Enjoying the Heartland with Family and Friends

Me & baby brother Al.

As we pushed farther into the Midwest, or what some know as the heartland of this country, we were hoping for some quality time with my youngest brother and family. We knew that with three very active children and two busy jobs, time would be limited, so we scheduled our visit accordingly. I was hoping that with the crazy schedule the kids have, we would at least get a glimpse of all three and a quick hug. As luck would have it, we got more than that. ūüôā

A small town in Illinois, population 1,500, is where our road trip took us, a town next door to where I grew up as a kid. Even back there I guess I had wanderlust as I spread my wings and flew west right out of high school, but seeing this community again, and the tight group of friends my brother’s family has, it is obvious that it’s been a great place for them to raise their family.

Even before we arrived we discovered that our niece Paige was scheduled to play in an out-of-town volleyball game, one of just a few sports she excels at. As luck would have it, it was not far from where we were so we made a detour and joined mother and grandmother in the bleachers to cheer her team on. The night was a disappointment for her team, with a very unusual loss for them, but we were grateful that we were able to see her play.

And our nephews, being boys through-and-through, showed us their skill on their dirt bikes. Our youngest nephew Blake had recently healed from a rather serious break due to a dirt bike accident, but as is often the case with the youth, he “got back on the horse” as soon as he healed. His older brother Seth did much the same thing when he had a scary dirt bike accident a few years ago.

Getting kids to sit still at all, much less when aunts and uncles visit, is a tough job, so we were grateful they took some time to slow down while we were passing through.

We had good weather until that weekend, when high winds came through, damaging their new pool, followed by another storm later that day, bringing rain/snow showers. Looks like no Indian summer this year.

While in Patagonia earlier this year, a couple of dear friends, as well as neighbors, moved back to Evanston, IL to be closer to family. We were saddened by the news so we knew that, if within striking distance of their new home, a visit would be on our agenda.

Most of our time in Evanston was spent just catching up on our lives, but our friends, Kent and Cookie, also agreed to be our personal tour guides of the lovely city they now call home.

One of the more memorable stops was to the Bah√°’√≠ Temple in Wilmette. The grounds were lovely, even this late in the year, and the architecture striking, but the Bah√°’√≠ vision was what resonated most of all, a vision of hope and healing.

‚ÄúAll peoples and nations are of one family, the children of one Father, and should be to one another as brothers and sisters.‚ÄĚ ¬† ~ ¬†Bah√°’u’ll√°h

As much as we enjoyed our visit with our friends, the four-legged member of their family, Petie, almost always steals the show, and this visit was no exception. I wondered if he would remember us after this long of an absence, but as soon as we walked into the door he jumped up on my leg, threw his head back and howled, a sure sign that he recognized us. Hugs to all three of our Evanston friends. We are grateful for your generosity.

Me and my buddy Petie.

Summer Fun ~ Kid Style

Brother Al helping Blake with his swing
Brother Al helping Blake with his swing

No matter what your upbringing I suspect the kickoff of summer elicits memories of sun-drenched days, when nothing was more important that cramming as many outdoor activities as possible into your weeks before school bells began tolling once again.

Those summer childhood memories for me meant baseball, long bike rides with friends, barbecues complete with ¬†the sticky-sweet juiciness of¬†watermelon dripping down my face and arms, swimming, and waterskiing. ¬†Although I grew up in the midwest and was oblivious to the stunning coastlines with their massive expanses of sand and surf, we were not without our man-made beach where even on a cool cloudy day we could be found shivering at the water’s edge, waiting for direction from our swimming coach.

We took a respite from laboring on the farm and headed to my childhood stomping grounds, where my baby brother and his family still live, a great place to raise a family, but too small for this claustrophobic girl to stick around long after high school. ¬†However, there seemed no better way to ring in the summer than to participate in my nephew’s 9th birthday party, including a barbecue out at the beach.

Sunset rainbow
Sunset rainbow after the storm

As we headed west the skies opened up and the deluge began, threatening to spoil big party plans. ¬†As I sit here writing, I believe it has been 20 straight days since the rains appeared and this trend looks to continue for the next week. ¬†Fortunately, by mid-morning of Blake’s special day, the sun came out and we experienced sunny, beach-ready weather.

Vehicles laden with food, toys, and a new puppy, we headed to the beach prepared to celebrate a 9-year old’s highly anticipated day. ¬†As in most places revisited as an adult, this sandy bit of beach that we passed seemed much smaller than I remembered. ¬†Boating and waterskiing were to take the place of¬†sand between the toes on this day.

Visiting with family, playing games, reliving a small slice of days past through the eyes of children was a most relaxing way to spend a few days…priceless. ¬†At the end of this month we will head back to celebrate Seth’s 16th birthday. ¬†Mom and dad, how does it feel to have your firstborn getting behind the wheel of a car?!