Sunday, June 1, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Us!

For those of you who follow Barb or I on Facebook, you'll know that our anniversary was ... let us say interesting. For the rest of you I'll share some of the details.

Our 29th anniversary fell on Memorial Day this year. Since the crops were planted and were too little to be sprayed or cultivated, we took off that morning for Battle Creek, NE, Barb's hometown. While we always decorate the graves of my father's family in the rural cemetery close to our house, we rarely get up to Battle Creek to decorate Barb's parents and grandparents graves. This was the year to catch up.

We arrived at Ray and Lauri's (Barb's brother and wife) at noon. They were still branding some calves so we went on to the St. John's Lutheran Cemetery just north of their house and decorated her parents, paternal grandparents and great grandparents graves. Since we hadn't been there for many years we, I mean she, had a hard time remembering just where the graves were. It was a pleasure placing some iris blossoms at their graves since many of the cultivars had come from Battle Creek to begin with.

We then went back for a great lunch and a chance to meet and play with our great niece Molly. After a nap we were ready to head to Norfolk to decorate Barb's maternal grandparents graves and then onto have an anniversary dinner. We hadn't been to that cemetery for over 10 years and I'd only been there once, so Ray & Lauri led us. Once there Barb was happily arranging the flowers and filler with me being the handler. All went well until she snipped a stem that wasn't a stem.

It was the middle finger of my right hand. Barb went running for a WetOne to catch the blood. I looked at Ray and asked where the nearest Urgent Care was as I knew it was going to need stitches.

They led us right to Urgent Care of Norfolk, saying it was their favorite and they were "good stitchers." Their son Steven races motorcross and has a thick file there.

After waiting for several minutes for the doctor to finish stitching up the previous patient, we were ushered into the treatment room. The doctor was checking out the finger, making small talk, asking where we were from. After hearing Lexington, he turned, looked at Barb and said "Hi Barb." Turns out he was a doctor in Cozad 6 years ago and remembered her from then.

5 stitches later amongst some kidding about celebrating our anniversary with a trip to Urgent Care, we were done. We still went out for our anniversary supper with Ray & Lauri. Finger didn't hurt, just real awkward.

 So Happy Anniversary to Us! Wife cuts my finger and I get stitches. But actually this is a pretty good way to celebrate. Neither one of us is perfect and we know it!

Another blogger, Matt Walsh, has a blog making the rounds of many friends now. It's titled "My wife is not the same woman that I married"

It's a good read and I agree with some of his points. The main one is that we all change. Some better, some worse. My wife and I have changed a lot in the 29 years we've been married. We still love each other, even deeper than before.

I don't critique other people's relationships successes or failures. I am not in their shoes and have no idea what is going on in their lives. All I know is that as long as Barb & I keep our focus on God and keep him a partner in our marriage we enjoy each day with each other. Each of us had great role models of parents who loved each other through thick and thin.

Is our marriage perfect? No! It can't be with two imperfect humans involved. In the past each of us has stormed out at least once. But we have learned to forgive each other, often! I can tease her about some of the things she does that annoys me and she can tease me about the things I annoy her with.

We try to get better, but face it, we're sinful humans who have foibles. I have learned to love her foibles and follies along with her great skills at cooking and writing.

And now I can tease her about those deadly garden shears on our anniversary!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Heathrow People Watching

If you want to people watch, you need to fly out of an international hub, like London Heathrow. I had the opportunity to have a 6-hour layover at Heathrow this week. After rechecking my luggage, my first flight was separate from the rest of trip, I crashed for awhile outside security on a convenient bench at a food outlet that was not busy at 7 am. What a shock.

When I decided to go through security in Terminal 3, I found a crush of people waiting in the seating area before the gates. London Heathrow has a nasty habit of not letting you know what gate your plane will be at until 50 minutes before departure. That way everybody is forced to wait by the big screen for their gate to be announced.

Conveniently, for them, quite a few stores have opened around the seating area, just waiting for the bored, or guilty feeling, traveler to stop in. There are stores that will sell you about anything you could want and carry onto a plane. Everything from Harrods to WHSmith Bookshop. Fine dining to cold sandwiches are available, for a price. Forget to buy your significant other a gift? No problem.

And then there are the people, thousands of people, it seems. Every nationality, every skin color, all waiting on the standard uncomfortable airport seating. You name the language, I'm sure it is being spoken somewhere around here.

The reason why is the possible destinations out of Terminal 3. Chicago, Singapore, San Francisco, Miami, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Washington DC, Istanbul, Bangkok, Tokyo, etc. Those actually were the flights listed in order of boarding while I was waiting for Dallas/Ft. Worth to show up.

Business travelers with their briefcases and laptops, kids with their dolls, teenagers with their iPods, even a farmer with his iPad, all waiting for their gate to show up on the big board.

It is easy to spot the traveler who missed his gate being posted at first for they are flying through the crowd trying to get to their gate in time. That is because it is a 20 minute walk from the waiting area to some of the farthest gates.

So if you really want to people watch, just plan a long layover at Heathrow. You will definitely get your wish granted.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hartshorne, UK

We took the train out of London to Leicester, pronounced Lester, in the East Midlands. We got brave and hired a car. Barb was brave enough to drive while I navigated. We left the car park hoping we could bring the car back in one piece.

21 round-a-bouts later we found the town that would be our base for the next couple of days, Ashby de la Zouch. Like much of Europe the origins of the town are a bit fuzzy, happening over 1000 years ago. Ashby, for short, is almost in the exact center of England. It is one of the areas that was controlled by The Lord Hastings in the 1400's. He built a castle and church in town. The church still stands, the castle, not so much.

The main purpose of the visit to the East Midlands was to check out my family's roots. My great grandfather immigrated from Hartshorne, Derbyshire, UK in April 1873 and homesteaded just south of where Barb & I live today.

We were supposed to stay at one of the pubs in Hartshorne, but the night before we left London I got an email that they had a mixup and they were double booked for our room. While not happy, they did find us a replacement room in Ashby, only about 5 miles (and 2 villages) away.

The first night we drove up to the church in Hartshorne, St. Peter's, where my family was baptized, married and buried. We walked around the churchyard, which is almost entirely covered in gravestones, and had almost given up hope when the last stone we looked at as the sun went down was my great great grandmother's, Sarah Pickering.

The next morning we also found the gravestone of her mother Elizabeth Evans.

We went to a historical society in the neighboring town of Swadlincote called The Magic Attic the first night. There were a number of very helpful volunteers working. They looked on one of their databases and discovered that my great grandfather's obituary had been published in the Derby Mercury on November 30, 1893.

We had a great time in Hartshorne and Ashby. It was great to get out into the country away from the big city atmophere of London. We were asked several times "Why did you come here?" They didn't understand why anyone would leave the city to come to a rural area. Little did they know that I live in a much more rural ara and felt happy out there.

Then we had to get back to our car rental agency in Leicester. Luckily the app I downloaded so I could have a map while offline recorded our trip out of Leicester, so"all" I had to do was keep Barb on the little blue line. 

Short story is we made it back and will happily let others drive from now on. We even managed to do this with a minimum of screaming at each other, other than "Watch out for the car from the right" and "Not this left, take the 4th (or 5th) left". Round-a-bout are nuts and even the Brits hate them. 

After a week of loving England we headed off to Germany, Barb's home country and where Cicely is studying for this year. Now she is the tour guide and I am merely along to enjoy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

England 2014

We are in Jolly Old England for a week on holiday. We are having a wonderful time. Below are some of my first impressions and memories.

First misconception is the language. The British speak English, Americans speak American. The words look the same. They may even be pronounced the same, but the meaning may be entirely different. Here there are prams, not baby carriages, highways are carriageways, trunks are boots, hoods are bonnets, gas is petrol, trucks are lorries, subways are tube or Underground, first floor is actually second floor (it goes ground, first, second), etc.  Right off I learned not to look for red Exit signs, instead look for green Way Out signs. And "Mind the Gap" meant watch your step.

The British are even more confused about the metric system than we are. They buy their beer in pints, but their petrol in litres. They measure small things in centimeters, but roads in yards and miles. I don't know about weights, but lorries are weighed in tons, but how much is a ton?

London is a huge town full of people. It is very old and the streets and layout of the town reflect that. You need to remember that when England was settled you walked from village to village. Therefore the towns were close, 1-2 miles between villages. It didn't matter which direction the paths went so you just went straight. There was no planning commission making sure everything would work out in neat straight lines and square blocks.

Fast forward to today and those paths are now streets. The villages have all grown together into one huge metropolis. Streets meander here and there. Every passage is named, even if it is only an alleyway because there will be flats (apartments) located off of it. Streets start and stop for no apparent reason. Building numbers start at 1 and go up the street, Even on one side and odd the other. It doesn't matter that 50 is across the street from 71 or 131.

London is used to visitors from other countries that drive on the other side of the street. Every intersection has the words "Look Right" or "Look Left" painted on the street to remind us where the traffic is coming from, quickly. We have learned to wait for the "Green Man" signal to cross streets, even though many natives cross when they feel like it. London did install many map posts around the business districts for the 2012 Olympics for all the visitors. They are great.

The people of England are very polite. They treat everybody as if they were Royal guests. My goal is to bring some of this niceness back to the States. Even the buses are polite. We saw one bus being towed with the sign "I'm sorry, I'm out of order."

If you are looking for a water fountain to get a drink, just forget about it. Haven't seen one yet. Restrooms are toilets but you go to the loo, not the toilet. Expect toilets to be either upstairs or downstairs, and rather steep stairs at that. Same with kitchens at pubs, never on the same floor as the eating area.

The food has been fantastic. Different than the States, but you need to expect that when traveling. After all why travel if everything stays the same. We have enjoyed the traditional English breakfast of sausage, bacon (ham), eggs (scambled or poached), mushrooms, toast, croissant, orange juice, coffee or tea, and baked beans. Yes baked beans. They are a breakfast item. No idea when and how that started and who was first, Americans with hot dogs or British with breakfast.

Cicely has discovered a rule of affordable restaurants. If the glasses are already on tables covered with linen, we don't need to look at a menu, above our price range. Pubs are more our style. The general rules for pubs are 1. Find your own table, 2. The menus are on the table, 3. Go to the bar, order and pay for your food giving your table number, 4. Enjoy your beer, 5. Repeat.

If you require Bud Light or Coors Lite, forget it. I have seen Budweiser listed at one pub, but never Lite beer. Here you get ales, stouts, ciders or bitters. I've discovered I'm an ale or stout kind of guy. Bitters and ciders no. 

Note about the food. Chips are french fries (actually makes as much sense), a crisp is a potato chip, a biscuit is a cookie. You put mayo on your fries or you may use ketchup. HP sauce is for everything.

Our credit cards are mostly out of date in Europe. We still use swipe cards and the Europeans now use chip cards. Hasn't been a problem, except ours don't work in the automated machines. I have learned to let cashiers know right off that it is a swipe card. The really sharp ones assume they will be swipe once they hear our accent.

And the accent. I love listening to some of the barmaids talk. I wish I had recorded some of them talking to each other. I had a hard time not laughing at them and the terms they used with each other. The British think all Americans sound the same, just like I think all British sound similar. 

They don't understand where Nebraska is, but that's OK, I don't understand where all their counties are either. I just tell them I'm frrom the middle of the States and they nod OK. They are shocked when I tell them how few people live in our area and that Lexington at 10,000 people is a larger town in Nebraska.

Next post will be about our trip to the East Midlands where one branch of my family originated from.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I have a confession to make: I am a sports junkie! 

I love to watch sports, of all kinds. Football and basketball, of course, but I've been known to spend an hour watching rugby, lacrosse and cricket trying to figure out their rules.

Every two years I get a 2-week fix called the Olympics. I love watching all the sports involved. I admire the athletes who are in the best shape of their lives competing against the the world's best in their sport.

I am not, nor have I ever been, an athlete myself. In high school I could barely walk and chew gum at the same time. But raising two daughters who were athletes gave me an appreciation of the hard work and dedication it takes to be great.

Right now the 2014 Winter Olympics are being held in Sochi, Russia. There are numerous problems and lots of issues swirling around these Olympics, but this is not what I care about. I love the sports and athletes we get to watch compete.

I am amazed how these Olympians make what I would consider impossible look easy. Cross-country skiing for 10 kilometers and then shooting a rifle at 1" targets. How the heck do they hold the gun steady? And the Gold medal went to a 40-year old man? Wow.

The new event called slopestyle skiing is amazing, not only the acrobatics, but the athletes themselves. They are obviously free-spirited indivuals, but they have an attitude that we all need to admire and emulate.

During the finals, one of the women had a horrible crash that broke her helmit. The look of horror on the faces of her competitors showed they were also friends as well. When she was finally able to ski to the bottom they were there to welcome her with hugs.

As each skiier came down with higher and higher scores, the new leader was congratulated by her competitors with high fives and hugs, led by the girl who used to be the leader and now was off the podium.

They recognized talent and great accomplishments, irregardless of their country of origin. This is the true spirit of sport, in my opinion. Do the best you possibly can, trying to beat your opposition. But when the competition is over, recognize and reward those who had a better day than you.