Thursday, September 14, 2017

Champagne Summer

I'm sitting on my patio going through summer pictures on my iPhone, trying to organize and weed out those that are redundant or not so fabulous.  It's taking me way longer than it should, and I'm not deleting very many.  Instead, I'm sipping champagne and  smiling as I remember all the enchantment and love of the last few months.  For most of this summer, the weather was delightfully sparkling and warm, family and friends were bubbly and sweet,  and my adventures were all fun filled and effervescent.  Kind of like


I'm about an hour into my picture organizing (and champagne drinking) and I realize that the folders I've created mirror the very reason that this Summer of 2017 will go down in my book as almost perfect.  Take a look inside my photo book.


Oh, celebrate we did, with dance recitals and birthdays and weddings and retirements.  And champagne!
Madi aka Moana.  Away Away!
Jess turns 21!  The twins are 4.  Mom is 89 <3
Another retirement celebration??  I know--how awesome is that??
Nate and Lindsey are married!

Throughout all the celebrating we cheered and ate cake and sang and danced.  (and drank champagne!)


My backyard beckoned me every night this summer.  I (and usually my mom and Jewel) spent so many warm, quiet evenings listening to the bubbly fountain and crickets, reading books and emails and letters, planning our days.  And drinking champagne.

Solar lights, sparkling water, books, Jewel
Fitzgerald, tea, and a real letter from Cousin Ginny

I'm hoping these patio nights linger way into autumn.

A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE (of the heartland!)

I never imagined that seeing a solar eclipse could be so magical, but experiencing this celestial event with my mom and sister and nieces and nephews made it so.  Read about my experience here.  

Diamond rings, eclipse glasses, and family


Yes, August!  I've always dreaded the month of August.  For as long as I can remember, August signaled school starting and the end of summer.  I always had a sense of sadness as August loomed ahead, knowing that my days of leisure would soon be filled to the rim with school work, early nights, and way too much stress.  Not this year!  I think I was looking forward to August most of all--no school and no stress.  Instead, August brought glorious weather, brunches, more patio nights, long walks with Jewel, road trips, out-of-town visitors.  And champagne :)

Road trip essentials, fresh veggies, brunch
Brunch, summer flowers, reading
Peg's veggies turn into fresh salsa and pasta sauce



I'm almost finished with my picture organizing project.  I spent way too long looking and not enough time deleting.  But my folders are complete.  The last folder is the fullest, and I find myself lingering the longest as I feel the love all over again.  I got to see every single member of my fam this summer, whether in Colorado, Nebraska, or on the shores of Christmas Lake.

Nebraska, Colorado, and Minnesota family love
Everyone's a fish at Christmas Lake

Christmas Lake Love

  Nothing brings me more joy than love and hugs from Mom and sisters.

I'd melt for my sisters
 and brothers
and brothers
 and nieces and nephews
too hard to get nephews to pose--the girls are always game
and Royal Babies
all 8 of them!
and besties.
And a few more--this isn't even close to all the pictures in this last folder--it would be overflowing if it were a real folder!

And a grand finale lake compilation <3

And now, with my photos nicely organized in my new iPhone folders (Celebrations, The Patio,, Total Eclipse, August, and Family), I'm almost ready to say goodbye to this perfect summer.  But first, one more glass of  champagne.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Heartland

A total solar eclipse swept across the entire continental United States on August 21, 2017.  The buzz began years before--people made plans all over the world to visit a site along the path.  Hotels sold out months, even years, in advance by those with the foresight to plan ahead.  The procrastinators were left scrambling for accommodations, and many resorted to sleeping in cars in the middle of a parking lot or field.  

The Heavens aligned for this particular eclipse to allow almost anyone in the U.S. to catch a glimpse if desired.  The path of totality ran straight through the Heartland of America, and a partial eclipse spread even wider.  A simple road trip could lead anyone to a view of the eclipse.  

And so road trip I did.  

Colorado sunflowers, Sonic, Bruce, Eclipse glasses, and the Platte

I grew up in Nebraska so I had a choice of places to go.  My hometown of Alliance, Nebraska was right in the path of totality, and the city planned many celebrations.  Major television stations set out to observe from our own Carhenge.  I decided against that choice since my family isn't there anymore. 

My brother Mark lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, which also was in the path, but the length of totality was not at peak.  I decided to tag Lincoln on to the end of my eclipse trip.

That left me with Cairo, Nebraska--right smack in the middle of the path and offering the longest possible view of the total solar eclipse.  Of course I wouldn't have known any of this if it weren't for my sister Peg, a science nerd through and through.  She started talking about it way back in the spring.  Plus, she lives in Cairo--how perfect was that!  

In order to get an unobstructed view, we watched from her friend's house on a golf course.  After a little bit of a morning freak out with mostly cloudy skies, we settled in with lawn chairs, mimosas, yummy food, and family.  We rationalized that even with  clouds, we would still get to see the darkening sky and feel the temperature drop.  But then a miracle happened--the clouds dissipated, the skies cleared to a bright blue, and we were on our way to a perfect view of totality.  

We watched, with our eclipse glasses, as the moon carved a small crescent into the sun at 11:33 am.  We watched that crescent grow as it covered a fourth of the sun and then half and then three quarters.  At this point there was a definite change in the sky as it took on a late afternoon look.  Right before the moon took over completely, the temperature dropped to a cool evening feel and the sky darkened.  Birds started acting strange, crickets chirped, stars came out, and we even saw Venus in the middle of the day.  At 12:58 pm, the moon covered the sun and we had totality.  For the next 2 minutes and 34 seconds we gazed at the blocked sun.  Without glasses!  We saw it all--solar flares, the sparkling corona of the sun's edges, Bailey's elusive beads.  And the diamond ring!!  I wanted to see that most of all.  We saw it just as totality ended.  We all cheered.  I choked up a bit.  I have never seen anything as amazing as that--I now understand why people travel the world to witness a total eclipse.

And then the sun began to emerge and back on went our eclipse glasses.  The sky lightened, the temperature quickly heated up, and our little neck of the woods returned to normal.

My sister posted this quote by Fred Espenak (Mr. Eclipse) a few days later--

"But within those few precious minutes people have joined an exclusive club of the most spectacular thing you can see with a human eye. There are few events in life that leave a permanent, indelible impression," he said, and "a total eclipse of the sun is just such an event."

I am thrilled to be a member of that exclusive club.

Diamond rings, Total eclipse of the heart shirts, eclipse glasses

My words pale compared to those of a four-year-old--here is Drake's story:

While the Total Eclipse was an amazing event, it was just one of three on my Nebraska road trip.  I got to see almost all of my Nebraska family.  First up:

Kearney and Elm Creek

Bike rides, Apple trees, Board games, Hotel fun
Royal babies, nieces, sisters, Mom, and Jewel

Onward to Lincoln

UNL, Ice cream, State capital, Amazing elevator, Views
Royal babies, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, kisses, and Mom

I never imagined seeing a solar eclipse would end up being so unforgettable.  And seeing my family along this week-long road trip really did make this a Total Eclipse of the Heart!

Reason to Believe

Monday, August 14, 2017

Where Were You When. . . ?

Memories: Where were you when...?

I’m shopping in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the middle of our annual Christmas shopping tradition.  The mall is decorated in glitter and red and green.  The air is crisp and festive.  My sister has been inside a store, and I am waiting for her.  I see her now.  Her face is serious, much different from when she went in.  John Lennon is dead, she tells me.
My heart stops.  No.  This can’t be true.  My whole childhood flashes before my eyes.  Beatles notebooks.  Beatles lunch boxes.  Beatles posters.  Beatles magazines.  Beatles dolls.  Beatles 45s.  Beatles albums.  Beatles.
All I can do is hug my sister and try to breathe.  John Lennon is dead.  Shot by a deranged fan.  Our shopping day has come to an abrupt end.  I don’t even want to continue with our plans, but somehow I need to go to the . . .
Grove.  I meet my college girlfriends at our favorite hangout, The Grove.  I need to be with them and to see familiar faces of Grove regulars.  The mood is somber tonight, not the usual loud rock and roll feel.  Everyone is talking about John—favorite songs, favorite albums.  John Lennon songs are softly playing from the stage.  Give Peace a Chance.  Starting Over.  Mind Games.  Instant Karma.
Nothing will ever be the same.

Everything has changed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Simple Journal

Right before my last year of teaching started I received the most incredible gift from my friend Kari.  We did our annual back to school happy hour, and over summer cocktails, she handed me a gift bag containing a simple journal.  I soon learned, however, that there was absolutely nothing simple about it.  Kari's gift became a lifeline to my past, bringing back memories from my thirty-two years as a teacher.

so very Kari (and Cheryl!)
Each month Kari mailed me an envelope containing three journal prompts.  These prompts were meant to elicit memories from my years of teaching, and that is exactly what they did. Starting in August and each month after, I reflected on my career.  Memories, many long forgotten, flooded my mind.  I smiled, laughed out loud, gasped, and shed tears as students colleagues, parents, classrooms, and schools appeared in my mind and heart.

The prompts ran the gamut, from




all the way to

As each month approached, I found myself anxiously awaiting Kari's handwritten envelope containing inspiring quotes, the journal prompts, and Kari's love and energy.  The year flew by as I poured myself into this journal project.  

Kari put each prompt in a library-style book envelope.
I'm forever grateful to Kari for engaging me in this nine-month journal exercise.  I hope I captured everyone who joined me on my thirty-two year journey and every miracle that sparkled along this English teacher's path.

pages and pages of love and gratitude

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For My Little Brother

I wrote the following for a writing class. The assignment was to choose a significant person and write a series of "I remember" statements and go from there.  I love what emerged when I recalled memories of my little brother.  I think it's blog worthy😊

I remember  . . .

MARK—my little brother.  We are only two years apart and have always been very close.  I can’t imagine life without him.

I remember the summer you and I got to go to Grandma and Ivan’s all by ourselves!  We even got out of school for the summer a week early and rode the train from Alliance to Lincoln.  The train trip was long, but waiting for us when we arrived were both Grandma and Ivan.  They were thrilled to have us all to themselves, and they planned the week out with all kinds of fun.   From swimming in Wahoo to grocery shopping to visiting Bessie on the farm to visits from Ethel, we packed in so much during that short week.  The best part was just being with my little brother at our grandparents’.

I remember when we were running around the bowling alley while Dad bowled with his weekly league.  You were chasing me, and I so desperately didn’t want to get caught.  I ran like crazy and just when I thought I might escape you, the gumball machine ended that .  I grabbed the pole trying to propel myself around the obstacle.  Little did I know that my strength was stronger than that gumball machine.  Crash—the glass container shattered and hundreds of brightly colored gumballs rolled in all directions.

I remember family road trips where you always got to sit in the front seat.  I would get so jealous seeing the back of your head tucked safely between Mom and Dad as we rolled down the never-ending Highway 2 in Nebraska.  I wished that just once I could have that coveted spot, but I always had to settle for glaring at your head and the back of your ears.  I got my revenge once though.  As I sat in back chewing my bubble gum, I might have leaned up just a tad too close.  At the same time I realized my bubble gum’s textured changed, you let out a howl that made Dad threaten to pull the car over.  Your ear lobe became my chewing gum for a split second, and it was so worth it!

I remember Joy and I talking you into going to see Kris and Rita at Red Rocks.  We were all so poor back then, and none of us could really afford the trip.  But we scrounged up enough money for tickets and gas and we all piled into the car.  Not having money for overnight accommodations, that car became our hotel room.  We found a KOA to park, and all of us somehow slept the night away.

I remember when you were awarded the full-ride scholarship to Chadron State College.  I was so proud of you,

I remember when you came to visit me in Lincoln.  At least I thought you came to visit me, but somehow I think that was an excuse to get Mom and Dad to let you take the car for the weekend.  I saw you for one night and then you disappeared.  I wish you would have just told me that you wanted to go to Dodge City to see a girlfriend, but instead, I spent the weekend worried sick, imagining you in a car accident or murdered somewhere.  I have never been so relieved to see someone when you finally showed up on Sunday, sheepish and apologetic.  Don’t ever do that again!

I remember football season, spending our weekends glued to college games and placing our crazy wagers.  We always seemed to think we found a “cinch,” but as we learned time and time again, there are no cinches.  Those weekends during the fall and early winter still bring us close.

I remember the antennae tower.  Oh Lord, why can’t I forget that?  Dad’s amazing truck with the tower that would rise to the sky with the flip of a switch was ahead of its time, and a huge temptation to two small kids.  We flipped the switch while the truck was inside the garage.  Ugh—the sound of steel hitting the ceiling is forever etched in my head.  Make it go away!

I remember all of the Blue Bird and Campfire Girl meetings you attended when Mom was the leader of my troupe.  She would bring you along, and I always thought I would die when you would want to do the crafts that we were doing.

I remember when Dad died.  You became everyone’s pillar of strength even though you needed to grieve too.  I hope you were able to.

I remember ALL of the acts of kindness you have shown to me and everything you have done to make my life easier.  I can’t list them all, but I remember everything, from fixing my brakes, yard work, hanging ceiling fans, fixing anything, paying for things.  You take care of us.

What I can’t remember, though, is a time when you weren’t there for me.  You’re the best brother anyone could have.