Cars

We visited Galena, Kansas yesterday. It is along old Route 66. Galena was the town that inspired the Pixar Cars animated movie with Lightning McQueen. When you visit the town, you can see Luigi, Towmater, and all the gang from the beloved movie. This is a great place to see with family and also is just a short distance from the Joplin waterfalls. Remember the waterfalls scene in Cars? Here are some pictures from our trip:

The Best Valentine I Ever Got: Taking a Road Trip to See Waterfalls

A few years back, my husband picked me up in his truck with our kids sitting in the back seat. It was on a Friday after a long week of work and it happened to be Valentine’s Day Weekend. There were suitcases packed in the back seat with the kids and there was a red card on the passenger seat. He said, “Hop in!” He smiled at me with a hint of mischief in his eyes as we headed mysteriously down the road to an unidentified destination point.

I settled into the passenger seat, curious to see what he was up to. I opened the Valentine card and a paper fell out. It was a small printed off map. It looked like a route with a blue line through various places in Oklahoma. I later learned from him that our family was going on a waterfall adventure trip through Oklahoma and each spot designated on the map signified a special place to visit to see gorgeous and musical sounding, calming rushing waters.

It turned out to be an awesome and fun 2 -day family trip through Oklahoma. My favorite destination on the excursion was Turner Falls. It was really pretty and a great place to wade in the waters with family or take photos together by the waters. There were hikes for exploring and other tourist spots to see.

Most states have these type of tourist routes on certain websites online. Here is one for Kansas with various routes for ghost towns, rock/geology adventures, chicken restaurant routes, and other topics. And yes, this one in Kansas has the waterfall adventure too.

So if you are planning something for Valentine’s Day……consider a weekend road trip route like these. Just Google your state and type in road trip routes. The waterfall trip is very family friendly and sorta romantic too. Or maybe your partner is more interested in things culinary or things paranormal or science related destinations.

I highly recommend these ideas as great “spontaneous” and fun Valentine gifts. Trust me, your partner will like it. I know I certainly did! It didn’t seem to cost too much either since most of the destination spots are free to visit. The only costs are gas for your vehicle and overnight stays somewhere. This would be fun to do with an RV too.

Noel a Paris

They decided on the trip together. Usually they always spent Christmas with family but this year they wanted to try something different. Christmas was usually spent listening to Aunt Gabby’s cat stories or watching the family open presents one by one slowly. Mom usually made a big buffet and Dad usually always got a hunting gift. The grandkids would run around the house and someone would setup Christmas music on the TV. There would be hugs and family photos with ugly Christmas sweaters or Grinch pajamas sets. Generally, there would be some games…board games, card games, gingerbread house competitions and such. It was always great fun but also a little awkward at times with the big family reunion. There were lulls in conversation or points where one had to be tactful and polite, particularly in regards to political topics. And, hectic…it could be hectic too as the family packed up all the presents in the car. She’d fuss over everything especially the smashed bows on the presents or whether the tree lights should be left on while they were away. She’d always be the last to the car. The kids would be crowded together and arguing, nit-picking each other. He’d get frustrated and beep the horn.

Yeah.

Christmas with family…..

This year would be different. They talked about this months ago when she had received a great price deal on roundtrip tickets. She had stared at her monitor at her sales cubicle. She studied the advertisement photo of a beautiful lit-up Eiffel Tower on a starry night. Come spend Noel a Paris, the breath-taking City of Lights…that’s what the picture caption read. Usually she skipped these promo ads but this one for some reason had caught her eye.

It had taken some convincing for him. A couple of dinners together at night. She approached the subject each time after their kids had excused themselves from dinner. She talked to him while cleaning up dinner plates and putting food back in the fridge. Eventually, with some reluctance, he was on board too. It was probably the cheap airfare price that did it as he was an accountant by profession and nature, preferring to limit extravagant spending.

The day they left the kids at Grandma’s, it snowed a heck of a lot. The kids wished them a great trip. They hugged each one and told them to be good. He struggled to get the car through the growing snowdrifts and she watched the kids with her parents through her rear view side mirror on the passenger side until they were too far away in the distance.

The ride to the airport was blustery and cold. He had to keep the wipers and heat going on high mode. In comparison, the climate in Paris outside the terminal after their excruciatingly long flight was sunny and much less calamitous.

They managed to get to the hotel through the kindness of Parisian pedestrians and a taxi driver that pointed the way in English. Their understanding of the local language was beginner level at best but they did manage “merci” and “bonjour” from time to time.

They stayed at a four story hotel off the Champs Elysee and close to the St. Antoine de Exupery street where she’d read the couture shops were located. They ate French croissants for breakfast and wandered the streets of Paris for a day or two. They visited art museums and strolled past trendy boutiques for fashion. They went up the Eiffel Tower together and took many beautiful pictures of all of gorgeous Paris, the statues, the buildings, the homes, and the people.

It was super fantastic until Christmas eve around five o’clock. Suddenly the bustling streets and walkways of Paris were very quiet and empty. Everything had shut down…the shops, the restaurants, and all the other businesses. They walked together in the growing darkness on the still streets. They passed many brightly lit homes. There were people greeting each other happily on front steps with packages. Inside some cheery and warm homes, they could see people happily gathered in comraderie. They began to feel homesick and that feeling grew as they ate cheeseburgers at Planet Hollywood, the only place in Paris still open. They wandered back thoughtfully to their hotel room. They each got their small gift for one another. They sat on the bed and exchanged them. It was nice but the moment ended quickly and they looked around the room wandering what to do next. They ended up watching TV together and went to bed early. As they changed into pajamas, he looked at her and said, “ I kinda miss Aunt Gabby’s cat stories..”.

She smiled, relieved he felt the same way she did in that moment. She laughed, “Yeah, I miss them all too…especially the kids. I miss them so much tonight. Christmas isn’t the same without them….without family.”

They smiled and sat on the bed together. They called back home to Grandma’s and were happy when one of the cousin’s picked up the line. They spent a good while wishing the bustling and noisy household at Grandma’s a very Merry Christmas.

And that was the last time they skipped out on family time at Christmas.

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight

There are two people credited with this quote. The first one is Mark Twain and the second one is Dwight Eisenhower. Technically, it is Mark Twain that said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” On the other hand, Dwight Eisenhower said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Who knows really? Perhaps this former President of the United States was a Mark Twain fan.

(Google Images.)

Today, you can go to Abilene, Kansas, in my home state to see the Presidential Library and former home of Eisenhower. He served in WWII and was a 5-star Army General, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and also the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  Eisenhower is credited with the development of NASA and the space race, DARPA, and the Interstate Highway System.

Here are some other quotes associated with Eisenhower:

“Pessimism never won any battle.”

“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it.”

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible.  No matter whether it is on a gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

“Plans are nothing but planning is everything.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”  

(Google Images.)

Years ago around 2002, I visited Buchenwald camp as a military spouse living in Germany. We were stationed near Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. Grafenwoehr is famous for the tower there which was erected for Hitler to overlook the training grounds in the 1930s. Later, when it came under Allied command, Grafenwoehr was a place that Elvis Presley was stationed during his time overseas.

In regards to Eisenhower, however, and getting back to the main subject….among his other noted decisions and achievements, Eisenhower was the first commander in Europe to openly discuss what was occurring at the camps. I remember touring Buchenwald that day in March and it was very cold even with coats bundled up. A wide swath of the forest on the hill had been cleared. This clearing was for the camp and buildings as well as a bear sanctuary oddly enough that was kept by the commander of the camp.

We walked through the old sites and the museums and I remember seeing Eisenhower’s pictures viewing Buchenwald after liberation. The camp means Beech Forest and is located near Weimar but it also rests in the same area that the famous German poet and creator of Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is said to have been inspired to write his works. There is an old oak tree in the camp that had not been cut down because it was called the Goethe Oak, the tree under which Goethe penned his writings. Another famous writer, Elie Wiesel, was also at Buchenwald and he later went on to write the book Night.

But anyway, back to Eisenhower, if you happen to be on the Interstate 70 (created under the Eisenhower administration) which cuts through the top portion of the state of Kansas from Missouri border to Colorado border, stop by Abilene for a visit. Besides being the home of a U.S. President, Abilene was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail where cowboys from Texas drove their herds north to Kansas to meet up with the Union Pacific railway station at Abilene. From there, the herds were shipped to Chicago stockyards and meatpacking industry. It’s in Chicago that Upton Sinclair would write The Jungle which became a bestseller in 1906 and pushed the creation of a Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Upton Sinclair also wrote about prisoner conditions at Ft. Leavenworth and was a journalist for a newspaper from my hometown region called The Appeal to Reason. At the turn of the century, around the 1900s, this newspaper rivaled the Los Angeles Times as third largest news distribution in the United States. That southeast corner of Kansas has a fascinating story. Just look up something called The March of the Amazons. It was the first women’s labor march in the United States as immigrant women, wives of the coal miners, took to the streets of Pittsburg to fight for better working conditions in the mines. At the time, Pittsburg was the third largest producer of coal in America and called The Little Balkans for the large immigrant population from southern Europe that lived there and worked in the mines. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, it was discovered that this coal was too environmentally hazardous and so the mines eventually closed down one by one.

You’d be surprised by the interesting history you can learn in Kansas of all places.

Socially Distanced Vacation

Yesterday, I had planned to prepare some YouTube short videos for the kids to watch about the Taj Mahal in India. But, my son picked an especially interesting dream destination for a family vacation. He picked Mars.

So, here is the list of 8 short and fascinating YouTube videos we picked for our travel adventure.

Every school day, we sit down together and watch 3 short YouTube videos (4 minutes long tops). I give the kids a list of 8 pre-screened and entertaining videos and then they choose their 3 favorite. We started doing this because we missed out on our family vacation to Maine. I figured we may not be able to leave the house during social distancing but we can experience traveling the world via the computer with YouTube. So far, we have looked at Orlando, the Pyramids, Tokyo, and now…..Mars.

Here is the list you can use too for your family. I really like these videos. They are fascinating, especially the NASA 2020 video. So cool.

Family Vacation during Social Distancing

This is day 3 of our family game, pick your dream travel destination. We are social distancing and can’t travel but we can view the entire world through YouTube videos. Today, my daughter who loves Japanese anime with all her heart, picked Tokyo. I pre-screened 8 really short (about 3-4 minutes) and truly fascinating travel videos about Tokyo and Kyoto. Then the kids sit down at the computer and pick three to watch. It is their choice what to watch but I got a feeling they will be interested in the anime videos today of the Akihabara District. These videos are great and really make me want to see Japan!

Yesterday, we picked the pyramids of Egypt and I shared the videos list. The kids picked the teen scaling the great pyramid video, the video about the gods/goddesses of Egypt, and a video of the mummification process from the Getty Museum.

This has been quite fun and informative for me. I hope the kids enjoy it too. I get to pick the destination for tomorrow. It’s a secret for the kids but I am picking the Taj Mahal in India.

You can use these videos too for your children during social distancing. I will try to post for a while on each school day our list of videos and our destination choice. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Family Vacation Cont’d

So yesterday, we picked a list of YouTube videos to watch about Orlando, Florida. Since we are staying in the house for social distancing and missed our family vacation this year to Maine, we started a game of picking our favorite travel destinations in the world. Each day, I find a short list of six or seven 4 minute long videos about a place the kids would love to see if they could. Yesterday, we watched videos about Disneyworld and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

Today, Drew picked the pyramids of Egypt. Here are the short and interesting videos I found for the kids to watch. There are 8 videos on the list and the kids just pick three of their choice each time.

Family Vacation

Due to social distancing, we had to skip our family vacation to Maine. The kids started back to school online yesterday and along with that, I found some travel videos for them to watch.

We make a game out of this.

Ella and Drew pick one travel destination in the entire world and I find the videos beforehand. Each school day, I pick 6-8 really short YouTube videos that I pre-screen for entertainment and value. I filter them to make sure they are about 4 minutes or less long. I hand the kids a list of 6-8 videos and tell them that they only need to pick 3 of their own choice. Then, Ella and Drew sit down for 10-15 minutes a day and just watch 3 of the videos together to learn about that place.

Yesterday, they had chosen Orlando, Florida. Listed below are the 6 videos I found and the kids picked three of these videos to watch. They picked the Disney and Universal Studios ride videos, of course.

I have found with teenagers that it is much better to give them choices so that’s why I pick 6 and let them choose 3 only. And I limit this whole thing to about 10-15 minutes tops. I learned from the military a long time ago the acronym “KISS.” This means keep it short and sweet or as they say in the military with PowerPoint presentations, “Keep it Short, Stupid.” No one likes to sit through more than 15-20 minutes of video.

I’ll admit, my kids grumbled quite a bit at first but seemed to actually like the videos once they saw them. This was our “family vacation” experience Monday. Drew picked the Pyramids of Egypt for Tuesday.

December 12th is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

Time to drag that Christmas sweater vest out from the back of your closet.  Dust it off and match it to a lovely 1980s style turtleneck, preferably a bright red or kelly green one.  Find yourself a jingle bell necklace to match it and you are set.

I know I’ve got mine ready for work on Thursday.

Here are some other great ugly Christmas sweater ideas from Google Images:

An Agriculturalist from Southern Missouri

(This picture is from Google Images)

When my kids were little, I would take them to the George Washington Carver Park about 45 minutes away. It is close to Joplin in Diamond, Missouri. There at the park, you can visit the home of George Washington Carver and see the surrounding beauty of the Ozarks. George Washington Carver was a brilliant scientist.

He was born a slave in Missouri in 1864. He was taught reading and writing by his mother. He later became a world-famous agriculturalist. He is most known for his work on peanuts. We can credit to this man a better version of the peanut butter enjoyed by many in their lunch sandwiches every day.

He became the first African-American student at Iowa State Agricultural College. Carver also happened to be an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute. While Carver is most known for his work with peanuts, he specialized in developing methods of crop rotation particularly for the cotton farmers of the southern region of the United States. He developed hundreds of inventions through plant pathology research. Carver also was an agricultural advisor to such well-known leaders as Gandhi and Theodore Roosevelt.

George Washington Carver passed away in 1943 at the age of 78. His epitaph reads, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”