Category Archives: Daily Thoughts

Summer Highlights

For our anniversary, my husband gave me a very nice digital camera.  I put it to good use this summer during my travels.  It is so enjoyable to look back through photos and remember special moments.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Taking photos at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

Photographing scenery at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

A gorgeous metal sculpture at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

A gorgeous metal sculpture  of a pierced hand with butterfly resting on the finger; Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

 

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

 

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of stones at a family gold claim.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The famous Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, South Dakota.

 

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride.

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride is very important.

 

Our first apple tree, which gave us five incredible apples this summer!

Our first apple tree gave us five incredible tasting apples this summer!

 

My daughter watching festivities on the Fourth of July.

Watching festivities at the Junction City Fourth of July carnival.

 

Fishing with Daddy in Texas.

Fishing with Daddy for perch on Horseshoe Bay in Marble Falls, Texas.

 

Getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

My sister getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

At the Chipmunk Village.

Relaxing at the Chipmunk Village on the family gold claim.

 

My son, feeling on top of the world.

My son, feeling on top of the world.

 

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

A photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

A fantastic photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

 

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

I hope that you all had a memorable summer, and that your autumn is crisp and refreshing!

~G

 

 

 

 

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More Precious Than Gold

During my trip to South Dakota, I spent a fantastic afternoon with my family on one of our Black Hills mineral claims.  Named The Razzamatazz after my parents’ dog, the claim offered easy dirt road access and a gorgeous view of both hills and meadows.  We packed enough provisions for a day of exploration and set out through the hills, singing and chattering happily.

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of boulders left over from past mining attempts.

After turning onto the muddy dirt track vaguely marking out a path, we spooked a doe, who melted into the trees.  A huge family of turkeys strutted across  the trail and crouched in the tall grass, eyeing us suspiciously.   We rolled down the window and yelled “Gobble, gobble!  Gobble, gobble!” Dad pointed out pastel wildflowers and we breathed in the piney scent around us.  After parking under the shade of a huge spruce, we unloaded and prepared to hike up a steep ridge so Dad could show off what he had aptly named The Hole.  He wanted a volunteer to go into The Hole, and had brought along rope to pull the volunteer back out, but the majority ruled that this sounded like a terrible idea.  Instead, my sister and son threw rocks into its never-ending darkness while I yelled at them to keep away from the crumpling edge: “Get your damn ass away from that hole!”

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

Raz, for whom The Razzamatazz claim is named, romping through the grass.

After the excitement and danger of The Hole wore off, we started looking for interesting rocks to take home.  Dad pointed out characteristics indicating which rocks were more likely to contain veins of gold, and showed us iron pyrite sticking out of pink quartz.  The claim we were exploring had immense reserves of schist and quartz, and had been mined in years past.  We were very likely standing on top of a huge vein of priceless minerals and gold, just deep enough to be beyond reach.  Dad believes there is more than we can imagine, but it would be extremely difficult to extract without heavy machinery and crates of explosives.

We didn’t see any obvious veins of gold in the boulders we pulled from the ground, so my father and sister hiked further up the ridge to get a view of Dad’s favorite meadow.  I helped my mother and son transport arm loads of pink and white quartz back to my SUV.  Once back at the car, we decided to take a lunch break.  I kept my eye out for mountain lions, or “MLs”, as my son calls them, while chewing my steak and red onion sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise.  It was a quiet afternoon, but on our way down the ridge we had spotted predator scat, and an animal was making faint noises in the distance.  My father and sister came back down from the ridge with tales of a colossal belt of quartz that had been pushed out of the ground by massive tree roots.  Dad was thrilled about this discovery and planned to return for more investigating.

Sword fighting on the claim.

Sword fighting on the claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

We stopped at Dad’s camper, Chipmunk Village, as he calls it, because no matter where he parks, the camper attracts hordes of the pernicious creatures.  I needed to pick up camping gear belonging to me and my husband so we could outfit our camper (which we haven’t yet purchased).  In no hurry to leave the hills, we wandered around a field surrounding the camper and reminisced about family camp-outs from decades ago.  My sister and son fought a protracted battle over a piece of braided grass.  Mom drop kicked conks while Dad and I hauled a footlocker and folding table out of the camper.  We let the late afternoon sun seep into our bones and the smell of Black Hills Spruce trees envelope us in hazy perfume.

Nothing mattered but the feeling we felt at that moment.  We had no cell phone service and no way to get updates from the world.  For the time being, we weren’t affected by ISIS terror threats, protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Robin Williams, the spread of the Ebola virus, or the stacks of bills piling up in our respective homes.  We just wanted to play out a daydream, much like my childhood full of summers camping out in pristine Idaho forests.

When it was time to go back to the real world, I don’t think that any of us really wanted to go back.  We had soaked up the sun, the smell of dry pine needles, and the memories of living a simple life, spending entire summers embracing the wilderness.  We wanted to stay in the forest, but we were out of water and food, it was time to go back, cook a big dinner, smile at all the photos we had taken, and fall asleep dreaming the dreams of children: a sunny day, a grassy field, a muddy hole and a rock perhaps hiding a sliver of gold.  We were satisfied with our consolation prize — knowing we could walk away cherishing the memory of a day that we stood on top of a priceless vein of gold that we might never possess, because we had something much more valuable: family.

~G

At the Chipmunk Village.

At the Chipmunk Village.

 

 

 

“Fifty One”!

1-BeeI  get such a kick out of being able to track the location, by country, from which readers view my blog in the Status Page!  What a fun application to keep a blogger motivated!  The country and flag is displayed for the viewing day, allowing me to “travel” the world!  I always wonder what viewers from other countries find most interesting about my posts.  Since starting the blog in early October, I have collected views from 51 foreign countries.  But why not stop at 50, or even 25?  Why go to Number 51?  Well, that is my magic number.  When I enlisted in the South Dakota Army National Guard, I signed on as a 51 Tango (a land surveyor).  And that is how I met my husband, also a 51 Tango.  Ever since, 51 has been my “lucky” number.  Now that I have reached 51 countries it is time to celebrate!  Perhaps by drinking margaritas in beautiful San Antonio…

 Some of my favorite moments over the past nine months of blogging:

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Visiting the Bull Head at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

1.  Canada

2.  Holland

3.  Italy

4.  Indonesia

5.  Japan

6.  Sweden

7.  Poland

8.  United Kingdom

9.  Jamaica

10.  Australia

11.  Germany

 

A new feathered friend.

A new feathered friend, Henya the Cinnamon Queen.

12.  Saudi Arabia

13.  Spain

14.  Kuwait

15.  Serbia 

16.  Uzbekistan

17.  Luxembourg

18.  Netherlands

19.  France

20. Switzerland

21. Korea

22. Iraq

 

Fishing at Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota.

Fishing at Lake Kampeska, Watertown, South Dakota.

23. New Zealand

24. United Arab Emirates

25. South Africa

26. Slovenia

27. Norway

28. Hungary

29. Kyrgyzstan

30. Taiwan

31. India

 

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project.  I retain no rights.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project. I retain no rights.

32. Philippines

33. Austria

34. Ireland

35. Brazil

36. Turkey

37. Ecuador

38. Estonia

39. Colombia

40. Peru

41. Russian Federation

42. Bangladesh

43. Greece

 

Ross the Dog being ridiculous with his new toy sheep.

Ross the Dog being ridiculous with his new toy sheep.

44. Denmark

45. Singapore

46. Portugal

47.  Mexico

48. Vietnam

49. Belgium

50. Mauritius

51. Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Things Got a Little Weird…

A trip to South Dakota usually involves some level of weirdness.  My family is pretty eccentric.  We do things differently and while it’s easy to predict that there will be weirdness happening during a visit back home, we just don’t know exactly what the weirdness will be.  So, I have compiled a list of  bizarre happenings during this year’s trip to South Dakota.

5.  Being on a week-long Prednisone regimen as a migraine preventative during the trip.  Nothing inherently strange about this, except that the major side effect was my insatiable urge to break into spontaneous song and dance in public locations, much like the Leland Palmer character in Twin Peaks.  I performed ABBA’s Dancing Queen using over-sized salt shakers and crispy corn dogs as microphones in roadside restaurants, and shimmied down grocery store aisles to Prince’s Little Red Corvette, much to the mortification of my children.  I’m fine now, absolutely NO urge to sing or dance now that the Prednisone is safely out of my system.

4.  Speaking of Twin Peaks: this totally random and un-staged reference to the show mesmerized me  in the guest room at my parents’ place.

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Paging Killer Bob…

3.  Speaking of random: A visit to the Porter Sculpture Park outside of Montrose, South Dakota.  The sculpture park is a remnant from my childhood.  Originally, sculptures were dreamed up and assembled in St. Lawrence, South Dakota.  As a small child, I would walk the two or three blocks on a loose gravel road from my grandparents’ house to the Porter workshop to stare in wonder at skeletal dragons delicately sniffing daisies and giant goldfish escaping a massive silver bowl.

 

IMG_0088My favorite was always The Ballerina, a naked woman made of tiny metal tiles, kneeling on a platform, scooping up some of her loose tiles with a little broom and dustpan.  There is something both wistful and majestic about her, like she is mourning her loose tiles.  Seeing her on the vast South Dakota prairie was incredible.

We also looked at the giant Bull Head, an amazing structure that hides some rather weird and mystical secrets inside.  Bats, snakes, and demons are assembled inside the enormous structure.  My husband commented as we strolled away, “Does it strike you as a bit Satanic?”  The artist is an interesting fellow — friendly and all about providing tourists with an unusual experience.  He accused my husband of being a Canadian when Van turned down a complimentary post tour Hershey’s Kiss, and he offered to perform a Gypsy blessing on our SUV.  It was the best tourist attraction we’ve ever visited!

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The Bull Head monument at the Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD.

2.  Driving across a surreal South Dakota prairie, post October 2013 Blizzard.  I embraced the opportunity to spend time on some of South Dakota’s less known highways and found myself in areas devastated by last October’s blizzard, which killed tens of thousands of cattle.  I was simply in awe of what the weather left behind.  Instead of clear evidence of the devastation and death, there was nothing but rolling plain upon rolling plain of emerald green, yardstick tall grass, the likes of which I had never seen on the prairie in my years of living in South Dakota.  The cattle that had survived looked fat and slick as they grazed next to plump antelope.  Horses were up to their bellies in grasses, and they appeared to be swimming as they loped across pastures swaying like water.  The killing blizzard and harsh winter with heavy, lasting snows had left an abundance of  food and energy on the prairie for all that had survived, with no mention or apology for the price that had been paid for the shining beauty rolling before us.  It was a strange feeling to know and understand the harshness of the land.

1.  An early Father’s Day gift for Dad: a visit from the American Pickers!  Okay, so it wasn’t the actual Pickers, and I have no real proof of this happening.  But why would I make this up?  So a producer from the show American Pickers contacted me because last year I signed my parents up for a visit (you can do that on the show’s Website).  My parents are hoarders and they live in an 80 year old school = perfect material for the show.  Anyway, a producer from the show contacted me and said he wanted to visit the school to see what Dad had available for the guys to *pick*.  So, using my natural charm and communication skills, I did what I could to make things happen, and the crew (not the actual Pickers – sorry, I realize this is not as cool as I want it to sound) came to scope out the school and interview Dad.  I wasn’t actually there at the time.  I have no proof to back up my story.  I have nothing to indicate that anything exciting even happened, but Dad was really happy that he got to meet a friendly T.V. producer, give a tour of the school, and possibly have a return visit from the Pickers.  It made his day.

And these still weren’t the weirdest things that have ever happened during a trip to South Dakota.

— G

 

 

 

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No More School! No More Work!

Or should I say, “no more work for which I shall get paid!”  I will still be doing regular Mom duties (chef, chauffeur, psychologist, play therapist, librarian, janitor, mechanic, tour guide, entertainment coordinator, nutritionist, and matriarch, of course).  But for the summer I am done being an education professional.  It feels bittersweet.

A peacock at the zoo.  Picture taken by my student.

A peacock at the zoo. Picture taken by my student during the field trip.

Today I was definitely ready for summer vacation.  Hell, I was ready for two months ago, shortly after I started working full time.  I got sick, really sick, and haven’t recovered.  So for me, a long rest — or what I imagine could be a long rest — might put me back on my feet for the next school year.  Just making it day to day seemed impossible, and with less than one month of school remaining, I managed to catch a nasty stomach flu and then develop bronchitis, which persists even as I type.  Today as I helped the children pack their backpacks one last time, I felt a mix of relief and sadness.  I desperately need to rest and regain my strength, but I will miss not seeing “my kids” every day.

The best possible consolation came as the class filed out the door.  My student, the one I had been hired to work with, turned and hugged me fiercely and said “Thanks Mrs. Van Delist!  I love you!”

Even if I never go back to work at the school, I can take that memory with me forever and be satisfied that I did my best job there.

— G

One Year Gluten Free

1-Rose 2While glancing at my day planner to get a handle on the week ahead, I noticed that I have gone one year without eating gluten.  Months ago I jotted down a reminder note at the beginning of this week to mark the accomplishment.  This is kind of a coincidence, because just yesterday I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking of going off my diet, “just because”.  He gently encouraged me to stick with it.  This is why.

Since giving up gluten, I no longer have crippling abdominal cramps.  I feel more energetic in the afternoons (most days) and I sleep better during the nights.  I don’t wake up feeling nauseated in the morning; I have an appetite and actually want to eat breakfast right away.  Then I want to go to work instead of lie back down like in the bad old days.  My skin doesn’t break out anymore and I don’t  get bloated for no good reason.  My husband loves that I am feeling better and more energetic, and regardless of his opinion about gluten, he wants me to be healthy and happy.

“I think you should wait.” his words surprised me at first but I understood his concern.  Sometimes it’s easy to give up on something we’ve been doing for a long time when we forget why we’re doing it.  I had to remind myself what it was that put me on the diet in the first place.  I’d lost sight of my reason for even being on the diet, and after watching other people enjoy their cake, I wanted mine!

So I remembered the many night school Accounting classes when I had to excuse myself and run to the bathroom because my stomach cramps were excruciating.  I remembered  dropping my kids off at school morning after morning and then coming home to curl up on the couch with dry toast and tea because I felt too sick to eat anything else.  I remembered a life of not feeling well enough to do anything before 1:00 P.M. and never having enough energy to really get enough accomplished.  This went on for years.  I asked myself if I was ready to risk going back to that.

This afternoon we had a celebration of sorts.  Close friends came over for a feast and we celebrated friendship.  We celebrated my husband’s prowess making homemade foods.  He had made much of the meal himself: sourdough hotdog buns, sauerkraut, pickled eggs, and five different kinds of smoked and barbecued sausages!   We celebrated the Army life — where we are now and where we may go.  And we celebrated dedication:  a concept that improves quality of life in ways that we didn’t expect but fully appreciate.  I could see how this had worked with my diet over the last year.

I know my husband is right.  Now is not the time to give up.  Not yet.  There is still much to learn, and more celebrations ahead.

— G

Time to celebrate! One year gluten free!

Time to celebrate! One year gluten free!

 

 

 

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Change of Command

Two things have been preoccupying me lately: Army farewells and wardrobe dilemmas.  After a good run, my husband will soon relinquish his company to a new commander during a change of command ceremony.  He has innumerable tasks to attend to in preparation, but there isn’t much for me to do except choose one pretty outfit to wear to the ceremony.  The stress is unbearable!

A pile of dresses with vibrant patterns.  Which do I choose?

A pile of dresses with vibrant patterns. Which do I choose?

Most of my nice dresses don’t fit anymore because I (accidentally) lost some extra pounds, and now they hang off my shoulders like shapeless, circus-y potato sacks.  I was tempted to order a nice pair of shiny pants from J. Crew and wear them with a little wool jacket.  It will be chilly in February and the Kansas wind is notorious for blowing skirts in embarrassing directions, so pants are a wise decision.  Of course, I got distracted with work, children, and everything that fills the mind of a housewife, and I forgot to order them.  Now I am back to staring into my closet, wondering if I can pin anything into a respectable shape and cover it with my wool jacket.  Agonizing over what to wear brings to mind memories of past ceremonies and events attended, the outfits and costumes I painstakingly assembled or just threw together, the revelry of friendship, and the pain of saying goodbye.  For a military spouse, choosing an outfit for a special occasion is bound to make dormant memories spring back to life.

Coming to Kansas held promises of new adventures, but I was definitely nervous about interacting with other Army spouses.  I’d previously had little exposure to them, and with my only background knowledge coming from a few episodes of ‘Army Wives‘ I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It didn’t take long to realize I had stumbled upon the Dream Team of spouses in my husband’s organization.  After getting to know several of them, I was enthusiastic to be involved in their community events, fundraisers, and social gatherings.  My husband had no qualms about volunteering me, and by the time he took charge of the company, I was slated to be the Family Readiness Group Leader, even though I had no inkling what the responsibilities would entail.  I learned that the best way to figure out anything in the organization was to dive in, ask many questions, and above all else, be myself.  I was grateful to learn that the spouses in advisory positions were not judgmental, and that they encouraged individuality.  I knew immediately that this organization would be a perfect place to learn, grow and excel!

Not realizing what I had discovered, my husband was more cautious.  When we attended our first social event, a semiformal fundraiser, he insisted that I conceal all cleavage by taping my low cut dress at a severely modest angle on my decolletage, and by wearing a shawl so as not to give the impression that I was a street walker.  Incensed at his lack of trust in my judgment, I nonetheless compromised and taped myself into my dress.  But I refused to wear a shawl! I told him that I knew the other spouses would be wearing the same type of low cut dress, but he countered with “I just think you should dress more conservatively because I don’t know how my boss will react if you have cleavage flying everywhere.”   When we arrived at the fundraiser, I smirked in self satisfaction while he gaped at the throngs of heaving bosoms and short hemmed thighs shimmying around the conference room.  “I told you so,” I seethed, “and this tape is giving me a rash!”  Since then, no matter how emphatically he argues the virtues of bland attire, I refuse to dress “conservatively” for any Army function, with one exception where I ended up dressed like a Nancy Reagan stunt double.  Note to self: remove all shoulder pads from blazers and avoid wearing hair in a pompadour from now on!

A dress with pockets is a brilliant investment!

A dress with pockets is a brilliant investment!

Once I found myself in a group of spouses who would not pass judgment on me for my background, beliefs, point of view, and yes, choice of clothing/questionable fashion sense, I became much more comfortable just being myself.  This opened up a world of possibility for my previously boring wardrobe.  I began to courageously show up at ceremonies in unconventional outfits.  I attended the change of command ceremony for our beloved Battalion Commander in a seizure inducing psychedelic flower printed Cynthia Rowley sundress (complete with pockets), fantastic paisley fishnet hosiery from Missoni, and little black stiletto boots.    I thought my husband would pretend he didn’t know me out of embarrassment, but the Battalion Commander’s wife was tickled; I did it for her anyway.  Life is too short to wear clothing that makes you feel stuffy, especially when attending ceremonies where all you want to do is cry your eyes out while saying farewell to the people you adore!  You might as well be happy with your clothing.

Two dresses: one from when my husband took command and one from when he came home from Afghanistan.  Apparently I have a thing for floral prints.

Two dresses: one from when my husband took command and one from when he came home from Afghanistan. Apparently I have a thing for floral prints.

I probably won’t go overboard for my husband’s change of command.  Even though this ceremony will pay homage to a period of time when his Command Team (which includes me) held the unit together through teamwork, leadership, and love, it isn’t all about me and my fabulous outfit.  But it is a little about me and my fabulous outfit…As the commander’s spouse I will be a representation of the pride invested by Army families when we send our loved ones to serve.  So I really should be dressed appropriately, perhaps a little triumphantly, in clothing I love, to show I am excited and proud that my Command Team is passing the torch of a fine organization.  A well put-together ensemble can go a long way in translating such noble sentiments.

But it also isn’t a fashion show, and my knees have been hurting lately (and it might be icy) so the stilettos will stay at home, and I will probably opt for something more conservative, like my husband originally asked for when we attended our very first event at Fort Riley.  He deserves a little compliance on my part since the ceremony is mostly about him.  I do have a delightful little dress with a flying bird print, and if I pull it off right, I can sneak in “conservative” zippered motorcycle pants and low heeled boots without looking like a middle-aged Miley Cyrus wannabe…

Always Reliable, Always Professional!

— G

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