Ramblings

Hunting for good health

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The month of November always reminds me of hunting with my Dad.  As a child, I would go out with him into the woods and sit with him, trying desperately to be quiet.  As an adult, I haven’t done much hunting.  But lately, walking in the woods is something I find I truly love.  I have burned out on my regular exercise routine of walking the treadmill, doing the elliptical machine and trying to run.  My joints don’t like running much and I get so bored with machines.  I have been trying to find outdoor activities that keep me moving and fit.  I have been riding bike for about five years now but my new love this fall is hiking.

We live in such a beautiful area.  We are truly blessed with amazing views, lovely hills and abundant wildlife.  If you are a hunter, you have likely enjoyed the outdoors for years.  Maybe you didn’t even consider it as a workout.   November is the time to check tree stands, to open up new trails and to prepare for the season.  As you begin the hunt, consider ways you can change your normal hunting routine into an opportunity to improve your health with more exercise. Perhaps the pounds have been sneaking up on you and your doctor has encouraged you to do more physical activity.  Or maybe, you want to get a workout in your busy schedule and want to stay out of the gym.  Of course, with all exercise regimens, consult first with your physician with your decision to do more physical activity. Below are 5 things to consider when hunting for good health.

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Safety 1st  I always take my smart phone with me.  I usually hike alone with my dog and I worry about twisting an ankle.  Having my phone with me gives me peace of mind.  Always have permission to hike on the land you are walking.  Wear the appropriate gear with blaze orange or other bright colors during hunting season.  A good pair of hiking shoes or hunting boots are important to wear when going over a variety of terrain.  Bring water if it is a hot day.  You should check for ticks when you get home.

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Make it count!  If you want to be intentional with including more physical activity into your schedule, it helps to know how much you are doing.  It is easy to download the “MapMyFitness” app onto your smart phone.  Go to the Android play store or the Apple Itunes store and look for “MapMyFitness”.   There are many fitness apps out there that will keep track of your physical activity via smart phone GPS.  Pick one you like and use it.  I turn mine on when I start and hit “slide to finish” when I am done with my hike.  You can actually get very specific with your activity.  My app allows me to designate my hiking into certain categories; such as cross-country hiking, general rock climbing, hiking with no pack, light pack, medium pack or heavy pack, trekking and hills.  These apps are great because they will give you information such as distance, time, pace, calories and elevation gain.  I also have a FitBit Charge with HR monitor.  I like to see my total steps and my heart rate readings so I can see how effective my hike is.  But it is not necessary to have any gadgets.  You can easily use just a watch, setting a time goal to do something and increase that goal every time you go out.

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2 Feet over 4 wheels It is easy to settle into a lifestyle where we chose 4 wheels over 2 feet.  But consider how much more activity you would get if you walked up the hill to your deer stand instead of taking the four wheeler.  Park the truck at the entrance of the field road and walk the road up into the valley.  Find ways you can walk with your supplies and throw them into a backpack instead.  Challenge yourself to walk more each time you go out into the woods.  If you keep track with an app, it is easy to push yourself to do just a little more each time.  Take your dog with you as they likely need the exercise too and they enjoy being off leash.  It is great fun to watch them delight in sniffing out new smells and enjoying the outdoors.

Choose the challenging path At this time of year, many farmers have taken the crops off the fields.  The tractors have knocked down the grass and weeds.  Start out on those easy, flat field roads but increase your activity by climbing the hills, following the fence lines and hiking alongside the corn fields.  If you have a heart rate monitor, push yourself to get into your target cardio range.  It is easy to get your heart rate in the cardio range when hiking the hills of Western Wisconsin.  Perhaps with your first hike, do just a few small hills.  But as you start doing more activity, challenge yourself to do steeper hills and to increase the number of hills you tackle.  If you are an active gym user or an avid runner, you will be surprised with the intensity you can achieve with your hiking workouts.20151104_112458

A variety of benefits Simple hiking has some amazing benefits.  It’s like yoga, as it integrates strength, endurance and balance training.  When you go over uneven terrain and climb hills, your body engages in proprioception.  This is how your body is aware of exactly where each limb is in every second, because your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints send thousands of impulses back to your brain to be processed.  Hiking can help your body get stronger and improve your aerobic capabilities.  If you take longer hikes, you develop endurance and improve balance.  You will find hiking on the soft earth of the field roads and walking over hay fields is easy on the joints.  If you find yourself hiking along a side hill for awhile, you may notice this can be hard on your joints as you are bearing your weight unevenly.  Look for opportunities to balance the side hills by changing direction often. Stop when you have done too much.  Take your time.  The nice thing, no one is usually watching you or hearing you gasp for breath as you climb a steep hill!  But it won’t take long and you will be able to go further and tackle bigger hills and longer hikes.

There is something truly special about being outside in nature.  The exposure to the sunshine will get your vitamin D levels up.  Breathing the fresh air is great for your lungs.  Don’t let the cold weather stop you.  Just add a few more layers and consider snow shoes when winter comes and the snow flies.  Getting a good workout doesn’t have to happen in the gym.  You don’t need any fancy gadgets or specific clothes.  There is an abundance of places to hike in Richland County.  Choosing 2 feet over 4 wheels will always be best for your health.  You will get leaner and more in shape and soon your freezer will be filled with venison.  Taking intentional steps to increase your activity while hunting this season will pay off with great rewards.  Enjoy the hunt for good health!

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Goodbye Chicago, for now…

 

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Yesterday was my last day as a Chicago based flight attendant.  I will be starting at the Newark base on my next trip starting this Sunday.  Many of you know I have gone back to staff nursing at the Richland Hospital in the Birth Center.   I made this change because I am ‘chasing a line’.  What is chasing a line, you ask?  A ‘line’ in the aviation industry  is a regular schedule, designed with specific trips, hours and overnights.  When a flight attendant reaches a certain level of seniority, she can ‘bid’ for a line schedule.  Once you have a line schedule and have the seniority to keep that schedule, life gets much easier.  You can plan your life by scheduling your trips.  You can improve your schedule by dropping or swapping trips to get a more desirable schedule.  And you don’t have to call scheduling to be released from duty at the end of your trip.  A little thing, that actually means a lot in this industry.

Life as a reserve or on-call flight attendant is much more challenging.  While on reserve, you bid for your days off each month and the call out times.  If you are really new or have low seniority in your base,  you are on call for 24 hours a day.  Often, crew scheduling will call you at 0300 to let you know your assignment for the next day.  You can be required to report to the airport in two hours or less.  As you gain seniority, the call time decreases to ten-hour shifts during the day with the same two-hour report time.  You start with undesirable days off like Wednesday and slowly gain the seniority to have weekends off.  This industry is all about seniority.  It drives every decision regarding scheduling and our priority when we fly on our benefits.

In Chicago, if I remained, I would go back on reserve next month.  Emotionally, I.can’t.do.this.  I have had a line for the last 3 months.  I previously had a line for about 9 months when I worked out of the Dulles base of operations.   I have held a reserve line for the other 18 months with the company.  Life is so much better when you have a line.  I need to have a more predictable schedule while working at the hospital.  So, I am chasing after a line.  In Newark, I have the seniority I need to hold a line. So, I will be a long-range commuter again.  I worked out of Washington DC Dulles for 11 months.  I know the choice I am making.  Long range commuting is not fun.  Luckily, I have a direct flight from MSN-EWR once a day and a direct flight from MKE-EWR four times a day.  Better yet, it is on the airplane my company flies and I will get boarding priority and have jumpseat privileges if all of the seats are full.

I am excited for this next chapter of life.  I am hoping to spend some time in NYC and see the sights a little.  Every domicile base is different and has a different feel.  Newark is notorious for cancellations and delays but I am up for the challenge.  Actually, I hope to transfer to the Houston domicile someday as well but that might be awhile.  Reserve flight attendants in Houston have up to 8 years of seniority before holding a line.

So, it’s so long to Chicago for a while.  My plan is Newark for 6 months and then transfer back to Chicago next spring when my seniority should allow me to keep the line.  I will still fly there occasionally for flights as our trips can go through all the bases.  There are many good friends I will miss.  I will have a new batch of pilots to work with.  They say Newark is the fun base!  I am not much of a party girl and I tend to be a slam-clicker but I do hope the pilots have a sense of humor.  I prefer pilots that aren’t bitter and jaded.

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As I left Chicago last night, I had to grab my last purchase of Garrett’s popcorn mix.  If you have never had Garrett’s Mix, you are missing out!  I won’t be flying as much in the next few months but I will still share my journeys with pictures and blog posts.  I am excited to have the long Savannah overnight next week and Marty is coming along! I am glad today that my schedule will ease up now.  I have been working the airline full-time and going thru orientation in the birth center 2 twelve-hour shifts a week for the last month.  This crazy life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s all about the journey!

Delivering Life

If you know me at all, you will probably think this article is about delivering babies.  Yes, I have been an Obstetrical nurse for over 10 years.  I have been present at the birth of over 450 babies and 35 of them I have delivered myself.  I worked night shifts for many years and doctors don’t always get there in the middle of the night!  My experience with delivering life as a nurse has been a great chapter in my life.  But, I am not sharing a story from my nursing history.  I am sharing a story from my flight attendant job.

Last night, we left Memphis in the afternoon.  It was a flight full of business types headed to Chicago.  It took awhile to leave the gate and some were getting a little miffed.  If you have ever worked a flight out of Memphis, you would not be surprised to endure slow operations there!  We finally pushed back and took off.  Once we got above 10,000 feet the captain called and explained to me why things were so slow.  The ramp personal were loading some very important cargo. Our flight was actually designated a medical evacuation by the air traffic control tower in Memphis.  The captain questioned that designation and found out that we had two live kidneys on board in our cargo.  Those kidneys were headed to Chicago for transplant.

Now, I have only been a flight attendant for about 2 and a half years.  Perhaps this is common place for some flight attendants but I have never knowingly transported live organs on my plane before.  We learn about it in training,  but this was a new experience for me.  To be honest, there was nothing really for me to do regarding the kidneys.  It is a ramper’s job to handle them safely and for the captain to know they are present.  But, I was overcome with the need to pray.

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Our family has been profoundly touched by organ donation.  My sister-in-law Joy Richards received a kidney about 20 years ago now.  She had down’s syndrome and was born with just one kidney.  It started failing for her and she was enduring peritoneal dialysis at the time.  Her siblings were just starting to go through the process of matching for kidney transplantation when my in-laws received the call.  University of Wisconsin Hospital transplant team called them early one morning and told them to get Joy to Madison, they had a kidney for her.  It was an answer to prayer and the best situation for Joy.  She never had to time to think about the transplant.  She just had to go and do it.  We were all so excited for her and my in-laws.  She lived a very full life for 18 years on that kidney.  Truly a gift of life.

As I thought about the 2 kidneys on my plane last night, I was overcome with emotion.  We still miss Joy.  Luckily, I could have a moment behind the galley curtain.  I prayed for those 2 recipients about to receive a new lease on life.  I prayed for their families.  Maybe, they could have even more than 18 years!  Transplants and their longevity continues to improve.  And I prayed for the family of the person who passed away and donated those organs.  A family that is grieving today but assured that their loved one will live on in the recipients.  I was excited to be a small part in delivering life today, as a flight attendant.  A flight I won’t soon forget.  If you are not currently an organ donor, consider it today.  Perhaps one day, you will deliver life to someone!

 

A beautiful fall day in Des Moines

 

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There are many great things about my job as a flight attendant.  One of them is being able to explore new cities.  October 15th was a great day.  As a regional flight attendant, I don’t get to go to exotic places like San Juan or foreign destinations like Paris.  We fly mostly into regional sized cities like Tulsa, Raleigh, Charlotte and Knoxville.  Occasionally, we get really cool opportunities like Toronto, Canada or gulf coast cities.  My airline flies into Mexico and Canada and covers regional routes from Denver to Newark to Houston.  On this particular trip, I was scheduled for a 31 hour overnight in Des Moines.

I have had a few overnights in Des Moines before and we stay in a very nice hotel in the West Des Moines area.  It is surrounded by a zillion stores, shops and restaurants.  There is a massive mall area equipped with everything any shopper would love.  The thing is, I don’t like to shop much and I really dislike corporate shopping malls and franchise restaurants.  I work for a huge corporation but I prefer to walk in historic downtown America and spend my money in Mom & Pop stores.   Once I saw the long overnight on my work schedule, I was excited to go a bit further than the mall.  I did a quick Google search and saw that Des Moines has B Cycle bike share.  I have done bike share in many cities; Austin, Nashville, Omaha, Cincinnati, Fargo, Milwaukee, Madison, Columbus OH, Chicago and Washington DC.  Bike share is the best way to check out a new city.  I can cover so much more ground on bike than I can on foot.  I also saw in my Google search that Des Moines has a well-connected bike trail system.

My next concern was how I was going to get from West Des Moines to downtown.  It’s over 12 miles and I wanted an inexpensive option.  I looked up mass transit and found Des Moines has the DART system.  I called a representative with DART and they were very helpful.  They gave me preliminary directions and assured me there was a way to get from West Des Moines to downtown.  So, that morning I stopped at the hotel front desk and inquired about the bus stop.  It is actually across the highway, Mills Civic Parkway.  The highway is easy to cross at the stoplight and the area is well-lit and safe.  The stop number is #3292 and the #52 bus comes approximately at :25 after the hour, every hour.  Do not go to the stop #3284 on the same side of Mills Civic Parkway as the hotel.  You can always call 515-283-8100 for time clarification and tell them stop #3292, bus #52, to downtown.  The ride takes about 35-40′ and you go around two malls.  The clientele riding the bus are safe and the buses are very clean.  You will be dropped off downtown at the DART center, right in the middle of downtown.  There is a B cycle station right there at the bus center.

 

B Cycle is very easy to use.  The kiosk leads you easily thru the process.  If you are completely new to bike share programs, you can go to B Cycle’s website and they give a very thorough overview of how bike share works.  In Des Moines B Cycle, they give you 60 minutes with the bike.  Some cities, like Madison only give you 30″ at a time because they have so many stations throughout the city.  I always buy a 24 hour pass and then return the bike in the 30 or 60 minute time limit to avoid fee overages.  It is a good idea to have the B Cycle app downloaded on your smart phone, so you can easily find other bike stations.  The app has all the B Cycle cities listed, you just pick the city you are in and then all information given will be particular to that city.  That day, I also stopped in the DART station and got a paper map of the B Cycle stations.  The lady was very helpful setting me in the right direction.

When I start riding bike in a new city, I am cautious at first and try to find a side street and ride around a few streets to get a feel for the city.  Some cities are more “bike friendly” than others.  The motorists of Des Moines were fairly bike friendly.  Most of the time, the motorists will see that you are on a bike share bike and give you wide berth.  Des Moines does have some bike lanes but I did find the one way streets a bit confusing at first.  And their stop lights are ridiculously long.   It’s always a good idea to look at the map before riding.  I rode the bike to the state capital first.

I have been taking pictures of all the state capitals that I have overnighted in.  I have photos from quite a few of the states.  It is always nice to check another capital off my list!  Des Moines’ capital is quite beautiful and has the perfect location, overlooking the whole downtown area.  There was definitely some forethought thought in the placement because you can view the capital from certain streets, the full length of the street.  I then rode all the way down to 14th street, crossing the river to where Meredith Publishing is.  They publish Better Homes & Gardens.  I wandered from street to street for a while and found a sculpture garden full of interesting sculptures.  There is a lot of construction going on in Des Moines.  The bars along Court street look fun and had a fair amount of outdoor seating.  There were many insurance companies and banks, of course.  There is very few vacant buildings.  The economy of Des Moines appears to be really thriving.  Many old buildings were under remodeling/construction as well.  There was pockets of new mixed-use condos popping up everywhere.   I then rode back towards the East Village area, crossing the river again.

I went to a delightful bike shop, called Ichi Bikes, on Walnut street and bought my husband a new bike bell and the guy in the back fixing bikes gave me directions to get to Gray’s Lake.  I then wandered around the East Village area on foot.  My kind of area.  Lot’s of  kitschy shops; clothing, art, hair salons, gift stores and I found a new yarn store.  I am obsessed with knitting and yarn and I can never pass up a skein of yarn found in a new shop.  The girl running the store (Hill Vintage & Knits) was so nice and lovely to talk to.  I stopped next door and had a salad at a little bar/café.  There is so much more to see and do in that area.  I will have to come here again!  I decided I wanted to ride the bike out by Gray’s Lake yet, so I headed in the direction the guy at the bike shop said to go.

It was easy getting into the bike trail system of Des Moines.  Like any other city in America; just follow the river front.  Every city is trying to get their share of the tourism dollar and riverfront’s are big business.  Des Moines has a very nice shared use path along the Des Moines river.  The signage was very easy to follow.  I rode around the back side of the AAA Iowa Cubs baseball stadium and followed the signs to Gray Lake.  The lake is beautiful and did not disappoint.  Many people were out walking today as the weather was absolutely beautiful, sunny and high 60’s/70 today.  The lake has a very cool bridge over the water.  There were plaques to commemorate the lives of loved ones, posted along the railing.  The sun was starting to go down and everyone was out walking their dogs, riding bikes or jogging.  Absolutely lovely.  Little girls learning to ride bike, dogs sniffing the path, geese flying over the lake.  Idyllic.  I love the energy you feel when everyone is sharing in nature like that.  And it was good to see many overweight people walking diligently, taking action to improve their health.  People of all ages and abilities.  I actually rode around the lake twice.  Then I headed back to the DART station to return my bike.  I put on 8 miles from downtown to Gray Lake and my circuit around the lake.  A nice little workout to add to my activity of the day.

It was quite easy to get back to the hotel.  I went to the “E” platform (as instructed) and waited for the Westbound #52 bus.  It leaves every 30″ on the :15 and :45.  It was a 35-40″ ride again, around two malls and then once you get on Mills Civic Parkway, watch for the hotel, it is about 2-4 stops.  You might want to mention to the bus driver which hotel you are staying at on Mills, so they know to stop.  You will need to request the stop.  The bus to downtown costs $1.75 one way.  I spent about 6 hours in downtown and really enjoyed myself.  I love being adventurous in a new city and Des Moines is a safe city to explore.  I loved being able to get out of the corporate jungle and see history, architecture, art and nature.  It truly makes this job a pleasure and creates many great memories.

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A garden of blessings

20150803_195402When living a MarriedLIFEtogether, you find that sometimes it’s the little things that enrich a marriage.  Working hard together on a project. Tackling a home renovation, planting a garden and cleaning the basement. (OK, I will never do that!) There is something very rewarding when working together on a garden.  A common project.  A garden takes time, to see it come to fruition.  It is gratifying to take a plot of dirt, seed it down, manage the weeds and pick the harvest. God is the Master Gardener and He is well pleased to see his people engage in the process of bringing forth the harvest.  A garden is such a metaphor for life as you get what you put into it.

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My husband has been gardening for about 5 years now.  He and his sister Annette (our next door neighbor) worked together to buy plants and harvest the produce.  She would plant in the plot what she was wanting and Marty would add what he was wanting.  I never really got involved.  My work with the photo studio kept me very busy in the summers and my job as a flight attendant the last 2 years took me away from home often.  This summer, I have been home much more due to a schedule change with my airline and I have enjoyed getting out in the garden more.

I always thought I would garden when I got old.  I guess I am old now.  As a child, my parent’s had a huge garden and I remember planting, weeding and harvesting daily.  It was not always a joyous chore in our household but I did learn a lot about vegetable plants, planting a garden, identification of weeds and when to harvest.  I am thankful today for all the gardening skills I did indeed learn as a child.  I still don’t relish the idea of freezing beans or canning fruit.  My parents did a lot of food preservation and I can remember hot summer days in the kitchen while the family worked together to process bushels of beans and rows of sweet corn.  I am still not wanting in on that experience.  I am happy to enjoy the harvest as it comes and sharing it with others when we have too much.  But, it is still Marty’s garden.

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I am so impressed with my husband and his diligence with gardening.  He frequently will leave his vehicle after a long day of being on the road and he will go straight to the garden.  He putters around in it, watering, weeding and harvesting each time.  I think if I set up a lazy boy chair and TV out there, he may never come into the house.  I helped this year with planting and I remember fondly working for over 2 hours in the heat and humidity of July as we pulled a garden full of weeds.  The ground was soft that morning from a light rain and the weeds came easily.  But our legs didn’t recover easily!  We both were quite uncomfortable for days with our hamstrings all stretched to the limit from bending over!  Working in the garden is an incredible work out as well.

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Our beans have produced way beyond our expectations.  They were suppose to be 3 different varieties with three different maturity dates but somehow they all decided to produce at the same time.  We did 2 varieties of green beans and 1 row of purple beans.  The old biblical saying of sometimes you get 30, 60 and even 100 fold holds true this summer.  We are having an 100 fold harvest!  It’s been great to bless others with the beans we can’t eat.  Honestly, I think I have had enough of green beans for awhile.  But they keep on producing, we keep on picking.  When I first met Marty, he only ate 2 vegetables-corn and beans.  He has really grown to appreciate many different vegetables.  The last few years he has grown brussel sprouts and some of his sprouts are the best I have ever tasted.  We are incredibly fortunate to have very good soil.  This year, he has acquired a taste for beets.  I have always loved beets but I could never get him to eat them very much.  But I cook them in a pot of 1c. vinegar and 1c. water and boil them for a long while, until soft.  I let them cool a little and then peel them.  At this point, they taste great in a salad or I also will slice them up and fry a few moments in butter.  When I met Marty, every vegetable was cooked until it was mush and bland.  I still like my vegetable done a little less than he does but he has really learned to like so many new ones.

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Marriage.  Marriage needs to be treated like a garden.  We need to plant and sow; be open to new ideas, begin new projects, dream about the future.  We need to tend the garden-daily.  Removing weeds such as temptation, arguments over finances and selfishness.  We need to stay after the plant’s growth too.  Raising our children; guiding them, pruning off unwanted behaviors and directing them where to grow.  We need to grow together in new areas of interest; professionally, personally and as a couple.  Develop hobbies you can do together.  We need to bring in the harvest-together.  Harvest time is time to get to work.  There will be times where you just don’t want to pick another row of beans.  But you will lose out on the harvest if you let things get to mature and go to seed.  Enjoy the fruits of your labor and don’t get lazy and apathetic at harvest time.  Often, when your kids are finishing high school and going off to college, many couples will grow apart.  It’s time to get to work and tend to the most precious thing of all; your love for each other.

Pray to the Lord of the harvest to bless you 30, 60 and 100 fold.  Focus on the creator and begin to worship more together.  Once the distractions of raising children lessens, invest more into your spiritual life together.  Your later years in your marriage can be richer than the former years.  Always keep the proper order: God first, marriage second and everything else third.

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Our Japanese experience Part #2

We had in our first Japan post the beginning of our trip to Japan;  We finished that post as we stepped onto the shinkansen (bullet train).  But reviewing our pictures, there are a few things we left out and we don’t want to forget a detail!  If you had never read part I of our Japanese experience back in February, here is the link.  Japanese Experience Day#1

Standing in que for the shinkansen, you are never quite sure where to stand. There are red lines and green lines on the train platform. When buying a JR pass, you can travel five different days in a two-week time period on any JR rail line. The cost is $220 per person when you are a tourist. We really enjoyed the shinkansen and highly recommend it for a complete Japanese experience.  The ladies in the JR office were wonderful; they spoke pretty good English and also helped me map out a trip to see the snow monkeys. The train schedules are a little intimidating at first and a bit complicated but the office is always there in Tokyo station to help. When you book your travel, you are actually given assigned seats. You present the pass travel booklet and your seat assignment ticket to get to the train platform.  The trains pull into the station and they are very timely.  Each station platform has the usual convenience food kiosks and vending machines. Japan takes vending machines to another level. Selling hot coffee, cold drinks, ramen, cigarettes, and alcohol.  It was fun to see all the options and we tried many. I found I really liked green lemonade. It’s been many years since I saw cigarettes in a vending machine! The Japanese do smoke but they congregate in little enclosed boxes engulfed in smoke. Occasionally you would smell smoking in a restaurant. It is amazing how we get used to fresh air in Wisconsin where there is no public smoking anymore.

I loved watching the shinkansen attendants board the train. We were in steerage, buying just “regular class” tickets. But you could pay more for first class. The pics of the attendants walking outside the train were the first class attendants. Immaculately dressed and beautiful. Even though we were in steerage, our accommodations make the first class accommodations on a CRJ 700 paltry indeed. We had lots of leg room, an attendant girl came thru with a cart every 20″ offering beverages and snacks for sale. Our attendant wasn’t dressed as fancy but they were very tidy and pleasant. The train had its own version of skymall! The inside of the trains were completely immaculate, with no scratches, graffiti or wear & tear noted.

Laurel picked us up at Hachinohe Station  we rode the Shinkansen train for over three hours to northern Japan.  Tokyo is the world’s largest city and you realize that as you pass the city center to the outer edges of Tokyo.  It goes on and on, apartment upon apartment building.  A sea of humanity, every apartment building have its own community.  There are single dwelling homes but you really didn’t see suburban housing like you see in America.  It seemed like every residence had multiple dwellings.  It was quite daunting how many buildings we passed, mile upon mile.  Our train went very fast (over 100 miles per hour) and it was at least an hour before the urban city gave way to a more suburban environment.  The houses generally were darker colors and it was rare to see a house of a brighter color.  It was also rare to see aluminum siding, mostly you saw a wooden or slate/cement board type exterior.  Almost all the roofs were a ceramic/clay tile and generally black or a dark color.  Often you would see the japanese architecture in the roof lines and the fencing/patio/garden areas.  As the train would go from the urban/suburban sprawl of the city to the countryside you would see terraced plots of land. The land was always deliberately in use as it was used for housing or commercial property or well-designed farm land.  Frequently, you would see irrigation ditches cutting thru the farm land.  Often in the urban areas there would be large golf ranges with high nets.  There would be a building with driving ranges and they were up to four to six floors high and open to the nets.  There were also many baseball fields.  Frequently, there would be factories with common trade names on the outside of the plant.  One thing that really struck as odd was the presence of electrical wires everywhere that cluttered the landscape and edged all the side streets.  In America, we get used to seeing them buried in the ground.

Laurel picked us up in a city named Hachinohe (hatch in NO aye). It was so wonderful just to see her in Japan.  We jumped into her car right away and she whisked us off to her air base.  It was honestly our first time in a country that drives on the opposite side of the car and on the opposite of the road.  We have to be honest it was very disconcerting being a passenger in the car your child is driving when she is driving on the wrong side.  You want to correct them.  It’s so odd turning into traffic or changing lanes.  It just doesn’t feel right.  Japan also walks opposite of what we are used to.  So, when on a sidewalk, you walk to the left instead of the right.  We were constantly wanting to fall back into our own pattern and had to remind ourselves to get in the “left” lane.  Misawa was actually a nice sized town.  I had pictured in my mind that it would be like Richland Center and have just one main street but it actually had over 20,000 people and felt like the size of Baraboo.  There was a city government area, a train station, an older main shopping street and many shopping centers on the outskirts of town.  But the far edge of town was all Air Force Base.

Misawa Air Force Base tour

Misawa seemed very much like other Air Force bases we had been to before.  The government must get a deal on creamy, light yellow paint because they paint everything that color.  The base has a pretty good-sized population and has many of the typical military base things such as, a PX, commissary, a few restaurants, military offices, security and they had Laurel’s media building for Armed Forces Radio and TV network.  We got there at about 4pm on a friday afternoon so we got to have a tour courtesy of Laurel.  Cool to see the TV news room/stage, the radio studio where she works every day and she showed us how the satellite feed comes in and how they put their own commercials and local news over the satellite feed.  The DJ working the afternoon shift invited Marty and Laurel to be on the air with him for a few minutes.  They did a quick interview talking about our trip and what was going on back home.  We were able to meet a few of her co-workers and see her office.  It is really gratifying as a parent to see your child in their work environment and to see the favor and regard her co-workers seem to have for her.

Our Base hotel accommodations

Laurel then took us to our base hotel accommodations.  There actually was a couple of hotels on the base.  Laurel was able to book our room with the help of her commanding officer.  Luckily, her officer seems to have a little “pull” around Misawa!  We were booked into the Admiral’s suite, a five-room suite including a full kitchen, dining area, living room, office room with computer, bedroom with a very large bed, bathroom with tub and shower and a separate toilet/vanity room.  It truly was quite the swanky place to stay.  It was one of the nicest beds I have ever been in and I have been in many very nice beds in the last two years.  There also was a full massage chair in the bedroom.  I speculate that they put the massage chair in there so the Admiral would have no reason to request a “massage”.  The chair was fully computerized but it unfortunately only spoke in Japanese.  We had a lot of fun playing with the controls.  It massaged all the way from the back of your calves all the way up to the neck.  It was very intense in its massage and could be actually quite painful.  After sitting in it for over 30″ I felt like I had every muscle worked to a pulp and quite tenderized.  The next day, my back was so sensitive, I felt like Marty had beat me with a base-ball bat. But the best thing was the wonderful Japanese toilet with the bidet function and heated seat.  We were so tempted to take the seat and stuff it in our carry on.  Seriously, considering how we can get one for our house.

Ramen noodle supper

After getting settled in to our hotel room.  Laurel took us to one of her favorite restaurants.  We got to sit at a traditional, low Japanese table.  Marty and I are just not that flexible anymore!  They served us a BBQ flavored ramen noodle bowl.  We both have gotten pretty good eating with chopsticks.  It was the best ramen I had ever had with great broth and flavor.  The decor was traditional Japanese decor, lot’s of red and gold accents with the usual shrine artifacts and buddhist knick knacks.

Karaoke fun in Misawa

After eating supper, Laurel took us to a traditional favorite for everyone alike in Japan. Karaoke!  We entered the building and got a room.  I have seen Karaoke in America in many types of locales but never where you get a secluded room that holds about 5 to 10 people.  You pay a flat hourly fee and you get unlimited drinks in that time period.  We had like 50+ drinks to choose from.  Then you get to pick your songs on the computer.  The room is designed with a sound proof door/walls, with a table with booth seating and a TV.  Once you picked your songs, the karaoke video would play and you would get to sing along with the video.  Japanese videos are truly funny to watch.  They were very sappy, kitschy actors in bad 1980’s styles.  It was really great to see Laurel’s friends and how they seemed to be family for her.

Grocery Shopping

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We honestly slept in Saturday morning.  The jet lag was catching up with me.  But eventually we got up and Laurel took us grocery shopping.  She took us to the store called “Universe”; a chain of grocery stores commonly found in shopping centers.  It was so completely interesting to see how normal everyday groceries were so completely different from what we are used to.  They had some of the nicest, freshest produce.  I really don’t know where we get our produce in America but I have noticed in my past travels to Canada and now to Japan, that other countries have the best looking fruits and vegetables.  Their colors so bright, the fruit so large and ripe, the variety of vegetables way more than what we have available.  They take their mushrooms seriously; there had to be 10+ varieties; all fresh and in perfect condition.  Often you would see usual products on the shelves but then they would have items we just don’t have like packaged seaweed.  There was lots of variety of fish as well.  The complete row of sake was a bit overwhelming.  They had more bottles of sake than we have in most wine selections. Laurel bought all the ingredients for the supper she was planning on making to celebrate Mardi Gras.  She invited many of her friends to her apartment.  She often loves to make a special recipe of food and have friends over.  For that evening she made homemade gumbo.  It was absolutely wonderful!  Time with her friends was wonderful and it was so nice to see her have many good people in her life.  Check out the video on this link that shows images from grocery stores in Japan.  A fascinating video.

 

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Another restaurant Laurel took us to was very common in Japan and kinda like their version of McDonald’s.  It was essentially fast food sushi and they had a conveyor belt that actually brought out your sushi to your table.  You actually ordered the sushi and other entrees on the computer screen at your table.  Periodically, there would be samples of sushi floating along on the ‘sushi train’ and you could see them and decide if you wanted to order them.  You would place an order and the conveyor belt would bring your plate of sushi out from the kitchen.  You would grab your plate and then eat it.  Once you were done with your meal, the waitress would come to your table and count up the number of plates you had.  Each color represented a different dollar amount. It was such a fun and unique idea for serving food.  I think it actually would go over quite well here in America.

We will try to finish up the rest of our trip in the next installment.  And try not to make you wait more than a week to read it!

 

Bucket list living…

2015-02-23 14.16.24When we went to Japan this past February, we were planning our itinerary of what we were gonna do and see.  I brought up how I would love to see the Nagano snow monkeys and Marty looked at me like I was crazy.  Sometimes, you need to just go with an idea.  When you are married, it is important to make bucket lists.  They will change over the years but it is great to dream big together.  We have made a few lists in the last 10 years.  Once, on a date night, we took some paper and pen and wrote down places to go and see.  It was fun to hear each other’s ideas.  Many of Marty’s had to do with sport locations he wanted to visit.  Many of mine were places I saw in magazines when I was a child.  Many were locations where our favorite movies were filmed.

I used to get “World” magazine as a child and loved reading about all the interesting places in the world.  I remember getting one particular issue with Nagano snow monkeys on the front cover and a full article on them inside.  I always thought, if I ever go to Japan, I must see them.  It is amazing how many childhood experiences can spark a lifelong dream.  I was a very avid reader and my imagination took me everywhere.  I encourage all parents to foster the adventure spirit in their children.  Expose your children to great publications and websites that show images and stories from around the world. God has placed within us a desire to explore, invent and create.  Encouraging that in your children makes them possibility-thinkers.  We need kids excited to go and to leave the nest.  That is the goal of parenting…children full of passion for life.  I looked to see if I could find the past magazine article but that was back in 1980 and couldn’t find it on the web.  But, World magazine still is in publication and they have World Kids and World Teen; both wonderful online magazines that will foster a love of adventure.

Shinkansen tourist info desk
Shinkansen tourist info desk

So, we were in the train station in Tokyo getting our tickets for the shinkansen, also known as the bullet train.  Marty was getting the tickets and getting a map to northern Japan from a teller.  I was bored so I ventured over to the other side of the room and asked some other ladies at the info desk how to get to the Nagano snow monkeys.  Yes, I was being sneaky. Marty was always saying, “we’ll see” whenever I brought up the topic but I wanted to make it happen.  In many marriages, “we’ll see” means, “I am hearing you but I don’t want to tell you NO.”  But, I was pretty driven at this point.  The ladies had some pamphlets on the monkeys.  It turns out, they are quite a sensation and a tourist hotspot.  One of them went onto the computer and planned an itinerary from Misawa to Nagano and gave me a handwritten note of station times,   connecting trains and approximate time durations.  It was gonna be a hard sell because it was hours out-of-the-way and essentially a full day trip to the location.  But, I used my feminine powers of persuasion.  After much discussion, Marty realized I had my mind-set on it.  Score.  (oops! not supposed to keep a scoreboard in marriage!)

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handwritten itinerary and pamphlets

After we visited our daughter in northern Japan, it was time to head south again.  We left Misawa on the train listed on the itinerary.  I was nervous about following the hand written itinerary because some of the train departure times listed on the itinerary didn’t match the schedules on the train terminal screen.  I didn’t want to get us lost or stranded.  After all, this was my idea, my plan.  But the ladies made us a perfect itinerary and everything lined up as they said.  We had three different train stations, with tight connections and each ticket a separate leg.  It all flowed together perfectly, thank God!  The Japanese do trains the best I have ever seen, always on time as expected.  Once we got to Nagano we had to take a bus out to where the monkeys live.  Nagano was really interesting to look at as we drove through town.  You could still see arenas and large sport complexes from the Nagano Winter Olympics, back in 1998.  Almost been 20 years already!

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bus to base of mountains

We finally got to the small village in the base of the mountains.  By this point, we had been on three different trains and a bus, traveling over 5 hours already.  This better be good was what I was thinking!  Then we were dropped off and had to hike.  They were like, ‘it’s a short hike’ but it was a bit more than that!  We hiked up a fairly vertical climb, through a pine forest and along a snow & mud trail.  Along with hundreds of others making the pilgrimage.  It’s crazy how many people were going to see the monkeys.  People from all over the world.  When we were in Japan, we barely saw any American/English-speaking people until we got to the snow monkey trail.  So, obviously, snow monkeys were on other’s bucket list too!

 

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climbing stairs to onsen springs
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pretty much vertical all the way
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muddy & slippery trail thru forest
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getting close to the hot springs
READ the rules!
READ the rules!

After our hike, we finally got to the area where the monkeys resided.  There are no fences.  It’s not a zoo.  They live out in the open and can be found walking around you.  There are many rules when going to see the monkeys.  You can see the list here.  Keep in mind, if there is a rule…likely someone tried it before.  I had no desire to bathe with the monkeys but perhaps that was on someone’s bucket list!

As we got closer to the monkeys, it was so exciting.  They are everywhere, there is a colony of over 200 monkeys.  They were playing in the snow, throwing snow balls at each other (better than dung!) and Mama monkeys were carrying around their babies everywhere.  Marty took a picture of me with some monkeys and as he was taking it, a monkey came literally inches away from me!  I had no idea that the monkey was right beside me until after Marty took the picture.  But I was very careful to NOT stare into their eyes.  We were warned many times to NOT stare because they get aggressive.

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my first interaction with the monkeys

The hot spring area was very interesting.  Literally, a small pond with about 10-15 monkeys hanging out in the water or on the rocks.  Grooming each other, nursing their babies and napping.  They didn’t seem fazed by all the people looking at them.  It was crazy, all kinds of tourists with fancy cameras (and I know an expensive camera & lens when I see it!) I can’t believe they traipsed out there thru the mud, snow and moisture with their equipment.  It was obnoxious really.  National Geographic wannabes.

The Monkey park actually started in 1964 to protect the Japanese Macaques.  They put monkey food on the water and that drew the monkeys into the water.  Once they realized how the water felt, they returned.  (I don’t blame them a bit) They have been in the onsen (natural spring hot tub) ever since.  We didn’t get to see snow on top of their heads because it didn’t actually snow that day but I have seen pictures where their heads are snow-capped while in the onsen.

It’s funny how pictures can be so deceiving.  I thought the onsen was really large when looking at pictures but it really was only about 20 feet across.  The experience was completely worth the long train ride and arduous hike.  I was so happy and delighted to see something I had dreamed of as a child.  I am glad we did it at this point, the hike was physical and I don’t recommend doing it if you are physically unfit.  I was so glad to do this and really glad I had a husband willing to do this too!  I think he enjoyed the experience as much as me.  Truly a memorable time in our marriage.  Take time on a date night and write up your own marriage bucket list.  Dream big and don’t edit anything.  You never know when God might make your dreams come true!  I am sure I will be going to some more sporting arenas in the future too!  But that is the best part of marriage-enjoying the journey together!

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our ‘shot’ together at onsen edge
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dream fulfilled-happy
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monkeys in onsen
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monkeys sitting on edge on onsen
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camera people, ugh

 

 

 

Marty’s Marriage Tips…

What started off as a tongue in cheek, a whenever-I-felt-like-it, Facebook post called
Marty’s Marriage Tips, has morphed into something a little bit more sincere. There are
some people who upon hearing I offer serious marriage advice will be assured that the
apocalypse is upon us. I don’t have any sons, I do have a son-in-law who I consider as
close as a son, but I have also accumulated over the years many guy friendships that
started through coaching football, football tailgates, and other general discussions with
complete strangers. This is a loose group of guys that have come to me for advice when it
comes to relationships. Especially the football guys when they were married later in life I
used to give them some specific steps to follow as they worked towards a successful
relationship with their girlfriends, spouses, partners, you name it.

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Cheap help!

Now, I am the worst credentialed “Marital Counselor” in Wisconsin. I have no degree, of
any kind, let alone in marriage counseling. I have made many, many mistakes in our
marriage. I once bought a house without Teri’s knowledge, an error I will never repeat
again. I also once had to sneak into the house at 3:30AM through the wood chute of our
home after being out with a high school classmate (a guy) who was home from the Army
because Teri had locked me out. (She got her revenge though because I had a very rough
landing onto a pile of cut wood, in the dark, half in the bag, and then had to navigate it
back up some basement steps in the dark only to meet her at the top of the steps. Ouch) I
also was very selfish at times, not considering her needs but typically only considering
what I wanted. I could usually rationalize these decisions in “what was good for the
family”. Fortunately, no decision I made was big enough to cause that fatal flaw to our
marriage. We could always recover, and eventually I could be forgiven. I still make
mistakes, fortunately they are fewer and farther in between, and they seem to become
much more minor in nature.

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early years, our late honeymoon

Some might argue I actually might have the best credentials to offer others
marital/relationship advice. I have 27 years of marriage experience in which I started out
without a clue what it would take for us to be successful. But through a string of
missteps, outright bad decisions, and much forgiveness between the two of us, we slowly
carved out an extremely strong and enjoyable relationship together. You will notice I am
really throwing myself under the bus in this discussion, this is important to note. While
Teri will tell you she has made mistakes too, that isn’t cool for me to point those out or
share them anywhere. Guys, take care of your own backyard, only.

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first trip to California without kids

There are two sides to every story for sure. You will find that both of the people in a
relationship will make mistakes and bad decisions, the key is that when one makes bad
decisions the other one is picking up their effort to make it work. In a successful
relationship you typically take turns carrying the relationship. A strong relationship does
have a wax and wane to it, much like a moon tide or even seasons. Sometimes it is
stronger than other times. There are times when both of you are meeting each other at the
same place, and that is awesome! Enjoy this when it happens and self-examine so you
understand how you got there.

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MarriedLIFE-not always a picnic

I have three distinct points of advice that if we operate around these three goals, it is my
experience and opinion; a relationship can be extremely successful in the long run.
Because I typically only talk with dudes about this, I write as I do between guys, but the
same advice is good for women as well:

#1. Do not keep a scoreboard! (Meaning, don’t keep track of all of the mistakes
your spouse/girlfriend makes) If you are keeping a tally of every time your partner makes
a mistake, makes a bad decision, or you feel wrongs you, this will end in disaster.
Seriously, by keeping a scoreboard you are doing two things, you are not forgiving your
partner for mistakes they have made and you are setting yourself up for them keeping a
scoreboard on you. Let me tell you, you do not want your partner in your relationship to
keep a scoreboard either because you would be very surprised to find out how many
more mistakes you are making. When you have wronged your wife/girlfriend, or made a
bad decision, discuss it together, (not with other people) ask for forgiveness or give
forgiveness and then move on. Never bring it up again once the issue is resolved, hard to
do, but important! For those who do better with sports illustrations to understand a point,
you will never get to second base if you keep going back to first base every time a ball is
hit.

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not looking at the scoreboard

#2. Keep falling in love with each other over and over again. Relationships
have seasons as I mentioned earlier. There is a honeymoon period, there are periods of
slogging along, there are periods of relative calm and low intensity, and there are even
periods of borderline apathy for each other. This is very normal; you can’t have the level
of emotion or energy of that first date together forever. There definitely are seasons.
There are disagreements, arguments, and raw anger at times. However, I have learned to
live the phrase, “I am not liking you at this moment, but I very much still love you.”
Wow, that seems like a horribly negative paragraph doesn’t it? Here is the good news,
you can keep falling in love with each other again, and again, and again. There will be
times when everything meshes, all is forgiven, and you come together again and have that
same energy and attraction of that first couple of dates, or that first year of marriage.

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fell in love again and again!

However, you have to work to get there, extend the hand of forgiveness, even if it takes
more than once. You might get to a position where you need to carry the relationship, (do
you remember that discussion from earlier?) you may have to be vulnerable to be
rejected, ignored, or not forgiven, (multiple times even!) to fall in love again with each
other. Yes, you might have to be the leader here. (I am NOT talking Old Testament
leadership of “Women submit to your husbands” so don’t misunderstand me). But
someone needs to take the lead. You realize you can’t even slow dance together unless
someone leads? This is one of my pet peeves with guys today, the lack of leadership in
relationships! Be the one to ask for forgiveness first, or give forgiveness first. Be the one
to bring up the uncomfortable subject first in a way that is comfortable for your partner.
Lead for cripes sakes! Most all wives/girlfriends do want a guy who knows what he
wants, will tell them exactly what their goals are, and are willing to take the first steps
towards those goals. And hopefully one of those goals is an exciting, fun, adventurous
relationship. If so, we also have to be willing to take the lead on reconciliation and
sometimes this might take getting shut down like the jet engines on a plane load of
concrete a couple times for us to again fall in love with each other. Try, try, again. Yes,
easier said than done, but in the long haul, well worth the effort because this is what leads
to falling in love again with each other.

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date night!

#3. Keep dating each other. Notice it says “each other”. We have seen several
friends over the years that became so involved in raising kids, or in their careers, that
when the career went away, or the kids grew up and left the house, they divorced. They
had what most all observers would say were very good relationships. However, over the
years the kids or the career started to control the schedule. Pretty soon they don’t know
each other, they don’t have common interests, they aren’t even having a cup of coffee
with each other on Sunday morning. It becomes a priority of “who is picking up the kids
from daycare”, “who is taking Johnny to t-ball”, “who is making dinner”? We forget that
we originally got married because we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and we
lose that foundation. Then when it morphs into the reason for the relationship is to raise
the kids and the kids are no longer there, many couples retreat to their own end of the
house. Or even worse, they find someone else interesting that they can align their new
goals with and pretty soon a divorce is in the works.

One of the best things Teri and I did, and I don’t think we knew exactly what we were
doing but it worked out great, was that we kept going out together through the whole time
we were raising kids. When our first born, Holly, was only a month old, we had a
babysitter come in and we went out to eat that evening and kept it up through out our
whole child raising careers. A note here, we were blessed with great babysitters. Since we
were involved with church, and at the school, we knew the kids of the area very well and
we were blessed with excellent babysitters. We even took them on vacations with us so
Teri and I could have a night out just the two of us. We paid the good babysitters more
than most other people did to keep them and they were worth it. We also were blessed
with the location of our home and the location to my sister who was a daycare provider
but more accurately co-parented our kids with us. Not everyone has this blessing, but
most of us can develop a roster of great babysitters, and if they are great, overpay them!
Through this effort Teri and I have a very good picture of what we see in the next 20
years for us. We enjoy just having a cup of coffee together each morning. We enjoy
actually doing laptop work together in the same room, periodically chatting about
something in common. We love riding bikes together, even long distances. We simply
enjoy spending time together doing anything and everything together. It wasn’t always
like that, we had to work on it and develop it. There was a bunch of trial and error, lots of
errors. But I think that the one thing that helped us continue to work on this together is
that we always had the common goal of spending time together and simply enjoying each
other’s company.

Probably one of the most memorable moments in our life together was on a trip out to
South Dakota with the vehicle packed with kids. On the way back home we had two flat
tires on the pop-up camper, tires that were brand new before the start of the trip. While
changing the second tire, on the side of the interstate in Iowa, in 90 degree heat with
semi-trucks steaming on by regularly, Teri is helping me with the tire change when she
says, “I wouldn’t have two flat tires on the side of the Interstate with anyone else but
you.” I can’t always pinpoint the moments we fell back in love with each other through
out the years, there have been several times, but I know that is definitely one of those
times.

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celebrating 25 years in this picture

I encourage you to use these 3 points of emphasis as you work through your
relationships, it has worked for us and maybe they will work for others. Vince Lombardi
has many great quotes, (you didn’t think I could get through this without a quote from
Vince Lombardi did you?) but one of the most applicable quotes he has for all of us is,
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”. I think this is true in many aspects of life,
and very much so with relationships.

MarriedLIFEtogether

Our blog has taken on a new perspective.  It will be a joint blog, between Marty and I. Topic: MarriedLIFE.  We just saw the Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and love it’s motto.

To see the world…together. To live thru things dangerous to come…Big or small, together.  To see behind walls…facing all things together. To draw closer…together.  To find each other…each day together.  To feel…all things together.  That is the purpose of marriedlifetogether.com.   More to come.

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