Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wide Open World

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to help lead the discussion about our most recent Book Club Book, Wide Open World.  By John Marshall, who won 8 Emmy awards as a tv producer, it is the true story of a six-month volunteer-cation with his wife and his two children.  Throughout the book, he describes not only the volunteering the family did but also the changing of relationships between family members.  Easy to read and flowing well, I enjoyed the book, but I am not sure it was really that great.

We did have some good discussions, however, about the place of volunteering in one's life, who gets the most out of volunteering, how volunteering changes lives, and in what ways the different people were affected by the volunteering.  The consensus seemed to be that in many ways, the volunteer usually benefits more from the activity than the organization itself, though that is not always the case.  It certainly changed the lives of the Marshall family, but in order not to give away the ending, I won't say how.

Two women in the group had read a book called Toxic Charity.  If we were to do it again, I would suggest reading both books.  Not enough of us had read Toxic Charity to really add to the discussion, but I think it would be a terrific discussion if the whole group had read both.

Would I recommend Wide Open World?  Well, I am not sure.  It was thought provoking, parts were funny, it was a fast read, and by the end, we knew the characters pretty well.  Would I lead a discussion on it again?  Sure, if I can do it with Ginny Marti.  She had such great ideas on how to spice up the presentation.  She came decked out with a monkey on her shoulder, reminiscent of one of the volunteer stories, and I had purchased monkey cookies for everyone.  It added a little humor to the evening.

So this book is not high on my favorites list, but it did give us something to think about.  And it was a good book for discussion.  If you are looking for a different perspective on volunteering, I think this would be a good one for you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fahrenheit 451

Somehow I got through high school and college without reading Fahrenheit 451.  It is hard for me to believe, as many that I know read it then.  But I did not.  I regret that, but on the other hand, I don't.  That way, when it assigned for our Book Club, it was all new for me.

I believe the book would have been lost on me in high school, whereas now I can really appreciate it.  Although it was written in the 1940's, it is very interesting how much of Ray Bradbury's vision has come to fruition, in some way.  Probably the description of the people who no longer think and are only interested in being happy struck me the most.  Somehow, that part seems to be coming true.  It is rather scary to think about.

And although I don't envision books being burned in the near future, Fahrenheit 451 is a fair warning to society that ideas and thoughts, thinking and discussing, are the ways to better society.  Here's hoping that this book continues to be taught and read . . . its message is too important to be lost.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Boxing, in a Weird Sort of Way

Last Friday (Oct. 23), a large box was delivered to our house.  It was from Bed Bath and Beyond, and it was big, big, big.  But I hadn't ordered anything from BB&B . . . 

I pulled it inside and noticed my name was on the tag - so it wasn't a error in delivery.  I opened it, and inside was a car seat.  A car seat?  And cushioning the box were smaller boxes with Kenneth's address on them  Huh?  Perplexing for sure.  I texted Kenneth to ask if he had sent me a car seat.  Nope.  I called Melinda.  Nope.

I pulled the car seat box out.  It was empty.  And there were other boxes underneath, accompanied by papers from the Tulsa World.  I called Melinda again, and she said that she had sent her dad to Lowe's to smash the boxes, and he said he did it.  Hm.  So that Chuck.  He played a trick on us.  Melinda agreed that he might do that, but it still seemed odd.

A phone call to Chuck came next.  "Hi, Chuck, would you like me to bring your boxes back to you?"

"What?  What boxes?"

"The ones you left on my porch."

"Karen, I do not have any idea what you are talking about."

I explained about the boxes, and he, too, agreed that he might play a trick like that, but this time, he didn't.  Eventually, we figured it out.  He took the large box in, and the manager told him to put it down and he would take care of it.  Since that office was near  Shipping/Receiving, we are pretty convinced the driver thought it was something to be shipped, and it was shipped back to me . . . newspapers and all.

Just when you think you have seen everything.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Come with Hope, Leave with Memories

Last Sunday, our Diocesan Bishop came to our church to confirm and baptize several adults.  His sermon I thought was particularly meaningful, and the one statement I remember from it is that we come with hope and leave with memories.  This applies both in literal birth and death, and in Christian birth and death.  His point, of course, was to make the most of our lives by giving what we can to the greatest number of people, being compassionate to those less fortunate than we, being loving to all.  Start with hope, leave with memories.  What a great way to live!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Food of San Antonio (New Mexico)

Did you know Conrad Hilton was born in San Antonio?  New Mexico, that is?  I didn't.  Apparently the state of Texas did not either, as they inducted him into the Texas Hall of Fame before they realized he was born in New Mexico, and I am told he is the only non-Texan in the Hall.  But I digress.

San Antonio is the closest town to the Fite Ranch and the Trinity Site, so that is where we ate.  As a little girl my dad took us to the Owl Bar, where people would pin dollar bills to the ceiling after writing their names on the bills.  They have cleaned the place up a bit, now not allowing writing on the bills and not allowing the dollars to be pinned to the ceiling but instead taped to the wall.  And now they donate the money to charity.  We went there on Saturday after going to the Trinity Site.  We were lucky.  A busload of children had just arrived, but they were ushered into a back dining room.  Just after, a table emptied that we could use, and then a huge line formed.  They opened another dining room, however, and everyone was happy!  Our group ordered Green Chile Cheeseburgers, which are the specialty of the house.  Within about ten minutes we were all served, and the hamburgers was as good as remembered - sloppy, sloppy, and as tasty as ever.

The first night we were in San Antonio we ate at the Buckhorn.  We knew nothing about it, but have since learned that the proprietor, Bobby Olguin, won one of Bobby Flay's Throwdown competitions.  Not knowing that, however, we went in.  A table was not available, but it wasn't long before a man in a black apron waved us back.  As we walked up he said, "I don't even know you but I hate you."  My sister said, "What?" And he said, "Not you.  I like you.  I just don't like them (Don and me)."  Well, I am a bit thin-skinned, and it really bothered me that he said that, even though he was probably kidding.  We sat down (perhaps we should have walked out), ordered, and I have to admit, the food was very good.  I still prefer the Owl Bar's hamburgers, but the Buckhorn's were pretty darned good.  The onion rings were not great, unfortunately.  After we ate, the proprietor (Bobby Olguin, who was the man in the black apron) came over and talked to us.  Turns out he used to teach in West Elk and Howard and his wife worked for a friend of mine in Howard.  Bobby chatted with us, told us a joke, and was generally very amiable.  Too bad he didn't start out that way  The first impression is still with me.

Finally, after our day at the Trinity Site and the VLA, we stopped in at the San Antonio General Store.  We heard they carry delicious homemade fudge, so Don and I decided that ice cream and fudge would make a good dinner.  We bought maple fudge and chocolate fudge, and we each had some ice cream.  The fudge was as good as advertised.  Much better than I have ever had from other fudge stores.  We would most definitely go back there again.

The moral of this story?  We ate at the only three food establishments in San Antonio, and they all have pretty tasty offerings.  I would not hesitate to recommend any of them . . . just make sure you aren't too thin-skinned! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


In 1997, I saw the movie Contact, and it impacted me in extraordinary ways.  It was filmed at the VLA, and when we found it being sold in the gift shop there, we bought it to show Katie and Teri Saturday night.

The first time I saw the movie, I thought it nicely completed the circle between religion and science. The movie cemented for me the concept of faith and how something doesn't necessarily have to be seen to exist.

When Katie, Teri, Don, Jordy, Nelson, and I all sat down to watch Contact, I was nervous about how Katie and Teri would like it.  I needn't have worried.  I had forgotten a lot about the movie, which reinterested me in it, and we particularly enjoyed seeing the places where we had just been hours before.

One part of the film that hit me this time but that I missed last time was when the instructions for building a machine did not include some features that the humans thought necessary.  The "alien" design was counterintuitive and the scientists felt they had to build it the safest way they knew how.  Jodie Foster's character wanted to build it as designed, and in the end she was right.  She listened for what was being said to her, even though she didn't understand it - much like Moses with the burning bush or Abraham and his son, Isaac.  How many times have we been conflicted and failed to listen intently enough for the answer?

The ending of the film struck me even more this time.  Perhaps because I am older, perhaps because I have seen God working in mysterious ways, perhaps my faith has grown . . . I don't know for sure . . . but the way Jodie Foster's character experiences something that she cannot prove nor can she explain helps me understand the nature of God.

Thankfully, Katie and Teri enjoyed the movie, too.  I think I will have to watch the movie again . . . who knows what else I might pick up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


As we were going to San Antonio, NM, I mentioned to Don that the VLA (Very Large Array) is only an hour away and perhaps we should consider going there after the Trinity Site and lunch at the Owl Bar.  Katie and Teri thought it was a good idea, so after lunch, off we went.

What we didn't know is that the VLA holds an open house on the same day as the Trinity Site.  As we drove up and saw many cars, we commented that we had no idea the VLA was that popular.  It isn't, except on free Open House day.  But lucky for us!

We were just in time for a walking tour, and luckily we took it.  Our tour guide, Prashant - a PhD student on a felllowship from the University of Capetown in South Africa - provided interesting commentary that we could all understand.  He could have gotten very technical, but he didn't, which made the tour fascinating.  As a part of the Open House, we were allowed into the control center that houses the huge collating super-computer.  It collects 312,000 bits of data every second or a terrabyte an hour.  That's 24 terrabytes a day x 363 days (they are closed on two days)  . . for 30 years and counting.

The VLA collects radio waves (versus visible waves or gamma rays).  By doing so, astronomers are given another view of the universe that completes what can be seen with visual telescopes. With radio waves, gases can be detected that are not seen any other way.  Since the VLA is a global project, scientists from all over the world can make a proposal for VLA time.  The collection of data is free to those who have earned array time, and one does not have to be an astronomer to use it.  But a proposal must be very strong to earn time.  Guess I won't be applying.

By the time we left, our heads were exploding from all of the information we had picked up at the Trinity Site and the VLA.  And we understand better both the technology of the past and of the future.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trinity Site

When we heard the Trinity Site Open House was to be on October 3, and we knew we were going to be in New Mexico, we altered our trip plans in order to attend.  We both have long been fascinated with the whole Manhattan Project, and this would be a way to perhaps complete the circle.

The morning started early for Bart, who had to leave Albuquerque by 5:30 to arrive in time.  Luckily we were staying at the Fite Ranch, just 10 miles away, so we didn't have to awaken until 6:00.  By 7:45, Katie, Teri, Don, Bart, Travis and I had assembled at the ranch and we were off.  The line to enter was astoundingly long, but we had taken the back road which put us ahead of many.  As we waited, I realized I had left my ID at the B&B.  Oops.  Fortunately, the guard took pity on me, and since everyone else had an ID, he decided I didn't look like a terrorist and let me in.

A 20-minute drive through the area and we were there.  We first opted to take a tour of the McDonald House, which is where the plutonium core was assembled.  Two hemispheres of plutonium were created from Uranium, and when they were ready, they were taken to the McDonald house.  The house itself is small, yet its story is huge.  After seeing the home, the swimming pool, and the barn, we went back to ground zero.

The Swimming Pool

There we learned what happened after the plutonium arrived on July 13.  The next day, presumably while the men in the house were working on the plutonium, the explosive assembly arrived from Los Alamos, and by that afternoon, all of the components were taken to the tower for final assembly.  By 5:00 p.m., July 14, the bomb was completely installed and ready.

It sat there for nearly 36 hours.  Yikes!  But on July 16, early in the morning, success.  Our family has a special story about that day.  The Tokay mine foreman was eating his breakfast when suddenly he saw a bright light and his plate-glass window in his front room shattered.  He called my grandfather and told him the windows in the mine had blown out, there was a bright light, and he didn't know what had happened.  It was only a few days later they found out what it was.

There isn't a lot to see at the Trinity Site, yet we were there over 2.5 hours.  The military was prepared for a large group of people, giving plenty of opportunities to stop and learn about Trinitite, purchase books about the Manhattan Project, or ask questions.  Signage along the fence line spread people out while providing interesting facts about the Atomic Bomb test.  Once we saw everything, we left - incredulous yet sober over the power and strength of this amazing weapon.

New Mexico Skies

,Kansas has beautiful sunrises and sunsets, no doubt.  And beautiful cloud formations, for sure.  But the sky is only infrequently bright blue - usually too much dust infiltrates the atmosphere.  But for some reason, the skies in New Mexico are beautifully blue - rich, dark, and gorgeous.  Pictures do not do them justice.

New Mexico also has beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  On Saturday morning, October 3, we were near Socorro, in the middle of the desert.  The bed and breakfast is by itself on acres and acres of land, with only the horizon in all directions.  When I took the pups outside, I was greeted by this sunrise:

Because this picture was taken on my iPad, the pink color is not as intense as it appeared, but with the creosote bushes in the yard, I thought it was beautiful.

As we drove to the Trinity Site, this landscape shot appeared:

I love the starkness of the desert highlighted by the brightness of the sun.  Mother Nature continues to amaze!

Fite Ranch

In 1918, my grandfather, Bartley Hoyt Kinney, founded a coal mine and he named it Tokay (from the name on a box of wine sitting in the corner).  Until 1949, that mine produced coal, but once the demand dwindled, the mine was closed down.  During that time, however, a town had built up that included a school, a store, and a bar.

South of Tokay, a man named Dean Fite owned a large ranch.  Not long after the mine was abandoned, Dean purchased the property, and it is now known as Fite Ranch.  In 2002, Linda and Dewey Brown purchased the ranch, and they turned what remained of Tokay into a B&B.  They live in the house my grandparents lived in (and my Aunt Ruth was born in), and the guests stay in what used to be the bachelor's quarters.  Sixteen rooms were made into four guest suites, each one roomy and well appointed.

This B&B is perfect for a person who wants total quiet.  Sitting outside in the morning, the only sounds emanating from the desert are the occasional bird chrips and coyote howls.  No cars, no planes, no television (though there is one in the room).  We would have liked to have time to explore the area a bit, but we had too much planned for the day.  Next time, we will leave ourselves a day to talk with Dewey and Linda and relearn some family history.  

There is more to do in the area than one would think.  And staying at the Fite Ranch is a great way to spend your extra time!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Green Thumbs

We visited Katie's house this weekend, and every time we go there, we are wowed by her gardens.  This year she and Teri were a part of a garden tour, so they changed a few things around. The ponds have been relocated, new plants were introduced, a lot of water (both from the sky and from the ground) was used, and even in September, the yard looked wonderful.  I wish I had the green thumb these women have!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Not a Coincidence . . . or is it?

I am not a believer in coincidence, or at least not most coincidences. Occurrences that could be construed as coincidence happen too often to me to always be that.  One such oddity occurred just this week.

Earlier this summer I began researching authors for our author dinner.  I had picked a few to check with, and when one had to decline I went back to the drawing board.  One of the authors looked promising, and I began to research his credentials.  Sounded really good.  Then I heard about another author, one with whom I had taught.  After reviewing his books, ultimately I decided the second fit better with our program.  I called him a week ago, and he accepted.  I decided that I would take the next year to get to know the other author in hopes that he could be a part of our 2017 group.

The Monday after I filled the position, our neighbor across the street came over to tell us that he had sold his house and he was moving.  We knew he had wanted to move back to the west side of town, so we were happy for him, but it is always scary when new neighbors move in.  We held our breath.

On Wednesday, the moving truck arrived.  It wasn't long before the wife met Don while he was waxing the rv, and I came out to meet her.  As we began to talk, she mentioned her husband, who is a history teacher at a local high school and who is an author.  When she told me their last name, I just said, "That is hilarious."  I am certainly going to have an opportunity to meet the other author, as he now lives across the street from us!  Coincidence or not?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mad as a Hornet

As we headed to Denver for an NFH convention and to see Katie, we stopped for lunch in Colby.  Just before Don started the RV we spied a wasp flying around my seat.  Yikes!  It landed on the front windshield where Don hit it with the flyswatter.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find it, and Don surmised that it fell into the defrost hole on the dash.  We could only hope it had died.

About an hour later, guess who surfaced?  Yep, straight out of the defrost vent near Don.  It rather surprised the driver, who was not real happy to have a wasp flying around his face.  At the time we were in the middle of road construction, so he couldn't even pull off, but gratefully we were toward the end of the construction and he was able to stop the rv.  He took aim, and . . . no luck.  Although it surprised the wasp, he just landed on the seat, undead.  Don hit him again.  No luck.  Took five or six more swats to make it so he couldn't fly, but he was still kicking when we grabbed him with a paper towel.  One tough wasp, for sure, but once dispatched we had no more!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Superman Is At It Again

Several years ago, we had a string of events occur where Don was in the right place at the right time. I don't think I was blogging then, but in short, he was instrumental in saving a man's life, he kept a hotel shuttle bus from rolling into a lake, and there was one other thing that I don't remember right now!  So I dubbed him Superman.

So yesterday at the tailgate, I noticed a large conflagration about four parking spots east of us.  The flames were about five feet high and growing.  Cars parked nearby were bailing quickly . . . it was not looking good.  I showed it to Don and asked him to go get one of our fire extinguishers.  He was a little hesitant to interfere, but I wasn't.  Someone needed to do something!  He got the extinguisher and was moving rather slowly, but with a little urging (ok, a lot of urging), he and his brother, Kevin, (a fire chief, by the way) ran up there and within about a minute, they had dispatched the fire.

The people had a turkey fryer, and the grease caught fire.  No wonder it was burning so badly.  Kevin said all they needed to do was put a lid on the fire, but I understand why they didn't.  I am sure they were only a little concerned about burning themselves up!  Anyway, when Don arrived and put it out, they were pretty relieved.  The fire department arrived about 5 minutes later with nothing to do but check it out.

Anyway, though in two of the instances I was the one who spotted the trouble but didn't have the presence of mind to do something myself, Don did . . . and once again he saved the day!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pressures of Parenting

I have been thinking the last few days about parenting and its challenges.  I always preached not overscheduling children, yet I was bad at it.  There were so many things to do and learn, I wanted them to experience it all.  So they played soccer and baseball and basketball, and they took piano lessons, and they did Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and 4-H, and they took a ceramics class . . . . and then they did school activities out the eyeballs, church activities, and once they were old enough KSU football.

When we were home, we always had laundry to do, a house to clean up, practicing and homework, and of course the family dinner, even if it was just Applebee's take-out.  It was always a relief to have a day off - such as MLK day, or even better, a snow day!

And now I find myself asking if I put too much pressure on them, if I didn't give them enough time to play and dream . . . High achievement, though very rewarding, also comes with a price.  I hope my kids will forgive me if I was too demanding, too strict, too intense.  A mother's love knows no bounds, and neither do their good intentions.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

East of Eden

I must have led a literarily deprived childhood.  Both of my parents were readers, though for Dad it was mostly newspapers and magazines, and for Mom the same and the popular book of the week.  I did read a lot, though I found myself thinking reading was a luxury I could not afford because there was always something I "had" to do.  So the older I got, the less I read.

In high school, I read the usual books - To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations . .  you know the books.  And then I tried to read a lot of those I "should" read - Wuthering Heights, Ivanhoe, Emma - but I didn't really understand them.  

Once I retired, I joined a book club, and as a result, began to read more.  And as I read more, I decided to begin to try to pick up a few classics along the way.  And it has been wonderful. 

Sometimes I think one needs to be older to enjoy many of the classics, though I know Diana would disagree.  The second time through on To Kill A Mockingbird was far more enriching.  And Jane Eyre?  I loved it, though when I began it as a teen, I was so scared at the ghost scene I did not go on.  Our book club reads one classic per year (this year we will do Anna Karenina, which is rather scary to me!), and I have tried to add one or two more per year.  East of Eden was a last-minute addition.

I think I know what turned me off to Steinbeck.  Travels with Charley.  I was so offended by his realism when I was a very naive eighth-grader that I put it up and never read anything else of his.  So when Kathy Dunlavy suggested I read East of Eden, I balked; but her recommendations have always been so spot-on, I decided to read it.  And I have to admit, I loved it.  I am glad I took the time to read it.  If you haven't, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The last night we were at the cabin, I took the pups for a walk.  Dusk was approaching, and the light was rapidly dimming.  As we walked up the road near the cabin, I looked up just in time to see a large bird leave the tree above me.  I wish I had been looking up, as if I had seen it, I would have stopped.  As it was, I watched to see where it landed, and although it took a few minutes for me to find it, I did.    Unfortunately, I couldn't just whip out my cell phone to call Don and had to go back to the cabin to get him.  He quickly put his telephoto lens on his camera, and we took the trek back up the road.

I was able to see him really well with the binoculars, and we decided that he is a juvenile Great Horned Owl.  Don got some really good pictures of him, but this one is one of our favorites!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mother Nature is At It Again

Earlier in the summer, I wrote about the yukky tent worms and how they had destroyed the leaves on an entire aspen grove.  The caterpillars were crawling on the road, falling on our head, and climbing on the car.  It was disgusting, and the aspen trees were not much liking it, either.

Well, six weeks later, and look what has happened.  As predicted, the leaves have come back, and the grove is as beautiful as ever!  Some of the trees still look a little peaked, but in general, they have recovered nicely.  Another sample of Mother Nature taking care of her creation.

Monday, August 17, 2015


August 16, 2015, is a special day.  Our little Caleb was welcomed into God's hands.  It was even more special because both sets of grandparents were there, as well as Kenneth's godparents, Kristen and Greg Hart and Kathy Gunter Davis.

Caleb was especially thoughtful throughout the entire church service.  He was enthralled by the music and the lights, and when Pastor Adam was baptzing him, he wore his "serious look."  He just sat in the pastor's arms, letting the water come off his head and back into the baptismal font.

The pastor took note of Caleb's shoes, and he made sure to mention that we were using a baptismal bowl from my side of the family.  My mom gave it to Diana in 1995, and she said that it had been used for six baptisms before her mother was born.  She didn't know if Brooks had been baptized with it, and she didn't know if she had, but Katie and I were, Kenneth and Diana were, and now Caleb is the 11th generation to be baptized with the bowl.  I think that, in and of itself, is pretty cool!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Let's Go On an Owl Hunt

We had heard there was an owl in our area at the cabin.  The Macphersons had seen it, and we were hoping to see it, too.

This morning, Don came inside about 6:45 a.m. to awaken me.  He knew I would want to hear what he was hearing.  Sure enough, as soon as I stepped outside, I heard the four hoots.  About 30 seconds later, we heard it again.  And again.  And then its mate.

We decided to see if we could find it.  As we climbed the mountain, we heard a loud screech.  At first we thought it was an owl, but it turned out to be a red-tailed hawk.  Big.  Loud.  Scary.

After traipsing around the hill for awhile, we heard the owl again.  We were getting closer, but we didnt know how close.  We had stopped to see if we could see it, but no, we couldn't.  Don began to go ahead, and suddenly, from just above us, the little guy flew away.  Well, he wasn't so little - raven-sized, I guess.

I know seeing an owl is not the most exciting thing to some, but to us, it is a big deal!  We had not had the opportunity to see one in the daylight, up close.  Fun times!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Chain Saw Therapy

When Don was working, he always looked forward to a day of chain saw therapy at the cabin.  It helped him get into the vacation mindset.  Although he no longer works, he still enjoys the chain saw, so when we saw that the electric company had cut down a few trees behind our cabin, he took the opportunity to pull the "I need some chain saw therapy" on me.

In two days, we managed to cut up one large tree.  The logs got a bit large for me to handle, so I didn't stack the last few, but between the two of us, and some supervision by Jordy and Nelson, we managed to put up a bit of firewood.  Now all that is left is the splitting when it is dry!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd

As a teen, I thought it was imperative that I read only classics, even though half the time I didn't know what I was reading.  I read Wuthering Heights, but remembered none of it except that it was dark.  I read Ivanhoe, but I only remember it had something to do with Knights. I started Emma but don't think I finished it.  And several books just sat on the shelves:  The Turn of the Screw, Far From the Madding Crowd, and Jane Eyre are just a few of them.  So when I saw that Far From the Madding Crowd was being made into a movie, I had to read it.

Diana told me she doesn't really like Thomas Hardy's writing, but she does like this book.  Well, that was encouraging.  But I started it anyway.

It wasn't long before it had me in its grasp.  It was not a book I could read quickly, but it was one I could read slowly and enjoy.  The descriptions were beautiful, and for once, I allowed myself to enjoy the way Hardy put words together.

What I didn't know until the end is that the book was written as a serial in a magazine.  Hence the number of short chapters.  I really enjoyed the shorter chapters - I could pick it up and read for a few minutes, and then get on with things.

The particular book I read was one Diana had used.  It contained many notes from each chapter that highlighted the numerous Biblical and literal references contained in the story.  I found it fun and helpful!

This is a book that is a pleasure to read, especially when one has time.  I highly recommend reading it, and now I can see the movie!  Hurray!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Elk Mountain

Every few years we take a trip to Elk Mountain, and this year, our friends, the Kings, joined us.  When  we go there we always find something new or different.  This year we found tent worms defoliating our favorite aspen forest,

a spring that has been dry for the last few times we have been there, 

and patches of snow, some of which ended up down Annelle's back!

The road itself was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and although my Fitbit logged about 10,000 extra steps and 400 flights of stairs that I did not walk, it was a relatively good ride!

The best part was when we got to the top of the mountain.  Rather than 45 mph winds that we usually experience up there, and threats of lightning and thunder, we encountered light breezes, warm temperatures (thankfully, since neither Don nor I had remembered a coat), and sunny skies. Although we may not have seen to Oklahoma, we might have . . . and we definitely could see Las Vegas and Hermit's Peak.

This was the first of many times the pups will be on the mountain, and since they love Annelle, a picture of the three of them is a reminder of the best part of the day - being with good friends!

Be Careful What You Wish For

Don and I had planned to come home from the cabin on July 8, Wednesday. I had been startled awake about 2:30 a.m. Thinking it was Don, I yelled, "Don, are you ok?"  He sat straight up in bed . . . yes, he was ok.  So we went downstairs to check on the dogs, and indeed, Jordy needed to go outside.  I took him, put him back in his kennel, and went back to bed.

We got up early to make sure we were ready to leave, and about 8:15, I put the laundry in the car.  Don accompanied me to the car, and he commented that he didn't want to go home.  "I feel like I did when I had to go to work."  We laughed at how hard it is to get ready to leave, and I backed out of the driveway.  As I headed down the hill, I realized, "Houston, we have a problem."

That's when it occurred to me it wasn't the dogs that awakened me.  Needless to say, our trip home was delayed.  Shucks!

Luckily, Don had the chain saw in the barn, and 45 minutes later, we had cleared the road so I could do the  laundry. But there was no way we would be able to leave. So we had a young man up the  road come help us, and with Annelle King, we cleared all of the limbs, cleaned the log in the stream, and carried the wood to the cabin.

For their help, we made chocolate chip cookies and learned to play Hand-and-Foot.  It was a great day after all!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Yukky Web Worms

In 2013, when we went to Alaska, we rode the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad from Chama, NM to Antonito, Colorado.  As we rode through the aspen groves, we noticed that most of the trees were leafless.  My cousin, Marci, explained that the web worms had taken hold and this was a yearly occurrence.

We thought we had escaped until last year, when we began to see web worms in our canyon.  This year, due to the rain, we did not have so many and thought we were good . . . until we went to Elk Mountain.  The two beautiful aspen groves up there were totally leafless, and web worms were everywhere.  I had thought all of the rain would take care of them . . . but apparently not.  It was a very depressing sight - our favorite aspen groves looking as if it were November.  I hope this rainy season will get rid of them.

A Closetful of Lady's Slippers

When we were at the cabin in May, I found several Lady's Slipper plants, but only one looked like it might bloom.  I was hoping it would open before we left, but that was not to be my luck.

When we returned on June 26, I went up to find it, and it was still yellow.  Since I had the dogs with me, I did not get close and the next morning, it had turned brown.  Dad gummit!

Over the weekend, Melissa and Angus MacPherson were walking with us, and Melissa told me she had run into a whole patch of Lady's Slippers up the hill. Later that day, I went exploring, and although it took me a few minutes to find it, lo and behold there were four still blooming . . . but there had been seven or eight more that had already bloomed!  For flower geeks like me, it was a thrilling find!  I will be keeping my eye on this little patch, hoping that every year, it will find a way to bloom en masse!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It is Just Too Weird

Sometimes things happen that are just too weird.  So far today we have had two of them . . . and it is still early.  First, Kenneth called, and he was telling his dad about the two bucks that he had just seen standing next to a cornfield.  Don mentioned that we had had two does at the cabin, and then he turned the phone over to me.  As I looked outside, I said to Kenneth, "Huh.  We have two big bucks outside the cabin."  We had not seen the bucks before, but now here they were.  Too weird.

Then we took a walk, and as we crossed the bridge below the cabin, Don saw what we think is a vole in the road.  It just sat there, puffed up and seemingly unhurt, as we approached it.  Using our "trash-picker-upper" Don touched its back, and he even tried to pick it up.  It never tried to run.  He put it down, and in about ten seconds, it slowly and then more rapidly scurried to the grass.  Really odd!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Green Green, It's Green They Say

And indeed it is.  Usually May and June are very dry months at the cabin.  It is hot (ish), very dry, and sometimes approaching miserable, though that is stretching it a bit.  This year, however, could not be farther from that.  With the exception of about a week, it has rained nearly every day, and the difference between when we were here over Memorial Day and now amazes us.

We first noticed it was crazy green when we drove into our driveway and the grass was "hood high."  Our Jeep is not a low-to-the-ground car, and when we saw the grass as tall as the hood, we were shocked.  Everywhere we went, we were met with chest-high grass, blooming flowers, and a beautifully high stream.

The day we arrived, we had just gotten unpacked when the rain unleashed on us.  Although less than a mile up they received a dash of rain, we received about 3/4 of an inch - enough to cause the mud to come down the mountain down from us.  Luckily cars could still ford the mud . . . 

Yesterday was the noisiest day I have had in a long time.  For about 6 hours, the clouds rumbled and growled, much like an upset stomach.  But we never saw lightning and it never rained, which was good as the land needs a little time to dry.  But it is already clouding up again, so we will see what happens today.  In the meantime, I will continue to channel the Christy Minstrels!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Little Swimmers

Melinda decided to introduce Caleb to the swimming pool at the ripe old age of three months.  No surprise there, as she is an avid swimmer and she wants her children to be comfortable in the water.  We were lucky to be able to catch one of the swimming "lessons."

Although Caleb appeared to be the youngest one there, he was one of the largest babies!  The sweet petite little girls, some as much as six months older, were splashing and playing . . . Caleb was just in awe of it all.

We did watch him go under the water, and although he seemed a little surprised, I think he liked it.

We are lucky to live close enough to Caleb to participate in some of his daily activities!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Invention of Wings

The book, The Invention of Wings, is a stunning historical fiction about an abolitionist and her efforts to help the slave population.  Sue Monk Kidd's research led her to the story, and her explanation of where she deviated from the truth makes the story even more alive for me.

The abolitionist, Sarah Grimke, and her sister are the daughters of a slaveowner and his purportedly cruel wife.  Very early in her young life, Sarah recognized the evils of slavery and began to try to remedy some of her family's behavior.  She found it to be very hard to change an institution, yet she continued to try to find a way.

Hetty, Sarah's handmaiden, also recognizes the evils of slavery and the impact it has had on the black population and her family.  Unfortunately, she is having to live it.

The book recounts the story first from Sarah's viewpoint and then from Hetty's.  She managed to capture Sarah's attempts to understand and truly feel what it must be like to be a slave; and she also captures Hetty's deep hatred for the slaveowners and her continued desire to be set free.

It is impossible for any of us to put ourselves in the shoes of the slaves, but this book is a good attempt to facilitate it.  A few parts of it are very hard to read - at least they were for me - but the book is so worth reading, skip those parts if you have to!

Baby Laughs

We had a very busy weekend, and in the midst of it all, Baby Caleb came to visit.  I did not get to spend much time with him, but Sunday, just before they left, I did get a chance to play with him.  It does not get better than this.

Symphony on the Flint Hills

I have always wanted to attend the Symphony on the Flint Hills, but until this year have been unable to do so.  Luckily, this year we were home and able to go.

The weather was not cooperating, however.  It had rained much of the day before, and predictions were not promising.  When we received the text at 9:30 a.m. that the concert was on, I was skeptical. It was cloudy, cloudy, cloudy, and when we left Wichita, it was raining.  But we had spent the money, so we went.

As we neared the Z-Bar Ranch, the skies were clearing.  We grabbed all of our paraphernalia - chairs, raincoats, water, food - and headed out.  Wouldn't you know, just as soon as we started walking, the sun came out, and it began to heat up.  By the time we reached the concert area, we were quite warm. But that was ok . . . the gorgeous scenery made up for it.

After we cooled down a bit, three of us went to some of the educational sessions.  I caught one about the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and since my sister, Katie, has actually been on a Lesser Prairie Chicken count, I knew a little about them.  It was a fascinating talk, and I learned a little about the Cimarron National Grasslands, by which we drive every time we go to the cabin.  Next time, we are going to take a little excursion and see what they have to show!

As the day went on, the more spectacular it became.  The green of the Flint Hills set against the blue sky - for miles and miles - is unmatched.  Some say Kansas is boring.  They haven't been to the Flint Hills.

By the time the music began, we were ready to sit and listen.  The guys had a little trouble staying awake, but after about 30 minutes, they got their second wind.  After intermission, fourteen wranglers gathered a herd of cattle and drove them past the crowd, a stirring sight for all.  Lyle Lovett then performed a few songs, and although I do not know his music, I enjoyed listening to it.

As we left, the sun dropped below a cloud, turning the entire area reddish orange.  It was a spectacular way to end a wonderful day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Is it already June?  Between the time we returned from Iceland to now, we have been on a treadmill.  And then before Memorial Day we went to the cabin, returning home today.

We missed most of the big rains, but we could certainly see the results of it all.  Going to New Mexico, we commented that Western Kansas has never looked so good.  There were so many yuccas blooming, it looked like New Mexico.  All the way through to the cabin, the areas were greener than we had ever seen.  Even Santa Fe into Albuquerque looked like the Flint Hills.

It seems impossible that June is already upon us.  I can tell I had better get ready - it won't be long until Christmas!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Different Looks of a Volcano

We had so many interesting views of the volcano and the landscape it created.  Enjoy!

Volcanic rocks covered with moss

Basalt columns

Basalt Blocks

A cave near the basalt.  They were filming a movie there.


Upon arriving in Iceland, we began to see pictures of trolls and elves.  They were everywhere.  Several articles alluded to the presence of little people on the island, some suggesting that one only needs to look at the hills to see them.

In an Icelandic booklet called What's On, this question-answer explanation appears in the April, 2015, edition:

"Icelanders believe in elves, trolls and other mystical beings.  Even science says so.  There was that one survey that showed more than half of Icelanders do!

Yeeeeaaahhh . . . listen, I read that survey, and the way they got to that number was basically asking 'is it impossible that elves exist' to which half the population would answer 'no.'  That's not the same as actively believing in them though.  I mean I don't believe in ghosts, but I don't want to find out I'm wrong, either!  It's not like the average person leaves out milk and honey at night for the elves."

Well, Don has proof of the existence of trolls on the island:

We also found where the trolls live:

We believe.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Wildlife of Iceland

Because Iceland was not inhabited until 800 AD, and it is a volcanic island, not much wildlife can live there.  A small number of reindeer live wild on the island.  There is little threat to them - the speed limits are low and they have no predators on the island.  For many years, no rodents lived there, no cats either.  That has changed, but not to a great degree.

There are more birds.  Not as many as other places, but some.  We saw hundreds of Graylag Geese, many Whooping Swans (didn't realize there was something other than Whooping Cranes and Whooping Cough), Oyster catchers, and lots of ducks.  We did not see any puffins (I am not certain they had come from the North Atlantic to land yet), but we saw plenty of gulls.  There were also some songbirds, but we could not identify them.

There were plenty of farm animals - sheep, cows, and horses.  I hear there are wild horses on the island, but we would not have known.  They all looked tame to us.  We saw many varieties of sheep - black, white, horned - but the horses are all the same.  They are the purest strain of horses in the world, and they have no diseases.  Once a horse leaves the island, it is not allowed to return; and the horses have never been bred with other horses.

Although the wildlife in Iceland is not particularly plentiful, we found it fun to observe those animals that are there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


We did not see many large or old churches.  Most of them were family churches, such as that at Hoffstedir, where the priest is there five times a year.

Many have been torn down and rebuilt, making their structures much more modern.

The most impressive church we saw was in Reykjavik, which dominates the skyline.  It took 70 years to build, and one can climb to the top of the tower.  Unfortunately, it was closed when we were available to do so.  Nevertheless, it is an impressive building.

The statue in front of the cathedral is of Leifur Ericsson, the famous Viking.

And not so Leif Ericsson
This was one of the prettier churches in the area, with its stained glass.

The settings of these two are spectacular!

Saturday, April 25, 2015


As we were flying home, we were able to get a view of Greenland and the Arctic Ocean (of the Hudson Bay - not sure which).  It is still winter in this part of the world!

And Don wanted me to include one last picture of the Northern Lights.