It's my life and I love it...most of the time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reflections of a "Girls Trip"

(Written 7/21/2011, just after our trip.)

I find myself at my parents for a down day, before having to make the 10 hour drive back home. I have just completed a girl trip with my mom and aunt to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. This would be a trip to test me, as I planned it to not be planned. The only thing set in stone was when we would leave and where we would stay the first two evenings. Everything else was completely up to happenstance; in other words, totally against my nature.
I was a little anxious as I left town. Would we all get along, would I have enough patience, would I be able to go with the flow? I am thankful that last month I had a bit of a trial run. We were on vacation with family friends the Lambs, and they planned everything. I had no control (or it felt that way), and had not researched anything. With the exception of two small melt downs, it went well. I was now ready to take on two 60+ year old family members. This is not the first time I have travelled with my aunt. I don’t believe I have travelled with my mom since the summer before my senior year.
Day one found us leaving bright and not terribly early, around 8:00. One of the things I reiterated several times was that we were on no time schedule, and could stop anytime and anywhere we felt like. This trip was all about my mom, with second place to my aunt. After missing a turn, we used the GPS to find our way, and before we knew it (not really, it is about a 4-5 hour drive) we arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. I had selected a nice hotel, right on the banks of Lake Superior complete with boardwalk. It was so interesting to watch the boats come in, and the bridge rise to let the tall ships in. As we watched the sun set over the water, we could hear the stringed quartet playing at the hotel next to us. It was such a relaxing evening.

The next day we continued our journey up the North Shore of Lake Superior. We chose the scenic drive, which included a lot of trees and glimpses of the lake. As we approached Two Harbors, we were ready to enjoy some of the local sights. We quickly found an old depot next to the harbor. Down the way, we arrived at the lakes oldest working lighthouse. It was especially interesting to watch the ship that had docked early that morning to take on a cargo of ore pellets. As the weather was unusually humid, we were ready to get back in the air conditioned car and head towards our destination for the day.

With a few stops along the way to take in waterfalls and marinas, we arrived in Grand Marais, a mere 40 minutes from the Canadian border. I loved this small village! After a nice lunch at A Sisters Place, we checked into our hotel directly across from the harbor and checked out the shopping. We strolled the streets absorbing the sounds and smells of the shore. Included in these sounds were dozens of sea gulls – which drove my aunt nuts! I loved listening to them. As the sun set, the temperature fell to just right for sitting and enjoying the water.

The following morning brought an extremely enjoyable breakfast. I was intrigued by the “Shore Potatoes” that were on the menu to accompany my Krab (sic) Cake Eggs Benedict. I couldn’t help laughing when they arrived and discovered this specialty of the house is what we often refer to as “Funeral Potatoes” or “Church Potatoes”.  It should be no surprise that they were very good. I felt a bit like I was having dinner, but the poached egg reminded me that it was indeed breakfast. Over breakfast we discussed whether we would continue the drive to the shore on the Wisconsin side, or just continue our stay in the area. Now don’t be shocked, but I willingly went along with the idea we would see if there were any vacancies along the way and try to stay in the area another night. As we passed by a resort just outside of Two Harbors, we saw a vacancy sign, made a call, and before we knew it we had a place for the night. In fact, it ended up being the nicest facility during the trip, for the least amount of money! We were so glad that we stayed in the area. We enjoyed eating at Betty’s Pies (Yes, fabulous pie) – twice! We did resist having pie for breakfast during the second visit, even as others around us did. We also enjoyed some more shopping downtown. And the haze lifted long enough to go back to Split Rock Lighthouse to get some beautiful shots.

Lest you think the entire trip was about sleeping, shopping, and food, (and it pretty much was) we also enjoyed talking about anything and everything. But what’s talked about on a girl trip, stays on a girl trip. ;-)
This brings us to our last day, the trip home. No one wanted to go back, and we did toss around staying gone another day. However, I did want to make sure I spent some time with my dad before we had to head back to Kansas. We did have one more objective to reach. Actually I did, my aunt and mom just went along with it. It is extremely hard for me to be so close to a state and not make a stop there to mark it off my map. So on the way home, we searched for somewhere to stop in Wisconsin. We found some waterfalls in a Wisconsin State Park, and made one last stop before heading back to moms. Now I can cross it off! It had killed me to be so close to Canada and not be able to go. This wasn’t quite the same as going to another country, but it helped ease the pain.

The drive back across the mid-section of Minnesota is not the most exciting (sorry Minnesota), but soon enough we were back in Hendricks, Minnesota. Our adventure was over. We did do a little more shopping the next day in downtown Hendricks, went to a flower show, and attended a pie social; but none of that compared to the beautiful sights we saw, nor the company we shared. I wonder where the next Girls Trip will be. No matter where we go, or who else joins us, I’m sure it will be fabulous fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Unlike most people, my year revolves around the school year, not the calendar year. I don’t plan things from January through December. I plan from August to July. I find myself coming very quickly upon the end of the year. This year it seems to have gone quicker than most. Having only 7 weeks off for the summer this year has made it seem even shorter.

I’m not complaining. While I don’t get paid for the majority of those 7 weeks, I realize I am lucky to be able to have that time off. I have the flexibility of working when I want during those weeks, and have been able to streamline things to a point where I now only have to work about 4 hours a week on average.

As the summer comes to a close, I find myself remembering many wonderful summers over the years. As a child every summer held a trip to the farm, all by myself.  A few years, I caught the bus in downtown Wichita and rode it to Pratt, where grandma would pick me up. Never in a million years could you do that now! One summer, I think it was the one after 4th grade, my friend Allison got to come with me. We had a great time riding the lawn mower all over the yard. We made street signs and placed them strategically in the large farm yard. A week may have been a little long, as I also remember some fussing as well.

One of the best summers I recall, was several years ago when the children were small. We bought a trial membership at one of the private pools. Several of the kid’s friends, as well as mine also belonged. We went swimming almost every afternoon. Sometimes Roger would join us after work. I would bring dinner and we would spend the evening swimming.

Now I find that summers will be changing again. This year only one of our kids went on vacation with us. Next week I will spend several days with just my mom and aunt, traveling along the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

My summers may be evolving, but they still evoke the same feelings they did when I was a child. I think the senses come alive with the heat of a hot summer day, the smell of a cool swimming pool, or the taste of rich, homemade ice cream. The excitement of summer will never go away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Life on the Road

My plans for the summer included staying home, staying home, and staying home. About mid-February, those plans started their tumble. I was busy getting ready for our family vacation over Spring Break, when our friends asked us to go to Colorado with them this summer.

Several years ago, I followed in my grandparents footsteps, and invited these same friends to go to the Grand Canyon with us. It had meant a lot to me to share in my grandparents adventures with their friends through pictures and videos. I wanted to create those same memories for my family.

On top of our friends being so excited about the prospect, my husband had been wanting to get back to Colorado for several years. One look at Roger's face, and I knew we had to go. Needless to say, we just finished a week in Colorado. Four adults. Four children, ages 4, 8, 11, and 16. We had a great time! Short hikes, long hikes, sitting by the lake, picnics in National Parks- and daily shows by two beautiful little girls to keep us entertained. Just the memories I want to create!

In June, I also spent some time in Kansas City with 8 teenagers, including my youngest son and two of his best friends. They had just completed a 2 week Inter Distance Learning Chinese class through the Confucius Institute. The course ended with a trip to KC for some interaction with other students from two states that had taken the course as well. I went along as a sponsor, and was privileged to meet some of the Chinese teachers, in the states for a period to work with the program. They were so wonderful to meet. It was great fun seeing how much the teens had learned.

With three weeks of summer left for me, I find myself preparing for one last trip. This time Cameron and I are headed to Minnesota Saturday. I will be taking my aunt, where we will leave Cameron with my dad for four days and travel the North Shore, and into Wisconsin and Michigan.

While I had not planned on travelling this summer, I look forward to one last trip before returning to work. Most importantly, I am looking forward to making a few more memories to store in my minds eye.