Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seeing Red

I have this list....

Ok, I have several lists, but I have one that I'm pretty darn good at checking off. 

It's a list of things I want to do on my own: the travel, the moving away, the city, the home ownership, all things I've always felt it was important for me to do before I, one day, settle down. I just know that when that time comes, I'm going to only be content if I've done much on my own. I want to ensure that before 2 become 1, I'm actually a 1, not a 1/2  in how I've lived this life. 

It's been almost three years since I bought my first home. It was quite the process, quite the search, quite the adventure. But I found the home that is perfect for me. And I've worked quite hard to make it my own, with out spending too much money. 

There are some things I've done right. I've toned down the paint and made bubble gum pink, pumpkin orange and festive blue a far, distant memory. I've brought light to the once-dim dining room.  I've even managed to shop-vac the basement out. Once in three years. 

I can also say without a doubt that I've done some pretty shoddy things as a home owner. Like forgetting that I turned on the water to fill my sink for dishes, then going outside to pick up sticks for 45 minutes. Or when I hastily cut cords because they were in my way when I was painting. Who knew they were my phone cords?

However, in that last three years, I can say with confidence that the worst decision I've ever made as a home owner was a simple one I made on impulse with my lovely mother. It happened in the middle of JC Penny on a simple Saturday afternoon. 

I bought red bath towels, hand towels and washcloths. 

Since that fateful decision last October, I have regretted it one hundred times over. 

These towels are the prettiest towels that you ever did see. But their functionality is questionable. Is there anything worse than a towel that doesn't get the job done? Yes, and it's a towel that doesn't get the job done but also leaves you looking like some creepy Elmo impersonator. 

Not only do these famous JC Penny towels leave red fur all over your hands, hair and anywhere else the fabric touches, they also have this unique ability to paint my home red. 

And my white slacks red.

It's been almost a year and yesterday I found red lent in my stovetop burner. What? The towels of death have completely infested my home, from my bathroom in back to my kitchen in front. And the kicker, after I realized remnants of these towels were showing up on clothes, on my TV screen and in my white laundry, I discontinued use. 

That was last December. 

I don't know what to do with these fancy towels that have tried very hard to ruin my life. I put them on a shelf and used to bring them out for "special" occasions only. Like when I give Dixie a bath or when I leave the kitchen sink running for an hour. Even then, Dixie prances around the house running into furniture because she has red lent stuck in her eyes, and my white linoleum is now a certain pink color in places because of the dye that has yet to fade away. 

I was walking around the house two nights ago trying to find a creative way to wrap a birthday gift. Something different than wrapping paper, something more creative than a gift bag, something more memorable the normal butcher paper I use. 

I opened the hall closet. A stack of unused, unwanted red towels starred me right in the face. I considered it. 

But I wouldn't pass these beautiful, shedding, lent-leaving cloths on to a friend. I wouldn't want anyone to experience the frustration I have in the last year.

Then all of the sudden, I had an idea. I took all the life-ruining red towels and placed them in a garbage bag, then put them with my Christmas bows in the basement. At least I can say one person is scratched off my list for December. Merry Christmas to my dear brother, Luke. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bell Babies

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Bell Babies (who, with the exception of one, aren't babies at all). What a crew! 

Dawson met me at the door and asked if I remembered my camera; at least someone is looking out for me. 

I hope you enjoy the photo story of our afternoon, complete with treehouses, bare feet and interesting creatures...

Larger than Life. 

Happiness is...

This little guy crossed a few state lines to get to Indiana - and was so patient!

His hat, ears and mischievous grin remind me so much of  Granddad Ralph. 

I asked the kids to show me how old they were...

...Dawson represented for Jackson. 

There's one in every crowd.

These expressions told me I better work more quickly...


Thanks for the lift, Grandpa.

Free as a feelin' in the wind...

Grandpa's Pretty Helpers

What's that Dawson? You want to take my camera and throw it into the highway?

They found a ladybug...

And a dried up frog. 

Bekah had no interest in being an active member of the 
Dried Up Frog Inspection Committee.

The youngest grandchild, with the oldest. 

Yes, you should be scared. 

Grandpa and Grandma Bell's House: The Happiest Place On Earth

Over the dresses and tea parties.

I drove to that photo shoot with a cloud of dust behind me. It was just before our production sale and I felt as though I had one thousand things to get done. In fact, one of the little darlings pointed out that I had cow manure on my cut off jeans. 

But I left that shoot with a whole new perspective. 

I reflected; I remember each of those kids as newborns, not kindergartners. My goodness folks, time passes quickly. 

A column from one of my dear literary idols came to mind as I drove down the highway, a little more slowly, in awe of how fast these kids grew....

No More Oatmeal Kisses 
by Erma Bombeck

A young mother writes: "I know you've written before about the empty-nest syndrome, that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?"

Okay. One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!" And they will. Or, "you guys get outside and find yourselves something to do...and don't slam the door!" And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy: bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on their shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way." And it will.

You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company." And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say, "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?" And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti. No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms. No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothespins under the sofa. No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand in the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathroom. No more iron-on patches, rubber bands for ponytails, tight boots or wet knotted shoestrings.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby-sitter for New Year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.

No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night. Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark. No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?" and the silence echoing, "I did."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Love for Our Dear Leontien

Friends - Today is the official "Love for Leontien" day!
Leontien was in my first-ever blogging class over a year ago. She and her husband run a dairy here in Indiana.
Today she is in the fight of her life as she battles Melanoma. 
Please, take a second and click on the badge to at the right of my page and send Leontien a few encouraging words - this young lady needs them!
You can also go to this link and click "Like" to show your support.
Many thanks - Count your blessings on this Monday!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh, The People You'll Meet

I've been home from the Wild West Adventure for a few days now. I've reflected fondly on the the incredible landscape we took in and the laughs we shared; what a trip of a lifetime, during a time of life changes. 

The West was wonderful. The paths we took were like none other, but the people we met along the way made the trip. 

Saturday, after a Shoddy (with a capital S) experience in the parking lot of a diner in Cheyenne...

.....our faith was restored in the people of Wyoming when we stumbled upon Hostler's General Store. 

Roy was working that fine day and he took the time to help us plan the next adventure that was ahead. Roy lived in Pennsylvania previously, but moved to Wyoming to retire because the taxes were lower. When he gets bored in the winter he hunts and skins coyotes and foxes.

"While we're here, I need to buy postcards. Do you have any?" - Katie
"Oh you bet we have postcards! Back in the corner behind the hanging skins but before the antiques." - Roy

Thanks Roy for the travel advice and free map. 

Then we made it to Medicine Bow...

Back in February I blogged about my solo Wyoming adventure. It was there that I found The Virginian, a historic hotel and saloon that was named after Owen Wister's novel. The Virginian was my Granddad's favorite western novel of all time; when I came across it in Medicine Bow I knew that I wanted to learn more. Not knowing the culture of the place in February, I was a bit too nervous to walk into a saloon, in the middle of no where, alone. When Katie and I decided to make this trip, I knew we had to return to learn more. 

We were the only two in the saloon when we arrived, besides the bartender. I could tell he was a little taken back by two gals walking in alone, carrying cameras, a journal and wearing cotton dresses - so I explained myself. I told the bartender that The Virginian was my Granddad's favorite book, and that I came to visit this place some time ago, but didn't have the courage to walk in. So, here we were, two gals eager to learn more about this old western saloon and hotel that was named after the famous 1902 novel. 

"Well I suppose I can tell you thing or two about this place. My great grandfather bought shares of it when the hotel opened one hundred years ago. This place has been passed down four generations since then, and I've owned it for 30 years." - Scotty

Scotty and Katie 

Bingo. We found the source. 

Owen Wister came up with the story line behind the novel while he slept on the counter of the general store that was just across the road from where the historic hotel and saloon stand today...

That general store is still there, though it's no longer in business. Today it is a literary landmark. 

Wister was a good friend of Teddy Roosevelt; they would get off the train at the station just in front of The Virginian and spend their vacations on big game hunts. 

Roosevelt and Wister

We were fortunate enough to sit down with the owner for thirty minutes and have a intriguing conversation before the little saloon in no-man's-land filled up with Wyoming fans. Medicine Bow sits between Casper and Laramie, so on game days, folks stop in a have a famous bloody mary before making it to the game. 

Not only did we have an awesome conversation, but Scotty also turned us loose throughout the entire building (4 floors) to take pictures, look around and soak up the history. 

On the road again....

At a gas station in Shoshoni, Wyoming we came across an 18 passenger van packed with 14 children, 2 grandparents and 2 parents; that's a full load. The thought of that many children within 20 feet of Katie at one time made her almost 1) throw up 2) have a panic attack. I barely got the gas tank full before she made us leave. 

We passed through Meeteetse, WY where we found the Charles Belden (famous cowboy photographer) museum - what a gold mine. Unfortunately, we had to "waste" thirty minutes before it opened. So Katie and I decided to take some random gravel road out of town and drive around the countryside. Once we got into the beautiful country, I took a picture of the landscape with an old stone house and a weathered barn that sat along the banks of the river; I texted this photo to a former coworker whom I knew grew up near Meeteetse. Jared and his wife now live in Idaho, so I knew he'd appreciate knowing someone had stumbled across the tiny town he loved so much. I sent him the picture text...

Within minutes Jared responded: "That stone house is the house I grew up in. That's our old homestead."

Chills came over me; how very ironic that the one picturesque ranch scene I sent to him was the very ground on which he was raised. Life is funny. 

At The Grizzly Bear, a fantastic steakhouse in Roscoe, Montana, we met Vince who helped us plan our route for the next day. Vince, who was working at the steakhouse as his "last hooray" before finishing school, suggested we travel to Cook City, MT - which lead us through the Beartooth Pass adventure. Vince was so intrigued by our Wild West Adventure (and stories of shoddy motels and mace guns) he bought us wine as we mingled with the (5) locals. 



Ronnie's advice to us: "First. Be careful. I guess second would be this place is changing fast. Bozeman is growing too fast and you girls just need to enjoy this Montana country while it's still here." 


On our way out of the Beartooth Pass we came across LaDonna who works construction, currently on a road widening project in the pass. She seemed like she had a long day (and we sat there with her for thirty minutes before she flipped her sign and let us through), so we gave her string cheese, granola bars and pistachio nuts to get her through the rest of the day. LaDonna grew up in Wyoming and depends on her mom and sister to care for her two daughters while she's gone for months on end on construction projects. 

As I wrap up the stories and moments captured during our Wild West Adventure, I do a few things....

I count my blessings for the opportunity to pack up and travel the open road for five days before I start another adventure professionally. 

I realize how lucky I am to be able to really live this life. We only have one. 

I thank God that we made it home safely. 

And I once again I go back to the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thanks for being a part of our journey!