Even though I contend that I’ve been to more than my share of funerals, I still feel compelled to attend when it is the funeral of someone I loved, respected, or who was important to someone that I love.  This week found us back in Kansas for another funeral service; this one celebrating the life of Al’s uncle, “Ike” Heideman.  By all accounts, he was a good and honorable man and had lived a good life.  His passing came just over three months after that of his wife, Alberta.  This coming October they would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.  That in itself seems quite a success story.  I imagine them celebrating their reunion in heaven, freed from earthly worries or pains.

I took the accompanying photo with my iPhone this morning, back in Texas, at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  I thought it a peaceful scene and appropriate for a somber post.  Our cloud filled skies this morning were a reminder of the seemingly endless rains being endured by those less fortunate souls to the south of us, compliments of Hurricane Harvey.  It is clear that the material damages will be great, but I remain hopeful that the loss of life will not be.  Despite the deprivation that many will endure, humans are resilient and I am confident that most will successfully rebuild in some fashion.  So long as there is hope, all is not lost.


Is This Really August in Texas?

What an August we have been having here in north Texas!  My memory tells me that August is usually unbearably hot and it’s so dry that even the weeds don’t grow.  Not this year; we have had a hard time keeping the grass mowed!  I really don’t know if it has been a record setting month, but it feels like it should be.  We have had plenty of hot, but we have also had plenty of rain.  The National Weather Service says that Sherman received nearly six and a half inches of rain between yesterday afternoon and this morning.  Our rain gauge, which measures up to five inches, was completely full, so I cannot really say if that was all we received at our house.  The winner, if you want to look at it that way, was Knollwood, a small community on the northern edge of Sherman, with over 9 inches of rain in the same time period.  Facebook seems to be filled with photos and reposts of newscasts covering the flash flooding in the area last night.  My heart goes out to all of those who were displaced by flooding.  The news said that there were 25 high water rescues last night.  I am relieved that there were no reported drownings.  The only photo I am going to post is from Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, where the roads were still impassable this morning.


At least the egrets seem to be enjoying it

This has not been our only rain this month and Oklahoma has reportedly received more rain than Texas, so it is not surprising to see the water up at Lake Texoma.

We have also had some beautiful weather.  Last weekend we decided to take a jaunt over to Terrell, Texas.  We were on a mission to buy some peaches.  Ham Orchards, just outside of Terrell, has a complete Farm Market Store.  They are not a pick yourself orchard, which is fine with me and probably better for them.  They know which peaches to pick when and I’m sure the trees sustain less damage than if the general public were turned loose to do their own peach picking.  I have to say that it was quite an experience.  We arrived shortly after opening time and there must have been fifty people already there!  We bought a couple of jars of jams, which we have not yet tried, had some of their famous soft serve peach ice cream, which is worth the trip itself, and brought home a few bags of peaches.  Some of the best peaches I think I’ve ever eaten.  For those who are interested, they are open mid-May through mid-August, 9am-5pm, every day but Sunday. You can find their web page at hamorchard.com and you can find them on FaceBook.  Unfortunately it is too late to go this year as yesterday was their last day, but I would encourage anyone in the area who likes peaches to put them on your list of things to do next year.


It tasted even better than it looks!

I am expecting a quiet few weeks coming up.  We are planning a trip to New York City in October as a delayed celebration of my September birthday.  It will be our first trip where we actually stay in the city and do something.  We have driven through part of NYC and we have had a plane swap at the airport, but we have never stayed there.  One of my bucket list items is to visit the Statue of Liberty.  I used to imagine that my ancestors came through there, and perhaps a few did, but most came to this country long before it became a country, so that is clearly not the case.  Despite that, I love the symbolism of it and the message that it sends.  We would not be who we are were it not for the great melting pot of a country that we are.  The current politics around immigration make the message even more poignant.  All that said, I am sure that Al and I will find some little ways to entertain ourselves or to be creative.  I shall try not to be so long between posts, but will also try not to bore you too much if we don’t.

My final comments are a repeat for those of you who are my friends on FaceBook.  It was about a week and a half ago when I was staying in Dallas.  It had rained off and on all day and the weather had finally cleared.  The sun was shining, the weather app said the rain had moved on and that there was little to no chance of any further rains.  On that basis, I decided to walk to The Container Store, approximately a mile from the hotel.  I figured the exercise would feel good and I would rather be out of doors than in, so it was not a hard sell.  All was well until I had made my purchase and left the store.  The sun was now nowhere to be seen and the sky was ominously dark again.  Still, what was I going to do but start the walk back towards the hotel.  I was several blocks along when it started to sprinkle.  It did not seem like it was going to last too long, so I took shelter under a tree.  Then it started to sprinkle harder and was turning to rain.  Finally, I decided that it didn’t matter which direction I went, back towards the stores or towards the hotel, I was going to be soaked because I had foolishly left my umbrella in my hotel room.  I had not gone far when to my surprise a woman pulled up and offered me a ride to my destination.  She had passed me earlier and when it had started to rain in earnest she had felt badly for me and felt called to come back for me and give me a ride.  I do not have to tell you that I was filled with gratitude, for even on a warm summer day a downpour can quickly leave one chilled once soaked.  It was such an unexpected act of kindness that I am still moved by it and hope that in some small way I can pay it forward by coming to someone else’s aid when needed.  It is not important to the story to know that she was Asian and that English was clearly her second language.  It is important to the context of approaching all people with love and and open mind.  I am certainly glad that she did so for me.

Wishing you all random acts of kindness in the weeks to come.  Pass it on.

Love, Travels

Family Time

Summer is often a time for vacations and sometimes that means spending time with family members that we don’t get to see very often.  Al and I were fortunate enough to have a week off and welcoming family members to spend it with.  Not everyone is so fortunate, and I think we both feel blessed.  Sorry, no photos this week; I was lazy and didn’t photograph much, so rather than share an errant photo or two, I decided it was better to go with  none.

We spent the better part of two days traveling to Sioux City, IA to see Al’s oldest daughter, Angie, and her family.  On both our trip up and our return trip, we stopped at one of my sister’s homes for the night and got to visit with her family.  We have lived together off an on through the various phases of our adult lives, and taken turns nurturing each other through the dramas and traumas of our lives, so I always feel  at home when I get to visit and hope she feels the same when she gets to visit here.

Sioux City was great fun.  Both Angie and her husband, Joe, were able to take off a couple of days while we were in town and we also got to spend a great deal of time with our grandson, Mac.  The other grandkids were out of town and we are sorry we missed them, but sometimes you travel when you can.  We played tourist and part of the fun was that neither Angie nor Joe had been to the places we decided to visit.  The Sioux City Public Museum was a pleasant surprise.  They were not officially open the day we went, but since they were working on an the sound system, they welcomed us and we got to tour the exhibits.   It is a very well done museum!  I think we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  The museum is free of charge and asks for donations only.

Another place we spent time was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  This is another free museum, accepting donations, and is designed to be both very kid friendly and interesting to adults.  Outside is a sculpture garden that is fun to wander even if you don’t go inside.

Our other big stop was the Palmer Candy Factory.  This is apparently a Sioux City staple.  There are all variety and manner of sweet things, both made there and made by other candy companies.  We settled on buying a few locally made specialty items and a variety of truffles, which we took home and split into quarters so those of us who were interested could try them.  It was a great way to get to try a variety of chocolate treats without gaining ten pounds in the process.  It’s a fun stop if you find yourself in Sioux City but I warn you to bring your self control with you.

We got back home on Thursday and one of my other sisters joined us shortly.  My sister, Linda, was free for several days, so drove down to Texas from the Kansas City area and she and I took a little trip down to Waco, Texas.  We went down to visit the Magnolia Market and, of course, we had to try the Silos Baking Company while we were there.  The chocolate cupcakes were awesome, but be prepared to stand in line for 30 minutes or longer to gain the privilege of entering the bakery.  The crowds are enormous and we were there on a weekday!  It is a fun place to visit just for the experience of saying you went.  While in Waco we also visited the Dr. Pepper Museum.  It’s a look back in time at the history of Dr. Pepper and associated brands.  Most of the displays are advertising memorabilia.  I thought it was overpriced for what it was, but one can visit the soda fountain without purchasing a wrist band or touring the museum.

Since Linda had not ever stopped into some of the towns between Sherman and Waco, we made stops in both West and Waxahachie.  West is know for it’s Czech bakeries.  We stopped at two, but only had kolachies at one of them.  In Waxahachie we took photos of the historic courthouse, considered to be one of the prettiest courthouses in Texas.  It is indeed a beautiful building.  We also spent a little time shopping.  It just happened to be Linda’s birthday, so I felt privileged that I was the one that got to spend the day with her. We had a good time just puttering around together.

Tomorrow is another day.  Vacation will be over and I will be back at work.  It was fun while it lasted, but now it’s time to get back to the routine.

If you are lucky enough to have family, I hope that you show them and tell them that you love them.  Life is short.  Make the most of it.

Photos, Travels

Dancing With Cindy

In our house, birthdays are a big deal.  They have been since the beginning, but perhaps even more so after each of my experiences with cancer. This has led us from birthday gifts to celebrating birthday eves to full blown birthday fest celebrations featuring experiences instead of things.  June is the month of Al’s birthday and his choice of how to celebrate was to motorcycle the Natchez Trace from the southern terminus in Natchez, Mississippi to its northern limit near Nashville.  He was undaunted  by the approach of Tropical Depression Cindy, so on Wednesday, June 21st, we left home headed into the the mercy of the storm.

All of that sounds much more dramatic than the first day’s reality.  We did encounter some sprinkles before arriving at our first night’s stop in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Thursday we made our way to Natchez and started up the Trace.  It was a beautiful day despite constantly playing cat and mouse with Cindy.  Rain suits on, rain suits off, rain suits on, rain suits off, over and over as it was uncomfortably warm and sticky with humidity between the rains.  We covered the first 90 miles of the Trace before calling it a day at Clinton, Mississippi.

One of the wonders of the Trace is how different it feels.  I do not think that this would be so obvious in an automobile as it was on the Harley or would be on a bicycle.  When we stopped to take a photo at the sign, we were both immediately taken by the sudden peacefulness versus the experience of riding on the highways that took us there.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a unit of the National Park Service.  It covers 444 miles, traversing through parts of three states.  The original portions of the Trace date back centuries.  It was originally a game trail, then was used by the indigenous peoples, then by settlers, slaves, the carriers of the early postal service, and merchants.  Some portions wore down into “sunken” sections, in places 20 feet below the surrounding terrain.  Todays Trace crosses four distinct ecosystems and provides habitat for diverse animal and plant populations.  One of the most notable things about the Trace is what is not there: there are no motels, gas stations, restaurants, or commercial signs; campgrounds are limited and none have hookups or showers; commercial traffic is forbidden.  The speed limit is 50-55 miles per hour in most places and the Trace is a designated bicycle route, so bicycles enjoy the use of the entire lane.  There are, however, a variety of interesting stops featuring ruins, nature trails, and some interesting geography.  Below are a few photos from our first day on the Trace.

Ruins of the Elizabeth Female Academy, founded in 1818; the first school for women chartered by the state of Mississippi.

Mount Locust, a restored plantation and stand.  A stand was a place that operated as an Inn, offering a stopover for travelers.  The slave cemetery is a stark reminder of the darker side of American history.  It lacks the monuments and markers found in landowner cemeteries.  A single small stone marker remains, but one has to enlarge the photo considerably to find it amongst the trees.

Windsor Ruins, located about 10 miles from the Trace.  The columns are all that remain of the 4-story, 25-room mansion which was the largest antebellum house in Mississippi, the magnificent centerpiece of the 2,600 plus acre Windsor Plantation.  Completed in 1861, it was destroyed in 1890 by a fire, reportedly caused by a party guest who carelessly dropped a cigarette.  The wrought iron staircase, which also survived, is now a part of Alcorn State University.  Al, at six feet tall, is dwarfed by the columns, lending some perspective on their scale.

The following day, rain was inevitable and we started out in our rain suits.  We were fortunate enough to have a good hour or so of pleasant riding under cloudy skies before spending the remainder of the day living with Cindy on her terms because after two days of teasing she finally had her way with us.  I cannot complain too loudly as we were lucky enough that the hardest downpour, raining almost sideways with the wind, came while we were stopped at a gas station near the Trace where we had gassed up and stayed for a bite to eat at Subway.  I did manage a few photos early in the day at the Cypress Swamp just past milepost 120.  The air with heavy with humidity and mosquitos were dancing around us so we did not linger long.  I was sorry for the gray skies as the lighting made for rather lackluster photos.


We spent the night in Tuscumbia, Alabama.  Because of the rain we did not go out exploring, but rather spent our time at the hotel laundry washing out and drying all of our clothes.  It could be an interesting place to visit again.  Tuscumbia was the home of Helen Keller and her home is a historic site.  We did stop at additional sites along the route, visiting ancient burial mounds and some of the older sections of the Trace, but I demurred from taking any more photos as I had no desire to ruin my camera in the rain.

Our final day on the Trace was as glorious as the previous day was wet.  We lingered in the beautiful weather, enjoying our stops and spending some time visiting with other motorcyclists who were also out enjoying the day.  As it was a Saturday and possibly also because we were getting closer and closer to Nashville, the traffic picked up and the bicyclists were out in significant numbers.  It made me a bit wistful as I have not been on my bicycle since I had my mastectomy.  I see bicycling again in my future, but maybe I will wimp out and wait until fall before I air up the tires and take it for a spin.

Our major stops on this beautiful day were at the Meriwether Lewis Site and at Leipers Fork.  We also lingered at a stop that afforded a bit of a view of Tennessee’s famous double arch bridge.  I learned a bit at the Meriwether Lewis Site, but was a little surprised by the whitewashing of history by the National Parks Department in referring to a slave as a “servant who belonged to . . . .”  Either that, or I completely misinterpreted things.  That said, if one finds oneself in the area, it is worth stopping to explore the site.  We ended our Saturday by joining a friend and his friend for dinner and conversation.  All in all a lovely way to spend a day.  I have posted a few photos below.

These photos are from a lovely, shaded rest stop.  The various fungi were somewhat fascinating to me in their variety.

At the Meriwether Lewis Site.  The monument is a simple broken column, symbolizing a life cut short.  The official story is that he died by his own hand, but there are those who believe he was murdered.  Either way, it was not a pleasant death.

A waterfall a short hike from the Trace.  A kind person took a photo of the two of us together.

Interesting “homemade” instruments and our lunch stop in Leipers Fork, Tennessee.  It’s quite a happening little place with a number of galleries.  We were told that a number of country music stars have estates in the area, also adding to the draw.  Al did not stop so I could photograph the General Lee and the Andy Griffith police car, but we both thought it was cool to see them parked together by the main road.


Tennessee’s famous double arch bridge, as glimpsed through the trees.  It towers above highway 96.  The best part of this final stop before Nashville was getting to spend some time visiting with a small group of motorcyclists who were also taking a rest break.


The end of the Trace.

We really did not take any photos beyond this point.  We headed into Nashville and made dinner plans with our friend who was also visiting there.  After a pleasant evening of sitting outside just talking, we headed up to our room to rest up for the next day’s journey.  Our goal once we left Nashville was to simply make it home safely.  Our route was mostly interstate, which was a stark contract to the serenity of the Trace.  Had we had enough time, I do believe we would have gone back down the Trace the other way, but I have yet to find a job that will pay me to not show up for work.  We had a day at home before I had to face reality again, but Al leapt right back into it and had a busy day scheduled for the day after our return.

All in all, Cindy proved not to be an awful dance partner and we were for the most part spared from her wrath.  Some farther south were not so lucky.  If you believe in prayer, please hold those people up.  A week later they are all but forgotten by those who are farther removed from the storm.

With that, I shall end this post.  I hope you all have a happy 4th of July, however you choose to celebrate.

Love, Photos, Travels

Silent Movies and Father’s Day Ramblings

Last weekend we made our way back to Miami, Oklahoma and the Coleman Theatre to see Dennis James’ Musica Curiosa.  Mr. James is an organist extraordinaire who travels the world playing organ accompaniment to silent movies.  For the Musica Curiosa program on this weekend, the program preceding the movie was all about ragtime.  Mr. James played the organ and a special guest pianist also played.  Adding to the mix was Oklahoma native and Broadway performer, Ron Young, who sang a couple of tunes and tap danced to one.  The evening ended with the showing of the Lillian Gish movie, True Heart Susie, with Mr. James alongside, playing the movie score on the Coleman’s historic pipe organ.  What an extraordinary experience the evening was!  It was great fun and a totally different experience from any other silent movie viewing I have attended.  I cannot overstate how much the pipe organ added to the experience.  And all of this in the beautifully restored Coleman Theatre.  In many ways it was like taking a step back in time.  Here are a few photos I took during the show, plus one I took earlier in the day of Al on historic Route 66.


This brings me to the second half of this post: Father’s Day.  The long term reader may remember that I lost my own father to cancer in 1991.  I was lucky enough to have two additional father figures in my life, my wonderful friend, Dr. Warren Wooldridge, and my stepfather, Joseph “Doc” Beets.  All good, yet imperfect, men.  All now gone from this earth.  But each loved me for who I am, as I loved them in return, and each contributed in his own way to my growth as a human being.  My experiences leave me saddened for those who have not been so lucky as to have a nurturing father figure in their life.  So I leave you with a photo of the man who had the most impact on me as I remember him best, in his later years, enjoying a moment with family.  I am quite certain that I shall never live so long as to stop missing him or the other father figures that have made an imprint on my life.

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Love to you all.


Health and Fitness, Photos

Weekends and Wildflowers

It has been several weekends since I have posted.  My only defense is that I have been busy with life and that time seems to be passing ever faster.  I am grateful to have a full life, but there are times I just want to sit still for awhile.  I suppose that there will be plenty of time for sitting if I am lucky enough to grow old(er).

I do not wish the reader to think that in not formally addressing Memorial Day that I take it lightly.  I have in fact spent a great deal of time this weekend thinking of those who came before me, with special appreciation for those who gave their lives in the service of our country.  But, I haven’t the emotional energy to address that, so this is a much more mundane posting about my life in general.

Aside from the usual working out of town, since my last post we have participated in a 5K, made our second trip back to Kansas in less than a month, and finally spent a weekend at home.  I won’t say much about the 5K except that the volunteers along the route were poorly trained/prepared and people were sent in differing directions that led to distances ranging from 1.9 to 3.7 miles.  I hope that there was much learned from this fiasco as it was for a worthwhile charity and I would hate to see participation, and hence fundraising, wane due to the confusion of this year’s event.  Our two trips to Kansas were for disparate reasons; the first, at the beginning of the month, was for a funeral on Al’s side of the family, the second, which was mid-month, was for happier reasons, a fundraising party that was both fun and a successful fundraiser.

This weekend was one of the more laid back weekends I’ve had in some time.  I got all of my necessary chores, like laundry, done on Saturday, and decided to channel my mother by baking cinnamon rolls using her recipe.  It has been probably thirty years since I have made cinnamon rolls with my mother’s recipe.  I had forgotten how scant the instructions were.  It was one that she had used forever, most likely from before she had a stove with a thermostat.  When my parents were first married, the cooking stove was powered by wood.  When they were able, they purchased a gas stove, made by Chambers, which is the stove I currently use in my kitchen.  The recipe does not include things like baking temperature or time and some of the ingredients don’t state how much, so I had to experiment, based on my knowledge of baking.  My first attempt, using her full recipe for candied cinnamon rolls, was edible, but less than perfect.  I think the rolls underdone and I did not add enough water to the pan to allow the sugar to dissolve well, so when turned out the topping, which started out on the bottom of the pan, has a grainy texture.  The second batch, I used a slightly lower temperature and cooked them longer, and did not add the sugar to the bottom of the pan to make the candied topping; instead I made a quick icing for the rolls.  I did not taste the second batch, but all appearances are that it is a better outcome than the first.

My biggest disappointment of late is that I have managed to put on a couple of pounds.  Because of this, I have renewed my commitment of putting in 10,000+ steps a day.  This led Al and me to spend part of this weekend hiking the Meadow Pond Trail at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  This is the wildflower part of the post.  Hagerman’s wildflower blooms are usually spectacular and this year is no exception.  The photos are all taken with a phone because, as usual, I did not bring an actual camera.  I call the photo at the beginning of this post “the triumph of nature over man”.  I cannot help but root for the plants when they invade our manmade structures as the flower sprouting from the edge of a concrete bridge.  Following are a smattering of photos of some of the many varieties of wildflowers that are currently in bloom.


And a final photo of raindrops on a lily pad.  The water lilies were just starting to bloom, but the most compelling photo was from the puddles of rain left by the storm that passed through the night before.



Obsessing (Just a Little)

There are times I should just avoid reading about stuff.  I would say that this weekend was one of them.  I think that part of the issue is anniversaries.  May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, was the second anniversary of my first chemo.  Of course I knew it was coming up, but for some reason this one really hit me.  Despite the good review from the surgeon a few weeks back, this one still snuck up on me and inserted it’s share of doubts.  It started with an article on the risk-benefit ratio for extended aromatase inhibitor (anti-estrogen) therapy.  It is a discussion of several recent studies that have looked at whether continuing therapy beyond five years is beneficial.  The results are conflicting, but the interpretation is that sometimes it is.  For women who are at higher risk.  But, it is a mixed bag where one must consider the odds of it being of benefit against the odds of having a significant adverse event from continued therapy.  The one thing that always nags in the back of my mind is that none of the studies really focus on someone like me.  I am an anomaly in having had 34 lymph nodes that were positive for cancer and  yet no measurable evidence of metastatic disease.  The studies tend to look at zero positive lymph nodes or 1-3 positive lymph nodes.  I am an outlier.  It is my one source of paranoia.  Most of the time I am good at putting it away and just getting on with life, but every now and then I have a day or two of obsession.  I want to know.  I want there to be some mechanism where the doctor can look into her crystal ball and tell me whether I will be one of the lucky ones.  Alas, there is no such thing.  There  are no reliable tests for people like me, because there are so few of us in relation to the breast cancer population as a whole.  I am working to put that little nagging obsession back into its box and remind myself that life never has any guarantees.  I have done, and am continuing to do, all that is within my power to give myself the best chance of never having to face this beast again.  I must leave it at that and move forward with the best life I know how to live and be grateful for whatever time I have gained, be it days or years, from the expertise of my oncologist.  Tomorrow is a new day and I shall try to find something else to focus my energy on.  In fact I’ve already picked out a project in our back yard.  Onward. Ever onward.