How I feel…

woman-3758052_1280

“If I’ve failed as a mother than I’ve failed at everything.”  ~M


Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-despair-loss-cover-sadness-3758052/

Pure bliss and happiness, are closer than I once thought.

Well, today was a much better day.  I still don’t have a working cell phone, but I rather enjoyed unplugging for once and I think I accomplished a lot more because of it.  I’m still writing for Channillo, and so I added another chapter to my series today.  I’m up to 6 subscribers now!  Woo hoo!  Lol….  I know it doesn’t seem like much, but honestly… those 6 subscribers mean the world to me right now.  There’s just something about knowing that somebody, (anybody at all) is reading my very first book!  It tickles me to no end!  Yes, I’m smiling from ear to ear and doing the happy dance because of it.

Anyway, another thing that has me blissfully happy today, is the fact that I have been asked to start selling my poetry at one of our local shops downtown.  Today I was finally able to order most of the supplies that I will need.  I was able to find a ton of frames and mats on sale.  Now I just need to figure out how to personalize and decorate each one, to really make them stand out.  I’m just so excited to finally have the opportunity to move forward with selling some of my work.  I am no longer letting these opportunity’s pass me by.  It’s do or die time, and I need to be smart for once and take these God given opportunities that are finally crossing my path and just run with them. 

Things on the home front have been improving.  Hubby and I have really been working through some tough issues and I believe that we are finally making immense progress.  My future seems to be clearer than it has been in a long time, and we have even been talking about writing a book together.  Hubby’s a huge history buff and I’m not very good with remembering historical details as much as he is, so I think by combining my love for writing and his love of history, we may end up coming up with something pretty amazing.  He’s been jotting down some ideas, and I think after the first of the year, we will begin to have some time to really sit down and plan what we want to write about.

I was gone all last week, as my oldest daughter recently got married in California.  The ceremony was beautiful and each of them wrote their own vows to one another.  I feel truly blessed, knowing that my daughter was able to find such an amazing husband.  She is in good hands and I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that she will be well cared for.  They are both currently full-time missionary’s and seem excited to stay in the mission field. 

Now that I’m back in Wisconsin, I’m really missing the warm weather that we had out there.  Of course I don’t miss the constant traffic that we had to deal with and the fast pace of life that seems to be the norm out there.  After growing up in California, I vowed never to move back.   (And really how can you, when each house is a million dollars plus on average.)  I am still very much content in my choice to stay in the mid-west, where daily life is more relaxed, less expensive, and where I can actually breathe the air without coughing up a lung.

Today has been a wonderful day, I slept in late, ran errands, went to our church small group this evening, and then I came home and proceeded with the normal day to day stuff that I needed to catch up on.  I feel content and happy right now and since it’s getting late here, I should sign off.  So if you’re reading this, I really do hope that you have a wonderful God filled week, full of joy and happiness.  Much love, to all my faithful readers.  You guys are the best!  ~M  xoxo

 

Day 6 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0606

Just taking one last look around the room to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything. It’s with a heavy heart that I leave this glorious place. Being a princess for a day was so much fun. A last long look out of the tower window will have to tide me over until the next thrilling moment occurs. With a sigh, I am determined to have another grand adventure, even though this one here at the Luxor is now ending.

IMG_0611

Brian and I pile into the elevator with our mounds of luggage. Watchful eyes scrutinize our every move and I am thankful when we finally make it to the check-out desk. With a quick exchange of information and the final bill paid, we head out to the find the car. A wall of thick steamy air suffocates us within seconds of leaving the air-conditioned sanctuary.

IMG_0612

We finally spot our car and hurriedly throw everything into the trunk. We scurry back to the casino to escape the inferno that engulfs us. I immediately feel a cold chill as if ice water is pouring over me from head to toe. I look down to grab my sweatshirt, which I had slung over my purse earlier in the day. Now it seems, to my dismay, that it is nowhere to be found. After taking a few minutes to retrace my steps, and still not finding my sweatshirt, I wonder if it’s worth going back out into the stifling heat to look for it. I explore all of my options, quickly rifling through them in the work center of my brain. Ding! The answer comes to me, and I race to find the nearest security kiosk.

IMG_0616

I feel stupid as I explain my pitiful situation and know that I am secretly the biggest cheapskate alive. I mean a sweatshirt… of all things to report as missing… The poor lady in front of me is missing her laptop, and here I am practically crying over a plain black sweatshirt that I purchased from Goodwill.

IMG_0675

After explaining the discouraging downfall to my otherwise perfectly wonderful day, and filling out about a gazillion forms after pleading my case, we are finally on our way to that grand adventure that I was so hopeful to find today. I can’t shake feeling disappointed in myself and wish that I could just start my morning over. Why I get so irritated over the little things in life, I will never understand. Is this just me or does everybody get like this from time to time?

IMG_0690

After a while, I finally start to forget about the disappointing events of the morning as we happily gamble away our hard-earned money and shop at the same stores where celebrities often frequent. After looking at the price tags in the shops at Crystals, I am really depressed now. How can people afford such lavish things? The frivolity of such extravagant items seems to me to be almost embarrassing. I think to myself, how can people spend gobs of money on such unimportant things when people are starving in China? Seems to me like being a princess isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. I’m kind of glad that I will most likely never find out.

IMG_0711

It’s now 3:00 p.m. and time to find our car, so that we can brave the Vegas traffic and find our timeshare which is off the beaten path. I know what you’re thinking… Yes, we were wrangled into buying one of those. I loathe the day we signed the contract for our timeshare and now we are forced to take a vacation every year, or by default, forfeit our timeshare “points” i.e., hard-earned money.

We finally find the resort and decide that it’s better than we expected. The resort is surrounded by small shops and is within walking distance to the strip, if you don’t mind walking in 116° weather. After exploring our room and situating the luggage, we head downstairs to the concierge desk to buy show tickets. Tonight we are seeing the show “Diva’s” and I am really looking forward to our first opportunity for real adventure.

IMG_0715

The day is progressing better than at first and we decide to head out for dinner. We opt for driving back to the strip, rather than trying to walk through the thick humid air. It doesn’t take us long to find parking near the LINQ; however, finding a restaurant that doesn’t cost a fortune is nearly impossible. We finally settle on the “Nook”, which is reminiscent of a delicatessen and seems like a good choice for low budget families like us.

IMG_0716

We order gyros and fruit tarts for dessert. The food is exquisite and tastes like heaven. After filling our bellies, we sit back and relax and watch the chefs preparing food from behind the counter. Some of the chefs are flinging pizza dough into the air, while others are carefully arranging garnishes on platters. This place may not be Trumps Palace, but the chefs sure could work there!

After being entertained at the Nook, we head out to Caesars Palace to see the show Diva’s. The theatre is decked out in red velvet and screams sexy. Frank Marino is the star of the show and has us laughing so hard, that I am about to pee my pants. The alcoholic beverage I just drank isn’t helping matters either. I never imagined that a female impersonator could deliver such a thrilling performance and I linger after the final curtain call hoping for more.

IMG_0721

At last though, the show is over. We file out through the crowds of drunk, excited people, each hoping for a chance to see Frank Marino in person. Sure enough, there he is, greeting everyone as they make their way out of the theatre. I am tempted to stop, but find myself hesitating because my shyness overtakes me, and once again I lose an opportunity to be someone I’m not.

IMG_0729

It’s 2 a.m. when we finally crawl into bed. The LINQ, which is a huge observation wheel, is all lit up and can be seen from our window next to the bed. As I lay back, I think back over the past six days and feel happy and content that we are finally getting away from it all. A part of me feels guilty for enjoying this time away from the kids, but most of me is jumping for joy. Fifteen more days left to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime. Ahhh… I hope the time lingers and that the fun continues.

Day 5 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0600 copy for WP

I am so excited right now! Today is the day we head for Las Vegas; one of my favorite vacation destinations! We have been to Vegas twice now. The first time we went was in 2004, when we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We stayed at Treasure Island, which has the comfiest beds I have ever slept in. The first game I played at the casino was a poker game. I put 25¢ in the slot and out came $75. Fortunately my luck continued that way for the remainder of the week and we won enough money to pay for our entire trip. I loved our time there; we saw shows like “O” and “Jubilee” and stayed up all day and night going from one casino to the next. Everything was cheap, comps were amazing, and nothing ever closed. Out of the 4 days that we spent there, we only slept about 4 hours in all. We were completely exhausted on the plane ride home and slept the entire way back.

(My husband Brian is in the video above, wearing a red shirt. He was playing one of the beater positions)

The next time we visited Vegas, was in 2006. We attended a Harry Potter Conference called “Lumos.” I know… many of you don’t know this about me, but I am a huge Harry Potter fan. That was probably one of the most fun weeks that I have ever had. We dressed up in full Harry Potter attire, drank butter beer in an Irish pub, participated in potion classes, tested our wizardry knowledge in a scavenger hunt, played quidditch in the pool, got invited to secret parties, and totally geeked out for an entire week. So you can see why today is such an exciting day for me.
IMG_0581 copy for WPWe have a 6 hour drive to Vegas today. The hours are passing by fast and we are almost there. I can see the casinos rising up out of the desert in the far distance. The temperature is hovering around 115 degrees and it’s hard to get a clear view of anything off in the distance because of the hazy mirage that is covering the landscape. We finally arrive on the Las Vegas Strip and it’s bumper to bumper traffic the whole way. We are staying at the Luxor, which is shaped like a pyramid and has an Egyptian theme. I can see the Luxor up ahead and we are trying to determine where the parking area is. After a few wrong turns, we have finally reached our destination and are ready to get out of the suffocating heat.

Photo Credit:  blonde4ever.yuku.com
Photo Credit: blonde4ever.yuku.com

We are pleasantly surprised by what awaits us as we enter the hotel. The lobby reminds me of Gringotts from the Harry Potter books. Each clerk is sitting individually on a pedestal behind a desk, and each one is carefully checking people in and out in an orderly fashion. The lights are low and create an atmosphere that feels mysterious. Huge statues and pillars mark the entrance to the casino and the entire place is decorated in an abundance of rich eye-catching colors. It seems a little bit like I have stepped into another dimension; almost like I have stepped back in time and have entered into ancient Egypt. If it weren’t for the noise of the slot machines, I may actually believe that we had somehow been transported into another time and place!
IMG_0561 copy for WPAfter checking in with the goblins from Gringotts, we make it up to our room on the 11th floor. As we enter the room, we suddenly realize that the bedroom has a Jacuzzi tub that overlooks Las Vegas Boulevard and we also have a separate sitting room which overlooks Mandalay Bay. I am thinking to myself that this is probably the best $75 that I have ever spent on a hotel room. The view is absolutely stunning and I proceed to plop myself onto the couch and try to capture the memory of the sights outside the window. I am hoping that I will never forget the thrill of this moment. I feel like a princess way up high in a tower, overlooking the expanse of the kingdom below me. As amazing as all of this is though, we are only here for one night and then we will be heading out to a different hotel in the morning.IMG_0576 copy for WP

Eventually I pry myself off of the couch and we head down to the casino to look for a place to eat dinner. We finally settle on a place called the “Public House”. It’s pricey, but the food is wonderful and we picked a great time to eat, because the Women’s World Cup is playing on the large screen television. I am not much into sports, but even I can’t deny that this is fun. Everyone is so excited and having a great time and it gets even better when the U.S. eventually wins. We have had a great day, and I can’t wait to see more of Vegas tomorrow!

Day 3 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0356 copy for WP

The alarm goes off, it’s 4:00 a.m. I am eager to start another day and so is Brian. After getting ready and packing the car, we head to the front desk to check-out. The staff is friendly here at the Comfort Inn and they offer to serve us breakfast early. It’s only 5:00 a.m. and my stomach doesn’t quite feel like it’s ready for food yet. But how can I really pass up a free meal? We sit quietly in the dining room; eating and catching a quick news update from the small television over in the far corner.

It’s 5:15 a.m. now, and our final destination of the day is Idaho Falls. The first thing we do is stop for gas and pray for safe travels as we begin our twelve-hour journey. Before long, we pass through Cody, WY. This is the city that I had originally wanted to stay in and I notice the Buffalo Bill Museum is located up ahead. I consider stopping at the museum, but I know that we already have so much planned for today. I shake the idea out of my mind and continue on. As we near Big Horn National Forest, we come across the city of Sheridan. The view of the mountains from here is unbelievable and I wonder what living here would be like. Just as we reach the base of the mountain, we find ourselves in a small town called Dayton. I begin to file away these places in the back of my mind as potential retirement communities for when we are eventually old and grey.

IMG_0318 copy for WPAs we head up the mountain pass, the towns below become mere specks off in the far distance. It feels like we are the only people who exist on the earth right now. The view is breathtaking from up here and we stop several times to get out and take pictures. I am mesmerized by the tranquility and the views of the valley below. I don’t understand why the mountain is so void of people and I wonder if it’s like this all the time. We wind our way along the tree-lined mountain pass. The pine forest completely covers the landscape for as far as the eye can see. I have never seen so many perfect looking trees in one place before; the colors are bright and vivid, and each one is like a delicate piece of artwork created by a master artist.

IMG_0345 copy for WPAs we near a bend in the road, we start to see the beginning of a lake coming into view. We notice signs for a picnic area and decide to pull over and take a look around. The climb up to the lake area is easily accessible, and when we reach the top, we are thrilled to find that we have the entire lake to ourselves. The lake is completely still and eerily quiet, except for an occasional fish releasing ringlets on the surface of the water. The tranquility of this place reminds me of what I imagine heaven will be like. A soft breeze blows gently across the water and gives me goosebumps. I sense the presence of God all around us; it’s surreal and indescribable the way that this place is making me feel right now. I am tempted to ask Brian if we should renew our vows here. We have been planning to renew our vows somewhere along the way, and it seems like there could be no better place on earth. Something holds me back though and I remain silent, lingering in deep thought. The enchantment is soon broken though, and I remember that we still have so many more places on our agenda. Grudgingly, we walk back to the car and say goodbye to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. We vow to come back someday, perhaps eventually to live out the rest of our days.

IMG_0369 copy for WPAfter driving a little farther down the road, we are now at a place called “Shell Falls.” I can hear the roar of the falls up ahead and run to get a better look. I am now standing in front of the 120 ft. high falls. The water is hitting the granite rocks in the bottom with such force, that the water is spraying back up into the air, forming rainbows in the streaming sun-rays. I didn’t think that anything could compare to the beauty of what we had just seen by the lake, but now I am not so sure. We look around and notice some short hiking trials and decide to explore even more. After taking a million photographs, we head back to the car to continue on our journey.  About an hour has passed and we decide to stop at a visitor center. IMG_0414 copy for WPIt feels good to stretch our legs after our long journey and we walk up to a large dam that overlooks a beautiful lake. After a short tour through the visitor center, we are on our way once more. Shortly after, we drive past a strange looking house, overlooking the road from the top of a hill. IMG_0426 copy for WPThe house looks abandoned and Brian decides to take some pictures. The house leaves us wondering about the history behind it.

After several hours of driving, we are finally nearing Yellowstone National Park. A restaurant up ahead seems inviting and we stop for lunch. After relaxing in the lodge style atmosphere and then perusing the gift shop after a hearty meal, we finally make it to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I am excited because I have been here before, and I begin to reminisce about vacationing here with the girls when they were little. As soon as we head through the gates though, I realize that I am not seeing what I remember. Apparently Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on us. Wildfires have completely ruined the spectacular views that once graced this magnificent place. I am shaken by the devastation that is rapidly unfolding all around us. The farther we drive, the worse it gets, and I wonder if the park will ever be able to recover the beauty that was once here. After reveling in such beauty and splendor earlier today and comparing it to what I am seeing now, I am in disbelief and wishing that we hadn’t come here. I am suddenly reminded of a graveyard and sadness begins to overtake me. We keep hoping that around the next bend, we will see some sign of beauty that hasn’t been lost, but unfortunately, that isn’t what we find. IMG_0435 copy for WPAfter driving around for a couple of hours, searching for a part of the forest that isn’t scorched, we find a hiking trail near the lake and decide to stop and explore on foot. Unfortunately, we are greeted with a warning sign that bears are in the area and so the trail has been closed. IMG_0443 copy for WPAfter getting back in the car, we decide to drive a little bit further to see if there is anywhere else we might want to explore. After a little while longer, it becomes apparent that the devastation is never-ending and we decide to head out toward the Grand Tetons.

As we continue on, the Grand Tetons come into view and I am relieved that these mountains are still as beautiful as I remember. Along the way, we find a stopping point near a lake and hike up above a small beach to get a better view. IMG_0505 copy for WPThe mountains look hazy in the background, because of the humidity. People are laughing and having a good time; some are standing over by a small dam, taking pictures and playing in the water. Then there are a few people down below on the beach, playing in the sand. We have found our own little spot, up and out of the way, but I still find myself wishing that we were alone again, like we were this morning at the lake. It has been such a long day and the hours of driving are starting to wear on us.

We head out for the last time today; making our way to Idaho Falls where we will stay for the night. After getting a bit turned around, we finally find our way to the hotel and are pleasantly surprised to find that they are offering us a free dinner. We only have about an hour before dinner ends, so we quickly unpack the car and head down to the dining room for dinner. Soup and salad are what is being offered and I am glad that I am not very hungry, since the food on the buffet is almost gone. After such a long day, we talk about the things we have seen so far and the places we’ve been. We’ve had enough memories already to last us a lifetime.

The continuation… Day 2 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0200 copy for WPThe day is turning out to be a scorcher. It’s already in the mid-ninety’s and we have finally arrived at Badlands National Park. IMG_0197 Copy for WPI spot the first viewing area and we both scramble out of the car in eager anticipation of what we might see. The funny thing is, as I make my way out of the car, I spy the same young man that we saw earlier in the day during the “Attack of the killer bugs.” I stop to speak to him and he recognizes us too. I ask him if he was attacked by the biting insects as we were, but fortunately for him, he is wearing long pants and so they didn’t seem to bother him. I feel relieved about my decision not to warn him earlier as we wave goodbye. IMG_0207 copy for WPWe make our way towards the edge of the scenic outlook.  There stretching before us is a massive canyon of gray jagged rock formations. The sight is breathtaking and leaves us speechless. We stare in awe and wonder and I see Brian digging into his camera bag for the long distance lens. He is new to photography and we are both hoping and praying that the photos capture the true glory of this place. With these first impressions soaring through our minds, we set out to find another viewing area; hoping for another chance at capturing the beauty that is unfolding all around us.

IMG_0229 copy for WPThe next scenic outlook isn’t as easy to get to and requires us to walk along a wooden platform as the sun beats down upon us. The wooden platform is raised up above the ground several feet and looks like it has recently been erected. As we near the end of the platform, we begin to see the same grey canyon that we saw before, only now it is directly in front of us, close enough for us to climb down from the platform and explore to our hearts desire. It’s as if I am viewing a million sand castles; once created by watery sand, poured through the hands of children playing at the beach. We carefully climb down into the canyon. The heat is searing and I feel the sweat dripping down the back of my neck. Feels like those bugs are back, attacking me. But really it’s just my own body reacting to the heat of the day. There are no plants anywhere in sight. Just a dry canyon of massive rocks. Reminds me of a charcoal grill and I feel like I could be dinner for the next predator that comes along. I finally start to feel a little more at ease after walking around for a while. At first I was intimidated by the jagged edges of the rocks and the sheer size of what we were about to climb into. IMG_0250 copy for WPI am actually having fun now, exploring the nooks and crannies which seem to erupt out of nowhere. There are a few caves, but they seem impossible to get to. After posing for several pictures, we make our way back to the wooden platform. A maze of dry hardened waterways mark our path and help us to find our way back. Once we are back on the wooden platform, I am a little relieved as I am starting to feel the sun’s effects and know that I need to bring more water with me the next time that we stop.

IMG_0256 copy for WPWalking back to the car is tiresome and it feels good to be able to sit down and rest for a few minutes before we head out once more. The sky is so blue here, against the backdrop of the rock formations. There’s hardly a cloud in sight and we continue to see wildlife all around us. As we make our way along the winding roads, we are met with road construction. Every car is at a complete standstill and it looks like we will be waiting for a while. We roll down the windows and settle in for the wait. IMG_0264 copy for WPAll of a sudden, we notice a fawn and her mother standing just a few yards away from our car. It’s always so exciting to see wildlife up close and the fawn begins to nurse from its mother. Brian gets his camera out and snaps a few shots and then we realize that traffic is moving once more. Our journey of the Badlands ends shortly after we make our way through the road construction and drive through to the exit of the park.

IMG_0274 copy for WPThe road we are on now, will take us to Mt. Rushmore and we are excited for the opportunity to be able to spend part of the day there. It’s been a long day already, but we are finally nearing Mt. Rushmore. We passed Rapid City and are now entering the bustling city of Keystone, SD. Up ahead we spot the turn off for Mt. Rushmore and we are happy to almost be there. Once we arrive, we pay the parking fee and head up to the parking ramp. It’s extremely crowded and there’s hardly any place to park. We finally find a spot and make our way up to the beginning of the memorial. The place is really built up now and looks completely different from the last time I was here. IMG_0278 copy for WPI notice various shops, a museum, and pathway that leads up closer to the actual site. There are rows of flags lining the concrete platform that leads up to the national memorial. We look for our state flag and find it near the middle. After taking several photographs, stopping in for some ice cream, and looking through the museum, we head out onto the path that leads to the viewing sites. A wooden structure has been built to allow visitors a comfortable walk up to the base of Mt. Rushmore. IMG_0292 copy for WPBefore long, we are close enough to look up the nose of George Washington. It’s beautiful here, walking through the pine forest, and gazing up at the sculpted presidents. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are all depicted here. The sculpture is 60 feet high, and I feel so small in comparison.

IMG_0304 copy for WPOnce we have had our fill of Mt. Rushmore, we head out once more. This time we are headed for Buffalo, WY where we will stay for the night. We spot an old pioneer town along the way and stop to have a look. The place is old and run down and I am second guessing my decision to stop here. They hand us an old tape recorder that tells us the history of this place as we walk from one building to the next. I start to feel my energy dwindle from all that we have done today and also because the temperature is now over 100 degrees. After patiently going through the small town, we say goodbye and continue on our way.

Photo Credit: www.sheridanmedia.com
Photo Credit: http://www.sheridanmedia.com

We finally make it to Buffalo and it’s close to 6:00 p.m. now. We check in at our hotel and I feel disappointed because I realize that I have made a mistake when booking our room. I wanted to stay in Cody, WY and I have mixed up the towns somehow and realize that we are not in the same town that I wanted to be in. There is nothing left to do, except to find some place to eat. We notice that most of the restaurants are closed down and so we drive farther down the road to see if there is anything open.  After driving down several different roads, searching for a place to go, we finally discover a small downtown area that has a few shops located along a small river.  We decide to eat at the “Busy Bee Cafe.” It’s a cute little restaurant with old world charm.

Photo Credit: jensbookthoughts.com
Photo Credit: jensbookthoughts.com

As we enter, we are greeted by a young girl who leads us to a table by the front window. We are the only customers in the restaurant. I order the French dip sandwich and we enjoy the scenic view from our table as we wait. There is a horse and carriage taking people for rides right outside the restaurant, and looking out the opposite window we can see the river down below us. The food turns out to be pretty good and we end the day with an after dinner walk amidst the quaint downtown shops.

Day 2 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0174 copy for WPIt’s 6:00 a.m. and we’re headed for the Badlands in South Dakota. There isn’t much to see yet and I’m getting anxious for the possibilities of the day. After driving for a short while though, we spot a rest stop and decide to stop and stretch our legs. It doesn’t take us long to realize that we have found a beautiful place that overlooks the Missouri River. I start to get excited because this is our first panoramic view that we have come across and I excitedly tell Brian to go get his camera. There are a few kids riding skateboards up and down the cement pathways and a European family is posing for a picture under the flags that are swaying gently in the cool morning breeze. Everyone around us seems to be just as excited as we are and we walk out to the lookout point to take some pictures. Of course after about 10 minutes, I realize that we have so much more to see and so I know that we must move on. I linger for just a moment taking in this picturesque place and then resign myself to the fact that we still have hours of driving ahead of us.

IMG_0195 copy for WPAfter about another hour of driving, the scenery starts to change. I’m now viewing some small grey rock formations that seem to be sprouting up sporadically, growing in abundance the farther we go. Brian and I decide to pull over at a scenic viewpoint to get a better look. We head to the top of a small hill and smiles grace our faces as we are mesmerized by what we are seeing. South of the hilltop is a vast area of rock formations that seem to go on for as far as the eye can see. IMG_0192 copy for WPThere are cattle grazing in front of us at the bottom of the hill, and looking to the north is a tree that is standing all alone on the open prairie. The humidity is starting to rise and the landscape seems hazy in the far distance. Brian starts to take a few pictures and becomes oblivious to the fact that he is being eaten alive by the insects that live here. I yell over at Brian to look at his legs, which are completely covered in black biting insects. He begins to quickly brush them off and leaves behind trails of blood running up and down his legs in the process. We both look at each and know that it’s indeed time to go. Another poor man rushes past us, apparently eager for the view. I feel awful because I don’t warn him about the pests that are lurking up ahead. We finally reach the car and are relieved for the Cortisone spray that we brought with us.

Photo Credit:  www.tripadvisor.com
Photo Credit: http://www.tripadvisor.com

Heading out once more, we see the exit that we need to take for the Badlands. After turning off, we notice a sign that says, “Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, .5 miles.” We decide to take a quick look since it’s on our way. As we enter the building, we are flooded with videos, photographs, and detailed descriptions of this historic place. I quickly learn that the purpose of this site, is to tell the story of Minuteman Missiles, nuclear deterrence, and the Cold War. We walk around the crowded site taking in as much as possible, knowing that we need to head out soon in order to reach our ultimate destination. As we leave, I am feeling excited that we have already seen so much today and yet we haven’t even seen the best part yet!

Down the road a little way we see a gas station and know that we should fill up our tank, since it looks like this could be the last gas station for a while. I look around and find some postcards that appeal to me, when all of a sudden a man comes up to me and asks me if I have any bug repellent. I tell him that I do and he starts to point out a young Asian woman who is in need of some. Apparently the store is completely out of bug repellent and I notice that she has numerous bug bites all over her legs. I run up to her and tell her that I can help. She quickly pays for her things and I motion her to follow me over to my car. I feel funny, like I’m luring her out of the store. She barely speaks English and I feel like I am teaching her to do something that she shouldn’t be doing. Trusting a complete stranger that wants to take you over to their car is never a good idea. But I know that she needs the bug spray and I can’t help myself. I must help her if it’s the last thing that I do! Yes, secretly I am Superwoman, and I have come to save the day with my super bug spray! I show her the bug spray and she lets me spray her down with it. She wants to pay me, but of course I refuse. After all, it’s only bug spray. She is all smiles and proceeds to tell me that she has just come here from another country and is working at the Badlands for the summer. We try to converse as much as possible, but her English is lacking and I do my best to answer her questions. I find myself motioning with my hands to explain half of what I am saying. She is so sweet and I instantly feel a connection with her. If there wasn’t so much of a language barrier, I am positive we would exchange phone numbers and become good friends. I finally say goodbye and wish her well. A part of me feels afraid for her, like I am leaving a small child to fend for herself. The feeling nags at me as we head out once more. I wish I could have done more for her. My motherly instinct tells me that she is all alone in a strange place and should have someone around that she can trust. I try to put the nagging feeling aside and continue on. I know that I have to trust God to take care of this young woman and I say a silent prayer that the Lord will keep her safe.

To be continued…

Day 1 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0165

It’s 10 minutes to 4:00 a.m. and I am wide awake. My alarm is set for 4:00 a.m. but my mind is in a hurry to start the day and doesn’t want to wait to be alerted. I scramble to my feet, excited to start the adventure of my life. An entire three weeks without the responsibility of caring for 3 lovely children, 2 huge dogs, 2 smelly rats, and 1 very large house that is a pain to clean! My poor husband is still snoring away, unaware of my excitement and eagerness to get going. I race to the shower, thinking about all the things I still need to do before we leave. Shower behind me, I’m a mental mess now, dripping water all over the place as I hastily dry off, fearing that I’ve forgotten something. My impatience is growing as I return to my bedroom and find that my dear sweet husband is still sleeping peacefully. The low sound of his rhythmic snores begins to echo in my brain and pulls me into a tizzy. In a semi-aggravated state, because obviously he isn’t aware of my eagerness to begin our adventure, I begin the process of waking him up by gently pushing against his shoulder. He lets out a few deep snores and smacks his lips together a few times before he turns to face me. I can tell that he is obviously not excited about getting up this early in the morning and he looks at me quizzically, one eye closed as he tries to adjust his eyes to the light coming from the bathroom just behind me. After several blinks, he is finally awake and sitting on the edge of the bed. I can hardly contain my excitement any longer and throw my arms around him in a tight embrace. “It’s time to get going!” I announce. He gives me a bit of a smirk and then trudges to the bathroom to escape my cheery disposition. I am a little disappointed in his response and hope that he will have a little more enthusiasm during the next three weeks.IMG_0168

After a little coaxing, saying goodbyes, packing the car, re-packing the car, and last-minute straightening and reminders to everyone, we are finally on our way. It’s now 5:15 a.m. and I am already annoyed because we have to stop for gas since we forgot to fill up the gas tank yesterday. I really just want to get going. The good thing about stopping is, now we have our morning coffee and soda to get us through the next 8 hours until we arrive at our first destination which is Mitchell, SD. I don’t know why I am so excited about Mitchell, SD in the first place. The only thing we plan to do there is visit the Corn Palace, and if I remember correctly, the last time I was there 11 years ago, there wasn’t much to see. Brian grabs my hand and bows his head in prayer. I quickly bow my head as well and pray along with him. With a final “Amen!” and a shared thought that passes silently between us, we head out onto the highway to continue our journey. We drive for about an hour, before both of us have to pee. Now we are second guessing our choice in drinking coffee and soda. This could make for a very long trip if our bladders keep forcing us to stop. Oh well, at least it’s just us that we have to worry about. If the kids were with us these stops would be a whole lot longer. IMG_0171

About 20 rest stops later… we are finally here in Mitchell, SD. We head over to our hotel which is a Comfort Inn. The place is pretty nice and the bed feels comfortable as I sprawl on top of it in happy revelation that we finally made it here. We decide not to lug all of our stuff in right away and head out to find the Corn Palace first. We don’t want to miss our opportunity to see this wonderful sight and were afraid it may close early. After taking a few wrong turns, we finally find it amidst the crowded buildings in the downtown area. It’s muggy outside, there’s road construction going on, and we aren’t quite sure where to park. Eventually we find a public parking lot across from the Corn Palace and park the car. I am grateful that we have finally made it here and just want to see something exciting and take lots of pictures. I am a little disappointed at first glance to see that they aren’t finished with the new exterior of the Corn Palace. Every year they change the theme and designs. Once inside the Corn Palace we are able to view pictures of the Corn Palace from all of the prior years. A Corn Palace Video blares in the distance, explaining the story of the Corn Palace. There’s a gift shop in the middle of a stadium seating area that gets our attention. We walk around the place for a while and discover some interesting facts. We learn that over 275,000 ears of corn are used each year in redecorating the Corn Palace and that all the colors of corn are naturally grown from special seeds raised just for the Corn Palace. Each color is apparently planted in separate fields to maintain its pure color and the Corn Palace Festival Committee selects a new theme each year.IMG_0167

After taking lots of pictures, buying a few souvenirs for our girls, and perusing the local shops in the area; we head back to our hotel to figure out what else we should do. Both of us are tired and hungry and noticed a Ruby Tuesdays Restaurant just a short walk away from our hotel. We decide to call the kids before we go and eat dinner, but unfortunately we now find that we have no cell service and no internet. A wave of heat hits us as we head out towards the restaurant. The temperature and humidity have been rising all day and even the short walk to the restaurant feels overwhelming. The restaurant is almost empty and I wonder if we should go elsewhere. A vacant restaurant in my opinion, is usually a bad sign. We order some burgers though and the pretzel bun burgers we order are really tasty. We order cocktails and spend a good amount of time talking and laughing. It’s the first time I’ve sat down with my husband to have dinner alone with him in what seems like ages. With full bellies and feeling a little lightheaded from the cocktails, we decide to walk to a nearby mall. It feels good to walk around holding hands and just be together as a couple. Exhaustion soon starts to overtake us though and we decide to head back to our room. Both of us plop down on the bed and fall asleep within minutes. The early morning, the long drive, the excitement of the day, and the fullness of a good meal, have laid the foundation for a good long rest.

Upon waking, we are both excited to be here on our own and decide to explore the waterpark.  The hot tub looks appealing, but we soon realize that it isn’t working and head for the pirate ship instead.  Still tired from a long day, I am feeling like we should just go back to our room, but Brian has other intentions.  Splashing his way around the ship like a 5 year old boy, he soon has me gallivanting around with him and I feel embarrassment wash over me.  Brian stands under a large bucket of water that keeps heaping loads of water over his head.  I am reminded of a childhood that didn’t allow for such experiences and wishing I could be little again.  As the sun begins to set, I am happy for our first day of fun and looking forward to the days to come.  Maybe I will find the little girl inside of me after all…

Handmade Art Journals (Updated)

For those of you who wanted a bit more information about how to make the art journals.  I have taken some pictures of the insides of all three journals.  Each one is unique in that we all wanted our journals for different reasons.  To begin, we started with sets of different scraps of fabric (the fronts and backs of the material didn’t match).  We sewed the sets of material together and left one side open for the stuffing.  It worked best for us to make the pillow for the spine of the book first, because then all of the other pillows could be adjusted to the size we needed for the overall book.  After stuffing each pocket, each one was made into a mini pillow.DMC floss  After all of the pillows were made, (mine had 17 pillows total) we embroidered each pillow the way that we wanted to, using unseperated DMC floss.  This is the longest part of the whole process, but it’s also the part that is the most fun, because you get to be really creative and make whatever patterns or pictures that you want on your pillows.  The next part goes pretty fast and involves sewing all of the pillows together in the order that you want them.  wpid-img_20150419_115721.jpgIt’s kind of like putting a puzzle together.  It took us several different tries before we got the layouts the way that we wanted them.  Once they were all sewn together, we ended up with this.  Then we proceeded to add the fun details, like snaps, buttons, ribbon, etc. to really make the journals our own unique creation.  wpid-img_20150419_192916.jpgAmy added snaps to her journal since she had some overlapping fabric that stuck out too far.  She ended up putting snaps on the front and the back and then added a ribbon to keep her journal securely closed.  Her little mistake actually enhanced the look of her journal and made it even better in the end.  I chose to used a button closure on my journal and Brianna decided to leave hers open and not put any type of closure on hers at all.  To finish, we added the paper to our journals.  Amy wanted to use her journal for writing, so we use lined paper for hers and sewed rings onto the inside spine to hold the paper.  wpid-img_20150419_193013.jpgI used heavy multimedia paper for mine, since I wanted to use mine for painting.  wpid-img_20150419_192705.jpgI decided to sew my pages into the spine by taking approximately five pieces of paper at a time, folding them in half, and then sewed down the middle of each stack to attach them to the inside.  I used an awl for making the holes in the paper before sewing them in and it worked beautifully!  Brianna chose a lighter drawing paper for her journal because she likes to draw.  wpid-img_20150419_192741.jpgI again used the rings for hers so that she could remove the pages and add more later if she wanted to.  As you can see, the insides are a bit messy looking, because you can see the backside of the embroidery.  The concept behind these books, is to use fabric in colors that is completely random and not the normal colors or patterns a person would typically choose.  This was a challenge for me, since I like everything to be perfectly organized when I work on a project.  It was quite freeing to work on these journals, knowing that they were suppose to be a hodgepodge of various fabrics and colors.  It’s the first time I ever made something that didn’t have to be perfect, and I think that is one reason why I love my journal so much.  It didn’t stress me out to make it!  wpid-img_20150419_192523.jpgHere is the final look inside my journal.  I hope this update gave you a more detailed look at what it takes to make one of these.  If you have further questions, please let me know.  I would love to help you design your own journal.  So if you are interested in the help, just let me know.  If you want to view the original post about these journals, go here.