Monday, October 17, 2011
It was a long day, since it began with me singing at both services at our church, First Christian in Loveland. We were there from about eight in the morning, or somewhat before that actually, until nearly one in the afternoon by the time we cleared the parking lot. I was wishing I had eaten breakfast, but I keep crackers in the back seat of the car and had two of those between services (great crackers, by the way—Crackerfuls, Four Cheese flavor). We took a lunch up the hill about twenty minutes to the park entrance, just the other side of Estes Park. We know how lucky we are to live that close.
The drive up along the canyon, following Big Thompson River was beautiful, but I always love rivers, and this one is popular with fly fishermen. On our way back down later we stopped and talked with one who said he was having a very good day, and didn't mind that I included his photo in my blog. He said the fish were biting, but not as much as he had hoped. Still, any day on the river is a good day.
When we arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park we knew we were a couple of weeks too late to get the best of the fall colors, but it's taken the physical therapist a couple of weeks to get me to the point where I could get in and out of the car, climbing around taking pictures. We were lucky we made it when we did, since a storm front came in last night, and I understand the rain and snow pretty much did in most of the last of the leaves. If we hadn't made it last night, it would have had to wait for next year. I think we went through that last year, didn't we?
My hip was a little extra sore this morning, but when I look at photos like this, it's worth it. I took about 300 photos, but lucky you... I've condensed my favorites into a short slideshow for you. And since nobody does it better, I downloaded Chet Atkins' version of Autumn Leaves as the accompanying music. He played as crisp and clear as the autumn air.
Friday, October 14, 2011
I grew up in a generation that feared the Russians. In the early 90s I was in the Thousand Oaks, California audience for the performance of the Red Star Army Chorus when they brought the audience to its feet, and most of us to tears by singing God Bless America. Even then, I never expected to walk the streets of a Russian city, tasting its beauty and photographing the extravagance of its culture.
As always, sharing the adventure with family made it so much more special. The cruise ship's second stop was St. Petersburg, Russia. Ben and I were both in pain, and everything we wanted to see seemed miles away, but we walked for hours, and the weather held off from its expected downpour until we returned to the ship. People in costume posed with tourists like us for a small sum, and we thought it was worth it a couple of times.
There are many photos that show John looking back, and that was because I continually limped along behind the group. I guess he figured they'd eventually lose me, but they never did.
The buildings were amazing, a blend of spectacular and military grey. There was enough gold on some of them to fund a third world country. It will never be scraped off the buildings, of course, since it is their country's heritage in many ways, but it still astounded me to see the glitter next to the somber darkness of some of the older buildings. It is a country of contrasts, if St. Petersburg is anything to go by. Here's your Slideshow.
After wearing ourselves out trying to see everything possible in the city, we made our way back to the cruise ship, and I enjoyed my "daily spa treatment." I should explain that. The first night on board ship, Ben let us know he was going to the ship's spa for a drawing. Hardly anyone knows about this sort of thing, as they're off drinking and exploring. Ben always checks things out, and had learned that there was a "have to be there to win" drawing for products and services in the ship's spa. I invited myself along and got in on the draw. Ben and I sat there and listened to name after name being called, with the people not being present. It ended up with Ben and me each winning $250 in spa services. He used his for a couples massage with Ruth, but I split mine up for the daily massage specials, which meant I got a massage and facial every day we were on the ship, except for the day we disembarked. Sweet. Thanks, Ben. I've never used a ship's spa before. I'd never had a facial before—good things, both.
I spent the next day either with the kids or on deck photographing the Baltic as we went through the passage. It was beautiful, and sunset that night was incredible. I love being on the ocean, and a day at sea is a pleasure for me.
The next morning, as we made our way through the small inhabited islands of the Baltic approaching Sweden once again, I enjoyed the early morning fog and mist that rose from homes and churches dotting what I believe was Finland for a time. It was remote and beautiful, and it appeared that people came and went by boat.
There were few people out as early as I was, but I didn't miss having them in my photos. Some of the islands were tiny, and some were fairly large. You'll see a larger sampling on the Cruise Slideshow.
We pulled into Stockholm at the end of the trip and were among the first to return to land. I have already shared photos of Sweden before and after the cruise, but there's one little side trip I failed to include. We went to a mall for ice cream, and I have to admit it was one of the most interesting presentations I've ever had. They split open an absolutely delicious cupcake or muffin, at the choice of the one ordering, and filled the split with an ice cream or frozen yogurt of your choice. It was way too much, I thought, for one person to eat alone, and the girls had cones instead, which they loved, but Ruth showed us the truth of the old verse: Where there's a will, there's a way.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I've been working on a slide show for the Tallinn, Estonia portion of our trip this morning, while I'm "fresh." Physical Therapy yesterday took a lot out of me, but gave me hope that there's light at the end of the tunnel. There's just no replacement for a great physical therapist. I'm not sure how many years of training they have to go through, but the good ones, and I know I have one of the best, have magic hands and an incredible font of knowledge.
Estonia, at least the corner we visited, wore its age well. I would have loved to see it without all the tourists, but since we were part of the horde, I shouldn't complain. Everything in America seems fresh and young by comparison to cities and countries in Europe. They treasure their history, at least in the places we've visited. You'll see a modern building, something from the last fifty years or later, next to a building hundreds of years old that's been preserved and is still in use. They exist side by side and add character to the city.
As always, seeing these places with family make them more special, and going through the photos brought the memories back to life. I remember Kate having a melt down and wanting to be held, and how Ben picked her up and walked with her, even though his back was beyond painful. Ruth was so upset that he wasn't taking care of himself, I thought she'd grab the child away from him, but she allowed him to do what he felt he must. Their respect for each other, as always, melted something inside me—and Kate calmed down instantly.
Ben always researches thoroughly whatever places we'll visit and finds the most interesting things. Tallinn happens to have an out of the way romantic spot... a kissing statue that's said to be good luck for couples who stand and kiss next to it. They couldn't resist. We were coerced. Let's say we couldn't resist them. The photos of that are proof enough, and are in the slide show.
After walking back to the cruise ship and making arrangements to meet for dinner, I took something for pain and headed for the ship's spa and a massage. I was counting my blessings with every step. Enjoy the slide show. They represent precious memories to me.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Just in time to see us before we returned home, our oldest son, Tighe, flew in to Amsterdam on a business trip and was able to join the family for a visit before getting down to work. It was such a wonderful time, and I loved hearing the girls count down the days before Uncle Tighe's arrival. They adore him, and it's no wonder why. He's so willing to get down on their level and play, almost tirelessly. Most importantly, he loves them back in the same way.
He had his arms and lap full almost from the moment of his arrival, it seemed, whenever he sat down. Standing up, someone was climbing one of his legs or dancing around him. Uncle must sound like a word of delight to him, the way their sweet voices sang it out.
Our time with the family was sweet, and here's a short slide show to share some of our favorite photos of those days.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Just the two of us? But we don't speak French... I really wasn't in favor of this trip at the beginning. I could picture getting lost and people laughing at us as we tried to communicate in sign language. I don't know sign language.
John and I went on a wonderful cruise of the river Seine, ate crepes along the way (chocolate) and took photos. The bridges are amazing. We saw a bride and groom walking along, him fussing with her dress, and it seemed a sweet moment in time to me. There was also a boat accident that confused us, since nobody else on our boat seemed at all concerned about it, even though divers were going under the water and an ambulance was racing along the shore toward the craft. We never found out what had happened.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
July only seems like ages ago because so much has happened since. My camera is the best indicator. I've taken over 2,500 photos since then. No, I'm not going to share them all. Don't you feel lucky? Here are some of my treasures, though, and a short slide show of moments and memories we shared.
Friday, August 26, 2011
So much has happened this month, it will take many posts to share it all. The first step, once we return home, will be to download my camera of all the priceless photos I've taken. I'm grateful for the digital camera we have, since I already know we have beautiful images to share, and I'll do some slide shows that capture the best of our memories—I hope.
Our first week with the kids and grandkids was wonderful, and then John and I left for Paris together. It surpassed any expectations I had. I can honestly say it was one of the more remarkable cities I've visited, and I didn't feel hampered by my ignorance of the language. People treated us beautifully. I did learn to say "Good day, do you speak English?" in French, which probably helped quite a bit. Most people did, at least enough for our needs. I can hardly wait to share our visit to Paris with you all.
Shortly after our return to The Netherlands, we all boarded a jet together and flew to Stockholm, Sweden. Ben put his back out just before we left, so he was in a considerable amount of pain. It made getting baggage and children from place to place a little crazy. That's part of the Sweden story, but it's just a side bar to several days that were great despite Ben's pain and rainy weather.
We took a cruise from there, and the story will continue with tales of Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia. What an amazing city that was! You'll see by the photos. We walked our legs off, but there was so much to see that it was worth it.
Our day at sea would seem to have been a time when the camera might not be used, but my photos that day were wonderful as well, from the grandchildren, to photos of the fiords we were passing through, and capped off by a spectacular sunset. It was heavenly.
We returned for another couple of days in Stockholm, where we got the news that my step father of 30 years had been transfered to a Hospice Home for his final days. I knew we wouldn't be able to make it back to my Mom before he passed away, and it saddened me. We waited and prayed as we continued on, flying back to Amsterdam on the 20th, four days before Papa John passed away.
So it's been a long month, and we'll be taking another trip to California to see Mom after we get home. The memorial service is being delayed so family can gather. It'll be on the 16th of September. Hopefully our jet lag and laundry will be memories by the time we pull out of the driveway to head out there. And I'll have at least one or two cities posted. Tomorrow is for flying. Tonight is for sleeping. Goodnight, Moon.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
We had no reason to fear being Americans without any French language skills. The people we met were charming and friendly. Our time there was beyond special, if not without trials. Getting out of Amsterdam proved to be a trial because the metro line we were to take no longer connected to our destination due to work on the line. None of us knew that, however, and every time we got on one of the trams, it let us off at the next stop. We made it to Amsterdam Central Station with 30 minutes to spare, but there are no signs telling people where to go for which train, so you have to ask. No one knew—and John needed a bathroom. We finally decided to stop looking for one of those and continue looking for the train.
We wound up on a track that I was sure was the right place. Someone in a uniform came along, and I thought I'd verify with him by showing him our tickets. He said, No, go over there and pointed across the rails to the other side of the track. We had ten minutes before the train was to leave, so we rushed down the track, a set of stairs, a concourse, then up another set of stairs and down that track. It took five minutes to get to the top. No one was there. I looked across to where we had been and saw a train was now boarding. I yelled across at a different man in uniform. Is that the train to Paris? Yes, he said. It leaves in four minutes. Hurry! We ran all the way back, suitcases bumping down the stairs, and were out of breath, and the last the board the train before it pulled out 30 seconds after we got on. John got to use the W.C. on board.
The train station in Paris is very different. Everything is well marked. You would have to be an idiot to get lost there, I think. We had no trouble finding our way from the train to the metro, nor did I have any difficulty buying tickets for two two-day Metro passes and a one way Metro ticket each for our trip that evening to the hotel.
Some of the images I'll keep in my head forever from Paris are the man playing violin in the Metro station while he waited for his train to come. The trio practicing with keyboard, sax, and horn that we rode with long enough one of the days to hear Blue Moon and Hello Dolly. They were really good. Reading signs and realizing I could understand some of them. Watching John try to find a cup of American coffee. He'd end up drinking espresso and being polite about it, but he never did find what he was looking for. The bread! I'll probably dream about the breads we ate... baguettes, croissants, breads I have no idea what their sweet little French names were. They'll all live in my heart forever, absolutely delicious.
One thing we realized when we got on the train is that my beautiful raincoat got lost somewhere—probably on the last train they crammed us into on our way to Central Station. It was standing room only, and they were starting and stopping at full speed. People were falling into each other, and John took my hat and raincoat along with all the baggage to keep me from getting hurt, so I'd have two hands to hold onto the pole with. He's a good guy like that. We met a wonderful clerk in a boutique next to the hotel after getting caught in a rainstorm. She had nothing under 400 euros, and I told her that was over my means. She gave me directions to a store near the Louvre. Wait until you see my Paris raincoat! I've never had anything so beautifully made. And that kind lady was right. We paid 68 euros for it. I can't get over the detailing on it.
When I revisit the cities one by one (with photos) I'll go into details on The Louvre and The Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumphe and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, just know that I wouldn't trade these memories. And I'm so grateful I have John for my traveling companion. He's the best.
Friday, August 5, 2011
What makes their bedtime routine so special is that it's a family affair. In most homes, including ours when the children were small, bedtime involves parents telling the children it's time to go to bed and the little ones arguing about it and bouncing out of bed for a while until both children and parents are exhausted. While this is going on, the parents attempt to talk or watch television.
Here, bedtime is something to look forward to. They climb the stairs together, Mama and Daddy supervise the choice of pajamas and help with brushing of teeth and other necessary chores. Then the fun begins. First they read a scripture, followed by a story. The children take turns picking out what story is going to be read. Then they each choose two songs to sing together, and everyone sings along. After that, each one takes a turn describing the most special part of their day. This is followed up with bedtime prayers and tucking in the little ones. Daddy then produces a children's travel type spill-proof bottle of water for each of them, and it goes on the corner of their headboards. A final kiss goodnight, the covers are pulled up, and the children are down for the count. It's really beautiful.
During the day Ruth is constantly picking up toys, cooking, and doing craft projects with the girls. Day before yesterday she let us sort colors from a box of Fruit Loops into little cups. Then we transferred each color into a plastic baggie and mashed them up with a rolling pin, then put them back into the cups. Each of us (yes, Grandma made a picture, too) got a sheet of construction paper. We'd paint with glue and sprinkle Fruit Loops onto it. Shake the extra back into the bowl and then glue paint where you want the next color. It was really fun. The pictures, once dry, got hung in the entry way for Daddy's loud exclamations of amazement.
Today John and I will travel (alone!) to Paris. We're taking the train, and we're both moderately terrified. Neither of us speak French, of course. I get lost really easily, so can't be left alone anywhere. It wasn't always this way, but certainly is now. (Have a few seizures and see what changes for you...) Ben made all the travel arrangements—train and hotel, so that's half the battle. We just have to figure out how to get from the train station to the hotel, and from there to everything we want to see.
You'll probably get updates, since the Concorde La Fayette, our hotel, has free WiFi. I wish we had thought to pack the GPS. Or maybe it wouldn't work over here. I think we would have had to buy maps. Probably worth it. At least I've got the iPad to help now. I think I can find anything on it that I could on a computer. Oh. It is a computer. It's so small and portable I almost forgot. The whole house is sleeping, and I'm sitting at the kitchen table posting a blog on my iPad. How sweet it is. Thank you, John. He thought it was a smart decision for my writing, and he's definitely be correct.
So as you are all heading into the end of your Friday, we're starting our Saturday here. Blessings to us all.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
When I Am Not Writing by Marcie Telander www.marcietelander.com
When I am not writing
I am sure that constellations, galaxies,
whole universes are
When I am not writing I starve
and the scent of forbidden
fruit, in the form of feasts,
fetishes, the phantasmagoria
are being served up
and devoured by others,
When I am not writing,
I always bore
When I am not writing
I am grieving—
I am the Orphan.
When I am not writing
my characters are
planning to run away
or worse, write me out of
When I am not writing
I can take time
to stare at my cat,
lie across my horse’s warm
make long slow hours of love,
with a real human being.
When I am not writing
I can actually listen to you,
and not be seduced by
the dialogue in my head.
When I am not writing I am
a devoted partner, a fabulous gardener
an ironer of sheets,
an arranger of flowers, a harvester of wild plants,
a dancer of tangos, a greedy reader of books,
a sultry singer of scat,
adventurous explorer, and peaceful, pausing
Madonna in the sun.
When I am not writing
I am glad, guilty,
clanking with envy—
I may drink too much, I rage—
I yearn, I feel divorced and
set free, at last! And--
I am always seeking
who left me last chapter, last
week, and is still,
if I am worthy,
waiting just around the
next parenthetical bend.
When I am not writing I am calm, still,
myself at last---
but, do not trust me for a second.
Deep inside there lurks the
desperate lover who
is ready to kill or die
for all those characters, voices,
terrible, wonderful relationships
should be born—
when at last,
Thursday, July 14, 2011
We've spent time with our youngest son, his beautiful wife and their children—our grandchildren. I got real giggles from Aiden when I called him a "cheap date" at the frozen yogurt store. We met up there for an evening treat. Grandpa decided to buy for everyone, but Aiden is only four months old. He didn't get any. He was happily watching everyone enjoying their choices when I told him he was a cheap date, and he must have thought that was the funniest thing I had ever said. Laughing babies are such a blessing. Granddaughters enjoying frozen desserts are, as well.
It was more fun with a cold delicious bowl than I ever remember having before. By the way, I chose banana with miniature Reece's Cups on the top. From my point of view, it was perfect. We went from there to Target, where we walked around and the girls got to pick out their new backpacks and lunch boxes. They both wanted the same ones, so Ruth is going to have fun making sure each girl gets the right bag and box when it's time to leave home. Maybe she'll put names on them. Disney Princess bags and Tinkerbell lunch boxes won the competition in both little hearts.
Yesterday morning the local theatre had a free showing of How to Train Your Dragon. Neither of the girls had ever been to a show in public before, although they watch movies at home with the family. They did beautifully. John and I joined them, and Ben bought a huge bag of popcorn to share. It was a movie John and I had seen before, but it was much more fun with the girls. I was amazed at just how respectful and quiet they were. Kate isn't three yet. Ashley is just four. I figured their first trip to the movies would entail some hushed whispering about behavior. It never needed to happen.
Some memories are worth more than gold. Near the end of the movie, when things were getting really exciting, Kate reached up and kissed my cheek. I looked over and she smiled at me. I held out my arms and she climbed on my lap for the last ten or so minutes of the film. It reminds me of that wonderful old hymn... "Precious memories, how they linger. How they ever flood my soul."
These moments have kept us sane. We return to the home where my mom is dealing with deterioration and dementia. My step father is not doing well. It appears he has had new small strokes that effect his balance, and he can no longer walk properly. He keeps falling and wants no one to help but her. She can no longer leave the house. He won't cooperate with anyone else. He barely eats. Doesn't want the walker. Refused assistance from the nurses (2) and physical therapist who have come to the house to help Mom.
It's been a nightmare for her, and an exercise in frustration and patience for us. We can keep her grocery list filled. I can change her bandage twice a day while she heals from her surgery. I make sure she's not spending her energy on cooking or clean-up. I can lend an ear and a shoulder to lean on. What needs most to be done is beyond me. I cannot make her see the need for him to be in a care facility. I can't show her how emotionally fragile she's become without upsetting her more.
Big brother to the rescue. We'll leave for home Sunday after church. Pat and his wife will arrive Sunday afternoon. Already I know we've stayed beyond what is wise. I run out of my medications five doses before arriving home. It's the seizure medication that worries me most. I'll call my neurologist today and see if he can phone in a small prescription to get us home. The blessing, all problems aside, is knowing Pat & Betty will be here to support Mom. You can get a clear image of them. Think salt of the earth.
We can head for home knowing Mom won't be left alone to make impossible decisions.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
If you try to explain something to them and go beyond two sentences, they cannot remember the first sentence when you get to sentence three. Neither do they care. Trying to have a serious discussion with someone who sits there grinning at you with a "talk to the hand" look on his face makes me want to scream and slap. You can't do that. It wouldn't help anyway. It wouldn't work with a two year old, and it wouldn't work with a 97 year old with dementia.
The current crises, and of course we're having one or I wouldn't be up at 5 a.m. writing, should be classified as, "I won't do that. People will think I'm old." Again, when you're 97, why would you care? Your years should be counted as memories or milestones, badges of honor. Not demerits. He's decided that he can't use a cane. Physical progression of age has determined that he cannot walk without it. He grips walls and furniture as he makes his way through the rooms. Walls work quite well. Furniture tips over, pulling him down and crashing on top of him.
He's a big guy, well over six feet tall. My mom is about five foot two. She can't pick him up. He refuses help from anyone else. He has fallen three times in the last two days. Each time he swears at my husband, who "must have pushed me." After all, it has to be someone's fault, and can't be his. He won't allow my big strapping husband to assist him from the floor. He wants my little mother to do it.
On Monday she'll call a visiting nurse. She's afraid to take him out of the house without the cane he refuses to use. She can't even continue sending him to the Senior Concerns adult day care center if he can't walk without falling.
We'll be here another five days. It's not enough. She refuses our offer to stay. She needs more support than a visit can provide. No wonder I'm not sleeping. There are no easy answers for a caretaker. Apparently there aren't any for a daughter who lives so far away, either.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I'm not sure how a person can live somewhere for over 35 years and never feel like that's where their roots are. It was home, but my heart wasn't in it. We had some wonderful years in California. Friends worth driving two days to see still live here and have never driven out to see us—yet. Sooner or later they will also retire, and travel will undoubtedly go both ways. It's beside the point.
What I'm trying to discern is my emotional distance from an area that holds so many ties for me. I have friends, relatives and a history here. I drive past the home where we lived from 1976 until 2006, and there isn't even a twinge of nostalgia. We raised three sons there, and I feel all the emotional impact imaginable when I think of them, but looking at that house that used to be our home? I feel nothing beyond what I would feel staring at an old piggy bank used to save up to buy what you really wanted.
We used to drive through Hidden Valley together, John and I, and he'd say, "Someday I want an acre of my own." Even then John felt about the suburbs the way I did. Now we have that acre and a little more. One of the things we first liked about the home we chose in 1976 was that it was at the end of a dead end road, turn right, and pass three vacant lots. They put the road through, made it a major traffic artery, and put homes so close together on all those vacant lots there were twice as many students in the classrooms at the local school.
Crowding, of course, combined with traffic is bad. Weather is something very few people complain about in Southern California. Except me. I always did. I think you have to have seasons. I don't like Summer to begin with. If I don't get a Winter to balance it, then I'm really cranky. If it's just one of four seasons, then I can deal with it (as long as I have air conditioning.) The rumor in Southern California is that it really doesn't get that hot, so you don't need a/c. Lies, I tell you—lies! You need it. My air conditioning system was about four showers a day and a fan in every room.
But...today my friend Sherrie (one of the people worth a 20 hour road trip to see) took me for a drive. We saw Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley. She drove me up Potrero Road, and we saw the old hills where John and I used to drive and dream together of our 'someday' acre. The beauty is still there. It was hot, but it's Summer, so it's probably hot at home, too. There was traffic, but there's traffic aplenty in Denver. I wouldn't be able to live in Denver, either.
As always, I come to a point where I know that I'm glad I came. Even though I never managed to grow roots here, so many wonderful people did, that part of my heart will always feel welcome to visit.