Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 2 With Dad--Lifelong Dreams and Their Realization

We were on the road by 9:30 the next morning, off on our second day of adventure.

I have this favorite little spot in northwestern Virginia that I like to visit whenever I'm "in the area." That may sound weird, coming from an AZ girl, but I've been to the Old Lucketts Store twice before--once on Brad's and my trip to Baltimore, then again when I drove across the entire country with my four little kids in tow for the summer.

Some of you may be asking how I convinced my dad to detour to a flea market?

Truth is, I learned to love all things antique, rusty, mostly broken and barely usable from my dad. I knew he would love this store. Plus, he'd promised to buy me a birthday present while we were there. How could I say no?
He was duly impressed.  So impressed, in fact, that I had to force him out the door, but not before he bought me a huge spool of double sided satin ribbon and a silver plate for my plate wall.  I walked out with a treasure of my own:
This vase increased the weight of my suitcase by exactly 10.2 lbs. I don't know what's under the silver plating (copper, maybe?), but this puppy is HEAVY. And awesome.

As fabulous as our stop at Lucketts was, we had bigger plans on our agenda. Not only does my dad love all things Indian, he also loves everything about the Civil War, and the highest priority of places he wanted to visit on this trip was Gettysburg.
It was the most beautiful day ever--75 degrees, slight breeze, and fluffy clouds intermittently floating across the sun.

When we were in the American Indian Heritage museum the day before, I'd had to excuse myself to take a phone call. It seemed kind of rude, but I hung up the phone and giddily told Dad that I had another surprise for him. While looking up visiting hours and plotting out the days back at the hotel, I came across Hickory Hollow Farm's website: a private company that conducts guided horseback rides around the battlefield.

They had room for two riders at 3 pm on Friday. Could we make that?

My dad is rarely speechless, but he had no words at that moment. He reached down and hugged me tight, with a little tear in his eye. He then explained to me how it had always been his dream to tour the battlefields on horseback.

I had no idea.

Good thing he'd brought his boots and belt--but he'd left his hat at home.

This picture is my favorite from the entire trip.
 It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Well, except for all of the people we rode with who had never ridden horses before and couldn't get their mounts to obey and rode really slow and held up the entire line with their ineptitude.

But the rest was perfect.
Our tour guide had been working at the battlefield for decades, and she could answer any question thrown at her.
Dad was given "Slow Moe" to ride--a huge five-year-old draft horse who can never move fast enough. I was the only other experienced rider in the group, and although I grew up riding, I hadn't been on a horse for a few years. It's like riding a bike--it comes back, but the sore backside never goes away. They gave me Frisco, a feisty appaloosa that reminded us both of Dad's favorite horse, Starbuck. Frisco couldn't keep his opinions to himself, and I was constantly pulling his head back from attempted nips on the other horses.


The horse ride took about three hours and used up most of our sightseeing time. We decided to cancel our plans for monuments and more Smithsonian in DC the next day and instead return to Gettysburg to get a good look at the museum, movies, and the battlefield.

I've been on many, many rides with my dad.

This one will forever be my favorite.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 1 with Dad--DC Firsts

Taking my dad on this trip was amazing--he's a small-town cowboy who's seen more of the wilderness than most people would ever dream to see, but his experiences in big cities have been limited. Until this trip.

When deciding where we should fly in, I wanted non-stop flights both there and back, so our only option was BWI in Baltimore. After a little research, I found a commuter train to DC, so I booked the flights. Dad had never ridden subways or experienced big train stations, and watching subways through his eyes was like a child seeing their first ferris wheel.

Excuse the blurry pictures, but they tell the story so perfectly.

He thought the flurry of people in Union Station was exciting--people going every direction down every tunnel, and every single person in a hurry to get around the guy with the cane. I found a subway schedule, plotted our route to the Mall, and we went down two escalators to our line.

I had barely pulled out my phone to snap a picture of him in this alien environment when our train pulled into the station.
The blast of air that announced the train's arrival audibly and visibly shocked him. 
He took a few steps back and exclaimed at the length and speed of the train--overestimating the train's 25-35 mph speed by double.

"WHOA! This is just like the movies!"

You can take the cowboy out of the country, but he's still a cowboy at heart.
He loved everything about this new experience--hustling from line to line, pushing tickets through turnstiles--and commented on it all the time. We listened to subway performers and watched a blind man carefully make his way alongside the track, using his cane to feel for the raised path that runs a safe distance from the tracks. 

I could have ridden the trains with him all day, but we had things to see, people!
I've inherited many of my dad's traits, one of which is his love for Pepsi--he chose leaded for this trip, and I stuck to the unleaded version. 

Yes, that's a fanny pack. 

He wanted to stop at every statue and look at every building--even watching the ducks swimming in the pool and wondering why there were only girls born in that batch of ducklings.
 Every monument was new and wonderful and exciting and breathtaking.
The weather was perfect. We were told that it's never that nice in August--we were blessed with mid-September weather, and he commented on the beauty everywhere we went--how green it was, how many trees there were, how clean the city was, how BIG the buildings were.

My dad is so handsome, isn't he? You'd never guess he was knocking on 70's door, would you?
Often he would exclaim, "I can't believe I'm really here!" just like Mom did when we were in St. George. I never grew tired of hearing it.

The Smithsonian was one of the three places he wanted to visit while were on this trip, and we spent some time online deciding which museums we would see. This is the new American Indian Heritage Museum, located across the Mall from the Capitol--our first stop.
To say that Dad loves American Indian history, culture, stories, and artifacts is like saying fish love water--it's part of who he is and how he lives. He had high hopes for this museum.
After a few exhibits, we realized that this was an American Indian art museum. We asked a staff member who told us that the artifacts Dad was seeking (one Crazy Horse shirt, in particular) were in storage and couldn't be viewed. He was disappointed, but we found a few Indian history books he'd never read in the gift shop, so that assuaged the disappointment.

Although we had no formal schedule we needed to follow, we had places we wanted to see, so we cut our losses and headed back outside to plot our next stop.

Lunchtime and another DC first.

My dad had never had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich (I couldn't believe that one), and I was the lucky one who introduced them to each other. I think this will be a long and happy relationship.

Indian music across the street from the Indian museum? It was Dad's lucky day--the perfect place and the perfect weather to sit outside and enjoy the music while we enjoyed our lunch. And I have to admit, it was the best Philly I've ever had. He may never find one as good as that one ever again.
I loved watching all of the people--DC professionals rushing to their favorite food truck to grab lunch and head back into their buildings, too busy to stay outside.
Two quick train rides and we were on the other side of the Mall--to see the American History museum, where Dad's hopes to see real American Indian history were high.
 We did see his buddies, Lewis and Clark . . . 
 . . . and a few artifacts from the Revolutionary period, but that was it. He would look around every corner, but . . . no. His disappointment was relative, because we did see so many amazing things related to our country's history. Guns, banners, artillery, even a preserved horse.

This Revolutionary War commander was especially significant--Dad's dad's name was George Tucker.
 We walked through the history of Edison's light bulb and saw Old Glory. We saw the First Ladies' exhibit, Dorothy's ruby slippers, and a 1964 Ford Mustang.

We even saw history of the LDS Church--a sunstone from the original Nauvoo Temple.
 By 4 pm, we were ready to head back to Baltimore.

My dad has always been a friendly guy, and I think his conversations took complete strangers off guard. We stopped to get ice cream from a food truck as we headed for the subway, and he engaged the vendors in a lively discussion about how fat he would be if he had their job. I don't think they understood what this Idaho hick meant when he said he'd be "a blimp." Their initial hesitation quickly disappeared as East Coast brusqueness gave into genuine Idaho interest. I watched the four men laugh and talk, and I wondered if it was the first real conversation they'd had that day with a customer.

Three quick train rides, two ice creams, and one stumble on the uneven pavement, and we were back at Union Station, rushing to the MARC train for our ride north. The commuter train was packed, and we had to navigate several cars (even jumping between cars as they precariously bumped into each other) before finding seats. One lady kindly moved across the aisle so we could sit together, and we caught our breath. I had been unsuccessful in my attempt to buy tickets at the terminal in the station, so when the attendant came through the car and asked, "Where to?" I said, "Camden Yards, please." She gave me a strange look, and told me that we had hopped the wrong train. All day I hadn't made a single mistake on these crazy trains, and now we were headed I-didn't-know-where and couldn't get off.  She told me that she could get us to Penn Station, but that was as close as this train came.

With no other option, I gave her $20 and quickly pulled out a map to see exactly where that was. Lucky for us, that little mistake took us to a beautiful station a brief 10-minute train ride north of Camden Yards. Another first in that station--Dad saw his first Hasidic Jew. When you live in rural Idaho, your experiences with people of other cultures and other faiths are extremely limited.

Thirty minutes later, we found our car in the nearly deserted parking lot of the Orioles' stadium and we headed back to the hotel.

What a great first day.

As great as it was, the second day was even better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dad's Turn

Remember when I took my mom to St. George last March?

Here's a refresher:

My parents live in a small home that is perfect for them. They have everything they need and almost everything they want, so when it's gift-giving time, it's hard to decide what to buy them.

Last November, I had a stroke of pure genius.

For Christmas 2013 (and as gifts for every gift-giving holiday in 2014 as well), I gave them each a card, explaining that more valuable to me than any possession are the memories I have made with them. I wanted to spend time with them, making memories and going somewhere that they would only dream of--anywhere they wanted to go, we would go. My treat.

Mom doesn't like to travel, but Dad does. We talked about places he might like to see, and I suggested the East Coast--Washington, DC and the surrounding area. He agreed.

Since my parents live in southern Idaho, we decided to meet in Salt Lake City, then fly out to Baltimore together. My flight left Phoenix at 6 am.

I've lived in Arizona for 19 years now, and I don't remember ever flying out of Sky Harbor when it was raining.
While I was waiting for the flight to board, texts began chiming on my phone--"Can you believe this storm?" "Wow! Did that thunder wake your family?" "What about the rain? And in the morning!"(Monsoon storms rarely come in the morning--usually in the late afternoon or evening.)

It was raining in Phoenix, but Mesa is 15 or so miles away, and I hadn't heard any of the commotion. When we got above the storm, I think I spotted Mesa under that huge thunderhead.

I always miss the best storms.
We had smooth air all the way to SLC, and as we flew over Kennicott Copper mine, the reality of the big adventure began to hit me. Dad and I were finally going on our trip!

I had a long layover before the next flight left (2 1/2 hours), so I rechecked my luggage and found a cozy seat next to an outlet where I could hunker down and wait for my dad. (Have you noticed that the technology age has changed which seats in the airport are valuable? Used to be those seats closest to the boarding gate were prime real estate; now the seats everyone fights over are next to an available outlet to charge phones, iPads, and laptops before long flights.)

I've only recently been converted to downloaded books--I know. Where have I been? I pulled out my iPad and "opened" my book. Before the end of the first chapter, I was completely hooked on Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and the airport and my dad and upcoming flight had been pushed to the back of my mind. Suddenly, the loudspeaker came to life, asking for one volunteer to give up their seat on the 11:40 flight to Baltimore. The announcement rousted me out of the Berlin Olympics and back to Salt Lake City.

I looked at my watch, and it was almost 11. Where was Dad?

I called his cell phone. No answer. I called Mom's phone. He had left in plenty of time. I called his phone again. Still no answer.

Now what?

I didn't want to fly without him. I approached the desk and asked if there were any way to see if he had checked his bags yet. The attendant tapped on the keyboard, reviewed the screen, and said that he had not checked bags yet. The loudspeaker crackled with the request to line up for boarding. I had an A boarding card!

Now what?

I decided there was no way he would make the flight, so I better make alternate arrangements. The next flight to Baltimore left in an hour, but it had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Denver, arriving at 12:30 am. Ugh. I really didn't want to do that, but I saw no other option. The attendant told me that our seats on the current flight would be reserved until the flight was boarded, so if Dad did magically appear, we could still be in Baltimore by 6 pm. If not . . .

One more call to his cell phone couldn't hurt, right? I dialed the number, hardly expecting it when he answered. He was at the check-in counter and the attendant was telling him that his flight had been changed to 12:30, but he knew that wasn't right. Oh. I knew what the problem was, and I could fix it.

Whew.

The attendant at my desk quickly switched us back to our original flight, and I told Dad I would board the plane and save him a seat.

I got settled in the emergency exit row next to the window, the prime seat on the plane--how did I get so lucky?--and pulled out my iPad and Unbroken while I waited. Every few minutes I would glance up to see if Dad had boarded yet. The plane was filling up, and he still wasn't there. I called his phone again. He answered, slightly winded, saying he was at gate B6--almost to B15. It looked like he would make it.

The line of people walking down the aisle got thinner as the seats around me filled up. I kept telling people that the seat next to me was taken, but would it be?

Dad was the very last person on the plane.

I think my sigh of relief was audible to everyone.

After storing his carry-on bag above us, he flopped down next to me, cane in one hand and fanny pack in the other, red faced and drenched in sweat.

"Hi, Heber. I made it. Sorry I'm late."

While parking his car, he had been unable to find a parking space in one lot, so he was forced to park in a farther lot. Two suitcases are unwieldy, but when you throw a cane into the mix, it's a mess.

I quickly texted Mom that he was safely sitting beside me, and we were off.

I had been excited for our adventure, but I didn't think the adventure part would start in the airport in Salt Lake City--at departure.

Four hours later, we landed in Baltimore, got our rental car, checked into our hotel, and Dad's days of new experiences began. First on the list--dinner.

Brad and I went to Baltimore three years ago, and I knew just the place to eat. Phillips right on the water has amazing seafood. Softshell crab, shrimp with Old Bay seasoning, and crab cakes--just the first of the new culinary experiences Dad would have that weekend.
The crazy misadventure at the airport was behind us. A good night's rest, and we would be ready for the real adventures to begin.

Monday, August 25, 2014

We Couldn't Wait Any Longer

Saturday morning we piled the three little kids into the Suburban and headed north.

There was something calling us that we couldn't resist.

That something was a new wide, flat, graded area deep in the Ponderosa pine.
If you look closely, you can see spray-painted corners.

Can you see a garage here?

Micah and Hyrum could have spent all day exploring this pile.

So many perfect sticks in this world. So little time.

We found treats along the creek bed.
It's pretty late in the blackberry season, but there were just enough to stain little fingers and little chins with juicy goodness.

This little guy was making a home for himself in the newly surveyed dirt. I thought he was pretty cool and tried to get Hyrum to pick him up.
Hyrum's never afraid of creatures of any kind, but for some reason he wouldn't touch this guy. Dad did attempt to pick him up but got stung in the process. Pretty nice welt on his finger for his trouble. I looked fuzzy guy up when we got home, and it's an io moth caterpillar whose stings are painful and can be serious.

When they grow up, io caterpillars metamorphose into this:
We will have to look for these moths next time. They seem a little friendlier.

Seeing dirt moved and trees removed--I can't explain it. The excitement is building much faster than the cabin--hopefully by Christmas!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday #33--Said in Your Best Rafiki Voice

I've lived in AZ for nineteen years now. I've been enrolled in grad school for over a year now.

As Rafiki said, "It is time."
Although my blood will always run BYU blue, it was time for a little Sparky in my life.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Halfway to 90

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes. My inbox was flooded with emails, Facebook cards, and voicemail messages. It was a great day.

My celebration of making it halfway to 90 came with a few firsts:

This box held the promise of the first ice cubes in this house in over three years. I know. We live in AZ, and ice cubes are as necessary as ceiling fans around here, but our ice maker bit the dust a long time ago, and we hadn't found the money to replace it. When Brad asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him ice.

Isn't it beautiful? My first glass of ice water with my very own ice.
When you're halfway to 90, it's the little things, people. The little things.

It was my first birthday alone during the school day, so I decided to do something extremely crazy. I attended the Sweet Salvage sale for the first time. I'd heard great things about it, but nothing had prepared me for it. The lines. The pushing. The grabbing. The . . . STUFF! I came home with this:
Believe it or not, I've been searching for a gigantic rusty arrow sign for a few years now. It must have been my lucky day. Yeah. It was my birthday!

That afternoon, kids burst in the door from school, and Hyrum had his hands hidden behind his back, his eyes glinting with imminent surprise. When I got close to him, he tossed handfuls of rose petals in the air and shouted, "Happy Birthday!" Halfway to 90 marks the first time I've ever been showered with rose petals. I think I liked it.

Brad took me out for dinner, and while we were away, Micah made me my first lemon birthday cake.
 When I got out of the car, I could hear the kids scrambling around inside, "Hurry! They're here!"
 Only nine candles--but 9x5 is 45, so I think that was great. 
Not only was it my first lemon birthday cake, but it was my first lemon birthday cake served in a CLEAN KITCHEN. There was no evidence of dinner, mixing bowls, or eggshells. I was impressed.
My day ended just like I like it--in bed by 9:30. It was the first time in I don't know how long that I'd been in bed really early two nights in a row. That may have been my favorite gift of all.

Halfway to 90 is an amazing place to be.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finding Passion All Over Again

It's my birthday.

Thanks. I will have a great day.

Last year, I had big, great achievements to mark--improved photography, scripture study, and yoga, plus the beginning of my graduate program in gifted education. I ran a half-marathon that same weekend, and I was in the best shape I'd been in in years.

What do I have to show this year?

Well.

I'm still taking photos, but not nearly as many as last year. My scripture study has been inconsistent, and my busy summer took me away from my yoga mat too much and has left my body tight and unyielding.

When I look at what I lost this last year, it makes me a little discouraged. So many of the things that I love in life took a back seat this year. And while I may not be able to run a half marathon this weekend or complete an Ashtanga class without being exhausted the next day, I have learned one important thing this last year. The most important lesson I learned the year I was 44 is this:

Passion comes at a price.

When I started my master's program a year ago, I never thought I would lose myself completely in journal articles, textbooks, and research papers. I didn't know how much I would learn about Pavlovian conditioning and affective skills--and other random terms that no one knows.

Mostly, I didn't know how much I would love being back in school. All of that school learning comes at a high price--time away from other things that I love.

With only two semesters left until I graduate, I see the end of the road, and greeting me there will be all of the hobbies and activities I've always loved: design, projects, auctions, exercise, recreational reading. All of it will still be there, but for now my priority is school--with everything else filling in the cracks as it can.

What really surprises me about this revelation is this:

That's okay. 
I don't have to do it all to be happy.  

A year ago, I couldn't have said that. For the past 44 years, I couldn't have said that.

I guess I have learned something huge and amazing this year:

Passion is worth the price.