Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Iowa Roots

Recently I traveled back to Iowa.  Les was born and raised there - most of his family live out there.  I went to college in Iowa - met Les there. We lived there for the first 10 years of our marriage. Our children were born there.  (In fact,  it's been 25 years since we moved here - during the Farmers Day Parade!)  We have some roots back in northwest Iowa.

Honestly, I was a little nervous about going back.  I guess it was another "first" - first time being back there without Les.  It had been 6 years since we visited. BUT besides the cold, cold rainy weather, I had a great time!!  So much visiting, so much food.

My sister Sharon picked me up.  When we drove from the airport in Omaha, I couldn't believe the miles and miles of farm land.  Most of it had been plowed and planted, little 2 inch corn plants coming up.  I had forgotten that there really is a beauty to that landscape!  I had flown the last little bit through thunder storms (a VERY bumpy ride!!!!) and apparently Sharon and I were driving through near tornado conditions.  We found out later that both Sioux Center and Orange City had sounded their tornado sirens that afternoon we were driving....whoops.........  Good 'ol midwest thunderstorms!!!
Barn "quilts" are popping up - so fun!
Orange City was celebrating their annual Tulip Festival, and wow that is a big deal!  Six parades over 3 days.  We made it to one parade, all dressed up in our Dutch dresses.  It was one of three parades that weren't cancelled because of rain.    Sharon and I went looking for a latte one day (it is much more of a hunt there than it is here!!)  and this new place had just opened up.  It is very cool!  If  you are ever in Orange City, I recommend it!!

I spent a morning with a college roommate, Kim.  She lost her husband to a heart attack 8 years ago, so we had lots to talk about.  We are connected through our loss. She is a dear soul.

I spent lots of time with my Iowa bestie, Nancy.  No matter how long it's been since we've we talked, when we talk or see each other again, it's like we had just been together the day before.   I spent an evening with our dear friends Steve and Rachel.  More good food and a great visit with these Iowa farmers.  This is the family that Dutch came from!
We had to walk at the indoor college track cuz of rain!

Several of  Les' family got together that cold rainy Saturday afternoon/evening.  We had yummy yummy food and lots of fun chatting and reminiscing.  FYI, the big guy, Phil, is a a great barbequer.  I also went back on Sunday to attend church with them and had coffee with some of Les' high school friends.  Like I said earlier, I had a really great time and there is always so much good food!  I didn't get to see all the people I wanted to, so I guess I will have to go back.  I'll just wait for some warmer weather next time.
LOVE my in-laws
These boys tho.....
My sister and her husband Denny were great hosts.  Denny is a good cook - asparagus omelettes, smoked brisket - so good.  It was nice to be waited on by him!  Sharon has been here MANY times the past four years, it was nice to be on her "turf" with her.  I'll see them again in a couple of weeks!!

Downtown Omaha is pretty fun!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dordt days

I was recently in California being an "auntie nanny" to my sweet niece Jenae.  While I was there,I visited with my college room mate, Jan.  She lives within an hour's drive from my sister.  It's been great to be able to keep in touch with her over the past "couple" years since we graduated from Dordt!!  I also visited with her parents, Charlie & Gert.  They are living on the same almond farm that I visited oh-so-many-years ago.  So great to see them.  FYI, they pronounce them "AMONDS".  They informed me of this years ago - because when the nuts are harvested, they shake the "L" out of them. True story.

Anyway, I've done some reminiscing since then and I thought I would share.

I went away to Dordt not knowing anyone, except a girl from my church, Jane.  Jane went to a different high school than me (she was a "Jackrabbit" of all things) but when I asked her about attending Dordt, she kind of sold me on it.  Jane and I drove off that fall in my blurple Vega - we drove straight through to Iowa.   One of my unknown 3 room mates was Jan.  In one of our earliest conversations, we realized we shared the same birthday!  We were best buddies the next four years.  I guess that's one of the fun things about Dordt College - you make life long friends from all over the United States AND Canada.

Jan and I both loved to travel.  Our freshman year spring break, 4 of us drove back to Seattle so those California girls I had met could experience a ferry ride, see the Space Needle and see our mountains.  They saw my family's alfalfa farm.  A fun trip.  The beginning of our sophomore year, Jan flew up from California and the two of us drove the blurple Vega back to Iowa, but we CAMPED along the way.  We went through Yellowstone.  We actually got kicked out of our campground there because bears were in the area.  **Please keep in mind we were 20 years old and we did not have cell phones in those days.  No phones with maps on them - just old fashioned paper maps.  Camping, just the two of us.  Craziness.**  For some reason, we always ate Captain Crunch. Always.

Our sophomore year of college a group of us drove (again, the blurple Vega) to Breckenridge, Colorado and went skiing.  So. Much. Fun.  It was a warm spring and we got FRIED while skiing.  Girls were wearing bikinis!!  Us nice Dordt girls wore ski pants and t-shirts.  My face got so sunburned I couldn't open my eyes one morning.

After that sophomore year, Jan and I drove to California.  Again, camping along the way.  We visited the Grand Canyon.  We ended up at my aunt's house in southern California.  I can't even imagine how terrible we smelled when we showed up in our overalls and cowboy hats. 

Junior year spring break I drove home to Washington with my sister Sharon (she was a freshman at Dordt and had been dating my friend Denny).  She was getting engaged while we were home - Denny came also - so I tagged along.  I think Jan went to Texas or something.  The last week of our junior year I met Les.  Since I was dating/engaged our senior year, I of course didn't spend as much time with Jan, but we decided to take one more trip that spring break.  We decided to drive to Washington D.C.  The blurple Vega had been sold (I needed money!) so we took Jan's mustard yellow Toyota .   Off we went.  I had a high school friend who was going to Med School at George Washington so we had arranged to stay with him in his apartment.  Jan and I had a great time in D.C.  I remember feeling so patriotic while visiting all those famous monuments.  We visited Dan one day at his school and he showed us some kind of room with every body part you can imagine jarred up in formaldehyde.  I had totally forgotten about visiting that room - Jan just reminded me of it last week!!!  That trip we also drove to New York City and Philadelphia.
Washington Monument in the background.  Great photo quality back then!

Graduation Day!! 1981
Jan was in my wedding along with my sisters.  She moved back to California, I stayed in Iowa.  Jan and I actually took another road trip when my son Kris was about 1.5.  Her brother had gotten married in Iowa and Les and I were living there.  Jan and I drove back to California together again after her brothers wedding!!  Many many miles we have spent together.
May, 1982
Later visits - 1987 and 1989
Last week, Jan and I talked about traveling again together.  I think the top of our (my) list is the Sante Fe area.  She has been there a couple of times so she will be a great tour guide.  I'll bring the Captain Crunch.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Fun

This month has a few names for us here in the great NorthWest - #snowmageddon2017, #snowpocalypse2017.  SO MUCH SNOW.  I won't post too many pictures of snow because I believe we have all seen enough snow.   I do want you to see what happens when my snow-loving Iowa-born golden doodle plays in the snow.  Only a warm bath would dissolve those ice balls in his fur.  Every single day, usually more than once!!

My Iowa sister visited the beginning of the month.  We blame her for bringing us that week of continuous snow.  Her flight home was delayed a day - I guess that was her punishment.  (But a good thing for me!!)  We couldn't get out and about too much because of the weather, but we still had fun.  We had a "girls night out" with some of my friends.  We ate lots of good food.  Sharon was able to spend some time with Mom and Dad, which is always a blessing!  Come back soon, Sharon, but do not bring us snow next time!!

Next to visit were my California nephews.  They have not been here for a couple years.  Mitch is a college senior at CalPoly and Sean has been out of college for two years - he is working in the real world.  Again, the weather didn't cooperate too much.  We did get in a hike with Rick and Pam - it was muddy but oh, so pretty!!  We had some quality family time with these two young men!
Cousin love

January was a blur to me - lots of work!  I was glad when it was over.  I was anxious to GET OUT OF TOWN and tried earlier in the month, but the messy pass over the mountain didn't allow it.  I finally headed over this past weekend.  There was much more snow on the ground over there (why didn't I go somewhere warm????)  but the people I hung out with made up for it!  I stayed with my niece Dani and her family - she has two little girls.  This family wakes up EARLY - the girls usually visited my room around 6:30. Dani would bring me a latte in bed - I was very thankful for that!  My younger brother Don and his family also live there, so I was able to spend time with them.  I went to a couple of 7th grade basketball games, had coffee with my sweet niece Gretta and my sister-in-law Sue, saw where my brother was laying tile in a very large new home, spent time shopping with Dani.  I had the privilege of watching little Miss Natalie get her white belt in karate.  I met a high school friend for dinner and I met up with my friend Kim (we cheered on the Tigers!!!) at the church that she and my brother's family attend.  Lots of fun with some special people!  I am ready to go back!

I truly am ready for warmer weather.  I feel myself disliking the dark days lately.  I need some sun to motivate me and encourage my bones!   I am about half way through my second year without Les.  The loneliness settled in this winter.  (It's not really very fun having a snow storm when your other half isn't around to sit by the fire with - I missed him!)  I've probably said this before - I stay very busy, but it is still lonely.  The grief has settled down, and maybe that's why I notice the loneliness more.  BUT I am still so very thankful for what I have, the people I get to "do" life with, and mostly for the peace in knowing that God is always with me.  Life does still bring me great joy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy New Year!

 My high school friend Terri sent this to me last week.  I really like it!  I feel like like it totally applies to me.  I had to laugh at the "go to bed early and wake up early" part - Terri likes to sleep in.  Back in the day, she would sleep until NOON.  Me being a farm girl - that was unheard of!!!  Last summer when I stayed with Terri I was curious if she still slept late - yep she does!  (not noon, but later than what I'm used to!  Love you Terri!!!)  I have found that this message is true - I have to get up and go out.  It would be easy to keep my butt on the couch!  AND I am trying to clean up some clutter.  My boys helped a Saturday in December and we got a good start in the garage.

The day after New Years Day I got off the couch and went snow shoeing.  It would have been easy to say no - it was cold and windy.  A group of us went up the mountain and the day was stunning.  When we left the trucks, it was 18 degrees.  As long as we kept moving we stayed warm.  The skies were SO BLUE.  A great day.

A lot of you ask how my holidays were, and I appreciate that!   Christmas has not been a super difficult time for me.  I think that since Les was a UPS driver, I was used to him not being around the whole month of December.  We didn't have lots of "traditions" for the season because he was working so much and we don't have extended family here.  I HAVE found that the week after Christmas is more difficult.  Everything slows down, it's winter, and it's a lot lonelier.

Now it's January, and my busiest work month.  That's a good thing - it keeps me very busy.  It also stresses me out a bit - my office is a disaster.  It's time to change all the files - out with the old, in with the new for 2017.  This weather we have had doesn't help the mood - I'm over the wind and the ice.  I miss walking my dog every day.

My son, my son-in-law and my niece recently went on a mission trip to Guatemala.  I was super excited for them.  Brett and Emily have gone before, Kris has not.  It's warm where they went and they were in a beautiful area.  They were doing some work at an orphanage.  I was cleaning some cupboards the other day (see - I am un-cluttering!!!) and I found a book with pictures from my first mission trip to Tijuana with our church youth group.  This was 20 or so years ago, and I went on several trips after that.  I loved being a part of the YWAM program and seeing God work in the kids' lives.  Those trips were an important part of my life.  I made several life long friends!!
So......Happy New Year.  Let's all get up and go out!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


I looked up "thankful" and "grateful" in the dictionary.  Thankful says "expression of gratitude".    Grateful says "thankful".  I always wondered what the difference was.  I guess there isn't any.

I have learned that being thankful is so often a choice.

I heard a sermon long ago (and was reminded of it last Wednesday night by my friend Roger) that we need to "compare down" instead of "comparing up".   We need to focus on how we are so blessed. Now here we go into the Christmas season - all those ads and commercials make me a little crazy!  I feel like I need to go BUY BUY BUY.  I don't like it!

A few things I am thankful for:

I am thankful for my neighbors.  They fertilize my lawn.  One of them cleans my computer and cleans my espresso machine.  They bring me yummy leftovers. (FYI Dan's turkey soup is the best I've ever had!!!)   One of them sometimes makes home vet visits.  If I fall from a ladder when I am cleaning the gutters, they will probably see me.  I can borrow a cup of sugar from them.  I have amazing neighbors.

I am thankful for my workout classes.  These workouts were my "therapy" when Les was sick.   I have met new friends there.  Since my cholesterol is border line bad, I am trying to stay healthy - so I keep going to classes!  Thank you Bethany and Christian (and others) for kicking my butt the past couple of years.

I'm thankful for my dog.  When you live alone, you talk to yourself a lot.  At least I can say I'm talking to Dutch!!  Ha!  And it's nice to have him greet me so excitedly when I come home!

I'm thankful for all the people I work with - my dairy farmer, my construction workers, my boat people and my church people.   I am glad they are all a part of my life.

I am thankful for all the fresh snow on the mountains.  What a glorious sight.

Yes, being thankful is often a choice.  Many times I could just curl up under my blankets.  Or not accept an invitation to do something.  But instead I am choosing to be thankful and to get out and about and to have some fun.  Life is short!  Let's all be thankful!

From my Jesus Calling this week:   When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining.  If you practice thankfulness consistently, negative thought patterns will gradually grow weaker and weaker.   The Bible verse:  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 - "Be JOYFUL always, pray continually, GIVE THANKS in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Tomorrow is Les' birthday.  The second time he will have a birthday in heaven.  I ran across this picture a few weeks ago:

I'm thankful he was such a good dad.  I'm thankful he was a part of my life for 35 years.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Life Lately

This weather.  Seriously.  I don't remember experiencing SO MUCH RAIN in October before.  And these early dark nights!!   Honestly, I've had some hard days lately and I wonder if the weather contributes to this??  Ha!

I went over the mountains for a long weekend the end of September.  I stayed with my niece Dani and her family this trip, which was really fun (well - maybe except for the 6:30 am wake ups from her girls, but their cuteness made up for that!)   I had a great lunch with some high school friends, and a really nice dinner with a high school friend.  It's been fun reuniting with some of these people!
Double the nieces!
I spent several days last month in sunny California with my sister and family.  I have been auntie-nannying her kiddos in October for many years now.  Becky and her husband go on a business trip so I zip down and watch the kids (and golden retriever Cooper) for them.  Their two boys are grown and gone so it's just Jenae these past several years.  She is now a junior so I only have one more year -- as long as she says to have auntie come, I come!  I adore all these nieces of mine and enjoy our time together!

It was close to 80 every day when I was in California and I for sure took advantage of it!  Jenae drives herself so "taking care of her" does not involve much "taking care of."   It gives auntie time to sit on the patio and read in the sun.
Since we never take a pic baby seester!
I recently attended our church's women's retreat.  We used to have these about 20 years ago!  Some young moms were the planning committee - it is so great to see these young women be involved AND they did a GREAT job!  The weather was dreary, but the retreat is up in the hills with beautiful scenery.  The food was amazing; we had a good speaker.  My friends Lori & Jami Jo led the worship, and this was my favorite part!  I loved hearing all those women raise their voices in praise to Jesus!!
Our rainy afternoon walk!
 Our sermon this past Sunday was on "The Dark Side of the Soul", based on Psalm 42:1-5.  Once again Pastor Kyle nailed it.  Couple things:  He said we will all go through dark times when we are desperate for God.  Of course God is always with us, but He does allow us to experience darkness.  This makes the good times with God that much sweeter!! - "the cloud is black before it breaks".  I have certainly experienced that! We need to lament; we need to remind ourselves of God's saving grace in those times. Pastor Kyle also talked about the importance of community when going through a dark period and I have said that before - I could not have made my journey without community.  Speaking of community, my "cleaning fairies" and I had a get together last evening.  We have a pretty special bond!

These longer evenings have been a little hard for me.  I miss my Tuesday "training walks".  I miss being able to be outside!!  I have tons of things to do in the house; I need to adjust my attitude and just get some of this yucky house cleaning stuff done (cleaning out cupboards and closets....)!   I've said this before, but when you lose your other half, it's a lonely journey.  I am so grateful for friends who have me over for dinner, who take me out for dinner with them, who ask me to get out and about with them.  I need that!!!  I'm also thankful for my parents - they are great about having me for dinner.  Mom and Dad are also very willing to take Dutch when I leave town - such a relief!   AND I could not do this without my kids.  They and their kiddos bring me great JOY.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Walk to Remember

Because I am writing this post, you know that I survived our big 21 mile hike this past weekend.  It was definitely a walk to remember!

Les and I loved to hike.  I appreciated this about him, because he walked all day every day for work in his brown uniform, yet he would agree to go on hikes with me on the weekend.  We were just talking about doing this hike in to Stehekin, and then he got sick.  After he died last year, it started running through my head that it would be a great thing to do on the anniversary of his death.  In April I kinda put the word out to some friends to see if anyone was interested.  I was so excited that 10 were able to join me!

Us girls left Saturday morning and spent that evening in Mazama. I love that little town.  Les and I stayed there a couple of times with our friends Steve and Sheri.  I am so thankful that they made us aware of this place!  Us girls enjoyed a beautiful evening!  We weren't too excited about the loud wedding music that went on until midnight, but what do ya do??

We were up and at 'em at 4:30 am - we needed to leave at 5:30 to be at the trail head at 6:00.  When my friend Kay walked into our room and said it was raining, we thought she was joking.  Well, she wasn't.  The closer we got to the trail head the harder it started raining.  Remember, it is o-dark-six-am, 39 degrees, and pouring down rain.  This was not in the forecast!!!!  Lonnie was our driver (she has an injury that prevented her from hiking but wanted to join us - and we NEEDED her as our driver!  SO thankful for her) and Lonnie needed to drive the suburban down to Chelan to be on the boat going UP to Stehekin - and that boat left at 8:30 am.  She had to just dump us off and leave us there........
Off we went.  For 3 hours we had rain.  It was cold.  The trail was puddles.  About an hour in, I was thinking, we can't even turn back because we have no vehicle waiting for us.......  It was pretty miserable.  I am so thankful for friends who stayed very upbeat and encouraging at this time.  You know, we joke about the "kooistra travel curse"  but it is a real thing.  Remember this post?  And Kris and Hannah's honeymoon in a hurricane?  And we have several other stories.......  And here we were hiking in the cold rain.
Drowned rats - but on the right trail!!
Then we saw patches of blue.  The clouds turned to puffy white instead of dark grey.  We saw a rainbow.  The rest of the hike was absolutely beautiful.  God's creation is so amazing!  The last 5 or 8 miles were very dusty and HOT.  We got sunburned.  But we didn't complain about that!!!!
several streams to cross - this one was a little scary....

"Go rest high on that mountain.  Son, your work on earth is done.  Go to Heaven a shoutin', love for the Father, and the Son."
After 8.5 hours and 21 miles, we made it to the end of the trail.  What a great feeling!  I am still amazed there were no injuries.  We had bee stings, wet feet from slipping in the creeks, blisters, sore and shaky legs, slivers in the bum (remember, there are no bathrooms along the trail), but we all walked out!  We waited about 20 minutes for the big red bus that takes you the final 10 miles to the Stehekin lodge.  On the way to the lodge, we stopped at the famous bakery.  It was so great to be among other people!!  We had NO cell service this entire day, so we were a bit nervous to find out if Lonnie had made the boat up to Stehekin;  the red bus pulled to the front of the lodge, and there Lonnie sat up on the deck.  We all started yelling and waving at her - we were SO GLAD to see her!  And I think she was SO GLAD to see us!

End of the trail - so proud of us!

Rainbow Falls - on our bus ride
Stehekin is such a cool place.  We had met 20-30 hikers on our hike down in to Stehekin - these hikers were all going north.  They had been on this Pacific Crest Trail since Mexico or Southern California, since April or May and they were heading to either the Canadian border or Manning Park in Canada.  Their stories were all so amazing.    The lodge had maybe 50 or so of these hikers hanging around (mostly they camp in campgrounds or in the wild).  There's a post office in Stehekin, so some hikers were waiting for packages they had scheduled to arrive for them.  It was amazing to watch them open these mail packages with new food, new shoes, new clothes - and then repack their back packs.  Very interesting!  We heard that since the movie and book "Wild" came out a couple years ago, the traffic on the Pacific Crest Trail has increased dramatically!  Here we were thinking we were pretty cool, hiking 21 miles - and then we talk with these hikers........they weren't so impressed...........  Ha!

SO GLAD my girls joined us "old ladies"!!!!
We spent the night in Stehekin - yummy yummy food at the restaurant.  We were all looking forward to a cold beer on the deck when we arrived in the big red bus, and we bought the last 2 six packs!  No more beer coming in until Tuesday!  Such a different way of life.  We had two large rooms between the 11 of us, and of course they were both up two flights of stairs.  We could barely walk!  What was even funnier was the next morning as we TRIED to get out of bed!  The biggest complaint was sore calves.

This was a great experience with great friends and my three girls - daughter Leslie, daughter-in-law Hannah, and niece Emily.  They have all made this past year bearable, and I was thankful all these women agreed to join me on this hike.  Late that evening in Stehekin, someone suggested we all go down to the lake.  We did, and Lori pulled out some candles.  We lit our candles in memory of Les and some memories of him were shared.  Tears and laughter!  A very special night!

We took the foot ferry boat back to Chelan the next afternoon.  A glorious day - we all sat on the back deck in T-shirts.  That is one long lake!  In Chelan, most of the gang headed straight home - myself and a couple others spent one extra night in Chelan.  It was kinda nice to just kick back and relax in the sun one more day.  Our muscles were still pretty sore!

Who wants to join next year?????