Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wisdom from the Psalms

Saturday morning. It was another beautiful day. I had brought along my coffee maker in the event that I had access to electricity. There were multiple outlets in the park's picnic shelter, so I had my first really satisfying cup of the trip. Instead of making breakfast I just prepared a protein shake and a food bar. The tent is always a little wet in the morning from the dew and the ground, so I began to take it down. In the middle of that task I got talking with Pam and another camper.

My new lesson: empty the tent before you collapse it. I think the distraction of the conversation made me forget what I had been doing and I went straight for packing up the tent. You can get your things out, it's just awkward.

All packed up, I took one more look around the campsite and realized that I had not taken advantage of the rack full of courtesy bikes that you could ride in the park, or into town if you liked. So, I grabbed a bike and pedaled the two blocks into town. checked it out and went back to camp. It was a nice amenity, in an all-around nice park.

The evening before, Sam had mentioned that Maiden Rock, WI, a nearby town I would be passing through on my way home, was having their summer celebration this weekend. I was pretty sure it also had a municipal park for camping and I had planned to scout that out anyway.

Just before I got to Maiden Rock I saw a big banner next to a county road that read Maiden Rock Camping Fest or something like that. I turned on to a winding road that climbed up and up into the bluffs until I hit a plateau and found the party. There were tents and campers and lot of people and a parking lot full of cars. Some women were doing yoga in a nearby patch of grass. About 50 people were sitting at picnic tables waiting for the noon lunch.

I found what looked like an official welcoming booth and said that I had seen the sign on the highway, and asked what was happening. The gals working the booth said lunch was being served in about 10 minutes. So I bought a ticket for $5.00 began talking to the young woman next to me. I asked her if this was a pretty popular campground. She seemed surprised by the question. She told me that she was petty sure that this was private property, but that once a year the owner opened it up for this camp out.

Most of the people here seemed to know each other. I didn't see any other touristy types. Lunch was served: A ham sandwich (with cheese slices if you liked) potato chips a giant cookie and a glass of cold milk. Not bad for $5.00. I filled my plate, walked back to my car and retreated down the windy road back to the Highway. I'm pretty sure that was a semi- private party.

Back on the Highway I drove into Maiden Rock. They were having their summer festival. I pulled in to the municipal campground which was just behind where the activities was taking place. Of course I had already eaten, but it was a hot day, and this the the party I was actually looking for, so I bought a beer and sat down.
I began talking with a woman who said she and her husband were camping at the park and liked coming here. Her name was Penny. Her brothers named her. She said she went to a Catholic school when she was young and the nuns refused to call her Penny. Her mother got a call from her teacher complaining that she didn't answer when they called on her. Her mother asked what thy were calling her and they said they were using her full name, Penelope. Her mother said, if they would call her by her real name she would answer. They finally relented.

Penny invited me to see their camper and meet her husband. This campground was also on Lake Pepin and was very nice. Penny's camper was really nice too. I told Penny about my earlier party crashing, and one of the guys visiting with Penny's husband finally figured out that I had been at the old rod and gun club. He said he thought it belonged to the VFW or the American Legion now. He had no clue about the celebration, and he was from Maiden Rock!

The parade was starting in ten minute, so Penny and I grabbed a couple of chairs and went up to main street. I think the parade went three blocks. It was 20-25 minutes long at most. Perfect. The kids ended with huge bags of candy, and since they shut down the highway for the parade the line of cars that had to wait for the parade to be over was almost as long as the parade.

Time to go. I said goodbye to Penny, stopped at one of the tents long enough to buy two pieces of barbecued chicken to eat later at home, and traveled the rest of the way up the river to Prescott,WI to Hastings, MN to St Paul, MN to home. What an adventure.

What will I do next? Well, I have tickets for a Trump Rally in Cedar Rapids, IA tomorrow. I've never seen a sitting president.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thank God For Air

This morning I woke to 5 or 6 inches of fluffy new snow. Outside my window lay a Christmas scene lacking only the horse and the sleigh rumbling past on the way to grandmother's house.  The fluffy snow brought to mind a similar snowfall in the first year of our marriage. Paul was serving two churches in Wisconsin, a neighboring state, one in town and one in the country. The country church had a wonderful hill for sledding, and that Sunday we were on our way  to the youth group sledding party

I grew up in Nebraska, a state 400 miles south of there. We had plenty of snow in the winter, but Nebraska is a flat state, so we had few hills. As kids, we did often play "King of the Hill" at recess, but that meant claiming the top of the mound of snow that the plows had amassed at the far corner of the parking lot. Those were the winter "hills" of my youth.

That Sunday, long ago, newly-wed, not yet parents, not much older than the youth group we were leading, eager for a new adventure, we arrived at the church. Several of the kids had brought toboggans, long sleds, wooden in those years, with a curved front that helped the riders glide through the snow. A toboggan often held multiple riders, 3-4 generally on the ones they brought. I had never ridden on one before. No one that I knew in flat Nebraska ever owned such a thing.

Hearing that, Paul and the kids insisted on giving me the honor of riding in the front, since that was the most exhilarating place to experience the full effect of the race down the hill. The snow on the hill glistened, pristine for the first run of the day. I can still remember my excitement as three burly youths ran behind the sled starting us on our way. Paul was behind me, a comfortable and warm bulwark against the cold and the bumps.

There are unwritten rules for getting the most out of careening down a hill on fluffy snow on a toboggan. Number one of which is, "Never open your mouth, no matter how much you want to scream with delight at the rush." Halfway down the hill my mouth and nose were completely packed with snow. If you have ever had the breath knocked out of you, you can get the idea of what it feels like to have the breath locked into you. Totally panicked, unable to give any indication to my merry co-sliders, I held on tightly to Paul's arms wondering if I would pass out and fall helplessly into the snow. Mercifully, the hill leveled and the ride was finally over. Paul, realizing my dilemma, helped dig a little of the now melting snow out of my mouth, and I could breathe again.

Rather than sympathy, my ordeal was met with merriment. Alas, it seems it was a rite of passage. Most everyone had a story to tell of their first ride, usually in the place of "honor", at the front of the toboggan, and, no, they had not forgotten to tell me the rules.

"The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4

Today I thank God for air.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas 2016


 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

 For those who have not heard, we are experiencing our first holiday season without Paul. His health had been slowly failing these past few years, and in May we began having hospice services here at home. For the next few months he was able to walk short distances with his walker, but in September his mobility became very limited and I could no longer care for him at home. He entered a hospice facility in early September. Seventeen days later, on September 28, 2016, he entered his eternal home.

"I have fought the good fight"....he suffered patiently and without complaint. "I have finished the race".... words of comfort for his family. "I have kept the faith".... we do not grieve like those who have no hope.

He died 6 weeks before our 51st wedding anniversary. He was determined to make number 50, and he did. When he first became ill we had no grandchildren, and he prayed that he could live long enough to see a grandchild or two. God answered that prayer mightily. He lived to see 25 grandchildren (the youngest, Paul, was born on our 50th wedding anniversary) and one great granddaughter.

He was a well-loved pastor, friend, brother, father and husband.

We miss him terribly.