Sunday, August 30, 2009

Musings from the deck

One of the joys of living in Idaho is that things start to cool off in late summer. Yes, the sun is intense and can be very hot, but the air is dry and as soon as the sun goes down, it becomes quite cool. So, here it is late August and I’m sitting on my deck at 4:00 in the afternoon. The sun is warm but the breeze has been cool all day, and when the sun goes down it will be cooler still.

I love my deck, ramshackle as it is these days. It desperately wants paint, for one thing. Worse, some of the boards really HAVE to be replaced – this is one of the many projects that will have to be done before we can sell this place and move onto some acreage outside of town.

So, on to some musings about life (from the deck, as I write this).

The fun:
Last night we went to a minor league baseball game in Idaho Falls (which is about an hour from us). I haven’t been to a live baseball game since the early 80s (the one and only time I went to Yankee Stadium). I used to like watching pro baseball on TV, until the media decided that their preferred filler shots were close-ups of the players in the dugout, spitting enormous streams of tobacco-colored saliva and scratching places that shouldn’t be scratched in public. Yuk. I stopped watching pro baseball a few years ago because it was so gross it distracted from the game itself.

I didn’t realize we had a minor league team nearby, so when one of our kids called and asked if we wanted to go, we were excited! The team is the Chukars, which, in real life, is some kind of bird, apparently. Unfortunate name.

At $6.50 a seat, the game provides a relatively inexpensive evening for a family. The crowd is nice and the playing is fun to watch. They cater to families – there are many fun contests and activities that go on during the game. The mascot comes around and greets the kids (not my grandson, though – he thinks the feathered mascot is ‘creepy’). And it’s just truly relaxing to sit in the bleachers on a late summer evening. We lost, but who cares? The fun was in being together and watching the game live.

The ballpark even has an organist still, who duly played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. My husband looked at me as we sang along and swayed from side to side, and said, “Is this a tradition?” I smiled. He didn't grow up watching the game on TV, as I did, and doesn't remember the flourishes and embellishments that organists provided to the games.

The awe:
I never cease to be amazed at the way God works. This morning one of the keys on the church’s electronic keyboard broke as I was practicing for this morning’s service. The spring action of the key, specifically, is what broke: I pounded it down with my thumb and it never came up. In and of itself, everything else was still workable, and all I had to do was move my chord phrasings to other keys in order to do the music – a very simple fix. But it rattled me to see that pathetic G key lying, as it were, on its back with its little legs in the air. My friend and colleague whispered “key killer, key killer, key killer” as I fretted over it. He’s such a comfort.

Anyway, I ended up struggling for each and every note that I played during the service, I swear. Felt like I’d lose my place if my attention wandered for even a split second. Occasionally found myself wondering how to actually play the next chord that was coming up on the chart. It was a real effort, this morning, to do something that I usually find both enjoyable and relatively easy.

Thank God for the “Holy Spirit Filter.” That’s the filter that causes people to hear good music when, in fact, the musician knows it ain’t so.

Not to cast any aspersions on my colleague – he played well, as he always does. But I felt like things behind the keyboard went badly. And yet, more people raised holy hands in praise than I usually see out there. And more than one person came up to me later and said that I play the keyboard well. Huh? If they only knew that the Holy Spirit had spread His very own filter between us this day! They heard what God intended at their end, even if I couldn’t quite play it at mine.

So, I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned,
In awe of the One who made it all.
I’ll stand, my soul, Lord, to you surrendered,
All I have is Yours.

- Catherine

Friday, August 28, 2009


One of the old homes in Virginia City

Day 6 – our last full day – was cool and rainy all day, without any break. No time on the lake, which was disappointing, but only mildly so. “Hanging out” is the name of the game, and that’s what we did. Watched movies, read books, played games. Talked. Still a good day, when all was said and done.

We headed home on Day 7, starting out around 11:00 in the morning. Another smooth travel day, and we were home in plenty of time to unpack the RV and get it cleaned up.

I never tire of this view.

At one point during the week, Tim started talking about maybe going to the Oregon coast next summer. Doug and I looked at him as though he had three heads. Next year we go back to the lake. Period.

The view across the Madison Valley

And now, back to real life. Thanks for reading!

- Catherine

I just loved this bench on the side of a weather-worn building in Virginia City

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vacation Part 5

Day 5
Today we drove over to Virginia City (Montana), which is a restored western town located about 55 miles from where we are camping. Virginia City’s history is quintessential Wild West -- founded from a gold mine, with plenty of outlaws and vigilante violence. We took a 35-minute tour on an old fire truck, which gave us the opportunity to get a great overview of the town’s layout and history. We learned that gold was selling at $16 per ounce in the 1860s and that the Chinese laundry owners would sift the used wash water for gold dust after they had washed the miners clothes.

After the fire truck tour, we walked the boardwalks of Main Street, which is still the only paved road in town; if you don’t live on Main Street, you live on a dirt road in Virginia City (your street has a name and a modern street sign – but it ain’t paved). The old stores all have false fronts, which I learned was a way to make a town look bigger to outsiders.

The local outlaws were called “Road Agents” and there were 100 murders in Virginia City the very first winter of the town’s existence. Eventually, the local Masonic Lodge members took it upon themselves to rid the town of the road agents, and 22 road agents were hanged in one year, five of them in one day. Most of the outlaws were buried above the town, on Boot Hill – so named because these men were buried with their boots on.

The town museum has a preserved club foot from one of those road agents.

Of course, we had to go see it.


While in Virginia City, we had our “old time” photograph taken, and we are now the proud owners of a portrait of the four of us as a Wild West, gun-slingin’ family. (Yes, Hank is in the photo, but, absent opposable thumbs, he is not holding a gun.)

We got back to our camper around 5:30 p.m. Turns out we didn’t miss anything on the lake – because, although sunny, the day was too cool and breezy to do much swimming. (And it’s August, for Pete’s sake!) Tomorrow is our last full day here, so we hope for hot sunshine and a calm day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation Part 4

Day 4
A huge thunderstorm last night and the air is much fresher today. One clap actually shook the camper, waking me and worrying our dog (Hank hates thunderstorms). Lightening flashed for quite a while, but there were no more close thunder claps, thank goodness. It poured for a goodly amount of time, soaking Luci and the boys in their tents, unfortunately. Everyone was a bit tired this morning.

But, with the fresher air came some glorious weather – so we got some float time today – yay! The sun was hot and the water was beautiful.

Luci and the boys left mid-afternoon and we three are alone (well, we four, if you count the dog).

Yesterday’s mighty wind returned even stronger around 5:30 today, so we are back inside to relax with our laptops and movies. I like this summer living in our RV in this campground, with the lake outside my windows and the pine trees towering overhead. It’s a bit like having a cabin on a lake. The vacation isn’t so much about the camping as it is about the lake and relaxing; the RV is how we manage to have a lake vacation. We spend the day in our swimsuits and the evenings in our pajamas.

Speaking of pajamas, tonight the entire campground was given the opportunity to see our pajamas. Remember that wind? I looked down the hill and saw our raft and tubes floating in the lake, having blown off the shore from the sheltered area where we’d stowed them for the night. We sprinted down the hill through the trees, running pell mell along the shore to retrieve our stuff – which, thankfully, was being blown in the direction of the land and not out into the middle of the lake. With the wind absolutely roaring around us, we trussed up everything even more tightly than before and carefully placed our well-tied package of flotation devices in what we hoped was a more protected section of the lake shore. Once finished, we straggled back up the steep hill to our camper and collapsed inside.

Thus ends Day 4!

- Catherine

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vacation Part 3

Day 3
As I write this the wind is crashing through the pine forest – it has been doing so since about 3:00 this afternoon. I’m tired, my calf muscles hurt, I’m sunburnt, the dog is exhausted, and the outside temperature is cool (which soothes my hot flashes).

Tim rented a boat for the entire day today – a large, flat-bottomed row boat with an outboard motor. It fit all 8 of us, plus the two dogs. The boys did a little fishing in the morning, but no bites.

Luci and I did some food preparation this morning and then parked ourselves in chairs on the shore to watch the boys.

In the early afternoon, Tim took all of us (including the two dogs) out in the boat for a tour of the lake. The boys hung off the front of the boat, trailing their hands and/or feet in the water, and shoving each other now and again. I am not completely comfortable out on the water, so the antics of the boys (who are at the macho stage of life) were a little nerve-wracking. I lived, though.

We slowly motored around the lake. The bird watching was superb. We saw the osprey in their nest at the top of a very tall, very dead tree. Cormorants were everywhere, winging across the water in search of fish. Best of all, we saw two bald eagles – one perched on a log near the shore and the other perched high on top of a pine tree. As we approached, the first one took off majestically and swooped inches from the water before soaring up high over the ridge and into the next valley. The second eagle simply sat at the top of that very high pine tree, gorgeous brown and white against the dark green forest, surveying his domain. No wonder they are the national bird – there is nothing quite like them.

Most of the day was overcast. Not cool, but not really warm, either. The boys didn’t care – they swam and played with the rafts and the tubes anyway. Around 3:00, after I put the chicken in the Dutch Oven, the sun came out and I thought I’d finally get some time to float on the water. But at the same time that the sun came out, we suddenly became aware of a far-off roar of wind, which we heard for several seconds before finally feeling it. Down the valley it came. No rain, just wind. The lake went instantly from mirror calm to choppy wavelets. We sat on the shore and watched things blowing around (like our tubes, which had to be rescued more than once and placed ever higher on the shore to keep them from blowing away).

Suddenly, Tim rocketed out of his chair and headed for the rented boat. Luci and I thought he was trying to pull it higher up on the beach so that the waves didn’t rock it away, but as it turned out, he decided to take the boat out in the wind and waves just for the fun of it.

I grew up near the ocean and I have a healthy respect for Mother Nature, especially where water and weather are concerned. But this is an inland lake and the waves were ….six inches high at most. Still, it was a dramatic change and I could see the fun of it for them.

As Tim hauled the boat into the water, the boys looked up from their games and quickly joined him. In about two minutes they all were out on the lake, motoring around (it’s a “no wake” lake – you’re not allowed to go fast anyway). With the wind so strong, they actually did make a little wake and a little spray with that sedate old boat. The looks on their faces were priceless, especially Tim’s – he was a kid again, playing in the wind and waves.

- Catherine

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Vacation Part 2

Day 2
Day 2 started a wee bit later – maybe an hour or so. I made it to the top of the rise to check my cell phone messages at 10:00 or so. No cows. Two messages. One from my parents-in-law to say they were on their way to visit us and that they had four of the teenage grandchildren with them. The other message was from my sister-in-law to say that she, too, was coming to visit and that she’d be staying overnight with the four boys (one of whom is her son).

Well, after talking on the cell with both my father-in-law and my sister-in-law in order to get some kind of estimate of times of arrival, I headed back down to the campground to let Tim and Doug in on the good news. Of course, we were delighted, and Doug was especially glad that his cousins – most of whom are his closest friends – were coming to spend time with him.

Shortly after 1:00, Tim’s parents arrived with the four cousins in their van. We had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon by the lake. The boys had a blast playing in the water with the river raft and the river tubes that we had brought with us. My mother-in-law and I walked the lakeshore for part of the way, talking and enjoying each other's company.

Mom and Dad left at 5:00 and Luci, my sister-in-law, had still not arrived. The boys, of course, stayed with us. We sent them down to set up the tent on the camp site they’d be using. Luci arrived at 6:30, having missed a crucial turn and spent an extra 90 minutes on the road. Ah well. It’s vacation, after all. She enjoyed her quiet time, and we were none the worse for the wear.

- Catherine

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation Part 1

The next few days I will post my vacation blog, as I wrote it (more or less) during the week we were away. Our pictures are on my picasaweb site: If you look at the albums "Summer Vacation 2008" and "Vacation 2009," you'll get a pretty good idea of this place we love.

And now.....

Day 1
Today is day 1 of our Montana vacation. It’s cloudy and breezy and not particularly warm. We don’t care. Yes, we’d like to be out on the lake, but we also like just hanging out. Tim is napping (actually, he’s snoring in my ear right now), Doug is playing a game on his laptop, and I’m writing the first of my vacation blog entries. The dog is snoozing after a hard morning of exploring his territory.

We arrived yesterday (Day 0 of the trip) after a 3+ hours’ drive from Pocatello. No traffic and no problems with the RV this year (last year we blew a tire on the way and had to stop for a new set in Idaho Falls). The campground is seven miles from the main highway, down a dirt road that has the topography of a washboard. It’s also open range territory, so there are Black Angus cattle to contend with. After traversing five and a half miles of the road, you begin a rather steep descent that rattles me with our big 5th wheel camper behind us. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe, but it makes me nervous nonetheless to have that huge vehicle attached to our behind as we make our way down, down, down into the valley.

This year I was so excited to arrive that I didn’t much care about the descent (well, just a little). My thirteen-year-old stuck his head out the window, inhaled deeply and noisily, and announced, “Smell that pine!” Indeed the valley is thickly forested with pine, with a carpet of wildflowers and loads of interesting birds -- and the lake that is so clear you can see 15 feet down. We love this spot and that’s why we’re so excited to return here.

We’d hoped for the same campsite as last year, which we considered perfect in its proximity to the lake and its privacy screen of trees on three sides, but, alas it was taken. We continued further up the hill and found what I think might be an even better spot. Definitely a better view of the lake, and there is a set of stairs made from railroad ties that leads from the camping area down to the fire pit/picnic table area of the campsite. This morning I sat on those stairs and savored a cup of tea and the tranquility of the lake view through the trees.

I woke at first light this morning, which wasn’t what I intended. It takes a while for me to wind down when on vacation, so each day I’ll probably sleep a little bit longer. I’m sure my husband will be happier about that – for some reason he doesn’t like to hear me banging around the camper at dawn.

The first activity after breakfast -- for me, that is -- was to walk back out from our campsite to a high point where I have cell phone signal. Normally I am very happy to spend a week without my cell phone, but this year, with my mother’s health situation, I decided that the only way I could take a vacation is if I check messages each day and periodically check in with my mother herself. So, each morning I’ll walk to the high point and turn on my cell phone for a few minutes.

Did I mention that it’s a mile and a half up to that point? “Up” being the operative word in that sentence. Uphill. All the way. A mile and a half. I made it, but I was a bit winded when I got there. Just before the top, there is a cattle guard – a metal grid laid down on the road, with the bars of the grid laid so far apart that animals can’t cross it. In fact, human crossing it was tricky – I had to hop from bar to bar of the grid (obviously, vehicles with tires have no trouble with it). This guard keeps the open range cattle from going down into the valley. It also just about kept my dog from accompanying me that last 300 yards to the point of cell phone signal. We finally figured out a spot for him to sneak underneath the wooden fence on the side of the gate.

I called my mother – mostly to test the signal since I’d spoken to her just yesterday and she’s actually feeling fine. It worked quite nicely. The cows seemed mildly interested, but mostly left me alone. Thank goodness, because it suddenly occurred to me that these weren’t just cows. There were young bulls in this herd, too – calves, still, but old enough to have figured out their mission in life (judging by what I observed). That gave me pause because four of those young bulls, plus one cow, had ranged themselves in a line across the road, staring straight at me and my dog. It was like a bovine version of Shootout at the OK Corral. They barely blinked. And I wondered how we were going to get past them to go back down the road.

I whooped. I yelled. I wildly waved my arms.

They stood there.

Finally, they moved somewhat to one side, so Hank and I made a break for it. I had Hank on a leash by this time, and I pushed him through the spot in the fence by the gate – whereupon his leash got hung up and he couldn’t quite make it through. I quickly released him from the leash, then I hopped back across the grid and unhooked his leash from the fence post where it was stuck.

Later I asked my husband if I need to be worried about the young bulls. He asked me if they were pawing the ground. When I said no, he nonchalantly said, “nothing to worry about.” I should probably ask him if young bulls have good days and bad days – maybe they were just in a good mood today.

On the walk this morning I saw a Western Tanager, which was cool. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but I do like to identify the different birds when we are out camping. Last year I saw osprey, bald eagles, and cormorants, to name a few. The Western Tanager is very pretty – golden yellow, with a blush-rose colored head.

(No, I didn't take that picture -- it's from

Later – the sun came out and we spent the afternoon drifting on the lake. Doug and Hank were in the raft (Hank loves boating), and I was in my tube. Tim had a long nap and then finally joined us, so there we four were – Tim and Hank in the raft, Doug on one tube and me on another, all of us hanging on or tethered to each other. Very serene and non-stressful, just lazing in the sun. The water is a wee bit colder than last year, due to all the rain they’ve had up here (not unlike the rest of the country, it seems), but in the hot sun, my butt and feet can take a little cold water. There were actually quite a few people swimming as well, although that would have been more than I’d have enjoyed.

Tonight’s dinner was Italian sausage cooked on the grill with onions and then immersed in marinara sauce; we also heated up some leftover corn. The entire dinner was cooked on my charcoal grill, leaving little to clean up at the end (that’s how I like it when we’re camping!). After dinner, we took a walk, meeting our new campsite neighbors, who are from Idaho Falls, and also some people who were launching their boat (they are from Utah, near where I used to live).

The campground is more crowded this year than last, but it is still a wonderful place to be. The campsites are very private and very far apart.

I walked the lakeshore for a while this afternoon, sitting for a time on a sun-warmed log that extended from the shore about 30 feet into the lake. I saw the osprey combing the shore on the other side, along the valley wall, looking for fish. I saw the cormorants bobbing under the surface and then rising off the water and into the air. I thought about everything and nothing. I prayed for a time, too. A good day.

So, that’s the news from Wade Lake, day 1.

Shamelessly promoting....

Hey, my kid started a blog!

("Babblegail" was a nickname of hers when she was a VERY talkative 3-year old).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm watching a movie that depicts a time in history when, among other things, people still got dressed up to visit each other in the evening and listen to a radio program. The movie is Ladies in Lavender, starring the incomparable Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, among others. The climax of the young violinist playing to overwhelming acclaim is amazing -- the sophisticated audience in London gives him a standing ovation, and the audience of village folk, dressed in their Sunday best, listening in the living room in Cornwall is no less enthusiastic.

Nowadays we just throw on a pair of clean jeans and go hang out with our friends. And we don't just listen to music -- we have to do other things at the same time or be entertained by watching something on TV. The kind of evening depicted in this movie doesn't happen any longer.

If you're into British movies, Ladies in Lavender is a keeper. The scenery alone is amazing -- makes me want to plan a vacation to Cornwall right away!

- Catherine

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Family photo

I haven't forgotten that I intend to blog about my vacation, but tonight I wanted to post our recently taken family photograph.

My daughter was home with us for 10 days and so we had a family party on Sunday. It's the first time everyone in our immediate family has been together in three years, so I called my talented niece and asked her to come over and take photographs.

Here we are -- all 21 of us, plus our dog named Hank Williams Jr. and a random garden gnome who is nameless.

We had so much fun at this party -- everyone, I think, had a great time. Lots of photographs, lots of food, lots of people (we invited extended family to join the party -- there were about 50 of us, in all).

I made hamburgers and bratwurst, and the kids brought everything else. Great food.

Here's a picture of us girls, having a good time together:

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.....

Seated L to R: (daughter-in-law) Balin, me, (daughter) Abbi
Standing L to R: (daughter-in-law) Katie, (daughter) Jen, (daughter-in-law) Kari.

If you look at my Facebook page, I've posted more of that day's photos there.

- Catherine


Okay, I admit it - I've been a slacker blogger. But I have good reasons, I assure you. The first week of vacation was spent in the wilds, where there is no cell phone and no internet access. The second week of vacation was spent with my daughter, who has been home on her own vacation.

So, this morning she left on an early flight, not to return until next spring sometime.

And I cried.

And now I think I'll start working up a few blog posts. Stay tuned....


Sunday, August 9, 2009

We're home

We just got home from vacation a few hours ago. We had a glorious week on the lake, which I will blog about in more depth in the coming days (including pictures, of course). At the moment, there is an enormous pile of dirty laundry on the kitchen floor, with two loads currently being done (on the "Super Filthy" cycle).

More to come....