Sunday, October 31, 2021

Dear Susan. A love letter to my baby sister.


Dear Susan,

The unthinkable happened this morning.  We lost you.  In the back of my mind I always knew it was possible.  You were not without your health issues.  But hell, most of us arent.  I just never thought it would be today.  When my phone rang at 3:50AM and it was Derek, I literally said outloud to myself, "If I dont answer, then nothing bad can be wrong".  But, I answered.  And my life will never be the same.  The words D spoke to me will ring in my ears forever.  Clanging like the sound of young kids with pots and pans on a porch in Applewood Acres on NYE decades ago.  So loud and unforgiving and so very unwelcome.  I am pretty sure that as hard as they were for me to hear, they were for D to say.  No matter what happens from here on out with my relationship with Derek, I will FOREVER love him and be so thankful for him.  He took the best care of you and loved you so totally and completely.  If his love for you was the the definition of unconditional love, I dont know what is.  I need to make sure I acknowledge that to him.  I am sure I have not done that enough over the years.

Anyway, that phone call set off a course of events for the day that as much as I would love to forget I am sure I will not ever be able to. When he called me back at 4:08AM to tell me you were gone my mind absolutely raced.  What do we do now?  What happens next?  How do we make preparations to honor you? How am I going to live without you? How do I tell the kids?  Your friends?  And worst of all, how in the world am I going to tell our beautiful mom that once again she has to mourn the loss of one of her babies.  It's so unfair.  It should never happen.  As a mom, its unthinkable to me.  I spent the next three hours dry heaving, sobbing, railing against God, begging him to send you back to us, questioning why he would do this to Mom.  Wondering what the hell was the purpose of the last 6 months of your life and the struggle and all the bullshit you went through if you were only going to end up leaving us like this.  I just dont understand.  And while you know I believe in God, and I am a follower of Jesus, I am mad.  And I guess I am not " supposed" to question, but since when have I ever done what I am supposed to do? Ha.  I know you would be smiling and nodding  your head over that one.

I had to find something to do to pass the time until I could go to Mom's.  Much like when we lost Bob, I wanted to give her a few  more hours of peace before I gave her horrible news and turned her world upside down, so I didnt go tell her right away.  So, you know what I did.  Yep, that's right.  I started making lists.  I made a list of the things I assumed (because I really have no idea) that D and I would have to figure out.  I made a list of people that I wanted to talk to before we posted about our enormous loss on social media.  There were so many people who loved you and many of them we just didnt want to have them hear about it on FB.  I sent out messages and told people "it's urgent, call me".  And then my phone, my heartache, and my tears didn't stop.  No matter how many times I had to tell our loved ones, the words never wanted to come out.  They never got easier to say.  Mostly all I could say is " We lost our Susan today"  or some variation of that. Rinse and repeat.  As much as I hated saying it so many times, the fact that I had so many people to say it to was a testament to how loved my Scoot is.  And girl, you are so very loved.  I wish you could see the massive amounts of comments about you on my FB post regarding us losing you.  I know you would be smiling ear to ear, and saying that all these people saying such nice things about you were crazy. Lol.  But they aren't.  They are all 100% accurate.  Everyone (or mostly everyone.  You and I know the couple of exceptions but we will keep that our secret and we both know they are INSANE) could see the fantastic sparkle that emaniated from within you. All of our friends, your friends, our family talked about how positive you always were despite your tough circumstances.  You and I know it wasn't alwas the case, it never is for anyone but Susan I know you know this because I told you often but I'll say it again.  I am SO PROUD of you for the way you handled the last 6 months.  I'm kind of a badass and I am not sure I could have done as well as you.  I would have been mad at the universe but you never were.  You did so good.   

Sometimes when people lose someone they love they think  "Oh I wish I had told them this or that".  I don't feel that way.  I feel 100% confident in knowing that YOU knew how I felt about you.  That YOU knew that I loved you more than even my mascara collection (but probably not more than my nail wraps) and how even when I was being hard on you it was bcause I believed in you and I knew it was because I knew you could push harder and had more to give.  I know that you know I was your BIGGEST cheerleader.  And you were also mine.  You were ALWAYS there for me.  No matter what. Through breakups, kid issues, job issues, financial issues.  No matter what you were the one I know I could tell anything to and that I would not get any judgement.  I dont know what I am going to do now without you.  I feel so lost already.  Who am I going to talk to when I am cooking, or putting on my makeup, or driving or doing nothing.  Who is going to talk about The Bachelorette with me, and Survivor?  Who is going to send me stupid TikTok videos?

Funny, a week ago I told you I was going to stop blogging because hardly no one even looks at them anymore and you said "I look at them, who else matters" and you gave me that adorable Betty Rubble giggle.  And now here I am blogging to you.  Not exactly the way I thought  this would go since you are not even here to read this.

Susan, what am I going to do without you?  My heart hurts so badly,  I truly know I will never be the same person I was pre-10/30/2021. How can I be?  My first friend.  My best friend,  My baby sister.  YOU are GONE. Oh Susan, why did you leave me?  Why did you leave us?  I know that's an unfair question.  I know it was not your choice.  I know you would still be here if you could. It's Halloween tomorrow.  Your favorite holiday.  You won't even get to see me post the socks we picked out for me to wear. So lame.  This is all so freaking lame.  I hate it so bad.

I'm rambling now.  Big shocker.  I just don't know how to end to end this.  I don't want to end this.  I don't want this to end.  I don't want you to "end".  But your life here on earth did.  And that sucks more than I can ever put in to words.  But your impact on this life will never end.  Your impact on ME will never end.  And most likely not on anyone who knew you.  How could it?  You were amazing.  You were a bright shiny light in this world and its going to take more than your death(that just make me throw up in my mouth) to dull that light.

I'm not going to end it.  I'll just say I love you and I'll talk to you later.  Just like we ended and video chat.  Because I am certain I'll be talking to you later.  

I just wish I could hear you talking back.

ETA...crap.  Who is going to proofread this?  You were my freaking proofreader.  Dangit.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Devil's Tower & Spearfish Canyon

Waking up on Friday morning Mark and I were full of excitement for the day ahead.  We were sad to leave Theodore Roosevelt National Park because we were really bowled over by it but looking foward to what was coming our way next!

We were heading out of North Dakota towards Custer, South Dakota but taking a small 40 miles detour along to way to go to Devils Tower, Montana. I had read about it, and even seen photos so I figured I knew what to expect (turns out, I didn't).  Mark was excited to see it because apparently it had been in some movie he saw 100 years ago. 

As we cruised down what seemed like every backroad in North Dakota and Montana and we passed the coolest looking rock structures.  I screamed (literally) for Mark to stop and he was able to find somewhere to turn around and we went back.  Some quick Googling and we found out that the rock formations were in Medicine Rocks State Park.  It shouldn't be a surprise (if you read my blog about TRNP anyway, and if you haven't, why not?  It's linked here :TRNP Vacation Blog Part 2) that one of the first visitors to Medicine Rocks SP was Theodore Roosevelt.  He visited there in the late 1800's and was quoted as having said of the area it was "As fantastically beautiful a place as I have ever seen."  It really was wondrous.  We explored around the park for about 90 minutes before finally getting back on the road on the way to Devils Tower.

As we approached Devils Tower I was completely taken aback when we came around a bend and KABLAM there it was!  I had NO IDEA how massive it was going to be and we were still a couple miles away. We pulled into the park and had to wait in a line of traffic to get up the mountain to park.  We were a little nervous that we had come at a bad time and that we would not be able to find a parking spot.  A lot of the things I read about the park cautioned about the lack of parking but we pressed on.  Once we got through the gate we wound our way slowly up the mountain road 3.4 miles to the visitor center parking area where we lucked out and nabbed a spot that someone else was just pulling out of.  Score!

Devils Tower is 867 feet from its base to its summit.  It is 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  There are MANY stories of the cultural significance of the tower, each one more intertesting than the last.  you can read about them on the Devils Tower website linked above.  I could post a whole bunch about how it was formed, or I could just link you to this page, how it was formed.  That's easier.  It is really interesting stuff.  At least we thought so.

We checked out the museum in the visitor center first before setting out along the Tower Trail.  This is a 1.3 mile trail that runs the base of the tower.  It offers the most spectacular views of this absolutely remarkable geological masterpiece.  I was stunned at the size of this thing.  I was really not expecting to be as blown away as I was.  While we were there we saw several small groups of people climbing the face of the butte.  There are a couple pics of these daredevils in the photo video.  We took the hike around the base and it was really enjoyable.  The weather was beautiful and no matter what part of the trail we were on it afforded just one of a kind views.  We were so glad we added this stop into our trip!

After spending a few hours at Devils Tower we got back on the road to head to our stop for the evening.  We were staying at this place called the Crow Peak Lodge in Spearfish.  It looked pretty nice online so I was excited to get there and relax for the evening. However, when we pulled into the location, I literally started crying and was legit concerned about staying there. It looked totally sketch  and not AT ALL like the pics.  Mark assured me it would be fine, and we could deal with it for one night.  It was clean in the room and even though it didnt look like it the pics needless to say I lived to tell.  The bed was actually pretty dang comfy.

Please be sure to check out the photo video here Mark and Kathy's Most excellent vacation part 3!   I really appreciate those of you that take the time to read my blog and look at my videos.  It takes time to write them and make the videos and it means the world to me that you take your time to check them out!  Thank you!

Next blog will be all about Custer State Park! Stay Tuned!

Much love to all!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Theodore Roosevelt National Park- North Dakota

 In 1883 a young Teddy Roosevelt came to the Dakota Territories to hunt Bison.  He very quickly fell in love with the area and his life, and the future of our nation was forever changed.  He returned to the region later in the year with several men and became parners in a cattle ranch called " The Maltese Cross Ranch".  This area is now what is called the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This is where our story begins...or where we were headed this day anyway.

We left Wall, SD early Wednesday morning, eager to get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP).  It was a four and a half hour drive to the visitor center.  The ride was beautiful.  We opted to take state highways and back roads instead of main roads.  Rolling green hills and golden plains for hours.  Vast fields of almost past their prime sunflowers (but still beautiful) and horses and cows galore.  At one point we were coming down a hill and we saw a big dust up of cows.  I told Mark that I thought the cows were being moved across the road, he disagreed but as we got closer he slowed down anyway.  Sure enough they were being herded across the road!  I grabbed my phone to capture it since we were at a stand still but when I went to watch the video after the crossing was done I realized that I clearly didn't know how to work my phone because I recorded NOTHING.  UGH!  It was pretty cool to see though.

When Mark and I were planning this trip we talked about all the things we hoped for, what we expected and what we had no idea what to expect.  One the the things we hoped for was to see wildlife.  We wanted to see bison, elk, burros, prairie dogs, and big horn sheep.  As we arrived at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center we rounded the corner and LITERALLY the first thing we saw was this guy:

Wandering bison

Parking lot bison

People were just milling about like he was a walking stuffed animal that was not capable of running 35mph at a moments notice and tossing them sky high. Ya know why?  Because people are morons.  Anyway...this giant beast just wandered around the parking lot, up around the visitor center until he found a nice tree and then just stood there and scratched himself on the tree like he had not a care in the world.  And I guess if you are a bison in TRNP, you really don't have a care in the world.  I was a little freaked out by the whole thing.  I was wearing a hot pink shirt and was concerned that maybe bison were like bulls and were attracted to bright colors so I hid behind cars until I was out of his line of site.  I am sure I looked like a dork but I was not about to become this dude's hood ornament or the latest YouTube viral video. I can't say the same for my husband though...smh. 

We hung out at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for a bit and then moved on to the main visitor center and the main entrance to the park.   

We stopped at the South Unit Visitor Center on the way into the park.  There they had a small museum that included artifacts from when Theodore Roosevelt's presidency and beyond, including the undershirt President Roosevelt was wearing in 1912 when an assination attempt was made on his life.   There was a really wonderful short movie that we viewed that told about the creation of the park, and it's life since its creation.  We really learned a lot from that video.  Additionally, from sitting in that little room we learned that we were clearly a pretty young couple compared to all the other couples on vacation in TRNP on a Wednesday in mid-September. Niiiiiice.

The cabin that Roosevelt lived in as a young man on the Maltese Cross Ranch was eventually moved and now resides behind the welcome center at the entrance of the South Unit of the park.  You will see photos of it in the photo video as well as Teddy's steamer trunk (photo also in video).  Most of the objects in the cabin are replicas, the the trunk was HIS actual trunk.  That was really neat to see.  I think my dad would have been totally jazzed to see that.  He was pretty into American history.  Anyway, once we left there we took off into the park and it was like stepping into another world.  This was one of the "not sure what to expect"category items.  I purposedly didn't do a lot of photo recon of the park because I wanted us to go into it with open minds and boy howdie were we in awe.  Each turn of the road was better than the last.  

We saw more bison, a HUGE amount of prairie dogs and some stunningly majestic feral horses.  These horses are direct descendents of horses that Roosevelt brought him when he moved to the area in the late 1880's.  Here is an obnoxiously long video of them.  I couldn't stop taking it because they were just so cute.

Prairie Dogs

We spent the day hiking, exploring and driving and then when we were exhausted headed to the hotel that was right outside the gate in Medore, ND.

The next morning we headed two hours north to Williston, ND, through Montana, to the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.   This fort was the most importart fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River from 1829-1867.  It was SUPER cold and a little rainy but we enjoyed the self led tour of the fort.  I even got to go into a tipi.  We spent a little time there before heading over the the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center.  I wont lie, This place was BORING.  We poked around inside for a bit then went outside to walk along the river for a little while and then bolted.  The most interesting thing was the 200+ year old Poplar tree that was there as far back as 1804-1806 when the Lewis & Clark expedition went through North Dakota. There is a photo of it in the video.

Once we left Williston, we drove about an hour south down to the North unit of TRNP.  It was much smaller than the South unit but beautiful as well.  Just like in the South Unit we were greeted by a bison, although two this time.  We were at the visitor center and stood there with the rangers while they had to repeatedly yell at this older man to get away from the bison.  He was probably 20 feet way from the animal, with his back to it, trying to take a selfie.  I may have mentioned this before but people are MORONS.  SMH.

At this point in the day it was really cold and raining on and off but we still went on into the park and made the best of it.  We did some hiking when we could.  We had on hats, coats and gloves.  A far cry from the sunglasses and short sleeves we were sporting the day before!   

At one point we were stopping having a car picnic and there was a hill that I tried to tell Mark was only about 12 feet high.  He said I was insane and that it was more like 45-50 feet at least.  I told him "no way" And that I would prove him wrong by climbing it.  So I did.  I climbed it I mean.  I did not prove  him wrong because that sucker was EVERY BIT of 50 feet high once I got to the top of it.  HA!  I think I put those pics on FB but they are in the video and my view of him from the top is in there too.  It was epic.

After a couple hours in the cold and rain we decided we had enough and by dinner time we headed back to the hotel to warm up and get some rest.

It was a fantastic couple days in TRNP.  We loved every bit of it even the cold, rainy parts!

Don'r forget to check out the second photo video below!  

Vacation video part 2

 Please leave a comment on the here, on Facebook, or on the YouTube video and let me know what you think of this format or if you think I should go back to just posting pic after pic here in the blog.

Next up.. Devil's Tower and Spearfish Canyon.  Spoiler alert..they are amazing!

Thanks for reading!  I truly appreciate all of your support!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

4329 miles. 4199 photos. 13 days. 5 states. 3 time zones. 2 happy people. 1 amazing vacation.

 Hey Friends!  It has taken me some time to get through my photos (and I am still not done) but i figured I would start posting a little at a time about our vacation and just do this in "installments".  

I have decided since I have so many photos I will be making "photo movies".  I sincerely hope you will take the time to click this link:   Vacation photo video Part 1

and check out my first effort.  Please leave a comment on the here, on Facebook, or on the video and let me know what you think of this format or if you think I should go back to just posting pic after pic here in the blog.

 I had such a hard time narrowing down photos, at the suggestion of one of my besties I took a shot and went this route.  It was fun making the video and I think I will be able to showcase more of my pics doing it this way rather than just putting 40 trillion pics in the blog.  I hope you will "like" the video as I am also going to try to grow my You Tube channel and that helps me. we go..

Mark starting driving five years ago and had not had a vacation since a couple days in August of 2015 when he came to Myrtle Beach to spend the end of a week with Andrew and Griffin, when Adam and I had to leave early to go to a drum corps competition.  He doesnt consider that a vacation anyway since it was at the beach. We have talked about taking time off to go do stuff, and had big plans when I got on the truck in 2018 but it seems that between the two of us it was one medical issue after another and between time off for that and medical bills (and working for two crappy companies that didn't pay squat or treat their drivers right) we could never really just afford it or find the time for it.  When Mark made the switch to his current company (FCC we love you!) and actually got a weeks paid vacation, great miles, and great pay the stars finally aligned and we were able to actually plan and execute a real life grown up empty nester vacation!  With the invaluable help of my mom, and my favorite blogger/YT'ers (Adventuresofaplusk) and lots and lots of research, we make our plan, picked our dates and started the countdown!  I wont bore you with the gazillion of iterations and million discussions I had with Mark and my mom but eventually the day came....

I took off around 5:00 in the morning on Sunday the 12th of September.  I could NOT wait to get on the road and had a hard time sleeping the night before.  I was only going as far as Davenport, Iowa that day.  My drive was uneventful.  Full of my favorite podcast "Crime Junkies" and singing at the top of my lungs.  I had had my hand post op appointment on the Thursday prior where my doctor told me zip lining was not going to happen but I was bound and determined that was not going to bring me down.  I will admit that once I got to Davenport I could tell by the way my hand felt just from driving that I was in no condition to do much else anyway. However, I had some time to kill before checking in at the hotel so I decided to go check out the Vander Veer Botanical Garden.  This place was so beauitful!  It is a 33 acre park that showcased several fountains and tons and tons of stunning flowers.  I think my favorite part was the stone bridge.  It was there that I met Niki and her cat Karl (with a K) that she was teaching to walk on a leash.  He was pretty comical, and not really happy about it.  I spent a little time there and then headed to the hotel because I was TIRED.

On Monday the 13th I got up super early (2am) to head to Fremont to meet up with Mark who was already at the terminal.  I arrived there and picked up my travel partner.  Since our original plan didn't have us setting off until Tuesday we decided to add in the Omaha Zoo since we had the time.  The Henry Doorly Zoo had been on my zoo bucket list since my parents went there some 30 years ago.  It did not disappoint. Not only did they have a great variety of animals, but the habitats were large , well kept and beautifully landscaped.  The entire zoo was gorgeous.  We totally enjoyed the kick off to our vacation. Once we left the zoo we headed to the grocery store to stock up on supplies for vacation, picked up Taco Bell for dinner and then retired for the night so we could get an early start on Tuesday!

6am. Coffee. Ice. Fuel. and we are on our way! Porter Sculpture Park would be our first stop this morning (three hours from where we started) right outside of Sioux Falls, SD.  We have passed the place countless times on I-90 and you can see several of the sculptures from the road.  I have always wanted to go and was super stoked to get to go.  The weather was cold (about 50 degrees) and drizzly and super overcast but I didn't care.  My photos didn't come out great because of this but hey, I got to go!  We got to meet Wayne Porter, the owner and sculptor so that really added to the experience.  We were so flabbergasted at the sheer size of some of the scupltures.  Mr. Porter makes them all himself and has a lot of signs with his poetry around the property as well.  The inside of the bull's head was creepy and delightful.  You can see in the photos the dark photo (and one with flash) the "boogeyman" that surprises you when you go inside!  Those photos can be found in the video!  Here is the link for Porter Sculpture Park.  Check it out!  portersculpturepark 

 * when watching the video take note of the photo of the horse sculpture.  I am standing near the front leg.  If you dont know I am there, you will probably miss me but it shows you the MASSIVE scale of this sculpture!

Next stop was about three hours further down the road and was another thing we had seen several times but never been able to stop at.  1880 Town is a historical town that has a ton of buildings that are furnished authentically like the 1880's- 1920's.   We love stuff like this so it was right up our alley. My favorite part was standing on the stage in the saloon. I just longed for some red feathers! While there Mark locked me in the jail cell and I tried to pout my way out, then to tough guy my way out, but in the end it just took a sweet smile (and the threat of no more home prepared meals) for him to finally let me out. They also have a museum that has movie set items from Dances with Wolves which was very exciting for Mark!  After we left there we went on to Wall, SD.  Of course stopped at Wall Drug before settling in for the night. Wall Drug is the biggest "drug store" in America or some nonesense like that. We had tons of fun wandering around looking in the shops and taking silly photos with the statues and sculptures before calling it a day. 1880 Town     Wall Drug

Again, please be sure to check out the photo video at Mark and Kathy's Most Excellent Vacation Part 1

Stay Tuned for our next stop....Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

Thanks for reading!