Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Cousin Kari and her family

This past week I had some great communication with my cousin Kari, Pat and Pudge's daughter. It came about when I emailed her to ask her if her husband Charlie had ever been stationed at Beale Air Force Base in California. She replied with the nicest message. So I pursued it further by asking her if she would allow me to write a little blog article about her and her family—what they're doing now, and perhaps a few pictures. I was blown away with the nicest message . . .

Kari wrote:

I have visited your blog before so I am certainly aware of it and of course I have no problem with this. I need to bookmark it so I remember to look at it. What a great way to be able to look back and remember the years. I thought about starting a blog but then realize I probably wouldn't keep it up. I love those pictures of you guys at that monastery, so cute in the dresses!

I looked through some old pictures that I had - what a trip down memory lane - it has been good for me too. Charlie was in Afghanistan and Iraq on his last tour and his pictures are truly amazing. At that time he was in the AMOG which was a mobility group and they would go forward to desolate, abandoned areas and build a functional airfield. He would stay for months, hence why we felt it was good to retire since Jamie was born 5 days before 9-11 and I had both kids at home at that time, still working full time. But when I look back at his pictures, it is truly amazing and I appreciate it more - lots of the kids and villagers in Afghanistan. I forgot what those guys went through, his picture of his cot/barracks are pretty sparse, and he and a buddy still would try and run on a track that is something to see too. He has pictures of landmines, and the compound he was on, and all the equipment. I included a couple of pictures - he met the Afghani soldiers and there is one old man in particular (2nd pic) that I think was their cleaner and Charlie got to know him, He was touched by his story and his life.  

When Charlie retired I put together a slide show set to music of his career so I was looking through that - it made me realize I need to share it with the kids- especially Travis, because he LOVES the military, and I wouldn't doubt it he goes in also. 

The AMOG was his last squadron - before that he was a load master on the C5s and their missions were generally about 2 weeks to drop stuff off - lots of humanitarian and supply type of things. Since they were short trips, that was a great deal because they went everywhere - so he literally saw the world - Australia, South America, Europe, Africa—pretty much anywhere you ask if he has been there and he has. They were callous to the locations though, in my opinion. After a while they would really not go see the areas they were stopped in! Charlie was also the Senior NCO in his squadron so he supervised the whole crew of enlisted load masters. I cherish the memories of all the guys and gals we got to know. The military is such a family, you get to know people's problems, issues, and successes in a very personal way, and Charlie had lots to be involved in that would be unheard of in civilian life. I'm sure Hans understands. We were usually the host family on holidays for all the orphans and I miss our celebrations with large crowds of single folks over for Thanksgiving/Christmas meals. There were also some tragedies, I remember the death of a guy we knew very well due to lots of family issues that Charlie had been involved with, and when he passed, it was shocking. The military ceremonies were also amazing. 

Elizabeth, Sarah, and Travis at Columbia University

L to R: Travis, Sarah, Kari, Charlie, and in front is Elizabeth

The kid's picture includes Travis - he is 15, close to 16 and driving soon, Elizabeth - 13, and of course Sarah, who is 26, living in Manhattan, but currently in Colombia (South America) for school. She is finishing up a master's at Columbia University (pic taken there) and figuring out what job to do in June. She was with the FBI and might even go back to be an agent! She has other options though too, so not sure yet. My career field is environmental engineering and it is has been great for me in air pollution reductions—plan to do this for a few more years and then I hope to see where God puts me next to be of more service to others and Him. Some of the gifts He has given me to share could be in tutoring (education is important to me) for high risk/needy and a christian fitness ministry which I am passionate about - and have led at our church for a while and hope to expand... zumba-like with christian uplifting joyous music- makes you want to move for HIM. As you probably know I have been a lifelong runner - that is how I met Charlie - and now our entire family have this gift, all kids have been in cross country and track. It keeps us healthy, fit, skinny, and balanced and we thank God for this gift. 

Well I hope you enjoy the pictures - I enjoyed looking them up and thinking about that time in our life. I miss the military and have fond memories of all the supportive people that were like my family at that time. Let me know if you have any questions. 

Much Love, Kari

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Visit from a US Olympian

Today USA Olympian silver medalist Gigi Marvin paid a visit to our office. Gigi plays on the women's hockey team which won the silver medal in both 2010 and 2014. She is a really great gal with a wonderful testament, and potential author for BHP.

We were made aware of her visit last week. Since I had been to the 2010 Olympics and had some souvenirs, I was asked to bring them to help decorate our food table. I wasn't sure who Gigi was, so I looked her up on the Internet. When I learned she played hockey and was from Warroad, Minnesota, I decided to phone my cousin Pudge to see if her knew of her. No surprise! Of course, he did. He knew about her family, too.

Here are some of the photos taken today:

Putting on the silver medal

Gigi Marvin and yours truly

2014 Silver Medal from Sochi

Saturday, March 14, 2015

St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery

On Monday Pat, Janet and I drove down to Sonja's (a childhood friend of ours) to join her and her two friends Lynette and Linda, on a little trip to St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery near Florence, Arizona. I had seen photos of this oasis in the desert, but was blown away seeing it for myself. Before we left, we knew the dress code, and did our best to comply. Here is a picture of us prior to leaving Sonja's:

L to R: Linda, Lynette, Pat, Janet, yours truly, Sonja
The drive to the monastery took us through an Indian reservation and very close to the Casa Grande Ruins. And then suddenly, the bland, sandy, scrubby landscape turned into lush green trees. Excitedly we got out of the van and began covering our heads with our scarves to enter this sacred spot. We saw a group of tourists gathered at the gatehouse around a monk and joined them to learn a few facts before taking our self-guided tour.

There are five or six chapels on the grounds, interspersed with beautiful landscaping and fountains. The insides of the chapels strongly reminded me of the churches we visited in Ukraine on our choir mission trip in 2008. There is lots of gold/brass, beeswax candles, and icons. We had permission to go into any of the churches and even take photos. However, we were instructed to never go behind any of the curtained off areas where the altars are located. At one point we saw a visiting nun kneeling in prayer, bowing three times, and then rising to her feet to kiss the icon in front of her. We all commented on how difficult this would be for each of us!

At one part of the grounds, I noticed a man clearing away brush from an orchard. I asked him if the trees were lemon trees. "Yes," he replied. Then I asked if there were olive trees on the grounds. "Yes," he said, but went on to say "I don't have the blessing to speak to you." I apologized and went on my way, not realizing he was one of the monks. Wasn't that a kind way for him to respond? I thought so.

Here are some of the many photos that made this day so special. Double click on them to enlarge.

I loved this journey and hope to remember it for a long while. Such a treat for the eyes in the dry, sandy land.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sunday in Arizona

Sunday morning my sister and I went to church with friends from our childhood and college days. After the service, we drove to a restaurant where we had a very nice visit. It's always fun to catch up with those we don't see very often.

Once home, we helped Pat and Pudge get ready for the big pot-luck dinner that followed the golf tournament Pudge had put together. There were approximately 120 people who came for the pot-luck, and the food was delicious. I really enjoyed sitting at a couple of tables and making new friends.

Luella (age 88) and Del (age 92). They are delightful folks!

Some of the many neighbors enjoying their dinner.

It took 5 tables to hold all of the food!

"Sunsationals" Tap Dance Revue

When my cousin Pat and her husband Pudge bought their condo in Arizona, she quickly joined the tap dancing troupe at their association. It is called the "Sunsationals," and has been in existence for 25 years. Every other year they put on a big, one and a half hour show, complete with costume changes. This year my cousin, also their current president, was in charge of it. The average age of the dancers in this group is 71 years old. Their eldest member is 87 years old. Honest!

The troupe gave three performances this year—I went to two of them, and they were excellent.

Pat is on the left in the back row.

Pat is on the left in the back row.

The show was very enjoyable. Everybody did an excellent job, and I was fortunate to get front row seats for both shows. There was a lot of variety in dance steps and in music.

Pat, accepting thanks at the conclusion of the show.

By the way, Pat hadn't tap danced since she was a young girl. A few years ago when I was there for Pat's first show, I was seated next to my dear Aunt Liz, and she said, "Well, those dance lessons paid off."

Ah! Arizona in the winter . . .

Last week I left Minnesota when the temperature was minus 2. I have no idea what the wind-chill registered. I stepped off the plane in sunny Phoenix and quickly removed my winter coat and scarf. Warmth – it is so welcome to one who has been shivering for weeks.

Arriving at Pat and Pudge's lovely home, I soon made my way to their patio which sits along the 7th fairway of the golf course. The sunshine and warm temperatures were a draw to the outdoors the entire week I spent there. I got out and walked and really enjoyed myself.

The 7th fairway, golfers in the distance.

We ate many meals on the patio. It was delightful!

Sunsets are gorgeous there.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Corinne turns one!

Friday my youngest grandchild, Corinne, turned one. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me to be at her birthday party, but I was with her in spirit. Brian, her puppy, put a nice post about her on his blog. You can read it here.

Knowing she is my probably my last grandchild, she has had a special place in my heart. Seeing her crawl, getting her first tooth, hearing her little voice—these have all been big events for me. Thankfully, Heidi is good about keeping in touch, sometimes doing facetime so that I can see for myself just how this sweet little girl is progressing.

I hope it won't be long until I can make a trip to Seattle to see her, Marshall, Heidi, Chad and Brian again. Happy Birthday, Corinne!