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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Entry 178: 1986 Justin Nearly Drowns

I’d been sitting on the pool steps with Justin kicking the water.  Larry was working and all the other kids were inside the house.  Justin and I were having a little one on one time.  I happened to notice a couple weeds in the garden just a few feet away.  I left Justin sitting at the pool with his feet in the water at the shallow step.  I went to the flower bed, stooped over, and started pulling the weeds I’d seen.  Justin and I continued talking back and forth.  Our dog Mickey was jumping and barking and Justin was giggling.  I was enjoying listening to him kick the water and play while I groomed the flower bed.  I had only planned to pull three or four weeds but kept plucking one more then another and another.  I had a fist full of weeds and was about to stand to go put them in the garbage pail.  
Mickey began barking furiously.  It hit me like a slap in the face that no sounds of chatter or splashing was coming from the direction of the pool.  My heart jumped to my throat as I turned and saw Justin, in the water, just beyond the steps.  The water was up to just under his nose.  His mouth was under water.  He couldn’t call to me.  He was struggling to keep his head up and his eyes on me. 
I don’t remember standing up.  I don’t remember throwing the handful of weeds, I don’t remember thinking of anything except getting to Justin.  I flew into the water, fully dressed with muddy hands and all.  Justin felt so incredibly good in my arms.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the water but more than that he knew he had been in dire trouble.  Now, remember hugs from Justin were very rare and far between but he let me hold him close for a long time.
I thought of Sami, the kids swimming teacher, who had described how kids drown and it was exactly like that, up to their eyes in water and never making a sound! 
I honestly think Mickey was calling for me to notice one of “his kids” was in trouble. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Entry 177: 1986 The Pool and the Chicken Pox

           Our kids really enjoyed our pool in their growing up years.  In 1978 when the three older kids had the chicken-pox we heated the pool and let them swim to their hearts content.  It really did help them forget their itchiness.  I think the chlorine just might have helped a bit too.  They got the chicken pox in November so swimming was a real treat.  When we got the bill for heating the pool that month we disconnected the heater!  It was never turned on again. 
           It didn’t seem to matter to the kids what month it was, if the sun was out and the water wasn’t cold enough to take their breath away they’d try to swim.  Once in a while they’d get in as far as the steps, turn purple, have shortness of breath and get out again, but usually at least one of them would get all the way in to heckle the rest.  Yes, there were lots of very short “dips” in the winter months. 
           When we got home from our trip to Europe Justin and Charlie were blossoming with the Chicken Pox.  The older kids all remembered how fun it had been when they’d been sick and tried to coax the little ones into the pool.  They wouldn’t have any of it!  As I recall once permission had been given the three older ones went in the pool anyway leaving the two little ones itching, scratching, and watching through the window!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Entry 176: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (Part 5)


        One afternoon, while driving in Italy, we saw a ferry out on a lake, and in a whim, took it for a ride.  While on the ferry we saw some sort of tram on the mountain ahead of us.  If you look closely you can see it in the middle of this mountain.  As we got closer it got bigger and we could make it out.  People were riding to the top and down again.  We decided to give it a try too!

I think we stood two in a bucket, and believe me, there was no extra room!  The view was fantastic! 

I was once again amazed at all the red tile roofs.  I think everyone in Italy had a red tile roof!  When we arrived at the top of the hill we followed the only path we could find.  We saw the initials WC on a small building and made our way in that direction.  I need to inject here that our first day in Europe I had a lot of time finding a restroom.  I kept looking for a familiar sign.  In desperation I asked a very nice young woman who pointed to a door marked WC.  She laughed and said, “Oh, you are looking for the Water Closet!” 
You can be sure once I knew what to look for I never passed one without taking advantage of it in fear I might not find another person who could help me.  We were all eager to use the Water Closet.  I was more than a little disappointed when it turned out to be another adventure behind the door.  

Yep, it was another type of porcelain surprise.  A fixture on the floor!  Ugh!  We never knew what the facilities would be like.  One was actually just a hole surrounded by tile so I didn’t complain about this one. 

 We continued following the path.  At the end of the path was a platform.  On the platform was a gentleman gearing up in a hang glider.  We watched him finish buckling his harness.  He smiled at us, turned around, and stepped off the mountain.  We all stepped forward to the edge and watched him glide.  We watched for about half an hour as he swooped and dove back and forth within a hundred yards of us.  A woman next to us, who happened to speak English, told us this place was famous in the area for hang gliding.  She said hand gliders could go for hours because the drafts and uplifts in the mountain at that spot were perfect. 
After about an hour the fellow yelled back at the woman who was standing with us.  They waved and he turned and started in the other direction.  She said he would be gliding for about another hour and she needed to catch the tram down the mountain to go meet him.  That was really a fun thing to stumble upon. 

The sights in Austria were wonderful!  We spent one night over a family owned tavern.  The people spoke only a little English.  We communicated a lot with smiles and hand signals.  When she gave us a menu to order our dinner we found out if the dishes were chicken or beef by pointing and making animal noises.  It was really fun

When dinner came three of us were served on glass plates and Larry was served on a wood board.  It was hard to talk to the owner but when someone mentioned Disneyland and Mickey Mouse she was thrilled and hugged us like we were best friends. 

She took Larry and me to the back of her home and showed us a mural painted on the wall.  She told us a long story about it.  We nodded in agreement every time she paused but we had no idea what she said.

The bed in our room that night was a double bed.  It was one of only two double beds of the trip.  All the other nights were spent in twin beds.  I thought that was interesting.  The bed had two pillows and four very thick feather comforters that were rolled and lined up on the bed.

The next morning we did not have the right type of currency to pay our new friends for the night.  We had been through several countries and they all have their own money.  When Larry was able to tell her of our problem she simply smiled and pointed us in the direction of a bank.  We all got in the car and drove down the street with her smiling as we went.  When we returned with money to pay her she did not seem to have been worried.  When we left we gave her a bottle of  Pappy’s Seasoning.  She was thrilled beyond words.
It was odd to see babies left in strollers outside the grocery stores and other stores.  When I’d look through the window I could see the moms and shop keepers watching the strollers.  I’d never seen that before.  The crime rate must be very different there.

The next morning we did not have the right type of currency to pay our new friends for the night.  We had been through several countries and they all have their own money.  When Larry was able to tell her of our problem she simply smiled and pointed us in the direction of a bank.  We all got in the car and drove down the street with her smiling as we went.  When we returned with money to pay her she did not seem to have been worried.  When we left we gave her a bottle of  Pappy’s Seasoning.  She was thrilled beyond words.
It was odd to see babies left in strollers outside the grocery stores and other stores.  When I’d look through the window I could see the moms and shop keepers watching the strollers.  I’d never seen that before.  The crime rate must be very different there.

The clock shops were fascinating.  

Of course Larry found a Real Estate office for a picture!

        When our trip was over and we returned to the airport we noticed many armed guards on the upper deck looking down on us.  At one point I began unzipping the outer pocket on my suitcase.  I had purchased a book all about Noah and the Ark.  It has wonderful thought provoking pictures and few if any.  I suddenly became aware of someone standing next to me as I heard an odd clicking sound.  When I turned around a guard was standing right by me with a rifle pointed between my face and my suitcase.  He moved the end of his rifle over and over to the zipper on my suitcase.  I slowly unzipped the compartment and took out the book to show the guard.  His lips remained in a stiff frown but his eyes sparkled when he saw the book.  He waved his rifle at the suitcase again and lowered his rifle.  I quickly put the book away and stood. 
        My incident was memorable but the fellow traveling with us had an even better one.  He noticed he had some foreign currency and went into one of the shops to spend it.  He bought his mother a set of steak knives and put them in his carry on case.  That didn’t go over very well when it went through the x-ray!  The knives were rudely taken away.    He retrieved his knives in New York when we landed.
        When our plane was about to take off we called home to find Justin and Charlie each had what appeared to be a few chicken pox spots.  When we landed in New York I found a phone and called home again.  Heidi told us they now each had dozens of spots.  By the time we landed in San Francisco and called home again Heidi said they were covered with spots!
        I’ve not flown much but I loved every minute of the flights.    Again, everyone kept saying how jet lag would make us tired, but I was so excited to get home I didn’t feel tired.  When we got into the car in San Francisco it was just Bob, Larry and me.  I laid on the back seat and immediately went to sleep.  Sometime later, in Modesto, Larry hit the brakes at a light causing me to roll onto the floor.  We all had a big laugh.  I didn’t care.  I was glad to be awake.  I was just thirty minutes from my kids!
        When our car rolled into the driveway we were smothered with hugs, kisses, and questions about our trip.  It was nice to be home again, spots and all!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Entry 175: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (Part Four)

       While in Germany we visited the largest inside train station in the world.  It was massive.  We ended our day at a huge local pub wanting to try some authentic German food.  The servers were all dressed in German clothing.  The beer steins had to hold a half gallon each.  They were huge.  Those servers would come away from the bar holding two or three steins in each hand and literally run to the tables to set them down.  I watched in disbelief.  
As happened several times, we ordered not knowing exactly what we were asking for, ate it not knowing how it was prepared, and having finished not knowing what we’d eaten.  If I remember correctly the food was pretty good.  Larry and Bob and Bob’s friend each ordered one of the beers.  Bob and his friend drank theirs.  Larry tasted his a couple times so he could say he did but he didn’t like it much.  

        While we sat eating we could hear a disturbance at the far end of the restaurant.  Over the next few minutes the noise grew louder as it moved our way and an occasional flash from a camera could be seen.  In a few minutes this little man dressed as a leprechaun made his way to the table next to us.  He very rudely would scold anyone taking his photo.  He would point his finger and tilt his head and rattle of curse words in German.  He’d jump up on the tops of tables and do a little dance which caused me to think he wanted his photo taken…then would come the rant when someone took it.  I took his picture and took my verbal beating with a smile.  It was a good act and certainly entertaining to tourists like us.  I think the tourists were entertaining to the German men and women who sat and laughed at him.           

        I’m glad the “leprechaun” was there.  He made that meal one of my favorite memories of he trip.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Entry 174: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (Part Three)

      Everywhere we went was beautiful.  It was incredibly clean.  No litter or graffiti anywhere!  We visited Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Italy.  

We even  passed through Liechtenstein, the smallest country in the world.  I think it is about nine miles wide and twenty miles long so we weren’t in it very long!    

         While driving through the mountains of Switzerland we realized the small size of the country made workable land a premium when we saw the efforts made to utilize every inch of dirt space.  I mean every inch!  Vineyards were built by forming man-made plateaus no wider than 2 feet in some spots.
         One of the rooms we had overlooked a train track.  During our one night at that place six very long trains passed by pulling dozens of cars full of coal. 
On the far side of the tracks was a community garden.  Again it showed the scarcity of dirt available.  In the fenced garden were twenty to thirty small raised beds growing vegetables.  From our window we could see the individual beds had labels on them.  We assumed the labels showed ownership.  During the evening and early morning we saw many people come in to the garden.  They would pick a handful of vegetables, throw a weed or two in the waste can, and carefully let themselves out the gate being sure not to drop their prizes.
          It was early in the morning we watched a fellow walk up to the gate.  He slowly looked around before seeming to creep inside.  This fellow, unlike the others, picked items from several of the beds while he constantly checked to see if others were coming.  As he picked the vegetables he would slip them into his coat pockets.  Once out the gate he left the area in a hurry.  We think he was helping himself to vegetables that didn’t belong to him.

        This photo is Larry and me somewhere in the Alps.  Notice the statue on the rocks behind us.  Statues and little prayer centers were at the entry to most of the little towns and most of the driveways to homes. 
          While we were traveling through Italy all of the roofs were red tile.  At the boarder it changed to shingle roofs.  We could actually tell what country we were in by the roof tops. 

         The streets were incredibly narrow, barely enough for the small car we had rented, and yet they were two way streets.
         I’m not sure where we were when we drove on the Autobahn but it was a freeway that seems did not have a speed limit.  I know there had to be a limit but at one point, for a minute, we were going in excess of 90 mph and cars were shooting past us like we were standing still.  The very next evening we saw an article in a newspaper about a wreck on the Autobahn involving more than 200 cars and a handful of deaths. 

       While driving one afternoon we entered a short valley.  It was much like our Yosemite with tall mountains on either side.  In the side of the mountains we could see bunkers.  Jet planes were going in and coming out of the bunkers.  On one side of the road was a short landing strip.  Jet planes were taking off and flying up and down the valley.  They flew directly over us several times.  Within seconds of when we stopped to take this photo two uniformed airmen pulled up beside our car.  They scolded us and told us, not asked us, to put our cameras away and keep moving down the road.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Entry 173: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (part two)

After spending a night in a the Montrose Palace, the rest of our trip we spent our nights in little rooms over bars or little hotel rooms…what an adventure.  It might have been the very first night “after the Palace”  we spent in a tiny room over an eatery.  The room was so small and narrow there was only room for single beds end to end on one wall.   

 The room was said to come with a Continental breakfast.  A cute little table was set in the corner of the restaurant for us.  On the table were two slices of rye bread and a boiled egg for each of us.   We never knew where we were going to end up.  We saw a little of Germany and Italy but Switzerland was by far my favorite.

Everything we saw was new and different than what we were used to.  Labels were in a foreign language, statues were of things I knew nothing about, and vendors in the streets selling flowers and chocolates were just a few of the new and wonderful sights.
At the boarder of Italy the guards were young and forceful.  Larry laughed at how close they got to his face when they questioned him.  It made them mad and they made us sit in a room for over two hours before letting us continue on our way.
We toured the home of the Von Trapps, the Sound of Music family. The hills were so beautiful.  At one point we stopped just to look at the scenery.  We could hear a bell ringing in the distance.  It was the bell tied around a goat’s neck with his flock.  It was so beautiful…just like in the movie.


We visited Rotterdam, the walled city.  It was beautiful!  We spent a whole day there looking in shops.  Rotterdam is where we bought a clock and shipped it home.  We paid with a Wells Fargo card and the clerk asked if we really did ride in stagecoaches like on the card.


We saw herds of sheep wandering the hills.  Their tails were not docked.  We saw herds of pigs running and playing on mountain sides.  The animals were so clean, not in pig pens, but on grassy hills.  They seemed peculiar until we figured out what was different with them.

          We toured a real castle.  When we arrived in our tour bus the opening of the wall was so narrow the bus needed to be backed up several times in order to make it through.  We saw the dungeons, the small hallways, and ornate carvings on the walls.  I thought it was interesting that the hallways were so small.  The guide said they were like that so when an intruder came in his amour fittings he could not fit in the hallway.  

(You can see the gentlemen coming from the hallway – these were not tall men – imagine a person in full body armour trying to fit!)

         In the same castle we were shown the upper story restroom where the people who lived and worked at the castle used the potty.  The potty contents went directly to the lower story where it was funneled into buckets.  The lower room was where local prisoners were kept.  The liquid waste had a ditch going out under the castle wall.  There were shovels in the lower room and high open windows where the “occupants” were required to pitch out the solid waste.