The House for this Season in our Sojourning

Welcome to our 11th home in 20 years – not bad for an Army family but I believe we’re still well qualified for the distinction of Nomads.

We live in the same neighborhood as the last time we were at West Point except that they’ve torn down all of the houses and “built” new ones. The old houses were seriously ugly, designed in the 60’s when middle-class residential architecture was void of good ideas and plans were even worse when perpetrated by federal design teams. However, the neighborhood had big beautiful trees and a sense of coziness. Those are gone but the houses are 1000 square feet bigger and we don’t have to park in lots, so I guess there are up sides. I really miss the trees though – especially the big evergreen that stood in defiance of the winter gray outside of my back window. Now, I will pass the winter in anticipation of the daffodils I’m going to plant all over the hill outside the dining room window.

Some of you have been asking for a tour, so come on in!

This is the first time we’ve ever had a double-car garage. Such an idea was unknown in military housing until very recently.

Step onto the front porch…

…and through the door.

To the immediate left sits the boys’ office which gets morning sunshine for their schoolwork.

To the right you step down a hallway that leads to a powder room, laundry room and the kitchen on the left.

The dog was determined to be in every picture.

Here’s the view back to the laundry room which is just inside from those chairs you saw on the porch.

Here’s the view from the back door into the kitchen.

What is black and white and red all over? My living room! We have purchased paint but obviously it isn’t on the wall.

The dining room…

…which also serves as my office.

Upstairs we have four bedrooms, arranged in a square around the landing. Surely you can visualize that without pictures. On to the back yard…

Speaking of visualizing, this is where the garden is going next spring. The consolation for the trees being murdered is that I will have enough sun for vegetables.

Here’s the patio.

I have to digress for a moment since the dog was so determined to follow the camera… The photography book I bought says to focus on the spark in the eye of the subject. I don’t think Jackson has enough going on in his head to generate sparks. He is sweet but he is spark-less. Anyway, back to the tour… behind him is part of the view from our patio – a “rain garden” to drain runoff from the hillside behind us. We’ll see how it does with the rain we’re supposed to get from Hurricane Irene. I like the Black-Eyed Susans they planted in them though. I’ll be dividing them and moving some up front in the spring.

So that is our house, and it’s a fine house. We like it. It works well for us and it’s what you get for 20 years in the army and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry. I can’t help showing you how these houses are made though. They come on trucks and they sit in a parking lot down the hill while they wait for a crane to drop them onto their foundations. So essentially, we’re living in a double-decker doublewide.

It makes for a homogenous feel that reminds me of when I was in junior high and my friend Christy and I were trying to get under one another’s skin. She popped off with an insult that I didn’t really understand at the time but always remembered. She said that when I grew up I would live in tract housing. She had no idea! Here’s the view one direction from my front yard…

…and here’s looking the other way.

Of course, the rooflines are tremendously varied. There are three different styles, and the ones with plain roofs have porches with an extra pillar on each side of the entry. There are also four different exterior paint colors and, at least 5 different colors of Honda Odysseys can be observed in the matching driveways!

Seriously, I’m very thankful to God for my home, especially when so many go without. The houses on my street may not be unique but the nomadic lives that bring families to live in them certainly are.

Wishing you all joy on your own journeys!


West Point Class of 2015 “March Back”

I thought I’d share a little slice of West Point life with you all…

Each year the incoming class of cadets concludes their Cadet Basic Training by walking back from Camp Buckner to the cadet central area a week before classes begin. It’s about six hilly miles in a car but they turn it into 12 very hilly miles through the woods after several weeks of ongoing fatigue and other forms of general unpleasantness.

Families who live here and some parents line Washington Road and welcome them back as they reach the end of their trek.

Chemistry instructors’ families traditionally congregate in front of a set of quarters known as the “Beat Navy” house where Colonel Dooley used to host a picnic every year. She’s retired now and the house is empty for renovation (I think) but it’s still the gathering point.

Surely this has to be the world’s toughest bunch of chemistry proffesors. If the combat patches don’t convince you, ask a cadet who’s taken General Chemistry here.

The West Point Band leads the way – for the final mile or so once the new cadets have reached the gate to post.

I just have to say that playing a trombone is impressive enough to me, doing it while marching in boots is amazing.

After the band, come the new cadets led by the Academy Superintendent, Commandant, Seargean Major and a representative for the Dean.

The new cadets at the front of the march carry a banner with their class motto.

Here’s the first of eight companies.

There are about 1,200 cadets in this class selected from almost 14,000 applicants to enjoy this unique brand of collegiate experience.

By the time they have come this far they are hot, and tired…

…just putting one boot in front of the other.

Each company carries a unit guidon and a flag representing a division in the Army.

They’re also carrying quite a lot of gear.

This is not supposed to be fun for them and by all accounts the week they are heading into will be even less fun. That’s when they get re-organized into the regiments of the full Corps and the ratio of new cadets to upper-classmen turns around on them.

Here’s someone smiling!  BUT…He’s not a new cadet.  He’s a rising senior, know as a “Firstie” and he’s been a company commander during their training.  My husband says he’s smiling because he knows what he and his friends are about to dish out to this new class, but I prefer to think that maybe he’s just a nice cheerful guy.

Here’s another one smiling! Another nice guy…hopefully.

By contrast, this shot of a new cadet captures the steely determination that they’ve all proven they possess if they’ve made it this far.

Most of them just look like they’re ready for the whole thing to be over with.

But, one company near the end broke into singing along with the Army song as it was played from a recording by someone on the curb. Impressive!

It only takes a few minutes for all of them to walk by but it probably feels longer to them.

This was an accidental shot, but I thought it captured the essence of the effort pretty well with evidence of field training still lingering in the form of dirt on the knee.

They were followed by graduates of former classes who remember the experience all too well I’m sure.

The final group was from the class of 1965, who will celebrate their 50-year reunion the summer this new class graduates.

The first time I saw this event, it was the class of 2005 marching and a former grad explained the training they had been through and what re-orgy week would be like for them when they reached the cadet area. As the pregnant mother of a toddler and preschooler, I recoiled inwardly at the thought of my babies ever being put through such an ordeal. Now, I look at them and think: “Oh, this would be so good for them!”

Pullman to West Point 2011 – The Final Installment

According to MapQuest, the boys and I covered 5,254 miles this summer, which is almost exactly twice what it would have taken to drive straight to West Point.

We started by going to Virginia, then I went to Georgia…which is where I left you with the last post and that took us to 3386 miles.

I left Georgia on June 26th to go back to Virginia for a few days, just in time to help with the older kids while baby Asher had surgery. That brought us up to 4,042.

I know you’re thinking: what a great auntie for being there to help with the baby’s surgery, but you should know better. Three days later he was doing fine and I took off again to go join Ric in the lodge at West Point while Rob was at sea. Worst of all I left the dog again. He’s a nice dog, but he’s big and he’s always in the way and there are five little ones in the house. Betsy is the really great auntie!

We got to West Point on July 1st to stay in at the Five Star Inn. That brought us to 4,446 miles.

The boys dubbed it “The Point Five Star Inn”. I would say it’s at least a two-point-five star, but it doesn’t have a pool and that is deadly in the hotel rating scheme of three boys. At least they understood the power and poetic imagery of moving a decimal point.

This was the view from our kitchen window.

Not a bad kitchen for a hotel suite, really.

The patio out back was nice, with its view of the Hudson…

…and I got a lot done from this picnic table while the boys played outside.

The morning after we arrived we hiked up Bear Mountain. It’s quite a trek. 800+ steps carved out of granite in the trail I’m told.

The view from the top is spectacular though. You can see the skyline of New York City on a clear day.

On the Fourth of July we walked to Trophy Point to watch the fireworks and see the new cadets.

The mass of white is the brand new class of 2015 seated for the show. It starts with a performance by the very talented West Point Band but Fireworks are what it takes to keep those new cadets awake once they’re given a chance to sit down after the week they’ve been through. Relaxation is not on the schedule many times during their summer.

Here you see some of their tormentors (upperclassmen in charge of their training) lurking nearby.

Josh and Si were oblivious to the anguish of the oppressed masses in the amphitheatre. They were watching the PAC 75mm Howitzers prepare for their salute to the nation.

I think this may be the largest stand of evergreens trees in a twenty-mile radius! My boys will groan over the fact that the trees have my attention in a picture with guns.

This is what they were waiting for. A round is fired for every state in the country as a new cadet from that state posts its flag in the main area of the celebration. 50 glorious explosions and the fireworks hadn’t even started.

Eventually, the sun set.

And, because we don’t learn from past failures, we still try to take pictures of fireworks.

Days in the lodge were less than exciting for the boys and me, but I got a lot of work done in preparation for the upcoming school year and at last we were given a definite date for keys to our quarters and the arrival of our household goods.

It was time to go rescue Betsy from dog sitting! Back to Virginia and up to 4,940 miles.

The boys got in one last visit with their cousins while Betsy and I tried to enjoy a few more stolen moments on the front porch each evening to visit once they were all in bed.

My children are such a great influence on their younger cousins.

Seven kids in the living room with light sabers – no potential for disaster here….

…just good entertainment for babies and dogs…

…while the responsible adult in the room takes pictures.

I’m sure Betsy was very sad to see us take our big dog and leave on July 14th to head “home” and finish our road-tripping with 5,254 miles under our seatbelts.

The movers showed up at 8:30 the next morning.

By noon we were in boxes…

…some of us literally. These guys have proven over and over to be road warriors! They were eager to claim the distinction of being “nomads” when they were little and they certainly have lived up to it.

In-Laws and Courthouses – Thomaston, GA

Q -What do old courthouses and in-laws have in common?

A – The best ones are in Georgia.

After spending several days with Rob and Betsy and “The Weekend” with all the kids, I packed up the boys, left the dog and took off for Georgia. It was a ten-and-a-half hour drive, but what is that compared to 44? Long, that’s what. It was worth it though. Charlotte and Barney spoil me in so many little ways. I didn’t spend enough time with them early in our marriage to fully appreciate their personalities, but when Charlotte came to nurse me back to health and take care of the family after my near-death run in with MRSA in Germany I finally got to really know her and I will always be thankful for that. This summer I arrived at their house bone weary and ready to power down. They were very understanding and we spent several mellow days doing very little.

I ate a lot of peaches and even wrote about them on The Kitchen Catwalk.

The boys spent several afternoons swimming at Barney’s brother’s house which is a beautiful oasis on a country road.

I dread the day when they decide they’re too old for this sort of shot.

For extra excitement one afternoon, I locked the keys in the van while the boys were in the pool. Not a proud moment, but Charlotte called the police department to see if anything could be done and a kindly Sherriff’s deputy showed up within half an hour to pick the lock. You know you’re in a friendly place when the law-enforcement is happily helping you break into your car.

Ric’s niece brought her adorable son over for a visit during our stay. Josh and Si introduced him to wielding a light saber in the backyard heat.

One evening, the boys got to go see Cars 2 at the little movie theatre there in town – all by themselves. The Ritz is a cute little place run by a couple that Charlotte and Barney know from church and the lobby hosts a wonderful painting by the couple’s son. Who knows how many undiscovered treasures the small towns of America contain?

While the boys were watching the movie Charlotte and I took a stroll around the courthouse square. The layout is particularly striking and the town does a nice job of keeping things looking tidy around the edges in spite of the fact that small business of yesteryear are struggling to stay afloat.

The courthouse itself presents an identical façade from every direction, so there is no backside.

I think it’s a charming old building in an age when most county business can be conducted from a laptop.

Its crowning clock testifies to the fact that time marches on, past the days of such grand architectural detail in small towns.

Enormous flags were rippling in the breeze on each face of the building. At first I was annoyed that I couldn’t get a picture of the bare columns, but upon reflection I’m quite content with the photos as they are. A city that hangs such flags proclaims hope in the ongoing triumph of all that is good and glorious in America and I applaud.

Several monuments adorn the surrounding lawns. There is one dedicated to fallen men of each war to touch this place.

This one reminds me that I am in the Deep South, and makes me so thankful for the flags of fifty stars snapping in the background. As an outsider I cringe a bit at the rebel flag, especially when it’s displayed behind a gun rack in a pickup truck, but I marvel and rejoice that patriotism for our United States runs so deeply in a region where secessionism once ruled and that a monument like this can stand in peace after the outcome of such a brutal war. Only in America.

Amidst the other war monuments, one finds a unique artifact. Here is the inscription:

I patted a hand against this iron ball and found myself a bit in awe of the explosive power it must have taken to hurl such an object through the air. When I asked Charlotte for more details about how it came to sit on the Upson County Courthouse square she simply shrugged. I was hoping for a romantic local legend.

But, there it is.

And, time marches on.

As I retraced my steps from Georgia to Virginia on the next leg of my summer wanderings I stopped to photograph two other small-town courthouses that I passed on my way back to the interstate. These are the ones that just happened to be along my path, and I submit them to you now as evidence that Georgia really does have a corner on this particular brand of rural grandeur.

This is the Monroe County Courthouse in Forsyth, Georgia – simply gorgeous.

Can you picture the architect’s sketches of this clock tower? Maybe his daughter was looking over his shoulder, imagining herself on that balcony?

And, here you have the Jasper County Courthouse in Monticello, Georgia where there isn’t much of a square but the building is still impressive.

And, last but not least there was one more in Eatonton, the Putnam County Courthouse that I saw on the way in but missed on the way out thanks to a GPS which has no appreciation for scenic detours. Here is the photo from the Magistrate Court’s website though. I’m sure they won’t mind the positive publicity.

Now, I rest my case on courthouses and offer a hearty thanks to my mother and father in-law for the spot of tranquility in my summer travels!

Pullman to West Point 2011 (Part 2) – 8 Kids, 2 Dogs…

The next chapter of the moving adventure takes place at my brother’s house in Virginia and today happens to be his birthday, so I’ll set the stage by telling you a little bit about him.

He is a very gifted Senior Submarine Radio Chief, which means that he can execute and troubleshoot communications from beneath the ocean while my cell phone service is sketchy 30 miles north of New York City. If you met him you might think he can be heard from underwater because he never picked up on the concept of an “indoor voice” but in reality it’s because he is seriously smart and very good at what he does. In fact, he is like a Submarine Whisperer. He helps little attack vessels to express themselves from deep, dark depths.

Okay, maybe his job isn’t quite so touchy feely and if he ever reads this he will be shouting “Oh, my….…!” in his outdoor voice at about this point, so I’ll stop bragging on him and get back to what is relevant to my summer itinerary regarding my brother, and that is that he is a great guy, a great dad and….

…he has F-I-V-E children. The oldest is E-I-G-H-T. 8, 6, identical twin two-year olds, a 5 month-old and a dachshund named – get this – Sampson!

I love every one of them to pieces! They are seriously adorable, but when you add my three boys, my dog and factor in Rob’s version of an indoor voice, you get a lot of kids, a lot of noise and, not very many adults.

I would stop here and simply tell you which days I was at their house, but some of you have been asking to hear about “The Weekend” for which many titles have been suggested, to include “Lisa Plus Eight”, “Super N-Auntie” and “Adventures in Babysitting”. So here goes….

I am a master of bright ideas (my husband sometimes calls me a GFI Fairy), so it occurred to me before I even left Washington that Rob and Betsy might need a break – some couple time. So, I offered to watch all of the kids while they went away for a weekend. I even kind of hounded his wife, Betsy, whom I also love dearly, about my idea. I may have even said it would be a piece of cake because, although Ric would be long gone to West Point, my 13 and 11 and 9 year-olds would be a great help.

And, they were a great big help, but I ate the “piece of cake” part cold for dinner less than two hours after I saw Rob and Betsy out the door. The twins and the baby all did their big diaper jobs at the same time just as the enchiladas that my sweet little niece (the only girl in the bunch) had requested were coming out of the oven. Thankfully, JP is competent with oven mitts! I worked my way through about 82 baby wipes while he distributed enchiladas to the hungry throngs around the dining room table. It was kind of like the opening volley of a fireworks display though. After the initial burst, the explosions settled into a steady, pleasant rhythm and we actually had a very enjoyable weekend.

If you’re noticing the lack of pictures: it’s because all electronic devices were stowed in the overhead bins for this flight.

I think Rob and Betsy had a good time and I would happily do it again. Really. No shower all weekend, but my niece and I did manage to bake cookies so it was great.

Lest you start thinking I’m some sort of great unselfish person you should know that I am NOT, as evidenced by the fact that I took off for Georgia two days later and left my big hulking dog with them as if Betsy didn’t already have enough kid and dog to worry about. Then I came back, stayed a few more days and left him again to join Ric for 10 days in the Army lodge in New York where we’re still waiting on our Quarters. Apparently he’s been stealing waffles from toddlers while I’ve been away and surely he’s been finding terrifically inconvenient places to take his long naps. But, I am finally getting ready to drive back to Virginia this morning to pick him up and if all goes according to plan I will once again be captain of the Dog Breath Mobile on Thursday to get him back here and spend a night with him in our empty quarters before the movers bring our furniture on Friday morning.

I also want to say how much I truly enjoyed the few days I got to share with my sister-in-law. Of course the uninterrupted talks of days gone by were impossible in the midst of Todderdom, but I really enjoy her personality and company so even if we did just put out fires together is was a treasured part of this whole adventure. One night we even threw caution to the wind while Rob was underwater and stayed up until about 10:45 talking on the front porch with only mosquitoes and fireflies to eavesdrop! Heady stuff when there is such great potential for wee ones waking you in the middle of the night, but Ahhh, the joys of summer!

Here are all the kids.

Here’s why the big ones were holding the little ones!

Here they are in the water park they built in the back yard, which the younger ones were calling a “casino” after one too many commercials about all the fun to be had in casinos! We cleared up the vocabulary confusion pretty quickly but it was cute.

And, last but not least, a little bit of girl time with Pepto-Bismol pink polish and flower decals!

Pullman to West Point – 2011 (Stage 1)

Instead of heading directly to West Point this time, we started the move to New York with a straight shot to Virginia Beach, VA to see my brother’s family for a couple of days before Ric had to report.

The moving process started on June 6th which happened to be our twentieth wedding anniversary. The boys had gone to Spokane the prior evening so they wouldn’t have to sit in a house being packed and we started the day waiting for the packers to show up. We waited and waited. Finally Ric called the moving company, and to make a long story short – we had our anniversary to ourselves. A different team showed up the next day to get the job done. They packed on the 7th, loaded on the 8th and we left Pullman for Mom and Dad’s house so that we could pick up the boys and start our drive from “The Kan” the next morning.

Day One – June 9th – Spokane, WA to Gillette, WY

By 9:00am the state of Washington was behind us. Our first rest stop was in Idaho at an exit without facilities, which was fine for the boys and the dog. I enjoyed the fact that it was next to the river we’d been following.

Sure beats a truck stop!

Before lunch we had cleared the very pretty panhandle of Idaho. I especially like the town of Kellogg which is nestled into a valley at the base of the mountains just like a story book.

Then we began climbing the real mountains which are gorgeous, but when the speed limit set by reasonable people (not Oregonians) on an interstate highway drops to fifty-five in the middle of nowhere, you know you’re in for some curves. Montana lasts for a long time via I-90. Here are a couple of the highlights: In Butte there is clearly a Butte, and near Bozeman one learns that the naming of the Rocky Mountains was not based on poetic inspiration. It was very literal. The scenery made up for the fact that it was my turn to drive The Dog-Breath Mobile through the best of it. We arrived in Gillette with 11 hours down and 33 to go. Our arrival at The Settle Inn (which was very nice in spite of the corny name), was punctuated by a whopper of a thunderstorm.

Day 2 – June 10th – Gillette, WY to Council Bluffs, IA

Tourist activities are very limited with a 100-pound golden retriever in tow, but Mt. Rushmore seemed like a good idea in spite of my bad memories of the same scene with a freak cat ten years earlier. The day was beautiful.

You pass through this little tunnel on the way up to Mt. Rushmore. Very cool.

The dog couldn’t have cared less about Presidents. He wanted to keep track of his people and make sure he didn’t get left with the wrong set.

Yes – We took the obligatory picture! Surrounded by miles of incredible beauty we flocked like everyone else to the spot where men have made their mark on the landscape.

This is one of many views from the Mt. Rushmore parking area. There are layers and layer of ridges that make up the stunning Black Hills scenery, but there are probably a million more photos of those presidents than there are of the hills. I guess we have a hard time wrapping our minds around seeking out this kind of beauty without a reference point carved out by men as an anchor, and admittedly the presidents are much easier to capture in photos. Panoramas like this make me wish I was a better photographer and cause me to think that photography is absolutely pointless at the same time.

Most of the day was spent working our way through the rest of South Dakota, which was shockingly green. I had never seen it green before, it’s always been beige for me in the past, but this year has been weird for weather. What I did NOT enjoy in South Dakota were the billboards especially for Wall Drug. I refuse to ever stop at there. It is a matter of principal. I feel the same way about South of the Border on I-95 after you cross from North to South Carolina.

Late in the afternoon we turned south on I-29 headed for Council Bluffs which had an Inn that would take big dogs. The landscape had flattened and we had thunderheads to the east the whole way, which made the lighting of barns and fields to the west quite spectacular. Tidy rows of vegetation flashed by like machinery; so different from the fields I’d been swooning over for the last three years but very dramatic. Quaint farm houses and silos dotted our path and it’s a wonder I stayed on the road for gawking at them. In a hundred different places I had that same desire to be a great photographer yet a sense of futility about capturing anything so immense in two dimensions. That’s my fancy but very sincere way of saying: no good pictures of that stretch.

I tried a few from the car at 75 miles-per-hour with my phone but I was apparently holding it at an angle so the flatness of the land failed to come across.

The view straight out the windshield probably communicates that more appropriately in spite of the bugs.

Day 3 – June 11th – Council Bluff, IA to Mt. Vernon, IL

Ric and I got up the third morning feeling our age after two eleven-hour days of driving.

We continued down I-29 and witnessed the corresponding consequences of all the late-season green in South Dakota. Water was much higher everywhere than it should have been, especially along the river. Trees that looked pretty tall were half submerged and sections of interstate were diverted in several places. I had been puzzling the prior day over how water can find its way to where it needs to go when land is so flat. Apparently every depression in the landscape is fair game.

We passed by one of our old homes – Fort Leavenworth, KS from the other side of the Platte River and enjoyed a stretch of fairly familiar highway until we passed Kansas City.

The boys thought it was fun to see the arch in St. Louis and Ric and I were just glad to make it through that city’s seemingly eternal road construction gauntlet without any major delays.

Our major delay was yet to come, in the form of dog drama.

We stopped for our evening meal at a very clean diner with rows of gas pumps out front. The food was uninspired but passable and Jackson waited patiently in the shaded car. When we got ready to leave, we gave him his food and water and he seemed fine. However, when Ric shut the door and stepped over to say something to me in the other car, he panicked. He had panicked once before in his life – when his collar got caught on the dishwasher rack while he was trying to lick silverware as I loaded dishes. That time, he ran headlong for the door in terror with the rack still attached to his collar and dishes flying every direction. He also initiated a “fight or flight” response that is thankfully very rare. In clinical terms he “expressed his anal glands”. Cats can do this too. It is a spray of scented fluid designed to repel an attacker and although it didn’t phase the dishwasher rack, it sure repelled us. The smell is one you never forget. It was bad in our kitchen, very bad, but it was even worse in the confines of a vehicle. Thankfully, his own bed took the brunt of the outburst. We begged a black trash bag from that sterile diner to stuff the bed cover into and I stood in front of a rapt audience of fueling drivers wiping down Golden Retriever “tail feathers” with facial cleansing wipes from my cosmetics bag. Then it occurred to me to use some of my hair finishing spray to further mask the odor. It smells good and comes in a bright pink can which undoubtedly helped make it an entertaining encore for the facial wipes. Ric drove the next thirty miles of Interstate with the windows down while poor Josh and Si suffered in the back with the panting beast. Hopefully they aren’t scarred for life.

Scotts Bluff came at last and I gave the discombobulated dog got a bath in the hotel room tub – just what I wanted to do after a day of driving! Ric went to a nearby super store, bought pet odor remover and hosed down the inside of the van. That evening we lived with wet dog smell which is not fun, but it was better than the alternative.

Clean dog – still feeling a bit out of sorts, but he wasn’t alone!

Day 4 – June 11 –Mt. Vernon, IL to Charleston, WV

Driving was getting really old so we were open to diversions when we realized that we were passing close by Fort Boonsboro, KY! A Daniel Boone craze had swept through our house early in the homeschooling year as we were studying the settlement of the west. Our boys and the Sears kids were watching episodes of the old TV series as fast as they could devour them. We decided to stop and check it out.

Our boys, thinking how fun it would be to have J.T and Charley along to take the fort.

Inside workers were dressed in period costumes demonstrating what life might have been like back when…

The boys were especially taken with the blacksmith who using his time to make some sort of weapon for a friend of his. They probably wanted to make friends with him themselves when they heard that.

Of course the Wild West is now so settled that a dog can’t set foot where mountain men once ruled, and we weren’t taking any chances with leaving him alone. Therefore, I had to stay in the parking area with Jackson who was distraught over the disappearance of 80% of our party but mercifully not “panicked”.

Our hotel room that evening was a designated pet room as all of them had been, but the others had been very nice and clean smelling. This one wasn’t so I was very thankful that it was the last and I had no guilt about washing the dog bed cover in one of their washers. I have now vowed that if I can help it I will never have my hotel choices dictated by a dog again. I love my dog very much, but I have my limits.

Day 5 – June 13 – Charleston, WV – Virginia Beach, VA

Our final day of driving was blessedly uneventful. The morning stretch through West Virginia and the Virginia Highlands was beautiful with deciduous forests and bachelor buttons growing in the medians. Afternoon brought us into the flatness of the Virginia tidelands and eventually to my brother’s house….the next adventure!

I actually arrived in New York on July 1st after some further wanderings, so stay tuned for a the rest of the traveling story.

10 Years Ago – Last Time We Moved to West Point

I’m keeping notes on our current trip across the United States, which is going well and I will be sharing the details once we’ve arrived at my brother’s house and I’ve had a chance to process.

However, this is our second move from Pullman, Washington to West Point, NY and after the first one I wrote an email to friends and family to tell about the trip with my Mom, two boys and the gray cat. (Ric had gone ahead for training.) J.P. was three at the time, Josh was 16 months and I was twenty-nine for real that year. As far as I know, blogging hadn’t been invented but I saved the message which people thought was funny – like you laugh at videos of collapsing trampolines, I guess. I realize now that I had a tendency to try and put a better face on things at that stage in my life than I do now. So, here’s the story with a few editorial notes inserted in brackets below entries – otherwise it is exactly how I wrote it back then.

June 25th-July 2nd [2001] – Lisa and the boys in Spokane – We enjoyed a week of last visits with friends and family. We had an especially nice day in Clarkston with the Lindquist Great Grandparents. Lucas and Jeremiah got to spend lots of time together. Thursday afternoon Jeremiah split his forehead open on a rock when a toy bulldozer he was pushing got out of his control. Aunt Amanda and Grammy were on the scene and took him to the urgent-care clinic where he got 5 stitches put in.

[Traveling begins with stitches and all.]

July 3rd – [2001] Day 1 – Lisa, Karyn and the boys left Spokane at about noon and ended up in Bozeman, Montana. The scenery was beautiful. The children were wonderful in the car and we were excited about the trip. Ric officially started work by beginning the new instructor training course with the Chemistry department.

July 4th: [2001] Day 2 – The goal was to get to Mt. Rushmore for the night to watch fireworks, but that didn’t work out. The scenery was again beautiful, but the pace we would set was becoming clear – 375 miles per day was about all we could handle. We landed in Gillette, Wyoming for the night and enjoyed the best accommodations of our whole trip that night. Our room was on the ground floor, (much easier for Lisa the pack mule) and our door opened into the indoor courtyard including the pool and a piece of perfectly suited playground equipment for J&J to play on less than 20 feet from our room. We didn’t see fireworks, but we enjoyed some much-needed rest for us and release of energy for the boys.

July 5th: [2001] Day 3- We woke up and I took Jesse, the cat, to the veterinarian to get some antibiotics and have a wound on his head which had become infected and abscessed cleaned and drained. While I did that mom took Jeremiah to a clinic to have his stitches removed. Once that was all taken care of, we hit the road again planning to use Mt. Rushmore as our first rest stop of the day, but we ended up going to a place called “Bear Country U.S.A.” first. It was amazing – a drive-through zoo- with dozens of bears, elk, mountain lion, reindeer, etc… The boys loved it in spite of it being another 45 minutes in the car. Then we went on to Mt. Rushmore and realized while we were there that the engine needed oil. So, we stopped to get it checked in Rapid City – it was a very hot day and it was no fun to take the cat with us to lunch while the vehicle was being checked out. Once we hit the road again, we made it as far as Mitchell, South Dakota for the night.

[Ten years later I have to tell the rest of the story. That particular cat never had won a fight in his life but he decided to pick one right before we left on our trip. We heard all of the screaming, but our first inkling of the wound he incurred was while we were hauling suitcases into that Gillette hotel room. Then it became evident in a manner that I’m sure veterinarians can handle without losing their appetites, but Mom and I are not veterinarians. When we took him to one the next morning the solution was to shave a big patch on his head and leave a gaping hole in his flesh exposed to the air to heal. He looked – and acted – like something from a freak show for the rest of the trip.

Just wanted you to imagine that as you picture us “taking the cat to lunch”, but again, there’s more to the story. The Jeep was at a Jiffy Lube a few blocks of concrete oven away from a grocery store which was our only option for food. Obviously said cat couldn’t go in, so Mom sat on a mercifully placed bench in the airlock breezeway at the front of the store with him and Josh in the stroller while I took JP and a grocery cart into the real air conditioning. I will confess ten years later and a safe distance from my mother that I took my sweet time while she endured the parade of grocery shoppers filing past trying not to stare at the freak-show cat or gag on the raging diaper odor that began billowing forth the minute I was out of shouting distance with the diaper bag. Ironically the only picture I could find of the late Gray Gentleman shows him sleeping on a diaper-changing table – mocking my mother from his grave. ]

July 6, – [2001] Day 4 – Driving was getting pretty old and the scenery was less captivating than it had been up to that point. The boys were still being incredibly good in the car. They didn’t fuss, argue, whine or give us a hard time at any point during the trip. We counted this as a huge answer to prayer. We ended the day in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and stayed at a hotel in the middle of the river. After dinner we were about to take the boys swimming when Jeremiah crashed into the hotel room table and re-opened his head wound. It wouldn’t stop bleeding and kept swelling, so we got to visit another urgent-care clinic. The doctor pieced him back together with steri-strips, and told us he would end up with a very ugly scar because there was no way the scar tissue that had already formed would heal nicely where it had been torn loose along one side. Worst of all for Jeremiah was the fact that the doctor placed a moratorium on swimming for the rest of the trip.

July 7 – [2001] Day 5 – Really getting tired of hotel rooms, rest stops and driving by this point, but the boys were still behaving marvelously. We were rolling along nicely —-until Chicago. We spent two hours to go 8 miles on the interstate. That deflated morale and set us back considerably time wise, so we made it to Elkart, Indiana and called is a night. We realized at that point that all hope of making it a six-day trip needed to be abandoned.

[Another 10-years-later note: I think this was the night we decided eating a real dinner in the hotel’s restaurant would be a good idea. It wasn’t. Stemware, toddlers, frazzled grandmother, and a dead-tired mom didn’t mix well. JP at one point starting rocking his head back and forth repeating “It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay…” It was very sad.]

July 8 – [2001] Day 6 – The scenery started improving considerably and aside from a long traffic jam in the-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, we made really good progress. We stayed at the lousiest hotel of the trip that night in DuBois, Pennsylvania, but at least the room was right next the entrance and our parking lot, so Lisa the mule, was spared some aggravation.

July 9 – [2001] Day 7 – The home stretch was beautiful and as smooth as silk. [FF 10 Yrs….Pennsylvania really was pretty – I missed it in our cut south during this trip but Kentucky was good deciduous-forest consolation. Anyway…] We made it to the Garrett’s house by about 3:00pm.

[Final Editing Note: At about 3:35 we tried to put the boys back into the car to go about a mile and a half up the hill to see the quarters we would be living in and we finally got our first temper tantrum of the trip. Josh considered the mission we’d been working on all week accomplished. We were at West Point, and he wasn’t getting back in the car without a fight. He is proud to this day of that line he drew in the sand.]

Farewell to America’s Tuscany

Our family moved to The Palouse a few weeks after a stay in Tuscany and the resemblance struck me immediately. I wasn’t the first to notice but I think this area is worthy of one more nod to its uncultured beauty before I leave it behind.

Tuscany’s natural sensuousness was cultivated into worldly beauty by men who were given to building castles and walls atop her shapely hills. Meanwhile, her twin sister, The Palouse, lolled away the days of knights and armor, under the feet of men who roamed her curves barely leaving a trace. A sheet from the same rippling canvas that was decorated into rustic sumptuousness by the Etruscans and Romans was left unadorned by the Palouse and Nez Pearce. Surely these tribes would smile in their graves if they could know how they managed to frustrate lucrative prospects for tourism by leaving no monuments for the offspring of their invaders to exploit.

Settlers with imagination left wonderful barns but they fall into ruin with a rapidity unknown to stone castles.

One catches a hint of what might have been by squinting at the turrets of Thompson Hall or the clock tower at WSU…

But, imagine the winding assent to Steptoe Butte culminating in the keep of a stately castle with dusty corners and a great hall lit through stained glass or Kamiak crowned with crenulated walls.

Picture Pullman, sporting an old city gate where a drawbridge once straddled the river or Colfax with cobblestone streets. (Certainly the speed limit is modest enough for such a surface even today.)

Such relics from the past would have given rise to bustling inns and cafés with bright awnings. Tourists with cameras strung around their necks would have flocked here had its earliest inhabitants not been so inclined to live without a footprint before it was vogue. Admittedly, Spokane doesn’t have the same compatible draw that Florence lends to Tuscany and Lewiston isn’t Rome, but these cities languish in obscurity only for the same want of ancient ambitions that has kept The Palouse from the fame her sister has acquired.

I for one am glad though that The Palouse saved herself for the unpretentious. The sister reared in simplicity has the early morning kind of beauty that her twin can no longer undress to the likeness of.

This land is supple and curvy in so many directions. It will not be farmed in flat furrows like its mid-west cousins. It lifts up and pulls down the man who would till its black soil into a golden glow and it stands ready to turn him over should his eye stray.

In the spring garlands of wildflowers are slung whimsically atop a rolling sea of green so vibrant it seems unreal. Pinks and blues are singled out for recognition as the sun cuts its eyes their direction in advance of its full summer gaze.

By July, the sun is focused with such intensity that only shades of red and gold are fully equal to meeting its gaze.

Winter brings ambling blankets of fog that veil the curves in layers of mystery, jealously forcing the sun to peek in around the edges. Snow takes on a new kind of splendor with these hills to aid in the formation of grand drifts.

The gray of winter lingers too long for my taste, but once it gives way to green at last I am smitten again. Where else do you find mile upon rolling mile of grass this green?

It doesn’t stay this this color for long though so I remain loyal at heart to the year-round greens that I grew up with in Western Oregon. Yet, it is impossible not to have your eye turned by this region especially when it is changing clothes in the spring and the fall. To leave in November or February would have been like saying farewell to a friend who has outstayed her welcome, but leaving in the splendor of spring gives me a pang of longing to come back here again before I am even gone.

But, for all that I love about the hills…

The ties I feel to this landscape pale in comparison to the bond I feel for the people I love who have roots established here. Our church family will remain after we go and they will draw me back here on Sundays whenever I visit my family in The Palouse’s answer to Florence. I will miss the distant scenery from my kitchen window, but not as much as I will miss the neighbors in the houses I have to look over to see it. The grand open views I pass on the way to Kate’s or Molly’s will fade long before the pleasant reminiscence of our hours together.

Goodbyes are the bane of the nomadic life. The last days in a joyful place produce an ache that forces me to stifle impulsive resolutions that I will never make new friends and never care about people that I will have to move away from again. But, the joys outweigh the pain and I wouldn’t trade digging deep in each new spot for the ease it might bring to the final stretch in a temporary home. To be a part of so many lives is a blessing I cherish in spite of the tears on my cheeks as I write this final paragraph.

To my friends and church family on The Palouse: I know from experience how much I will miss you. Even if we don’t keep in touch, you will come to mind in future years and bring a smile to my face. May God richly bless you in Christ!


The photos in this post were my favorites from the web mixed in with a few of my own and two taken by my dear friend Kate Gross. The ones that I found on the web will take you back to their home sites if you click on them. I heartily encourage you to check out the beautiful portfolios they come from, especially and

Here are some more spectacular pictures of the Palouse that I did not include out of respect for the stated policy on the website, but they are worth the cyber field trip, not to mention the photo tips from the blog….

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