Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Great Outdoors

Just a quick weekend post: I'm typing this underneath the shade tree in our back yard, where Lauren and I are enjoying the benefits of mobile computing, sitting on our Wal-Mart special lounge chairs with a Citronella candle between us, and drinking moon tea (i.e., sun tea, but without the nasty health issues).

It's been a pretty busy but fun weekend so far: Friday night found us at A&G Restaurant for Greek Night, then after that, over to Wal-Mart for some preliminary shopping for the 4th of July camping trip. Since I only have that day off, we're hoping to spend the evening of July 3rd and the 4th out at Mozingo Lake, camping out and hiking (Lauren's planning to bring the stovetop espresso pot so we can have morning coffee), and ultimately, later that evening we'll be able to view the fireworks.

Later that evening found us heading down to the local Orscheln's farm store for their Midnight Madness sale to keep the kitties in cat kibble. We also had to wait out the rainstorm that started right after we arrived, which we were glad for, as Lauren's garden got a good watering, too.

This morning, we continued our morning distance walks; equipped with camelbacks for water, we walked out of town to Gray's Truckstop and Cafe for a light late-morning lunch (with accompanying nap afterward). Now this sounds pretty tame. However, the walk out to Gray's is 4.5 miles, while the walk back was approximately 4 miles, so we walked a total of 8.5 miles with lunch break (which tends to blow local people's minds, because most people simply drive out there). This marks (for me) the longest sustained walk I've done since driving cattle on the family farm, but it pales besides the walk Lauren did on Friday, as she's now up 10.5 miles, which means she did back to back long walks two days in a row.

Later in the afternoon, we went down to the local John Deere dealership, which was the home site of the local Heart of America tractor cruise. We watched the tractors (most of them 1930s to 1960's era models) return from the cruise, which went out to Clyde (near Conception Junction), and back to Maryville, finally parading around the square and then back up 71 Highway to the dealership; the accompanying BBQ afterward was open to the public, and one of Lauren's coworkers' families was involved in organizing, so of course we went. Besides, the donations from the BBQ and cruise activities go toward Camp Quality, a local summer program for kids undergoing cancer treatments, so it was all for a good cause.

Having grown up with a farming background, it was fun explaining to Lauren some of the "what was whats" (i.e., this is a 3-point hitch, this was the kind(s) of tractors we used to drive, this tractor was made by this company before they got bought out by this company, etc.). However, just because I grew up driving them does not mean that I want to OWN one ... as I pointed out to Lauren, where would we put it???

I suspect tomorrow, apart from church and a minimum of laundry and housecleaning, will involve quite a bit of rest and recuperation from today's walk. A few days ago, I looked at the post from back in January with our New Year's resolutions, and it looks like both of us have gotten around to fulfilling those. Lauren's was to walk an average of 3 miles a day (and she's now doing that, with an average of 5), and mine was to lose 5 pounds (which I've done aplenty, having dropped at least 20 so far).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

High School Reunion, Take 2

Lauren and I got back from SE Kansas earlier this afternoon, where we spent an enjoyable day at my reunion, and the following morning.

We actually showed up for part 2 of the reunion, which took place out at the Greenbush Gazebo and was a potluck (apparently, we had one of the few picnic areas that was still available that day, between the various reunions and other activities in the area). All told, roughly 14 classmates, plus their spouses and kids, showed up ... not bad, considering that only 24 people showed up for the dinner and dance the night before, and some of the same people showed up to both events.

Anyhoo, all in all, we had a great time. Lauren got to meet "the gang" that I hung out with in high school. We've all gotten older, some of us the worse for wear, but all in all, everyone's still hanging in there.

Showing Some Class (l-r): Richard Potts, Donna Martin (nee Oplotnik), me, Mark Viets, Micah Joy, John Nepote, Anita Bradshaw (sorry, Anita, can't remember your married name), Cindy Vulgamore (nee Humble), Guy Spieth, Pattie (was Mitchell), Eric Duncan, Cindy (was Kennedy), Dean Davied, and John Vulgamore.

Micah watching Balin, while Guy takes a call from his girlfriend.

The "Gang": Guy, John, Micah, Eric, and me. Lauren remarked that this picture made us look like a "bad rap group". And Guy's taking another call from his girlfriend. Oh well ....

  • Eric Duncan showing off his new Lotus sports car.
  • Meeting Micah's adopted son, Balin, for the first time.
  • John Nepote describing what happened "the night before" at the other half of the reunion.
  • John Vulgamore showing off his "hog" ... his pride and joy Harley.
  • Anita Bradshaw's husband bringing his classic teal green 1964 Ford Galaxie convertable.
  • Catching up with everyone and realizing that, yeah, it's been 20 years, and while some of the old animosities still exist, a lot of that has been left behind.
And for everyone who DIDN'T show up: WHERE WERE YOU????

After the reunion closed out at 2, Lauren and I took a side trip. Since I hadn't been home for any length of time in awhile (despite the brief trip back last summer), Lauren and I stopped off in Brazilton, where we visited the cemetary from my family's old (now gone) Lutheran church in the country to pay respects (especially to my Dad's plot, to see how it was holding up ... after all, it was Father's Day weekend, perversely enough).

After that, we stopped off to visit with Earl and Iona Bredehoeft, who had been friends of Dad, and we got to take a brief tour of the one-room schoolhouse that the two have been restoring over the years.

Finally, we headed over to Pittsburg for dinner at Chicken Mary's with Micah and Guy, and then we were on our way to Fort Scott, KS, about 22 miles away. With the hotels in Pittsburg booked, and Lauren being a fan of bed and breakfasts, we stayed at the Courtland Hotel and Day Spa.

The Courtland was a former 1906 railroad hotel (that is, it was mostly for the use of railroad staff and employees who were overnighting in Fort Scott and only needed a private bedroom) that has now been converted into an elegant bed and breakfast and day spa.

An outdoor pic of the Courtland, about a block away from the Fort Scott National Historic Site (the old Dragoon fort).

Lobby, Just Off the Front Desk

The Hallway. Note the punched-tin work on the ceiling.

Reading Nook

The Dining Room

All told, we had a great weekend, and with Eric now living in KC, it looks like future meet-ups down there are likely.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

High School Reunions

This weekend, barring flash floods or a rainout, we're headed down to Kansas for my 20-year high school reunion. I didn't go to my 5th or my 10th, simply because I didn't want to re-experience high school: namely, the same exclusionary cliques, the same brash arrogance, and above all, the same gang trying to prove they could still hold their beers. I left all of that when I graduated, and didn't want to experience it again.

This time may be different; I'm going because the group I hung out with in high school will all be there:

Micah Joy, the best man at my wedding and longtime friend
Guy Spieth, who although I found his taste in books (the Gor series, anyone?) questionable, is still a decent guy
John Vulgamore, who somehow managed to get married before any of us (to a fellow classmate, no less), and
Eric Duncan, computer whiz and European sports car lover from early on, who now probably makes more money than all of us in the IT field.

We'll have pictures in a later post.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Welcome to Summer

Sorry for the gaps between postings, but it's been a busy couple of weeks: busy because rather than getting a couple of days during the plant shutdown, I actually got to work both weeks (including Saturday, to make up for the holiday on Monday), and I will even get a small bit of overtime thrown in as well. At least I had Memorial Day off, and the weather stayed good enough to grill out a few times.

What I'm currently doing at the plant involves cleaning. Lots of cleaning, in the upper machine bay levels of the plant called the "High Bay", where the raw ingredients for making the insides and outsides of batteries (especially the graphite mix used for the outer casing that surrounds the metal core cannister and the graphite/metallic mix which makes up part of the chemical reaction that allows your Energizer battery to work) are piped, filtered, blended, and then fed into the moulding machines on the ground floor.

Yes, it's graphite. The same stuff that goes into tennis rackets. The same stuff that makes up the inner cores of pencils worldwide. And it sticks to everything. Despite the disposible clean suits we're issued, it leaves one dirty ... so much so that at the end of the work day, the second shower has become another ritual for me. We're hoping that with the various new equipment installs done over the last two weeks, the bay will become a bit less dustier and make my job easier (and perhaps cleaner).

So now it's June here, and it's getting warmer. Fortunately, Woodgie has been able to garden quite a bit and start up her worm farm (in case you hadn't guessed, Woodgie is as much of an organic gardener as possible). The worm farm, we hope, will provide some good ongoing soil treatment for the raised garden beds. Ultimately, it will also provide a source of fishing worms for when Lauren and I are able to get out to Mozingo and go fishing.

Also with summer brings a couple of traveling opportunities: next weekend, Lauren and I will head back to my hometown for my 20 year high school reunion. We'll miss the dinner and dance on Friday night, but Saturday, we'll be heading down for a picnic and meet and greet (which is more my speed than the beer bash on Friday night). Then, the last weekend of the month, we'll be heading back up to Des Moines for an impromptu post-wedding reception that two of my Tai Chi friends are throwing; this will allow everyone up there who didn't get a chance to come to the wedding (or who we couldn't invite, due to the small size of the church), to visit and bring gifts if they want. Following that, the book club gang will do their usual yearly solstice gathering and campout that evening.

And then next month, Woodgie is done with her classes, but after the 4th, which we hope to spend out at Mozingo Lake camping and fishing, the following week, Lauren will be joining several others from our church for a week long mission trip up to a South Dakota Indian reservation at the local Episcopal mission church. Since I'm stuck on a weekly work schedule and have no vacation, we've decided that I'm going to be the one staying home and tending the cats. Eventually, Woodgie will be visiting student interns in a few locations ... most of them are local, but one is down in KC, so a road-trip there may be in order.

And what I'm waiting for at the end of July is the release of this.

All in all, it's going to be a busy summer for both of us.