2013 in Pictures

Last year at the end of each month before I deleted photos from my cell phone I created monthly collages with my favorite photos.  Some months I barely had any photos, while others I had so many that I had to make two collages for those months.  Now that 2013 is over I thought I’d create a post with all of the collages (for posterity’s sake, you know!)

Jan 2013  Feb 2013 Mar 2013


Apr 2013

May 2013June 2013a
June 2013bIMG_1069 IMG_1062IMG_1071IMG_1052 IMG_1054November 2013 IMG_3091IMG_3090

An Exhaustive (or exhausting?) Resumé

On the first Saturday of each month we get together with friends for breakfast at Merle’s Restaurant in Littleton.  (Thanks Jan & Vini for starting this tradition!) We usually sit with all of the gals on one end of the table & all of the guys on the other.  I like this arrangement because while I love all of them I really want to talk to my girlfriends and it’s just so much easier than talking over and around the guys.

Sitting at the girl’s end of the table last Saturday were Jan and Jan and Lynn and myself.  (I actually have three girlfriends named Jan and one named Janice, but one Jan couldn’t make it and Janice lives in IL.)  We were talking about all of the different jobs we have had in our lives.  Some of us have had a lot of different jobs and some had jobs that were actually careers.

Lynn did a lot of babysitting while in high school and cleaned houses and worked in the bakery while in college.  (She did all of this without a car…she rode her bike everywhere she went in her small hometown near Sacramento, CA.) She studied nursing in college and worked as an RN ever since graduating from college until she finally quit to help her husband grow their business VRBO.com (which was a good move, since they were able to sell it in 2006 and retire!)

Jan G worked in various roles beginning with helping in her father’s business while in High School and through college & early married years.  She also worked at two Nazarene colleges when living in Oklahoma and later Kansas.  She worked for her church and then began work with the Aurora Public School district before “retiring” from the school district after 25 years to take her current job at VRBO.com/Homeaway.com that allows her to work from home.

In high school Jan R developed film & printed photos for her friends.  After high school she worked for the Federal government with the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, Air Force, and FAA as a secretary. She left the federal government to work for the company that they bought the word processing equipment from and assisted sales with equipment demos & training for customers. She then moved to Dallas as a Customer Support trainer and developed training courses. After that she worked for a while as a technical writer in the telecommunications industry. While doing this job she also worked part-time for VRBO.com editing photos in 2003, and then in 2006 she began working full time for VRBO.com/Homeaway.com.

I was the one who brought up the topic of conversation because I had been musing about all of the past jobs I have held in my life.  (Now that I am retired, I have time for that kind of musing!)  🙂

The Early Years

My first job was working as a waitress at Shoney’s Big Boy restaurant in College Park, MD after graduating from high school.

450px-Bob's_big_boy_statue_burbank_2013

This being my very first job, I took it very seriously, even going to the extreme of practicing the correct ordering sequence in my dreams. I loved the hot fudge cake that was one of this restaurant’s signature desserts.  (The hot fudge was thick and gooey!) This job lasted through the summer after my senior year in high school until I left home to attend Liberty Baptist College (which eventually became Liberty University) in Lynchburg, VA.

While in college I worked in the Dining Services area helping in the kitchen and dining hall.

The Altoona, PA years:

After marriage and while my children were young my priority was in being a stay-at-home mom so any job that I took was one that could be worked while my hubby was home with the kids or my neighbor could help with babysitting.  Those years are a blur, but I remember my first job was as a waitress at the Sheraton hotel restaurant  working the breakfast/lunch shift.  I don’t even remember how many years I worked there, but some of the things I remember while working there are:

  • The day that Prince Charles wed Diana.  I was happy that I was working in the patio that day because there was a TV at the bar and we could watch the wedding when we were not busy.
  •  The time that I waited on Conway Twitty and his band.  I was the last early-shift waitstaff on duty so was working on the patio until the first cocktail waitress came on duty and I could leave.  I had taken the orders for the large party, delivered their food & drinks and had already given them their bill when I left for the day. The next day I was shocked to discover that there was no tip waiting for me! It’s possible that the cocktail waitress who was working when that party left pocketed my tip….so I’ll give Conway Twitty the benefit of the doubt.  (Just sayin’……)
  • The de-li-cious home fries they served at breakfast.  I think they used the leftover baked potatoes from dinner the night before and cut them up into cubes, then fried them on the griddle with big chunks of red & green peppers and onions.  Yum! I’ve measured every home fries I’ve eaten since then against these, and haven’t found any that taste as good as I remember the home fries served at the Sheraton.
  • The sad day when my co-worker Connie received news that her college-aged son was found dead in Columbia, South America.  She didn’t even know he had gone there! The death was drug-related, and she was devastated.
  • My co-worker Mark from whom I got one of the recipes that my family has enjoyed ever since – Ravioli Casserole (This recipe is stored on Google Drive, so if you can’t see it and want it contact me and I’ll email it to you!)

Other jobs in Altoona that I’ve held included:

  • Working at “So-Fro Fabrics” in Logan Valley Mall (Altoona, PA) which was fun.  I was doing a lot of sewing at the time so probably spent more money than I made!
  • Working as a bank teller for Mellon Bank.  I loved this job!  (This was when our children were old enough to be in school for the whole day.)  Ours was a small branch with only four or five tellers and one (woman) manager.  Our customers were great!  I remember one day when I was working the drive-through window a customer came through and had a box of kittens on the backseat of his car.  When I asked him about it he said he was on the way to drop them off at the pound.  I convinced him to bring the box of kittens into the lobby and Carol & I each ended up taking a kitten!  Ours was black & white and we named him “Cubby” (because our youngest was in Cubbies in Awanas that year.  We already had a white cat named “Sparky”.  If you’ve ever been involved with Awanas, you know what I mean….Cubby lived to be 20 years old!!)

The Winchester, VA Years

In 1988 we moved from Altoona, PA to Winchester, VA.  Shannon was in fourth grade and Brooks was in first grade.  For the first six months I worked at another Mellon Bank branch as a teller, but I was not happy doing so because it meant I had to leave the house before Shannon & Brooks went to school and they returned home before I did.  Even though their school was just one block away, we were new to the area and I didn’t have neighbors or friends to help supervise the kids.  So after six months we decided to see if we could find something else that would fit our family better.

That is when we interviewed for a position at Hunting Ridge Retreat, a 360 acre retreat center outside of Winchester owned by the First Baptist Church of Winchester.  They were looking for a new “hostess” who would be responsible for planning & preparing all of the meals for the groups that rented the retreat center (mostly church youth groups) and also to prepare a Wednesday evening meal at the church itself for the members who wanted to eat there before the Wednesday evening programs.  This hostess was also responsible for cleaning all of the facilities at the Retreat after each group left & preparing them for the next group to arrive.

I think I got the job mainly because they were impressed with Redgie and his food service knowledge and experience.  I was the actual employee, but running the retreat was a family affair!  As part of my compensation, we got to live on the retreat grounds in the little house at no cost to us.  Those were idyllic years, and I think they would be a good subject for another post, so I’ll save those details for later.  We stayed at Hunting Ridge Retreat for 4.5 years until Redgie was transferred to Dallas, TX with his employer.

The Dallas, TX Years

The only job(s) I held while we lived in Dallas for 2.5 years was housecleaning for about 4 families.  ‘Nuff said!

The Denver, CO Years

We moved to Denver, CO in June of 1996 and live in Parker, CO currently.  While living in CO these are the jobs that I’ve held:

  • I threw newspapers for the Denver Post for about 6 weeks.  I couldn’t take it longer than that.  I had to be at the warehouse between 2:30 – 3:00 a.m. and I just couldn’t get to bed early enough the nights before to get enough rest.  Additionally, there were NO days off unless I arranged for someone to take over my route.  It wore me out.  But I did enjoy the peacefulness of driving through the town when no one else was about (except other newspaper delivery people) and the quiet and the beautiful stars in the night sky.  (There are some strange talk radio shows on at that time of night, though….)

[[NOTE: I’m editing the post on 2/6/14 because I suddenly realized out of the blue that I had forgotten to include a job that I held while living in Denver! I can’t remember how long I did this job, or exactly when, or even the name of the company that employed me!  Growing old with fading memories is the pits….]]

  • For some un-remembered period of time I worked for a retailing company as (what I called myself) the “Candy-girl”.  My job entailed driving around to five or six “King-Soopers” grocery stores around the area and maintaining the bulk-foods sections in those stores…..you know, all of the plastic bins are that hold stuff like trail mix and loose candy? I had to take inventory, order product, clean the bins and fill them up each time I visited the stores.  I went to each store once a week.  (Yes, once a week is how often those bins were cleaned.)  I liked the flexibility of the schedule, and I especially liked the one long drive up into the mountains to the store in a small town called Bergen Park….the view of the Rocky Mountains was breathtaking! But after some time (probably about a year) I decided it was too much wear & tear on my vehicle so I ended my career as the “Candy-girl”.
  • Worked for GapKids in the Park Meadows mall for about 4 years, mostly working one to two nights per week and on Saturday.
  • Worked for HomePlace for about one year until they went out of business.  (I probably spent more money at the store than I took home….it was a store like Bed, Bath & Beyond.)
  • I then worked at home for a company called “Alpine Access” which is a Customer Service Outsource Call Center.  I was assigned to the “My Twin” account and I took calls from customers who wanted to order these custom-made dolls that resembled their children.  I also worked for the Vermont Teddy Bear account for a few weeks before Valentine’s Day…..that was fun!  And I got a free Vermont Teddy bear as a bonus! My most vivid memory of this job was the day that I was supposed to have my initial interview (by phone) was the morning of September 11, 2001.  Our interview was canceled because of the terrible, tragic events of that day.
  • On March 25, 2002 I began the best job I ever had…..working for VRBO.com.  I learned so much about the vacation rental industry and developed my skills in communication and management throughout my tenure but I loved this job because of the culture and people with whom I worked (and the fact that we got to work from home!)  I “bless the day” (inside joke) that Dave & Lynn hired me, and it truly has been a blessing in so many ways.  In 2006 they sold the company to Homeaway, Inc, who then became our employer and I continued with the company until I retired as the U.S. Manager of Email Support in July 2013.Now I’m retired, but we’ll see how long that lasts! After 6 months of blissful leisure time, I think I’m ready to be more productive again!  I’ve already decided to start my own “Listing/Reservation Management” service, putting into practice all of my experience with managing vacation rental properties that I’ve learned over the years of working at VRBO.com.

    We’ll see what the next adventure has in store!

A Military Mom’s Diary – Tiger Cruise!

Tiger Cruise [ty-ger krooze] noun – The Navy’s name for a very special guest cruise program. A Naval ship is permitted to embark relatives and friends of crew members (Tigers), eight years of age or older, for a Tiger Cruise. The cruise provides an opportunity for family and friends to see and participate in our daily shipboard routine.

Yes! I got to participate in a Tiger Cruise! This was an adventure that not many people get to enjoy and I was so excited to have this experience!  (I didn’t know that a Tiger Cruise was on my bucket list,  but I guess it was!  Check!)

As mentioned here on my blog previously, my eldest son is a Navy helicopter pilot who is assigned to the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike group.  In April of last year he deployed to the Middle East.  He was only supposed to be gone for six months…..that is until the situation in Syria happened.  The Nimitz carrier group was on its way home when they were rerouted to the Red Sea in early September as a show of force for the U.S.  This situation delayed their homecoming by months.

But finally on December 3, 2013 the USS Nimitz pulled into Pearl Harbor.  My husband & I had flown to Honolulu the day before and I happened to be in our hotel room when waaaaay out on the horizon we were able to see the Nimitz as it passed (click on the photo for a better view):

IMG_1982

We were soooo excited because we knew that soon we would be reunited with our son, Brooks!

IMG_1992

We got to spend a day and a half enjoying Waikiki and Pearl Harbor with Brooks.  We were privileged to be included in a special Anniversary tour of Pearl Harbor along with some men who were survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Some of these men have never returned to Pearl Harbor until this year.  I am sure their minds were traveling 72 years in the past and reliving that awful day as we stood on the memorial floor with the wreckage of the USS Arizona just below the water’s surface.  Part of our visit included a “Floral Tribute” ceremony, when we were invited to scatter rose petals on the water in honor of anyone we wished.  Brooks, his father and I dropped petals and said prayers for two of Brooks’ fellow helicopter pilots who were lost in an accident on September 22, 2013.  (View my video tribute to those heroes in this post .)

IMG_2075

IMG_2096

IMG_2092

We boarded the Nimitz aircraft carrier on December 5, 2013 and pulled out of Pearl Harbor the next morning.  It was so moving to see the respect that all of the military personnel showed as we passed by the USS Arizona Memorial…..manning the rails and holding solemn salutes until the carrier passed the memorial site.

Life on board an aircraft carrier…..what can I say?  Of course it was a lot different for us “Tigers” than for the men & women deployed on board.  Most of the time when we tell people about the Tiger Cruise they ask two questions:

1.  “What were the sleeping arrangements like?”

2.  “Was the food any good?”

Because our “sponsor” (our son Brooks) was an officer, we got to enjoy the accommodations and priveledges enjoyed by the officers.  Tigers whose sponsors were enlisted men or women enjoyed the same accommodations and priveledges of the enlisted ranks.

Our sleeping quarters were more comfortable than I anticipated.  I was quartered in a four-bunk stateroom.  My three roommates were women who were also Tigers.  My husband was quartered in a two-bunk stateroom, and his roommate was an officer with the Wolfpack (my son’s squadron.)  I wish I had taken photos of the room….I can’t believe I didn’t!  But it was divided into two parts:  one room had lockers and desks for two people, and the other room housed the four bunks, lockers and desks for two people and a small sink and mirror.  The mattresses were actually pretty comfortable (but I can say that since I only had to sleep on it for 7 nights….sleeping on them for months might have created a different opinion.)  Once I learned to make sure that my earplugs, water bottle, tissues, cell phone charger, book and lip balm were all within reach once I had climbed up into my top bunk, I was set!!  🙂

The difficult part was learning our way around!  It is like a maze inside of the carrier, with many decks, ladders and hatches up & down and sections.  Luckily they put “No Tigers Allowed” signs on parts of the ship where we were not supposed to go, so that helped us as we were navigating around the ship.  For the first few days the only places I knew how to get to were my room, the closest women’s “head” (bathroom), the “Wolfpack Ready Room” (which is where the pilots are briefed before a mission & de-briefed after a mission and where they generally hang out in-between), and the Ward rooms (dining rooms for the officers.)

The food was pretty good! (Brooks said it was better during Tiger Cruise than it had been all during the deployment, so I guess I’m grateful for that!) In the Ward rooms they had a nice salad bar, a buffet line which usually held a variety of entrees, meats, and side dishes such as vegetable & starches (usually potatoes or rice or mac & cheese). There was also a buffet line in the kitchen where you could get items from the grill or fryer.  The Ward room had a beverage area which offered coffee, hot water for tea, soda and milk.  One item I missed was bread….there was not very much to be had.  But a few less carbs never hurt anyone, right?

One of the things that occupied us for the first few days was to complete a “Tiger Qualification Standards” packet that was comprised of a LOT of questions about the different areas on the ship, their purposes, the people who worked there and their responsibilities.  To help us gain the knowledge we would need to answer the questions there was a series of six tours of the different areas of the ship scheduled throughout each day of the Tiger Cruise.  Brooks, Redgie & I spent a lot of time taking the tours and interviewing the people we met along the way in order to complete our TQS.  When we turned in our completed TQS we received an “official” Tiger Cruise certificate and pin.  🙂

After that experience I decided the place that I would least enjoy working was in the Fuel Pump room (where they constantly are purifying the fuel to standards needed to be used by the jets…..it was stinky down there, and dangerous) and the place where I would most like to work was for the Media department (which was responsible for all on-board movies, publications, photography, videos, social networks, etc.)

We got to tour all kinds of areas of the ship such as:

  • The Foc’sl – responsible for the huge anchoring mechanism including links of anchor chain that weigh 360 pounds each and two anchors (each weighing 30,000 TONS each!)
  • The Medical area which included a Surgery, X-Ray room, Pharmacy, etc.
  • The Hangar Bay where they store all of the aircraft that is not on the flight deck and also included a tour of the Fire Equipment and systems on board the ship
  • The Flight Control tower (“Pri-Fly”)
  • The control room responsible for driving the ship
  • The Flight Ops Center
  • The Brig (2 individual cells that house 1 person apiece and a “General Population” cell that could house up to 15 persons at a time.)
  • The Jet engine shop where they take apart, reconstruct and test the jet engines
  • Fuel Pump Room
  • Media Center
  • Viewed various “Static” displays of different aircraft and demonstrations

Some of the specific activities we participated in were:

  • On Saturday (our first full day at sea) there was an “Air Power Demo” on the flight deck.  The demonstration included all of the different kinds of jets and helicopters that are assigned to the ship.  It was a pretty amazing opportunity to see first hand all of the flight deck operations involved in launching and recovering the jets and helicopters.  Some of the helicopters demonstrated manuevers including dropping bombs into the water & we could see their explosions from where we stood! There was also a super-sonic jet demo that startled me so much I almost dropped my camera!  We had to wear earplugs because it was so loud!
  • On Sunday 12/8/13 at 7 a.m. Redgie and Brooks participated in a 5K “Fun Run” on the flight deck
  • On Tuesday 12/10/13 we watched the “Air Wing Fly Off” when all of the fixed wing planes and jets flew off the carrier to the base at North Island.  They have to be off of the carrier before it docks in San Diego because otherwise they would be stuck on the carrier since it needs to be at sea & in motion in order for the planes to fly off of it.  That is why as soon as we came within flight distance of North Island the Air Wing left.
  • On Wednesday 12/11/13 we watched all of the helicopters of HSM-75 & HSC-6 fly off the carrier to the base at North Island.

The rest of the time we spent mostly in the Wolfpack Ready room.  We watched a couple of movies – Ironically  the movie we watched on 12/7/13 (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor) was the original  “Final Countdown” movie starring Kirk Douglas.  It was ironic because part of the movie is about the attack on Pearl Harbor and it was filmed on board the USS Nimitz!

The trip culminated when the Nimitz pulled into the port at North Island in San Diego on December 12, 2013.  We could see from our position along the side rails of the aircraft carrier that there was a crowd of family and friends waving signs and American flags and cheering the return of their loved ones.  I have seen scenes like this on TV lots of times but being on the other side of it, standing on deck amongst the brave men & women who had sacrificed so much in service for our country was such a moving experience for me.

I thought of those who leave home on deployment but do not get to return to hear the triumphant strains of our national anthem being played by a band on the pier as the two lost pilots of HSC-6 did, or of their families who instead of being in the crowd down below were at home missing their loved ones.  I said a prayer of gratitude for their sacrifice for our freedom and a prayer of thanks for the safe return of our son, and for the amazing experience that we were so privileged to have on this Tiger Cruise on board the USS Nimitz.

(Click on any of the photos below to view larger images)

IMG_2068 IMG_2069 IMG_2129 IMG_2457 IMG_2523 IMG_2578 IMG_2602 IMG_2607 IMG_2622 IMG_2624 IMG_2699 IMG_2705 IMG_2718 IMG_2719 IMG_2781

My 2013 Year in Review

The video in this post is of my 2013 year in review (as seen on my Facebook page.) The music is my favorite song of the year: “Give me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega.

As I look back on 2013 I realize it was a year of momentous events sandwiched between ordinary ones. We got to enjoy traveling to some new places (Oahu, HI; Hot Springs AR; Islamorada, FL; Belize City, Belize; Cozumel, Mexico) as well as revisit some places we’ve already been. We celebrated birthdays and our 35th wedding anniversary. We learned what it meant to be parents of a son who was deployed in the Middle East as a Navy pilot, and to experience the joy & relief of his safe return. We spent precious time with old friends and made some new friends along the way. My life took a big turn when I retired in July! At Christmas we enjoyed a Holiday cruise in the Western Caribbean with members of our family whom we have not seen in quite a long time.

All in all, I’d say 2013 was a pretty good year! Here’s to 2014 and the new adventures it will bring!

Merry Christmas 2013!

Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas from the USS Nimitz!  Redgie and I are currently on a “Tiger Cruise” on board the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier! A Tiger Cruise is when a Navy ship that has been on deployment is on its way home and along the way friends and/or family members of some of the personnel assigned to the ship come on board and sail to the home port with their “sponsor” (military personnel responsible for their “Tigers”.)  Redgie & I met Brooks in Honolulu, HI on December 3rd when the Nimitz pulled into the Navy yard at Pearl Harbor, and on the 5th we checked onto the Nimitz as “Tigers” and began our cruise towards San Diego.  We are having a blast spending time with Brooks, learning about his experience as he was deployed with the Nimitz in the Middle East these past 8.5 months and learning a lot of interesting facts about life on board an aircraft carrier!  We will arrive in San Diego on Thursday, December 12, 2013 where Brooks will be reunited with his wife Christina after his long absence.

A quick review of 2013 reveals quite a bit of change and travel for us in 2013.  On December 31 we rang in the new year with our annual New Year’s Eve party at the “BBH”.  A lot of friends and family (including my sister Vickie, her husband Jim & their youngest son Justin as well as Brooks & Christina who were visiting from CA) were there to celebrate with us.

New Year's 2012 IMG_0847

Also in January I accompanied Redgie to Orlando where he had to attend a conference.  We stayed in the Ritz Carlton and enjoyed a few days of warm weather (and at least for me) a few days of relaxation!

554374_10200464879809043_2060546046_n

In February Redgie went on his annual Myrtle Beach golf trip with several of his buddies from Altoona, PA.  The trip usually lasts around 5 days and in that amount of time they usually play 8 rounds of golf.  Redgie looks forward to the fellowship and fun of that trip all year long.

March was a red-lettered month as that is when we officially finished the remodeling of our condo in Dillon, CO.  Ever since we purchased it in June 2012 we had been working on remodeling the condo from the bottom up!  Thank goodness for the help we received from our friends Ray & Donna Kent or else we may not have finished the job in time for our first vacation rental guests who checked in on March 7, 2013.  We are very pleased with how everything turned out and our guests seem to have been very pleased as well!  To date we’ve received 18 five-star reviews on our listing at http://www.vrbo.com/382 !

Also in March we spent Easter weekend in San Diego with Brooks and Christina before he left on his deployment.  We were glad for the opportunity to spend some time with them before Brooks left.  The Nimitz carrier strike group was supposed to return home from this deployment in October but on September 1 they were diverted to the Red Sea because of the situation in Syria, which extended their deployment until December.  Christina stayed busy with frequent trips due to work obligations and personal reasons.  In fact in September she went to Africa with a group of family & friends and climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro ….quite an accomplishment!

In June we took a short trip to Islamorada, FL with Redgie’s company Perdue Farms, Inc.  We got to stay at the Cheeca Lodge Resort which was right on the beach and very nice.  Also in June we hosted a BBQ lunch up at our Dillon condo for the “Colorado Iron” biker group of which Redgie is a member.

The biggest change for me happened in July when I retired!  I had worked for VRBO/Homeaway for over 11 years but finally came to the decision this year that it was time for me to resign from my position as US Manager of Email Support. Since then I have been enjoying all of my free time and have not yet committed to anything else on a regular basis.  After the holidays I may see if I can find another job that interests me, but I’m not making any promises!  : -)

We spent the 4th of July in Dillon again this year with Ray & Donna.  Every time we get to spend some time in the condo we pinch ourselves to make sure we aren’t dreaming!  The condo is so comfortable and the view of the lake & the mountains is breathtaking!  Immediately following Independence Day Redgie & I flew down to Hot Springs, AR to attend a reunion of the “EnPsalms” which is the vocal group that Redgie was a part of during his years at Liberty University.  Seeing all of his old friends from the group was wonderful….in some ways it didn’t feel as if hardly any time had passed since the last time we were with them.  The weekend flew by with lots of laughter and good music, fellowship and love.

In August Brady experienced a big change in his life….he transferred to Colorado State University!  He had decided that he wanted to experience life on a large university campus during his last years at college.  While we were happy that he was going to be closer to home we were also disappointed that we would no longer be attending football games at Augustana College.  We’re crossing our fingers that Brady might be able to try out for & win a walk-on spot as a kicker on the Rams football team next year.  Brady is studying Business Administration at CSU.

We went RV camping at Golden Bell camp in Divide CO with Dave and Lynn over the Labor Day weekend.

Reg in hammock

IMG_1383

Later in September Redgie traveled to Altoona to participate in the annual Precious Life Gold Tournament…another time of reunion and fellowship with his Altoona buddies.

In November Redgie traveled to Lynchburg VA to attend a football game at our alma mater Liberty University.

IMG_1051

Then we celebrated Thanksgiving at the BBH with family and friends.  (Dave & Lynn were in California so they were not able to be with us on Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving 2013

And so we are back to the beginning of this letter where Redgie & I are on the Tiger Cruise for another three days.  We fly back home to Colorado on December 13 and will be home for exactly one week before we have to leave again!  This time Redgie, Brady & I will be flying to Ft. Lauderdale where we will meet up with Brooks & Christina, my Mom & Dad and my sister Vickie, her husband Jim & their youngest son Justin.  We will all be boarding a Royal Caribbean ship (the Liberty of the Seas) for a Holiday cruise that will stop in Belize City and Cozumel before returning to Ft. Lauderdale on December 26, 2013.

Unfortunately, Shannon & Robert are not able to join us on our holiday cruise.  Shannon has spent this year developing her Personal Chef business.  She has a couple of regular clients (including Dave & Lynn at the BBH for whom Shannon cooks on a weekly basis.) She is hopeful to be able to acquire a few more regular clients.  She & Robert still live in Parker not far from us.

As always, at the close of this letter we send our love & wishes to you all for a wonderful and blessed Christmas holiday.  May we always remember the Reason for the Season, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Redgie, Valerie, Brady (& Bebe!)

IMG_1069IMG_1062IMG_1071IMG_1054IMG_1052November 2013

A Military Mom’s Diary: Tribute to HSC-6 Screamin’ Indians

Today we learned the identities of the two lost pilots in Sunday’s terrible accident aboard the USS William P. Laurence. They were Lt. Commander Landon L. Jones and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathon S. Gibson, both married with small children.

I created this tribute to them and the HSC-6 “Screamin’ Indians” and hope that the photos, sentiments and the lyrics of this song will ease the hearts of their friends and families and all Americans who join in mourning their loss & sacrifice.

(To view my original post about this accident click here .)

A Military Mom’s Diary: “Safe and Sound”

MH-60S Knighthawk

MH-60S Knighthawk

Yesterday I received the best email I’ve ever received in my life.  In the span of about 60 seconds I experienced the emotions of fear, joy, guilt and grief:

FEAR – Something bad has happened…are they involved in hostile activities?

JOY – Thank God my son is safe!

GUILT – My son is safe! But five other mothers’ sons are not…God help them!

GRIEF – Lost at sea…if they are alive they are probably hurt and afraid.  Will any of them be found? Will any of them survive? Lord be with them and hold them in Your hands!

The email that I received was from my son Brooks who is currently deployed as a Naval aviator assigned to the USS Nimitz strike group.  Brooks is a pilot and a member of the HSM 75 Helicopter squadron “Wolf Pack”.  He pilots the MH-60R Seahawk.  (I wrote about the experience of Brooks receiving his Naval Aviator “wings” in this previous post .)

Brooks’ email (Subject:  safe and sound) was received on Sunday, September 22, 2013 10:11 AM and said:

“Family,

 I can’t respond with any details but if you read the news I just wanted to calm any worries you might have and let you know that I’m okay. Please keep our sister squadron in your thoughts and prayers.

 Love you all,

Brooks”

A quick search on the internet revealed a news article that reported the crash of a MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter while either taking off or landing on a guided-missile destroyer, the USS William P. Lawrence.  Five crew-members were on board the aircraft at the time of the crash.  These helicopters are flown by the “Indians” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6, sister squadron to Brooks’ squadron (HSM 75 Wolf Pack.)

At the time we viewed this article originally, all five of the crewmen involved in the crash were still unaccounted for.  This was very concerning because the crash happened six hours earlier, but we hoped the delay was just in the reporting of the events.  Later in the afternoon the article was updated to report that three of the five crewmen had been rescued and were in stable condition and that search and rescue operations were being conducted for the missing two crewmen.

Sadly, this morning at 11:50 am EDT this Navy News article reports “Search and Rescue Efforts for MH-60S Aircrew Suspended.”

As the mother of an active-duty serviceman who is deployed in the Middle East I have had to learn how to live each day without being consumed with worry.  It is not easy but my faith in God helps me trust that Brooks is always being held in His hands.  Even so, I am realistic enough to know that bad things happen all of the time and no one is exempt from that possibility.

I saw this slogan on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Facebook page: “One Nation, One Navy, One Family” and it is so true.  Two families are being informed that their sons (brothers, husbands, maybe even fathers) were lost at sea.  My heart is so heavy with grief for them and I know that it could have so easily been my son involved in such an accident.

Joy > Guilt > Grief….such a dichotomy of emotions.

Lord in Heaven, I pray that you will be with the families and friends of the two crewmen who were lost yesterday in this terrible accident.  Please envelop them with Your comfort and peace and give them the strength to bear this realization of their greatest fear.  Be also with their fellow crewmembers that experienced this tragedy and those who helped with the search and rescue operations.  Give them the comfort of knowledge that they did all that was humanly possible in the situation. Help them stay strong and courageous during their mission.  Please bring them all home safely and soon.

Pre-WWII Love Letters – Chapter 2

Tuesday

 Dearest Gertie, 

            What a life, do we have to do some dumb things they call problems.  So far we have had five of them.  The first one was to walk 300 ft counting the number of steps and then find our average step.  Imagine about 50 fellows walking up and down in front of the frat house for about an hour.  Today we had a chain problem out on the baseball field.  Redmond went around talking about being a fugitive from a chain gang.  One of the fellows knows the prof. quit(e) well so the other day when he told us to go chain the road this guy pipes up with “why chain it it’ll stay there”.           

            Well honey I will have to close now and go get my lunch. The way things look now I won’t be able to come home until Saturday.

Love,
Walt

As this is only the second installment of my “Walt & Gertie” project, I am still working through documenting the letters and copying them.  I’ve learned a little bit about Walt in the process.

Here is some of what I have learned so far:

Walt was a student at the Colorado School of Mines and was a Junior in the year 1938.  He was also a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity the same year.  But so far I cannot find evidence that he graduated from the School of Mines the next year (1939).  It is possible that he might have transferred to another school, because in another letter to Gertie he mentions discussing the possibility of transferring with his father:

Monday evening

Dearest Gertie, 

            Well here it is the end of the first day.  We haven’t done much in the way of work today and from now on they say it gets easier.

            I told mom that your mother wanted you to go with them to dinner, and she said that she was sorry you couldn’t be with us.

            Sunday night when I was getting ready to go to bed Dad came up and started talking to me about school.  He said that next year I hadn’t better think of driving back and forth. He ask me how I came out in Chem.  I told him the straight facts and did I get a surprise when he asked if I wanted to take some other course. It ended by him telling me to inquire at Boulder and Ft. Collins about Mechanical Engineering.  This is rather hard to explain in a letter but I will tell you all about it in my next letter, or the next time I see you. I am coming in Wednesday night and if your home I will tell you then.  Please don’t mention this until I talk to you as there are some facts I don’t like to write in a letter. 

            I hope some of the board members don’t walk in tonight as some of the fellows are throwing a party and it might be embarrassing.  I don’t know what is going on, but I have an idea.

            Well honey I will have to close as it is getting late and I still have some work to do.

 Love,
Walt

I believe Walt was studying some kind of geology or surveying discipline at the School of Mines because he has mentioned having to make maps and of having to do some field work.  An excerpt from one letter says:

           Well here it is the end of the first day.  Today we had a problem in differential leveling which Redmond and I have just finished calculating.  I had to make a mistake in the field so we had to check it all over.


In the same letter, Walt tells Gertie about a good grade he got on a quiz….I thought it was funny:

            In our first lecture the prof gave us our quizzes back and was I surprised when I got a 96.  No fooling! Boy I made some good guesses.

I hope I discover more information about Walt & Gertie as I continue this project, and you can be sure I will share my discoveries here!

Pre-WWII Love Letters: The best yard-sale discovery I ever made!

1939 Hallmark Valentine's Day card

1939 Hallmark Valentine’s Day card

Dearest Gertie,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am always thinking of you. Honey, my work has stacked up so that I haven’t time to write a letter. Tomorrow I have two Quizzes so will have to do lots of studying tonight.

Sunday we went skiing as scheduled and ran into a snow storm. It snowed so hard that you couldn’t see where you were going, which made the driving difficult. I met Jay Nelson and Carl Ward up there and they looked like they were frozen.

If you come home this week end, and would care to go to the dance they are having one at school.

I had a talk with the Dean this afternoon, and will probably have to drop D.G. to keep from flunking it.

Well honey I will have to close and get some of my studies.

Love,

Walt

These words were written over 78 years ago by a smitten Walt to his sweetheart Gertie. The note was written on a small blank card and is not dated except for “Tuesday”. I’ve copied it exactly, including punctuation.

This card is part of a collection of letters that I (accidentally?) came into possession of some five or six years ago after a day of shopping at garage sales.

On this particular day my husband had agreed to come along. He enjoys the “hunt” as much as I do and I enjoy his company when he can spare the time to go with me. Usually I look for good books to add to my “books waiting to be read” box. Sometimes I find nice things for the house. One of the best bargains I ever found at a yard sale was four 3-pc sets of the Lennox Christmas china that match some sets that I already own. I also have been known to collect items for my “someday grandchildren” box…..such as nice little tea sets, Lincoln logs or wooden blocks, teddy bears, army men, etc. (If and when our grandchildren finally come, we’ll be ready!)

I remember it was towards the end of our yard-sale venture that day, because we were in the neighborhoods located across the busy main street that bordered our neighborhood. We stopped at a sale and both of us began browsing the “merchandise”. I came across a large box full of crafting odds & ends. Being an aspiring crafter (depending on whatever has my attention at the time) I began to dig through the box. My husband, not wanting to wait for me to pull out particular items that I might want, offered to buy the whole box for one price to which the owner of the sale agreed. My husband hefted the box into the car and we went home.

The box sat in the garage for a couple of days before I found the time to bring it into the house and begin to go through the contents. I don’t really remember at this point what else was in the box, but I do remember that at the bottom of the box was a smaller blue box. I lifted it out and opened it up, and found inside a collection of letters. I quickly scanned through them and realized these were old letters written before WWII from “Walt” to his sweetheart “Gertie”. Some of the letters were dated, and many were not. The dates ranged from 1935 – 1940….five years of letters written by Walt to Gertie.

I immediately showed the letters to my husband. We took the box of letters and drove back to the area where the yard sale was held the previous weekend. I was hoping that I might see a house with a pile of trash out by the curb waiting to be picked up which would help us pin-point exactly which house it was that held the yard sale. But as we drove around and around we could not remember which house it was where we bought the box of craft items, and we could not find any evidence of the yard sale in the neighborhood. We finally went home, still in possession of the letters. I stored the letters in my office, thinking that I would “someday” try to solve the mystery of Walt & Gertie.

Fast-forward these many years later. I have recently retired and now have lots of free time on my hands. So I retrieved the box of letters from their safe place and this week I have begun to read them. When Walt remembered to date the letters was a wonderful benefit because I can put them in order for continuity. But many of the letters are not dated so it is much harder to figure out where they go in the timeline of their story.

I am getting such a kick out of this project because it is fun to read Walt’s words in that day’s style/slang (“keeping my chin up”, “one of the fellows”, “give me some more dope about the dance”….) He signs some of the letters “Your Bunny Duck” which must have been Gertie’s pet name for Walt. Additionally, some of the letters were written on “stationery” from hotels around Colorado & New Mexico and the hotel stationery is so quaint and old-fashioned. The amenities they advertise on the top of the page make me laugh: “Rooms with and without bath rates” or “European Plan $1 up” (The Star Hotel in Glenwood Springs, CO); “Radio In Every Room”, “Fireproof” and “Artesian Water” (El Monte Hotel in Monta Vista Colorado.) (“Fireproof”??? That was an added bonus???) <smile>

Stay tuned for more installments of the love story of Walt & Gertie here in my blog! I’m looking forward to learning more about them…..I hope you are too!