wasn’t expecting.  It was still good.  While there our first date came up.  It was late February of 1988 at a place called “It’s Italian” in Mason City Iowa.  Connie said that for our first kiss that I was “pretty eager”.  I had to agree and laugh.  I hadn’t had a date for around three or four years at that point and basically was 98% testosterone, which is still a record . 

The GREEN MONSTER...Connie's ravioli...which was pretty darn tasty!

The GREEN MONSTER…Connie’s ravioli…which was pretty darn tasty!

Again I had a rum side car, official drink of Rich Ripley…VACATION 2015.  It was good and just for the heck of it (and the hokeyness) I ordered a Manhattan, a bourbon based drink that my bartender had cut with more bourbon.  It was strong.

Times Square around 9:30 at night.  A regular carnival of sight and sound.

Times Square around 9:30 at night. A regular carnival of sight and sound.

After another great day of exploring, sightseeing and eating we retired to our room.  Thanks for reading!!  Have a great weekend!!

God bless.

R

 

Day 2…Self Improvement Required….I Visit An Art Museum

 

Since my doubleheader was rained out tonight I can bring you Episode Two.

Monday dawned and we started out towards out second NYC landmark with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.  Its the one featured in the movie “Night at the Museum” though actor Ben Stiller was nowhere to be found.  We did find, however, find a portly middle-aged, balding “Barney Fife” security guard with an Eastern European accent who told us repeatedly that we couldn’t stand where we wished to stand while we waited for the place to open.  It was comical to say the least and I thought about engaging him in a polite conversation about something wholly different from where we wanted to stand…like “how do I get a job here?” or “did you graduate from Lincoln High in ’82…cause you look like a dude that I used to hang out with and play Galaxian…”  Instead we retreated across the street to Central Park where I totally annihilated a gyro for breakfast.  Connie, feeling that my table manners lacked, snapped a quick photo to capture the carnage (it never stood a chance…that tasty seasoned meat lathered in cucumber sauce).  Feeling full of myself, and gyro, we entered the museum and parted ways.  Connie could stay in a museum for days.  Me….couplea hours.  MAX.  If you’ve seen one tyrannous rex skeleton….you’ve seen them all.

The carnage of eating a gyro and not getting any sauce on your slacks

The carnage of eating a gyro and not getting any sauce on your slacks

American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

We also went to the Whitney Museum of American Art, which I didn’t think that I’d like but ended up really enjoying myself. (us artsy-types attract other artsy-types)

what do you know...a statue...

what do you know…a statue…

I found a painting of my great great great uncle Lester the Explorer...on the Wagner side of the family.  Famous and flamboyant he met his Maker after not paying his tab for a copious amount of rum sidecars

I found a painting of my great great great uncle Lester the Explorer…on the Wagner side of the family. Famous and flamboyant he met his Maker after not paying his tab for a copious amount of rum sidecars

We had three o’clock reservations at a place called Jean-Georges Nougatine so we hot-footed our way to Trump Tower off Columbus Circle.  They have a deal where during certain hours you can get a gourmet, three course meal for $38….which is outstanding.  We arrived twenty minutes early and they promptly sat us at their bar.  I ordered something that I’ve never had before…a rum sidecar in honor of my late Uncle Lester (see above photo).  Our bartender could have passed as a leading man in a movie.  Handsome.  Fit.  A regular James Bond kind of guy.  He sliced a lime, then slid it along the rim of the glass.  He then sprinkled sugar over the wetted rim, before putting the Cointreau, rum and lemon juice into a chrome shaker.  He expertly agitated the drink with only his arms moving, the rest of him…sturdy as a statue.  It was one of the best tasting drinks that I’ve ever had, and I now know why they call it a “sidecar”….as in “if you have too many of these…you’ll be going home in a sidecar.”  Our meal was excellentSimply awesome.  If I could have licked my plate clean….I would have.  I’d recommend it to anyone visiting NYC, though make reservations well in advance of your visit.

Connie with her appetizer.  It was delicious!

Connie with her appetizer. It was delicious!

Freshly made vanilla ice cream with a warm cake filled with hot fudge sauce.

Freshly made vanilla ice cream with a warm cake filled with hot fudge sauce.

 

We retired to our room after what was a really good day.  Interesting sights.  Great food and we only got lost once.  Installment three may be awhile off.  I have games the remainder of the week.  Until then…thank you for reading.  God Bless!

R

Hawaiian time is over…home is where the heart is

What a sunrise...quite the change from watching it come up over fields of corn and beans.  Both are beautiful

What a sunrise…quite the change from watching it come up over fields of corn and beans. Both are beautiful

The day started as usual with a spectacular sunrise. During our stay I’d usually head down to the Starbucks coffee kiosk and grab a cup while Connie slept for a while longer. I’d take my notebook with me and jot down some notes for these blogs. While everything went perfectly for us while on Hawaii (good health, safety, good weather, etc.) it sure wasn’t home, nor was I ready to settle down in this tropical paradise.

One thing that we constantly ran into was folks not knowing where we were from. They’d ask us where we were from and we’d reply “Iowa” then they’d start on how they knew someone from Ohio, or Idaho and ask weren’t we “big Ohio State Buckeye fans?” Ah…no. Iowa. It got to the point that I’d just reply “we live three hours west of Chicago.” After meeting us a lady from Los Angeles whispered to her husband “not many people make it out of Iowa” to her husband after we met. Dead serious. It must be the twenty foot walls at our borders that dissuade us from leaving the Hawkeye State.
Our trip back to the airport started with a bunch of packing and getting everything back into the Mustang.

Our bags loaded, my copilot giving me the "Hawaiian thumbs up" we're on our way home...towards the airport

Our bags loaded, my copilot giving me the “Hawaiian thumbs up” we’re on our way home…towards the airport

I'm a regular "Joe-Flyguy" now...my bride...maybe not so much (on the plane just minutes before leaving Maui)

I’m a regular “Joe-Flyguy” now…my bride…maybe not so much (on the plane just minutes before leaving Maui)

As we boarded I slipped one of the flight attendants a fiver and whispered in his ear “just make sure that we’re topped off on the gas tanks would ya pal?” My concern addressed he took my money and assured me that he’d check as soon as possible.

After yet another safe take off (my number one concern) we settled back into our seats. After being in the air for about forty minutes or so one of the flight attendants spoke over the PA. “Due to technical difficulties…(pause of about five seconds during which everyone in the ENTIRE PLANE LOOKED UP AND GAVE THEIR FULL ATTENTION)….we will not be able to show the featured movie or TV shows…”. I could have done without the five second pause, lady. And the TV shows are essentially CNBC shows that I’ve never heard of and the movie is pretty bad…but at least it’s something to watch. As for me…I stayed busy with reading a book that I bought to purposely keep myself occupied during our flights. I plugged into the planes “music channels” with my ear buds but was asked to retake my seat when the Hispanic channel caused me to involuntarily get up and start dancing the rumba in the aisle. (There’s just not enough space in coach to properly dance the rumba if you’ve got the vivacious hips of a Ripley…which I do)

Goodbye Maui!!  Notice our planes shadow along the bottom edge of this photo?  Kinda cool...heh?

Goodbye Maui!! Notice our planes shadow along the bottom edge of this photo? Kinda cool…heh?

After we reached cruising altitude the pilot throttled back the engines. I looked at my watch and set it five hours forward, to Iowa time. I thought to myself “God willing we’ll be home in thirteen hours.” With my watch telling me what the current time was in Iowa, I began to unwind and relax a little. Flying over the Pacific Ocean at thirty-five thousand feet at over five hundred miles per hour night began to fall though my watch told me differently…it’s back on Iowa time…a place my heart never left and probably never will. I missed home. I’m an Iowa boy.

Thanks for reading. Peace to you and yours,
R

Day 7…WHALE HO!!! Our second day at the beach

Day 7 is our last full day of vacation in Maui. It’s kind of like the second to last day of summer vacation before I returned to school when I was growing up in rural Iowa, a bit melancholy if I think about it. I don’t necessarily want to think about packing up, shuffling off to the airport and catching the long flight home, as well as the connecting flight back to real life…but for now we’re on vacation in Maui and we’re going to live in the moment.

We enjoyed ourselves so much yesterday at the beach that we decide to do it again. When in doubt, go with your gut instincts…which we did by enjoying the hotels breakfast buffet (again) and reserved ourselves a couplea lounge chairs on the beach.

A top-notch breakfast buffet every morning usually meant that we could skip lunch.

A top-notch breakfast buffet every morning usually meant that we could skip lunch.

Our view for the two days that we were beach bums...if bums had loungers and an awning

Our view for the two days that we were beach bums…if bums had loungers and an awning

One thing that I noticed was the lack of European dudes wearing bikinis. It seems that whenever we go somewhere coastal on vacation there’s always some middle-aged guys wearing bikinis. (I assume that they’re from Europe since I can’t understand a word that they’re speaking, but it sounded French). I was prepared for the onslaught of bikini-clad European dudes and had purchased a pair of Brazilian trunks to don if the opportunity presented itself, which it did not, so I just kept ‘em for wearin’ while I mow the yard when I return home. I would’ve shown a photo of me in my brand new Brazilian trunks but the major internet cable providers begged me not to after the photos of me in yesterdays blog darn near took down the web. Apparently Rich Ripley in swimmin’ britches equates to viral things. Who knew? Not this guy.

As regular beachgoers now, Connie and I blended right in with the other regulars and beautiful people. Several newbies saw me and started snapping photos thinking that I was David Hasselhoff …training for the upcoming Baywatch Reunion TV special on TNT or The Country Music Channel (I forget). I kept hearing “Hey HOFF!! Save me!!” or “Hey Hoff!! Wear a girdle or something to restrict all of that jiggling!!” which was totally inappropriate because I wasn’t jogging or doing anything athletic other than crossing the blazing hot sand barefooted that separated me and my lounge chair from the cool waters of the Pacific.

Kaanapali Beach.  A slice of Heaven at the Sheraton Maui.

Kaanapali Beach. A slice of Heaven at the Sheraton Maui.

My agent, Cliff Cattlerod of Hollywood… Iowa, finally got me some work in the entertainment world while we vacationed on Maui. I maybe shouldn’t call it work or entertainment, but someone was definitely entertained enough when they saw me getting rolled in the unusually high surf the past couplea days and used my likeness for this warning sign posted on Kaanapali Beach by the Sheraton.

"If in doubt, don't go out" on this sign could also read "High surf puts sand where the sun don't shine....seriously....IT DOES."

“If in doubt, don’t go out” on this sign could also read “High surf puts sand where the sun don’t shine….seriously….IT DOES.”

That’s definitely me alright, just look at the profile!! At least they didn’t show me losing my swimming trunks in this sign like I did the first day on Oahu. Point of discussion…shouldn’t they post a sign warning of the unusually high amount of sand that will probably get lodged in your swimsuit and body? Discuss amongst yourselves; we’ll get back to that.
Several Green Peace activists repeatedly tried to roll me back into the water during the day, thinking that I was a beached whale. After the second time I got testy with them even though I kind of enjoyed the attention, TV cameras, rubdowns and free krill. Japanese whalers cruised just offshore, bidding their time for a free shot at yours truly.

We enjoyed snorkeling so much from our earlier attempt that we decided to rent some equipment and try it for ourselves off of Black Rock. (actually Connie really liked it and wanted to do it, I was content to sit my ass on the beach, read and nap in the shade of our covered loungers but I didn’t want to lose Connie to the currents then have to explain to our daughters that while I napped the current took their mother to Japan, so I went along with her…snorkeling, not to Japan)

We saw two sea turtles, one was huge, and plenty of other stuff that was pretty cool. We had ventured out a little too far from our beach, around the rocky outcropping that separated us visually from where we could go back in. Connie started feeling crummy and I was gassed (tired…not what you thought). Together we grabbed onto her boogie board and swam around and back to our beach, though it was slow going until we got back around the Black Rock outcropping.

Our vacation time was dwindling down, we returned to our room to get ready for our fanciest meal of all, at KO restaurant in a town half an hour away that took us an hour and a half to drive since there was a car accident that took the highway down to a snails pace. (no one was seriously hurt) That’s one of the things that I missed about Iowa, when your destination is thirty miles away it takes you approximately thirty minutes to drive, or less. Hawaii, with all of its mountains, gorges and such and the natural boundary of the ocean, has very, very limited options for routes to get to somewhere. Anyway…back to our meal, for such a fancy place it was a disappointment to me. I paid $45 for a seafood stew that I had to work on to eat (if you’re going to charge me that kind of money, take the critters out of their shells so I can eat ‘em and not wrestle ‘em myself is all I’m saying). While all of this fancy food and top-notch lodgings are wonderful…they’re not “me”. (I will miss the king-sized bed though, truly I will)

The fish was excellent, the side dishes like this "baby ocean asparagus" was left on the plate.  I tried it, didn't like it (and I like asparagus).  Scalloped corn like my sister-in-law Joyana makes would've really been a great addition to this meal.  Maybe next time I'll ask the chef to get the recipe from her.

The fish was excellent, the side dishes like this “baby ocean asparagus” was left on the plate. I tried it, didn’t like it (and I like asparagus). Scalloped corn like my sister-in-law Joyana makes would’ve really been a great addition to this meal. Maybe next time I’ll ask the chef to get the recipe from her.

I’m getting antsy to get home, to return to normalcy, to my friends, to my work challenges, to walking into the kitchen and making a baloney sandwich and pouring a glass of milk. I miss engaging with people and conversing with them. I get antsy and it drives Connie nuts, but I try to purposely keep myself from doing that on this trip. Its been a wonderful vacation. Tomorrow we start for home. A long flight awaits.

Me and Connie on our rooms balcony on the day we left Hawaii

Me and Connie on our rooms balcony on the day we left Hawaii

Thank you for coming along on our anniversary trip with us. It went so smoothly in part due to the planning by our travel agent, Andrea, and Connie calling ahead and reserving things for us, also we were abundantly blessed with good health, beautiful weather, safe and timely travel, wonderful food and accommodations and LOVE from above. Connie also purchased a book entitled Frommer’s Maui 2013 that gave us advice and such about all things Maui. Also a tip of the cap should go to my friend Joel who pushed me off of the fence regarding whether we should go to Hawaii or not. God willing, we might return.

Until then…God bless and peace,
R

Day 6 We hit the beach OR My life as a cliff jumper

Ripley men have always been cursed, cursed with smokin’ hot thighs and calves. One gal approached me recently, pointed to my legs and asked “Pilates or hot yoga?” I answered “brat’s and Lay’s potato chips”. Cursed. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m particularly good looking or muscular but I totally rock in my new swimmin’ britches. I’m hotter than a two dollar pistol in my chartreuse lime green light-weight water-drawers (I purposely bought this color so that the U.S. Coast Guard would have an easier time recovering my body if something bad happened. I’m not kidding). The sad news is that I bought those rascals and continued to loose weight with all of my running around officiating games, so they’re a tad loose fitting. I asked our hotels concierge if he had any suspenders in the “lost and found” box that I could borrow. That, ladies and gentlemen, went over like a fart in a spacesuit. Having gotten the “old Hawaiian stink-eye” from that dude…I departed. To the beach I preceded, saggy swimmin’ britches and all, looking like Deputy Barney Fife at the beach (and “No”…Connie wouldn’t let me call her “Thelma Lou” for the day).

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.


Several foreign tourists mistook us for George Clooney and his latest Italian supermodel girlfriend hottie. I signed my autographs “Best Wishes, George Clooney and Italian Hottie” and no one was the wiser!!”

I had a goal this vacation. I told Connie that if she was going to require me to travel this far that I’d get to try surfing. She agreed. But before I could try it I spied Black Rock, an outcropping of volcanic rock that jutted out into the ocean from the beach at our hotel. The hotel has a guy swim out there at sunset and perform a ceremonial dive, head first, into the water. During the day, however, kids swim out there and jump off of the same rock. It’s about a 25 foot drop into the water, and it’s free…so of course I had to try it. It went something like this:

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective...which isn't a Dunkin' Donuts for once.

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective…which isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts for once.

#1 Point to rock with stupid expression on face. Walk along shore, getting closer to rock…hitching up my trunks every four or five steps. Look back at my footprints in the sand, only seeing one set I assume that my Lord and Savior has opted to watch this latest Rich Ripley adventure from the lofty and comfortable confines of Heaven, but I know that He’s in my heart and for now…that’s enough.

#2 Swim to rock, more like dog-paddle to rock. (A journey fraught with peril)
#3 I notice that dog paddling to rock is taking quite a while. I look for a sea turtle to ride. With no turtles taking hitchhikers I continue to dog-paddle onward.

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa.  WHO KNEW?!

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa. WHO KNEW?!

#4 Reach rock and climb. Find volcanic outcropping difficult to climb.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock...but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS...which isn't so swell.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock…but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS…which isn’t so swell.

#5 Have mock heart attack.

I'm having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn't even expressing mock concern.  What the hell?!

I’m having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn’t even expressing mock concern. What the hell?!

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

...and the climb continues.

…and the climb continues.

#6 I reach the peak and rest. I make a new friend who, by the way, sells drowning insurance for reasonable mainland rates. I buy half a million dollars’ worth on the spot. I LOVE YOU CONNIE!! REMODEL THE KITCHEN AND NAME IT “THE RICH RIPLEY MEMORIAL CAFETERIA”.

#7 Point to Iowa.

"...Iowa's that way (wheez...puff...pant).  How'd you get up here so fast?!  Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!"

“…Iowa’s that way (wheez…puff…pant). How’d you get up here so fast?! Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!”

#8 Stand and size up descent, it looks a lot more than just 25 feet. Quietly curse the intelligence of this midlife crisis. I remember the word “bullshit” coming into play.

#9 Almost chicken out as new friend and insurance salesman tells me “there’s an underwater boulder to the left, but you’ll be okay…just don’t jump left.” I’m serious…that’s what he told me.

#10 Signal my bride and insurance beneficiary, Connie, that the moment of reckoning is upon me. Insurance man calls U.S. Coast Guard Water Recovery Team and they scramble a helicopter towards us.

I wave to my fans as they chant "JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!"  I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

I wave to my fans as they chant “JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!” I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

This is how the jumpers look from the same place that I’m about to jump from. These next two photos where taken from a balcony at our hotel.

Not me...

Not me…

...again...not me.

…again…not me.

#11 JUMP!! (More like step out over the water…to the RIGHT!!)

THIS....is me.

THIS….is me.

#12 Splash-down!! Salt water enema for free
#13 Shake hands with SpongeBob.
#14 Surface and dog paddle towards shore

#15 No waves to push me along. I pick the steepest shore to swim towards. Ocean remarkably calm. Curse you King Triton!!

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

#16 Reach shore and have a real heart-attack.

Notice that my swimmin' britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers?  Did anyone else notice that?  Anyone?

Notice that my swimmin’ britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers? Did anyone else notice that? Anyone?

#17 Reach Connie but cannot hear anything that is said, my head is full of water. (As are other orifices) Salty. Warm. Water.
#18 Collapse onto lounger. Take the next fifteen minutes to catch breath. Discreetly drain orifices.
#19 Feeling invincible I swim out to rock again, this time to try out my new dive “Middle-aged Man Death-Defying See How Many In-Air Jumping Jacks I Can Do Before Accidently Being Caught With Legs Open As I Hit The Water At Mach 5” also known as “the nutcracker”…something that my cousin Doug taught me in Missouri.
#20 I’m was teasing on #19. I stayed on shore for quite a while. I was water-logged.
#21 Forget the whole “learning how to surf” thing. I’ve had enough saltwater for this trip. Maybe for our 50th wedding anniversary trip.
We spent the rest of the day going into the water of both the beach and the hotels pool, before splitting an excellent sandwich from the poolside bar…while resting in the shade of our cabana.

We enjoyed the day so much at the beach that we wonder if we shouldn’t do it again tomorrow…our last day in Hawaii. We agree to think about it overnight. Later on we drive up the coast for supper, and then retire to our rooms for a movie and some ice cold beer and wine.

As it turns out...blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you're stilling draining salt water out of your body.

As it turns out…blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you’re stilling draining salt water out of your body.

Until my next blog, God bless and peace,
George Clooneyat your service

Day 5 ROAD TO HANAAAaaaaaaaaaa!!! (sounds of driving off of a cliff)

I dislike bumper to bumper traffic, not that anyone enjoys it, but the travel book for Maui said that the Road to Hana usually has bumper to bumper traffic while winding its way along a tropical forest to the coastal town of Hana. There are plenty of things to see along the way to Hana, waterfalls, pretty vegetation and spectacular views of the ocean from high atop mountains. The passengers get to see all of these things, the driver…not so much. The driver gets to traverse roads that wind around steep cliffs, shaky looking guard rails, and unmarked one lane roadways. I swear that the road curves sharply every one hundred feet in either direction on blind, one lane roads in many cases. As the driver I didn’t look forward to the six hour drive to Hana and any ensuing bumper to bumper traffic and safety hazards.

A Brazilian cardinal swooped in a sat with us at breakfast...an ancient Hawaiian omen for heavy traffic.

A Brazilian cardinal swooped in a sat with us at breakfast…an ancient Hawaiian omen for heavy traffic.

We left early after breakfast, top down, and enjoyed the scenery. I bought the only souvenir (for myself) at a Shell station along the way as my forehead was baking in the sun as we drove along (I know…life’s a bitch when you’re driving a convertible on Maui). That’s right, I crossed an ocean to buy a Shell cap from a gas station, but it is what it is.

$12.99

$12.99

We stopped and looked at some scenery and came along a hired tour guide who had just found a three-horned chameleon. Being the opportunistic cheap skates that we are…we listened in to his story…then he asked Connie if she wanted to hold it.

The look on Connie's face is "okay...its crawling up my arm and I'm done with it..."

The look on Connie’s face is “okay…its crawling up my arm and I’m done with it…”

The views on the road were as promised and I didn’t fully appreciate them until I looked at them the next day on the camera. Simply incredible. God’s creation on Maui is eye-candy. Every view is a literal calendar shot. The drive wasn’t as bad as promised since we had started early and missed most of the late traffic.

Tricky driving

Tricky driving

The black sand beach by Hana

The black sand beach by Hana

A volcanic cave that we went into that had an opening to the ocean.  (we didn't find any buried treasure)

A volcanic cave that we went into that had an opening to the ocean. (we didn’t find any buried treasure)

After the black sand beaches we turned towards home. The drive to Hana took five hours, the drive home, three hours.

Rain moving in over a valley, just south of Hana

Rain moving in over a valley, just south of Hana

The following is a photo of one of the many one lane bridges encountered on the Road to Hana. I imagine that it took strong men and machine to build this road but I doubt that they’ll replace the bridges anytime soon.

Built to last and only for one car at a time.

Built to last and only for one car at a time.

We got back into town and had an early supper at Aloha Grill, then spent the remainder of the late afternoon walking Front Street, that’s filled with tons of little shops. We ended up in the shade of a 150 year old bayon tree in the heart of their city park, a great place to enjoy dessert.

Dessert for Connie was mango, and macadamia nut ice cream.

Dessert for Connie was mango, and macadamia nut ice cream.

That was the end of Day 5, another day full of beauty and fun that our Good Lord blessed us with. Our next installment…Day 6 a day at the beach…promises a look at yours truly in my swimming trunks (clear your calendar is all I’m sayin’)

Until then, God bless and peace to you,
R

Day 4…we snorkel. CANNONBALL!!!

Day four found us heading to the harbor where Connie had signed us up for a day of snorkeling. Being Midwesterners our experiences with looking under water either involved a swimming pool with a good amount of chorine stinging our eyes OR the muddied waters of whatever river or lake in Iowa we swam in as kids. Whichever one it was, the view was less than spectacular.

As we headed out to Molokini crater, an extinct and eroded away volcanic crater, we passed the time, me checking out the scenery…Connie trying not to get sick from the motion of the trip.

Molokini Crater for our snorkeling.  One hour boat ride...not a "three hour tour...three hour tour..."

Molokini Crater for our snorkeling. One hour boat ride…not a “three hour tour…three hour tour…”

After an hour or so of motoring out there the captain informed us of free wet suits that we could use, we choose not to. We were warned that the water was 24 degrees under body temp; we found it refreshing-they’d obviously never been in a Minnesota lake where even the fish wear sweaters until mid-June). They offered boogie boards and float-belts to anyone who wanted them, as well as, the usual snorkel, mask and flippers. I chose not to take any floatation devices and floundered in the water until a Japanese whaler took me abroad thinking I was a disoriented whale (insert “blow hole” joke right….HERE!) Disappointed, they returned me to the sea. After that adventure I went to our boat and then returned to the water with a boogie board and float-belt and had a wonderful time. My big nose acting like a rudder, my love-handles acting marvelously as a hull, I was a literal Aqua man despite the Japanese whalers circling every so often (must’ve been a slow whale-day in the Pacific).

View from atop the boat of our group.  Connie's to the right of the rope leading out to our lifeguard who is sitting on a surfboard.

View from atop the boat of our group. Connie’s to the right of the rope leading out to our lifeguard who is sitting on a surfboard.

"A SHARKS GOT ME!!!"  Oh...wait a minute...its just a foot cramp.  My bad.

“A SHARKS GOT ME!!!” Oh…wait a minute…its just a foot cramp. My bad.

We went aboard the catamaran and each had a pulled pork sandwich and soda. On the way back we saw some sea turtles surface and take a breath, which was a real treat for Connie and many others.

Sea turtle.

Sea turtle.

After getting home from the snorkeling we got ready for a luau just a few miles away in town. We found the food a little disappointing, but they were feeding hundreds of people so you could expect a drop off in the quality of the cuisine. The dancing and sunset were incredible. There was one older male dancer with a receding hairline (like mine). I thought highly of him for being out there and dancing with the obviously younger performers, though he was half a beat behind the rest of the group….but check out the front line of this group and I doubt that anyone noticed.

Luau in Mau Luau in Mau

Sunset at the Luau

Sunset at the Luau

We had settled into a bit of a routine. Tomorrows activity was one that I dreaded almost as much as the flight to get here. Until then…peace.
R

Day 3 another plane ride…I call shotgun!!

We departed Oahu midmorning and took a small prop plane to Maui. I did a little better this flight but only because I told the flight attendant to tell the pilot that I had a Google map ap on my phone that he could use if he wanted too (but that I’d get to ride shotgun if he did. He did not take me up on my generous offer). Once on the ground in Maui we picked up our rental car…a 2013 Ford Mustang convertible!!! Well played Connie Sue, well played. We ventured out for our forty-five minute drive to the hotel that we were to stay at, with top down on the car.

Never having driven a convertible I thought that it was a lot of fun.

Never having driven a convertible I thought that it was a lot of fun.

Most of the rock walls lining the highways had a sort of wire mesh anchored into them to catch falling rock...which was great since we had no roof on the car.

Most of the rock walls lining the highways had a sort of wire mesh anchored into them to catch falling rock…which was great since we had no roof on the car.

The drive to our resort was real scenic.  Ocean on the left, mountains on the right.

The drive to our resort was real scenic. Ocean on the left, mountains on the right.

It's about damn time someone recognized the importance of the fifth and FORGOTTEN FOOD GROUP...SUGAR!!

It’s about damn time someone recognized the importance of the fifth and FORGOTTEN FOOD GROUP…SUGAR!!

Now let me say this, the Ripley’s are “Holiday Inn Express” type of folks. We’re not fancy; we fly coach and drive Fords. Our hotel in Oahu was quite nice, our hotel room on Maui was…over the top nice (by our standards). Two words, “ocean view”.

The view from our fourth floor deck off of our bedroom.  Just awe-inspiring beautiful.

The view from our fourth floor deck off of our bedroom. Just awe-inspiring beautiful.

...and the view to the right side of our deck

…and the view to the right side of our deck

We had lunch poolside were the sandwiches were awesome, but the 10 ounce fountain Coke was $4 and not even that good. So later on at night we ventured into town and purchased some beverages for our room refrigerator, including some of adult nature.
That night we ate at the Pineapple Grill, where we had our favorite meal of the whole trip. Our server was Jessica who explained the menu, foods and Maui as a whole. She was our favorite person of the whole trip.

My meal was New Zealand salmon with garlic flakes, bok choy sauce and some fancy carrots (I'd rather have some corn or peas but maybe that's just my Midwestern upbringing).

My meal was New Zealand salmon with garlic flakes, bok choy sauce and some fancy carrots (I’d rather have some corn or peas but maybe that’s just my Midwestern upbringing).

The red stuff on top is roe, the whole meal was delicious.

The red stuff on top is roe, the whole meal was delicious.

The purple stuff on Connie’s plate was Hawaiian sweet potatoes and it rocked!!!
We returned to our hotel and ventured into the surf again. I was only wanting to go in up to my knees. See how that worked out?

"Tourist amazed by rolling surf.  Film at 11"

“Tourist amazed by rolling surf. Film at 11”

Tomorrow we head to the sea to do something that neither one of us has tried…snorkeling.
Until the next blog…God bless and peace.
R