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Girls getaway 2017

I spent time last week with a group of women I love and admire so much. Each year (or as close to annually as we can get), a group of cousins and I take my beloved Aunt Robbie on a little shopping / eating / laughing excursion.

This year, we were on a mission to find my auntie an outfit for her son’s wedding. His beautiful bride-to-be is the tall blond standing by my auntie in the center of the photo (which is from last year’s getaway because we all forgot to snap a photo this year!)

My gracious, but it was hot! At one point, the temperature reading in my car said it was 114 degrees! It was a good thing we spent most of our time inside the mall or the hotel.

We had such fun shopping, laughing with and at each other (thanks for the Malibu Barbie comment, Nanc!), and just enjoying the company – and food! There was plenty of good food, too!

I always look forward to our getaways (which are rarely in the same place two years in a row), because they give me a chance to relax, unwind, and have my heart filled by those fabulous ladies.

On my way home, I stopped to visit my parents. My dad has been wanting me to go with him to my brother’s place and look through some “old stuff” he has stored out there. It just so happened that my brother also had a bunch of blackberry bushes ripe for the picking.

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The bushes were sprawled for yards and yards along the ditch near the canal. My other brother met us there and then, covered in long-sleeved shirts and wearing gloves, we started picking. These blackberries were definitely not the thornless variety. In fact, I’ve still got so many little thorns in my fingers, I’m not certain I’ll ever get them all out (and yes, that was with me wearing gloves!)

It was sweltering, but we picked away.  At one point, my brother assured me the best picking was down a steep bank that had no trail, just loose dirt and rocks the size of bread loaves and thistles. So I went down the bank after him and I looked back to see my octogenarian dad trailing us. Assured he made it to the bottom fine, my dad and I got into a system of him pruning back the sprawling blackberry canes while I picked.

When we finished that area and it was time to climb up the bank, I watched as my dad scrambled up that bank like a mountain goat… then he turned around and gave me a hand up. I was amazed that he still runs circles around all of us.

My mom and oldest brother were working on a section of berries right off the canal road bank. Dad went to help them while I settled in to pick a thick patch of berries, fully expecting something to slither out of the bushes at any moment since my brothers were trading rattlesnake stories.

I bent down to pick a bunch of berries and suddenly felt something prick my back. Nothing rattled or hissed, so I straightened and the pricking and poking painfully increased. I dropped the berries in my hand into the bucket at my feet then reached back, trying to figure out what was attacking me. I felt nothing on the outside of the shirt I’d borrowed from Dad. But I could certainly feel it inside.

Trying to decide if a wasp or bee had somehow climbed inside for a ride, I tugged off the long sleeve shirt then flapped the back of my T-shirt, hoping whatever it was would  go away.

By this time, I’m fairly certain I looked like a dog chasing its tail as I spun in a circle, yanked on the back of my shirt and desperately wished the pain would stop. I finally caught the evil perpetrator – a foot-long piece of dried-up blackberry cane with thorns about an inch long covering it. It had gotten tangled in my T-shirt and every time I moved, it poked and scratched.

I tossed it down and glared at the four family members who had completely ignored my shenanigans. Reluctantly, I pulled my borrowed shirt back on and returned to picking berries.

Although the cobbler I made with the berries turned out quite tasty, I told Captain Cavedweller he better enjoy it because I’m not too keen on another blackberry picking expedition.

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Mom and Dad 68th anniversary

Yesterday, Mom and Dad celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. (Wow, right?!?)

A few weeks ago, my dad called and asked what I was doing on August 5th. Well aware of what day it was, I played dumb and asked him what he had in mind. He wanted to go for a drive and meet Captain Cavedweller and me halfway between our two homes (which is about three hours).

My oldest brother and sister-in-law drove Mom and Dad to a little town about an hour from where they live and we met them there for lunch.  It was so nice to see them and be able to celebrate their special day with them. I tried to get them to tell me when and how dad proposed, but they both claim they don’t remember. I might have to do a little more digging to see if I can get the story out of them.

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I may not know how he proposed or when or where, but I do know they spent their honeymoon camping (which would be my idea of torture!) Here they are at the campsite. I have no idea who took the photo of them, but Dad sure looks like he’s having a great time.

Before we left to meet them yesterday, I was digging around through some old photos and came across a postcard a cousin had given me.

Back in 1949, after they graduated from high school, my dad went on two deployments with the Naval Reserve. One of them was to Alaska, the other to Hawaii.

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Wasn’t he handsome in his uniform!

Anyway, Dad sent a postcard in August to his oldest sister, who was by then married. The postcard showed a photograph of the garden at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel – and it was Kodachrome, a full-color image! The postcard had no address on it, just the town and state where they lived and it was written in pencil – but the words are still crisp and clear even 69 years later!

On the back, Dad had written:

Hi Sis and Hub,

Well, here I am in Honolulu, Hawaii, 3,000 miles from home and my girl, but it is worth it. This is the most beautiful place I ever saw. 

See ya’ 

I thought it was so cute he mentioned Mom and was thinking of her even then.  He did bring her back a few treasures.

Mom and Aunt Rob grass skirt

Including this grass skirt outfit.  Love mom’s beautiful smile. The grinning girl on the steps wearing the Hawaiian Island t-shirt (most likely a gift from dad) is dad’s sister, my beloved Aunt Robbie.

I just loved this little peek into their courting days.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Here’s to more wonderful years together.

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On our drive home from Reno a few weeks ago, Captain Cavedweller and I made a side trip so we could see the Painted Hills in Central Oregon.

We’d driven past them before, but we hadn’t taken time to stop and really take some photos. I thought I’d share some of them with you today.

The Painted Hills are one one of three units that comprise the John Day Fossil Beds. I did a post a few years ago about the John Day Fossil Beds here.

Maintained by the National Park Service, there are three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds: Clarno, Painted Hills and Sheep Rock.

In the Sheep Rock Unit you’ll not only find great places to hike on trails and take in unbelievable views, you’ll also discover the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and The James Cant Ranch.

Many people don’t know that most of Oregon was once like a tropical rain forest. The Paleontology Center takes visitors through 40 million years of history through a collection of fossil specimens and large murals that are incredibly informative and interesting.

The Sheep Rock Unit isn’t too far from the Painted Hills unit.

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The Painted Hills are a few miles off the highway, but easy to get to.

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I love old rock cribs!

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Aren’t the colors amazing?

 

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This one almost makes me think of ancient fingers or toes spread out. (I know I’m weird!)

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I wonder what the pioneers who traveled through this area thought of the colored hills.

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I bet they found them just as fascinating as we do today.

 

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If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Painted Hills, make the trip and the time. It’s worth it!

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When Captain Cavedweller and I were in Reno for the RT Convention a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos.

I thought I’d share some of them with you today, just for fun.

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We stayed at the Peppermill Resort. It was a lovely property with very nice rooms and plenty of places to eat and hang out.

One day, we ventured to Virginia City. If it hadn’t been freezing outside and pouring down buckets of rain, I would have taken oodles of photos.

On the way there, we saw a few of these signs.

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We’re used to seeing signs with cattle and deer, but horses was new. And so awesome. We actually saw two groups of wild horses on our drive to Virginia City. Drat the rain. If it had been a clear day, I would have snapped a bunch of photos. (Part of reluctance to get out of the vehicle was the fact it was so cold and we hadn’t brought coats… it was May and supposed to be warm!).

We arrived in Virginia City where it went from pouring rain to a complete deluge. Seriously, I haven’t seen it rain that hard in a while. We wandered through a few stores, spent a small fortune on two glass bottles of pop, then grabbed some lunch.

In need of somewhere warm and dry to hang out for a while, we went to an old school house turned into a marvelous museum. The Historic Fourth Ward School is offers a glimpse into not only the school’s past, but also that of the area, especially the mines.

One room had several photos of miners. I was quite disturbed to see so many children working in the mines.

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But the photo of the brash lad with a cigar left me utterly unsettled and so longing to know his story.

On our way back from Virginia City, the temperature dropped, it started to snow, mudslides dumped rocks all over the road (one of which we hit) and blew out a tire. If it wasn’t for a super helpful state trooper, one of us might have died of frostbite before the other one got the tire fixed. Did I mentioned we were on an incline?

We did make it back to the hotel in time for the event I had that evening. Whew!

Another day, we decided to take a drive (after CC purchased a new tire and got the spare back in place) to Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had seen it before.

I think the best way to sum it up is this:

Wow!

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We drove from Reno to Carson City then headed north around the lake.

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The blues were so intense and gorgeous.

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And it was a beautiful day for a drive.

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It really was quite spectacular to see.

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We drove to Incline Village and wandered around the visitor’s center a bit. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs before we made the drive back to Reno.

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I think we took more photos of the two of us together that week than we have in the past year (or three).

One big, exciting evening was the night of the RT Book Awards.

Garden of Her Heart received the RT Review Source Award. While I was super excited about my book being chosen for the award, I was a lot less excited about getting up on stage and giving a speech. Even if the speech was brief, it felt like it lasted half of eternity.  (That’s actress Meg Tilly in the background. She was one of the emcees.)

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So here I am giving my little speech. Introverts really aren’t genetically programmed to enjoy this type of thing.

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And here is my beautiful award that I’m so incredibly honored to have received.

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Girl  reading a book

I spent many, many hours during my childhood shadowing my dad’s every move on our farm or trying to squirm out of learning the “domestic skills” my mother deemed necessary for my future existence.

But I also spent hours on fantastic adventures I took through books. I’ve always, always loved to read. That love, coupled with my fertile imagination, has allowed me to traveled around the world and across time. I’ve soaked up the sun on Pacific islands, trudged through dark forests, smelled the spices of exotic lands, and ridden fire-breathing dragons all through wonderfully written stories.

And while I still love to take adventures through the books I read, I also love to write stories that take readers on a journey.  My active imagination is rarely quiet, always thinking of something new and exciting.

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Recently, I’ve been thinking about imaginations and how important they are.

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I think as we grow older, we tend to imagine and dream less because we have so much reality to handle every day. That’s why I think it’s so important to keep on dreaming, keep on imagining, keep on laughing!

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The world truly is a canvas for our imaginations. We can paint any color, shape, pattern or design we like. All we have to do is pick up the brush (imagination) and get started.

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Imaginations can take us anywhere we want to go. Anywhere.

With virtual reality becoming a tangible thing, I hope we never lose the ability to stare up at the stars and get lost in our imaginations.

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May you always find at least a few stolen moments to let your imagination run wild.

 

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This is the time of year when I like to sort through cupboards, closets and drawers, purging things I no longer use, need, or want.

Every year, I find myself hanging on to stuff I don’t really like for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was a gift (but isn’t my taste or style). Maybe it’s something “too nice” to get rid of. It could even be something I bought on sale and never used. (Yes, that does happen).

Have you ever walked into a room in your house and looked at something and experienced an instantaneous thought of “I don’t like that” followed by “but, (fill in the blank with a name of a relative who gives hideous gifts) gave it to me so I have to keep it.”

You don’t. You really, really don’t. If the item makes you frown instead of smile, time to put it in a box and donate it or add it to things you’re saving for your next yard sale.

When I find myself staring at an item and realizing it’s just taking up useless space, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Does it bring me joy?
  2. Does it have a sentimental value?
  3. Is it useful?

If it doesn’t meet at least one of those criteria, out it goes. Last year, I took fourteen boxes of stuff to our local Goodwill center. And although I haven’t really done much sorting yet this year, I already have half a dozen boxes of assorted stuff ready to donate.

My point of all this rambling today is that when we give ourselves permission to let go of things that don’t bring us joy, we make more room in our lives (hearts, minds, and souls) for the things that do.

One of the hardest areas for me to purge is my closet. (Anyone else have that trouble. Let’s see a show of hands!)

Here’s a super helpful chart I’ve used before (and will again) to keep my closet from overflowing.

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Happy sorting and purging. May it bring you joy to clear out some of the clutter (I know I’ll be working on that this week!)

Oh, and when you ask yourself those three questions, they do not apply to immediate family members! 😉

 

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This week is National FFA Week. (And for those who don’t know – that’s Future Farmers of America).

ffa_logo_99x126The celebration means a little more to us this year. You see, my niece, Jessie, was very active in FFA all through high school and she is continuing to be active in her collegiate FFA chapter.

Thinking about FFA Week – about the future of our young farmers – drew my thoughts around to the farmers of yesterday.

One of the most hard-working farmers I’ve ever met also happens to be my dad.

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He came from a long line of farmers. In his high school yearbook under the line that asked what he planned to be, he simply listed a farmer.

And it’s what he did.

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He and my mother married young, moved away from their families, and worked on a variety of farms and ranches until they saved enough money to buy their own farm.

They lived on that land for fifty-one years.

Daddy worked hard and expected all of us to give our best as well. He was most often up long before the first rays of sunshine would streak the morning sky and could be found out laboring until there was no longer any daylight to work by.

In the summers, if I wanted to spend time with my dad, I went with him to irrigate. I accompanied him many times in his semi-truck when he’d deliver a load of hay (the sleeper in the cab was a perfect place for my baby dolls to ride.) There was a time when all the guys at the parts counter at the John Deere dealer probably knew me by name because I would ride along with dad to go on a parts run. He always bought an icy cold glass bottle of Coca Cola from the vending machine and we’d share it while we waited for his parts order to be filled.

My mother thinks Daddy was one of the few farmers who had a four-year-old in pigtails asleep on a pink blanket at his feet  while he swathed hay. I think he was probably one of many who spent time with their kids anyway they could, even if it meant having them underfoot while they swathed, baled, or combined. As I got older, I went from just tagging along to having chores to do, and then taking on more responsibility and work.

My dad didn’t just want to be a farmer, he needed to be a farmer. He loved farming, loved the land and loved his family – and to him they were all intermingled and entwined. Farming was as essential to him as air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. It was never a job to him. It was a way of life. His life – and all he ever wanted to do or be.

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What I learned growing up on a farm, besides how to precisely set irrigation tubes of all sizes, move sprinkler hand lines, and buck hay bales, was responsibility, loyalty, and perseverance. If things aren’t going just like you want, you don’t quit and walk away. My dad taught me that you figure out how to make it work. I learned all about multi-tasking, time management, and organizational skills by watching and working with my dad.

Lessons learned while I was working on the farm are ones you can’t find in a classroom, you can’t glean them from a Google search, and you can’t duplicate them without the experience that goes along with the lessons. Daddy taught me by example. By watching him, day after day, pour his all into what he loved, I learned so many life lessons that have served me well over the years.When people call me tenacious, I smile, because I learned it from my dad.

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For those of you who may not have seen a Ram commercial that aired a few years ago during the Super Bowl, I encourage you to watch it. It is a tribute to farmers – past, present and future.

 

 

When you do watch it, notice the farmer’s hands that are worn and with broken, split nails. Those hands look exactly how I remember my dad’s hands always looking. Always. His hands were rough and callused, weathered and worn. Most often there was grease staining his skin, soil embedded under his nails (the ones that weren’t broken or missing), and at least one knuckle would be scraped raw. As rough as those hands were, they were such a comfort to grab onto when I was a child and needed a little reassurance. A farmer’s hands seem to have the magical qualities of being able to pull a calf, repair a piece of equipment, and gently wipe away the tears of a little girl all within a morning’s work.

 

Being a farmer in today’s world is no easy thing. People have forgotten how hard a farmer toils, how much he brings to the table both figuratively and literally.  Farmers and ranchers, to me, are the ties that bind us to something infinitely precious that so often goes unacknowledged and unappreciated.

The next time you pour a glass of milk from the carton in your fridge, eat a piece of meat, crack open an egg, butter a slice of bread, or enjoy a juicy piece of fruit, stop for a minute and say thank you to the farmer who made it possible.

And if you have the opportunity to encourage our farmers of tomorrow, please let them know you appreciate them and support their dreams.

***

So God Made A Farmer – by Paul Harvey

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.” So God made a farmer.

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

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