Is It Me?

There’s probably not a person around over 60 who has not received one of those emails from a friend listing  things to remember about days gone by.  What was the name of the Alka-Seltzer boy in the advertisement?  What was the Ipana ad jingle?  What the real question should be is … were things that much clearer, sharper, much less complicated?

Take education for example.  Every student in every school across America learned to write in cursive, read Dick and Jane books, followed math from simple addition to division and percentages up to algebra and geometry in upper grades.  We were taught Civics and Social Studies along with the mandatory Gym period.  Our path to success was as clear as the yellow safety line painted on the floor of wood shop.  Today’s educators across this country are in chaos.  Each state believes it has found its own formula for academic success. Education leaders cannot find the yellow line to follow anymore.  Teachers do not know the “how to” path to success for their kids.  Cursive is out the window.  I don’t know the last time a class on citizenship and responsibilities as an American was taught in schools.  Try and find a wood shop in high school.  It’s probably been converted into a computer lab.  Is there a test to be taken for graduation?  What exactly is the “it” a student needs to know?

My president when I was younger was respected.  The “process” of electing a new president or any political office was competitive of course, but not disrespectful.  My president did not go around with his pants around his ankles.  I don’t think my president would ever say hateful words against a religious people or an ethnicity just because of the actions of a few.  The office of the president is the pinnacle of professional success and a position of great honor and not a room in a house up to the highest bidder.

When the Beatles took New York in the 60s and their songs shot up the charts, the words they used in their songs as well as others were not hateful, disrespectful, cursing, expletives.  Nor years later, and analyzed many times played backward, slowed down or sped up, were there satanic messages or drug messages in them — and I don’t care who says there was, it was not meant to be taken that way.

The idea, years ago, of a person walking into a store and shooting people was abhorrent and would only be the action of a completely deranged person and not an able-bodied American.  Nobody’s religious beliefs were so off-center to allow, as a community, a person to grow up amongst the people of that community, unnoticed, and allow him or her to lash out at people for some “radicalized” belief.

I am by no means saying, that we were better off yesterday than we are today.  Too many good things have been discovered, life made easier for many, our planet safer than it was in years past.  It’s just that in some ways we have lost the kindness, the respectful, honorable way of doing things with and to each other.  That we have diminished the offices of the powerful to cliché’s of the way it used to be when we at least believed that those we put in charge really cared for us.  As a kid my family had a doctor, Dr Jankowski, who would come to our house with his little black bag and cure our illness.  Today doctors work for the insurance companies, not by choice of course, and it’s the insurance companies who decide what medicine you can get or what type treatment you are afforded based on a policy that covers you.  Which is the best for me?   Through the eyes of time looking through much younger eyes I liked the doctor who cared for me not the insurance companies who decide what I’m allowed to have treated, based on my age, sex, and premiums paid.

Fall Upstate NY

Pat’s backyard

Monica and I have “escaped” to my sister Pat’s house and piece of land in upstate New York for a week.  I just got back in from walking the dogs in her back yard, enjoying the total silence except for the wind through the birch trees and the birds singing their morning song all around me.  The farmer’s field behind her house and the woods even further behind that shelter the deer and turkeys that live in peace here.  The time to reflect and just breathe in the clean air is so wonderful it’s no surprise the residents of these small towns stay in these remote areas where life is much slower and the main event is karaoke on a Friday night in a campground restaurant.  I used to tell my students the story of a young boy growing up in a small community and how he was raised and asked them to guess where he was from?  Most guessed a town or nearby state where in fact the young man grew up in Turkey.  They were so surprised at how alike they were to him and his family.  How even his religious beliefs were not that far off their own.  I think everyone ought to travel to and be immersed in another culture and religion to understand that we are all the same on this planet.  That if we could only understand each other more, to look through the eyes of another, that perhaps we could regain some of the respect and regard for each other’s beliefs and culture and maybe help resolve some of the hatred and violence that scars our daily lives and makes all of us so anxious and fearful of everyday life.  Going to a ballgame used to be so exciting, now after passing through a metal detector, we worry about others in the crowd.  Flying was a wonderful experience not stressful and feared watching for people dressed in muslim attire.  Education was a wonderful passage through youth, learning about oneself, and how to live a good life and be a good citizen, not a gauntlet of tests.

So is it me?  Am I asking too much?  Am I foolish to think that my grandchildren have inherited a country and a world incapable of common decency and respect?  I pray that we will return to a time of greater peace and understanding.  The irony of it all is our fear of others and their beliefs is often because of religious differences, the very same religions’ beliefs that at their heart, teach peace and love for each other, for their communities, and the dignity of life.

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One of the more interesting discoveries you find when traveling around these beautiful states, seeing the sights, delving into the culture, watching the local television is that your hometown is really not that unique.  Even down to its name.  A drive through Lebanon and then into Nashville ….  Indiana, Nashville Ohio, Nashville Texas, or Manhattan Kansas, there are so many towns with identical names that at times it becomes humorous and can be confusing especially using the GPS to navigate everywhere.  You favorite jingle when your news show comes on is identical to the jingle used in an advertisement for another state’s fair.  That pretty girl selling chevys in Texas, is selling VWs in Ohio.  The law firm of Cracker and Cracker – your “local” lawyers in Florida, is “local” in Missouri.IMG_8045  So we’re not all that unique in our living space or our cities and towns stores and shops.  Where we are different is in the people’s regional accents, or the way the land of a state seems to go on forever, rich with crops growing and being harvested.  How the people treat you and interact with you is always different yet the same.  Some seem indifferent while others are wonderful and warm.  Some places have very specific religious or ethnic ties like IMG_0405Elkhart Indiana which boasts that they now have the leading Amish population in the US, while others are typical American perhaps with more cowboy hats or dressed in “Colorado summer” attire – shorts and a sweater.  People are people everywhere and it is so interesting, especially if you’re a “people watcher” to see them across the country as you travel.  Each campground is also a great mixing pot of people.  In our last spot in Indiana we were neighbors with a couple who spent their winters in Arizona, summers in Indiana, used the VA hospital in Nebraska and spent some of their time with their kids in Montana.  Where were they from?  Indeterminable. When Monica and I are asked we always hesitate; give them the expanded answer with Monica starting in Louisiana and me in New York, or the Reader’s Digest answer we’re full-timers with our homebase in Nashville Tennessee.  (You’ve got to add the Tennessee because as I indicated above there are lots of Nashville’s across the country)

So we enjoy out travels always looking for the unique in our country.  We’re headed out today to visit a lighthouse on Lake Erie and have lunch at the beach.  We’ll watch the sunset over this ocean sized lake this evening before heading out to visit my sister Pat in a state most everyone has the wrong idea about.  If I said I’m headed to a state with a state park that is bigger than the Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, Grand Canyon parks combined, that has more farm land, orchards, and dairy farms than any individual southern state, most would not guess New York but yup, it does.  She lives in Sandy Creek and it’s a beautiful time for Monica and I to just relax and enjoy the scenery.   We’ll let you know when we find the next unique thing!

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Ft McCoy

We left Minneapolis-St Paul on Sunday morning and headed east.IMG_8149  One of the things we both noticed once we landed in Nebraska a couple of weeks ago, is the sky.  I think it’s the same as my sister Pat’s in upstate New York it is both the color and the clouds.  The clouds are a constant presence in the sky and they are all different shapes, all fluffy, as they sail across a sky of multiple hues of blue.  It reminded me of the clouds over the atlantic on a cruise we took a few years ago.  I’m not a meteorologist so I’m not sure of what makes these type clouds but they sure are pretty.  The landscape changed almost as soon as we crossed the Mississippi River the IMG_8156border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While we were so impressed and loved the flowing fields of Nebraska and Minnesota, the rolling green hills and dairy farms of Wisconsin are winning us over slowly.  While The corn or milo (cattle feed corn) fields in Nebraska had a golden color from the corn tassels that shimmered as you drove past.  The green hills of Wisconsin are multiple shades of green giving the landscape a patchwork of green color.FullSizeRender  We are here for three nights and our mission is one thing —  cheese!

Fort McCoy is a huge Army post whose main purpose has been training for all military branches almost since its beginning.  It has almost no personality with old buildings and roads, but what it lacks in beauty on the main base itself it makes up in all the thousands of acres of training fields surrounding the base. The campground is huge with boating, golf, swimming, and sites that are paved nicely and private.  We are happy with this gem of a camping find and plan to relax with some vino later today — after we snag some cheese!





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St Paul Cathedral

As many of you know we are traveling Catholics who at every traveling stop we make time to seek out the local main Catholic Churches to visit.  This started while we were in Italy years ago, traveling around that country and discovered that it was primarily in churches that the greatest artwork could be found because church was the focal point for the people for centuries.


Basilica of St John

While in Des Moines, a beautiful city by the way, we explored the Basilica of St John. Located in an obscure part of town, this church on the outside, hides the inside beauty  well.  The beautiful paintings, the massive organ, the well-appointed pews all make this church a singular beauty amongst mid-western churches.

We went to dinner in Des Moines at a German restaurant before touring the city and the capitol building.

Traveling to Minneapolis – St Paul after Des Moines we were once again filled with awe viewing the hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful farm land with plentiful rivers and streams and planet friendly windmills populating the countryside.  We stopped for a few nights in Maple Grove Minnesota and decided on our visit to the twin cities to start with St Paul first.


St Paul, Minnesota – Mississippi River Waterfront


SItuated on the banks of the Mississippi, St Paul retains the old school charms in comparison with her twin sister Minneapolis with whom there is constant and fierce competition.


Cathedral of St Paul

Overlooking the city, situated on a bluff on the Mississippi, the Cathedral of St Paul’s is magnificent.

But where this church really shines is inside.  With statues devoted to saints, the detail of the wood on the end of the pews, the marble floors and beautiful altar, this church is stunning.  We’re talking Europe stunning here.  We’ve rarely come across a church that combines the beauty of the church’s architecture with that indescribable feeling you get in the presence of the saints and the assembly of God’s people.




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Bridges of Madison County

Madison and Dallas Counties Iowa,


Roseman Bridge Iowa

were not on our original travel plans but as life has it, we stopped just outside Des Moines Iowa for a few nights and found ourselves in the middle of the covered bridge capitol of Iowa.

Those of us who remember either the book or the 1995 movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, I did not anticipate finding the actual bridges in Madison County no less discovering there were eight covered bridges here, two of which, the Roseman above and the Holliwell were used in the movie.


Halliwell Bridge, Iowa

Both bridges were built by the same person in the 1800s.  The town that is central to this collection of bridges is called Winterset and is not only a very quaint beautiful town but also the birthplace of John Wayne!  Another bonus!




While driving to this region of Iowa we came upon fields and fields of windmills so many that this area provides most of its electrical power to these fields of windmills.




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Talk about a beautiful state and countryside, IMG_7975in our travels around the state we’ve been stunned by the vistas and just the open beauty of the state.  We visited a shrine to the Holy Family, literally in the middle of corn and soybean fields.

The shrine was just outside of Omaha and whenIMG_7950 we got there the parking area was closed and we just had to follow a gravel path from a lower parking area.  Even to road to this shrine was unpaved.  Just a farming road winding through huge fields of corn.

Even though the shrine was closed we could still see inside and we visited the gardens and viewed the inside of the shrine through all the glass panels  There was a small water path IMG_7967that split the walkway into the church and flowed under the pews to the altar.  Just off I-80 a great place to stop and visit.

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Angels I’ve Known

Just after writing the last blog post we had our first, and hopefully last health emergency while on the road.  Most people really don’t think much about health issues because living in the same place all your life you know by heart the hospital, the doctors, your pharmacy, all things that add to your comfort level in times of stress and anxiety.IMG_0389  As a lifelong traveller, whether it be around this country or traipsing through some ancient ruins in Italy, we’ve been very fortunate to have had to face only a few emergencies with no knowledge of the area.  I think the first was when our son fell off his skateboard in Germany hitting his head on the pavement.  Had it not been for the kindness of two German teenagers who had come along just as this happened, I don’t know how we would have gotten him to the hospital safely.

This time it was Monica’s turn, when she became very ill one Sunday morning.  The fear you have for your children and other family members is all relative to your immediate relationship with them, their age, and perhaps most importantly, your age.  The older you get the more dangerous health issues become.  The older you are the more likely it will be that your ability to assess the situation carefully, make clear decisions, act decisively is clearly diminished.  So on this Sunday morning when we experienced an emergency another angel appeared at my door.  In the midst of the crisis, with ambulance people, police, EMTs running around asking me way too many questions, the owner of the RV park we are in comes to the door and looks me straight in the eye and tells me not to worry about anything else but Monica.  She would take care of our dogs, cat, birds, the coach, everything.  Instinctively I knew she was right and that all would be fine with all the other worries.  If you can only imagine the idea that where you live is not only portable, but the spot where you’re located has probably been rented out as soon as you depart.  Departure entails a litany of things that must be done in and outside the coach, a list so long that I could not adequately describe them here, but suffice it to say, it is a process.

We were supposed to leave the next day.  You can perhaps understand my anxiety about the coach and its’ associated issues as I sped toward Lincoln, Nebraska behind the ambulance and my lifelong love.  IMG_0390In all, the 4 days in the hospital went smoothly as did the dogs in the coach back at the RV park.  Kathy the RV park owner told me to just leave the door open and she’d handle everything.  RV life is still sort of that way.  One neighbor looking after another.  Theft and the associated fears of life in a bricks and sticks homes do not exist here.  There’s an honor system.

When we got home neighbors came out and asked how things are going, can they do anything, can they feed us?  The owner Kathy who had been looking after the coach came by to check as well and asked that when the time came that Monica was feeling well enough to talk to others ,could she stop by and of course I told her certainly and she did a few days later.

Some people are angels and just don’t know it.  Their loving acts of kindness are just seen as something people do for each other and not run away from.  Most people avoid this type of interaction between neighbors, citing their “not wanting to get involved” as if by getting involved you would somehow come into harm yourself.  Well I for one am very grateful for all the angels that have visited me in my life and as I get older and less capable, I look forward to meeting new angels.

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