Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wedding Week: Days Five and Six:

And our week progressed:  Friends and family began filtering from thither and yon; Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., California, Florida, China, India, New Zealand, - you name it: for a small, intimate wedding, this couple pulled in friends far and near.  So lovely, it was.

Some fun pre-wedding activities:

Graham, the College Boy, practicing his Yak Slingshot moves.  According to daughter Gillian, the Tibetan yak-herding boys and girls could simply aim at an errant yak with his/her slingshot, and the stone would alert the yak that he had strayed from the herd, and said yak would replace himself back with his peers.

Graham needs a bit more practice with his new slingshot before he acquires a herd of yaks.

There was cycling, hiking, trout-fishing, shopping, dining, reading, napping, cooking, laughing, and so, so much more.  I honestly would not change a thing about our Wedding Week.  Not one thing!

Plan A: Outdoor Reception on the winding drive:
 The reception tables and chairs have been delivered.  In the daily afternoon rain.  (It is "monsoon season" in the Rockies.)
 Stemware, lying in wait:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wedding Week: Day Four

What a beautiful day in the mountains around Breckenridge!  The morning began at 35 degrees at 6:00 am.  You just can't beat that, especially if you check the weather back home, and all the days this week show a bright orange sun with triple digits below each glaring sun.   

This morning saw the Happy Couple going out for a 30-mile bike ride in the mountains.  Ah, sweet youth!

 The Maid of Honor took a 2-hour hike in the mountains.  The Best Man was flat out on the sofa for most of the morning, most likely a reaction to the altitude.  Come to think of it...he's flat out this evening, too.  Altitude affects different people different ways.  Maybe he will rally by tomorrow.  Or at least by the wedding day.

This afternoon we three gals visited an historic home in Breckenridge, the home of a former slave.  We then zipped by the church, to look at the stain glass windows.  Claire's wedding is at Father Dyer United Methodist Church here in Breckenridge.  It is a charming, small chapel:

 Father Dyer was an itinerant preacher to the mining camps around the Breckenridge area in the 1860s (or so).  I have also been told he delivered mail from Denver to the mining camps, and while doing so, spent time preaching at the camps and in the bars where the miners congregated.  He acquired the name "Father", we were told, when the miners would say, "Oh, here comes the Father" as an endearing nickname.  He later built this church in Breckenridge.  Some of the the stain glass in it nowdays portrays Father Dyer's service to this area.  An interesting historic piece in the sanctuary is a very large cross made of two VERY long, and very old, wooden XC skis.  They were the skis Father Dyer used when he skied out to the mining camps to preach and deliver mail.

From the church, we gals hopped a ride on the town's gondola for a quick ride up the mountains and back - a good time for conversation and relaxation. 

In the late afternoon we three met up with the Groom and his Best Man, and headed to a local brewery to meet up with the first of the East Coast/"inlaw" contingent from Virginia and D.C.  What fun! A good cocktail hour.

From there, we headed home, and immediately out of the car and out for a walk: a walk down the road to view porcupine roadkill. 

The sisters leading the way, skipping down Tiger Road.
 Oh, my.  Am I really admitting to this?  Will the inlaws still accept our daughter?  (It appears we have hauled the future son-in-law over to the hillbilly side...)

And so, Day Four: Wedding Week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wedding Week: Day Three

Today is a quiet day for this mother of the bride.  I had a good excuse to stay at home all day and stare out  at the mountains.  On Sunday morning as I was driving round and round Denver's airport circle, I received a flurry of phone calls from people involved with this Saturday's wedding

My future son-in-law's was by far the funniest.  He had left Washington, DC,  (driving to Colorado), and did not discover until having driven through West Virginia that he had left his wallet in D.C.  Bless his heart - not only does he need his wallet for wedding and honeymoon and all else, he needs it particularly to get the marriage license before Saturday.  Heh heh.  This one will go down in the family archives.  

So the wallet is being overnighted to us.  I am staying at the house to make sure the package does not require a signature.  The bride and her sister the maid of honor spent the morning hours hiking in the mountains.  And this afternoon they are out acquiring odds and ends for a week of family and friends.

 Here are the sisters, donning traditional Tibetan outfits that Gillian brought back from China.  (Note:  US Customs made her really mad when they confiscated her yak jerky.)

Gillian teaching Claire a traditional Tibetan dance:
I spoke to a friend on the phone this afternoon, and she asked if I had checked the forecast for Saturday.  Heck, no, I have not.  What difference will it make, what the forecast says?  We  can't change the weather.

We hope our day will look like this:
 But if it looks like this, well, they're still getting married and we're still going to celebrate.
 And finally, you must look at the photo below and then click on


Monday, July 16, 2012

Wedding Week: Day Two:

And so the mountains of Breckenridge are much cooler than the Flint Hills of Kansas.  49 degrees vs 101 degrees.  Guess where I am happy to be?

The bride-to-be is happy and relaxed, and let me tell you, this must make all the difference in the world of Wedding Week.  The Maid of Honor (her older sister, by a year) is smiling and organizing her sister in spite of her jet lag from just having flown in from China.

We three went "fun" shopping today, after breakfasting at a locals' hangout cafe, and before lunching at another locals' hangout cafe.

This evening I hit the grocery store in what will be a series of trips, I anticipate.  I/we/I/we are doing the reception food our/my/our/selves.  Most people I share that information with reply with a daunting exclamation of some sort.  And I look at them, and think, "What is so difficult about this?"  And as I replied to one person:  It's not ME, per se. Anyone who comes through that door will be handed a melon baller and told to "Go wild."

And here are today's photos, Wedding Week, Day Two:

It snowed this afternoon:
After the rain and snow, what did the Bride-to-Be and her Maid of Honor do?

They went running, of course.

Wedding Week: Day One


I've never experienced a Wedding Week before. What should the Mother of the Bride be doing?

I can tell you what I did today, Day One:  I drove across Kansas.  I listened to lots of radio.  I could have listened to audio books and CDs, but I was deep in thought for 7.5 hours, and the time was fleeting for me.  In fact, I was planning to stop at hour 4, but as deep in thought as I was, I drove right past The Oasis.  (Only a Kansan would recognize this landmark.)

Now, you might think I was deep in thought about the upcoming wedding and all.  Those thoughts came to mind periodically.  I was more caught up in the Higgs Boson, and politics, and just what on earth would I do if I won millions in some lottery?  And Cambodian dating traditions.  The Olympics?  (Boy, is there a critique mulling in my head on that one...stay tuned, after Wedding Week.)  I thought about what I would enjoy if I were First Lady.  (I would enjoy a lot.)  I thought about clouds and antelope, and prairie dogs.  I thought a lot about those people in their covered wagons, traveling across Kansas on their way to the unknown.  Why in the world did some of them stop in the flat wasteland of western Kansas?  Did they just give up?

I thought about my daughter's engagement, back in January.  It was to be back in December.  The boyfriend had called us parents to let us know his plans:  (I should back up: he had already talked to that Spouse o' Mine a month or two prior, announcing his intentions.  I love that he did that.)  His plans in December were to put Claire on a plane home to Kansas for the holidays, and immediately hop in his car and drive to Kansas, and surprise her with his proposal. Ain't love grand?

Well.  It did not happen that way.  As soon as he arrived at our house, we waved him upstairs to her room: she was ill: the flu.  No proposal that evening.  The following day: still sick.  Hoo, boy, she looked dandy, lying on our couch feverish and wrapped in blankets.  Poor Rich - he was seeing "in sickness..." even before it was his time!  It was pretty awful.  Finally, a few days later, Claire came out of her flu symptoms, and thankfully she looked terrific the evening Rich finally could take her to a nice restaurant and proposed - the night before he had to return to Virginia bright and early the next morning.

And now, six months later, we are HERE!  Wedding Week!

What fun, what fun.


I stayed in Denver after my drive across Kansas.  That was delightful!  I took a hotel room not too far from the Denver airport, but in an area which had good shopping and restaurants.  I made the most of it!  I enjoyed Thai food all by my lonesome, and a walk around the area, and finally, some late-night TV.  The next morning I headed to the airport to pick up two daughters!  After we all three met up (a 45-minute foray into the ridiculous DEN airport traffic and regulations), we gaily headed west to the mountains...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Word on the Street

Word on the street this weekend is that the Phelps family of Topeka is coming to Manhattan (KS) tomorrow to picket at four local Christian churches.

I find detestable, actions such as picketing and using bull horns at solemn occasions, American soldiers' funerals, church services and the like.  I reject hateful, irrational behavior.  I abhor the fact that this family's "compound " (is it a compound because no one wants to be their neighbor?) is a mere 25 miles from our home.

The College Boy told me yesterday that the Phelpses are coming.  I have seen these haters in person (I can't recall if it was US Justice Sotomajor's, or Iran's Ahmadinejad's visit to K-State), and I thought it sad to see a very young boy standing on the street corner, holding a sign that stated, "God hates fags."  This group has visited Manhattan on a couple of occasions.  They showed up at my kids' high school one day to protest I'm-not-sure what.

I had a long, long drive today across most of Kansas.  Inbetween watching dust devils and the odd antelope in the distance, I gave some thought to that pathetic family back at home.  The Phelpses are picketing four churches tomorrow, one of which is Lutheran, although not our Lutheran Church.  It gives pause for thought, though.  What would we do?  I thought...I would like to have a whole congregation go outside and encircle the picketing people, close enough that they could hear our sung liturgy and prayers, close enough to hear and see our passing of the peace, close enough to hear our pastor's sermon, and yet not so close that they could sue the daylights out of us (I have heard that they enjoy lawsuits.) 

We Lutherans might even invite them to our Coffee Hour, too.

It's one of the things we Lutherans do, you know.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mother-Son Chats, and More

Lord have mercy, it is 8:00 pm and still 95ยบ outside with a kabillion % humidity.  My banana trees are crisping up!

The College Boy came home from work this evening, WHOA!  I should preface this by explaining what work he is doing, because it is pretty interesting!  (To me, his source of university tuition).  He is working for an engineering firm this summer that specializes in fire protection and such.  Fire evacuations, fire protection, fire whatever  (Hey - I am not an employee, and as such, not privy to all the software goings-on in that company.)  What he has told me is brief - maybe because of privacy, and maybe because he would rather go run 10 miles after work in the evening instead of talking to Mom, the Source of Tuition.)  Two things of interest (to me) this week:  the company has dealings w/ a Dubai company, who rejected the initial software from this company, because the females portrayed in their fire evacuation were deemed "uncovered".   So this USA company had to go back and cover up the female evacuees in the software video.  And then, there is an Israeli customer, who wanted the people in the software shown as wearing Israeli military uniforms.  I suppose that's not an out-of-the-ordinary request.  Interesting, though. 

So the College Boy came home from work this evening, as I was packing my car with wedding hoo-hah.  I said, "I am leaving in the morning for Denver."  And he replied, "I only know that because I overheard you talking on the phone with someone else."  I had to laugh!  Where has this boy been, the past three weeks he has been home?!

And then, he and I got on the subject (heaven knows why) of painkillers.  Aspirin vs Acetaminophen vs Motrin vs whatever.  I remarked to him, as I have mentioned to all physicians, nurses, and family members for upwards of twenty years, even post-partum:  "Anything besides aspirin gives me out-of-body experiences.  It's like all of a sudden, my soul hops out of my body!"

"Anything besides aspirin gives me out-of-body experiences."

The College Boy replied, "Well, I know that Motrin and such can cause a sudden spike of high blood pressure...?

He looked at me.

I looked at him.

REALLY?!  Does he mean to say, for the past twenty years, not one  physician has suggested that my "out-of-body" experiences might be simple spikes of high blood pressure?!

I always thought my soul might be fleeing to safer ground or something.

Thank goodness for College Boys.  Yep.

And - I'll stick with the rare use of aspirin.  I have few painkiller needs.

And I abhor those out--of-body experiences.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Countdown to Wedding Week!  

How very exciting!

Copious lists.  

Phone calls.



Copious lists.
On neon index cards.  Many colors.

Travel plans.

Suits?  Dresses?  Shoes?  Ties? 

(That Spouse o' Mine is really tired of that question.)

Copious lists.


China: both plates, and the country.



Something old.

Something new.

Something borrowed.

Something blue.

 Copious lists....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Circle of Life

I was thinking of my Aunt Lois this afternoon.  She is one of my favorite aunts.  (Do I still use present tense, even though Aunt Lois passed away a while back?  I do not know; she is still a favorite.)

Aunt Lois was a great aunt, (in terms of generations), if that matters.  When I was really young, my mother suggested I write to Aunt Lois in Pasadena and make her my pen pal.  Why my mother suggested that I do not know (but I am seeing my Mom next week and I shall ask her!), but Aunt Lois turned out to be a terrific correspondent, teacher of the world's graces  - art, geography, music, history. So many postcards from abroad and letters from her would refer to something out of my Oklahoma grade school scope, and in parentheses, she would admonish: "Look it up!"  And I would.  Aunt Lois taught me a lot about a lot.

Aunt Lois grew up in a teeny tiny town in Oklahoma called Deer Creek.  (So did my Dad, her nephew.)  Aunt Lois had thirteen siblings.  Thirteen really successful-in-life siblings.  One should not dismiss large families or small-town living, by this account.  When Aunt Lois finished college, she moved to Wyoming to teach at an Indian school out there.  The people in the small town where she taught built her a small house.  I bet they were grateful just to have a teacher.  But let me tell you, they hopefully thanked their lucky stars to have my Aunt Lois out there teaching their kids.  She was a pretty wonderful person.  Witty and funny and smart and well-read.    

What made my think about Aunt Lois today was her great-great niece Gillian.  My daughter.  Gillian sent us pictures today of her final days of teaching English in Qinghai, China - in the Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The Graduating Classes

Of the monks, she says, "the graduating monks... they all look so serious in this picture, but they definitely weren't that way in class!"

When I saw these photos, what popped up in my mind was, "Her grandkids are going to LOVE seeing these photos someday!"

And I loved seeing that Gillian wrote both English and Tibetan on the chalkboard.  I imagine her Tibetan improved as much as her students' English.

And so: from a generation teaching at an Indian School to a generation teaching at a Tibetan Monastery: I like to think Gillian and Aunt Lois would have hit it off tremendously.

Wordless Wednesday

Thursday, July 05, 2012


One of the perks of rural Kansas living is...

Enjoying Grilled Rack of Lamb, right here in our home, and minus the $$ price tag, thanks to the ranchers down the road.  They know we Armstrongs love lamb, and whenever they have an extra, they thoughtfully give us a call.

Another perk, at least this month, is the plethora of home garden tomatoes we are consuming.  Home-grown tomatoes are really tasty, and very healthy. I think they are mentally healthy.  Nothing better than a really nice tomato, picked and eaten, right then and there, in the garden.  Why do you think the hornworms and grasshoppers do it?

And finally, the lavender.  When we venture out of the air conditioning and into the swelter that is known as rural Kansas in our front yard, we can smell...lavender.  Amazing, refreshing lavender.  Our front yard smells so, so much better than those air fresheners that tout "lavender".

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

July Surprise

 Traditionally, our front porch looks like this, the first week of July:
 But this morning I went out to hang the four buntings in place,
and what did I find nestled in their less-than-a-day-old crib?

So I will keep the hanging baskets of ferns up, and ignore watering that particular one for a few days.
And our porch will look like this, the first week of July:

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Z...is for Zucchini!

This morning before church I picked fifteen tomatoes and four zucchini.  What they say about zucchini is true: it grows overnight!  Two of this morning's harvest were (once again) so large that they were donated to the Bloodhound for his entertainment.

Note here about the Bloodhound and his vocabulary: he knows three nouns!  Toy.  Water.  Zucchini.  I venture to bet that most dogs out there cannot discern a zucchini from a toy.  When our vet came out last week, I told the baying bloodhound to "Get your zucchini!" and he bypassed his "toy" for his giant green zucchini.  Brilliance.  

Back to the vegetables:  tomatoes don't pose too much of a problem for tomato-loving me.  Eat them like an apple right out there in the yard, eat them in sandwiches, make pasta, make gazpacho...(and I made another batch of gazpacho this afternoon - we like to eat it served with an avocado, with the cold soup poured over it.)

Now, this zucchini thing is incredible.  I am hazarding a guess that these things don't hold much nutritive value, but I should consult the Bride-to-Be on that one - her degree was in nutrition.  Nevertheless, I hate to waste, and so we are eating lots and lots of zucchini.  Tonight, it stars as Zucchini Cobbler.  Details will come at a later date...
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