Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't Forget My Giveaway

Don't forget to stop by my post to sign up to win the purse. I only have one entry so far and we should keep it sporting, so be sure to leave a comment.

I want to hear from all of my readers-I love meeting people from all over the world.

Come on, guys!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Six Years and I Still Miss You

Mom is on the left in this picture. The poor girl on the right had her tap pants on backwards. Mom joked that this was the last time she had skinny thighs.

Six years ago today I lost my best friend. My mom, Catherine Patricia O'Rourke Erickson. She was rear-ended on the Interstate on her way home from my house and after four excruciating days she left us.

Mom was born and grew up in Livingston, MT, near Yellowstone Park. She was a fun-loving girl who was well-liked by her friends. She worked mostly as a cook and was a very good one. She spent many summers cooking for the workers in Yellowstone at Mammoth. She was married twice, the first time to the love of her life, my Dad.

Life wasn't easy but she always could laugh her way through. She had customers at the cafe she worked at that would only come in if Mom was on shift. They needed their daily fix of harassment and good food.

We lived in the small town of Belgrade, Montana. Every year they hold the Fall Festival, and every year Mom would dress up and walk in the parade. She was a New Year's Baby, a fly, a duck, the Happy Hooker, an angel, an old lady on a motorcycle, a lady in a bathtub and many more I'd have to dig deep in my brain to remember. Years later I still hear her old friends and acquaintances tell me the Fall Festival will never be the same without Mom.

Of course we didn't always get along perfectly, we were mother and daughter after all, but through the years we developed a closeness that most mothers and daughters would envy. We were very much alike-creative, crafty, and good cooks. We loved to take road trips together and thought nothing of driving a hundred miles to check out a fabric store or craft shop. I'd get a call, "Let's go to town and 'feel some material,'" her way of suggesting at trip to the fabric stores. Every Saturday one of us would call the other and we'd gab for at least an hour, sometimes three. I kept asking God to let me keep her for a few more years because Mom was my lifeline and my best pal. For reasons known only to Him, she didn't get to stay.

Mom, it still doesn't seem like you've gone anywhere, let alone being gone for six years already. I know you're laughing with Jesus and someday I'll see you again.

Are there fabric stores in Heaven?

In high school-approximately sixteen years old.

As a young adult-around twenty. Isn't she striking? She had thicker hair than anyone I ever knew.

Short Getaway

My brother-in-law, Harold, and his wife Judy celebrated their 51st anniversary this week with a two day trip to Yellowstone. They invited us along. I'm not sure if Judy meant for us to go along, but Harold got excited and asked Stan if we wanted to go with them and we said yes.

Wednesday afternoon they picked us up and headed for West Yellowstone, stopping for a burger at the Corral along the way. That evening we watched the Playmill Players do "Footloose." My Southern Baptist SIL thought it was awesome. We also went through the Grizzly Discovery Center.

This is Sam, a 12-year-old grizzly. He weighs over 900 pounds. He and his sister were orphaned at 6 months and have spent most of their life in the Discovery Center. Most of the bears they have are "problem bears," the ones who lose their fear of humans and raid garbage cans, etc., for food. A big share of the problem was caused years ago by tourists feeding the bears.

A baby bison crossing the Firehole River. We saw about a thousand buffalo. They estimate that there are about twice the number of buffalo in the Park as can be fed in the wintertime. Right now it's lush and green, but pickings can be pretty slim in the winter.

Now for the history lesson. Over the winter of 1903-1904, the Old Faithful Inn was built. Assisting Robert Remer the architect with the construction was a blacksmith by the name of George W. Colpitts, who just happens to be my great-grandfather. Pretty much all of the iron work was done by Grandpa, including the door hardware, all the andirons and screens on the fireplace, and the famous clock. My grandmother always claimed that she was the first white child born in Yellowstone (she was born at Mammoth in 1887) but I have since found out that she was more likely the second. Still pretty cool.

Thursday we toured the Park until we simply ran out of daylight. We spent the night in Gardiner, then headed back into the Park on Friday.

We saw buffalo, antelope, one wolf, a black bear, many Momma geese leading their babies, chipmonks, cow elk, and a bull elk in the velvet. That translates to two bear jams (we missed the grizzly), one wolf jam, and dozens of buffalo jams. For the virgin souls who have never ventured into Yellowstone, a bear jam is like a traffic jam with crazy people parking every which way, and getting too close to wild animals in the hopes of getting a good picture. While we were there, a lady got gored by a buffalo. We didn't see it, and actually she wasn't very close, so you can see what "wild animal" means. The buffalo have lost their fear of humans and we kept discovering ourselves closer to them than we had planned. No injuries for us, though, we kept moving away. That's what telephoto lenses are for.

Home again to pick up the dog and unpack. It's been 20 years since we toured the whole park-the last time was in 1989, the year after the Big Fire. I know, we live 80 miles from Yellowstone, but we've seen it a lot, so we go look at where you live while you're here looking at where we live.

It was a nice break and we had a great time with Harold and Judy. It's nice to count relatives as friends.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Dads in My Life

I hope men know how important they are in a child's life and the influence they have over their offspring.

I lost contact with my dad, because of divorce, when I was about 5 years old. It wasn't until I was 26 and my brother was killed in a car wreck that I found him again. With my mom's help, I tracked him through his cousins to California, where he had moved after the divorce. Someone had told him that my brother and I wanted nothing to do with him, which was so far from the truth. I dreamed about running into him on the street and imagined what I would say to him. As it turned out, when he called me after getting my number from his landlady, all I said was, "Hi!"

We did develop a relationship through the next few years, and I got to know my stepmother. I took a couple of trips to California to see him, and was amazed at how much my brother and I acted like him. I still wish my brother could have known him. His health was poor and he died in early 1982.

Mostly all I have is this Navy picture from World War II. He was a handsome man with a radiant smile. When I met him at 60 he still had that smile.

Stan's dad, Neal, was a gentle, outgoing man. He was a good father and his children loved him dearly. His health was also poor, and he passed away in 1990. His influence was felt by all of his five children and his daughters-in-law. I still miss him.

"Pappy" Neal on the right, sitting with his older brother Jim.

My son Jim is a super dad. With four kids, a wife with a great career, a 40-hour a week job, and all the stuff that comes with a family he steps in and takes up any slack that is needed. He does most of the cooking in his house and is an excellent cook. He's pretty good at medical things because of the many surgeries that Millie has had to endure, and can give a shot with the best of them.

Ever the good sport, here Jim is last year at Halloween as Larry the Cable Guy. Pretty good likeness, but I think Jim is handsomer.

When Steve was little, all he wanted to be when he grew up was a dad. He has his wish now, with a five year old son and an eight year old stepson. Kids are still drawn to him and he is so patient and loving with the boys. He teaches the kids a lot of things that most kids don't learn until much later. He grows polite, smart kids.

Can you see that big grin he has minutes after his son was born?

David doesn't have kids, but he has a sweetheart, Laura, and a couple of cats. He's a great person, a real nurturer.

Laid back at a family picnic.

Stan and I have been married for 41 years and has been the kind of father to our kids that I wished I had had. He worked hard, took us to church, and made sure that he was there for all our kids. He loves kids, (suppose that's where Steve gets it) and sacrifices the whole month of December to play Santa.

Here we are at one of many family picnics. Do you think he's the "real" Santa?

Happy Father's Day, guys, I'm so glad I have known all of you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Giveaway!!

Since I've reached my 100th post (actually 101-got away from me), I'm having a giveaway to celebrate.

A hand-crocheted purse, made from a bulky acrylic, approximately 16" by 11."

Fully lined, with pockets in the lining. The lining is hand-stitched in. The blue is actually a steel gray-gotta learn how to tweak color!

This is a small way for me to thank all my bloggy friends. Thank you so much for reading my rantings for over 100 posts.

If you would like to enter, just comment on this post. Be sure to have a way for me to contact you. I'll draw on Monday, July 6, to give leeway for the 4th of July holiday.

Hope to hear from lots of you and good luck!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quick Prayer Request

Our Church denomination is having their big conference this week, it's known as Synod. This year they're meeting in Chicago. It seems that some kind of horrible intestinal virus is making its way through the conference. 40 people have fallen ill, including our pastor, and several people have collapsed and have been rushed to the hospital. Local health authorities are working hard to find out where this is coming from. Please pray that this will resolve quickly.

Update-they have determined that it was a norovirus-just a good old-fashioned case of the stomach flu. People are recovering and the conference carries on.

Fun Party

Sydney's birthday party was pretty fun. He got his bike and Cubs cake, so he was happy.

The wind made it hard to light the candle.

There were eight little kids under the age of five at the party. It was like having our own preschool!

The water park was irresistible!

Sweet cousins.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's Sydney's Birthday!

The little man is five now. I can hardly believe that five years have passed so quickly! Sydney is the youngest son of my youngest son, Steve. He came into this world at 37 weeks and five pounds, thirteen ounces, so he wasn't too big a baby. We had a crowded delivery room. We had Steve, Kat's sister Marge, her brother Steven, Grandpa, and Grandma. Hardly room for the doc and the nurses.

Sydney was a colicky baby and barely slept the first year of his life. After he started walking he settled down and started sleeping better. He was afraid of most people, except Mom, Dad, and Grandma. He didn't think much of Grandpa in those days. It wasn't until I showed him that Grandpa's big white beard could be a plaything that he decided Grandpa was pretty cool. Now he and Grandpa are best buddies.

Jim and Millie have older children to babysit the littler kids, but Steve and Kat don't have anyone close but us, so we end up taking care of Sydney a bit more often than the others.

Sydney is now articulate, intelligent, and funny. He got over his shyness and has the cutest conversations with perfect strangers. He's decided that he's going to marry Kanisha, a girl in his preschool. He had a couple of other girlfriends until his dad told him that good guys don't cheat on their special girl. He'll be starting kindergarten this fall, I think he'll do pretty well.

He definitely didn't want anything to do with Grandpa/Santa at six months old.

Here you can see the relationship improved immensely. He always had to have his arm around Grandpa.

"Grandpa, tell Grandma to take my picture like this!"

Happy birthday, Syd!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheesecake-Oh My!

I made this gluten/wheat/rice/corn/etc. free cheesecake tonight. Dang, it was good! Sorry I didn't take pictures but we've already cut into it.

My Allergy Free Cheesecake
3 8oz pkgs softened cream cheese
1/2 C coconut flour
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with wax paper or parchment. Beat cream cheese, add sugar and coconut flour. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Spread in pan and bake for 50 minutes. Let cool a bit, then run a knife around edge to loosen and remove sides of pan. Cool completely. We had ours with a splash of Torani Raspberry syrup. Not too heavy, not too "fluffy."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why We Do It

I'm a deacon in our church, and being a deacon I am part of the Council. One of our duties is, when someone wants to go before the church and profess their faith in Jesus, they come before the council first.

Tonight was one of those times, and a blessed time at that.

Tom was born and raised in this church. He was baptized here, got all his instruction here, sang the songs, heard the sermons-was presented with the Gospel. But his heart rebelled. He didn't want to listen to God, wanted to do his own thing. He spent most of his sixty-five years partying and living loud in an attempt to drown out God's voice.

It didn't work. God wouldn't be drowned out. A few years back, he moved closer to his dad so he could look out for him. Every Sunday he would bring his dad to church. Every Sunday someone would shake his hand and tell him how glad they were to see him there. He heard the sermons, sang the songs and was once again presented with the Gospel. His dad went home to Heaven and he still came to church every Sunday. I got the feeling he was warming himself by our fire.

A few weeks ago, as he passed by the Pastor, he stopped him and told him he wanted to go through classes to make profession of faith. He said the words just came out unbidden. Tom sat at the meeting tonight at peace because he finally stopped running and accepted Jesus, accepted the love and forgiveness God had been offering him for sixty-five years.

We all cried. The angels are rejoicing. His parents are doing a happy-dance in heaven. I drove home with tears rolling down my cheeks because I got to see the most exciting thing a Christian can see-someone's name being written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Story I Promised

I promised to talk about the carnage on the property next to our resort. Actually, that property has been used by our timeshare company for many, many years. Mexican law says that non-Mexican companies and individuals cannot own the ground within 50 meters of the water, so the company was leasing the properties from a bank. A holding company was handling this but went bankrupt, and they were absorbed by another company. That company decided that all that beachfront property we had needed a resort built on it too, so a year ago they came in with guns, seized the north half of the property and fenced it off. Keep in mind all these companies are American companies. So much for being a good American!

A year later, it's still in court but the situation looks hopeful. The second company isn't in any better financial shape than the first one, and will probably want to get rid of the lawsuit just to liquidate some debt.

In the meantime, the management has adapted the property and made it very functional and just as beautiful. With all the timeshare scam artists out there, it's a shame that a legitimate one has to be treated so badly.

This sign just says that the property is being leased from a bank. It looks scary, though!

It'll take a lot of work to get this back in shape!

Barbed wire all around!

They moved the putting green onto the main property.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And Home

Darn it, we had to go home! I guess, since I have a bunch of my own points to use, we'd better take another trip soon. Any volunteers for travel companions?

Such a sad sight-all the luggage loaded and waiting for the airport shuttle!

The trip home wasn't without incident. First our plane at Mazatlan was two hours late-this is not unusual, so we weren't upset. We just watched the young men watching a championship soccer match on a TV in the airport bar. I think it was Spain vs. Argentina. We had our temperatures taken again, this time with an infra-red camera, and when we filled out the little form, we had to state what prescriptions we were taking.

Irene fell again-we had deplaned in Phoenix and were getting on the escalator to go through customs when a woman behind Irene asked if she could get by since she might miss her connecting flight. Irene said, "Sure," and stepped aside, stepping on two stairs at once, falling into me. I was right in front of her, with Gram ahead of me. I heard her yell, so I braced myself against the stairs and the railing so I wouldn't hit Gram and send her to the bottom. Irene ended up going down upside down. Stan found the shutoff switch, but we were almost down by that point anyway. Irene's other knee was skinned, I sprained my wrist and my back is out-may have to visit the chiropractor.

This time, the hotel shuttle picked us up, so the expense was just a tip. However, because of the airport mixup, I had booked us at a hotel near Sky Harbor, and we had to go all the way out to Mesa to catch the Allegiant Air flight at 6:00 AM the next morning. The taxi was only $60 this trip, and the airport is small enough that we could check in quickly. The 3:00 wake-up call was the pits, though!

A short friendly flight later we landed in Billings. After a jog through Big Lots and the new Cabellas, we drove home.

A few random memories:

Pelicans fishing

We had three pets in our condo-one was a 2" flying cockroach, which was dispatched with my shoe the first night. The other two were a pair of geckos. They were fun to watch, and you want to have a few around since they eat bugs. Geckos squawk, something I never knew. I tried to put a little suit on one, but he just wanted to sell me some car insurance!

Baby Iguana

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Birthday Girl

Tuesday was our last full day in Mazatlan, First, the doctor came and got Irene, took her to the hospital, took some stitches out, and brought her back.

After Irene got back, Stan and I rode the bus into town to do a bit of shopping. When we took Gram along shopping, it was slow going because, since she couldn't see she did a lot of stopping and starting. It took a long time to get anywhere. I would hold her arm and warn her of bad spots in the sidewalks. If we were in a crowd, she would completely stop, totally confused and afraid of falling. So we waited until Irene could be there for Gram and we took off. We wanted to find an ironwood horse to give our friends who were taking care of the dog. They own several horses so we thought that would be an ideal gift. Ironwood makes beautiful carvings. We found what we wanted, browsed a bit more and hopped the bus back.

We had set up a little birthday party for Gram-she turned 93 yesterday. We ate in the resort restaurant, and after dinner the staff came out with a cake (from Panama) banging on pots and singing in Spanish. The cake was shared with fellow diners and they all wished her a happy birthday.

Beautiful carved harp. Harpist was excellent, too.

One of the things we like best about Mazatlan is the birds. I photograph them and we go home and try to look them up in our bird books. This time it must have been hummingbird season. There were hundreds of broad-billed hummingbirds everywhere. I couldn't believe that I actually got some decent shots of them.

They chirped, too, something I haven't heard hummingbirds do here at home.

A little more moon on the water time and off to bed. It didn't seem to take much for us to poop out, hard as we tried to keep going!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Old Town

Monday we headed into town on a tour bus. We took the City Tour, which everybody who visits Mazatlan should do at least once. It helps to have someone who knows about the area you're visiting. Our tour guide was Carlos, aka "Charlie Brown." Charlie Brown told us he leads tours during the day and goes to college at night. We drove by his school and he pointed it out. He's studying "Tourism." My guess is that in the USA this would be called Hotel/Motel Management.

We went downtown and visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. What a beautiful cathedral. This is actually the third time I've visited the Cathedral and I'm not even Catholic!

The front of the Cathedral

Beautiful altar area

Back when the cathedral was being built, they ran out of money partway through. There was a Jewish family living in Mazatlan who decided to donate enough money to finish the project. In thanks, all of the stained glass windows have the Star of David in them.

We visited the Mercado, the open-air market that covers an entire city block. There are souvenirs, but mostly they sell produce, meats, cheeses and other foods. The locals buy most of their vegetables there. You can find whole pig's heads and huge cheeses.

Charlie Brown took us up a hill, driving narrow turns and switchbacks, so we could get this beautiful view of Mazatlan.

I can't believe this beautiful tree grows out of the rocks.

We visited a museum that was near Machado Square, where all the action is on the weekends. They put out tables and serve food and drink, and people watch. The museum had a lot of Spanish furniture and Mardi Gras costumes from the 1930's.

The requisite cliff diver. They work only for tips, so if you go be sure to tip.

The bus dropped us off in the Golden Zone so we could eat lunch at Panama. Panama has a fabulous bakery and is my favorite restaurant in Mazatlan. It's spotless with waitresses in starched sea-green uniforms and white shoes and stockings.

The rest of that day was spent soaking up tropical air and watching more sunset.

Stan and Jesus. Jesus is a vendor that works the beach in front of our resort. He's been in the same spot for many years. He quit drinking several years back and dedicates his life and livelihood to his family and God. He's made many friends over the years, including Stan.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I woke up early Sunday morning with the feeling of freedom you get after sitting in a hospital room with someone for a whole day. I felt like Paradise was just waiting for me to step up and embrace it.

Sea smoke over the islands. I'll explain why there are upturned palapas in another post.

Knowing we had to kind of step up our cooking in order to use up some of the groceries we bought, I made a fritatta with a dozen eggs and some awesome chorizo. I peeled and cubed a couple of mangoes and served the whole works with crema, the Mexican alternative to sour cream. It's milder and a little softer than sour cream-makes killer chilaquiles! By the way, it's available in the States-I've found it at Walmart.

We spent the day lazing under the palapas and arranging for a tour on Monday. About 4:30 we took the bus down to the Golden Zone to do a bit of shopping and eat at Gringo Lingo, a fun restaurant that specializes in all-you-can-eat menus. Sunday was seafood, perfect! We bought a few souvenirs, but we were amazed at the lack of tourists. Between the Swine Flu and the drug war rumors, the Americans and Canadians were staying away. We had the run of the place, but we really had to outrun the timeshare salespeople that manned every corner. They were desperate and we were the only victims on the street! We had to finally get a little rude to fend them off!

I felt badly for the ladies who sell souvenirs in the tiny shops in the Zone. I bought a couple of coffee mugs from a lady and she said a prayer of thanks-it was her first sale of the day, and it was after 5:00. A little girl asked to have her picture taken with Santa and we visited for a while with the shopkeepers since there were no customers. It was neat to get to know some of the locals.

An artist couldn't do as well as Mother Nature!

Back at the resort, I grabbed my camera and headed to the beach. We'd been there for four days and I hadn't seen a sunset yet, so I was ready. A crowd gathered around the sea wall to watch the sun go down. As the sun dipped below the ocean there was a round of applause. God can really do a spectacular show! We sat there for a long time just letting the ocean breeze blow over us and talking about this and that. That feeling you get facing the ocean and watching the waves is totally addictive! If I had anything to say about it I'd still be there. Forever if I could get away with it.