Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Monday, January 26, 2015

How in the Hell Do They Manage?

I've spent the past three days being a single parent.  The Woodsman has been in the hospital with appendicitis since Friday, and had been minimally functional the entire week before he was admitted to the ER.  He's going to make a full recovery and we've all managed.  The kids are great at pitching in (thank goodness they are reliable, independent and mostly self-entertaining at this point), and we have a fantastic support network. But this is really the first time I've been on my own at home for an extended period of time.

The first night was filled with anxiety and uncertainty.  The weather was terrible and the roads were dangerous.  I had been instructed by many people that loved me, including my spouse, to remain at home with the kids.  There was nothing I could do if I went to the hospital, and I risked putting the rest of us in danger.  I called the people who keep me centered, and they told me what I needed to hear - stay home, and call us later if you need us.  I prayed, reached out for support, and eventually sunk into an uneasy sleep.  In between all of that I took care of the animals, kept the fire going, got the kids ready for bed, made plans for where they could go if I needed to leave suddenly, and updated relatives on The Woodsman's prognosis.

The next day I kept the phone line open waiting for news, and alternated between understanding that staying put was still the wisest decision, and wanting to forget reason and opperate on emotion instead.  I don't do well sitting and waiting.  Luckily, because I've been working a lot on the weekend there was a long list of  projects to tackle.  I spent the day practicing cooking and decluttering therapy and doing the jobs he usually does (filling the woodbox, dealing with the dogs, etc.). By this point I had a phone number and could call periodically to see if there was any news.  There wasn't.  Finally, late in the afternoon there was a decision.   He would not be having surgery, but he would also not be coming home any time soon.  So I picked up my mother-in-law, dropped off the kids at a friend's house and headed for a short visit.

When I eventually got home with the kids it was late and the list of tasks to be accomplished before sleep was long.  Despite the late night, we got ourselves to church on time, and then left early so we could make it to the hospital before visiting hours were over.

I don't know what hospitals are like at the moment in your area, but getting into our local hospital required an unbelievable amount of red tape and questioning.  Visiting hours are severely restricted.  Patients may only have two visitors at a time.  Visitors must sign in and sign out.  They must wear badges.  They must keep their badge visible so the security guard can view it.  They must be over 18.
Did you catch that last one?  They must be over 18.  Well, somehow I missed that on my visit the night before.  We got to the hospital with one hour of visiting time remaining, and proceeded through the line to receive our visitor's badge.  When the receptionist told me that the kids couldn't go up to visit their Dad I almost lost it.

Up until this point I'd managed to remain calm and focused on the outside while being a swirl of emotions inside.  The kids did not need my emotions to cause them any more stress.  Did they not get it?  We hadn't come for ourselves.  We'd come for him.  Did they not know that the only thing he wanted from home was his children?  Were they not parents?  Did they not have hearts?

Despite my best efforts I teared up, and had trouble speaking.  I was told the policy was clearly posted around the hospital and that they could not allow anyone under 18 to be admitted due to the risk of flu transmission.  It didn't matter that our family had already suffered through the flu (both Type A and B visited our house the week before Christmas) and that we were not contagious, nor could we be infected.  They had their policies.

Thankfully, the volunteers working the front desk did have compassion, and they set to working on getting permission to make an exception for us.  After fifteen minutes of waiting in line, and trying to be patient, they were finally given the go ahead to send us upstairs.

The visit went well, and it certainly brightened his spirits.  But then, too soon, it was time to go.  Groceries needed purchased, animals needed fed, lunch needed to be found, dinner needed made, preparations needed to be made for Monday.  My husband was healing, but for the moment I was still on my own.

Again, the same routine of chores and updating folks and sending to bed.  Once the house was quiet it hit me.  Not only was there the extra stress of double the work, and double the parenting, but it was pretty damn lonely here.  It was so quiet - too quiet, and I'm a person who craves quiet.  I feed off of silence.  I have wonderful friends.  I have a fantastic family.  I'm well loved and well supported.
It didn't matter.  I missed the conversation, but mostly I just missed his presence.  Mostly in the evenings we're both off doing our own thing, but he's here.  He's here to say goodnight to and even when we sleep apart (the snoring I did not miss) I know he's nearby.  I hear the grate squeak on the fire, and I know he's keeping us warm.  I hear the lock turn in the door and I know he's keeping us safe.  He is a solid, comforting, dependable presence, and I can't imagine life without him.

I started to think about my friends who are on their own.  Some have lost their spouses to death.  Some through divorce.  Some are on their own frequently because their partners work long hours or travel frequently.  How do they do it?  How do they manage the day to day needs of their families and households?  And then, when they've taken care of all of the practicalities, how do they manage the silence?  How do they deal with the thousand little reminders that the life they started as two has been divided?

I know they manage.  I know they're OK, and I know they have support networks too.  I know they're strong and they do what they need to do.  I know that get through each day and each moment at a time.  I knew it before, but the past few days have given me a taste of their lives.  I can imagine how tough even the little moments must be, and I understand why our kids at school who have lost a parent, or who are in single parent homes often struggle.  

My stint with single parenthood is almost over.  God Bless those of you who are on that train for the rest of your lives.  Call me will you?  I'd like to help fill your silence.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Antelope Island and Golden Spike

 When we left Dinosaur National Monument we headed to the Great Salt Lake.  We were all very excited about being able to float in the lake.  I may have been looking forward to going more than the rest of us because we had run out of time to visit when I was a kid and my sister and I had spent many conversations lamenting the fact that we'd never been able to float without sinking.

Sometimes things that you've anticipated for a long time turn out to be worth the wait, other times you wish you'd never managed to fulfill that dream.

Antelope Island State Park was the biggest, gnat infested, desolate place I have ever been.  The lake shore looked like something from another planet - dead birds, cracked earth and salt residue.  The water itself was full of tiny brine shrimp, and was covered with huge clouds of gnats.  So many that the surface of the water looked black.  But, we were there, and we were going to float.

The floating part was enjoyable.  It was impossible to sink, but I just couldn't get past the sheer disgustingness of the whole experience.  After about 15 minutes we were all done.  Once we got out the salt residue immediately began to condense on our skin.  I have never felt so foul.  We showered, changed and headed into town for the best meal of our trip at a Mexican Restaurant called The Mellow Pepper.  

The excellent meal, the buffalo and the magical sunset helped ameleorate the horror of the afternoon.

See what looks like wind on the water towards the shore - those are the gnat clouds!

After a near sleepless night (the wind coming off the lake shook the camper so intensely I thought we would wind up in the lake), we were up before dawn and headed away never to revisit.

We left so early that we managed to get to the Golden Spike National Historic Site just as it opened.  
During the summer Golden Spike runs reenactments of the meeting of the trains during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  This was an amazing stop.  Well worth the drive off the main path.  After spending a wonderful morning, we headed on to our next stop and more adventure. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Last Christmas Present

My parents were down for a visit this weekend.... and Pap Pap had one last Christmas present for the kids.

Do you see that they have on NO SHOES!!!  Who are these children?  Well, anyway, the smiles are warm.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


There is nothing quite like the contrast of blue sky, red and white rocks and sparse green of a South West view.  When we left the mountains we headed west through Colorado to Dinosaur National Monument.  Dinosaur is a park with two units - with the Green River flowing throughout.  The Colorado Unit is primarily range land with a gorgeous canyon view.   The Utah portion (in Vernal) is where you find the fossils and petroglyphs.  

The campground at Dinosaur was one of my favorite places to stay when I visited as a kid, and it was again at the top of my list as an adult.  Although it's usually very hot and dry in this part of Utah, there are glorious cottonwood trees, and an unbeatable view of Split Rock and the Green River.  

The view from the campground.

 After checking in and setting up we headed off to do some hiking to see some wonderful ancient rock art.  It was hot and sunny, but the pay off was worth it.

Can you see the lizard?


 Then we headed back to the Colorado Unit to view the canyon.  Our next big trip will be to the Southwest.  I was hoping that the views would inspire everyone to forget about how hot that trip will be and focus on the beauty and history.  I wasn't wrong - The Woodsman especially was impressed with the view and is now looking forward with anticipation to our Four Corners trip.

Finally, the next morning, we visited the Quarry.  DNM is where the Carnegie fossils were found, so being from Pittsburgh, PA I have always felt a special connection to this place.  If your kids are interested in fossils or paleontology this is one of the best locations you can visit.  We spent hours inside the Quarry using the bone identifying program so the kids could see which species of dinosaur belonged to each bone.  We were also able to take a ranger led hike through part of the quarry where we were able to see and touch fossils.

We learned so much from this park and really enjoyed our time there.