Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It has been one week since my last blog post, and the natives are getting restless and discontent, wondering where I have been and why I have not posted.  Not to worry, my friends, I've been vacating a little more, dealing with several more migraines, and PREPARING.

Preparing for the big Thanksgiving weekend gathering at the family's vacation lodge up in the mountains.  Don't try to find us.  Trust me - you won't.  We always say our prayers while here at the lodge that nobody will get hurt or snake bitten - it's WAY far to the nearest hospital, on difficult roads, over the mountains and through the woods, through deep snow, both ways.

Last weekend the husband/lover/driver brought me up to the Lodge for a pre-chaos getaway bit of pre-Thanksgiving set up and preparation.  We are expecting 14 of us under one roof, and since I am in charge of the preparations, decorations, and food for 14 for the 5 days we are all together, I wanted some peace and quiet there in the lodge by ourselves to get a head start before all the rest arrive.

Throughout our quiet weekend, we decorated various areas of the lodge in Fall decor.  First, the mantel.

We added a few items around the living room area of the lodge, and in between doing so, previewed some new games for the family and worked on a Christmas craft for the Lodge.  After Thanksgiving Day we'll be switching out the Fall decor to Christmas decor.  I suppose most of the rest of the world probably thinks we are behind schedule, though, with our Christmas decorating.

Throughout our weekend, we had a few visitors.  Those were of the feathered variety, making bold and risky appearances so close to the big turkey feasting day.

As we were leaving the lodge at the end of our quiet, pleasant weekend, we noticed the temperatures were dropping, and it was starting to feel like winter.  The proverbial "frost was on the pumpkins" we had placed at the entrance to our lodge.

We headed back home, just for a three day stint of back to work (for the hubby), and two days of picking and gathering (my job).

Meanwhile, we received some reports that the little guy out west (grandson Gabriel) had had a very busy and exciting week:

   -He came down with two ear infections, needing antibiotics, leading to...
   -He had his first case of diaper rash.  He did not like it one bit, and wanted to be left in the same diaper.
   -He went in for his six month vaccination appointment.  First he flirted shamelessly with the nurses.  He screamed  at being stuck, then immediately looked up and laughed at the nurse.
   -He thought getting his "school" pictures taken at day care was the most fun adventure of his life.

So now I am now back at the lodge with a few of the family members, and we are awaiting the arrival of all the others.  We are ready for the holiday.

I may have bought and hauled in enough food and supplies to feed and care for a small country for a year.

I am prepared for the guests to arrive.  Beds are made.  Cookies are on the counter. Candles are burning, and a fire is in the fireplace.

And, today the snow is falling.  My relatives will be traveling through 4 to 8 inches of snow to gather here together, and I will say lotsa prayers for safety while I wait for them.

My dad sits watching the first snowfall seen from within the new family lodge.
I'll also start cooking.  That won't stop for days.

And, I'll be keeping my eyes out the windows, because this family of 4 came in for a visit last night:

Mother bear and three cubs (the third cub is hiding)
What do the men do while the women are PREPARING?  They play with boys' toys, of course.  Son Caleb took our newly repaired tractor and moved some dirt from one pile to another.  Just because it's a tractor, and because he could, and because he's a little boy at heart who loves to play in the dirt.

What else do the big boys do?  They plant trees, of course!  Plant trees in a forest already full of trees!

This time Dad brought about 25 more to be planted around the lodge.  He's driven and obsessed with "greening up the work site."

Caleb and Dad unloading the trees
Setting the trees

It's actually too cold to fully plant the trees, so they're just setting them in place, and building up the dirt around the tree balls.  Hopefully they will make it to Spring when they can be properly planted.

Finally, in perhaps the biggest news of the day - the old guy has learned to PHOTOBOMB!!

The PREPARATIONS are about done.  Let the folks arrive and the celebrating and giving thanks begin.  

Yes, we do have so much for which to be thankful.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Postcards From Washington, D.C. - Bureau of Engraving and Printing

We saw, literally, millions of dollars during the free 40 minute tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing while on our recent Washington, D.C. trip.  One goal of our trip was to visit some of the lesser written about museums and buildings, and this was one of those places.

We lined up at the ticketing entrance by 9:00 AM, as recommended.  Because of the tour's popularity, visitors are advised to show up early at the ticket booth, which closes when all of the daily tickets have been distributed.

As I expected, all parts of this building were staffed heavily with security guards.  One young Boy Scout in the line ahead of us was separated from his group, and he and his belongings were thoroughly searched.  He looked completely terrified by the time he was cleared and reunited with the rest of his group.

How money is printed
After passing through a thorough security station, we were ushered into a small auditorium where we were shown a brief film detailing the money printing process. After the film and during all parts of the tour, all cameras and cell phones had to be put away, and they were were quite strict and firm about this rule, for the obvious reason of deterring anyone who has a mind to counterfeit.  All photos in this post were taken in the entrance hallway or in the Visitors' Center at the end of the tour.

Our fascinating tour featured the various steps of currency production, beginning with large, blank sheets of paper and ending with wallet-ready bills.  As the U.S. Government's security printer, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is responsible for the design, engraving, and printing of all U.S. paper money.  A world leader in printing technology, the Bureau also produces White House invitations, Treasury obligations, and other U.S. securities.

The first government notes were produced by a private firm, then trimmed and separated by hand at the Treasury.  Gradually, all facets of currency production were assumed by the Bureau.  The Bureau moved to its present site in 1914 and in 1991 a second currency production facility was opened in Fort Worth, Texas.  All of our dollars come from one of those two places.

Though new printing, production, and examining technologies have brought the Bureau of Engraving and Printing into the 21st century, the Bureau's engravers continue to use some of the same traditional tools that have been used for hundreds of years.

$1,000,000 in $10 notes
Various things throughout the tour impressed me.  One, the security that each of the workers must go through on a daily basis just to come, do his job, and go home.  Two, I expected some more elaborate system other than guys lugging buckets of dye up ladders onto the rollers and painting it on there with paintbrushes, but that's pretty much how they do it.  Three, there were massive stacks of money sitting around, like in the millions of dollars a pile.  Fourth, the guys that inspect those large sheets of currency, one after the other, with their magnifying glasses have a heck of a boring job.

Glass tube of shredded (retired) $100's
 And last, there are quite a lot of security measures built into each and every piece of paper money.  I cannot even begin to conceive of how one could successfully counterfeit our dollars.

On our tour we learned that there are several easy-to-use security features to help people check their U.S. money:

   1.  Color-shifting ink:  Look at the numeral in the lower right corner on the face of the note.  When you tilt the note up and down the color-shifting ink changes color from copper to green.

   2.  Watermark:  Hold the note up to the light and look for the watermark, or faint image, similar to the large portrait.  The watermark is part of the paper itself and it can be seen from both sides of the note.

   3.  Security thread:  Hold the note up to the light and look for the security thread, or plastic strip, that is embedded in the paper and runs vertically on one side of the portrait.  The thread is visible from both sides of the note and will glow when held under an ultraviolet light.

These three features are difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce well, and therefore they often don't try.  Instead they hope that cash handlers and the public will not check their money.

Bob, at 6'2" is about $1,800,000 tall (in $100's)

Next:  Our final adventure in Washington, D.C. - the Washington Monument

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Postcards From Washington, D.C. - Lincoln Day (Part 3)

Today I'll wrap up the third and final installation of my three part blog post relating our sightseeing in Washington D.C. relative to Abraham Lincoln.  In Lincoln Day (part 1) we toured Lincoln's Cottage and the Ford's Theatre and museum.  You can read that post here.  Then in Lincoln Day (part 2), we walked across the street and visited the Peterson House where Lincoln died.  Catch up on that post here.

In the evening of our Lincoln Day, we returned to Ford's Theatre to see a show.  When I was researching the details of our trip and discovered that this historic theatre is still in use, I immediately ordered tickets.  The scheduled show of the day was "Driving Miss Daisy."  I had somehow missed the movie of the same name when it came out years ago, but I had heard that Sally Fields and Morgan Freeman played fabulous parts as the two leads.

The stage is set.
Of course, photos were not allowed during the show, so I'll have to just relate what we saw.

Acclaimed WAshington stage actors Nancy Robinette and Craig Wallace played the two main characters, Daisy and Hoke.  When Daisy Werthan causes a car wreck, her son hires hard working chauffeur Hoke Colburn to look after her. 

Cover of the playbill
 What begins as a hostile clashing of wills between a stubborn Jewish matriarch and a proud black man evolves into a decades-long friendship as the two navigate Civil Rights-era Atlanta.  With humor and heartfelt emotion, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play poignantly explored the transformative power of true friendship.

This production was truly one of the most enjoyed and well done play we have seen in several years.  Truly, this was a heartwarming tale of two people crossing cultural borders and coming to an understanding and respect for each other.  Our world needs more of this message in these current days.  For the entire ninety minutes, we were spellbound, and easily moved back and forth several times from laughter to tears.  

In 1861, theatre manager John T. Ford leased out the abandoned First Baptist Church on Tenth Street to create Ford's Theatre.  Over the next few years, the venue became a popular stage for theatrical and musical productions.  On April 14, 1865 - almost 150 years ago - Abraham Lincoln visited Ford's for a performance of "Our American Cousin."  

During that performance, Lincoln was shot by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.  He died the next morning in the Peterson House, a boarding house located directly across the street.  

Upon doing a little research, I found that there were three different ticket prices for the production of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre the night of the assassination:

     Orchestra (main level, chair seating) - $1.00 
     Dress Circle (first balcony, chair seating) - $ .75

     Family Circle (second balcony, bench seating) - $ .50

Now take a look at my ticket from the performance on the evening of October 14, 2014, almost 150 years later.  We were seated in the Dress Circle area, nowadays called the Loge.

In case you cannot see it clearly, the ticket price was $50.00 (plus fees).

Although we've seen shows on Broadway and elsewhere that were more expensive than this one, we felt that every penny was worth it for this fine production.  

Added to that, I must say it simply felt surreal sitting in the same theatre, and looking into the seating area where Abraham Lincoln sat and was shot.  I have read about his assassination many times in school history books, but actually being there where it all happened was something else that one can not get from reading about it. 

This definitely is one of those DON'T MISS ITS if you are ever in the Washington D.C. area.  Seeing this show was a fitting way to cap off our Lincoln Day.

Next:  Seeing the money!  (Bureau of Printing and Engraving)  

Monday, November 17, 2014

This One Put Me Down and Out

Gabriel is six months old.
This latest migraine, that is.  But we'll get to that after all the good stuff.

First, we set out on a road trip to western Ohio for a long weekend to visit our youngest grandson, who just turned six months old on the day we arrived.  The last time we saw him was almost two months ago, and we badly needed a baby fix.

We arrived after a 7 1/2 hour drive at about 9 PM, and that rude little stinker didn't even stay up and wait for us!  I suppose in his little brain the debate between sleep vs. grandparents wasn't much of a debate at all, really.  Little guy needs his sleep!

A very relaxing weekend was spent just catching up on the lives of daughter Sarah, SIL Lance, and happy Gabriel.  We stayed mostly close to home, and I certainly accomplished my goal of overdosing on plenty of snuggles and huggles.  Gabriel was all too accommodating and loves to be held and fussed over.

He has such a ready and pleasant smile, all throughout the day.

We learned that he doesn't have much interest in the rolling over process, but he'd much rather sit up like a big guy and play that way.

When he got a little sleepy, somehow there were always some soft chests and waiting arms to help the nap happen.  No doubt there was quite a bit of grandparental spoilage going on, too.

Gabriel proved to be an easy traveler, as we made a long outing the one afternoon to explore in a nearby Bass Pro Shop.  We shopped, ate lunch in the cafe there, and then shopped some more.  He just sat in his stroller very contentedly taking it all in, always ready with that smile that melts.

I was on duty for the evening dinner feedings.  This little guy is quite the chow hound.  He loves solid foods, and opens his mouth like a little birdie when he sees it coming.  It's always good to follow up the cereal with a little giraffe for dessert, too.

He is growing and changing so nicely, and it was such a pleasure to watch his parents enjoying every new part of parenting him.  We won't see them again until Christmas, but I'm sure in these next two months he will have changed a lot.  He will certainly make the holidays fun.

We no sooner made the trip home, when the phone rang.  Daughter #2, Lindsay, was needing me to make the trip to her place and babysit sick little Ellie.  Being free to come and go to help out the kids and grandchildren in these situations is one of the best perks of being retired.

Ellie and Lindsay
So I repacked my bag and headed towards Amish country.  It's not everywhere you see this kind of a sign in a parking area.

When I arrived, Ellie was obviously not feeling tip top.  She wasn't interested in eating or drinking much of anything, and wasn't her happy self.

Ellie on a good day
However, the next day while she was in my care, she seemed to bounce back to her normal happy self.  She easily amused herself wearing her princess dress up outfits throughout the day, and taking care of her baby dolls.  We played with play dough, and painted some pictures. Ellie loves seeing what's in Grammal's bag, and this time she found some make up.

Unfortunately, all day while Ellie was getting better, I was coming down with a killer migraine headache.  Not even my migraine prescription seemed to give any relief, and after struggling with the pain for about 12 hours, that evening when she returned home from work, Lindsay hauled me off to the local emergency room.

After a heavy shot of pain medication gave some relief, I was discharged and gratefully crawled into bed to get some rest.  

Darn it if that migraine didn't come back early the next morning, waking me to another miserable pain filled day.  And again, no medications were helping, so after another 12 hours of suffering, we headed back again to the emergency room.  Not surprisingly, the emergency staff personnel that had cared for me the night before were surprised to see me there again.

After experimenting with numerous intravenous pain medications, the migraine finally receded.  

As I write this, it has been four days since that night in the hospital.  My body is still rebounding from all the medications I had that night.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, this migraine really took me down and out.  It was the first time a migraine headache didn't respond to the pills I carry with me at all times, and that concerns me.  I'll be seeing my family doctor for some follow up care in a few days. 

In other news, grandtwins Tori and Brianna got a new black kitten at their house.  After quite a bit of debate, the kitten was named VADA, sort of like a female version of Darth Vader.  Those kiddos are highly creative, I'll give them that.  

Brianna, VADA, and Tori
Coming:  the remainder of the photos and blog posts from our recent Washington, D.C. trip.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Postcards From Washington, D.C. - Lincoln Day (Part 2)

Plaque outside the Petersen House
We continued our Washington, D.C. day that was devoted to everything Abe Lincoln after visiting the Ford's Theater where he was assassinated, by crossing the street and entering the Petersen House.  

After John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and then so flamboyantly made his Tarzan-like exit by swinging down and across the stage, Lincoln was taken across the street to the Petersen House for medical evaluation and care.

At the time the Petersen House was a boarding home.  After the chaos of the shooting, they simply needed a place to take Lincoln that was out of the frenzy, and the Petersen house landlord yelled across that "you can bring him over here."

Passing through the various rooms in the Petersen House, we learned about Lincoln's final moments.  It was determined that his injury was mortal, and so he was laid in a bed there, and kept as comfortable as possible for his last hours.

The front sitting room, where guests were first received
That night the Petersen home was not under the control of Mr. and Mrs. Peterson.  They and their tenants were removed from the main living quarters and bedrooms, and they slept in the basement that night.  Soldiers were placed at the entrances and on the roof to maintain some sense of order and control.  Even so, during that long night over 90 people passed through the house to pay their last respects to the dying president.

Rear bedroom - turned into an interview/meeting/information collecting office that night
Lincoln died in this next bedroom early the next morning, on April 15, 1865, shortly after 7:00 AM.

Of course, the first thought that came to my head when I saw where Lincoln died, was whether or not that was the ACTUAL bed in which he died.  Sadly, no.  Although the three rooms in the house that are open for public viewing are furnished today in 1865 period pieces, none of the furniture is original to the house.  But, that bed you see in the photo IS in the EXACT location of where Lincoln took his last breath.

Adjacent to the Petersen House, and included in the Ford's Theatre ticket package, is the Center for Education and Leadership.  In there we saw exhibits exploring the aftermath of the assassination, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, and the lasting impact of Lincoln's legacy.

I found the galleries related to the topic of Leadership particularly inspiring.  Here are a few photos from that area:

Abraham Lincoln quote

As we were nearing the exit from the Educational Center, we descended several flights of stairs spiraling around this unique display.  These are all the books that have been written to date about Abraham Lincoln.  If you look down at the man sitting below, it will give you the true perspective of how large this tower of books really is.  (Silly me - I immediately thought of that game "Jenga" and wondered if the whole thing would collapse if I reached out and removed one book.)

Tomorrow we leave on another roadtrip, so I'll report on the remainder of our Lincoln day later.  We're heading to western Ohio to visit with this little cutie, grandchild number five.  

Gabriel, 6 months
I plan to stock up on plenty of huggles and snuggles.  In fact, I'm unashamed to admit it - I plan to completely overdose.

Next Washington, D.C. post:  Lincoln Day (Part 3)  
                                                A show at the Ford's Theatre - "Driving Miss Daisy"