Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Racism in Red and Blue

I don't normally delve into politics on this blog. For one thing, I'm not that into it anyway, and for another, I don't like the fiery contention that seems to inevitably follow. I like all my friends, Liberals or Conservatives, and have every intention of keeping all of them. That said, I don't think I'll be able to make it all the way through this election cycle without at least a few comments.

Well, actually, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to make it since I am blogging about politics right now.

So last night was the Republican National Convention. I was watching it because it was what was on during my grandpa's mealtime. This is the first year I've ever watched it, but I'm not afraid to admit I enjoyed the parts I saw. As someone with a conservative bent, the ideas expressed by some of the speakers I caught were inspirational and thought-provoking.

I write all this as a disclaimer so you will know I am not trying to claim complete objectivity.

One of the speakers last night was a young women, Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and congressional candidate. She also happens to be black. She presented her thoughts in an articulate and well-ordered fashion. Her stage presence was professional and animated. I would be scared stiff and sound like a strangling mouse if I tried to give a speech at that level of exposure (be honest, wouldn't you?), but it didn't faze her a bit.

Yet, in spite of her intelligence, articulateness, and professionalism, she was vilified, demeaned, slurred, and insulted online after her speech. Not for her ideas, but for having the audacity to get up and speak at all. Now, you may not agree with Mia Love's ideas. You may even think they are stupid and simplistic drivel designed to placate the imbecilic masses. But why isn't she allowed the freedom to express them without being attacked as a "sell-out"? Attempting to force people into little ideological boxes based on their skin color is...well...racist.

Can't we allow a person of another color to weigh the issues and come to their own conclusions about what they believe is the best path for our country?

Wouldn't the essence of liberalism be to allow EVERYONE the freedom to form and pursue their own beliefs and ideals regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity? I'm sure many of my liberal friends would agree.

Limiting others only limits ourselves.

A Burning Question Resolved

I know, in this time of election seasons, fires, droughts, and hurricanes, that many of my Dear Readers have been troubled by one burning question....

"I wonder how the flooded road is doing that Tina blogged about last summer?"

Let me hasten to put an end to your suspense. Last weekend an intrepid crew "boldly set out" on a scientific discovery mission. If by "boldly set out" you mean "were dragged into it kicking and screaming" by their Aunty/Mother.

At least the dogs were excited. They usually get left in the car while we do the fun stuff, but this time we were  going to keep on walking until we reached the crossroad on the other side of the flooding. I couldn't deprive them of a nice run in the country, but they had to stay on leashes until we were out of the water. Finely is a complete idiot where it comes to water; he charges out into it and there's no getting him back if there are any water birds in the vicinity (which there usually are). And it would hurt his feelings if he was the only one on a leash, so they all had to wear one.

Walking across is easy now because the water never comes over our knees. Last summer it was up to our chests in places (to be fair, the two people trying it out were rather short), so I have some hope that another dry summer and the road will be usable. Of course, the fields will be toast, but the road will dry out.

The dogs had a fun time, and I think the kids were starting to unbend a little by this point. Devon was completely into it and got most of his fun from "innocently" running back and forth past his teenage siblings and splashing water all over them. Oh the joys of family togetherness!

In the middle of the "road".

We reached the other side intact and began the trek to meet up with our ride out on County Rd. 5. Things began to go a little downhill in diva land at this point. The road hasn't been driven on in two summers and is a tad choked with weeds. It was hot, it was scratchy, and there were bugs. What I look on as a fine opportunity for making memories some people regard as useless torture.

"Aaaaaaauuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnttttttttttttyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Can't Noah meet us down here?"

"Why do we have to walk the whooooooooooooooooooooooooooolllllllllleeeee way?"

Midway there our toil was lightened by the amusing spectacle of Jackie, the frustrated border collie, meeting cows face-to-face for the first time. She went charging up to them, all poofed out and business-like. She stopped, she looked. She turned around and came back to the road. Evidently, discretion was the better part of valor that day.

When we reached the maintained part of the road, Tiggy stalked ahead with offended dignity. Damon trailed behind in morose silence. That left The Jolly Three, Devon, Caleb, and me to actually enjoy ourselves. Most of our enjoyment consisted in seeing if Devon's shadow really could disappear if he turned himself sideways. He couldn't quite make it happen, but he gave a noble effort.

It was a fun afternoon's outing---the dogs had a great time. Now I have to figure something else to do with the flooded road before it dries up. I've swum over it, walked over it, and ice skated over it.

I think I may try riding my bike through it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Better Than "Wash Me"

One of the results of our unexpectedly long road trip this year was the death of Fun Week.By the time we got back, I had to leave for Fargo and Caleb was starting football practice---no time for a week off regular duties and devoted to fun. Sad face. But I was still determined to do a few of the things I'd set apart for Fun Week, even if I had to eke them out one at a time. That is how I came to try my hand at dirty art.

Literally. Like with real dirt.

Ever since I saw this guy on Yahoo, I've had a burning desire to try my hand at it. After all, dust is one thing that I have plenty of!

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to get my back window dirty enough. It's been so dry that dust wouldn't stick that heavily---it just blew off. Right after our surprise rain storm I thought I had it made. The mud was coating the back window in a beautiful, even layer. I got my model picture chosen and printed out, but then it rained and my canvas had great big water splots all over it. Time to start over.

Having come so close, I wasn't about to let that stop me. I took to spraying my window with a spray bottle, then driving like a charging cape buffalo up and down the roads, trying to stir up clouds of dust. If anyone saw me doing this, I am perfectly sane.


The "canvas",  readied for action.

It was pretty easy to choose my subject material. As a California girl, a little home-town pride is always appropriate. Plus I'd spent my childhood drawing Half Dome and figured a few of those brain pathways would still be lurking in my gray matter somewhere. I was ready to begin.

First I sketched in a rough shape. I found the whole thing fascinating, an art process I've never done before, but one I've seen. Rather than putting things "in", I was having to take them out. Reminds me of a story I heard of a artist who was asked how he was able to make such an amazing sculpture of an elephant. "I just started with a block of marble and took out whatever didn't look like an elephant."

I just had to take out all the dust that didn't look like Yosemite.

About 10 minutes into the process.

After about 20 minutes.

It was actually a lot of fun. I didn't like how a few parts turned out, but all in all, for a first-time effort I think I did  pretty good.

Yosemite dust.

OK, I think I did really good.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Singlehandedly End the Drought

After the storm.
I'm sure most of my U.S. readers are aware that this year has been a very dry and hot one for most of the country. All kinds of crops have suffered from the lack of rain, and if it weren't for the wonder of irrigation, they would have done a lot more than suffer----they'd be completely dead.

Well, I've decided to do something about ending the drought. I'm going to paint my house.

I spent all of last summer languishing from the desire to paint my house, but we never had a dry enough stretch to do it in. It didn't help that I was also insanely busy, but it was easier to blame the weather. This year has been nothing but bright, hot, sunny days in an unending progression. Perfect house painting weather.  Unfortunately, I'm still insanely busy, so all this perfect painting weather has passed without a single brush stroke threatening the complacency of my chipped and peeling paint.

So I knew that all I had to do to end our nation's drought was begin painting my house. Little did I know how powerful the mere thought of painting would be....

It has been weeks since it has rained. Everything is dry and hot and dusty. The wheat fields---those that aren't harvested yet---are golden perfection waiting to be combined. Farmers work from dawn to dusk, and sometimes beyond, trying to get their crops in before it rains. Did I mention the dust? As someone who lives out on 8 miles of gravel road, the dust is something I tend to notice.

Yesterday I was out watering my pumpkins when I noticed a small storm off to the west. It wasn't very dark, but I could see a fringe of rain along its base. Good, we might get a few sprinkles, but I was going to keep watering anyway. No way we'd get enough to satisfy those thirsty plants!

The storm moved in and the rain started to fall, lightly at first. Then the drops grew thicker and began to fall faster. Soon we were in the middle of a downpour, with thunder crashing and lightning flashing overhead. I gave up on the pumpkin watering when I could see puddles forming in the driveway. Plus there was no way I was going out in that waterfall to move the hose from plant to plant!

I began to worry for all the wheat fields around my house. Sure, my pumpkins were happy, but I don't depend on them for my living. (Good thing, too, those slackers!) Once wheat lies down it can't be harvested, and that rain was giving a pretty compelling argument for flopping over.

The storm lasted for about 1/2 hour, but when it moved on it left plenty of life-giving water behind. I was happy to see the wheat was all still upright, though I'm sure that this soaking will delay the farmers' harvesting schedule while they wait for it to dry out.

But since nobody I could see suffered complete economic annihilation (most farmers have crop insurance anyway these days), I could rejoice in the beauty of a world washed clean from its choking cloak of dust.

Since I hadn't actually started painting, the storm was only a small, localized one. The roads by our house were muddy messes, but 8 miles north, they were dry and dusty. I guess maybe I'd better hold off on even THINKING about painting my house until after harvest. I don't want to get lynched by an angry mob of farmers!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shelby: The Town So Friendly You'll Never Leave!

As we cruised down out of the mountains I was feeling pretty good. We were making good time, the car temp was finally back to normal, and there were no more crazy mountains to climb before home. Nothing but smooth sailing ahead. We were doing so good that I impulsively decided to stop at a farmer's market in the little town of Shelby. Just to prolong the fun a little bit.

I parked on a side street, then Caleb and I strolled along the rows of booths. After buying a few items we headed back to the car, ready to keep moving. But the car wouldn't start. No problem, we waited a half hour or so, then tried again.

And again......

And again......

And again......

I finally had to make Caleb stop while I still had a starter left! I was all for sleeping in the van again, but my dear family insisted on the safety of a motel room. We walked up to the O'haire Motel, an establishment that hadn't changed much since the glory days of the 50's. I paid an exorbitant amount, got my key (yes, a real key), and walked outside to find my little apartment.

Caleb and I relaxed a bit, turned on the TV to catch some Olympics, and tried to unwind. Our settling-in process was soon interrupted by the sound of a key turning in the lock. I went to open the door and found a rather embarrassed gentleman standing there. Turns out the elderly desk clerk had double-booked our room. He was very apologetic about it when he found out, but it did make the stay more memorable!

Shelby is a neat old town. Lots of neon signs and old brick buildings.
The next day Caleb and I made contact with a car repair shop. Turns out that the one people most recommended "happened" to be only a few hundred feet from where we parked the day before. The repair guy was able to haul our van up to the shop using only his four-wheeler. That was nice since my AAA didn't kick in for 3 more days.  The diagnosis was grim....I needed a new starter, which would not get there until Monday.

A cool alley off Main Street.
The O'haire Motel was better than sleeping in a field, and I'll give credit where credit is due---there were no bed bugs. But I still didn't relish paying a total of $300 for anything less than extreme luxury. And the O'haire Motel was less. It was very less.

So I called my pastor, on his way out to Chicago, and his wife looked up the local pastor's phone #. Out in Montana, "local" is a relative term; he lived 120 miles away, but he was able to call a member that lived in Shelby and ask if they would take in two waifs and one pooch-waif for the weekend. Thankfully, they said "yes", so that is how we came to spend a few days with Evelyn and PJ.

Evelyn and PJ are a delightful couple in their 80's. They've been married for 64 years, and when they said "for better or for worse", they meant it. PJ has Alzheimer's and Evelyn is his devoted caregiver. What a living testimony they both are---truly living out what it means to be like Jesus.

We went to church with them on Sabbath and had a great time meeting the members there. It's a pretty small church; Caleb and I brought that day's attendance to 12, but it has a warm and welcoming heart. I got to sing a special music with no accompaniment, a feat that would have been unthinkable back in my shy days. Oh, well, I gave up being shy years ago----too much work.

Overlooking Shelby
I spent the whole weekend feeling such thankfulness with how God had worked things out. The number one praise was that my car hadn't quit on that awful Going-to-the-Sun Road, or anyplace up in the mountains. God stopped us right by a repair shop, and just before we heading into a 120 mile stretch without a large town. If the van had died out there, the towing bill would have been horrific.

Where I spent the weekend.
It was like sleeping in a fabric store!
Can you think of anything more relaxing?
Then He arranged for us to spend the weekend with some wonderful people instead of cramped in a hotel room. Even that worked out perfectly. I was all set to pre-pay when I "happened" to ask if they had a no-smoking room available instead. The guy said yes, but the guy hadn't checked out yet, so come back in a few hours and pay then. Before it was time to check in I had another place to stay. And staying with Evelyn and PJ was like staying with my grandparents back in the day...those of you who knew them can imagine what I'm talking about.

But even impromptu and forced spiritual retreats must come to an end. We ended up with a delicious spaghetti feed Monday afternoon, gave hugs to everyone, and took our leave. The van was running and I was eager to make it as far as I could. We pulled out of the repair shop and onto Main Street headed eastbound.

And stopped.

Really, Shelby. You need to learn how to let go. Sometimes relationships just don't work out and you have to let the other person move on. 

Eventually they moved the train and we were able to leave. God kept the ol' van going the whole way home and we arrived at midnight Monday night. Whew! What a vacation it had turned out to be! Of course, there was a price to be paid for my long absence. I harvested the garden just before I left and felt quite overwhelmed with the volume. It filled up TWO SINKS! Partly!

That was just the warning shot. After being left to its own devices for almost a week, sinks were not big enough anymore. This is getting ridiculous, but don't expect me to grow less next year. I'm a garden hoarder---I must always grow more than before.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


After a solid day of travel, two short naps, and 15,000 why-are-we-doing-this-again's, we arrived in the Kalispell area. To save us time, our friends met us closer to the park so we could get in and have some camping time before bed. We said good-bye to Sweet, Sweet Petunia and left her lounging in the lap of luxury while we comforted ourselves with the loaf of chocolate zucchini bread they gave us (VERY good!). Our drive took us along the scenic Flathead River. The scenics were so thick that evening that you couldn't move without tripping over a whole herd of them.

We got to the park entrance with plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely evening someplace peaceful, but alas, all the campgrounds were full except for a few too far out of the way. I reluctantly headed the car back along our route, hoping to find a private campground that had space and didn't require you to have the deed to a gold mine in order to pay for it. The first one we stopped at was the Timber Wolf Resort (,  a campground with RV hookups, cabins, and tent camping. The fee was only $21 a night, so I gladly paid and drove up to the campsite.

Or I would have, but the car wouldn't start.

Our "campsite" fully deployed. Car camping is
so much easier than tent camping!

There was an interlude of frenzied phone calls to various people, all the while trying to get the engine to turn over. I was just getting to resigned to the fact we would have to "camp" right in front of the office when Caleb tried the keys one more time and it started right up. I drove to our campsite, hoping the car would start again in the morning, but knowing at least we would get to sleep somewhere prettier than a gravel driveway.

The next morning the car started right up again----obviously whatever indigestion it had been experiencing the day before was cured---so there was nothing stopping us from enjoying our first time in Glacier National Park. We were going to drive through the park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, soaking in all the scenery we could see before exiting on the east side and heading home.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a  "Historic Engineering Landmark", but it starts out innocently enough, no doubt to lull you into a false sense of security. It winds peacefully along the valley floor, past pristine lakes and roiling mountain rivers. We stopped by one of the peaceful mountain lakes so I could paint a picture---good thing I did it then while I could still hold a brush! No way my trembling fingers could have functioned by the time I got to the end of the "Historic Engineering Landmark". Some lady even took my picture while I was painting, just like I was a real artist. Good thing she didn't look at my sketch up close or she would have taken it back.

The waterfalls and majestic scenery was amazing. Caleb had to endure stopping every few minutes, but I tried to keep things to a minimum. We were on a schedule after all.

I knew the Going-to-the-Sun Road was going to climb at some point, but I was pretty sure that since I was east-bound I would end up on the inside of the road, up against the mountain. So it turned out, as we left the valley floor and began to climb the mountain. I was doing OK, and feeling sorry for those poor schlubs who had the outside lane when we reached....

 The Switchback.

I don't particularly like heights. I don't loathe them, but I don't like them either. You're talking about a person who from a very young age has had recurring nightmares about driving up a hill so steep that the car falls over backward and tumbles end over end to the bottom. Don't ask me why my childhood self picked that particular paranoia, but I did.  Now I  found myself driving along a steeply inclined, endless road suspended over a yawning chasm of nothingness.

What I Felt Like:

To make matters worse, there was road construction and my trusty van started to overheat. Caleb kept trying to get me to look at the wonderful scenery, but I would not be enticed. My van edged closer and closer to the other lane, only moving back into my own lane when there was a strict necessity, oh, like oncoming traffic. Can you believe they let other cars drive on that road at the SAME TIME!? 

Eventually we came to a place where there was NO ACTUAL MOUNTAIN underneath the road. Some silly civil engineers had thrown a few rocks there over 75 years ago and called it good. 

Really, Civil Engineers? Really?

I was SO glad when we made it to the top and began the traditional Parking Place Hunt at Logan's Pass Visitors' Center. It was soothing to drive around in predictable, FLAT circles for approximately forever waiting for a space to open up. Maybe that's why they built such a ridiculously inadequate parking lot---to soothe frazzled drivers. All things come to those who wait and eventually Caleb and I were able to grab a rare spot. Then we got to get out and enjoy some of the prettiest scenery I've ever seen.

You can see the road along the side of the mountain.

The Road of Horrors. It looks worse when you're driving it.
Caleb and I went just a little way out on the Hi-line trail. We were so focused on hurrying (because of one hot, whiny pooch in the car) that we hustled right past a mother mountain goat with her baby. We only noticed it when the people behind us started taking pictures. I was able to get off one award-winning shot of their butts before they disappeared .

Moral of the story: don't just watch your feet while you're hiking, but who could blame us? The Hi-line trail is a pretty spectacular one, but one you wouldn't want to fall off of. Sort of the pedestrian version of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

On the way back to the car we did get to see a very nice mountain goat who posed for several photos only because he was busy eating and found tourists a total bore, too dull to even take notice of.

We reluctantly left the heights of Logan's Pass for our trip down the mountain on the eastern side. Thankfully, that proved a lot less dramatic than the western ascent, and we arrived down at the bottom in short order. St. Mary's Lake was beautiful and we were very sorry to say good-bye to our Glacier Park experience to face the unending prairie again.

Little did we know what it held in store for us this time.........

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

O Beautiful.....

I know good mothers aren't supposed to have favorites, but I'll admit it. I do have a favorite. Such a good disposition, superb athletic ability, eye-catching good looks, long whiskers and furry face. Oh, you thought I was talking about one of my HUMAN children! Silly you.

Nope, of all the kitties I've fostered this season, Sweet Petunia is my favorite---there's just something special about her and I was anxious for her to get into a great home.Well, wonder of wonders, an absolutely great home with a friend opened up. And only 591 miles away from Westby! Favorite as she may be, not even I could bring myself to make that kind of trip just to place a cat. Thankfully, my friend's  place happens to be right next to Glacier National Park and it was a simple matter to change the idea from A Ridiculous Cat Odyssey to a Fun Family Vacation. That just happens to have a cat along. (And Finley, of course)

Caleb and I started out at 4:30 Wednesday morning. Our itinerary called for one day over, one day in Glacier, and one day back. We dropped down to Culbertson, then turned west along the hi-line---nothing between us and Glacier but endless miles of prairie. Montana looks like a giant housewife picked it up by its eastern corners, shook it briskly, then set it down with all the mountains, trees, and scenery crowded along its western edge. It would be 8 hours before we saw much else besides spacious skies and amber waves. Let me tell you, we weren't waxing quite as poetical  as Katharine Lee Bates by the end!

But there was a bright side. Little did I know when I planned my cross-state jaunt that I would end up going on a world tour....all without a passport. Does the Department of Homeland Security know about this?

First a quick stop-off in the Mediterranean. Anyone for a biblical archaeology tour?

Then on to Holland. I've always wanted to see Corrie Ten Boom's house. So close... 
and yet so far.

Switzerland? Pass me some chocolate!

Then it was on to England. Not sure why Devon is forbidden to visit...

And of course, for the history buff, what a treat to see the famed Dunkirk.
I wasn't expecting it to be quite so land-locked.

Last of all we got to visit our old cold-war rivals in Russia. Good thing I speak Russian!
(if you want me to say "thank you, you're welcome, good-bye", or sing a pointless song)

We went to Glasgow too, and for some home-state pride, there was good ol' Fresno, gem of the prairie, but I always forgot to take a picture of them when we went through.

It was a long, hot trip traveling all around the world, but Finley handled it like a seasoned pro---he slept through the whole thing. Petunia seemed a little uptight, though.

We really did have a bit of trouble due to the van-that-overheats-when-you-run-the-air-conditioner-when-it's-hot. That was the main reason we left so early, so we could get as much of the hot part out of the way while it was still cool. We didn't even come close, so we spent some hours sweltering in our own portable hairy sauna. I finally put Petunia in her carrier with a baggy of ice inside to cool it down. Thankfully, she did much better after that. Whose idea was it to dress up in a fur coat in the middle of summer, anyway?