Weekend with Brad

Every year, from late September through early November, Mark makes some time to go on a few bird hunting weekends. It’s been this way for as long as I’ve known him. When my boys were little guys, they couldn’t wait for the day they could go hunting with Dad. As they grew up, those annual hunting weekends with Dad became tradition.

Now my boys are adults and they still love to hunt. Brad is an avid outdoorsman through and through. This comes as no surprise. I cut out his horoscope from the newspaper on the day he was born. It reported that he would be a lover of the outdoors. He fishes all winter and summer long, but when the middle months start to fade away, it’s hunting that takes over all of his spare time. Brad’s been hunting for weeks already. There was “early goose” season and some dove hunting. Now duck opener is fast approaching.

Mark was checking in with Brad by phone a week or so ago and asked when we were going to see him again. Brad said he thought he could take a break from his huntsman activities to make a little trip home for a couple of days. He and Dacotah came home this past weekend. Of course, Saturday and Sunday went by all too fast.

We try to do too much when he’s home. See the grandparents. Spend time with his friends who still live in the area. Visit with the neighbors. Eat a meal together. Watch a movie. Make time to play race and chase and fetch in the back yard with Dacotah and Lucy. This time, Brad also squeezed in a jaunt to a nearby gun club with a couple of buddies to shoot trap. Or skeet. I forget which. Doesn’t matter. We also included dinner out together before he came along to watch us bowl in our Saturday league.

Before he came home for the weekend, I asked Brad if he wanted to go to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday. I’ve been there a time or two in my life, and really enjoyed it, and a few weeks back, I won tickets at work for this year’s event. Mark and I haven’t been there, probably since before Brad was born, so that’s over 25 years. Our kids have never gone. The Renaissance Festival is kind of a big deal around here so I wonder if I deprived my kids of an important experience by never taking them. I always meant to. Maybe we were just always broke after an annual trip to the state fair, or busy with soccer, football, activities and back to school. Whatever the reason, we never took them.

I always tease Brad that he’s a redneck. If it involves guns, professional sports or fishing equipment, he’s in. So I figured the Renaissance Festival was a little out of his comfort zone. But he willingly agreed to go, and as we drove there on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was describing what I remembered of it. The festival employees dress in costume and speak the language. Many festival visitors will also dress up. As you come through the gates and look around at the shops and attractions, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. He was pretty curious by the time we arrived.

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We had a great time. My take on the festival was this. Everyone is a little bit unique, some of us more than others. And if you like to really revel in your uniqueness, the Renaissance Festival is your place. Many of the costumes were elaborate and impressive. Tall, black leather boots, vests, sashes, swords and dresses with revealing bust lines were the norm. A few costumes were just strange, having nothing to do with the Renaissance. (Pretty sure Mexican capes and sombreros, and Dorothy of Kansas/Oz were not typical of the era.) Whatever the case, costumes or not, it was festive and joyful.

The weather was perfect – sunny and just cool enough to be really comfortable. We enjoyed a few different foods, the best by far being the cream puffs. We watched a Tortuga Twins show. Their sign said the performance was rated PG and it was. Lots of thinly veiled references to boobs and body parts and plenty of sexual innuendo. We laughed so hard! It felt really good to laugh like that, to see my boy laugh like that. He’s had a rough few months and I think he might just be starting to turn the corner toward some kind of normal again. Driving home from the festival, I marveled at how quickly the years have passed. Not so long ago, he was just a little boy learning what kind of person he was to become. And now, he’s this caring, kind, amazing man.

I  turned around from my spot in the front passenger seat to smile at him and his head was tipped back into the corner between the back rest and the car door, He had rolled up the fleece jacket I’d tossed into the back seat and was using it for a pillow. By the serene look on his face, I could tell he was asleep and there for just a moment was my little boy again. Just a cat nap later, he was awake again and Brad the man was back.

Early Monday morning was here all too soon and Brad and Dacotah were heading back to North Dakota, Brad needing to get back in time to go to work. If we’re lucky, he’ll be able to come home for Thanksgiving.

I don’t care how grown up they are. It always feels more like home when my kids are home. And it’s always bittersweet when they leave again.

In Logan’s World

It was gorgeous outside today. The weather pendulum swung back toward summer again.

I was just winding down after dinner when I heard a little boy voice right outside the open living room window. I peeked down from the window sill and saw our next-door buddy, Logan contemplating our concrete bird bath. He likes to throw the landscaping rocks in there. Let’s them plop in the water and then giggles at the resulting splash. If his mom doesn’t stop him sooner, he’ll fill the thing right up before he runs off to find something else exciting to do.

“Logi!” I called out the window. He looked over one shoulder and then the other, but not up. He didn’t seem to realize I was talking to him through the window screen. And he’s so bashful! The sound of my voice so near sent him running back to his own front yard where he face-planted himself between his mom’s knees as she stood talking with Mark and Logan’s dad.

I wandered barefoot outside to join them. Logan cast me a shy smile and then craned his neck, looking up at his mom.

“Mommy! Wann get me?” he pleaded.

“Okay,” she said and he took off running around the locust tree. Logan’s mom, Susie chased him around a couple of times before the game ended and she came back to join the adults. Logan continued to hang on his mom’s legs, stealing shy glances at me now and then. Finally he worked up the courage to ask me to play.

“Tee! Wann get me?” I was surprised. Logan likes us, but he likes us to keep a respectable distance. He usually doesn’t invite me to get too close. Except for that time he threw a tennis ball at my head when I didn’t realize he was playing catch with me! Good thing my reflexes were quick that day!

“Sure, I’ll play,” I agreed. Logan giggled and began to circle the tree again, checking over his shoulder to be sure I was chasing. He hadn’t gone far when he dropped to the ground and rolled forward in the grass, his toddler legs and feet curling up in the air behind him with the momentum of his fall.

“Whoa!” I said. “You okay, buddy?” I asked as I scooped him up by the armpits and set him upright again. He giggled and said, “yeah” and was off and running again in a split second. He hadn’t gone maybe fifteen feet when his body dropped and rolled in the grass a second time. This looked suspiciously intentional and I scooped him up again, this time swinging him high up in the air before standing him up in the grass once more.

Over and over we chased and there was no doubt in my mind now that Logan was purposely hurling himself on the ground so that I would scoop him up and swing him around. Eventually I wound up swinging him higher and higher, and twirling him in circles until we were both dizzy and he began to tire out. He feigned an injury after one fall and I picked him up and held him in my arms, him facing me so he could point out his owie. And “anahr one” and “dis one” and so on before he wriggled out of my arms and back to the ground.

I tried to join the adults again when Logan was done being chased and done pointing out all of his owies, but soon he was beckoning me again.

“Tee! Wann draw chalk wif me?”

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He scampered into the open garage and soon returned with his bucket of sidewalk chalk. Next, I was being directed to make a rainbow, a fish, a jack-o-lantern, flowers and a tree. The driveway was quickly covered with colorful chalk drawings. He’d watch me create and then he’d add his own flair of colorful lines and circles to my etchings. The fish needed pink eyes, he said. The rainbow needed white lines. The tree needed to be circled. Every drawing became a combined effort between Logan and me.

The sun began to set. Logan stopped chalk-drawing abruptly and stood up straight like a little tin soldier. He pulled his shoulders back, puffed his chest out and beamed at the sky.

“Tee! Iss dark!

“It is getting dark,” I agreed. “Logi, do you like this jack-o-lantern?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he sang, agreeably, then ran to his front door where a big orange pumpkin sat on the front step.

“I got punkin!” he exclaimed, waving his arms toward the pumpkin with a dramatic flourish.

“It’s a good one,” I agreed.

Logan continued to dance and skip around me, running on his tippy-toes, clutching a wedge of chalk in his little fingers. He pointed out the solar lights along the sidewalk beginning to glow. “See dis one? See dis one, Tee?” He reminded me several more times, “Iss dark!

The mosquitoes were beginning to bite and the ground was getting cold beneath my bare feet. Susie told Logan it was time to go inside. As usual, he resisted her. He wanted to play more. He wanted to show me the dark and the solar lights again. I could still hear him chattering happily to us, even as Mark and called out good night to him, and headed back inside our own house.

Sling-Shotting and Flying

Fall poked its head in this week. The nights and morning have been downright chilly. Long sleeves and light jackets have reappeared, but I’m refusing to retire my sandals and flip-flops before the end of this month.

I had big plans for my Saturday. After having been on vacation through last weekend, I was looking forward to a day at home to restore order around the house, restock the groceries and get the laundry under control again. And then I was reminded of a saying. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I was anything but at home yesterday and my chores weren’t tackled nearly to the degree I’d hoped. My mom is having a rough time and I ended up trekking her to and from a couple of appointments, and made a trip to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. And then because Mom was feeling so under the weather, I took my dad to his church for five o’clock mass where he was on deck to preach and then went back to pick him up later. It occurred to me that I might have just stayed and spent some time in church, but I didn’t. It’s been years since I regularly attended and I was grateful Dad didn’t ask about it. I’m sure it bothers him greatly, my drifting away from his faith, but I appreciate him respecting my choice by leaving it be.

I ran on the treadmill at the gym last week, finally conceding to the mornings that have grown steadily darker as the summer days wane. But this being Sunday, I was happy for the luxury of sleeping until the sun was already up, with no particular schedule to meet. I could run outside again. Lucy was thrilled, though she about drove me nuts as the hound portion of her mixed breeding kicked into high gear and she stopped to sniff the scents she’d been missing all week. Her four legs have this crazy ability to stop dead in her tracks without her toppling over. My gears need time to gradually slow before stopping. We must have been a sight, the two of us, with her pulling up short to investigate every single ever-loving smell. And me sling-shotting past her time and again. I think it’s time for Lucy to start having daily walks that are separate from my runs. I’m pretty sure this stop-and-start business is impeding any forward progress I hope to make in my running abilities.

Still, I enjoyed my time outside again. It’s funny how much changes even with even the gradual shift in the season. One thing I noticed all summer long is how few people I’d encounter around the neighborhood as I ran along the pedestrian-friendly asphalt paths. This morning we shared space with a surprising number of other runners, walkers and dogs. In summers past, I used to exchange good mornings with a regular stream of people, but not so these past few months. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the warmth. I can’t say heat because it really didn’t get all that hot here this summer, particularly in the early part of the days before the sun had fully risen. In fact, I was grateful all along for the kind of temperatures and air that made it easier on my lungs and allowed me to keep working toward improvement as a runner.

And there was wind today like I don’t remember feeling in some time. As Lucy and I moved west and then south along our usual route, it seemed fierce and I felt it rushing in my ears, even though I knew this was somewhat of an illusion. Experience told me that when I reached our halfway point and turned back the other direction toward home, it would turn into a gentler breeze. The walkers today sported long pants and fleece jackets. I’d dressed in capris and short sleeves, knowing I’d work up a sweat and I was grateful for the wind that kept me cooler.

Sky 1The sky today held a heavier hue, confirming the transition of seasons that’s beginning to take shape. I do love the fall months and can only hope that signs of winter remain at bay until it’s their turn. Already one morning this week, I awoke to the feeling of cold air on my nose, my arms clutching the blankets in a tight curl around my body. I succumbed to the warmth of my bed and snoozed the alarm clock beyond hope of working in any amount of exercise before getting ready for work. That is a bad habit I really hope to squelch over the winter months.

My back and my inner spirit were glad that I resisted the urge to hibernate this morning. Spending time outside, appreciating the scenery of my neighborhood, and getting my heart rate going always gives me a boost that tends to carry me through the rest of the day. And truth be told, I knew Lucy was revelling in the return to a routine she greatly loves, so I couldn’t be too upset as she stopped me mid-stride once again to investigate a spread of gorgeous purple coneflowers beneath an electrical tower along the way. I stopped to let her sniff to her heart’s content and took the chance to study the prickled brown center of one of the flowers, knowing soon enough they’ll be fading away for the season.

Sky 3Today is shaping up to be a gorgeous day, with a few remnants of summer and a glimpse of fall evenly sprinkled within. A high school acquaintance shared some inspiration on Faceb00k this morning and we exchanged a few comments as a result. He left me with encouragement to go forward and create, to fly, and to enjoy this beautiful day. I’m going to go do my best!

Coming Home

A sure sign that summer is fading away – I’m reading everything in sight. Chores and errands are stacking up while I ignore them and happily soak up new stories. That’s okay. I allow myself this kind productive laziness now and then.

Coming HomeComing Home had been sitting on my hard drive for the good part of the last few months, ever since my friend, Kim sent me an electronic version of her latest literary endeavor  and asked me to give it a read. Yes, Kim’s done it again. She’s finished a third book with no sign of stopping anytime soon. The woman churns these things out like cotton candy, I swear! I wish it were so easy for me!

I promised Kim I would read her newest novel. But it was … you know … summertime. The air was warm. The neighborhood was alive with activity. My daughter was home from school and I was spending every moment possible in her company. I wanted to read. But I also wanted to feel the soft, green grass between my toes, watch the sun sparkle on the neighborhood ponds, hike around the trails, and take my Lucy Pie along on my morning runs. I found it hard to sit still and write, much less read a book.

And then one day last week I just decided to pull up the book file and dig in.

It didn’t take long for the story to hook me. There I was, the Wednesday evening before departing for our annual Bayfield vacation. I should have been packing and preparing food for the trip. But none of those things was accomplished that night. I had to finish Coming Home.

do love me a good romantic adventure story and Coming Home delivers. Anne LaSal first appeared in Kim’s last book, Facing Redemption. But Anne’s story takes center stage in Coming Home. Anne is a young woman with a bit of family drama in her life as well as her fair share of dating woes. After her last relationship turned out to be a miserable failure, she wrote off men for good. Or so she thought.

Somehow, Anne finds herself on a reality dating show.  Still nursing a major heartache and a good amount of bitterness after her last attempt at love, Anne decides to play along on the show, just long enough to prove it’s a fake.

Anne has no idea until the show begins taping, that the bachelor for whose attention everyone is competing just so happens to be her celebrity crush, Chad Chambers. Suddenly there’s more at stake for Anne than merely unmasking the show for the fake that she thinks it is.  She soon finds herself contending with a cast of beautiful but arrogant women, some of whom will stop at nothing to ensure their competition is quickly pared down. Every one of them wants to be the last girl standing and win the heart of the handsome and sexy Chad. In the midst of it all, Anne is surprised to find she’s made some real friends, …and that quite possibly, her motives are changing while she realizes she might have real feelings for Chad. Things get really sticky when Anne’s family drama, which she’s managed to keep at bay for a while begins to unfold with the potential to interfere with her stay on the show and ruining any hopes of winning Chad’s heart.

Coming Home is Kimberly McKay’s third – and in my opinion – best book yet. I was honored to be asked to preview this book before it was released. Kim and I connected across the blog lines several years ago when I knew her by her blog personas, wornoutwoman and blessed1. She’s been a constant source of encouragement to me and an incredible friend. (Anyone who says online friendships aren’t real friendships hasn’t met Kim!) I may have been slow to get started, but once I began reading, I couldn’t put Coming Home down.  Kim has proven once again that she’s an extremely talented author. I love the way she writes in such a captivating way, weaving in her special brand of humor, sass and of course, her enduring sense of faith.

Since it took me so long to read, I can now say I loved Coming Home, I highly recommend it and it’s available to the public. Go get yourself a copy!

In Bayfield Again

Every year someone asks, “How many years is this now?”

No one ever seems to remember exactly when we went on our first annual vacation to Bayfield, Wisconsin as a group of four couples, most of whom barely knew each other at the time. But I’m pretty sure this year was our eleventh. I remember because that first year, Jake was going into seventh grade, and that sticks out in my mind because he was leaving the Catholic school our kids had always attended and was getting ready to start a new school career in the big, scary public middle school. And that would have been 2003.

So this being 2014 would be our eleventh year. I don’t think any of us thought this would become an annual event. It was kind of weird that first year. The only thing three of us couples had in common is that we were all friends with Bill and Tammy. But we had fun. And the next year, Bill and Tammy proposed we do it again. And so here we are, eleven years later and it’s become something kind of special.

This vacation is steeped in equal parts tradition and new adventures. We always take turns cooking a couple of dinners. There is always a Sequence game tournament during which Dennis is always my partner because once, long ago, Bill assigned game partners and they have remained unchanged ever since. We always visit Madeline Island at least once and while there, we always spend some time at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe. This year, there was an awesome band on stage, the Buckthorn Brothers. It was a quiet night at Tom’s, and one of the Julies first noticed the lead singer before we knew he was the lead singer. He had come into the bar presumably from the beach, wearing only a pair of board shorts. He disappeared into a trailer and came out fully clothed and sat down at the bar to have a drink.

“He’s good looking,” one of the Julies noted.

“Mmm hmmm,” the rest of us girls agreed.

“…even though we’re all old enough to be his mother,” I added, a little embarrassed that we were admiring the young man purely for his physical attributes.

“He has good dreads,” one of the Julies remarked and we all contemplated his hair style. I don’t usually care for dreadlocks, but she labeled them “contained dreads” and I had to agree. They suited him. Not long after, he stepped up on the stage and began tuning a guitar. A guy with a cello (I think) joined him. And they rocked!

Bill thought we should call it a night. It was getting dark and he still had to drive us all back to Bayfield in the boat. One of the Julies said not yet and we ordered another round of drinks while Tom’s began to fill up with people wanting to hear the band and dance. A few songs later, we left… reluctantly.

We had dinners out. The guys fished in the mornings while one of the Julies and I walked the Brownstone Trail along Lake Superior. I ran it alone one morning, just to see how far I could actually go. When downtown appeared in front of me, I knew I’d made it to the end and I turned around and ran back to the condo. Five and a half miles. Didn’t know I had it in me. Now I do!

Tammy, the other Julie and Mark went to the casino a few times. Mark came back with more than he contributed and was gleeful! We boated over to Ashland for an afternoon, checked out a car show and had a few drinks on the deck of a huge, old hotel with a view of Lake Superior.

I read a book. We hung out in downtown Bayfield. Visited several apple orchards. We boated to Stockton Island, hiking across it and cooling our toes in the cold water of the lake.

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We went to Big Top Chautauqua to see a show. Didn’t really know what we were going to see. The other Julie had bought the tickets, telling us only that it was a sort of season-end show. There was music. There was comedy of the pants-peeing variety. And there was this guy telling funny stories and talking about a new book he’d just published. I’d never heard of him before, but he’d said book so I was interested. He said that during the intermission, guests could visit the gift shop (a smaller tent) and buy his books if they’d like and he’d even autograph them. I was interested, but the crowd was thick and I didn’t make it before the comedy act began. After the show, after having had a fabulously fun time, we all eight of us piled out from under the big top into the cool Wisconsin night. Hovering outside the gift shop waiting for the crowd to thin before we headed back to our cars, Mark nudged my arm and nodded into the open doorway. I saw the stacks of books and he suggested, “Let’s go look. You want one, don’t you?”

I did want one. The gift shop was now wide open and I could go peruse the selections without battling the crowd. But I was embarrassed because the author, Michael Perry was standing there and I had no idea about his writing whatsoever. Didn’t know if I liked it or not and I didn’t want this to be obvious. But his stories on stage had been funny, so I was pretty sure I wanted one of his books. So I picked out the first one I saw with intriguing cover art and gladly accepted Mr. Perry’s offer to autograph it for me.

I began to read my new book back at the condo that night when I went to bed. And I quickly realized that it was the kind of book I’ll try to force myself to read slowly because the words are woven together with such artistry that I find it hard to put down and won’t want it to end.

Once again, our Bayfield days proved to be memorable, fun, unwinding and rejuvenating with a side of gorgeous scenery. Aside from Bill and Tammy, we Bayfield vacationers don’t spend much time with each other outside of the annual trip and maybe a dinner date once or twice throughout the year. One of the Julies and I were discussing that fact this weekend. She’s the kind of person with whom I think I could be really good friends. We get each other. But for some reason, we stick to connecting only these few times a year, particularly connecting during our morning Bayfield walks. It’s families and work and schedules and life that we claim as excuses for not making more of our friendship, but the reality is, our friendship and this vacation just work as is. Julie was the one who first said it. It’s something special. And I imagine I’ll be telling fond stories about it for years to come.

Dancing in the Grass

Labor Day weekend … a time to celebrate the culmination of days of hot sun and rain showers, t-shirts and shorts, barefooting and cooling off in the lake. Yeah, we still have a few weeks to enjoy full leafy trees and colorful flower gardens, ice cream and cold drinks outside on the deck, but it will all soon come to an end. School days have begun. The sun goes down earlier in the evening. The skies stay dark until later in the morning and the sun sinks below the horizon earlier in the evening.

Summer is winding down. I’ll surely miss it, but I took the chance to throw it a party this weekend and tell it to hurry back soon!

Actually, I didn’t throw the party. My sister and brother-in-law did. I just contributed some food and helped bid the passing season a bon voyage.

My brother-in-law, Kevin is a talented bass player. At 23 years old, he picked up a bass and said to himself, “I think I’ll learn to play this thing.” And then he did. Not too many years later, he found himself in a band, called Unsung Heroes. They were good. (You might think I’m prejudiced in that statement, being related to Kevin and all, but they really were good!) My sister, Cori took notice of them while out with some coworkers after work one day and that’s how she met Kevin. Eventually, she married him and the rest is history!

I’m sorry to say that Unsung Heroes are no longer together. Marriage, growing families, and life took precedence over playing in bars every weekend. But Kevin continued to play his bass. His passion for music didn’t fade away. He and Cori passed on their appreciation and talents to their two boys. Over the past few years, as their kids grew older, Kevin got back in the band scene. He plays at church. He plays in a rock cover band. He plays in a Christian rock band and he plays in an Elvis tribute band. His music keeps him very busy, but it’s what he loves to do.

Kevin’s musical connections made for a great party this weekend. He invited all of his musician friends along with all of his non-musician friends and family for an afternoon of fun and food in the back yard. The various bands played their own stuff and also mixed it up and played with each other for a great afternoon and evening of tunes.

Here’s Tom, a talented lead singer, with his Unsung Heroes drummer, Gordy, Kevin on bass and Mike of Millie and the Misfits on guitar.

And here’s Art a.k.a. Elvis with some of his band mates and Tom.

As the sun (and a few more drinks) went down, the guests began to dance. Neighbors strolled over and joined the party in the back yard. A bunch of us ‘girls’ formed a circle on the ‘dance floor’ and shook our groove thangs! The lawn was taking a beating in ways that my husband would never allow to happen in his yard. But no one seemed to mind here. The condition of the grass was the furthest thing from anyone’s thoughts.

I requested My Sharonaa throwback to the Unsung Heroes days and the band belted it out loud and proud. As happy energy flowed through my veins, I could feel the dewy grass beneath my bare feet and the cool, damp brush of the nighttime air on my skin. I had that rare sense of throwing caution to the wind and just living in the moment. My niece, sister and I laughed at and with each other as we danced and jumped around until we were breathless, not caring what we looked like. We were having so.much.fun! 

We’d given summer a proper send-off and the party ended with promises to do it again soon.

 

Farm Fashion, Belly Fat and Food on a Stick

Yesterday Mark and I made our umpteenth annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair.

Most years, we set aside an entire day and begin our journey to the fairgrounds first thing in the morning. Not so this year. The fair days just seemed to slip on by and here we were this week, heading into the final fair weekend without having yet paid a visit. So I took half a day off from work, extending my long Labor Day weekend by a few more hours.

We quickly learned that the first difference between being early-in-the-day fair visitors and later-in-the-day fair visitor is the parking challenge. All of the good parking lots are full by noon. And even though there are many free park-and-ride lots available, most of those were full too. After driving for miles around the fairgrounds, seeing nothing but Lot Full signs, we began to feel defeated. We then cruised the residential streets near the fairgrounds in desperation, now willing to pay some homeowner an exorbitant fee to park on his front lawn and walk to the fair, but we had no luck with that plan either. Finally, as we sat in Mark’s truck at a red light, waiting to make a right turn in busy fair traffic, with no idea where to go next, we noticed all of the park-and-ride buses zooming to and from the fair entrance. As Mark was finally able to make his turn, a bus moved ahead of us; one that had just emptied of a group of arriving passengers and filled with a group of departing passengers.

“I’m going to follow that bus,” Mark said. “It must be headed back to a place to pick up more passengers. When those people get off the bus, there should be room for more people to ride to the fair. We’ll see if we can park and ride from wherever that place is.”

I don’t often credit my husband with genius ideas, but I have to admit now, this was a genius idea. We followed the bus for several miles to a large church with a large parking lot. As departing fair-goers drove out of the parking lot, we were allowed in. We hopped on the bus and were delivered right to the main entrance of the fair.

Yes! We’d finally made it! The sky was overcast, but rain didn’t appear imminent and that made for really comfortable temperatures for an afternoon of walking around for hours with thousands of other people.

2014 Fair 03

The Minnesota State Fair was originally a celebration of the state’s agriculture industry. It was fun to see that we haven’t lost the agricultural draw. I could tell because of the farm fashion.

The state fair is also a celebration of food! There is SO. MUCH. FOOD! And as you might imagine, the abundance of food attracts people of all shapes and sizes.It seemed to me that there were way more rental scooters scooting around the fairgrounds than I’ve seen before. There are some whose health legitimately prevents them from walking at the fair. But it also seems that there were so many who rode scooters simply because their weight was too much to carry on their own two feet. We stood in the ice cream line in the dairy building behind a family of severely overweight people, both parents trying to squeeze through the crowds on scooters, their kids with chubby cheeks and protruding tummies waiting their turn for another state fair goody. And it made me feel bad about the kind of life that lies ahead for those kids. The state fair can be fun, but it can also be a sad testament to our tendency toward overindulgence in this country.

But the food is delicious! Of that there is no doubt. In the past, we’ve visited the fair with friends, or with our kids. And that makes it easy to try a variety of foods because when there are several of us, we can all try a bite or two of some food, and still have room to try a bite or two of some others. With it being just Mark and me this time, we found ourselves having to eat more of each thing than we’d like to, or throwing some of it away. Still, we managed to down a few favorites as well as taste some new (to us) foods.

There is so much to see at the state fair! In the Grandstand, you can buy kitchen gadgets and cookware, fitness equipment and clothing, purses and footwear, bird feeders and outdoor furniture. The vendors are skilled at convincing you that you simply cannot live one day more without this amazing stove top grill or smoothie mix. One vendor called me out as a runner, which I found amusing since I can only be considered a runner in the loosest sense of the word. She handed me a brochure and insisted I stand on one of her machines. It looked like a form of fitness equipment, but upon placing my feet on the platform and holding on to the handles, all I felt was vibration running through my body. She said that as a runner, my joints were being abused each time I pound the pavement with my feet. For a mere thirteen hundred bucks, (normally twenty-two hundred,) I could have this preventative health device right in my own home. Just fifteen minutes a day of standing on the vibrating platform would provide daily healing to my joints and improve my workouts by some percentage I can’t remember. I accepted her brochure and told her I’d give it some thought.

I think people watching is our favorite pastime at the fair, though. People are such interesting creatures. There were young and old alike visiting the fair, babies in strollers to the elderly. There were people dressed appropriately for trekking the miles of fairgrounds in comfortable clothing and footwear. And there were those who wanted to make some type of fashion statement. We saw crazy patterned leggings on legs, high boots and high heels. We saw drastically fashioned hair cuts and colors. And it struck me sadly that little girls stop being little girls at a much younger age than they used to.

And it also occurred to me, as we noticed babies in strollers and who was pushing those strollers, that parents seem to get younger every year. Or maybe I’m just feeling the effects of my age!

Even though we traveled among thousands upon thousands of people who had come from all over the state, we still managed to run into people we knew from close to home. Mark saw a coworker and we ran into friends from Kacey’s softball days. Of course, technology played a part in bringing us together with friends. My check-in on Faceb00k alerted my good friend, Rosie that we were in the area. After seeing it, Rosie texted me and said, “Where are you? Let’s meet!” We agreed to connect in 45 minutes. And in the meantime, Mark and I just took in the sites and enjoyed what the fair has to offer.

Soon it was time to go find our meeting spot and meet Rosie. The sky had grown darker and I felt a few drops of rain on my skin. And then a few more. And then it was coming down! Mark and I took shelter under the awning of one of the food vendors and tried to wait it out.

It let up for a few minutes and we took our chance to travel once again toward our destination, but the skies let loose again. I had thought to bring a light rain jacket – but had forgotten to take it with me when we parked the truck. We ended up trying to wait out the rain again a few blocks later, but this time it didn’t appear to be letting up. And we did finally connect with Rosie, hiding out under an awning at the agreed upon meeting place. We chatted for a few minutes, but the intensity of the rain was only growing and we’d had enough. Mark and I stopped even trying to protect ourselves from getting wet and made a break for the bus stop to catch a ride back to our parking spot.

We weren’t the only ones with that idea. By the time our bus arrived and we were able to get inside of it, we were drenched! And I mean seriously waterlogged! I felt as if I’d just stood in my shower fully clothed. I sat uncomfortably as Mark drove us home over a partially flooded highway. As soon as we were back and in the house, I stripped out of my wet clothes as soon as humanly possible. It felt great to get into something dry and comfy again!

So, it wasn’t our most successful state fair trip ever, but we can say once again that we did it!