“Should I make whoopie pies for you for Christmas?” questioned my husband.
My mouth began to water before I could even answer. “I would love that.” My mother made these special treats for us at Christmas time while growing up in Pennsylvania. Here in Minnesota if one mentions Whoopie pies, he is met with quizzical looks. So, what is a whoopie pie? It is two round mound-shaped pieces of cake with a sweet cream filling sandwiched between them. According to “What’s Cooking America?”, they have their origins with the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This dessert springs from my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.
Hubby was trying to explain this foreign delight to his employee, Alex, just a few days before Christmas. But an explanation of its goodness does not begin to compare with the actual taste of the completed dessert. “Can you spare a whoopie pie to give to Alex?” he questioned.
“Of course!” I packaged one up to be delivered to him on Christmas Eve.
Alex decided that he would save the scrumptious sweet to share with his wife at home. However, his just-turned-three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter needed to be picked up from Grandma and Grandpas before heading for home. And then the questions began, “Dad, what’s that?”, “Can we eat it?
Alex scrambled to come up with a plan that would leave the whoopie pie for him and his wife to enjoy. A brilliant idea occurred to him. It was Christmas Eve after all.
“How about we save the whoopie pie to put out for Santa Claus tonight?” He encouraged the young ones with a laugh.
As bedtime approached, Son and Daughter excitedly helped carry the whoopie pie, some other cookies, and a glass of milk to the coffee table by the Christmas tree.
“Time for bed. Santa can’t come until you are asleep.”
Both excited children were soon tucked in bed and the adults sat talking in the kitchen. As the minutes ticked by, Alex realized that his young son had not appeared in the doorway as was the ritual that occurred on other nights. That’s strange. I better go check on him.
The room was quiet as he approached it. Peeking into the dimly lit room, he noticed Son perched in the corner of the room with his feet tucked under him. Brown crumbs stuck to his cheeks and littered the floor around him.
“Did you eat the Whoopie pie?”
A vigorous shaking of the head back and forth followed the question. “No, I didn’t eat it.”
But the evidence said it all and Alex knew he needed to have a discussion with the child about not telling the truth. A smile was poking at the corner of his lips, though, and he needed to escape the room. His wife would have to have this discussion. He had an overwhelming desire to laugh. How his son had gotten the goodie, he did not know. What he did know was his well laid plans for Santa and a taste of the whoopie pie had been derailed by a small child.
Rumble… Rumble… Roar… Crash… is accompanied by noticeable shaking of the house.
Hubby appears in the bathroom door, “Did you hear that noise? I wonder what that was?”
It is dark outside, so it is hard to see anything. Hubby dons his shoes and disappears out into the blackness. I am wondering if there has been an explosion or fire at one of the neighbors. He soon comes back in to report that it is much simpler than that. The temperature has been above freezing for the last few days and there has been a huge snow slide off of our new steel roof on the back side of the house.
The next morning, I am awakened around 6 a.m. to the same deafening noise again. My heart is pounding at breakneck speed as it attempts to prepare me to flee this terrifying event. Sleep has also fled away. As I peer out into the filtering light of day, there is a huge pile of snow on the deck and on the ground behind the house but nothing serious seems to be wrong – just another snow slide. Then I notice a strange sight. Small pieces of grated metal stick out of the snow at various angles. I soon identify them as the leaf guard sections that we had installed last fall on our eves during the installation of the roof. Well that lasted all of two months.
We have had eves on the house for most of the 23 years we have lived here. As the trees have matured around the house, plugged eves has become more of a problem. Last year, some well-developed trees sprouted high in the sky. The eves on the back side of the house are about 30 feet above the ground so cleaning them is a bit of a challenge. Standing on a ladder on the deck and shoving a garden hose down the length of the eves seemed to provide the most efficient means of cleaning. But there is always a hang up at the downspout. Of course, we had heard of leaf guards and decided that maybe this would be the perfect solutions to our problem. And why not have them installed while having a new roof put on. Problem solved, right?
Our winter came early this year. By early November, zero temperatures and a five-inch snow fall had arrived. A few weeks later, we had a weekend where it alternated between rain and snow for several days. It was just warm enough to produce rain intermingled with the snow. I noticed while looking out our large back window that the snow was melting into the eves just enough to freeze at night intertwined with the grating on the leaf guards. Then one day, I notice that the eve had stretched outward so that it was no longer U shaped but more of an L. Finally, the snow load must have provided enough pressure that it came crashing down, tearing off most of the entrapped leaf guards. I pick up the pieces and slam them on the stone walk to loosen all the ice pieces. With sadness, I dropped them into a garbage bag. I would say this experiment was a failure.
“I hope they didn’t cost very much,” remarks Hubby.
I don’t know and I don’t think I want to know. In the spring, I think the next project is to take the eves off completely and let the water run.
“Major snowstorm coming in for the holiday week with 5-9” of snow possible from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday followed by 35-45 mile per hour winds,” emphasizes the meteorologist during the Monday evening weather forecast. I groan. I must work two days this week and one of them is to be Wednesday. I am not looking forward to trying to traverse a blizzard whipped road to meet my work obligation. I just hope that Thanksgiving is nice as I am looking forward to having our daughter and her husband join us for the holiday. They have a four-hour drive from Ames, Iowa.
Tuesday dawns with a dark curtain hanging low over the land. However, the temperature is mild, rising into the forties and the wind is calm. This depressing atmosphere pervades throughout the day, but no raindrops or snowflakes fall from the pregnant clouds. Only a few snowflakes have fallen by the time the earth circles into the darker darkness of night. Maybe the weatherman will be wrong.
“I’m going to go take my shower,” I inform my husband around 9:15 Tuesday evening. Soon I am basking in the warm pleasant water of the shower, scrubbing the suds of the soap bar into all the cracks and crevices. Without warning, I am thrown into complete darkness. Great! Just great! Maybe it will come back on again.
“You are going to run out of water if you keep letting it run,” comes a voice from the doorway.
“Well, yeah! But I am not going to stand here with soap all over me.” I turn off the water and stumble out of the shower groping for a towel in the blackness.
“I didn’t think it was that bad outside that the power should go out.” I comment to my husband, “Could you start the generator for a while?”
“I’m going as soon as I can find a flashlight,” his voice recedes into the murky hole of the stairwell.
Soon there is a roar from the garage and a flood of bright light from the kitchen indicates we are generating limited electricity. At least, the water pump will run and I can finish my shower. But now what do we do? It’s too early to go to bed. A few extension cords are pulled from the drawer and strung so we can view the weather on TV. Still, the power has not been restored.
“Should we leave the generator run and go to bed,” questions my hubby. “I really don’t like to leave the generator run while we are sleeping.”
“Let’s just turn it off. It’s not that cold out and we can snuggle together in bed.”
But I am reminded as we settle into bed that my bed warmer needs electricity, our Sleep Number bed is hard too. It can’t adjust without power, and Hubby’s CPAP mask doesn’t operate on air either. Ughhhh… I lay there listening to the snores beside me with eyes wide open. There is not going to be any sleep for me tonight. I have just started to doze off when I am startled awake by the overhead bedroom light glaring in our face. The power is back on.
The next day, we learn that the power outage was the result of a local crop farmer who was headed home from last minute corn harvesting. The steep hill a mile from our house had become layered with fresh ice and snow causing his large John Deere combine to slide off the road and snap a power pole in two.
I am feeling exhausted when I climb out of bed the next morning from the events of the previous night. About 8” of new snow greets me when I peek out the front door. To top off the situation, the wind is howling. Hubby heads out to clear the driveway. The biggest problem for plowing is that the ground is not yet frozen, and the snow is wet and heavy. This results in rolls and rolls of driveway gravel ending up in the ditch- a distressing result to me this early in the season.
For the last three weeks, I have been driving a new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek as a loaner car while mine is in the shop. I can see myself smashing this one in a winter storm before I am able to return it. But it is a Subaru and it is an all-wheel drive so what could possibly go wrong. I leave a ½ hour early in order to be able to drive carefully. The roadway is plowed but patches of drifts have developed where the snow has been driven by the westerly wind across the road. I find myself following a van whose driver thinks 30 miles per hour is an exceedingly high speed. Every few minutes, she (I am presuming it is a she) finds herself “flying” down the road at 32 or 33 mph and the brake lights come on. Over and over, this happens. I take a deep breath and bite my lip. I might actually make it to work. Thank goodness, I left early. It seems a little icy to try and pass especially with a car I do not know well so I patiently follow. I soon park safely in the parking ramp. I have promised my hubby that I will text him when I get to work to let him know I have arrived safely. I type the text in the car and hit “send.” “No service,” pops up along with a question, “Do you want to send when service is restored?” I hit the “yes” button and head into the hospital. I check my sent messages a couple of times to make sure my text went. Satisfied, I turn off my phone.
Not only is this a snowy wintery day, it is the day before Thanksgiving, and we are busy in surgery. I find myself running an hour overtime and it is 8 p.m. before I am ready to head for home. I turn the phone back on and see I have a frantic message from the morning from my hubby, “I haven’t heard from you. Are you OK? Are you in the ditch? Should I come look for you?” Now I am flustered. Did my text not ever get to him? I quickly dial his number.
“I just got your text from this morning,” he informs me. “I have been worrying all day that something happened to you.”
“I’m sorry. I sent you a text. I guess you can figure that if no one from work has called looking for me, that all is well,” is the only response I have for him.
I am frustrated that my well-laid intentions did not work out and Hubby has been anxious all day. There is not much I can do about it now, but I guess I have learned not to trust text messaging.
It is no longer snowing as I head for home and the state road heading north seems clear. It isn’t until I turn onto a county east-west road, that I see the first pickup in the ditch. As I scan the road about another mile ahead, numerous red brake lights shine back at me. A glaze on the blacktop reflects back from where the snow has been skittering across the road all day. There is an obvious problem ahead as well. Sure enough, another pickup is in the ditch. I crawl around the disaster to avoid the same fate myself. I come up behind a car that is crawling along with hazard lights flashing. Seriously! That’s annoying to have intermittent orange bouncing off my retinas. I think I can tell we need to go slow.
By 9 p.m., I am safely in the garage, only to be confronted by another problem. The internet is not working. I can only guess the dish is snow and ice covered. That problem will have to wait until morning.
After a good night’s sleep in a warm, snuggly, electrically-operating-properly bed, we decide to solve our outdoor issues while waiting for the young folks to show up for Thanksgiving. The satellite dish is covered with snow, so a ladder and a broom are obtained to wipe off the offending material. A coating of ice remains after the snow is removed. The connection is trying to work now but ever so slowly. It is brainstorming time. How do we get the ice off the dish? Hubby produces a tree trimming pole and I dig through the drawer for a hair dryer. Electrical tape them together and we have a useful tool for thawing ice high up on the side of the house. Ten minutes of hair drying, and we have an internet connection.
Our daughter and son-in-law along with two large dogs soon sweep in with a flurry and we have a Thanksgiving feast together. Well timed by the Lord above, it is the only day of the week with quiet weather and a smooth-running day. Our bellies are laden with turkey, stuffing, squash, and pumpkin pie and our hearts are gladdened with family fellowship.
Friday morning after climbing out of bed, I turn on the water at the sink in the bathroom. Hmmm? Nothing is coming out of the faucet.
I return to the bedroom to my sleeping husband. “I think we have a water problem.”
He sleepily crawls out of bed and dresses. “It has been almost 25 years. One of these times, we are going to end up pulling the pump.”
I sure hope it is not the pump. Pulling it now would be a huge headache. Our yard already has a four-foot drift in it and getting a well truck backed up to the garden would take some doing. Well, I can’t wash up, but I can comb my hair and get dressed while Hubby disappears to the basement with his electrical meter to do some checking and diagnosing. A few minutes go by before the bathroom is thrown into darkness. A resetting of the breaker has caused a bang as the breaker kicks out again. “There is a dead short,” is the response I get when I go to check on progress. Soon he is kneeling in the snow in the garden by the well attempting to make a final determination of the problem. “I think it is the underground and that I can fix. I just hope I am right,” he concludes.
A trip to town is next to get a roll of wire which we string across the yard to the house. A hole is drilled in the garage/house wall to gain access to the basement and then my resident electrician re-wires the well. A flip of the breaker results in rising water pressure and a stream from the faucet. Hurrah! So why has the underground decided to go bad now after twenty-three years? We can only speculate. This fall, we added a porch to the front of the house. One of the posts was extremely close to the buried well wire. The builders did not think they hit it but maybe, they nicked it and now it has burned off or maybe, the concrete poured into the hole for the foundation has shifted enough to put tension on a previous splice. We will be waiting until spring now to run another permanent underground wire.
But we do have electricity and water again just in time for the next winter weather system to move through dropping rain, freezing rain, and snow over the next three days – days that I thankfully do not have to venture out to work. We are more than ready for the bright sunshine that appears on the Monday morning that next week. It heralds the beginning of December and the start of the Christmas season.
gets up at 5 a.m. and leaves the hotel. I am awake anyway so I might as well
get up. I wander over to the conference early and eat my breakfast alone
outside on the patio. Our scheduled adventure for today is an ATV ride at 1
p.m. I had a little panic attack this morning while looking at one of the maps.
I see an Arizona Off-Road Adventure company located close to Camp Verde. My
ticket has an address in West Sedona. Did I make a mistake? If we show up at
the wrong place, we have thrown away a bunch of money.
head back to the hotel room after the next to last lecture and meet Hubby in
the hallway on his way back to the room as well. We hurriedly throw together a
lunch as the GPS says it will take us a ½ hour to our destination. “The traffic
is terrible this morning,” is Hubby’s report for the morning.
arrive with time to spare and my anxiety about showing up at the wrong place is
not justified. We sign the usual, “This is a dangerous activity and we are not
responsible if you die” paper before being fitted with a kerchief to cover our
mouth and nose, a helmet to protect our brains, and googles to protect our
eyes. Now we look like bandits. We settle down to wait for other people to
arrive before being taken to a small track outback to practice driving. “For
how many people is this the first time they have driven an ATV?” asks our
instructor. All four hands in our group go up. Well at least we are not alone
in needing to look like beginners.
wants to go first?”
some instruction on how to push the throttle and how to apply the brakes, I am
off. Slowly I crawl around the track. They purposely made it with deep holes
and rocks and short turns. Turning the machine seems to be my biggest problem
but I make it around without any significant problem. Hmmm! Maybe I can drive
this thing. Everyone else takes a turn before we are ready to leave. Hubby does
his trial run without any problem either so soon we are piling into a van to be
hauled to the Coconino National Forest. Contrary to my preconceived notion, national
forests in Arizona do not necessarily contain trees. This one has short scrubs,
mostly dirt, cacti, and stones.
I am a little apprehensive but also a little excited. This has the potential to be smashing fun. We are soon lined up behind our guide. We will be riding 25 miles of dirt trails covered with rock and holes and twists and turns. It takes a little getting used to the throttle which needs to be operated with one’s right thumb. The temperature is only about 80 degrees but the helmet with the face kerchief makes for a smothering sensation. I soon ditch the kerchief over my face. It doesn’t seem that dusty. As I get more used to the machine, accelerating in short burst is a thrill. We travel down a forest road first and then turn onto a path through the “forest.” It is more like a cow path through a dry and barren land. We eventually climb higher on the Sawtooth Ridge and stop for a break. We gaze out over a vast valley below to the red rock formations miles away. Then we begin our ascent back down and back to our starting point. The last few miles takes us on the gravel forest road, and we step up our pace. With the wind in our face, we throttle the machines and sail towards the drop off spot. Whee! A little taste of risk-taking enhances the thrill. Our ride takes about three hours and before we know it, we are back to the truck and heading back to Sedona.
Our plan for the evening is to watch the sunset from the airport above Sedona so we pick up some Subway sandwiches to picnic there. The person working in Subway is sullen and inattentive. I think she would just as soon have not been there. This is our second attempt at buying Subway in Sedona and neither one has turned out particularly well. The last time, the bread on the sandwiches was hard and the cookies stale. This time the sandwiches were good, but the cookies were still stale. Time to give up on Subway here.
The drive up airport road is one of twists and turns. It cost $3 to park in the parking lot there but the view is awesome. We wander down a trail along the ridge and settle ourselves on a bench there. Hubby sets up the camera to get some pictures. The wind is getting cool as the sun goes down. We keep expecting the rocks to turn red with the sun sliding below the horizon but the color changes little. Hubby is somewhat disappointed as the hype has been great that it is such a spectacular view at sunset. It is still a great view. It just doesn’t meet what we have been told to believe. Oh well, time to get back to the hotel.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Today is my last day of the anesthesia conference and our last day in Sedona before we fly back tomorrow. Hubby left early to explore so I thought I would get up and visit the Pink Jeep concierge desk at the hotel before the conference starts. We made a last-minute decision last evening to see if we could get reservations for the Pink Jeep trip to the Honanki Indian ruins in Boyton Canyon. I walk up to the concierge desk, but no one is staffing it.
“When does the concierge desk open,” I ask the hotel desk attendant.
“They don’t start until 8 a.m. on the weekends.”
Well that’s weird. Why would one have less coverage on the weekend when it is busier than during the week? Oh well, I guess I will have to come back between conference sessions.
When I return at 8:30, a gentleman is available to help me. And I am in luck. They have a 2 p.m. time slot for the venture we are looking at. That should be perfect. I can attend the whole conference on the last day, maybe get in a nap, and still make it to uptown Sedona by 1:30 p.m.
arrive back to an empty hotel room as Hubby has not yet returned. I spend a few
minutes gathering our things together for travel home tomorrow before he
have to go right now,” he announces.
I ask. I was planning on a nice little nap. “Don’t we at least have time to
are thousands of cars today with a two- mile backup on route 179. I don’t know
why it is so busy, but it took me ½ hour to travel just a few miles.”
let’s at least try to eat first. We still have an hour and ¾,” I implore.
hurriedly eat our usual cold cut tortilla lunch in the hotel room and set off
on this beautiful day. Traffic is slow but there are no extended periods of traffic
stoppage. I try to relax. We will be just fine. The sun is shining
brightly with no clouds in the sky. The temperature is about 80 degrees. We
have had no cloudy or rainy days since we arrived here.
reach Uptown Sedona where the Pink Jeep headquarters is located with time to
spare. The next order of business is finding a parking spot. The town is
flooded with people. I don’t know if this is business as usual for Sedona or if
this is extra ordinary. We decide to try out some back streets and do find one
parking spot in front of some mailboxes in Lot B. Is this a legal parking spot,
we ask? We look high and low for any signs indicating our car will be towed if
we park here. There are none. Next we need to figure out how to get across the
street. The one thing the designers of round-abouts forgot to address was
pedestrian crossing. When there is wall to wall traffic with no breaks in the
continuous flow of speeding vehicles, how does one get across? Soon I notice
that some traffic control people have been called into service on this busy Saturday.
One activates a traffic signal that was dark and dormant and another stands at
the next round about up the street and stops traffic periodically to allow safe
have arrived with an hour and a half to spare. We do some shop browsing before
settling down in the waiting area of the jeep company. At 1:45, we are given
some basic instructions on our trip. The most humorous one is the instruction
on how to fasten a seat belt. Then we are assigned to our driver. There are six
of us in the open-air pink jeep with overhead roll bars. And yes, the jeeps are
pink. The first part of our journey is on a hard-top road. It then turns into
dirt as we again enter the Coconino National Forest. The roads are of the same
status as the ones we traveled on the ATVs. They are strange uneven rock
underlay and are full of potholes. We bounce around as we wind through more red
rock country with tall mesas off in the distance. After about an hour ride, we
arrive at the Indian ruins. The sun is hot as it beats down on us. We have a
fairly short walk through the “forest” to the ruins. A slight breeze blows and
we get intermittent shade from the scrubby trees. One lady in our group is
almost 80 years old resulting in a rather slow walk for the rest of us
not-quite-as-old folks. There are some rocks and tree roots to stumble over and
a short section of natural stone steps to traverse.
are told the walls built of stones mortared together with mud that connect
directly to the cliff wall are left over homes or community buildings from a
people that lived there in the 1400s. On the cliff walls, in some places barely
visible, are various sketches and drawings made by these people. It looks like
a rather unique place to live – hidden up against the 1000-foot-high cliff
lady in our group is unable to take the pictures she wants as her batteries
have reached their useful life expectancy. Noticing her predicament, my always
generous husband offers her his backup batteries. She graciously accepts.
Hopefully, his will last until we get home as they are rechargeable.
soon return to our pink jeep. There are two elevated seats along each side and
one in the back. Hubby and I squeeze into the back seat for the ride back. It
is a little like riding in the back of a school bus, but we enjoy the cool
breezes as we head back to town. There, we decide to eat in a restaurant along
Sedona’s Uptown streets. There are many to choose from. First, I remind Hubby
that we were going to stop at the chocolate shop. I saw a tasty looking bar there
earlier that reminded me of the peanut butter bars I used to love. They have a
peanut butter core covered by chocolate. My mouth has been watering all
afternoon. The chocolate covered orange sticks are attracting my hubby. As we
check out, the smiling young lady with flowing long pigtails greets us
cheerfully, “Thank you for coming back. I gave you a 20% discount for stopping
again.” She remembered us from earlier even with the multitude of people
flowing through the shop.
mouth is watering for a hamburger, so we pick a restaurant called the Cowboy
Café. The waiters are dressed like cowboys with one even having a gun on his
hip. I am not sure if that is just for looks or if it is actually loaded. Afterall,
Arizona is an open carry state. I about fall over after previewing the menu. I
was hoping for a reasonably priced meal, but this is anything but that. It
looks more high class. We finally decide to order a plate of appetizer for us
both. It includes rattlesnake sausage, buffalo skewers, breaded fried cactus,
and some type of spicy “bread.” Each item comes with a sauce. I keep forgetting
that we are close to Mexico and finding food that is not spiced up is a
challenge. We will need to get out the Gaviscon tonight.
the time we finish eating, it is time to head for the Red Rock Rangers station
where they are holding a View The Stars Party. The hour-long astronomy
presentation is following by star viewing through several different telescopes
outside in the dark. The sky is cloudless and the stars shine brightly. The air
is cool enough to require the addition of a sweater. All the rocks and things
to trip over are lined with red lights which supposedly does not affect one’s
night vision. I soon realize that I will have trouble navigating in the dark as
my balance since my stroke in February seems to be dependent on having visual
orientation. Hubby’s primary interest is photographing the stars and the milky
way. By 8:30, we are both tired and head back to the hotel.
last evening is spent packing up and getting ready for a quick departure in the
morning. Our flight is not until 12:15 (noon) but we have a two-hour drive, a
need to return the rental car, then catch the rental car shuttle to the airport
and get ourselves through security. We get all this accomplished with two hours
to spare to eat a leisurely breakfast. “Traveling would be so much fun,” I
comment to Hubby, “if there just weren’t
any people.” Take a deep breath, I tell myself, and take it one step at a
time. Maybe by the time we are too old to travel, we will have this travel
thing figured out.
first segment of our journey to Chicago from Phoenix goes quite smoothly. There
are some thunderstorms in the Chicago area with rain pouring down on arrival.
This leads to some turbulence and rather panicked instructions to stay in our
seats and buckle up, but we arrive a ½ hour ahead of schedule. We have a
three-hour layover here so there is no need to hurry. Our text message from
American Airlines gives up a gate number of L1A. We settle in to wait. I spend
the time catching up on my writing and do some reading.
5:58 p.m., our cell phones ding to tell us that our flight has been moved to
gate L3. We gather up our luggage and move a few gates down. The board still
says this flight is on time for takeoff at 8:45 p.m. At about the time the
electronic board indicates we should be boarding the plane, the cell phone asks
for our attention again. Time for takeoff has changed to 9 p.m. Five minutes later,
the next message says the gate has changed to H3A with the takeoff time still
being 9 p.m. We get up and begin our walk across the airport this time to a
different wing. We have no more started our walk than the next message informs
us the gate has been changed to H1B. Seriously people! Is it that hard to
figure out what you are doing? And now departure time has been changed to
head is spinning, and I am beginning to doubt that we will be arriving home
tonight. Finally at 9 p.m., another arriving load of travelers deplane and we
almost immediately begin boarding. Maybe there is still hope. Once
everyone is comfortably seated, the captain announces, “We will be pushing away
from the jet bridge in just a few minutes but expect a 40-minute wait for
takeoff.” I groan. But as promised, by 10 p.m., we are airborne and headed for
walk into the house at midnight. “Kitty Kitty Where are you?” Several times
while in Sedona, I wondered if I had put her food out and I couldn’t remember but
I convinced myself that I couldn’t have possibly forgotten something so
important. I look up at the shelf where I put her food so that I could just set
it down before we left. OH NO! The bowl of food still sits high up on
the shelf. I never gave her the food on the way out the door six days ago. Poor
Snowflake. She greets us with her usual “Meow Meow Meow Meow!” She does not
seem any the worse for the situation. I am not sure if she is protesting that
we left her alone or that she is starving. I quickly feed her, but she doesn’t
seem particularly over hungry. She is just happy we are home and wants us to
This morning was my first day of the anesthesia conference. My night last night was not restful. I woke up several times with the feeling of sour food pushing against my throat. The shrimp scampi I ate for supper must not have set well. Finally, I take a Gaviscon and am able to drift off. But I wake up every hour or so and check the clock. And so the night drags on.
walk back to our room from the seminar about noon. Hubby has gone shopping for
lunch staples, so we have tortillas and chips before heading out. We start out
going north on Hwy 179 through Sedona. We make several stops at scenic views.
The Chapel of the Cross on the top of a high red rock is the highlight. We drive
as high up as we can and then decide the last option is to walk the rest of the
you want a ride?” inquires a voice from a golf cart just as we are starting our
climb. This is too good to be true.
I respond as I make a dive for the back seat of his vehicle. I do notice the
tip box prominently displayed upfront. Oh well, it was worth not having to walk
up the steep hill.
In Sedona, we go around the umpteenth round-about and head south on 89A. I thought Minnesotans were in love with round-abouts but here, there are almost no traffic lights and a round-about every time one blinks their eyes. Nobody seems to care much about being polite either. They would just as soon run over you as not.
One of my goals for this day is to find the Verde Valley Railroad while sightseeing which we have a reservation for at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Then I will know how early to leave the seminar. As we drive along viewing the countryside, I develop my plan of attack. I surmise that if we turn right at the upcoming Catholic church, we should be able to wind our way up to the Railroad Terminal in Clarksdale. What I have not accounted for is that the map I am following is a rough estimation and not to scale. I think the Catholic church is located at the light by Mingus Avenue. It is not. But there is a sign just before the church pointing to Old 89A and mentioning the towns that we are searching for. Oh well, we have missed that, so we turn right on Mingus Avenue at the light. This should still lead us to our destination. After a few minutes of tentatively driving onward and intuitively turning where is seems the map would direct us, we spot the road to the train depot. Now, we just have to come back out and turn right on 89A again and I conclude that it should bring us back around by the Catholic church. Imagine my surprise when we see a sign pointing to Jerome ahead. Jerome ahead?
don’t want to go to Jerome,” I exclaim. “I don’t understand what just happened.
Don’t we want to go south?”
we want to go north,” counters my hubby emphatically, “We need to turn around.”
just follow 89A south,” I instruct him, “and hopefully we will come back
town we enter as we drive is totally unfamiliar. “We can’t be going the right
way. I don’t remember any of this,” insists Hubby over and over.
don’t remember it because we didn’t come this way,” I respond several times.
Now I am becoming frustrated by his insistence that we are going the wrong way
simply because he doesn’t recognize anything we are driving by. I am pretty
sure this will work out though not absolutely certain. Soon I spot the road I
was hoping to find.
it is. Turn right there,” I direct.
have no idea what you are doing. I am totally lost. You are going to have to
drive back here yourself tomorrow as none of this makes any sense,” is his
final declaration before lapsing into silence.
I eye the Garman GPS sitting on the dashboard that we stowed into our suitcase so tenderly. Maybe we really should plan ahead to use that little thing. But then, we are still old-fashioned enough to think that we can navigate by a map- even a map that is missing most of its landmarks and highways. The rest of our drive back to the hotel is uneventful. We decide to call it a night as Hubby is not feeling up to par physically.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Hubby got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning after his phone rang – must be 7:30 a.m. back home. I lay in bed another hour before time to get dressed for the conference.
We have a 1 p.m. reservation for the train ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad so I leave the conference a little early. By 11 a.m. we are on the same road again that we traveled yesterday. Today’s ride goes smoothly, and we know exactly where we are going. It is a sunny, pleasantly warm day as all the days here have been. The train depot is bustling with activity and people milling around.
“You look like you need tickets,” a gentleman greets us. “Head right over there.” He motions to the right.
As we exchange my receipt for actual tickets, I address the ticket agent. “Where do I get our lunch?” I have already paid for a lunch to go with our ride.
“You can either get your lunch at the restaurant or choose to eat outdoors. We are having a German-mashed-potatoes with sauerkraut lunch and brats special today.”
Hmmm! That sounds like a nice change of pace. I haven’t had mashed potatoes and sauerkraut since my mother used to make it for my birthday years ago. We enjoy our lunch in the semi-shade of a tree while we wait to board the train.
We are assigned to the car dubbed “Tucson.” It is air-conditioned, clean, and well cared for. The seats are bench seats like a school bus but can be flopped over when the direction of the train is changed since they can’t turn around. Between each of two cars is a train car that is open and available for outdoor riding. Our car attendant is a man in his late fifties or early sixties who is extremely jovial. He welcomes us to our car and takes the tickets when it is time to board.
urge Hubby to join me on the outdoors car for the first hour of the trip. It is
hot, probably in the upper 80s but it is breezy and there is a small shade
canopy. The land we travel through is, to my eyes, a land of desolation but
also of great beauty. We clickity clack along the rail laid along the side of
the mountain on the left while a canyon falls away on the right. Deep in the
canyon flows a small river or what we Midwesterners would call a creek. The
river is lined with lush green trees. The walls of the canyon beyond the river
rise magnificently to meet the sky. They are a beautiful red color. Scattered
over the steep boulders are blooming cacti and small scrubby trees. We descend
a twisting turning path of switchbacks over the next 38 miles to Prescott, now
a ghost town. Then, the engines are brought around to the back of the train and
reattached. And the climb back through Verde canyon begins.
spend part of our time in the air-conditioned coach car and enjoy the scenery
out the window. I even fall asleep for a 10-minute nap. Ice cream sandwiches appear,
and our host makes an offer, “I have ice cream sandwiches on special. $1 for
one, $2 for two.” This is followed by laughter. Just the kind of afternoon to
enjoy ice cream. Soon, we venture back outside to enjoy the last hour back to
Clarksdale in the great outdoors.
Since we are so close to Jerome, AZ, the town with the reputation of being the wildest town in the west, we decide to travel there before heading back to the hotel. The road winds with tight curves up the side of the mountain. As we climb higher, a fantastic view appears. The valley below falls away with an awe-inspiring view. The town of Jerome, itself, gives the impression of the houses clinging to the hillside. The streets are narrow and close to the side of the cliff as well. The back doors or maybe the front doors too of the houses overlook the cliff. It is a beautiful scene and provides some photographic opportunities.
it is time to head for the hotel. We decide to make our own supper when we get
there. The route we planned to take back to Oak Center is closed because of an
accident. “Take alternative route,” says the sign. Great! The only alternative
route we know is a little further but probably just as fast. We settle in for
an evening at the hotel.
“Let’s go to bed an hour early
tonight,” I implore my husband on Monday evening. We need to get up at 2:45 a.m.
if we are going to make our 5:45 a.m. flight. As is usually the case, I find
that I can’t fall asleep. I am afraid that I won’t wake up in time. I set my
regular alarm clock, my travel alarm, and Hubby sets his phone alarm. That
should be enough to get us awake on time.
Bling, Bling!” over and over assaults my ears. I roll over and peer at the
clock. It is 1:45. I groan. Why is the phone going off at this time?
“Your phone is an hour early,” I grumpily
mumble to my spouse.
“It’s not my alarm,” is the response.
“It’s the airline texting to say our flight is on time.”
“Seriously? You have got to be
kidding me.” Now I am awake and irritated. I could have slept another hour. I
roll over and snuggle back in. Maybe I can fall back to sleep. A few minutes
later I hear Hubby get up and go downstairs. Then. . . brring, brring, bring!
Now my travel alarm is going off. It is now 2 a.m. I had set it for 2:45 but it
is going off at 2 am. Is someone trying to tell us something? Any hope of sleep
is now gone.
Our trip to the airport goes without
incident though I am anxious and wishing I had not turned down Hubby’s offer
for me to drive. When did we turn into the old couple cautiously peering out
the window and approaching every obstacle with trepidation? The traffic lights
in downtown are all green because it is still the middle of the night, but my
dear spouse slows down as he approaches each one. Doesn’t green mean go, not
slow down? We creep along ten miles under the speed limit on the deserted
streets. I bite my lip to keep from being the dreaded back seat driver. We do
arrive just as the airport is coming to life.
We sail through security without any
issues and settle down to wait for our flight which is still on time. I have
not bought an upgrade for this “short” 1 ½ hour flight to Chicago so Hubby
tucks his lanky frame into the standard issue seat. His legs have begun to numb
even before takeoff. But before we know it, we are safely on the ground in
Chicago. A fairly long walk to concourse K is the next order of business. I am
learning not to schedule tight connections for our flights because we are way
too old for this running business. We have quite a leisurely morning stroll and
even some time for breakfast before it is time to board our flight to Phoenix, AZ.
This time we have hit pay dirt with our seat choice. Not only does Hubby get an
exit seat but he gets one right where the plane narrows leaving his window seat
with no seat in front of him – all the leg room he could ever want is within
Another beautiful touchdown in
Phoenix ends the air flight part of our journey. Then it is on to boarding a
bus to take us to the rental car terminal. I reflect on the fact that it is
only 11 a.m. here in Phoenix but we have
been up for ten hours already. My head hurts and I need a nap.
This time when I rent a car, I
decline all upgrades even though we are told that means we will have to ride in
a VW bug. When we pick up the car though, it is not a VW bug but a Ford Fiesta.
Our butts are almost sitting on the ground and we need Hoyer lifts to get
ourselves up out of the car every time we stop but it does successfully perform
the task of transporting us around. We soon discover that the left blinker
doesn’t work, and the tires are bald. It does have 43000 miles on it, so I
think it needs some loving attention. Hubby just cannot live with a car that
lacks a working signaling system, so he buys a bulb the first day in Sedona and
Driving in Phoenix is like driving in
any big city. The speed limit says 55 but it is like we are a beetle crawling
up the road while everyone else catapults by. Phoenix is a dry and barren
landscape with some beautiful cactuses scattered here and there. What do these
people do here for a living? We wonder. As we get north of the city and the
elevation begins to increase, the landscape begins to change. It now looks more
like the grasslands of Africa. The grass is brown and dry, but it was once
grass. Short stubby trees are struggling to grow and the tall stately cactuses
of earlier have disappeared. The land begins to take on a reddish hue as we get
closer to Sedona. Once we turn off the main interstate 17 onto 179 north, the
beauty of the landscape becomes apparent. The red rocks of Sedona rise in
stately spires towards the skyline. We end our day by previewing the landscape
in preparation for our coming days.
I am always looking
for new books to read. I especially love non-fiction novels about the lives of
others. I want to know how they dealt with the experiences in their lives and
how it worked out for them. I came across a book entitled “Educated” by Tara
Westover. It is a New York Times best seller. My curiosity was triggered, and I
bought the book.
It is a story about Tara
Westover’s life growing up in a Mormon family in Idaho. Even by Mormon
standards, her father especially, is an outsider in his own faith tradition.
Eccentric might be another term that one would use. Tara and some of her other
younger siblings are never sent to school and their so-called “homeschooling”
is basically no schooling. Her father believes school will contaminate his
children to the world- a world in which he sees himself as God’s prophet.
There are so many
psychological and religious issues in this story that I can relate to on so
many levels from my own personal experience. Although, I grew up Mennonite and
not Mormon and the religious beliefs are different, the cultural dynamics are
First, Tara grows up in a family where the father is the ruler and women are seen as needing to always be submissive to men. This is a standard Mormon belief as well as one of many evangelical Christians, but her father uses that belief to control and to manipulate his family into a separate kind of lifestyle ruled by paranoia of everything “out there”, religious superiority, and an expectation of family loyalty. He does this through demanding an adherence to a distorted preaching of his faith as the one and true faith, by shaming his children if they so much as show any interest in how others live and attempt to copy that behavior. I couldn’t help but make that connection to my own father. Though my father was not nearly as off-center as Mr. Westover, I recognized the same behavior from my childhood. The result is the child feels alone and unable to connect with anyone often for life.
Tara finds herself
alienated from everyone in her world except her family. She sits alone in
Sunday School and of course, she has no friends for two reasons. She feels
different from everyone else and her father makes sure that she has no time or
opportunity to cultivate friendships with others. He stresses that girls she
meets are not good enough for her. Her father uses his faith to condemn them as
not living the way a person of God should live. She, therefore, feels guilty
for even wanting to associate with such “wicked” people.
Tara, even after she
leaves home and goes to college, finds herself unable to fit in and at odds
with pretty much everyone. I don’t think she, for many years, recognizes that
this is a result of the socialization or lack thereof from her home life. It is
deeply and complexly rooted in the emotional, psychological, religious, and
cultural dynamics of her early years. I find it interesting that she titles the
book, “Educated,” as if obtaining an education is what moves her to a place in
society that she is accepted as “normal” by others. The lack of education is a
handicap and with certainty will keep her a captive in her father’s strange
world, but it is not what makes her feel alone, strange, and like she doesn’t
belong in the new world that she explores. Getting educated will not fix what
is broken inside of her from her childhood. It only gives her a better platform
from which the self can say, “Now I am somebody.” I did the same thing. I went
to school and got a master’s degree and a job that is viewed with respect and
awe. And while working in it, I feel strong, accepted, and like I have worth. But
outside of it, I still feel friendless and different from everyone else. I
watch Tara as the story progresses feeling this total alienation from others
and struggling with it. From my own experience, I have learned the feeling
never goes away. One simply has to learn to be comfortable with being alone and
knowing that this is who I am.
A part of her psychic also does the same thing that I did with my family even after leaving. It longs for the love of one’s parents and siblings. Tara, like me, keeps coming back to the family trying to convince them of reality and what is right. Even though on a logical level, one comes to understand that one’s family is mentally unhealthy, there is this deep seated need to stay connected to them. Afterall, if those who bore you and nurtured you in childhood don’t love you, then why would anyone else especially God. Tara loses herself and becomes mentally unstable for a year after she realizes that her family does not want to know the truth that one son has been viciously abusing other members. Her parents are not interested in addressing the problems in the family and the highest value of loyalty makes everyone choose to accept “the delusion that they are one big happy family” which will allow them to remain part of the family. Tara realizes that the family “truth” and loyalty are more important than loving her. This is devastating to her.
What really destroys her is that her mother betrays
her in this battle to expose evil. Her mother one minute acknowledges to Tara
that she knows about and will speak to her father about Shawn’s unacceptable
behavior. But when there is an actual confrontation, her mother turns against
her and sides with her father. Her mother tries to destroy Tara’s reputation
and character. For the mother to stand
against the patriarch of the family requires too high of a price. It reminds me
so much of my own mother who swung from seemingly being rational to total denial
and perpetrating vicious attacks on my character. It leaves one very confused
and in the case of Tara, she cannot concentrate enough to even study. She falls
into a deep depression. She had this deep-seated hope that her family would
change because of her speaking the truth. But her family, like mine, was
incapable of changing. Denial is a powerful substance that keeps the system
stable no matter how dysfunctional. Only the individual has the power to change
and often doesn’t because of these pressures from different aspects of society
to conform, especially the family of origin and one’s religious community.
If you enjoy exploring the complex dynamics of
families, “Educated” is a compelling read. My books “If You Leave This Farm”
and “No Longer a Child of Promise” also explore many of the same dynamics. My
third book, “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home” explores the same
dynamics and pressures within the evangelical church as found within the
family. One is only a friend and a member as long as one follows the dictated
expected behavior and norms.
I appreciate all those who have the courage to write
their stories. It helps me to know that I am really not alone and that I don’t
need to be ashamed to share my own story.