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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Family Portrait

Picture a family living apart and visiting once in a while
Picture an occasion that brings them together that makes everyone smile

Picture a marriage 50 years strong with children and grandchildren to show
Picture a celebration including a photo shoot that fosters the warm family glow

Picture a setting with trees and a pool, with sunshine and fun things to do
Picture the children enjoying each other as if every activity were new

Picture good food,fun talks and some fighting
(but not much, we were especially good)
Picture an atmosphere where everyone feels at home and is in a very good mood

Picture the goodbyes, the waves and kisses as one by one we depart
Picture the sadness as we slowly realize we will again be apart

Picture a family living apart and visiting once in a while
Picture the memories of an occasion that brought them together to smile

For lots more pictures, visit  www.aidaspics.phanfare.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Gateway to the West

Lady Gaga would have enjoyed the ride
After several days on the road, stopping mostly just for convenience,  I was happy to be headed to our first pre-planned destination, St. Louis.  I have fond memories of the time Steve and I "met" in St. Louis during our long distance engagement and I was especially eager to show the kids my favorite monument, the Jefferson National Westward  Expansion Memorial (aka - the Gateway Arch), an engineering marvel.  Even though we arrived on a July day Arizonans only dream of, with it's blue sky, mild temps and slight humidity, we didn't waste time enjoying the climate.  Instead, we hastily made our way through the picturesque Memorial park to the underground entrance for the Gateway Arch to catch the next tram ride up to the top.   A capsule (5 person egg-shaped elevator), takes you up to the top of the arch where you can see various sites of the city, including the Eads Bridge (inspiration for the Arch), Busch stadium, the Old Courthouse and the mighty Mississippi river.  But my favorite view by far, is straight down.

With nothing directly under you and leaning forward toward the slanted windows, you get the cool sensation of falling toward the Arch's shadow.   The kids enjoyed this St. Louis must-do and quickly internalized that, at 630 ft,  it is the tallest US monument and more than twice the height the Statue of Liberty.  They thought it was very cool, just like Mom.

After spending some time at the museum, learning about Westward Expansion and trying on pioneer bonnets, we headed outside for  a riverboat cruise along an industrial and very busy portion of the Mississippi river.   Then we strolled, leisurely this time, through the park and enjoyed some lunch, including a plate of toasted ravioli (St Louis favorite), while we waited out an afternoon thundershower.

When we hit the road again,it really felt like we had crossed a threshold in St. Louis.  We were not expanding westward in to unknown territory, though.  We were headed east, toward home and places familiar to me.

Monday, July 11, 2011


As we drove past billboards and truckstops along Interstate 40 yesterday, I started to think all that Oklahoma had to offer was humongous American flags, 72oz steaks and messages from God, himself.  I was resigned to more of the same as we left our overnight stop, Oklahoman City,  this morning, but luckily, while trying to start an audio book on a misbehaving ipod, I missed a critical exit, which took us on an unexpected and delightful detour.

Route 33 in Oklahoma: no billboards

Rather than turn back to the Interstate, we continued on Rt 33 under a blue sky dotted with  diorama-like clouds that appeared to be made out of cotton balls.  The road winded through rolling grass-filled hills and small towns.   The town of Drumright was particularly quaint with its normal sized flags and busy main street complete with an old lime-green roadster built for one.   This was a welcome change from our usual Interstate sightings of  Indian Casinos and Golden Arches.  I was so glad to have seen the beauty of Oklahoma on my first visit to the state.

In contrast to our Oklahoma detour, we planned to get off   Interstate 44 at Miami, OK to venture into Kansas.   Since Steve and I (and now our kids) have a decades-old goal of  eventually visiting each state in the U.S., we decided we could not pass on a 30 minute side trip through the southeast corner of Kansas.   We drove on  historic Route 66, and not so historic Rt 69A through the lovely town of Baxter Springs.  Although this part of Kansas looked a lot like Oklahoma, I could have sworn I saw more wheat fields and a flying house.

Having a schedule and specific destinations on a long roadtrip limits your ability to go off and explore.  Sometimes though, you'll luck out and get lost.  Other times, your compulsive need to plan and check off lists will lead you to a detour you've been wanting to take for years.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

The One That Started It All

Planning our upcoming cross country family trip has me thinking about the first time I drove across the United States.   Eighteen years ago, Steve and I took a 30 day roadtrip mostly through the south.  Newly engaged and moving on to my first real job as an engineer in Vancouver, WA, we loaded up my brand new Geo Prizm and started our trek.  Starting in Pennsylvania (at my parents Poconos home where we were later married), we set out on an adventure that would take us through 18 states (PA, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, AK, TX, NM, AZ, NV, CA, OR, WA).

We planned to see everything that the southern part of the US had to offer.   We visited friends, family, National Parks, roadside fruit stands, historic sites, weird truck stops, tourist traps and countless roadside rest areas.   While the changes in landscape were astounding, the changes in culture were surprisingly subtle.  We noticed different accents, colloquialisms and political views (especially from the Arkansas couple who sold us the best peaches ever and then apologized for unleashing, then President, Bill Clinton on the country).   These small differences could not mask the general American sensibility we encountered, though.

(Republican-owned) Arkansas roadside peach stand

Everyone was eager to hear our story:  We were just engaged and planned to get married in 3 years when Steve finished Graduate school at University of Illinois.  I was moving off to Washington state to start a great job at Hewlett-Packard while my family and Steve lived thousands of miles away.  We were kicking off our long distance relationship with a roadtrip across the country.   Everyone assured us that we could do it, that it would be tough, but we would reach our goal of living in the same state when we were married.  This was our American Dream.  While my experience in other countries is limited, I have always gotten the sense that most people tend to stay put (often by necessity) in their childhood hometowns, close to the comfort of their families.   Our type of movement and exploration is uniquely American, and you find it in small towns and big cities all across the country.

This trip kicked off  our family's continued romance with roadtrips and a thirst to see more of America.  In fact, in 1996, we ditched our tentative plans for tropical honeymoon in favor of a high adventure roadtrip through our 49th state, Alaska, pursuing our goal of driving to the Arctic Ocean and taking a dip.   Alaska was the 35th state I ever visited. Now, I have a hand drawn map of the U.S. with the 40 states I have visited filled in with crayon.   I'll pick up just a few more states on our upcoming roadtrip, thanks to a carefully planned route and a few detours.   The kids, on the other hand, will rack up the states now, giving me and Steve a run for our money.  Alex is proud to point out that he will be able to add 11 more states to his map, bringing his grand total to 27.    Visiting all 50 states in one's lifetime, I think, is an admirable goal.  There is so much to see in this fabulous country!  But to discover your neighbors, as well as yourself, is what keeps us packing.  Experiencing those subtle differences of American towns is what leaves us wanting more!

P.S.  - Fixed the comment link...you don't need id to post a comment now.