Monday, November 13, 2017

Forest Friends

It is funny how sometimes things just happen perfectly.  I needed one of those times . . . and this weekend I got it.

When Kenneth and Diana were little, Don went on a perpetual quest to find a game called Forest Friends.  He and his brothers played it until the spinner pad had been wiped of its images, and he knew it would be a good game for our little ones to play.  But alas, we never could find it.

Two weeks ago we were in a toy store looking for a gift for Caleb.  They did not have our desired gift, so we began to look at games.  Indeed Candyland and Chutes and Ladders were there . . . but not Forest Friends.  Phooey.

With Don's birthday upcoming, I decided I would try to find Forest Friends.  An initial attempt came up with a few games, but I was not going to spend $40 for one.  So I went to EBAY.  Amazingly, several choices came up, and I was able to acquire a nice, barely used version for much less!

Within a few days, the game arrived in the mail.  Using some ultra-swift, sneak techniques, I managed to keep the emails hidden, the wrapped game under "wraps," and the game a secret until Sunday, when Caleb gave Papa an early birthday gift.  He helped Don unwrap it, and within about 5 minutes, they were playing it.  Caleb caught on quickly, and it became the game of the day.

Don was thrilled with having a fun memory of his times as a child . . . and the best thing is we got to leave it in Kansas City!

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Our summer read for our book club was Barkskins, by Annie Proulx.  It is a lengthy tome (though not as bad as Anna Karenina or Atlas Shrugged) about the lumber industry in colonial times.  The brutality of the colonials, the prejudice toward the Native Americans, the lack of concern about the wanton pillage of the forests depressed me to no end, but I could not quit reading the book.  Proulx's writing kept the story interesting, and her descriptions were beautiful.  It was not hard to visualize the beauty and mass of the forests, the cruelty of the masters, the arrogance of the colonials . . . all of it, yet the book ended with a spark of hope.  I had read a review in Oprah and she highly recommended Bearskins.  At first I wasn't so sure, but after reading it, I recommend it, too.

Into Every Life Some Rain Must Fall

Many years ago - maybe 1982 - Liz McClure, the mother of two of our students, was talking about her daughter who had passed away.  I expressed my condolences, and I will never forget her comment to me . . . "Karen, into every life some rain must fall."

Don and I, Kenneth and Diana, Melinda and her family . . . we have all led charmed lives.  We still do .  But this year the realities of life have hit us in more ways than I can count.

Have there been good things?  Of course.  We had a wonderful trip to Spain, the cabin addition is awesome, CJ and Kara were married, little Mia joined our family.  Unfortunately little Mia's challenges have kept us on our toes, and they are not over yet.  Combined with the break-up of several relationships, the death of our 20-year-old godson, and illness among several of my friends, I am ready for the rain to lighten up.  I am beginning to feel like I need an Ark.

It is times like this that I remember the poem about the footsteps in the sand.  When there is only one set of prints, God reminds us that He is carrying us.  His one promise to us is that He will not abandon us, and this string of difficult times has certainly been proof of that.

We will continue to plug forward, knowing that we have great support from our family, friends, and God.  That is the best we can do.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I started this post in May.  Don had gone to the cabin on my birthday, but I had stayed home, waiting for Baby Mia.  She was supposed to be born about May 19, but I just knew she would be early - second babies usually are.  But every appointment I had made prior to May 19 were met, and I did get to go to Chase's graduation, which was great fun.

In the meantime, I cleaned the basement, painted some dried gourds, went to art class, had lunches, got ready to go (my suitcase was packed for the weather of mid-May, which was cool.  By the time I left, it was no longer cool . . . but I didn't change out the clothes.  Oops!), but still no baby.

Finally, on May 28, I was asked to come to Kansas City.  They thought the time was approaching, so after church, I headed out.  Melinda was having some contractions, but she didn't think they were that bad.  Through the night, and most of the next day, she was in labor.  Kenneth, Caleb and I played and had fun . . . though Kenneth was making sure Melinda was as comfortable as she could be.  Finally at 4:50 on May 29, she decided to head to the hospital . . . and Baby Mia arrived at 6:00.  Phew - barely made it! The wait was over.

Where did April . . . and May go?

Holy toledo!  It is already May . . . and between a trip to the cabin after returning from Spain, Easter, and another trip to the cabin, we lost a month, or at least it seems as if we did.

Construction on the new cabin addition began just after Easter, and they are moving along.  We discovered that this project is long overdue.  We discovered numerous rotten places in the bathroom walls, quite a few places where mice or bigger varmits could get in, and some interesting "old-time" plumbing.

Pictures will be posted along the way, but suffice it to say, this is one project that will be a terrific upgrade!

. . . and where did May go?  Between cabin construction and the birth of baby  Mia . . . well, it is now towards the end of June.  I have a lot of catching up to do . . . and I will . . . soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow

Two people recommended this book to me, both extolling the exquisite writing.  I decided it would be my next read.

As I began the book, I could not figure out why these two loved the book so much.  Yes, the writing was beautiful, but it seemed so slow and pointless.  But something made me continue.

And yes, I am very glad I read it.  Now mind you, I did not find it to be an exciting read.  Not a page-turner.  Yet at the end, it was a satisfying read.

This author, Amor Towles, very cleverly puts together a story about a Russian man who is exiled for the rest of his life in an upscale hotel in Moscow.  Just that fact is rather interesting, but what he does with his time there and the people he meets along the way, create the crux of the story.  Except . . . a little mystery weaves its way into the plot, and the author drops small bread crumbs at chosen times to remind the reader that all is not as it seems.

The unexpected ending took me by surprise, but as I consider it, I don't know that it could have or should have ended differently.

I prefer books that move along a little faster than this one, but as I get further from it, I realize how skillful the author is and how much I really did enjoy this book.  I am going to try his other one, just to see if he is as masterful in it as he was in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

El Escorial

On Sunday in Madrid (after the Prado but before the Escher) we went to The Escorial.  Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside.

El Escorial was both the Royal Palace of Spain and also a monastery.  It is now a monastery and tourist site.  When we first arrived, we were able to see the gardens of the royalty.

We were allowed to take pictures of the outside courtyard, as well.  The wind was whipping, so it was difficult to even hold the camera still!  This is the Plaza of the Kings, which has statues of saints throughout.

The Basilica and it altarpiece were stunning, but my favorite was the library.  On the ceiling are representations of the liberal arts.  My favorite was the one representing grammar:  the woman was holding a whip to use on those who used incorrect grammar!  In the basement are two Pantheons:  the Pantheon of the Kings and the Pantheon of the Princes.  All were marvelously decorated tombs of past rulers and their children.

Finally was the Hall of Battles.  In the hall is a long mural depicting a number of battles from medieval times.  It is supposed to be one of the most accurate depictions of the way battles were held.  We found them fascinating.

After we went through the palace, we went across the street to a delightful small bar.  There we had a lovely lunch, complete with creme brûlée and a chocolate cake!  Afterwards, the wind that had been whipping turned into a rainstorm, the likes of which reminded us of home.  The temperature plummeted, the rain was falling horizontally, and we had to run all the way across the large entrance. We were glad to get inside the store.

El Escorial is about an hour's drive from Madrid.  If we had had time, we would have visited the Valley of the Fallen, but we did not.  I think it would have been very depressing.

On the trip back to Madrid, we drove by these lovely little fields.  The rock walls enthralled us.