Sunday, August 04, 2013


Patrick had a plan. We had talked about rings and looked at them a bit, and he had talked to his dad about making one. And his amazing goldsmith dad did exactly that - he hand-carved a ring out of wax and had it cast, and then he and Patrick figured out a diamond to go into it. Once it was ready, Patrick called me and talked about coming out the first weekend in August. I was happily surprised - I had seen him just the week before at Rockygrass, but my friend Lori was getting married in Appleton and this way he could come with me. I picked him up in the airport in Milwaukee, we stayed at his parents (where he picked up the ring!), and Saturday we went to the wedding. Afterwards, we drove on up to Door County for a bit of camping and exploration. It was beautiful - we drove the car from one side of the peninsula to the other, and finally landed in Ellison Bay in a little city park. We had time to watch the sun set as Patrick had made dinner reservations for 8:00 at a place called the Wickman House. It had just been raining, so we walked around and once we figured it was dry enough to play a board game on Patrick's ipad he ran back to the car to get it. Only he got the ring! I was excited about some beautiful flowers growing in the park and turned away from them just as he approached and he grabbed me and got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I looked at him and said, "Seriously?" and he said, "yes"... and we repeated that about 2-3 more times. Finally he said, "Yes, I'm serious!". I was like, "I know you're serious... but seriously??!". And then I said yes! It was just so crazy to get my brain around because I had known it might be happening but it felt so unreal. Getting engaged, getting married... those are things that everybody ELSE always seems to do. Were we really going to do this ourselves??!

We sat on a bench and watched the sunset, ipad game forgotten. Then we headed toward the Wickman house... and they had a BLUEGRASS band playing in the garden! We had time to listen (they were great fun, washboard and all!), and then wandered in and had the most amazing locally grown food. 

The next day we called family and friends to let them know all about it, and then it was time to head back to get Patrick on his plane. We DID have time to stop by a cherry orchard and had fun wandering around a bit before getting back on the road. All in all, it really was quite an engaging weekend.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Long distance muckety muck

So - long distance dating. Talk amongst yourselves.


I'm guessing you pretty much came to the same conclusion we did. Tough! How did we do it? We tried to travel one way or the other every 2-3 weeks. Both of us were grateful it was that often, but it still was just plain hard in many ways. Between visits we talked or face-timed, sent each other random pics of what was going on, played Ticket to Ride on our iPhones, and just did our best to stay in touch. We also had decided right away that either this was going to happen - or it wasn't - either way we wanted to know sooner rather than later. So we started going through a book of pre-marital questions. We would both write down answers separately to the questions, and then we would discuss them weekly - comparing answers and working through differences. I'm happy to report we agreed on EVERYTHING. (Hah - made ya look!). Seriously though, it was a good way to figure things out. We'd been friends for so long it was easy to overlook many things we didn't know about each other.

We definitely had a fabulous times on the weekends we were able to be together - hanging out with friends and family, catching the Rockygrass bluegrass festival, tromping in the mountains, playing in kayaks, and cooking yummy food.

Friday, June 21, 2013

St. Louis Work Trip

For the last several years I went with our church's youth group down to St. Louis where we would hang out and serve in the inner city. It's a pretty amazing deal, and I've loved doing it - but this year there was a dilemma. Patrick had tickets to Telluride - a 4-day music festival in Colorado - during the same week. I told Mike I would't be able to help him, and he was troubled because he needed the help and the driver. Patrick also had some question as to whether work would be sending him off to China for a bit during that time, so in the end he sold his tickets and I went to St. Louis. It was a long time to go without seeing him, but it was great to be back in the City, with the kids and the leaders, and help out in various ways. I did some work for my job back in Appleton, and I watched a LOT of sick kids - a crazy 24-hour flu took out most of the kids and leaders.  Here are the blog posts I wrote during our time there: It turns out it was the last trip MIke would lead before leaving his role as Youth Pastor at Appleton Free Church, so I was doubly glad I got to be a part of that last trip.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Backpacking the Ice Age Trail

I used to think that if feelings were ambivalent, it meant they were neutral and could go either way on something. I then learned that ambivalent means "the simultaneous existence of two opposed and conflicting attitudes, emotions, etc" and I love that definition. There are so many experiences and situations where no single, overriding feeling emerges. There is the good, there is the bad, and they simply don't average to "lukewarm". So here are both accounts of the trip I took this past weekend with my college-age friends Ryan and Sara.

The fabulous The "challenging"

Originally, 6 of us were going to go to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for Memorial Day weekend, but schedules and plans changed for a bunch of us and in the end, Sara, Ryan and I took off Friday night for the Blue Hills segment of the Ice Age Trail for roughly a 2-day hike. Getting out of town was somewhat of a challenge as all of us had been running like crazy so we still had quite a bit of stuff to pull together.

We found a camp site near the end of our intended trail and stayed there - which gave us a great chance to do a final check on all our gear, and for Ryan to try sleeping in a hammock before committing to using that instead of a tent for the rest of the trip. He loved it.

Saturday early afternoon found us in the other car, back at the trail head and on our journey. We had been slowed by the fact that the Ice Age Trail is maintained by volunteers, and the series of maps and directions to access the trail from different points are by no means the clearest. (We had pieced together screen shots of zoomed in maps because no other detailed maps were readily available online).
There were trillium flowers EVERYWHERE. I'm pretty sure they're taking over the world after seeing the vast, beautiful quantities we saw throughout our trip. We also saw yellow, purple and white violets, Forget-Me-Nots, Jack in the Pulpit, Marsh Marigolds, Blue Bead Lilies, Solomon's Seal and Star-flowered Solomon's Seal, and Bellflowers in beautiful spreads throughout the weekend. Oh, and ramps (leeks, wild onions). We found lots and lots of ramps. Too bad none of us are fans or we could have eaten them alone all weekend and survived quite nicely!

Right away on our journey we started to realize that ticks - wood ticks, and even a few deer ticks  - were going to be a problem. In order to keep ourselves from going crazy with the huge numbers that kept collecting on our shoes, socks, legs, pants... and on up, we started having a contest. A counting contest that NONE of us wanted to win. All of us had at least 100 by end of day Sat, and our total Sunday night was at 880. For real. And that's not counting many we found on our tents, packs, and gear. As I sit in the hospital writing this Monday morning, we keep finding more. I'm at 15 or so just with the ones that made it with me out of the woods. Eee-YUCK!
Yes, there are no words for the creepiness of it, and it is only with the greatest of effort that we have been able to maintain humor rather than uber freak-out-ness with the entire situation. None of us can wait for a shower.
It turned out to be a great trip in so many respects. Bugs (other than ticks) were annoying but not terrible. And the weather couldn't have been more perfect. No rain, cool temps, nice breeze throughout.
One of the neat things about the start of the trail was that it led over several different stiles. They're basically stairs that go over a fence, so cows can't get out, but humans can easily enter and exit at will.

At one point Saturday we had navigated a stile and walked quite a way along before seeing a bunch of cows across the creek from us. It took some casting about before we realized that our trail led right through the middle of the herd - up an open hill and then who-knew-where. Only - they weren't cows. They weren't even steers. For some reason, a local farmer was keeping 20-30 bulls together in that pasture. Assuming the farmer wouldn't do so if they were in any way dangerous I ran at them yelling and waving my hiking poles. They scattered off and we started through the pasture. One of them thought Ryan was really, really interesting (and let's face it, he is!) so kept coming up behind him. We yelled and chased him back enough so that we could get through the rest of the pasture in peace. Uff da!
Toward the end of the day Saturday we found a likely spot for a camp site. Ryan took off his pack, but went ahead to see if there might be a better spot further down the trail. After some thought, Sara and I decided to push on after him, figuring we would just be that much further along when he got to a better site.

 Except that... we couldn't catch up with him. We kept walking and walking and then worrying a bit and walking. He wouldn't have left the trail, right?
Just as we had decided to start shouting his name, we entered a huge wooded valley. As we looked ahead on the the trail, there was movement! It was him! No it wasn't. It was... a bear!.. with a cub! Wait, there were two little cubs with her. Make that 3! We maintained a loud level of talking and she headed off to our left. The cubs would startle at our noise, tree, and then when "mom" kept walking they would hop back down and follow her. We kept talking loudly and continued down the trail.

We began shouting in earnest for Ryan and finally got to the point where Sara said, "He wouldn't have come this far". So we left our packs, left an arrow with twigs pointing back the way we came (in case he had gone further), and turned around. We kept shouting his name every few seconds. After 5 minutes or so, we heard the best sound in the world: a deep-pitched "Sara!" in response to our call. Sure enough, in another 5 minutes he came panting up the hill toward us.
Back at the camp site, Ryan had gone just a little way down the trail, realized that our spot was just fine, and had gone along a creek a bit and circled back to the original site - where he had been all the time. He set up his hammock, but when we still kept not showing up, finally left a note, and took off down the trail after us, hoping he was going in the right direction. Miscommunication!! After an hour or so of being apart, we were pretty happy to be together, even though it meant carrying our packs all the way back to the original site.
Sunday was a really nice day for hiking. Other than the ticks, of course. I ended up needing to sing nearly all the silly songs in my repertoire to keep our brains from thinking too much about the ticks or about our tired bodies. Singing about having a tattoo of a daisy on your toe helps any situation, right? This is what I tell myself. The trail really was beautiful We got to see a scarlet tanager - wow! - and followed a chain of four beaver ponds - crossing dams and watching the beavers slap their tails in alarm as we got too close. Toward night, we found a beautiful, ramp-filled valley to set up camp near a wandering creek.

Which brings us to Monday morning. We were awakened at 5:30 or so by noise outside the tent. I asked if everything was ok, and Ryan said his Crohn's was acting up and we needed to get going. By 6:00 we were completely packed up and on the trail. It was a nightmare. Ryan was fighting intense pain. Every few hundred yards he would double over unable to move, and then we would take off down the trail again. Sara and I did our best to keep up with him, and then would wait while he fought the pain. We began to discuss what we would do if he couldn't go any further, so when that moment occurred I dropped my pack and took off down the trail and Sara stayed with him. There was a logging road that crossed our trail 1 1/2-2 miles down, so I ran as much as I could toward that road. About half way I tried to call 911. The connection was sketchy, but I was able to convey enough of where we were for her to say, "oh, you're in Barron county - that's a different system. Let me transfer you over". I asked if she could tell them everything I had just told her (where we were, Ryan's situation) and she said, "what?". I tried again... "what?"... Click. My phone battery was getting low (I'd been using it as a camera throughout the trip), so I turned it off and took off down the trail again. I finally reached the gravel road, turned on my phone, and... no signal. So I started running up a long hill that stretched a half mile to the west. At the top of it, I was able to get a bit of a signal, but it came and went. So I texted my friend Joce, giving her the critical information, and asking her to call 911 with it. Then I tried calling again, and finally got through. After explaining again where we were and what was going on, they assured me they had figured out where we were and were on the way. I hung up so I could run back to the trail head to wait, texted Joce back to let her know all was well, and.... my phone battery died.
I ran back to the trailhead, and waited maybe ten minutes before a caravan of vehicles arrived. Local sheriffs, local first respondents in beat-up pickup trucks, emergency rescue folks and an ambulance made up the team. They were great. They backed an ambulance-style ATV off one of their pickups and  took me back into the woods where Sara and Ryan were waiting. We loaded them and our backpacks up on the ATV and after plenty of bouncing made it back to the main road.

I forgot to mention that while Sara and I were planning what to do if Ryan couldn't make it out, we started asking him where the key to the car was. You see, we had parked one car at the end of the trail and driven the other to the trailhead where we started. Ryan had the key to the forward car. So while I took off down the trail, Sara went through Ryan's pack trying to find it. It turns out the key had been left in the car at the trailhead. While Ryan and Sara took off in the ambulance, I asked one of the sheriffs if there was any chance he could give me a ride back to the starting car, 45 minutes away. He (very kindly) agreed, and I spent the 45 minutes in small talk with him and in dropping ticks that I found on myself out the window.
By the time I arrived at the Emergency Department Ryan was stabilized and doing fine. Sara and I waited with him, tracking down ticks and flushing them down the hospital toilet, until Sara's parents arrived. At that point we could retrieve the second car, and make plans for returning home. Ryan ended up being hospitalized through Wednesday but in the end recovered completely.
I'm not sure how you might describe this experience, but in my book "ambivalence" - the true definition - does quite nicely.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Not sure exactly where to start... but while I was in Mexico I was teasing Jamie that she should go for  Patrick (the guy she was dating at the time was... not working out). She asked me, "why don't you date him?". The question knocked me silly: Patrick had been FRIEND-ZONED. He was this wonderful, safe, great friend in my life and I had very intentionally *not* thought of him like that since almost the begining of our friendship 9 years ago. It took me a while (like a month or two after the Mexico trip) to work up the courage to say something to him about it... and then it took him a bit to figure out that he really was up for trying a long distance relationship with quite a bit of risk to it (neither of us wanted to lose the friendship). But... we went for it! Oof!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sweet beach wedding

Michelle and Justin's wedding was just beautiful. For one thing, it was conducted in Spanish! There was an interpreter, but it sure was neat to hear in a different language first. For the exchange of rings they each wrote an extended tribute to the other person - just simple and beautiful and funny. They got married in a gazebo- type thing out over the water - a bit windy and splashy, but all the more beautiful for that. The ceremony was not long, and then we were in celebration mode. A mariachi band serenaded us before dinner, and then we went to Oceana, one of the resort's restaurants, for dinner and dancing. People stayed and celebrated for quite a while before calling it a day. A very, very fabulous day.

Random beachy bits

Beach vacations are fun. Especially when you can have them with good friends. We made friends with a couple, Keith and Laurel, throughout the week, and on Wed night Aaron and Laura flew in so we had the remainder of the week with them. They're also fun if you can enjoy lovely food of all sorts!
We saw crabs and gulls and pelicans and iguanas, and - my personal favorite - lots of frigate birds. If you haven't heard of them, look 'me up! They're super cool!


Justin and Michelle treated all of their guests to a sunset catamaran ride on Thursday. The waves were strong (which made it rather exciting at times) but it was a beautiful, beautiful ride and a great way to have all the guests together for some ore-wedding celebration. So fun!


Wednesday was Tulum day! Tulum is the biggest Mayan ruin site in Mexico (I think) A bunch of us from "the wedding crowed" including Justin and Michelle went on a guided tour of the ruins. I think everyone really liked it but it did end up feeling pretty "touristy" - there were TONS of buses and tour groups when we got there. I guess it's a good thing that that many folks are interested in history, but I couldn't help wondering if there are some days that are less busy. It was hot and sunshiny and a bit hard to concentrate with all the crowd about.
It really is an interesting site - Tulum was clearly built for primarily religious reasons; almost all of the standings structures are devoted to some aspect of religious practice - baths to 'purify' the human sacrifice victims, altars to various gods, a tower to drop the victims down to their deaths, and a "palace" a really big building designed for worship. Some of the structures don't even have doors - they're just meant for the gods to come and go. Humans lived there - but only the upper class ones and only in homes made of perishable materials. All that remains of them are the platforms where they were built. All of the buildings are built in line with phases of the moon, stars and sun - and the Mayans knew exactly where they were in terms of latitude - 21 degrees, I think it was. Amazingly advanced knowledge, so I think it's just interesting that the focused so much on keeping the gods appeased and happy.
After wandering about the ruins, we were all ready for the next part of the morning's tour - time on the beautiful beach at Tulum. White sands, huge rolling waves, and clear beautiful water - what's not to love?? We played there for quite a while before it was time to pack it in and head back to the bus.
Wednesday afternoon and evening were more beach and being mellow time. Ahh, the life!
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Thursday, February 21, 2013


On Wednesday a group of us went off site - to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum. It was neat to see and our tour guide was very friendly and helpful - if he did wander a bit in his presentation. The size of the ruins is just amazing

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Scuba and other nice things about Mexico

Monday was a blur. A blur of staring at the wind coming off the ocean, reading, exploring different restaurants, and catching up with folks. It's amazing to be forced to slow down like this. The food has been great but (and??) the service is SLOW. In the US the main goal is to get you in and out and your table cleared for the next group. Just not a priority here. We wait 1 1/2 hours after being told the wait will be 45 minutes. We wait ten minutes for the waiter to appear once we're at our table. The food is lovely, the waiters are really pleasant - but we're FORCED to slow down. To talk to people. To savor the food. You know, human sorts of things that we forget when activity and obligations (self inflicted or otherwise) boss us around continually. I'm enjoying this new approach. I find that I'm actually EARLY to stuff! Ha.
Justin and a bunch of his family has really been looking forward to SCUBA diving as part of this trip. I was open water certified in 2006 (we got to go when we were in New Zealand) but I hadn't been on a dive since. So while I really liked the idea of going diving with them, I was really hesitant. I'd forgotten so much, and knew they would all be much more experienced than I - I really didn't want to slow them down.
In the end, they were so friendly and welcoming about it that I decided to go. And gosh was it fun. I really did forget some pretty important stuff about it, but our instructor was patient and got me back on track - and it really wasn't too difficult after all.
On the first dive we saw a huge lobster waving his long spiny arm-things at us, and then we found a sea turtle! He was smallish but we followed him around for a while. Later we found a bigger dude - even more fun! The sun wasn't shining, so there wasn't quite the color there might otherwise be, but even so the variety and color of what we saw was just amazing.
Hand signals are really important when you're diving, since you don't really have another way to communicate with each other down there. So when the swim instructor came near me to check in and I gave him a "thumbs up" he gave me additional weight for my weight belt. I didn't know how to tell him that I didn't think I needed it since I felt fairly comfortable with where my buoyancy was at. Once we surfaced I asked him about it. Turns out "thumbs up" means "surface" - so he thought I was letting him know that I couldn't stay down and was going to need to go up - hence the additional weight! We laughed (me sheepishly), I gave him the weight back, and I was sure to use the "OK" sign on the second dive.
In between dives we took a safety rest in a hidden cove that was pristine and beautiful - and featured a Mayan ruin! We explored around, found iguanas and hermit crabs to poke at, and generally amused ourselves until it was time to return to the open water.
On the second dive we saw another sea turtle and this time I was brave enough to swim up next to it and reach out my hand just as it was swimming with its flipper and "high five" it. I think they caught it on film - if so, I will share it later!