Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day 2011

Happy Father's Day to my dad, "Nick the Stick" - in addition to being an attorney, Dad has been the municipal judge in our hometown for the last 20 years, and that was Rob's suggestion for his campaign slogan. It didn't make it on the campaign flyers, of course, but it has become one of the many affectionate nicknames that we kids have called him over the years. We love you, Dad.

United States Navy, 1960

Dad and me, 1972

Dad and me 1996

Dad and youngest grandson, Henry, 2011


This weekend we said our goodbyes to Uncle Chuck, my favorite uncle, who was a wonderful man, father, grandfather, and husband. Jace and I traveled to northern Iowa for the funeral. It was a bittersweet trip, such a sad reason to travel there, but wonderful to see my aunt and my cousins and their families, and spend some time together remembering Uncle Chuck.

Here is one of my favorite pictures of Aunt Mary and Uncle Chuck, taken about 10 years ago:

Aunt Mary is my mother's sister, and she has remained a part of our lives since our mother passed away, almost thirty years ago now. Some of my favorite summer memories were at Aunt Mary and Uncle Chuck's home in Cedar Falls. We went to visit her for several summers growing up, and this weekend we had a chance to remember all of those things - blueberry pancakes in the mornings, long rides on the bicycle trails, and getting to see our older cousins, Mike and Laura. They were several years older, and already in high school and college when we visited in the summers - I reminded Mike this weekend how he always used to affectionately call us "rugrats" and give us piggyback rides!

Now Mike has a college-age daughter of his own, Emily - it had been several years since I'd seen her, and she has grown into a beautiful young woman, getting ready to start college at University of Iowa in the fall.

Emily and Eva!

Here's Susan and our nephew, Henry, with Mike's wife, Kathleen. Somehow I didn't end up with any pictures of our cousin, Laura - but she is as beautiful as ever, and is married to Matt, with two adorable sons, Michael (8) and Andrew (6).

Of course I did manage to get all kinds of photos of the kids over our two day visit; the older boys stayed busy playing games, swimming, and wrestling in Aunt Mary's back yard.

Cousins - Isaac, Andrew, Payton, Jace, Landon and Michael

The younger cousins had plenty of fun of their own, although they didn't try to keep up with the big kids. Aunt Mary and Uncle Chuck's church had a lunch in their parrish family center after the funeral mass, and the Sam and Eva enjoyed climbing the bleacher steps, while Isaac made his rounds visiting everyone.

I was so glad to have made the trip, and that Jace could go with me to see Aunt Mary again, after many years, and to meet Mike, Laura and their families. Aunt Mary and I have communicated by letters and email over the last several years, but I wish that I had made the time to travel and see them. Mike and I talked about this very thing, as we visited on Thursday night - how busy we all are, and that we don't have or make the time to keep up with our families.

This weekend served as a reminder to me that some of the best times I had as a child were spent with my siblings, cousins and family. Today, on Father's Day, I'm thankful for my immediate and extended family, and resolving to make the time to stay in contact, and keep building those memories for myself, and for Jace.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good Fortune

Summer time is lake time, here in southwest Missouri. Some of my favorite times in the past few years have been with Dave, our kids, and the friends we have made at the lake. We still keep in touch with many of our lake friends, and have been down to the dock to visit a couple of times already this year. And while we love to see them, it also really makes us ready to get our own boat out of storage and get back in the water!

Dave has done an amazing job of tracking our finances each month, and we've both been pretty good about making sure we're staying within budget, so we're definitely getting closer to being able to get it out of storage. That Dave Ramsey, he's kept us on the straight and narrow - a great thing, even if we have missed our boat for the past two years.

A couple of Saturdays ago Dave, Jace and I had lunch at Leong's Asian Diner (I would recommend it, for any of you who live here - a little more expensive than other Chinese takeout, but worth the extra money in my opinion - scrumptious pork fried rice!) We were getting ready to drive to the lake to see Chris and Jana, and some other friends on the dock.

While we waited for our food, Dave took the iPad out, giving me a quick update on paper where we were time-wise with our finances, and we were discussing what we would need to do on the boat to get it back out. Painting the bottom will be the biggest expense, but it needs to be done, and the smart decision would obviously be to do it before we put it back in the water.

We grabbed our fortune cookies on the way out of the restaurant, jumped in the car, and headed south to the lake. Jace and Dave's were pretty typical fortunes, something nebulous about luck or admiration. But mine - now, mine is truly the real thing. Don't you agree??

Unfortunately, we can't live our lives by the cookie's fortune, so this weekend didn't find us at the lake in our boat. But perhaps we will be back on Banana Pancakes by next summer, enjoying the sunny days on the water.

This weekend we had a couple of projects here at home, although the pending rain has kept us from completing the bigger of the two. Dave powerwashed the back deck on Friday, and it is ready to stain, when the weather cooperates. So we opted to start remulching the flower beds yesterday, putting fresh cedar mulch after spreading a weed deterrent. It did rain last night and this morning, so we were glad that we didn't start on the deck. Today we'll hopefully be able to finish the flower beds, and maybe grill out tonight.

Speaking of today, happy 32nd birthday to Tara, the youngest of my sisters!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My sis Tara and her hubby Luke serve as my “blogging barometer” for when I’ve gone too long between blog posts. Every once in awhile I’ll get an email/text from one of them, saying that they are “just checking in to make sure all is ok, haven’t heard anything from you in awhile”… And they don’t mean that I haven’t called/emailed them personally – they mean that my blog has sat silent, day after day after day. True to form (and much appreciated- thanks, guys!), I heard from them about almost two weeks ago, and it has taken me this long to sit down and catch up.

Life has been busy as always; however things are quickly put into perspective when a tragedy happens. Things hit close to home, literally, when a record-breaking F5 tornado swept through nearby Joplin, MO a week ago Sunday. I had a highschool friend who huddled with her family in their basement bathroom while the tornado swept her entire home away. Thankfully they are all okay, although it is hard to fathom the journey that they, and so many others in Joplin, have in front of them as they start to rebuild from literally nothing.

I went with a work friend to Joplin on Sunday, to volunteer with a local church that was coordinating clean-up in neighborhoods. We arrived Sunday about 10 AM, and sat through a brief orientation with about 40 people; we were the only ones in the group who were from Springfield - the rest of the people were from St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Kansas, and even Austin, Texas. It was touching that so many people traveled hours to come and help. The coordinator said that they had had counted over 3,000 volunteers come through their church alone over the week, and expected that it would be 5,000 by the time the Memorial Day weekend was over.

As we drove from the church to the neighborhood that we had been assigned, it was hard to even process what we were seeing. Everything looked normal for the first mile or so, as we headed down one of the main streets. Then within just a few blocks it was a stark contrast - trees were stripped down to little more than jagged stumps, houses were just piles of rubble, and cars were smashed, almost all marked with a red "X" to show that they had been checked for survivors. The neighborhood where we worked was demolished - most houses in the two blocks where we were had one or two walls left standing, but the roofs and majority of the structures were in piles in the yards.

We spent several hours helping sort through one couple's property in the neighborhood. The man was disabled from a stroke, and fortunately neither he nor his wife had been home when the tornado hit. They had already spent some time gathering personal items that they could salvage, and now they had about 30 volunteers who helped to carry the wood, metal, stone, and other items into piles on the side of the street for FEMA to come through and pick up. The picture below is their home - the volunteer in the yellow shirt is standing where their kitchen was, behind her (out of the picture) is one wall with some shelves, but the remainder of cabinets and all the contents were in the rubble, covered with wood, tree limbs, metal and other debris.

We worked for almost four hours on this and my friend and I commented that it still didn't feel like we had really accomplished anything, looking at their yard and all of the yards around them. It was so sad, but also uplifting, to see and hear about the numbers of people that have come together to help during all of this. I came home sunburned and tired, but glad I had made the trip to help for just a few hours.

While my Sunday was spent in Joplin, the remainder of my weekend was spent with family and friends - and I have to say that on Monday, I was especially grateful for each of them, after seeing all of the devastation in Joplin.

Paige, Neil and his girlfriend all went with us down to the lake on Saturday to see some friends on the dock and then go to dinner at Chris & Jana's bar & grill, Fish Tales. Then Monday afternoon Dave made a late lunch for us and all three kids, in celebration of Paige's 20th birthday and Neil's 17th birthday, both of which are in May.

Everything else has been pretty status quo, although busy. Paige is in school this summer for eight weeks, has a research grant; we were glad she could make it home for the holiday weekend. As of tomorrow, Jace is done with school (Neil's already out) and we'll have plenty of baseball this summer. Looking forward to heading to Poplar Bluff for the 4th with grandparents and family, AND heading to STL for a Cards game in a couple of weeks.