Thursday, November 24, 2011

into the woods

Hunting. The word is evocative, is it not? Animals? People? Lost things? Here are accounts of the last two seasons, where I talk about why I hunt and about the hunting itself, but I'm in more of a philosophical mood this evening.

I spent the weekend in a tree. Well, propped up against a tree, really, but certainly out there in the woods. Spending intentional time like that, for hours on end, is an experience unparalleled by anything else I can think of at the moment. Certainly not by anything that's part of my day-to-day existence. I mean think of it. Have you ever tried standing still for an entire day? Two days in a row?

My brain unfocuses. I find my thoughts wandering between a mix of the following: any discomfort I'm feeling (aching muscles, cold feet, wet hands from brushing snow off the stand... you get the idea). Missed opportunities with the deer I've seen so far (how could I have done that differently? How would I do it now if it happened again?). Imagining deer coming toward my stand (it's weird - sometimes you feel that if you just wish hard enough, it will happen. Of course, it never really does!) Praying - for the other hunters to get deer, for myself to get a deer, for life stuff, for people I care about. Re-running movies in my head. Singing songs in my head. Watching wildlife - this time around it was a mix of nuthatches, squirrels, chickadees, woodpeckers, a bald eagle, and (the highlight!) snow geese. I didn't know they were snow geese till later when Javier identified them for me... but so cool to see non-native birds migrating through! Trying to decide if it's time to mix things up - am I getting cold enough to need to walk around? Should I eat something? How much longer should I wait for something to happen before doing something different? Thinking about my Dad... it goes with the territory this time of year. And then...

I hear something. Maybe it's a clump of snow falling, so I listen for a pattern. Mmmh, there is a pattern, but what kind of pattern is it? Leaves rustling in discrete bunches of sound? I stare intently at the woods in the direction of the sound...and sure enough. It's a tiny squirrel making big noise. [wait an hour or two]. Ok, this time there's a pattern... but it's TOO regular. Clump, clump, clump, SNAP, clump, clump. Sure enough, over the rise appears a bright orange hat, face, jacket, gun and boots. One of my fellow hunters got cold and decided it was time to try to "kick something up". We wave/hand signal/maybe chat quietly a bit and he moves on. After ten minutes, the woods quiet down again. [wait another hour or so]. Ok, I'm hearing another's moving fast, it kind of "thunks", it starts and pauses and then goes very fast, and yep, I can sees something interfering slightly with the dark-and-white immovable starkness of the trees. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a deer. Or two. Or four. Now we have only to hope-hope-hope that it moves our way. That there are horns so we can try filling the buck tag.

With ALL of the above scenarios, my heart starts beating faster, I try quietly positioning myself in a way that will give an optimal shot from where I hear the sound, and I start shaking (cold? Adrenaline? Both?). If it turns out not to be a deer, all of this subsides. If it IS a deer, and if I shoot it (didn't happen this year), I might stay in my stand for five minutes, waiting for the trembling to subside before I trust muscles to take me safely down from my stand. And then it's time to track the deer, gut it, and figure out how to drag it to the nearest trail. See what I mean when I say this weekend is just so far out of the normal for my suburban, life?

I'm not sure I could make a case for any actual short or long term benefits of stepping out of "regular life" per se, but I can say I just love having the opportunity to do so?

I really loved, too, the hang out time with family and friends. Marc, Javier and I were again the Appleton contingent, and we had a nice drive back and forth, a really nice time with Dean, Dar, cousins Keith and Scott, and Scott's daughter Jessica. We ate great food (thanks Dar and Jenny!) played a ton of Smear, and laughed and laughed. None of us shot a deer (a first for us :( ), but still just had a great time being together and being out in the woods. And...just as Javier, Marc and I were about to leave, my third cousin Eric shot a buck he didn't need and asked if I wanted to tag it. Heck yes I did! I went to where he was and was able to catch up a bit with a bunch more of the guys that I've hunted with since I was in high school...good times. Good times AND venison to eat for the coming year - life is good.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Remember at the end of The Wizard of Oz when they sing, "heigh, ho the witch is dead"? Well - I feel like singing a variation of that song that my class is done! Not saying it was terrible - I learned a lot, actually. And when I had time for it, I did enjoy learning the new stuff. I just really, really hated that there were so many other things to do in the world that I was missing out on! So heigh, ho, the class is dead! (Till next year, when I have to take two more...)

Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Louis!

Howdy from St. Louis! Yep, it's that time of year when I get the chance to head down to hang out in the inner city with a bunch of fabulous kids from our church's youth group! I'm trying to get some updates and photos up on the Youth Group blog, so if you'd like to see what we're up to, here you go: link

I'm feeling pretty tired this time around - exhausted, actually. With homework, lots going on in life and at work, and just general busyness I'm realizing more than ever this year that it's not about me and what I can do - it's about having the privilege of perhaps being a part of what God is doing in this city. I would really appreciate your prayers for the rest of the week!

Thanks much!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

new blog!

So - we both actually had a lot of fun blogging together on that last post. We would probably keep it up here, but I'm not exactly sure that Tom strongly identifies with the 'ladybugblue' title!

What would you do in this situation?

Exactly! We set up a new blog where we could post updates of times we have together and with friends. We back-posted a bit so there'd be a few more updates out there - AND so you can catch up on us a bit if you have the interest.

So - for future updates, check out . You can sign up there for email notifications of new blog posts. I'll still probably post here sometimes also... just for the fun of it. Sound good?

Monday, May 30, 2011

12 hours in a car with Tom Hanks

That will be me, tomorrow. In a feeble effort to prepare myself for the undertaking, I will endeavor to compile an update of where we're at… perhaps to help myself understand why this is something I’m actually looking forward to!
As I’ve mentioned, Tom was assigned to work in the Neenah office in January. The project started out as a 6-week assignment, and he’s been working pretty steadily at it ever since. He’s worked on it from Raleigh, but even more, he’s worked on it from here. It has been FANTASTIC to have him around, to be able to spend time with him, and to be able to go and visit him when he’s been in Raleigh. But I think we were both pretty-dang relieved when he received and signed a job offer at the Neenah office – and actually got a start date!
This meant taking a step forward on figuring out what to do with his condo back in Raleigh, and beginning to think about where to live in the Fox Valley. As of right now – he has a good friend in Raleigh who’s going to rent from him (so no condo selling in this real estate market – hooray!) and he’s checked out several potential places to live in the area.
Tom writing now.  Anticipate monosyllables, grunts, and gestures.  With this crazy pace to life, we didn’t finalize plans for Memorial Day weekend until…well, I’m not sure they ever really got finalized.  We did book flights back to Raleigh the week before, planning to head out Wed. night, with Angela returning to Wisconsin Monday and me returning … sometime. 
Wed. night I don’t think I was a cheery, optimistic traveling companion (Angela can confirm).  Logistics still weren’t totally determined for the trip, I’d had a tough three days at work, and I was worried about seeing everyone I wanted to see.  But, the flights went smoothly and we had a nice time traveling together, discussing shared values and how to handle money.  Looking back, I think we came to a two-pronged approach:  create healthy environments where people can connect, and dedicate resources as necessary to cultivate a healthy attitude in ourselves. Pretty cool stuff.
Thursday went pretty well for both of us; I enjoyed catching up with the Raleigh coworkers and Angela had a productive time working out of my Dad’s place.  That evening, Ang got to meet some friends of mine at a dinner at the Mellow Mushroom.  Adam is a large man:  6’5, 340, with a genial disposition and a passion for interesting ideas.  Brandie, his girlfriend, is not nearly as tall and is a comedienne par excellence; she’s extremely expressive and funny, doing impressions or original bon mots.  After great pizza we were fortunately able to catch her improv show at ComedyWorx down the street.  Hilarity ensued, as campers quested on the mesa for a port-a-potty. 
We both took Friday off, ostensibly to pack.  However, one of us (Angela) took her sweet time in the morning enjoying a leisurely breakfast and conversation with my Dad.  Then, we had to purchase boxes, and there happened to be an REI nearby, and –is that a sale sign?  It is!—we were delayed.  We did enjoy a wonderful lunch at the French restaurant Coquette.  Angela had her first Croque Monsieur, a sandwich that is the Big Mac of France; the blackberry tart for dessert was amazing.  The French do not agree with the thought of healthy eating, which means their cuisine is heavy with butter, eggs, sugar, and deliciousness.
After a great evening with my family Friday night, including a dinner at Souper! Salad!, a nice salad buffet, we got around to the hardcore packing, and homework, on Saturday.  Everything came together pretty well, though we had to enlist my friend Michael’s help after we had promised him a movie.  We did browse some art galleries and I got a few items to brighten up my cube, and we had a nice dinner outside in Cameron Village and played some frisbee in Fletcher park, so I don’t think anybody was complaining too much. 
Annnd… back to Angela-as-author. Sunday morning I wrapped up my homework assignment (oof!) while Tom and his dad moved boxes and puttered around. We had been debating all weekend about how we were going to get back to Wisconsin, and had finally agreed that we’d take a road trip! That way, Tom would have his car in Wisconsin and… well, we both like road trips! Tom Sr. had the great idea of accompanying us (which means Tom Jr and I got to ride in the Corvette for the beginning of the trip – thank you Tom!) as far as the Hanks family cemetery plot in western Virginia. The Hanks had been settled there for a while before a certain Thomson and Caroline, ages 20 and 16 respectively, headed out in a covered wagon and settled in eastern Nebraska… which is where Tom Sr. grew up! We stopped on the way at Pilot Mountain, where we saw tons of black vultures, mountain laurel in bloom, and some of Tom’s favorite rock-climbing routes. We then had a neat time heading on toward the cemetery and, once there, wandering around the grave markers and talking about what Tom and his dad had both figured out through researching the family and the area.
Then it was time to part company. Tom and I bid his dad farewell (he had a neat trip back with more historical discoveries as part of his journey) and took off for Wisconsin. Traffic was great in spite of the fact that it was Memorial Day, and we really just had a lovely time traveling together. Just before we took off, Tom asked me, "are you ready for 12 hours in a car with Tom Hanks?" I guess I was!

Monday, March 28, 2011


While I was in North Carolina this weekend, I learned that my cousin Abby died unexpectedly from complications from a surgery she'd had back in January. 

Abby is a year younger than me.

We were close growing up.

I hadn't seen her in several years, but was planning(?) to visit her and her husband Jeremy in Arizona "one of these days."

Abby stands out as a sweet woman, with many qualities I wish I had...

Abby had some terrible struggles. She dealt with them openly and with vulnerability. Her strength and courage were hard-won and beautiful on her.

I spent tonight looking for glimpses of her through old photo albums. None of my pictures came close to capturing what she is like, what she meant to me.

I know my grief is tiny compared with that of Jeremy and her siblings and parents - but oh, Abby, how I will miss you.

raleigh - biltmore

This past weekend I made a trip to Raleigh! Tom was having a reunion of sorts with his dad's brother & family so I came down to catch a bit of the fun. And fun it was! In spite of some travel crazy-ness (including a mad-cap bus ride to Milwaukee in a blizzard, reaching the gate there just in time [they had to unlock it for me], and - unbeknownst to me at the time - leaving my driver's license on the plane) I made it in one piece, just in time to join a family picnic!
Having fun with Tom's sister Mary and her daughter
Elise. See sister Kalina "jumping" with her Aunt Nancy
& Grandpa in the background?!
We had a really nice time hanging out and catching up.
Thursday was wander around Raleigh day - we took in the UNC basketball stadium and the book store, then headed over to Matt & Mary's place for more visiting. The evening wound up at Tom Sr.'s where we feasted on Mary's homemade chili and Nancy's oatmeal chocolate chip bars. *sigh*. I got to help Kalina make corn bread muffins and I think we made a pretty good team - and apparently no one dared argue! Tom and I took off eventually to watch the Badgers lose to Butler... a very depressing game. Now I'm hoping Butler wins the whole shebang... it might justify the loss a teeny bit...
Friday was help Tom clean his condo day! After his 9-week stint in Wisconsin, the poor place was needing some attention and he'd had zero chance to deal with it. We actually had a lot of fun and - while I don't know that the place looks all that different - I think he feels better about it! Friday night we were back at Mary & Matt's, hanging out and eating pizza and trying not to laugh at Tom Sr.'s outrageous puns. I'm afraid to report even Nancy might have let one slip in there. Matt Z, a friend of Tom's, joined us a bit later, and the three of us then took off for Asheville. We wanted to have as much of Saturday as possible to see Biltmore - the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt and their descendants.

Our friends Becky and Ray visited Biltmore with Tom a while back, and I'm thinking Matt and I were every bit as enamored with the place as they were! We weren't allowed to take pictures in the house, but the tour really was delightful. The grounds, too, were just starting to green out and blossoms were everywhere. I kept trying to figure out which blossoms were making everything smell so nice... hooray for spring!

Saturday night we were having a relaxed meal at the Laughing Bean - definitely a restaurant to check out the next time you're in Asheville - when I was notified of some crushing news. We opted for less outgoing plans that we'd had originally, and Sunday ended up doing a hike by some lovely waterfalls, rather than staying around Asheville any longer.

Sunday evening, Tom's friend Michael invited us over for pork tenderloin, green beans and salad - yum! We had a lovely evening, catching up (we'd been backpacking together in October), and listening to Michael's new super audio CD setup. That was a-MAZ-ing.

This morning, I was supposed to be at the airport at 4:00 AM so I'd have plenty of time to explain my ID-less state and still make my 6:00 AM flight... which, thankfully, I did. Now I'm back in Wisconsin and ready to catch up on sleep, work, and homework - here's hoping it happens!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

magical thinking

What was I thinking? For some reason, I thought now would be a good time to take one of the two classes I need to take this year toward my degree. Ok, so maybe I wasn't crazy:

  • I was all set and enrolled in a class last fall, and with the holidays, travel, and a completely nuts work schedule, I deferred it.
  • The class I needed was offered again this term, and I thought it would be good to get it out of the way - no time is perfect, right?
  • There was a tiny little thought in the back of my head that while it would cut down on time with Tom while he's here a bit, perhaps, I could still study with him around (less possible over distance) and that having it to do after he's gone would help me adjust a bit better.
But I was wrong. Very, very much so. 
My coworker John tells me I engage in magical thinking. I think I can get a lot more done in the time allotted than I actually can. I often run late to meetings (not something I'm proud of), but it's generally due to the fact that I think I can get one more thing done in the time that I have before the start of the next thing.
So - work has NOT slacked off... if anything it's gotten more intense as I try to juggle two projects that could each be full time, and supervisey stuff. The one that was supposed to have eased off by now has not, but the other is now in full swing. Oof!
And I hate that because of homework I've had to cancel small group with some high schoolers from my church, and move game night to someone else's so my Tuesdays are free. And still I'm not keeping up with the darn stuff.
And.... enough ranting! If/when I ever get this degree, remind me to go back and read this post so I can be truly thankful for the accomplishment. I really am doing well and am SO enjoying having Tom around. There has been great x-c skiing snow this winter, and I have a new niece, and great friends.What more, really, could I ask for?
Back to the books...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Florida and the Great Calusa Blueway

A few months ago, my step-sister Augusta sent me a link to this article, saying that she was sure I wasn't in need of ideas, but that this one made her think of me. I liked it, and for the fun of it sent it back to her and a few other friends. One of them - Javier - wrote back and said, "you know my family has a home there, right?" I didn't, I swear, but the end result was, well, this trip!

Our experience was somewhat similar to the folks' in the article as far as kayak rental went. The folks we rented from were friendly but astonishingly casual about sending us headlong into the wide ocean without wondering too much about who we were, how much experience we had, our level of preparedness, or pretty much anything beyond making sure we paid up front in cash. None of us had paddled in sit-on-top tandem kayaks before, but apparently that was the recommended way to navigate 3-5 miles of open ocean that separated us from our destination, Cayo Costa. The guy went so far as to inform us that you steer these boats from the front - a choice bit of misinformation that had one of our boats practically going in circles for 4/5 of the way out there, when we finally figured out the problem. For those of us used to paddling open water in sea kayaks, the sit-on-tops were miserably inefficient, unseaworthy, and DAMP! (There's a hole in the middle of all the seats that goes right through the boat, allowing for a continual flow of fresh seawater right, well, you get the idea! Not sure of the logic behind that design, but I've got to hope that there is some!). They're far wider and flatter than sea kayaks, and don't have skegs or rudders to help them track - essentially great boats for recreational river and lake exploration, but not designed for what we were hoping to do!

I am happy to report that in spite of the challenges presented by our un-seaworthy craft, four-foot waves due to strong wind, difficulty with actually aiming for the correct key island, and sea-sickness, we did finally make it to our destination. Jamie says it's the dolphins. We did run into a pod of 'em (woo hoo!) and while we had no luck at all in capturing them with the camera, we saw at least two mothers with their tiny babies surfacing right at their side. It really was neat.

Camping on Cayo Costa was pretty plush for being state park camping. They had clean bathrooms, showers, (ok, no electricity, and thus, no hot water, but hey, who needs it!) a gathering area with mendicant guitar-playing folk singers from the Catskills ("two things money can't buy / true love and home grown tomatoes"), picnic tables, fire rings, posts for hanging stuff (including hammocks!) and a shuttle to take you back and forth across the island.

Sunday we spent reading and hanging out, then paddled our way over a crazy surf-like wave shelf (supposedly shark-infested, but that can't be right, can it?) to neighboring Boca Grande for lunch. We did see heaps more dolphins with babies on the way back - and even saw some black dolphins! The birds were just amazing, with pelicans and osprey and terns of some sort wheeling up, and then diving straight down into the water. It never got tiring to watch - although it was seemed the osprey had the most success with pelicans and terns mostly coming up empty in spite of all the dramatic effort. We ended the day with a campfire and hot cocoa and take-out from the restaurant - let's hear it for good food in the wilderness regardless of the means by which it as acquired!

Monday was head back day, and we got off the island in plenty of time to really enjoy it. The water was far calmer, the weather far warmer, and the sun far, uh, sunnier than it had been on our way out.  We paused on several sand bars and explored around, looking for shells and other sea treasures and oddities. Then we headed to the inland canal system that follows the coast and used it to navigate our way to our launch point. Mangrove swamps and all sorts of crane/heron/egret things rounded out our nature explorations for the trip.

Tuesday was spent in more traditional "vacation in Florida" pursuits: we slept in, yawned our way to the beach, and caught rays for much of afternoon. Not a bad way to wrap things up before heading to the airport and back home. 

And now... can you say "Great Calusa Blueway" fast five times?! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

twirly whirly

k, aren't "twirl" and "whirl" both lovely words?
Hello from the air somewhere between Wisconsin and Florida! Tammy, Jamie and I are going to meet Tony there for a kayaking trip to the barrier islands for the weekend. Since I may want to post about our time there, I'm thinkin' it's high time I put an update out here covering the last few months!

For this lovely holiday, I headed to Raleigh to celebrate with Tom's family. We had fun fixing an incredible meal and just hanging out. I had met baby Elise before  Then we were joined by our friend Sam and his wife Hope, and took off for an exploration of some Civil War battlefields. Tom Sr. did the driving honors, and the five of us just really had a blast touring Richmond and learning about the characters and scope of the site of two major battles of the Civil War.

Christmas was drawn out and lovely with one highlight being that a group of game night folks and my college roommate Jocelyn went to a Handel's Messiah performance at the PAC. We had a great evening kicked off at an Indian Restaurant and ending in a snow bank. Well, nearly ending there - there was a big blizzard that left me and Jocey in a snow drift until some enthusiastic college kids helped us out!

The next weekend saw the congregation of Amy's side of the family the week before Christmas. Nine of us (me, Tom, Amy, Tim, Grandma Beth, Augusta, Chris, Grant and Margo) crammed into my 2-bedroom apartment and really just had a blast. My friend Katie and her daughter Annabelle stopped by on Saturday (Amy and Augusta hadn't yet met little Annabelle). And then Korean food, talking, sledding, x-c skiing, playing with Margo, presents and games - what could be better?! (side note: I received a camera for Christmas last year and took it kayaking this summer. I bought a dry bag for it, but somehow enough moisture collected in it to kill my camera. I was sick about it! I tried to get it repaired locally and online and nothing could be done - the repair cost more than the value of the camera. So imagine my delight when my fabulous boyfriend gave me a camera as a Christmas present: this time one that is WATERPROOF and shockproof! He's been testing the shockproof side of things - I think he's dropped in on solid ice twice now and the camera still works great :). We'll see how it does kayaking in Florida!).

Christmas proper was spent with our families, Tom in Raleigh and me in Eau Claire. My nieces and nephews are just the best small people out there (sorry, everyone else!) and we really just had a lovely time being together, eating great food, laughing, and playing games with the kids.

New Year's
It's become a tradition! New Year's with Jen and Mustafa in the Twin Cities. This time around, the group was me, Tom, Jonathan from CA, Jen's brother AJ, and Jen and Moosie. Friday we did a guided tour of the Guthrie theater that was just fascinating, and we had fun exploring the city, playing games (ever played Ra? It's a board game that you can play on the iPad!), running around, eating many marvelous things that Jen cooked, and just having a good time with friends we see far too infrequently.

Happy News
In early January, Tom's boss asked him if he'd like to work on a short term project in Neenah, Wisconsin! Once he confirmed that it would work, he had about three days to pack up his life for the next 6-8 weeks and take off for the northern hinterlands. And golly have we been having a blast. We've used weekends to hang out and catch up with friends within a 7 hour radius. Tom grew up and went to school in Iowa, so one weekend we went down there to see family and friends and get a tour of his college campus and home town - that was the 7 hour one! We've really just had a great time catching up with friends and family. The time has also been filled with game night, church small group, cross country skiing, racquetball, game playing, and...Wednesday Night Date Night. You wouldn't believe how much more fun it is to date someone who lives 15 minutes away vs. 15 hours or whatever it is.

As grateful as I am to the project for bringing him here, I must say that I am NOT grateful for the fact that its intensity kept Tom from being able to join us on this FL trip. Boo! I'm definitely looking forward to the relaxation and good time with awesome people, don't get me wrong. But it sure would be nice if he could be enjoying the warmth and sunshine too.

Well, I believe we're beginning our descent. Au Revoir!