Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wrap Up

So we've finally arrived at the last day of our trip. After a quick breakfast at our motel in Glendive, Montana, we hit the road by 7 a.m. It was again a hot day, and we were grateful for an airconditioned car. We weren't pushing hard to put on the miles, but did hope to reach Lethbridge, Alberta that evening. And, in fact, that did happen.

We stopped for a bite of lunch at a Wendy's in Havre, Montana, where I had a funny experience. After we ordered, as I was using the washroom, I noticed, in the booth next to me, some toenails polished with a bright attractive blue. I almost said, "Hey, sharp polish! I really like it." But was held back from such a bold comment to a stranger. As we both came out of our stalls, she asked me, "Where in Alberta do you come from?" I almost fell over. "How in the world do you know I'm from Alberta?" (DD.#2 suggested I should have said, "Do I pee like an Albertan?") She and her husband, who live in Saskatchewan, had noticed us drive into the parking lot and saw our license plate. (A follow up: I liked the polish so much, I bought a similar shade when I got home. It's an L.A. Colors, and it just doesn't chip. I've had it on for three weeks now, and it still looks good!)

We were following the same highways we used in 1971 when we moved to Alberta from Ontario with our four young children. DD#1 had earlier drawn a picture of mountains the way kids do: simple triangle-shaped forms. I had tried to explain to her that mountains were not just pointy triangles but more ragged shapes. When we neared Shelby, Montana and saw the Sweetgrass Hills, she said, "See, Mom!" in perfect vindication of her artwork.

The day we drove by them was extremely hot, and the atmosphere was very milky from the heat and from the smoke of forest fires to the west. But, as you see, they are pretty perfectly pointy. This is just one of the group, taken from the car window as we drove by.

In Lethbridge we checked into an Econo Lodge, where we had a nice little set of rooms. We wanted to linger a bit, because we have a dear old friend there who lives in a care home, as she can no longer be on her own. When we went to see her the next morning, the attendant told us that she was regrettably very confused that day. But when she saw us her face lit up and she was delighted to see us. We had a very good visit with her and were thankful that she was so "present" when we were there.

I've recently read two very good books written by people who cared for a loved one with Alzheimer's until it was no longer possible to manage at home. (Our friend does not have Alzheimer's, but is just failing because of old age.) I would recommend both books, and found the contrast between them interesting. The first is titled, "into the shadows," by robert f. dehaan, subtitled, "a journey of faith and love into alzheimer's" and published Faith Walk Publishing (ISBN 0-9724196-3-2), and the second "The House on Beartown Road," by Elizabeth Cohen, published by Random House, N.Y. Robert DeHaan was caring for his wife Roberta with the help of his church family, and later his siblings in Grand Rapids. Elizabeth cared for her father on her own, with a new baby, and a husband who left after two months because he couldn't handle the situation. Her neighbors did give her help over the winter, in terms of snow removal, wood chopping, and food, but she was in dire straits trying to care for her father and her baby, while working a full-time job.

The contrast between their situations is so striking. Any time someone is in a situation of caring for an Alzheimer's sufferer, they deserve all our sympathy and whatever help we can give them. But the difference between having a support network and being solely responsible is wrenching.

A confession here: Robert DeHaan was my cousin, one of those quite a bit older than myself. My mother was the youngest of eleven children, so I had a host of much older cousins on that side of the family. Robert has died since writing that book, and is deeply missed by his sisters, who helped him through his ordeal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

At Last!!!

After almost two weeks of computer problems we finally have things straightened out. Techie son suggested we simply buy a monitor, as the original MacBook Pro works fine, except the screen is black. We had had a 17" Dell monitor that sat unused for three years, until this past June when we gave it to DD#2 and her husband, thinking we had no use for it. Jim suggested we ask for it back. So I called DD#2 and she said they hadn't even unpacked the monitor and we could gladly have it back. Then the problem was, how do we get it from Grande Prairie to our home near Calgary? The solution was serendipitous: she just happened to be scheduled to work in Calgary last week. First time that has happened in her job. So last Monday after I posted I went off to Calgary, had a lovely visit with her, and came home with the Dell monitor.

That was not the total solution yet, as the laptop was in Red Deer, but S. and her hubby happened to go there on Friday and picked up the laptop for us. Thanks!!!

Now we have a much better
set up than before.
We set up an extra three leaves in the old dining room table that is our work station. Jim has his new laptop on one end of the enlarged table, the printer is in the middle, and our MacBook Pro with the Dell monitor, propped on top of a "See Through Drawer" is the other end. Lots of room for each of us, and we can even work at the same time now, whereas before we had to share one laptop.

I had some trouble getting the monitor to show what should be on my laptop screen, but today techie son solved that for me. We're all set to go!

So back to the crosscountry trip: It is now Wednesday and we are in Bismarck, North Dakota, where the capitol building is radically different from what we've been seeing. Again, there was an original capitol building that needed to be replaced, and was destroyed by fire (of undetermined origin). Being practical people, the North Dakotans asked for a practical building, and they got it: an art deco skyscraper, 19 stories high. What you see in the picture is the skyscraper part. Behind the trees you can just see on the left the lovely first floors which extend to the left and house the two chambers of government. The low structure on the right is a later addition providing more space for the state government offices.

The building is a total success: elegant and simple, using lots and lots of marble. I believe the guide said the exterior is limestone, but the interior is many lovely types of wood and many varieties of marble. It was built between 1932 and 1934.

Here's a view of the lobby, serene, crisp and elegant. The front doors to the right are not used now, one of the many changes that 9/11 wrought. The entrance to the building is down one level, under the expansive "porch" outside the original front doors. To the left of the lobby there is an austere black marble wall with the state seal positioned in the middle.

The black marble acts almost like a mirror.

Following our tour we had some lunch in the cafeteria, and then left to drive on to Glendive, Montana. It was a very hot day, and we were thankful to have airconditioning in the car. Checked into a motel and had supper at the Country Cafe next door--real down home type of restaurant, populated with real down home people, serving real down home food. Went for a walk, and then watched a Town Hall meeting about Health Care Reform on t.v. Such impatient, rude people!!! What is wrong with us today? Don't we know that we need to solve these problems by working together?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Was It Worth Seeing?

Leaving DesMoines the next morning, we
traveled north and west through the Iowa
countryside on two lane highways. It was
a lovely drive through surprisingly rolling
scenery. Iowa is not totally flat after all, but
we did notice that Iowa is pretty much totally
corn and soybeans. Imagine a whole state
given over to two crops. At least, that's the
way it seemed to us along the roads we chose.

We arrived at my cousin Beth's home in
South Dakota on Saturday afternoon. I had not seen Beth for 50 years, since we were girls in high school. She had changed very little, and it was a joy to see her again and get to know her husband. We went to church with them on Sunday and were privileged to hear her and her daughter play an organ/piano prelude. She and her husband are both accomplished musicians.

That afternoon Beth and I went to see her mom, my Aunt Grace. Aunt Grace is in a care home, and is unable to walk anymore--her legs have simply worn out, and no wonder as she is a remarkable 97 years old! What a wonderful thing to see her again and find her smiling and still able to take part in our conversation.

On Monday we said farewell and headed for Mitchell, S. Dak. to see the famous "corn palace." I'll quote Dr. Samuel Johnson on this one: "Was it worth seeing? Yes. Was it worth going to see?" Well, if we had gone out of our way to see it, I would have been disappointed. But it wasn't out of our way, and it was an interesting concept for a small city to promote as a way of putting itself on the map. Also, the building is used for many purposes: dances, large meetings, banquets, etc.

In Mitchell we also saw the primitive Indian village, an archeological dig with a museum. That was worth seeing also. It's unusual in that a large structure has been built over the main section of the archeological dig, enabling them to work there year-round. We enjoyed the short film introduction and the displays in the small museum. If you get to Mitchell, take it in.

Next up was the capitol of Pierre, South Dakota. Following our usual procedure, we checked into a motel, relaxed for the evening, and went in the morning to see the capitol. Interestingly, this third capitol building followed the trend toward modesty that had been set: it was much more modest than the previous two. There was a self-guiding tour available, which we followed. It was a lovely building, very clean, and well maintained.

Finished with that we took a short hike around the Capitol Lake, and up the hill to the Cultural Heritage
Center, a very good museum. The native Sioux
creation stories are eerily close to the Biblical account. There is the idea of an Edenic beginning; a disobedience that resulted in a life of stress and trouble on earth; and a "redeemer" who self-sacrificially helps the people.

I'll close today with a quote that we saw on the back of an SUV:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rainy Day on the Road

We left Madison in the rain and drove for about 6 hours to DesMoines, Iowa. It was NOT a fun drive. When we neared DesMoines we saw there had been an accident involving a semi on the east bound lanes. You wouldn't believe how far the traffic was backed up. We were thankful that the westbound, which we were on, was clear, and felt very sorry for the folks who were delayed for such a long time going the other way.

The next day the weather was better, and we
toured the capitol building. There is just oodles of free parking downtown in Des
Moines as you can see from the picture. Very easy access, and convenient. This capitol was just a little less ornate and showy than the one in Madison, but was also a beautiful building. We and another couple about our age (retired) were put with a group of mentally challenged people. In many ways that made our tour more enjoyable, as some of them were quite expressive in their comments and answers to the tour guide's questions. She handled the tour very well, and we thought it was a good experience.

The women who accompanied the group as aides were wonderful at helping the less verbal member express themselves, intuitively knowing what they were trying to communicate, as when one fellow, upon hearing the "when the old building burned down" story, wanted to share that his church had burned down recently. One of the men was quite excited to hear we were from Canada, because his cousin lives there!

After the group tour was finished, the guide offered to take the four of us older folks up the narrow circular stairs to view the rotunda from high above. I'm very claustrophobic, but was able to handle it by being the last in the group to go up. That lets me feel as if I have an "escape hatch." There was a tiny balcony around the top of the rotunda, but I couldn't get myself to take a picture from up there. I kind of hugged the wall behind me. But on our way down, I did manage to take this neat snap of the stairwell:

That's daylight WAY down there at the bottom. That little tiny bright spot in the center indicates the bottom of the stairwell.

We then went a block down the hill to the National Museum, a very modern building, with excellent displays. We learned how the political system works in Iowa, and were very impressed with how involved the people are in the primary process. Seemed to me like a very democratic way of doing politics.

We had our dinner in the Barrata Cafe there, a large serving of chicken cacciatore, very delicious!

Then we spent a short time at the public library where I was able to get time on a computer and pick up and send some email.

As usual, we spent the evening in our motel room, reading and watching a bit of t.v.
A nice restful time together after another interesting day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Computer Troubles and more Holiday Sights

My last post was written in brief snatches between periods of blackout in the screen. I work on a MacBook Pro that we got in May of '06, and have been very happy with. Bought it on the advice of our "techie" son, Geoff. This past week the screen began to flicker and die, so we took it in for diagnosis. It's a simple thing really, the light that lights up the screen is dying. But because they replace things in "units" that simple little problem will cost $1100. to fix, plus $120 labor.

In the meantime we bought another MacBook, but a much simpler one, price tag: $1147 plus tax. Now we have to decide, do we want to resuscitate the three-year-old, bells and whistles laptop, or just use Migration Wizard to put the info into the simple, new laptop.

Back to our great holiday, and sorry for no pictures last time. I had them ready but couldn't get them into the blog before the computer died.

After crossing Lake Michigan on the ferry, The Badger, we drove to Milwaukee and got a motel. Actually kind of nice to be with just the two of us again! Tuesday morning we set off to see what Milwaukee has to offer to tourists. My impression of Milwaukee had been, of course, the city that makes beer, so I expected a very much blue collar sort of place. Well, let me tell you, Milwaukee has some fantastic buildings, and a beautiful lakeshore park area that runs for some miles along Lake Michigan.

First we went to "The Domes," indoor gardens under geodesic domes. There are three different areas representing three different climates. It's a beautiful place to visit and relax, and of course, Jim loves gardens, so this was really his thing, but I enjoyed it also.

We then drove downtown to see the museum and the planetarium, only to find that they are closed on Tuesday.

That turned out to be a very good thing, because next on our list was the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) which is FABULOUS!!! This is a shot of the astonishing atrium of the building. Sorry, I forgot to write down who the architect was.

The art works displayed were also absorbing. I would have hated to have missed this experience.

We had a very good lunch of Tilapia and rice pilaf in the museum cafe. And only left the museum reluctantly at 5 p.m. when it closed.

Because we didn't want to get involved with traffic between 5 and 6 p.m. we went for a walk along the shore, and this was beautiful. All park with a broad sidewalk for walkers, joggers, skaters and bicyclists.

It was threatening rain, so we headed back to our motel and made a supper of some terrific zucchini bread my sister had given us on Sunday. I'm asking for the recipe, and when she gives it to me, I'll share it. It was simply the best zucchini bread I've ever had.

The next day, Wednesday, we drove to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. It was just a short drive, so that afternoon we went to tour the Capitol Building. It is a beautiful building that cost $7 1/2 million when it was built in the early 1900's. This was the first capitol building that we toured on our holiday, and we learned that each of the four we saw had a story of an earlier building totally destroyed by fire in the very early 1900's. This was the most elaborate and costly of the capitols we toured, and it was gorgeous. We had an excellent tour guide and really enjoyed it. We learned that they replace the gold on the dome every thirty years at enormous cost.

After a sandwich at a sidewalk cafe nearby, we rushed through the Wisconsin Historical Museum, because it closes at 4 p.m.

On our way back to our motel we visited
the Obrich Gardens, a 16 acre intensively
developed garden complex. Very beautiful
and enjoyable, and the home of the only
golden (real gold) Thai pagoda in the States.

Next post will be more capitols, museums and cousins.

Monday, September 7, 2009

More Visits

After spending an evening, a whole day, and breakfast time with Walt and Evelyn, we were back in the car and on our way to Ontario again.  Two days driving for one day of visiting, and VERY WELL worthwhile.  I was so satisfied to have been able to see Walt again and to get acquainted with Evelyn!

In Ontario again we were able to spend time with Jim's best friend from his high school days, and his wife.  We've always kept in touch, through the young family time, the kids getting married, and now the grandkid era.  It's one of life's good blessings to have friends of such long standing.

Another dear couple we were able to spend some time with was Jim's best friend from his college years.  This couple also has been in touch with us throughout the years from college and through the decades.  Even though we have kept in touch with letters, emails and phone calls, it's still such a treat to be able to see each other in person.

From Ontario we drove to Michigan and stayed with a cousin whom I hadn't seen since 1968 when her sister got married.  Joan remembered seeing me in 1982, but I couldn't recall that, and that's not surprising because it was a very brief visit in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit where Dad was suffering through his last days.  But we had just a wonderful visit.  She had become a widow and remarried in that time, and we very much enjoyed meeting her new husband, a multi-talented, interesting, on-the-go fellow.

And to my very great joy we were able to spend a few hours with my dear psychiatrist, without whom I probably wouldn't be alive today, or at least wouldn't be who I am.  We had lunch with him and his wife and had a great time reconnecting in person.  They've been to visit us in a few of the places we lived, and we and they are still hoping that they will make it to Alberta for a visit here.

Then it was on to the cousin's reunion on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Art and Linda have a small but lovely cottage right on the lakeshore, and most of the cousins from my father's side of the family were there.  With spouses there were 12 of us all together.  I hadn't known Linda very well, having seen her only twice over the years.  But we discovered common ground in our passion for knitting, and really connected with each other.  

After staying over night with Art and Linda we got up very early and caught the ferry, The Badger, from Ludington to Wisconsin.  A four hour trip across the lake and you've avoided driving around Chicago, which to me is practically a dragon's den, in terms of roads and traffic.  A short drive south and we were in Milwaukee, and the beginning of some holiday time for the two of us to share.

So next I'll show some pictures of interesting buildings we visited, starting with the marvelous Milwaukee Museum of Art, which was a highlight of our "tourist" time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

We're Back

We've been gone on a wonderful 3 1/2 week holiday trip out East, having left on August 11.  We flew to Hamilton, Ontario on the 12th, and Jim's sister and brother-in-law picked us up at the airport.  On the way home we had lunch with another sister, and she joined us in going to Tina and Kryn's home near St. George.  

That evening they hosted a wonderful gathering of relatives, including Jim's other sister and her husband, Jim's brother's 
widow, nephews and nieces, and great nephews and nieces.  We had a terrific time becoming reacquainted with them, and even meeting young people we hadn't met before.  I discovered another organist and music lover in one of his nephew's boys, so the following morning Tina took me to their nearby home and I was treated to a regular concert by Bryan.  That young man has FOUR organs in their home.  He also gave me a copy of one of my favorite pieces of organ music, Bach's version of Now Thank We All Our God, which I had lost recently.  Our few days with them were a relaxed and joyful beginning to our holiday.

That Friday Kryn and Tina drove us to Niagara Falls, where #1 daughter lives with her three children.  Our oldest grandson is entering his final  year at York University in Toronto, but he was able to come home for the weekend, which was a special treat as we had not seen him for four years.  In the meantime, he changed from a lanky teenager into a young man.  We so enjoyed him and his budding sense of humor.

The weather was brutal in Ontario--terribly hot and humid.  Fortunately we were able to spend time in K's backyard pool, so I give you here the three generations of "bathing beauties."  Our sweet granddaughter is in her second year of nurse's training, following in Mom's footsteps.

Her second son, a high school senior, had just had his first stint as a DJ, which due to circumstances, turned out of be a less than stellar experience.  Better luck next time, Zack!

Monday morning Jim and I left early from N.F. and travelled all the way to Vermont to visit my cousin Walt, my dear favorite cousin who is closest to me in age, and who was a close companion of mine when we were both in college.  I hadn't seen him since 1976, so it was just a huge treat to visit with him and to meet his vivacious wife Evelyn.        
 They have built a beautiful home in rural Vermont and furnished it with antiques and art.  Evelyn has impeccable taste, and their home is a testament to her abilities.  They have a marvelous view of the Green Mountains, although during our time with them there was a lot of haze in the atmosphere, I did get one good picture.  I hope they get the urge to see the Rockies, and come visit us in Alberta, sooner than we went to see them in Vermont!

By the way, I bought a new digital camera before we went on our trip, a Canon PowerShot G10, and have been very happy with it.  There's a one day photography workshop this month at our local Arts Academy, and I plan to sign up for that.  See if I can improve my skills in that area.

I'll tell you more about our holiday in my next post.  We're calling this the "cousins" vacation, as we are only just started on that particular theme.  More to come....