Monday, August 23, 2010

Who coulda seen that coming???

Remember when I asked you which photo I should enter in the Minnesota Zoo photo contest? I had a hard time deciding which one, so I went with the overwhelming favorite. With the contrast bumped up a tad. It had some great competition, and in the end was not selected as a finalist.

The Eyes Have It
HOWEVER... a strange twist of events...

Fall in the Northwoods

I stuck this one in the "People and Places" category, and... made the finals!! Who'da thunk??

The photo with the most votes wins.

If you are on Facebook and would like to help me out, click here to view the photo. You will have to "Like" the Minnesota Zoo first, and then you can "like" my photo. Thanks a million! It's open until August 30. I will keep you posted on the results!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Backing up

As of this moment, my computer is, shall we say, comatose. So I have done all the backing up I can, and hope to be back in action soon.

That to say, I have no photos. To post. I have backed at least most of them up. Thankfully.

So here's a picture you can just imagine for yourself. I was invited (as an "involved parent in the district") to a meeting at 7:30 in the morning with the superintendant and presumably some other invitees. As a former teacher, these types of meetings were the norm for me and no big deal. But 11 years later, I am never anywhere but home at 7:30, and haven't frequented a professional setting since back in the day.

I walk into the auditorium and introduce myself to the superintendant, take my seat in the third row behind the other handful of attenders, and proceed to take my glasses out so I can read the handout. Wow, it's early to be reading, I think to myself, wondering why my glasses seem only to make it worse. I clean them inconspicuously on the hem of my shirt, and commence again with my reading, peering over my specs to listen in on the pre-meeting conversation. Still the reading is so cloudy and I am aging by the minute.

The problem? I was peering over... sunglasses.

Now go, back up your hard drive for heaven's sake! You'll be so glad you did!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My friend Carla always takes me out for a day of birthday celebration. She is very sweet to welcome my camera along for the ride and wait patiently as I click away. This year we went to possibly the most picturesque little town ever. (Well except for maybe these.) So fun!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Birthday high

The last time I posted it was my birthday. That was almost a week ago, and I am still coming down off my birthday high. Literally.

P1500131.JPGRemember this place? Last time we went there only Bethany climbed. It looked like so much fun! Let me just say, heights are not my strong suit. But the harness is very securely anchored, and, well, Bethany made it look like such a piece of cake, that I found myself wanting all of us to try it together. That was my birthday request.

If you look closely, there are four levels. At the top middle, beyond the top of the photo, is the pinnacle, the gangplank. We gave it very little thought the last time we were there. Obviously. I didn't even take a picture of it. But this time was different...

Lee on his way up

Me on my way up

Gang plank.jpg

Lee chicken dance.jpg

Bethany on the plank.jpg

Where in the world did she get the climbing gene? She was the only one who made it to the plank. Lee said his adrenaline was pumping and he was afraid if he went out there he might be sharing more of the experience than the people below would appreciate. Good call. As for me, when I heard she was going for it, I had to quit at the second level so I could go get the camera.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Ben made the sacrifice just before I did so he could take a picture of me. Thanks bunches, Ben!

Meanwhile, safely back at home...

I'm so blessed!
Friend celebrations yet to come...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Leap of faith


I did it. I jumped off that cliff too. In honor of my quickly approaching birthday. Not that I mentioned that to the rest of the people, but I was thinking it.

Today I am 48. By my family standards, truly, somewhere right around midlife. My grandma made it to 101, and her mother made it to 100. I have a lot of life left to go.

Which causes me to ponder.

At some point in my young adulthood, it occurred to me that my grandma, then 90 or so, was just an older version of me. I wondered to myself what all she had done in her youth, things that of course she didn't do any more. I wondered whether she was ever aware that she was doing things for the last time before they became things she didn't do anymore.

Lately I've been confronted with a few things that I used to do all the time. Things that were on my list of Things That I Haven't Done In a Long Time. Things that, if I didn't do them again soon, would silently move over to the list of Things That I Used to Do When I Was Young.

If it weren't for the fact that my kids are still young, they are things that I might not even consider doing again. But when Ben went skiing for the first time with his class and wanted me to go along, how could I refuse?

This trip to the Boundary Waters was far bigger a challenge than a ski trip. When I was a canoe guide, I would take nine strangers out into the wilderness every week. I could read a map, but pretty soon I didn't need one because I knew all the routes. I could get my group to a portage, make sure every pack, paddle, life jacket and canoe was on its way across, and then pick up my own canoe, flip it onto my shoulders, and carry it to the next lake. I could spot a good campsite a mile away. I could start a fire with wet wood (usually) and cook up some good eats. I didn't let bad weather or mosquitoes or smoke in my eyes or whiny kids get to me.

But that was over 25 years ago. What about now, I had often wondered, perhaps a little intimidated by the younger me.

Could I still find my way, or at least read a map? (Barely, so I wised up and handed the map over to Lee and Joey.) Would my shoulders shrivel up and die after a day of paddling? (No.) Could I carry even a pack over a portage? (Yes, and thankfully the portages were short so I could go back for the pack that Ben couldn't carry all the way.) Could I sleep in a tent and then stand up to get out of said tent in the morning? (Yes. Eventually.) Did I still remember how to cook over a fire? (YES! Especially since Lee and the guys are such great fire builders.) If it rained, would I be able to humor our kids well enough to wait it out? (It only rained a few times for a little while, and never when it mattered. Thank God!) And would we have what it took to pack up in the rain and paddle through windy lakes in order to get out of there if they couldn't make it? (Apparently God knows just how much we can handle.) Would all the little things that I used to endure with grace drive me bonkers? (Really not. I was just so happy to be there.)

I have wondered all these things for quite awhile, and was so happy when Lee suggested that this might be the year. If we had waited five years until the kids could carry their own weight, it might honestly have been too late for me to dare to try it. I'm so thankful that it worked out for Dave and Joey and Jacob to come, because we never could have done it without them. Thankful that, as of now, canoeing in the Boundary Waters is on the list of Things That I Love and Love Sharing With My Family.

There are honestly probably some things that have made the move to the list of Things I Used to Do When I Was Young. After all, I need time to work on the list of Things I Still Want to Do and See. There is so much yet ahead.

So Middle of Life, I embrace you. I plunge into your depths feet first. I may or may not scream on the way down, but I will revel in the moment, knowing it is the only choice I could possibly make. Living well must never find its way to the list of Things I Used to Do When I Was Young.

"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90: 12

Monday, August 9, 2010

The gift of time

Before our trip we got together with my brother and one of the boys to do a little planning. Dave had never been on a trip like this before, so we talked through what and how to pack and what to expect. It's hard to envision if you haven't been there--too bad I wasn't blogging in 1983 so I could show him my posts!

After all the discussion, Dave asked, "So once we've paddled in and set up our campsite, what will we actually DO for the next three days?" Great question. (I was secretly praying that the weather would be nice so we wouldn't be playing cards in our tents the whole time. Been there.)

There are always little nooks and crannies to explore close by. In this case, we had cliffs that we could hike to back behind our campsite. The kind that just dare you to jump...

We found a hiking trail on the map and poked around a bit, and explored a few other areas on the lake.

We watched the wildlife go by and took pictures and swam. (For the record, my brother took more pictures than I did! Who knew it was possible?)





We played card games and dice games and trivia games. Once when we were playing the card game "Rage", someone was taking a long time before making their play. Another player said, "Come on, we don't have all day! ...Well...actually, I guess we do." Ahh, life without watches!

And we read and napped in the hammock and cooked yummy food over the fire, watched sunrises, sunsets and gazed at the stars.




The whole time we were so aware of the Creator God who made all of these wonders, and truly appreciated his attention to every detail.

It was a huge blessing to have this time with Dave, Joey and Jacob. Their family has spent the vast majority of our kids' lives in West Africa, so all of our time with them is precious. Joey has been in college in the U.S. for four years and has stayed with us a few times, but this is the first concentrated time with Jake and Uncle Dave. Jake heads off to college himself this week, and Joey to Navy Officer Training School next week, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. We thank God for them and the fine young men that they are. They are awesome examples for our kids. They helped make this trip all I had dreamed of...and more!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


On day 2 of our adventure we piled our packs into canoes and severed all ties with civilization. When you go into the Boundary Waters there is no phone service, and while you might be able to use your ipod for as long as the battery lasts, one capsized canoe would be enough to make you wish you hadn't. We left them behind. Along with our watches.


We had to carry our gear and canoes across two portages (hiking trails) between lakes before we reached the lake we would call home for the next few days. The teamwork was impressive. We found a gorgeous campsite with plenty of space for our tents, and room to explore.


We were welcomed by several furry and feathered friends. The rangers told us not to feed the wild animals, but they forgot to mention that the tame animals would come on up and help themselves.


We were blessed with gorgeous weather to set the stage for the next couple of days of exploration. Tune in next time, when we answer the question, "What exactly did you DO while you were camping?"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Call of the Wild

Once upon a time, when I was in college, I worked a couple of summers for a camp, taking church youth groups on canoe trips in the beautiful wilderness known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It was a life changing experience, to say the least.

I always hoped that one day, if I ever had a family, I would have the chance to share it with them. This was finally the year for that dream to be realized. Thankfully, my brother and nephews were able to join us and help carry the load that would have been too much for us to handle on our own.

The first day was just a travel day to get up there. We were excited to learn that a group of eight vintage "tall ships" would be in the Duluth harbor the day we came through. What a cool rest stop!

Then, on to Ely, where we spent the night in an outfitter's bunk house, ready to hit the trail bright and early the next morning. More about that later!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The return to civilization


We just got back from quite an adventure with my brother and two of my nephews. I'll tell you all about it as soon as I get through all the laundry photos.