My Wild and Crazy Dad

My dad was a fun guy when we were growing up.  There was nothing he would not try at least once and he never met anyone that he did not like and everyone liked him. He was a positive guy with a positive attitude. He is still fun and still positive, even though he is in his Eighties.

He grew up in Montana originally, and then his family moved to Buckman, Minnesota.    Dad was very talented musically.  He could play guitar and when he sang he sounded like Johnny Cash.   He actually played in a local band with a woman who played accordion and concertina and IMG_0507sang and they had a drummer. He quit the band when we were young and I think the staying up late on weekends in the local bars playing music became a problem for a guy taking care of a young family. However music was always part of our family activities.  We even had guitars along when we were camping. Yes, we actually did sing Kumbaya around the campfire with our cousins.  Everybody had a lot of kids, so camping was a few adults and then a boat load of kids that were all different ages. Everybody got included in everything no matter what age. Those were fun times!

He and Mom raised us on a beef cattle farm by Pierz, Minnesota, in which they took great pride.  My dad’s main job was driving truck for a road construction company and he drove everything from the large belly dump trucks to hauling heavy equipment. Many times he had to be gone during the week, living in our Winnebago travel trailer and coming home on weekends. So my Mom, a strong woman of German heritage, and we kids took care of the farm and cattle during the week. Beef cattle were fairly self sufficient in the summer.  Towards the end of the week we would have made plans for our family adventures.  We went camping, swimming and boating.  Dad got a large truck tire inner tube at one point and blew it up and we took turns trying to IMG_0510stand on it while swimming in the local lakes. He was with us the whole time trying to stand on it too. We all took a lot of dunks in the lake before we mastered that.

When we were teens, my Dad bought a boat and a pair of water skis and we all learned it.  Dad was first to try since it was his idea.  He mastered it in no time and was skiing on one ski.  We had a lot of fun with that boat in the 1970’s. He was always encouraging us to try new things and he always exuded complete confidence in our abilities. My mom was the same way and taught us to drive tractors and ride horses. She went along with all of our shenanigans.

We were the first in the neighborhood to buy snowmobiles, also in the 1970’s, and we used an old cover of a washer to pull behind the snowmobiles with a long rope like a snow saucer.  I amIMG_0508 surprised we survived that swinging around in crazy fashion through our snow covered farm fields.  When our neighbors and cousins got snowmobiles we would have large get togethers in the woods and start a campfire, roast hot dogs and drive snowmobiles at night.

For big family adventures  we planned vacations around farm work and Dad’s road work. I remember we went to Colorado in a long weekend by driving all night long.  When we reached Greely, Colorado, there were lots of young people driving and walking along the roads for a concert in town.  We experienced the beauty of Colorado and had great family time together.

IMG_0509There were very few things that my dad did not try and very few that he did not master.  He and Mom were excellent dancers, and he taught me to polka with him too. My grandpa, his dad, spent a lot of time at our farm too.  Grandpa and Dad built us a teeter-totter that not only went up and down, but also around.  It was dangerous looking back at it, but it was really fun and no one got seriously hurt.  They also built us a harness for our German Shepard dog. We hooked him up to the red wagon, with one of us sitting in the wagon and the others driving bikes in front of the wagon, and that dog would run like his tail was on fire down our long driveway giving the kid in the wagon the ride of their life.  The dog loved it.  When we brought out the harness he got all excited.

My dad is still an adventurous guy.  Even though he is in his eighties, he likes to travel with their RV and go fishing and camping. He and Mom still attend fun community and church activities, go out to dinner, and play cards with friends. He is still as fun as ever and still finds friends no matter where he goes.  He has taught us to be accepting of everyone, to explore the world, show kindness, be adventurous and not be fearful to try new things. Life is a gift.

IMG_0506

Adventure is in the Genes

I came to the conclusion that we all get our spirit of adventure in an honest way.  My parents, who are now in their eighties and have been married for over 60 years, were putting on th34aeir adventure pants long before REI invented them.  They were married in their early twenties and started off their life together with a three week driving adventure to Yellowstone, the Canadian Rockies, and Colorado.  They made a big loop, taking their time and traveling in a mint green Buick. They have awesome pictures to remember the event and I have attached some of them.

They looked so Fifties, with my Mom’s rolled up jeans and Dad looked like James Dean.  Extremely handsome and more importantly, they were both fun and adventurous. My Mom 37balways said that they each gained 20 lbs (exaggeration also runs in the family) from eating so many potato chips and malts while on vacation.

They have never shied away from adventure and in fact embraced the unknown and unexpected when traveling.  Mom and Dad have been to every state and most of them more than once over the years.  They have been to China, Japan and rented an RV and took a driving trip around Australia.  They took a cruise through the Panama Canal and drove the road to Hana in Hawaii.  Even though they were farmers from Pierz, their world was very large.  They are still active getting together with friends and going fishing and traveling with their RV.  They just don’t go as far anymore.38a

Their lust to see the world goes way back. In 1947, Dad and his only brother and parents traveled out West through the mountains in a 1942 Plymouth.  He did most of the driving, his brother read the maps and did the navigation, and his parents sat in the back seat – even though he was only 16 years old at the time and the mountain roads were gravel and narrow. You could not have paid me enough to sit in the back seat of a car while any of my 16 year olds had control of the car on Mountain roads. My grandparents had complete confidence in my dad and his abilities, and he lived up to their expectations.

35eHe bragged when we were young that he got his driver’s license from the Postmaster in town when he was 12.  The only test was the Postmaster asking him, if he could drive and he said “yes” and so he was given a license.

My grandparents also traveled a lot.  When I was growing up they took driving vacations every year and sometimes flew to their destinations. They went to Florida and brought us back a letter holder that had flamingos on it and sea shells.  My parents still have that letter holder. They also brought us a sea shell that they taught us to hold to our ear to hear the Ocean.  I still have that sea shell.

46aMy grandparents and parents gave us a gift. They showed us that travel is fun, that the world is a big and beautiful place and they taught us not to fear the unknown, but to embrace it.  They taught us to use our time on this earth wisely and to never waste an opportunity to enjoy our time off.  As simple as the lesson seems, so many struggle and worry about work more than it deserves.  The work will get done. We are not here to work our lives away. Time is your most valuable commodity. Take control of your time and seize the moment to enjoy your life!

Not Real Adults

Our family adventures gave our kids the self reliance to go on their own adventures as they became adults. When our youngest, Jenny, graduated from High School she was 18 years old and my son, Ben was already in college and was 20. The two of them and one of Ben’s friends, who had been at our house on and off for years, came to us with a plan for an adventure of their own. They wanted to take a two week driving trip to Glacier National Park, Idaho, and back through Montana and Colorado. They borrowed our Tahoe and took the GPS and mapped their route, through theIMG_3604 national Parks and federal campgrounds and all of the sites they wanted to see. Ben was studying geology and he knew specific areas he wanted to cover. They took the cooler and did mostly camping, but occasionally stayed at a hotel for showers and better beds. They made plans for the amount of money they needed and packed everything up and off they went. They stayed in contact, so we knew they were doing well and they posted pictures frequently on Face book and Instagram, of the gorgeous campsites, mountains and streams they were seeing. They actually planned ahead and took organic shampoo and they cooked over the campfire. As parents it was a little scary, but we knew they had the skills to handle the adventure and we were proud that they had the self confidence and drive to plan and go on this adventure. Everything went well and they returned with great stories and we could tell that they had bonded and seemed even closer than before they had shared this special adventure.DSC_4535 After they had returned, I happened to be at a neighbor’s garage sale. She had a son Jenny’s age. He was at the sale hanging out with some other friends. He asked how Jenny was doing andIMG_3389 I said that she had just gotten back from their adventurous driving vacation out west with her brother and his friend. He was really animated and excited and said that he had seen Jenny and Ben’s pictures on Instagram and mentioned one particular one with their orange tent in the foreground and the mountains in the back. I told him they had come back with some great stories about how they had gotten lost at one time, but Jenny then found their way out of that situation by navigating, and how they had met one guy in the campground who had taught them to bake bread in a Dutch oven over a campfire. The young guy’s mother was overhearing our conversation and asked me with a look of disbelief. She said, “They went by themselves?” I told her “yes,” and repeated the details, “my son who is 20, his friend who is also 20 and Jenny who was 18.” She repeated in disbelief again, “but by themselves? I said “yes.”  “With no adults?” she said. I said “No, they are all adults. Jenny is 18 and the other two are 20.” She looked at me and said insistently and in a firm tone with her forehead furrowed, “No I mean real adults.” I responded, a little confused and in a slow way, “They are real adults. “ She walked away shaking her head. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t tell this story tocriticize her as a Mom. God knows raising kids is not an easy job, we all make mistakes and there is no perfect way. But what struck me is that we try so hard to protect our children sometimes that we lose track of the reality of their age. In fact her son was also 18 and even though she felt he was not a “real” enough adult to be trusted to go on a road trip to some National Parks in the western United States, in fact he was adult enough to walk to a local recruiting office, join the military and be surviving in the deserts of the middle east and, all of that could be done without her permission. The one thing I have learned in hindsight is that our kids at every age would always live up to our expectations. When we showed confidence in their abilities, they had confidence in their own abilities and could be successful. We taught them early on that mistakes were OK and trying new things was essential, for a fun and full life.

Put Your Adventure Pants On

A perfectly clean house has never been a priority for me, so I was not surprised when I went to move my bedroom dresser to retrieve a dropped necklace and found it face up, in a snow pile of dust bunnies. Some bunnies were so large that one could imagine spending time in a craft project, gluing eyes on them to look like real bunnies. Creepy for sure, but they were that large.

This would be embarrassing for many who pride themselves on their house cleaning skills and while I would never want a dirty house, a little dust here and there has not bothered me, especially when our kids were home. I would rather go walk in the woods with them and pick up fall leaves for an art project or play with the hose or in the sand box than clean house. That was true when they were older too. I would spend time with them outdoors or we would take them biking or playing sports. Even now that we are empty nesters, I would rather go on the boat or hiking or biking than clean house. I have no remorse about those choices.

While cleaning the mound of dust bunnies uncovered by my jewelry mishap, I found all kinds of other interesting things lost in the abyss of the dresser caverns. Other jewelry pieces that were never missed enough to do a full scale search and a stray button, but to my surprise, among the lost items was a photo of me standing on a Glacier in Canada.

It was taken in 1995 when I was in my mid-thirties and I am holding my baby, Jenny who was less than a year old in the picture, but is now a college student and beside me stands my Ben, who was two years old and now is also a college student and my oldest, Sara who is five in the picture and is now out of college and in the working world, making a life of her own. It was striking and it transported me back in time. I have a smile from ear to ear and we all look happy, having just exited the large glacier snow bus onto the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Ice fields, during a two week driving vacation we had taken to Canada in our Ford Aerostar van.

Glacier1995I know the word fearless is getting a little too much use these days, but it is a good word and it described what I saw in the picture. The photo was a proud reminder of our fearlessness to adventure out even with three little kids. And I have to say, I have nothing but good memories of those trips. We must have had fussy kids sometimes, but that is not what I remember and when our grown kids talk about their vacations they do not remember anything negative about them either.

I remember the trip went well. We planned ahead on these adventures, but our plan was never so rigid that we could not fly by the seat of our pants sometimes, and we could adapt to unforeseen changes in weather or unplanned events. On this particular adventure we did a large loop through Canada and saw everything from the dolphin show at the Edmonton Mall to the glaciers and mountains in the Canadian Rockies. We had three little kids, but no worries. We made our way, day after day experiencing new sights and foods and we laughed and we had fun. We would go with the flow and eat when we were hungry and sleep when tired. We played in Hotel pools and ordered Pizza.

The saying in our family since the kids were very young is “Put your adventure pants on and let’s go!” We have been on many adventures with our family and now as empty nesters, my husband and I have sought many new adventures. Our kids are not afraid to go on their own adventures through college or with friends and I like that fearlessness in them when it comes to travel.

I look into the face of that young woman, 35ish version of me and those little kids, smiling and knowing Dad is behind the camera smiling too and I see happiness and see a family who was never afraid to put their adventure pants on. I look back and I wonder how we had the guts and the brains to make those choices. I cannot explain it because I think we are very average in many ways, but I am sure glad we did it. Life is short and I know it is said too often, but those child-rearing years flew by and those kids are now gone. I am glad I spent little time worrying about dust bunnies and cleaning, and took the time to enjoy those kids and show them the world with our adventure pants on.

Crazy Adventurer Kids

In planning adventures for our family, we always tried to make the adventures age appropriate. I remember our first white water rafting experience. Our kids were probably between the ages of five and nine years old. We were on vacation in Idaho and the “white water” was more of a slow shallow river, as it was tailored to young families. But at their age it was exciting and the raft company did a great job of making it seem more wild and dangerous than it really was. They praised the kids for paddling hard over the “rapids” and let them hang in life jackets over the side of the raft, in the shallow area and take a little swim in the river. When the kids were teenagers, we were on vacation in Colorado and we actually went real white water rafting in the Royal Gorge.   Now that was real excitement and because we started things like that when they were young, they were always game to go bigger. On vacations we always looked for new experiences and have done everything from snorkeling, skiing, scuba diving to train rides, hiking, camping, and kayaking, dancing and fossil hunting. When my son was a senior in High School and my daughter was a sophomore in High School and their older sister had just started college, we agreed to have a German foreign exchange student stay with us for the year. My Ben was 18, Lukas from Germany was 17 and my Jenny was 16. They got along great and the entire situation was perfect in hindsight. This was a fabulous 100_8255experience for many reasons, but one of my fondest memories is when we took the three of them to the Florida Keys for Spring break. We rented a two bedroom condo on the beach at a resort. It had great sand beaches, nice pools and restaurants and a large pier for fishing. We brought the blender along for smoothies to save some cash and the condo had a kitchen so we could do some of the cooking for this crowd, because it seemed like they ate constantly. We had driven down so we had our vehicle and we had gone sailing, snorkeling and every evening we went to the Lorelei across the street to eat appetizers and have drinks at the sunset celebration. It was a good time. The kids always stayed up later than us sitting on the beach in front of the condo or playing games and talking. My husband and I were sound asleep one night in our beach condo, when all of a sudden the bedroom door burst open and almost went through the other wall. It was Ben, Jenny and Lukas all talking at the same time. They were loud and excited and their initial busting in almost caused us a heart attack. I finally realized in my sleepiness, which quickly went away with the adrenaline pumping through my veins that they were excited fun, not excited, call 911 because something bad happened. As we heard them talking all at once as excited as anyone should ever be allowed, they were all repeating “we caught a freaking shark.” Finally, it registered as they were shoving their cell phones at us showing pictures of the shark they had caught on the fishing pier at our resort. I grabbed my glasses and took Ben’s phone and sure enough there it was, WP_000136Jenny holding up a small shark by the tail. As I looked at the picture closer I could see it was curling its head up towards her hands. I said, “Was it trying to bite you?” All of them answered almost in unison, “Yes, it was trying to bite us the whole time”. They said they caught it on a frozen shrimp from the freezer. I looked at the clock and it was after 2 a.m. Had they not learned anything from their favorite movie—Jaws? Who fishes from an Ocean pier at 2 in the morning? After looking at their pictures and hearing the whole story about the big scary catch and how they were using the Muskie fishing rod they had brought from Minnesota, tied to the top of the Yukon, I could not help but be proud of their craziness and a little scared about their good judgment.   We heard how they each held the shark and took a picture for Facebook and to send to their friends, and how they had to hurry with the pictures so they could safely release it. None of my kids were ever in any serious trouble, but these kinds of shenanigans were commonplace and added to all of our fun and our family stories. I have never regretted the money and time we spent on doing fun things and vacations. IMG_3613