Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wyoming - Part I

We all spent a couple of days at Paul's parents' house, then Paul and I disappeared for a couple of days on our own. We returned this afternoon for a couple more days here all together before we head back east. Or, rather, to the Midwest.

Wyoming is a state that produces coal, oil, and natural gas. But on our little side trip Paul and I saw large wind farms, a few hydroelectric dams, and some solar panels. It turns out that geothermal is an possibility here, too.

We stayed in Saratoga and drove through the Medicine Bow National Forest, pausing to hike a couple trails. At the end of the Lakes trail I added a little bit of the trek to Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range but Paul made it much farther - probably to the summit itself.

It wasn't the altitude (my lungs, my legs) that did me in. It was more a combination of: the lack of visible path, loose rock to climb over, smooth snow face to cross, knowledge that every foot I climbed up I'd have to climb back down, and a complete lack of conviction for why I should put myself through all that in the first place. Besides, I was equipped for an "easy hike" with running shoes, khaki shorts, and a t-shirt. No water, no climbing gear, no experience.

Where I stood on top of a boulder over-looking a series of crystal clear lakes stair-stepping down in altitude below me, the view was incredible. I was content.

Soaking my feet in the hot springs later that night soothed both my physical reminders of the hike and my emotional distress over a day of sliding around hairpin turns up and down mountains on a single track dirt road. As the passenger.

Wyoming Highway 130, a paved "Scenic Byway," crosses Medicine Bow National Forest but is only open from late spring or early summer until October. Sometimes the road opens for the season in JULY. We saw lots of snow along the road in addition to at higher reaches on our hike but were quite comfortable in our summer attire. All road markers, signs, and reflectors were topped by tall sticks to mark the way for snow plows.

On our way back through the forest we decided to take a less well-traveled dirt road. We made it safely, and that's about enough said about the trip. More later.

Note: I'm in the first photo and took the second. (Look for my blue shirt.) Paul took the first photo about halfway back to the car park along the Lakes trail. I took the second photo after scrambling back down from Medicine Bow Summit, in the pass between Medicine Bow and SugarLoaf peaks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How To Exercise in Summer Heat

If you bike fast enough, the breeze will cool you down.

As an added incentive we took turns in the trailer (behind Paul's bike) and on the trail-a-bike (behind mine), offered the kids LOTS of water, and stopped along Grant's Trail to meet the Budweiser Clydesdales. Plus there's a park at the end.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It occurs to me that there's something sort of major I haven't mentioned here.

Paul's sister, her husband, and their three-year-old moved in with us this summer.

They'll probably stay with us for several months, until they've sold their house in Maryland and purchased one here in Missouri.

So far it's going great!

But I do have to fight a constant sense of being on vacation. It's summer! We have house guests! Doesn't this mean I should sit and visit rather than being productive? Take them out to all our favorite restaurants? Make special dinners and snack on whatever I want? Eschew exercise?

Sadly, no. And they don't expect it! So I just need to get over this fiesta feeling and get some stuff done. (Rob and I played Nintendo during nap time this afternoon. Oops.)

On a related note, now that we have others living in our house I can tell you in advance when we're going out of town. So here goes: we're headed out to Wyoming for a week at the end of this month. Woo hoo! And I might not schedule posts while I'm gone! But know that our house will not be vacant in our absence so you can't help yourselves to our elderly farting television.

(Picture above taken at Ted Drewes while eating frozen custard. Yum.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In-Laws Reunion

Last weekend we traveled to Iowa with Paul's family (his parents, his sister, her husband, and their three-year-old) to stay with extended family for an annual reunion weekend.

While away from wireless coverage we slept in a camper. A really, really nice camper. The camper was so roomy the girls got lonely and wanted to snuggle with Mommy at bedtime.

There were a couple dozen of us there but what made the trip, as always, was quality time with cousins:

Well, that and the food!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Things I Think About

I don't use a iPod when I run and people sometimes ask me how I distract myself.

I ponder deep questions like this:

If there are so many baby harp seals that we should club them to death (but not until they're at least 12 days old; earlier would be too cruel) and polar bears are starving to death in some of these same seal "hunting" countries, couldn't we work out some sort of compromise by which excess seals are relocated to polar bear territory? Seriously, I think environmental groups would donate money for this. Win-win!

Image credit: Encyclopaedia Brittanica's Advocacy for Animals, ASPGreenteam Blog and HowStuffWorks. (Note that I didn't post the gory shots.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bad Mommy . . .

. . . no Facebook during lunch.

One day lunch ran a little long. I had long finished my meal but the girls were still chatting happily so I slipped away for a moment.

I heard pouring. A cabinet opening and shutting. More pouring.

So I walked back into the kitchen.

Ellie said, "Uh oh."

Ada politely wiped her face with a napkin hoping to distract me from her masterpiece on the table . . .

My water. Ada's milk. The remains of someone's sandwich. And a whole lot of fresh raisins from the cupboard.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fourth of July

A family project.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club I'm discussing Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

I first learned about this novel in book club.  We were listing our all time favorite novels and one reader mentioned this one, then chose it for our next read.  Because of my impressions of the woman who selected the book and the context in which we were discussing it, I assumed Olive Kitteridge was an older novel, perhaps something she'd read in college.  I thought it would have a prominent religious message.  I thought it would be quiet and probably a little conservative or at least conventional.

None of those assumptions proved accurate.

Olive Kitteridge is a novel, though it doesn't seem like one.  It's actually a volume of short stories, many of which are completely unrelated to each other.  Quite a few of the characters show up only in one story and then are gone from the book forever.  This breaks all the rules of good story-telling.  But it works for this narrative, and the one consistent thread is Olive herself.  

She appears in every story, either as a main character - as when her husband is the narrator - or merely as someone who walks through the room in which someone else's story unfolds. 

This works in large part because of the author's skill, but also because of Olive herself, who is complicated, fascinating, and nothing at all like I expected her to be. (The series of stories ends up telling one larger story about Olive's life, which makes it feel like a novel, in the end.)

Are you intrigued yet?  I hope you are.  Because I loved this book and want you to go read it too so we can talk about it.

(And after that, perhaps you can point me to a good grammar tutorial on using an awkward word like "assumptions.")

P.S. "Elizabeth Strout’s most recent work, Olive Kitteridge, a novel in stories, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was a New York Times Bestseller. She is the author of two previous novels, Abide With Me, a national bestseller, and Amy and Isabelle, also a New York Times Bestseller."

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I haven't done anything more productive than cleaning my bathrooms but I'm so tired I can't think. In lieu of current creativity, here's a glimpse into my past.

The oldest file in my My Documents folder is a 13 year-old poem:


A man went down to Sandy Beach to see what he could find.
But all he found were paper trash, hypodermics, and an orange rind.
So he walked a little further, to a nearby store
Where he found rolling papers, condoms, beer, and little more.
When he was feeling nice and relaxed he decided to try again.
So he walked up to his church to confess his sins.
But the priest was busy, out, they said, praying for the dead.
Like Me, thought the man, and blew off his own head.

I've never been much of a poet, but even I can see that the meter needs a little work.  Interesting first draft.  I don't remember writing it, though I remember writing the jump rope rhyme saved on the same page.

Monday, July 05, 2010

No Offense Intended

with all of our celebrations yesterday, Great Britain.

I thought we'd BBQ alone as a family last night as the quiet before the storm this week (more on that later).

Instead a couple of friends came over. But these are the best kind of friends - the kind we don't have to clean house for, or cook a special meal for, or change clothes for, or put on lipstick for. The kind we can talk about whatever with. The kind we've known for a long time. Good friends, lovely evening.

A lovely whole day, actually. I ate way more than I should have of foods I should never have eaten. But since I ran four miles the night before, this didn't feel so terrible. Also, two people I see all the time didn't recognize Paul and me from a distance due to our updated silhouettes and that felt great.

And my hair is still not Cat Deeley's but I didn't hate it all day long, either.

So, in short, it seems that my mood is on an upswing and I'm heading back to a good place. Hooray for that!

P.S. I finally know how to spell "silhouette" (see paragraph 4 above) because of my friend Amanda's new novel!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Point of View

Paul's parents gave Ellie and Ada a kids' digital camera for Christmas last year. Its resolution is not the greatest, but there's a little view screen and the equipment has yet to be adversely affected by any of its many traumatic events.

Six-year-old Ellie, three-year-old Ada, and three-year-old cousin Arria had a blast on vacation last week and took 116 pictures. Here are a few shots from their perspectives:

Legend: snacks, Ellie, Paul, Uncle Ben, rug, cousin Arria, Ada, Aunt Grace, Ada loves lighthouses, Grandpa (The End).