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I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.

I am lonely for my daughter.

I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion.  I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal.  And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.

I have always been the one in the family who worked.  My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way.  I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.

Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still  have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.

But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.

Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.

Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.

The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.

I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.

I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.

I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

I have been having water dreams lately. Lots and lots of water dreams for weeks, I think. Water dreams are strange things for me. They have always been portents of huge and significant changes. And generally not good changes. They are always similar in character. I am by the ocean and the waves are huge, engulfing everything, and I am trying to survive, to push through them, to stave them off. Doesn’t take a Jungian dream analyst to figure that one out, does it? What I know for sure is that they are certain predictors of something big happening. Generally, how I am able to survive in the dream indicates the level of intimacy with which the change will affect me, but not always. Sometimes, there are people I know with me in the dream, and they are usually impacted in real life whenever the change comes.

So, another water dream last night, coming on the heels of yesterday. Yesterday sucked. I won’t really go into why yesterday sucked. Suffice it to say that it did. BIG TIME. I am hoping today will be better. Hope springs eternal.

Ex-Pat has endocarditis and septicemia. He will be in hospital at least until Friday. According to my readings on the Internet, this is scary stuff. Really scary stuff.

The Internet can be your trusted friend or that devious individual on the street corner hissing to you that the world will end soon and he will take care of your pets when the rapture comes.  When too much information on one topic is available, it is easy and hard at the same time to pick what you are going to believe. I read that septicemia is the same as sepsis, and that the odds of survival are about even. I read that it wasn’t, and that the survival odds are about 90 percent. I read that endocarditis can cause strokes, and that he’d have about six months to live even after recovery. I didn’t read anywhere that he would pop out of his hospital bed on Friday and start romping with the lambs. And what I heard him say last night, when I pointed out to him that without getting treatment he would have died and pretty darn quick at that, was that maybe that would have been better, as his daughter is the only thing he has to live for. (Which to me is a huge reason to keep living.) But he’s lost his will. He’s in too  much pain to walk, and they don’t know why. Things are looking bleak, to say the least.

I think I will try to talk to his doctor to get the full scoop, as he is too doped up to tell me much. Then at least I can share what is real with Kelsea, who comes home today.

On the other hand, I am still at his house, and it is filthy. Filthy. Just disgusting. Even though I said it is not my job to clean this place, and I know it isn’t, I am going to do so, enlisting Kelsea to help, so she can see what clean is, and how to make things that way. I can’t let her live in a place that is like this. In clearing off the kitchen table, I found receipts from 2009. And that was probably the most pleasant of my finds. I remember he was always mad at me because of all the paperwork in the house that I never went through. Now that he’s having to deal with his own mail, and receipts, and crap, I suspect he understands, but he would never own up to it.

I may even tear up all the rugs and try to find replacements at ReStore. They will never be clean, ever, no matter what I do. I will get the handyman to come in and get the holes in the walls patched. I will try to rebuild my own sense of love and trust. I will do two jobs and manage two houses. And then I will sprout wings and a horn out of my head and become a human unicorn.

I’m being realistic.

Aren’t I?

I spent last night sleeping in Kelsea’s bed in my old house. Sleeping in her bed helped me understand her better. How odd does that sound?  All I’m saying is that it is a truly magical bed. It’s one of a pair of twin beds from my grandmother’s house, one I used to sleep in some 45 years ago. (It’s mate was lost in an unfortunate accident when I was moving out of Ex-Pat’s house – que lastima.) I don’t know if its history is part of its magic but I suspect so. Anyway, I slept amazingly well, had amazing dreams, and had a visitation from my Mother in the Hour of the Wolf. Her scent preceded her, and we had a lovely conversation.  I have missed her so. I had no idea she was hanging out in Kelsea’s room, keeping watch over her, but it totally makes sense, given how much she loved her and how alike they are. As I was drifting back to sleep, I checked again, and her scent was still there.  She was sitting with me.  What peaceful comfort.

I’m sure that sounds a little crazy, but hey, the women in my family have the shine.

Moving on, the shower is always a great place for me to come up with creative ideas, work through technical problems, and have epiphanies. I suspect it’s that eternal connection between me and moving water.  When I was in the shower, and thinking about how “enmeshed”  (to use MKL’s term) I am with Ex-Pat, I realized one very important thing – and this is something MKL said to me yesterday: Ex-Pat’s problems are not my problems any more.

Yes, I can help, because he is my daughter’s father. Yes, I can help, because I love the dogs, even though they are his dogs now. Yes, I can help, because the house is half mine on paper. But I am not his wife any more. I have moved on. He hasn’t. That does not mean that he gets to turn to me as if I am still his wife. Which is what he is doing. As Pam said in comments on yesterday’s post, I am a good human being and take care of people, and while that is indeed an admirable quality, in some situations, like this one, the boundary issues must be acknowledged in order to take care of myself and my life. I am not going to screw up my relationship with MKL because I am feeling guilty about Ex-Pat being alone (and hence, spending my time to take care of his needs). Ex-Pat has made his own choices here. And as singlecell reinforced in her comment, he has made his choices. His choices have left him without a support network. That does not mean it is automatically my job to be his support network. I am not the get-out-of-jail-free card anymore.

It’s a habit, a pattern of many years, that is hard to break, but must be broken.

He HAS to take responsibility for getting things taken care of. And doing so does not just mean asking me, and me saying yes. I think, in the shower, I finally realized that I can say no. Just like I finally realized that, even though he has a kitchen full of dirty dishes, it is not my job to clean up the house to make it easier upon his release from the hospital. If he can’t pick up after himself, he can ask another (less enmeshed) friend to help. If he hasn’t got those, then that’s not my problem. And on my way to work, I told him he would have to find other resources and couldn’t just rely on me. He clearly wasn’t happy about it. But it felt right.

The rest of today however, has gone horribly wrong, and I am totally discouraged.

I have an unusual divorce. In many ways, it is good. Ex-Pat and I get along pretty well most of the time, as we are committed to our 15-year old daughter. The first year was tough – he was angry, I was sad, it was awful at times. But now, when it gets awful, I can leave, or hang up, or whatever. I don’t have to put up with being berated or belittled. And we do help each other out with things from time to time. We’re better unmarried than married.

He has not moved forward in his life. I have. He is very supportive of my relationship with MKL. He wants me to be happy. But he has done nothing in his life. He hasn’t learned anything from our divorce, hasn’t grown, pursued another relationship, devoted himself to a job or a dream. He has just bowled and spent money and alienated nearly every one of his friends. His support system – on which he calls rarely – consists of me and Kelsea. That’s not good.

He got a sore neck about 45 days ago. It became excruciating. He had horrible back pain. He could barely move. He was miserable, and miserable to be around. He went to the doctor at th VA twice, and they didn’t diagnose him, just gave him painkillers, which didn’t help much. I finally insisted he go to the doctor again, and that I go with him to advocate for him. I couldn’t stand how he was being around Kelsea and I was worried. He’d lost 15 pounds in a month, and reminded me of how my mother suddenly lost a lot of weight before her final cancer diagnosis.

So on Friday morning, we went to the VA. And while I’m glad it’s there to help veterans, it was about the most depressing place I’ve ever seen. To give you an idea of how poorly Ex-Pat was doing, a fellow veteran in the waiting room mistook him for a World War II veteran, which gave me quite a giggle.

The appointment with the doctor was okay. I insisted that he come clean about his excessive drinking, and the amount of over-the-counter painkillers he was taking.The doctors listened, looked at x-rays previously taken, and said he had some arthritis in his neck that might have just finally started causing the pain. Hmmm. I was suspicious, but the doctors agreed to get him to a primary care doctor for more visits, and to schedule an MRI to see if there is any soft-tissue issue.

But as we were wrapping things up, Ex-Pat got woozy. He thought he was going to faint. They took his blood pressure: 87 over 51. And off we went to the Emergency Room. That was Friday. They decided to keep him overnight because his blood pressure wasn’t coming up. They said he either wasn’t producing blood or he was bleeding “somewhere”. Overnight, he spiked a fever. They ruled out leukemia. On Saturday, his fever was down, but his blood pressure was way high. They kept him in another night. He had an MRI, which was fairly normal. But they discovered  bacteria in his blood, so he went onto massive antibiotics. This morning when I talked to him, he said they were keeping him another day. Now I can’t remember why, but I think they’re trying to figure out if it’s related to his long-term mitral valve prolapse. He’s on fab painkillers, so he’s happier. But they still won’t let him go.

So I’m at his house, to tend to the animals. (Roscoe is back to his old self, by the way.) I can’t sleep in our old bed, because it’s covered with laundry. There’s no food in the house, and a counter full of dirty dishes. And I’m in tender shape. I help people who need help. It’s who I am and what I do But I feel like we are crossing boundaries that our divorce should have solidified. It is disturbing to me. It is disturbing to MKL, and I can understand that. I am still half owner of this house (that he has let fall into as much disrepair as he has let himself fall)  and the animals, and Ex-Pat is still my daughter’s father. (She, by the way, is in the mountains with a friend for spring break.)

And it is upsetting. When they mentioned cancer during his exam, I got nauseated. Seeing him degenerate like this has brought back all those feelings about when my Mom got sick, and I cared for her, and she died. And when the Captain got sick, and I lost him. Which were both around the same time. I find myself holding back tears and saying out loud to myself, “You’re all right. You’re ok.” And this makes me feel stupid. None of this is happening to me. It’s happening to Ex-Pat. I am fine. Inconvenienced. Worried. But fine.

Aren’t I?

I guess I still have some work to do.

Denver VA Hospital (image from

I’m not whining, but I do want to share.

Roscoe’s injury has hit me hard. Not as hard as it has hit him, obviously, since he’s the one who had a nine-inch stick in his body cavity for a week and almost died, not me. But in an emotional way, hard.

I’m at the vet now, sitting on the bed that he’s become attached to here, typing this. He has his upper body curled against my leg, and is sleeping peacefully, breathing normally for the first time that I’ve seen since the injury. He was dreaming a bit, his paws twitching like dogs do when they’re chasing something in their sleep, and he just gave a big contented sigh. Nothing is waking him – not my sneezes, not the barking dogs in the treatment room, or the voices of the staff. He’s peaceful. I cuddled him and sang him all the lullabies I used to sing to Kelsea when she was a baby.

He still has the pump in his side. They upped his antibiotic dosage, and so the incision sites are cooler, and he is much more alert. The shaved spot is the size of many other dogs, so he may have to wear a t-shirt when he gets home, which I always think looks adorable on dogs. But he’s still not eating and not drinking. He did covertly eat the food I brought yesterday sometime in the middle of the night, so I brought some more for him today. They gave him two liters of electrolyte IV solution earlier to help him keep hydrated and his body just soaked it up like a sponge.

Roscoe's Frankenstein incisions

I don’t even want to imagine what the bill will be. I don’t care. I can’t really afford it anyway. But you do what you’ve got to do.  The vet – Arapahoe Animal Hospital in Boulder – has been fabulous. All the doctors and all the techs here know Roscoe now and love him. They want him to live here with them and be their vet pet. (Sorry guys, we got him first.) It reminds me of when Kelsea was first born. That first night, they took her away and told me they’d bring her back for me to nurse her. I woke up seven hours later with no baby and no one answering the bell. I wondered if something had happened and I was the last person alive. So I hobbled out to the nurse’s station, and said, “Um, excuse me, do you know where my daughter is?” “Oh, Kelsea?” they said, “She was so sweet that we just decided to keep her here with us at the nurse’s station.” Sweetness must run in the family.

So, Roscoe is getting better and is going to be okay. And that’s all the news that really matters.

But now we come to me. Yes, wussy me. I am so exhausted energetically from caring from him from a distance, emotionally from worrying about him, and physically from not sleeping well at my ex-husband’s house while I care for the other animals that I can hardly tell which way is up. Sitting with my puppy while he sleeps, along with this wiped out feeling, is totally taking me back to taking care of my mom the week before she died. I was up all the time, sleeping in strange places, showering when I had a second, snarfing food when I could, sitting with her all the time because I could. (I haven’t been able to do that with Roscoe all the time.) This zombie-like functional state is so familiar in my bones from that time with my Mother that it’s giving me flashbacks to a most tenderly painful episode in my life – her death. I never thought I would feel that way again. I couldn’t have told you exactly what it felt like until now, when I’m experiencing it again. And now it is flooding back in a strange, disjointed, poignant way.

I will deal with my own feelings, and it will be fine. I will be fine, just like Roscoe will be fine.

But it is strange to wander in this strange land again.

Roscoe in my lap

Yes, Kelsea really needed a little distance from Colorado, so that’s just what we got today… out-of-state. Fortunately for us, another state is less than 100 miles away.  So we went there.


We spent the travel time talking and talking and talking.  Mostly about what’s going on in her life, but we did have the occasional bizarre segue, like a debate about the perceived gender of God, and if God were a woman, perhaps we all have really bad weeks when she has her period.  And then about the fact that, yes, to blaspheme is actually a verb.

We were looking for some bizarre rock formations that I had read about on a couple of months ago.  My swiss-cheese brain told me it was near the border, but that was as far as it went. So we took a detour east and found some rocks that were inaccessible near the tiny town of Carr. Which also had a great little convenience store.

We debated and declined trespassing on the funky rocks, and turned around to continue our journey. But once we got back on the Interstate, we saw the ACTUAL rocks that we’d been looking for, which we would have seen had we driven another mile or so.  We resolved to stop on our return.

Into Cheyenne, we stopped at the first flea market we saw and poked around for over an hour. It was a good flea market, and we came away with some music for her – I had gotten her an old record player for Christmas, so she’s starting to collect vinyl – and some clothes from my fledgling Ebay vintage store for me. And of course, we got a couple of little things for the house.

A scented china glass conch shell that we initially thought was a salt shaker, but then determined was for potpourri.  Either way, it now lives in the bathroom.

A milk glass covered chicken dish! (The gold perpetually waving Chinese cat was a Christmas present from Kelsea). Both now live in the kitchen.

After browsing and buying, we stopped in at Two Doors Down for an absolutely excellent burger, and played peekaboo with a neighboring baby.

We had an actual purpose for going to Cheyenne – to buy Kelsea a pair of cowboy boots. We braved the wind – one thing we both REALLY dislike about Wyoming is the perpetual wind – and fled into the Wrangler, a longstanding Western store and fixture of downtown Cheyenne.  And I’m happy to say we met with success!

She’s very pleased. And now it’s payback time, because I always make her take MY cowboy boots off when we’re home together.

Our final shop-stop was Ernie November, a head/music shop, where she indulged in a few CDs to round out her growing music collection.  The final music tally looks like this:

Gotta love her eclectic taste in music – she bought Kiss AND Dean Martin!

Time to head home, we did take the detour off the highway back to see the strange rocks, and to get a slightly closer look at the herd of buffalo that we passed.  The sunset was lovely.

And the rocks were REALLY cool.

There were a lot of them, and they created a sort of little maze, complete with small caves and crevices.  But the wind was blowing like cold stink and after scaling one of them, Kelsea decided she’d had enough.

We made a mad dash back to the car, and watched the remaining sunset cuddled in front of the heater.

We’re home now, on the red couch, watching ridiculous television, and happy that we had a few hours in another state of mind.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend, too.

I know that really, every day is special. But today is especially special for me. Why? Because today is the day that my most special and precious daughter arrived on this earth (at least this time around – she’s a very old soul.)

Because some of her friends read the blog, I’m not going to inflict much gushiness and reminiscing on her. After all, she’s 15 today, and you know what that can be like. At least I do. I remember 15 quite well.

The idea that she’s 15 is amazing to me. How could that be? Like an excellent vacation, it feels like she’s been here forever, and yet the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.  I wish I had been (then and now) the one to spend more time with her. I missed a lot of her day-to-day growing up by working so much to support us all these years. But she had an excellent parent in her dad for those many years.  And I do feel that the time we have spent together has been “quality” time, more precious for its scarcity.

It snowed the day before she was born; it is snowing now. That day was a Sunday. Today is a Thursday. But at 4:06 pm on that day, my life changed forever for the better because this strong, smart, beautiful, funny, caring soul decided to grace it.

I can’t wait for many more years of roadtrips, inside jokes, kitchen disasters, epic fails, soul-level hugs in front of endless fields of sunflowers, famous chats, and getting to know one another better as we both continue to grow and change.

Happy birthday, Kelsea, my dearest daughter and friend.

Kelsea and Jack. Machyllneth, Wales. June 2007.

I don’t follow sports. I don’t have any connections at Penn State. I don’t even know how I became aware  in the last several days of the atrocious acts that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky committed on who knows how many young boys over the past 20 years.  My heart aches for the victims. I know a little about how they feel. I remember being a victim myself.

But in all this publicity, the perpetrator hasn’t spoken. He’s free on a reasonable amount of bail. What’s he doing? Spending a lot of time with lawyers, obviously, and supporters, certainly.  Note that I did not make the totally inappropriate remark about athletic supporters – oh wait, I just did. He can’t be strolling around Happy Valley with his head held high.  Can he?  Or can he truly be secluding himself in his home, with his wife of heaven knows how many years?  Can he really? Which brings us to the point of my post.

As my heart aches for Sandusky’s young victims, it aches for his wife. What must this woman be feeling?  Shame, anger, disbelief, rage, humiliation, shock, nausea, betrayal, bewilderment, devastation are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. What do you do when suddenly you discover that the man you married and loved and helped all these years is a person you don’t even know? And someone you would consider a monster if you did not know them?

It must be impossible for her to believe it, despite the evidence. And I know that, at this point, she is looking at every moment of their life together and wondering. Did she really know and just turn a blind eye? Did she miss all the signs? Does this fact make x,y, and z make sense now?  How could she have been so gullible? Such a fool?

These are the things she is thinking privately. She may not voice these kinds of thoughts to anyone. And barely even to herself. To friends and family, I imagine she is still displaying the stong, supportive wife-face she has worn for years. The face that says, “I don’t believe a word of this, and I am standing by my man.” She has perhaps raged at her husband – or perhaps not. She’s not of an era when women did that, for any cause.

People have asked, “How could she have not known? It had to have been obvious, or at least suspicious.” But no, it is entirely possible that she did not know, did not see, did not believe. Sociopaths – which is what child molesters are – are extremely charming and excellent at the art of deception. And when you love someone and have built your life around them, you are predisposed to believe what they tell you. When you know someone as a man who has looked after kids in various capacities for years – and raised the ones you adopted together – then the trips, the phone calls, the bedtime companionship in the basement room, seem like pure fatherly activities. And pedophiles can – and do – raise families without victimizing their own children – sometimes.

The one thing I know is that this woman is a victim in a whole different way.  And for that, my heart goes out to her.

My abstract conversation with Kelsea this morning:

Me: Awww, Andy Rooney died!

Kelsea: Oh, that’s terrible! Really? I’m so sad!

Me: I know, but he was like 92, so it does happen.

Kelsea: But didn’t he just go somewhere or do something?

Me: Maybe. Probably. But not that I know of.

Kelsea: I loved him in those old movies.

Me: What old movies? He wasn’t in old movies.

Kelsea: He wasn’t?

Me: No, he was on 60 Minutes. He always did the commentaries at the end.

Kelsea: Oh, he was the really old guy who sat in his chair and talked about how bad everything was?

Me: Yes, that’s him.

Kelsea: I loved him. Wasn’t he also in some old movies? No, wasn’t he Matlock?

Me: No, that was Andy Griffith.

Kelsea: Oh. Are you sure he wasn’t in old movies?

Me: Yes, pretty sure.

Kelsea: But wasn’t he the one in the movies who was always smiling and trying to take three girls to the dance? Wasn’t that Andy Rooney?

Me: No, that was Mickey Rooney playing Andy Hardy.

Kelsea: What? Oh.  I’m so confused. (Pause). I need some pants.

RIP, Andy. We did love you. And we really do know who you are.

[OK, we’re having so much fun and taking so many pictures that I am running up against a choice of writing or inserting pictures into my posts. So here’s the post. Check back for updates with pictures.]

Day 2 started where it ended: South Dakota, land of big stone heads.

I slept like (appropriately) like a rock, but Kelsea did not – pillowcity issues.  Which  means she stole all the best pillows last night and so it was my turn not to sleep well.

We had another amazing yesterday.  We had a fairly leisurely morning, and a passable lunch (yes, it was that leisurely a morning) at the Holiday Inn, spent going through about 30 of those little pamphlets that every mid-range hotel that caters to families has in a big “take one” stand near one of their exits.  In my quest for said pamphlets, I chatted with a woman who runs the little hotel gift shop; she has a 13-year old grandson, and gave me tips as to where to go and what to do.  Kelsea, with her new interest in Native American culture, was talking during our drive about how what we as the conquering people did to the Native Americans was one of the most heinous things our countrymen have ever done, and when I hinted at this chunk of history to the nice lady, she got rather chilly.  Note to self: When in South Dakota,do not mention how we wiped out Native Americans. Apparently, it is a touchy subject.

Brunch was a rather risqué affair, spurred by Kelsea’s comparison of excellent french fries to hot guys – I will spare you the details, but it was one of those meals where everything either of us said seemed to have some sort of hilarious double entendre.  We finally reached a shutting up point.  Then it was off to the car to say G’Day to Lee (the Garmin, in case you’ve forgotten).

After being amused by cheerleaders waving their sparkly pom-poms and screaming out a little purple Toyota Celica, Lee directed us to our first destination: the Chapel in the Hills, or Stavekirk.

Chapel in the Hills (Stavkirke)

Built in 1969, the chapel is an exact replica of an 850 year old church near Laerdal, Norway, and honors not only God but the Norwegian culture that permeates the region.  And it’s Lutheran, in case you were wondering, which always makes me think of A Prairie Home Companion.  There is no congregation.  The Chapel is used for weddings and special events.  In fact, there was a wedding about to start while we were there.  (When we arrived, we could tell something was going on, but we disagreed on whether it was a wedding or a funeral, Kelsea thinking the latter.  But I can smell a groomsman from a mile away, thanks to all those years of catering.) The bride looked lovely and they had a beautiful day for it.  We decided not to creep, even though we could have stood in the exact right spot to make faces at the entire cadre of guests.

The intricate carvings depict battles between good and evil and trace back to Viking times, incorporating some pagan beliefs, which may be why I was so comfortable there.

They even have a Leper hole, so that the lepers could worship without interacting with the rest of the congregation. Not much needed nowadays, but if you’re building an exact replica, then you have to build an exact replica.

The light that streamed in through various openings, and enhanced the serenity of the Stavekirke. It felt simple, yet complex at the same time.  A lot like religion itself, in some ways.

They play a recording every few minutes, giving you some history and details of the chapel.  Of course, just as we were getting started, my camera’s memory card filled up.  However, because I’ve forgotten memory cards in the past – and it’s no small feat to find one in the islands – I had a spare.  They come in those packages that a rabid scrabbling badger couldn’t open if his life depended on it.  Fortunately, my daughter had her trusty knife. (Wait, fortunately? My daughter? A knife?) I borrowed it and started slashing away at the packaging and at that very moment, the Voice on the recording intoned, “Weapons were forbidden inside the Chapel.”  We started giggling in a hysterically guilty manner.

A Prayer Path runs through the woods behind the Stave, so we walked along that, following the prayer stones and sometimes touching the statues along the way.

(According to this sculptor, Mary wore steel-toed boots.  Who knew?)  It led to a large rock overhang (which looked like a shaman hole to me and a perfect place for millions of spiders to Kelsea) and took a minute to be still.

Our last stop was the small museum filled with Scandinavian things and creepy mannequins.

Oh, and the gift shop really needed a goat to trim its roof.

The Stave is a non-profit and runs entirely on donations.  Should you be in the area, I encourage you to visit. And the docent ladies are charmingly helpful.

Feeling peaceful, we headed for Bear Country, stopping along the way to take pictures of giant man statues.  You should never pass up the opportunity to photograph a giant man statue.

Bear County is an interesting take on a zoo/wildlife park.  It’s a little pricey ($32 for two adults, because my 14-year-old would not lay claim to being 13, which would have saved us bucks.  That’s what happens when you have just come from a church).  But, having never been to Yellowstone, where I would hope to have a similar experience, where else could we find bears and elk practically stepping on our truck?  There are a few basic rules to Bear Country: stay in your vehicle with the windows tightly rolled up, pull off to the right to take pictures, and don’t feed the animals. (Note to others: if you are planning to visit Bear Country, wash all of your car windows first.)

I really sucked at keeping the windows rolled up, and Kelsea was constantly nattering about how I was risking my life and going to be eaten by bears, but I successfully tuned her out.  I mean, who’s the mother here anyway?  (Just kidding, I love her concern.)

Our first encounter was with a two ginormous elk and their harem.  Never have I seen such racks (on the guys).  You could practically read the mind of one of the gentlemen elk when one of the ladies appeared in a softly flattering light between two trees and he turned his lusty, savage eye upon her.

The elk dudes strolled across the road as if they owned it (which they do) heedless of cars.  I’m curious how they trained the animals to become so inured to cars; even though no one is going fast, it is still a pretty foreign object to a wild animal.

Mule Deer, which we see all the time in Colorado.  These two were headed to a party in the shed.

We next encountered wolves, but they were all sleeping. ALL of them. Bummer.

Bighorn Sheep.  One was just falling asleep in sun, like I used to do in philosophy class in college, with that head nod-jerk thing.

Mountain goats, which Kelsea could see but I couldn’t.

Buffalo in the distance.

Mountain lions all curled up snugly together in their shelter.

And then the bears.  So so so many bears.  Beautiful bears.  Playful bears.   Old bears.  Bears sunning themselves.  Bears just being bears.

It was awesome.

I kept rolling my window down to take pictures.  Once in a while, I would roll Kelsea’s down to shoot across her, but since I am a good mother, I kept her up most of the time.  This strategy worked pretty well, although twice, I was distracted and Kelsea pointed out that a bear was ambling towards my open window or was about five feet away.  No contest, window shut.

Again, it was awesome. Though we did wonder how many people had been really stupid and had gotten themselves eaten.

We wound up at the gift shop and the place where the smaller animals that no doubt would be eaten by the bears hang out.

And where the baby bear cubs play.  I wish I could have gotten better pictures because they were adorable.  These will have to suffice.

We were undecided about our next destination. Well, I was undecided, but Kelsea was very determined: she wanted to go to Sturgis to the Mustang Rally (the car, not the horse).  We looked at the map, talked about what else was on our agenda for the weekend, and decided to take the plunge. I-90/14/79 here we come.  Why do highways have to have so many numbers?

The drive was smooth – lovely rolling green/brown hills.  We saw a sign for Black Hills National Cemetery, which had been on the “maybe” list of to-dos, and since we were there, we decided to stop.


Kelsea wondered if everyone who had ever died in South Dakota was buried there.

What a powerful place.  From what I could gather – and I haven’t done the research yet – any veteran of the armed forces can be interred here, along with spouse and children.

The stories that these stones could tell.  I felt a book coming on.

Cemeteries usually give me a vibe.  This one felt orderly – which felt appropriate to the military demeanor – and personal yet impersonal all at once.  Peaceful but incredibly strong.  A sense of contained energy.  And a heightened awareness that we were just looking at a tiny fraction of the men and women who had served to protect this country over the last 100 years.

Thanks to all of them.

Continuing on to Sturgis, I had no idea where to find the Mustang Rally.  But as soon as we got to town, we started seeing Mustangs streaming down the street.  I told Kelsea that I thought we’d missed it, but she was ecstatic just to see so many Mustangs driving down the street.  That would have been enough for her.

But we weren’t quite too late.  The Mustang Parade was just winding down, and a ton of cars were still there, parked, showing off, or doing the peel-out competition.  I was looking for a place to park, having let Kelsea just jump out with the camera before she fell out the door in her eagerness.  I only had a moment of panic when I realized I had just turned my 14-year old daughter lose in Sturgis, but we quickly reconnected.

She had fallen madly, passionately, and completely in love.  With this car.

And now she wants to move to Sturgis.

The Mustangs WERE indeed beautiful.

We talked with the owner of Kelsea’s new innamorata, who told us there was an excellent Mustang rally up in Steamboat Springs in June.  I know where we’ll be going next June.  And she’ll even be able to drive by then.  Look out.

On our way home, she was too impassioned to even speak properly.  But we did start trying to count the “Think! Why die?” signs that South Dakota puts up on the highway to indicate where someone died.  Yikes.  I think it was worse than in Montana.

We walked to dinner from the Holiday Inn.  I had a momentary disappointment when, for some reason, I was thinking about my age and realized that I had just subtracted 11 years from my actual age when I was thinking about it. I was bummed to remember how old I was!

Dinner was at the Firehouse Brewery, a restaurant in the original Rapid City fire station.  The food (gumbo for me, Caesar Salad for her) was good.  The restaurant was a little loud, kind of crowded, but entertaining, with lots of firefighter memorabilia and patches from all over the country (and the world).

As we left Johnny Lunchmeat started playing cover songs.  Awesome name.  Not bad music.  We can say we saw him before he was famous.

Our walk home took us through the park, which was fine – no drug dealers.  As we were walking beneath one of the widely spaced streetlights, it went out, shoving us into near total darkness.  This would not be remarkable, except for the same thing had happened on Wednesday when Pat and I were coming back from Parent Night at high school.  I had joked that it was Dumbledore.  But now I am not so sure.

And so, we crashed.  And now, it is a new day. And I have finally gotten the loveable lump out of bed.  So it’s off to see the big heads.

September 2017
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